Prayer and reflection

Some reflections kindly written and shared by Anne Constantine

Blessed are they who have not seen and yet have believed

The Easter story is full of drama - the last supper, the betrayal and arrest, the denial by Simon Peter, the trial, the crucifixion, the resurrection, the appearances, the doubting of Thomas....I can easily bring to mind at least one painting of each of these scenes and there are thousands of them. They are often lit in a dramatic way but they depict more than just the drama; these pictures also delve into the soul. The anguish on Peter’s face as he hears the cock crow and realises his cowardice, the scepticism in the eyes of Thomas, the cynicism in the furtive posture of Judas. These pictures confront us with our own weaknesses; they remind us why confession is part of our liturgy and that forgiveness is at the heart of God’s love for us.

We have no opportunity to see and touch

the wounds of Christ as Thomas did and yet we have faith. Jesus tells us that, for this alone, we are blessed. And what a blessing it is to have a faith that sustains us, that lights a path for us, that teaches us, and brings purpose and meaning to life. I wonder if you feel this more acutely at the moment when so many questions are being asked about how we live now, have lived and will live in the future. Are we turning sufficiently to our faith, to God, for help with those questions? In our intercessions we often pray for our leaders. Perhaps at the moment we should just pray that they pray, that they turn to God every day with humility to guide them in tackling this crisis. Because they won’t find answers in their party manifestos. Even Science requires the exercise of judgment and compassion and some humility.

There are wounds enough to see in our world; blessed are those with the faith, the courage and the integrity to heal them.

A Reflection in Easter Week

In this momentous week in the Christian calendar, we may feel more acutely this year the fear and foreboding experienced by Jesus and his disciples. The historical events of Easter Week plumbed the depths of cruelty, betrayal and revenge, and brought immense suffering, pain and despair. Humanity at its weakest - the apparent cowardice of Pontius Pilate, the contempt of the crowd, the disorientation of the disciples, the cruelty of the soldiers. Friday brings death and grief, immortal images of Christ crucified and the three Marys weeping at the foot of the cross. Death undoable and grief inconsolable.

The sun rose the next day on a quieter world for Jesus’ followers, a world of disbelief, sorrow and devastation. Heavy-hearted and apparently leaderless they would have felt lost and helpless, enraged maybe but not knowing what to do with their rage.

Grief and shock at the loss of a loved one, of someone central to one’s own life and sense of being, is not usually assuaged in two or three days. But the meaning of this death had to be seen immediately. God did not extend our suffering. God showed us that death is not the end but a beginning. New life comes from death and eternal life comes through faith. With that understanding you could conquer evil, doubt, cynicism, cruelty. You could become a teacher, a doctor, a carer, a scientist, a leader of people. For in the wake of Easter Week came defiance, hope, belief and the promise of everlasting truth and love.

While we ponder this and dare to hope, we pray hourly for those who are suffering at this time - those who have severe symptoms, those in intensive care, those who are dying or have died. For their families locked out from their bedside and experiencing an especially cruel form of grief. We pray that doctors, nurses and carers will be kept safe. They should not have to die that we might live.

We pray that the message of Easter will again be heard - that we can live better and love more deeply.

A Spring Reflection

The march of spring has begun. Green shoots, tree blossom, birdsong, nesting, shafts of golden light. The heart leaps with joy and we give thanks.

And yet.....

There is another march, the march of a disease that brings fear and suffering and death. It is a suffering that we share with peoples across the globe. We watch with horror as the numbers grow bigger every day. We exclaim at the story of Italy and weep at the pictures of silent and empty Spain.

How can we understand this? Where is this thing we cannot see? How can our lives have been so shaken, halted by this? If life was already hard because of illness, disability, poverty, unemployment, loneliness, it has got harder still.

Are we finding things in ourselves? Are we itching to get back to ‘normal’ or are we pausing for reflection? What do we need to change, individually and collectively, to avoid this happening again? Did we ask this question during the Ebola outbreaks or was it too far away? This disaster asks a lot of questions of us - about the values that underpin our way of life, the care we take for one another, the care we take of our environment, wealth and health distribution.....

Are we to blame in this? Is God angry? Are we angry with God? Probably yes to all of these. But we need to ask deeper questions of ourselves, our lives, our world. Now is the time to examine and understand our faith better and what it means for the way we live in the future.

And the here and now? Well, we know the rules – stay at home, wash our hands, keep our distance. This will save lives. Be thankful if we are well and remember in our prayers those who are sick or have died. We are deeply thankful for the dedication of our doctors and nurses and all our health and care workers. We pray for their safekeeping. Be thankful also for those working in the food industry. Without their extra efforts to keep supplies coming to our local shops when some of their colleagues are sick too, we would have the additional stress of food shortages and the civil consequences.

And love one another more. Love eases suffering, love builds resilience, love finds a way. May love run through all your days now and in the future.