|Pen and Ink Reflections||
"What's in a name?”, said Juliet: “That which we call a rose. By any other name would smell as sweet.” Shakespeare’s famous lines speak of the power of names and designations. He presents Juliet, on her balcony, musing on the rose as a metaphor, in the context of her love for Romeo and the intense, age-old, conflict between two tribes - the Capulets (Juliet’s mob) and the Montagues (Romeo’s mob). Juliet proclaims that names have no ultimate meaning, other than those which people are willing to give them. As she puts it, in reference to Romeo: “Tis but thy name that is my enemy…. What’s Montague? It is nor hand, nor foot/ Nor arm, nor face. O be some other name/ Belonging to a man.” We do not, says Juliet here, have to be controlled by our names, by our tribes. We can choose how to live with them, and, in love, transcend them. Of course, Shakespeare’s story of the young lovers ends in tragedy. It is challenging to live with, and beyond, our names, our tribal identities. It can bring misunderstanding, opposition, and much worse. Yet is this not the path of true love, in the fullest dimensions of those words? Certainly, as we come today to bless our beautiful new interfaith banner, we do so in awareness of that same call to honour the different names of God, and not to let them control and divide us. For in the depth of all the world’s great wisdom traditions, true love, divine love, is not simply about reaffirming what is valuable in our tribal identities. True love is also about walking paths of inner and outer transformation together…
Today on Good Friday we affirm the infinite Love of God displayed in the crucifixion of Jesus - not as a metaphysical transaction to change God from punishing us (as if), but as a witness to the love of God for us at all times, even when we have gone astray or are caught in webs of evil. Sadly too many Christians speak of a punishing God, with disastrous spiritual and practical consequences. That is partly understandable from some past inherited thinking in Christian traditions. It is however a partial way of looking at the cross which is not only destructive but wholly unnecessary theologically.
The Franciscan tradition - not least through the great theologian John Duns Scotus (c. 1266-1308) - is in contrast one which has always encouraged us to focus on the infinite Love of God, displayed in the cross as in all other aspects of creation and salvation. As Richard Rohr among others has recently reminded us, if God “needed” a blood sacrifice to love God’s own creation, then God was not freely loving us. For the Franciscans, 'Jesus was not changing God’s mind about us; he was changing our minds about God. If God and Jesus are not violent or vindictive, then our excuse for the same is forever taken away from us. If God is punitive and torturing however, then we have permission to do the same. Thus grew much of the church’s violent history.'
W.H.Vanstone put this beautifully in his great poem and reflection on 'Love's Endeavour, Love's Expense:
Drained is love in making full,
bound in setting others free,
poor in making many rich,
weak in giving power to be.
Therefore he who shows us God
helpless hangs upon the tree;
and the nails and crown of thorns
tell of what God’s love must be.
Here is God: no monarch he,
throned in easy state to reign;
here is God, whose arms of love
aching, spent, the world sustain.
May we know God's Love more deeply this day, and may it transform our lives for the good.
by Jo Inkpin, for Good Friday 10 April 2020
see further: Richard Rohr's reflection - A Nonviolent Atonement
One of the names I was given when I was born was Francis, in its masculine form. So, over several years, I pondered it. well.Today it is not one of my legal names. However it is still very valuable to me. According to the dictionary it means, particularly in its Latin form ‘Frenchman’, which is a lovely little challenge of inclusion for some of us brought up with centuries of conflict and xenophobia between England and France. In its Teutonic, and American usage, it also however means ‘Free’, which seems particularly life-giving to me, and certainly one beautiful way of considering our little brother Francesco, St Francis, the patron site of this college and its site. So what are the features of this freedom which Francesco lived and encourages in us? What difference may walking with St Francis make to us and our world today?...
by Jon Inkpin, 11 May 2014
Yesterday was the annual general meeting of what is known as the Wellspring Community in Australia. This is a sister community to the Iona Community in the UK. Like the Iona Community, it seeks to draw on the ancient traditions of both Celtic and Benedictine Christianity and to marry these with contemporary concerns for justice, peace and spiritual well-being. I have been a member of the Wellspring Community for well over a decade now and it has been a strength, inspiration and encouragement to me. Like any other Christian community, it has also sometimes been a source of much frustration and failing. For that is the nature of any human community, whether it is gathered in a place or a number of close-by places, like a parish community, or whether it is more dispersed, like the Wellspring Community or the Third Order of Franciscans, of which other people are a part. For being part of a spiritual community is an integral part of what it is to be a Christian. Indeed, in this continuing Easter season, we can say that the Church, as a spiritual community, is actually the Resurrection Body of Christ among us…