|Pen and Ink Reflections||
Do you have a womb? - literally, or spiritually? Most females are literally born with a womb, but not all. It is just one of those aspects of life which point to gender and sexuality being slightly more complex than some might think. This can be quite distressing, as we know in the lives of others who are not able to bear children literally. Yet it can be the source of amazing grace. One of my own close female blood relatives for instance was born without a womb. She has been, and very much still is, a wonderful woman in so many respects. Yet, literally speaking, she has never had the biological capacity to bear children. By the grace of God however, she does have two children, both of them fully genetically those of herself and her husband. That was a kind of miracle, assisted by the miracle of modern science. So, perhaps, when we reflect on the doctrine of the virgin birth at this time, such diversity in our lives and families may give us pause to wonder about the marvellous complexity of human gender, sexuality, and creativity. For what the Catholic Church calls the Joyful Mysteries of Mary are much more than ancient accounts of the participation of one remarkable woman in the creativity of God. They are also profound and immensely fertile symbols for us: grace-filled invitations to bring Christ to birth in our own bodies and lives. Not least this is the case with today’s Gospel story of the Visitation of Mary to her cousin Elizabeth. Indeed, this is a story of two wombs, one of them, which was formerly barren, actually jumping with joy. It is also a story which encourages us to discover our own womb-like capacities, and to participate, in our different ways, in the bearing of God’s new life. So let me offer three pointers on the way…
by Penny Jones, for Good Friday 2015
They crucified Jesus there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left.
When we think of Jesus hanging there on the cross, I think the picture that most often comes to mind is the classic icon of the crucifixion, with the body of Jesus flanked by Mary and John – his mother and his most faithful disciple. It is the picture of course from the Gospel of John, which tells how Jesus gives His mother and His friend into one another’s care. Iconographers chose that image because it allowed them to place three holy figures, Jesus, the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. John in the one composition. As viewers we are drawn into this holy triad of figures, mutually supporting one another around the cross that brings salvation to the world. It is, like John’s gospel as a whole, an expression of the glorification of Christ on the cross. While it challenges our faithfulness, our ability like Mary and John to dwell with and in Christ in His moment of greatest need and greatest triumph, it does not fundamentally unsettle a view of the world in which good triumphs and evil is punished.
It is a picture very different from that which we just heard in the gospel of Luke. Throughout his gospel Luke tells of a God who, like the father in the story of the prodigal son, does not wait for reparation, does not demand punishment, but overwhelms his wayward child with love and forgiveness, no matter what. So here, as Jesus is nailed to the cross, he prays, ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.’” They do not know what they are doing’...
Jon Inkpin for Midnight Mass, Christmas Eve 2014
Who among us, I wonder, is afraid of the dark?…
All of us I suspect. For if we are not afraid of actual physical darkness, then we are prone to fear the darkness of so much in our world, and in ourselves: the darkness of the unknown, the darkness of loss and separation, the darkness of pain, the darkness of death. So as we gather here today, we bring such darkness with us and we also share the darkness of our wider world.
Christmas, of course, like Easter, begins in darkness, which is why we perhaps spend so much time trying to avoid that darkness: putting up lights etc, which, wonderful though they are, can be but veils over our sadness, our separations and our sufferings…
Lent 5A, Sunday 6 April 2014 (John 11:1-45) by Penny Jones
"When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved."
We are missing something in this translation. The New English Bible is probably closest to the original Greek in offering, "Jesus was moved with indignation and greatly distressed" but it still does not convey the full impact of the original. Two words describe Jesus's emotional engagement
when he sees the weeping of Mary and the crowd of official Jewish mourners who surround her. The first means literally 'to be moved with anger', or 'to admonish sternly', and also to 'snort like a horse'. Mark's gospel uses the same word in the story of the woman who anoints Jesus, to describe the reaction of hue he disciples to her wastefulness - 'they scolded her, or admonished her sternly'. We tend to assume that confronted by the outward display of grief by Mary, Martha and the crowd,
Jesus empathises and joins in with their behaviour. But in fact the Greek is saying something else. It is saying that his responses included indignation and perplexity. For the second word - ταρασσω - translated in our version as 'greatly moved' means to 'stir up' (like the waters of the pool of
Bethsaida ) and in the case of a person to be churned up, troubled or perplexed.
So why is Jesus indignant - even angry - and perplexed? ...