FLYING ON ONE WING 17.04.2016

As a direct result of last week’s newsletter, and the discussion of what it means to be resurrection
people, a number of you raised the issue of how difficult, in fact, it is to be hopeful. I have a lot of
sympathy with this position.
This difficulty of retaining a hopeful attitude can be true in a general way. Given the daily
vicissitudes of life, we can become emotionally drained. Sadly there is a great prevalence of mental
unease, or dis-ease, whether this is unmedicated, mildly so, or requires more significant management
or intervention. Even our general chat can be negative and heavy. In general terms the media do not
herald good news. Is it true that good news does not sell well. Stories in the newspaper can often
carry a degree of gore, and the boundaries of acceptability, regarding the degree of detail varies a lot.
Of course a lot of what is reported is true. Terrible things do happen.
Apart from all the tough stuff we encounter, both globally and within our own community, there
are of course, the experiences we have in our personal lives, and within our families. It is in family that
we often experience great joy and great pain. We have learned to expand what we mean by family,
but love and acceptance remain at the heart of it.
One of the most difficult things that we can experience is serious illness, that of ourselves or of a
loved one. This can present as a huge challenge. It might be helpful to remind ourselves that cancer
does not come from God. Sickness cannot be dressed up as good or desirable. God is all good, all
giving. God is love. Illness, suffering and pain are not sent by God, to test, or try us. Jesus is the Great
Healer. He wants us to be well. We must also remember that Jesus knows pain, suffering and
abandonment. Our God is not aloof, unknowing or uncaring. Jesus of Nazareth knew not only extreme
physical pain, but also shame, degradation and embarrassment. He also knew mental torture, the
darkness of mental anguish. In modern parlance we might say he not only talked the talk but he
walked the walk!
Now here is the big question, in all this, what is the Christian answer? What does our faith offer?
What is the response of Jesus, to the suffering world, and indeed to us, as individuals?
One of the things that saddens me most in ministry, in my life as a priest, is to watch people
struggle to an unnecessary degree. To see people suffer more than they need to. So often we, either
as individuals, or as a community, are like a bird flying on one wing. We spend a lot of time enduring,
as opposed to enjoying, to getting by, but not thriving, to just making it! Phew!! This is not God’s dream
for us. Our inheritance is richer. We are called to fulfilment, to joy. So why are we found so often
hanging around the grey shadowlands of mediocrity?
At least part of the answer to this lies in the bird with one wing analogy. It saddens me that people
very often neglect to tap into the huge helps that are available to us.
As pilgrims on a journey how well equipped are we for the trip?
What do we use to nourish us? I mean internally. Do we feed our souls on a diet of Jeremy Kyle
and the tabloids? Does this constitute real food? If it does, it’s cheap mince. We deserve fillet. Do we
feed our inner world on well chosen movies, books and songs? Who are our companions? Whilst
there is nothing wrong with the Britneys and Beckhams of this world, might we learn something
substantial and inspiring from Matthew, or Ruth? As a pilgrim people it’s extraordinary how many
guardian angels are overworked and underpaid, and the only pay they want is a thank you or a hello.
If you hav’nt Mary in your kitchen or your living room, you ARE the bird on one wing! No wonder you
find it hard to get through each day. What about your patron saint, do you even know his or her story?
Do you every talk to them? My friend, the spiritual life is tough enough without ignoring all the helps
that are there for the taking. If you want to begin your detox and get your soul into better shape how
about thirty minutes complete silence every day? Prayerful silence. In all this, people search for
healing, often spending a fortune in the process, meanwhile the greatest source of healing is beside
them, and free, the celebration of the Eucharist. Why sup gruel when the banquet beckons?

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