Friday, 27 April 2012

Song of the Week ~ Taste and See

This week's song is from the midlands based duo Boyce and Stanley. The scriptures at Mass this week have all been very Eucharistic in flavour. I love the energy and delight of this song.

Thursday, 26 April 2012

How good do we have to be

If anyone tells you that one mistake put you at risk of losing God’s and our friendship and you believe it, then you will inevitably define yourself as a sinner … If religion tells you that even angry and lustful thoughts are sinful then you will come to think of yourselves as sinner … By that definition and by that approach everyone one of us does something wrong probably every day and we’ll never make it. If nothing short of purity and perfection permits us to stand together before the throne of God, then none of us ever will.

But when religion teaches us that God loves the wounded soul, the chastised soul, that out of experience has learned something about its own fallibility and its own limitations, when religion teaches us to stand together in those experiences, when religion teaches us that being human is a complicated challenge and that all of us will make mistakes in the process of learning how to do it right and that we need to stand together in that process, then we become participants in a wonderful adventure. Our mistakes are no longer emblems of our unworthiness, but invitations to grow. We will be brave enough to live and to share the life.

Harold S. Kushner, How good do we have to be

Monday, 23 April 2012

Congratulations Fr Michael!

One of the features of Carmelite life is that we are a very international family. The longer you spend in Carmel the more people you get to know from around the Caremlite world. Being part of the Aylesford community means that we meet many Carmelites who come to Aylesford because of its importance to our tradition. Last year Michael Wu, O.Carm., came to Aylesford for a month prior to his profession of solemn vows last summer. On Saturday the 21st April 2012, Michael was ordained a priest in Los Angeles by Bishop Michael LaFay, O.Carm. Congratulations to Fr. Michael and we wish him many happy years of priestly ministry in the Carmelite Order.

Bishop Michael LaFay, O.Carm. receives Michael's promise of obedience

Fr Michael speaks to the congregation after his ordination.

Friday, 20 April 2012

The 12 voices of Easter

Easter Morning - Dalmally
1.Judas Iscariot: The Voice of Betrayal. He was a good leader, probably the Treasurer of the group. Whether it was the work of the devil or being an instrument in God’s plan, Judas betrayed his Master.

 2.Simon Peter: The Voice of Denial. Chief among the Twelve, he failed Jesus three times over. Can real love produce this kind of failure? The voice of the rooster testified against him. His words testified against him. His heart condemned him. He confessed Jesus on the mountain but denied him at night.

 3.Caiaphas: The Voice of Condemnation. He proclaimed the innocent Nazarene guilty of blasphemy, as fulfilling the duties of a filial son of the priestly order.

 4.Chief Priests: The Voice of Deception. They had charge over the temple functions. Their authority was unquestioned. By condemning Jesus to be crucified, they secured their place and office.

 5.Pontius Pilate: The Voice of Evasion. He knew Jesus was innocent yet he convicted him guilty, to please the Jews. He failed to recognize Jesus as the embodiment of truth.

 6.The Mob: The Voice of Hatred. They raised their voices in hatred, probably provoked by the Jewish leaders. Contrastingly, their hatred was met with love and forgiveness.

 7.The Thief: The Voice of Faith. He believed in Jesus and that when He had gone ahead to Paradise, he will be with Him soon after.

 8.The Centurion: The Voice of Affirmation. He saw the death of a truly righteous man. He recognized the power behind Jesus’ death.

 9.Joseph of Arimathea: The Voice of Courage. He had courage to do what he did. It would mean the end of his term in the Sanhedrin, and end of his good name in the community. He believed in Jesus as the Messiah.

 10.Mary Magdalene: The Voice of Adoration. It was a voice of astonishment and wonder. She saw the risen Lord! Jesus is risen from the dead indeed!

 11.Cleopas: The Voice of Assurance. On the road to Emmaus, he recognized the risen Christ. He ate from the Saviour’s nail-scarred hands. No more questions, no more doubt – He is very much alive!

 12.Thomas: The Voice of Doubt. He touched the marks left by the soldiers and chief priests in Jesus’ hand. They were marks of men who did not believe Jesus. The scars were also the marks of his disbelief till he fell to his knees and declared, “My Lord and my God!”

Whose voice is yours? When you come face to face with the resurrected Christ, all your other voices are silenced. It gives way to the voice of faith and hope – He is no more in the grave. He is alive! The promises of God had been fulfilled! The Lord is risen indeed! Alleluia!

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Song of the week. Christ is Risen!

This weeks song comes from Matt Maher.

To be a Pilgrim

Pilgrims on the Camino
One of the friars of the Aylesford Community is on pilgrimage. For the next 10 days Br. Paul de Groot will be walking part of the northern route of the Camino de Santiago. Hopefully he will share with us some of his experiences when he returns. Being a pilgrim is a wonderful expression of our Carmelite spirituality. Fr. Damian has led groups of pilgrims many times. Here he shares some thoughts of the spirituality of pilgrimage.

I often wonder if we consider human experiences and needs as expressions of our need for God. Hungers need to be satisfied and thirsts need to be quenched. Restlessness, dissatisfaction and itchy feet often invite us to pursue new paths and new ways. In this time and with this group of people, we have been called to be pilgrims. We are on a different road with new people and we need to reflect on this so that we might grow in this journey. The author of Psalm 62 conveys the depth of longing for God that is at the heart of pilgrimage.

O God, you are my God, for you I long for you my soul is thirsting.
My body pines for you like a dry weary land without water.
So I gaze on you in the sanctuary to see your strength and your glory.

Psalm 62.

For centuries men and women have journeyed to distant places known for their holiness, so that they might become closer to God. The condition of a pilgrim was very popular in medieval times. The reasons for undertaking the pilgrimage varied from person to person. For some it was a penitential exercise; absolution from their sin would only happen at the journeys end. Other pilgrimages were undertaken in thanksgiving for a favour obtained or to seek healing from disease. Often the reason for the pilgrimage was just to be in a place associated with Jesus, or where some of the great saints of the Church had ministered. The physical closeness of these icons of holiness nourished the faith of the pilgrim. But being a pilgrim is more than just setting out to reach a significant destination, To be a pilgrim is also an attitude that requires a certain state of mind and heart. For the Christian, a pilgrimage is an intense lived experience of baptism. The pilgrim's journey is a symbol of the desire to follow Christ, to walk the way of holiness. I think that there are four pillars to pilgrimage

  • Community
  • Prayer
  • Service
  • Thirst for God

A pilgrimage is an intense living out of the journey we undertake towards intimacy with God, and paradoxically this intimacy has its genesis in community. The pilgrim soon learns the benefit of sharing the journey with others and in this need community is brought to life. A moment of profound encounter with Christ is often realised in the word, embrace or concern of a fellow pilgrim. We could say that growth cannot be achieved in isolation, but in dialogue and relationship.

We are all people of worth. John of the Cross and Teresa of Jesus learned to revel in the fact that God delighted in them, that they were people of immense worth and dignity; simply that they were precious to God. Community or - to put it more generally - Church is a celebration not just of the reality of my own worth but of the worth of the whole of creation. The language of this celebration is prayer, and the action or liturgia of this celebration is service.

Pilgrims today are not so different from the pilgrims of yesteryear. Our ways of travel may be more sophisticated, making the modern pilgrimage easier, but the lessons to be learnt by the pilgrim remain the same. A pilgrimage is not just the action of an individual, but of the Church. The pilgrim seldom undertakes the journey alone, but journeys with others.

The pilgrim has a ministry to others on the way: a ministry of attentiveness to fellow pilgrims, a ministry of prayer for the needs of all. Above all, the pilgrim is called to share the gift of who they are, seeking authentic relationship with Christ and one another. The pilgrim also seeks solitude for those moments of prayer that nourish faith, that affirm and challenge, that quench the thirst we have for Christ but leave us wanting a more intense experience of encounter with him. A pilgrimage is an expression of the joy that comes from knowing Christ, and of the hope that we have in our future with him.

Some attitudes for pilgrimage

  • Be aware of others
  • Be joyful
  • Share laughter and smile
  • Tell your story
  • Listen to others
  • At times, be still.
  • Pray
  • Encourage
To be a pilgrim is to proclaim Christ in our midst. The destination of our pilgrimage is immaterial, for if we desire to follow Christ, Christ is our destination. Let this time awaken within us the desire to be a pilgrim people, journeying together, sharing talents and needs, as we seek the Christ in our midst, he who is the beginning of our journey and its end.

Monday, 16 April 2012

Finding Peace

Carravagio - The Incredulity og St Thomas
On the evening of that first day of the week,
 when the doors were locked, where the disciples were,  for fear of the Jews,
 Jesus came and stood in their midst
 and said to them, "Peace be with you."
When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side.
 The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.
 Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you.
 As the Father has sent me, so I send you."
 And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them,  "Receive the Holy Spirit.  Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them,  and whose sins you retain are retained."

Thomas, called Didymus, one of the Twelve,  was not with them when Jesus came.  So the other disciples said to him, "We have seen the Lord."  But he said to them,  "Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands  and put my finger into the nailmarks  and put my hand into his side, I will not believe."

Now a week later his disciples were again inside  and Thomas was with them.  Jesus came, although the doors were locked, and stood in their midst and said, "Peace be with you."  Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here and see my hands,  and bring your hand and put it into my side,
and do not be unbelieving, but believe."  Thomas answered and said to him, "My Lord and my God!"
Jesus said to him, "Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed." Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples  that are not written in this book.  But these are written that you may come to believe  that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God,  and that through this belief you may have life in his name.
John 20: 19-31.

This is one of my favourite Eastertime Gospels. It is so human. Closed doors prove to be no barrier for the Risen One. How often do we think we can hide and yet love and compassion seek us out? In fear the disciples are gathered, hidden and behind locked doors. Why? Because they were frightened. They had witnessed the humiliation and death of Jesus. They were recognised as his followers. You can understand their fear. They killed Jesus and they would have no fear of killing us. Jesus is suddenly present among them and speaks to them of peace. ‘Peace be with you.’ Are the words that accompany any encounter with Jesus after his resurrection. The words fill them with joy and they receive the Holy Spirit.

But what of Thomas? He wasn’t there. He did not receive that gift of peace or of the Holy Spirit and yet we single him out as one who doubts. When Thomas sees the wounds of Jesus and experiences his presence he believes – ‘My Lord and my God.’ He becomes the one who proclaims an act of faith that is echoed throughout the centuries.

When we hide behind locked doors, we do not expect peace and joy to find the way in. Maybe if we attuned  ourselves to the presence of God, (In Carmel we call this the practice of the presence of God) then maybe God’s peace and joy will overwhelm us.

A further thought, Thomas recognised Jesus through his wounds. We often seek to understand suffering but often miss the point. Jesus did not avoid suffering, he fills it with his presence.

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Carmel and Beauty

An appreciation of beauty

Fr. Gregory Houck, O.Carm.
A few years ago I played in a small chamber ensemble composed of two flutes, harpsichord, and cello. Our specialty was the music of the Baroque — mostly Bach, Vivaldi, Handel, and other composers of that era. I learned a few lessons about beauty in that ensemble. First, the music was beautiful when everyone in the ensemble was in harmony — not only playing the correct notes (in the same key) but also in tune to one another. And working together — not striving to always be the soloist, but as a part of the ensemble, doing his/her part well. Second, the music was even more beautiful when we not only played the music, but played with the music — ornamenting our lines, stretching the harmonies, or varying the tempo from strict time. Third, when we really “hit it” and the piece was super-good, the music could transcend us into another place, an exquisite place. Fourth, even when we hit the exquisite level, we gave the credit, somewhat to ourselves, but mostly to the composer. I will never meet Bach, or Handel, or Vivaldi but I can tell you quite a lot about each from their music.
The parallel between this beauty and Divine Beauty should be obvious. Rarely do we ever receive direct access into God, but when our lives are in harmony — with those around us, with nature, and especially interiorly — we become aware of all the interconnections and how exquisitely they are crafted. And in times of super-harmony, all the events of our lives make sense and fit together. Then, we begin to understand the Composer and even glimpse the Composer. Yes, I think we see God’s Beauty when we strive to live in harmony and peace with our neighbor and strive to find interior harmony and interior peace. Therefore, to live a spiritual life is to strive to live a harmonious life.
The only way, I think, Saint John of the Cross could write his “Prayer to Beauty” (Commentary on Stanza 36 of “The Spiritual Canticle”) is by living, not in self-centeredness nor even in other-centeredness, but in total-centeredness (himself with others in a harmonious whole). When we find this harmony — this total-centeredness (doing our part in a whole ensemble) as a way of living — we hear, breathe, behold, touch, and walk in beauty.
- Fr. Gregory Houck, O.Carm.

Fr. Gregory is a Carmelite friar of the Province of the Pure Heart of Mary in North America

Friday, 13 April 2012

Song of the Week

A new favourite of Fr. Damian (after the Reconciliation Service in Dalmally last week)

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Carmelite Street ~ In Tongues

Street sign on the original building the Carmelite friars lived in when they returned to Mainz in 1924

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

The Exsultet (as it should sound)

Christ is Risen!

Craig Lodge garden

Fr. Damian and Fr. Desiderio were with our friends in Craig Lodge, Dalmally for the Easter Triduum.  Alongside the community, which is made up of couples, families and young people who live and work in the retreat house for a year, over forty young people came to celebrate the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus. It was a time of grace.

Taking time to really live the liturgy of Holy Week is a very special experience; somehow you get so caught up in the drama of the days. So we began our time together with the Mass of the Lord’s Supper and the washing of feet. We gathered simply to do what Jesus did and to experience his closeness to us. Then we stayed with the Blessed Sacrament in a small chapel as the events of that night were slowly read to us.  We remembered Gethsemane, the tiredness of the apostles, the heavy heart of Jesus as he prepares himself for the coming hours and the deep sense of betrayal as Judas hands him over to the authorities. As Jesus is taken away we felt that sense of loss.

On Good Friday the day seems as empty as the chapel. The sense of loss seems very real. Many went up the hill behind the house for to recall Jesus’ journey to Golgotha and his crucifixion. Then we gathered for the Solemn Liturgy of the Passion led by Fr. Desi. Before we began the liturgy a narrator set the tone for our remembering:-

“The world looks for miracles and wisdom,
yet here we are celebrating a crucified Christ!
For all the big feats of the Church,
we would normally celebrate the Eucharist, the mass.
But the Church has never celebrated Mass on Good Friday  because the mass is as much a celebration of Christ’s resurrection as of his death;
and today we are turning our thoughts more exclusively to his passion and death.
Nevertheless, it is still a very real and solemn liturgy
we are about to celebrate;
a liturgy which brings the power and effect of Good Friday into our lives in a very real way.
We gather this afternoon, as Christians have done since the earliest days of the Church, not to mourn the death of Christ, but to celebrate the triumph of the cross.”

In his homily Fr. Damian spoke of the Jesus who is for us, especially when we are on the outside of life. In the evening we gathered to celebrate forgiveness and there was the opportunity for confession as we gathered around a cross in prayer and quiet.

Holy Saturday saw us reflecting with those who were closest to Jesus and living the raw moment of grief. With Mary the Mother of Jesus we gazed at the closed tomb and waited. In the evening we kindled a new fire, blessed it and proclaimed Jesus s Risen. In a candle lit space we heard of our salvation and Fr. Desi spoke beautifully about how we are the Body of Christ and the Body of Christ has been raised from death! He dispelled the myth that those who suffer are distant from God, but that on the contrary, they are God’s friends and they can experience the joy of the Risen One. After we renewed our baptismal promises and water had been blessed, we were drenched with that water, a sign of cleansing, renewal and rebirth. (Also because Fr. Damian likes soaking people with Holy Water!)

After the Liturgy we celebrated! We ended our Lenten fast and danced through the night. As Damian was born a walker not a dancer, he left the dancing to Desi.

Sunday morning dawned and sleep was wiped away from our eyes. At our celebration of the Eucharist, Fr. Damian spoke about joy and giving God permission to overwhelm us with joy. Damian’s explanation of various ‘worship waves’, was apparently something to behold!

To all our friends who made the last week such a joy – Thank you! Maybe we will see you next year?

Christ is Risen! Alleluia, alleluia!

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Holy Week - Tuesday

Archbishop Oscar Romero: Admit guilt

Easter is a shout of victory! No one can extinguish that life that Christ resurrected. Not even death and hatred against him and against his church will be able to overcome it. He is the victor! Just as he will flourish in an Easter of unending resurrection, so it is necessary to also accompany him in Lent, in a Holy Week that is cross, sacrifice, martyrdom . . . Happy are those who do not become offended by their cross!
Lent, then, is a call to celebrate our redemption in that difficult complex of cross and victory. Our people are very qualified . . . to preach to us of the cross; but all who have Christian faith and hope know that behind this Calvary of El Salvador is our Easter, our resurrection, and this is the hope of the Christian people.
How easy it is to denounce structural injustice, institutionalized violence, social sin! And it is true, this sin is everywhere, but where are the roots of this social sin? In the heart of every human being. Present-day society is a sort of anonymous world in which no one is willing to admit guilt and everyone is responsible. We are all sinners, and we have all contributed to this massive crime and violence in our country. Salvation begins with the human person, with human dignity, with saving every person from sin. And in Lent this is God's call: Be converted! (From "A Pastor's Last Homily" in Sojourners magazine, May 1980, quoted in Oscar Romero: Reflections on His Life and Writings by Marie Dennis, Renny Golden, and Scott Wright, Orbis Books)

Romero (1917 - 80), archbishop of San Salvador, was martyred for his defense of the poor and the powerless.

The Hunger Games 'prophetic' writes priest

Father Robert Barron says the storyline in the blockbuster film “The Hunger Games,” based on the widely popular young adult book, warns of what can happen when a society becomes totally secularized.

“There is something dangerously prophetic about 'The Hunger Games,'” said Fr. Barron, founder of the media group “Word on Fire” and host of the PBS-aired “Catholicism” series.

The movie, which has already brought in $214 million worldwide since its March 23 release, is based on the young adult book of the same title by Suzanne Collins. Set sometime in the undefined future, “The Hunger Games” tells the story of sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen's struggle for survival after she volunteers to take her sister's place in her country's annual “hunger games.” Ruled by the wealthy and authoritarian Capitol, the impoverished Twelve Districts within the country must annually offer its children as tributes to take part in a live television broadcast of an arena battle to the death.  The gruesome killings between the children serve as a reminder of the Capitol's absolute power and as punishment for the Districts' failed rebellion decades earlier.  However, as the events in the arena unfold, Katniss and her teammate Peeta begin to rise against the Capitol through attempting to maintain their humanity.

In a March 29 interview with CNA, Fr. Barron said he thought the movie contained elements of modern French philosopher Rene Girard's theory of “human scapegoating.” He explained that scapegoating has been used throughout history as a means of discharging “all of our fears and anxieties” by assigning blame to an individual or group of people.

This practice is seen as far back in history from civilizations such as the Aztec and the Roman empires and as recently as Nazi Germany.  However, Fr. Barron said, Christ undid the need for humanity's scapegoating by taking on the role of victim himself in his Passion and Resurrection. “The Hunger Games” shows not only “how very consistent this theme is in human history” and in “human consciousness,” but also what can happen in a totally secular society.  “When Christianity fades away,” Fr. Barron said, “we're in great danger because it's Christianity that holds this idea at bay.”

Just as Christ's sacrifice was the ultimate “undermining” of humanity's scapegoating, Fr. Barron noted  Peeta and Katniss' defiance in the arena is a disruption of human sacrifice in their own culture.

“Christianity,” the priest said, “is the undoing of the scapegoating mechanism which lies behind most civilizations.” Some critics have said that the book's plot is too graphic for the young adult audience at which it is targeted because it focuses on children killing other children. As a result, much of the child-on-child combat is toned down in the movie. Youth violence is unfortunately a “human reality,” Fr. Barron said, “it's called war.” Although he does not think violence should be shown just for entertainment value, Fr. Barron said he thought that “there wasn't enough violence” in “The Hunger Games.”

He understood why the producers would want to make the film more age appropriate, “but there's something about revealing to people what's at stake here that I think is important.” Muting much of the teen killings “was a bit of a weakness” on the part of the film makers, he added, because “it's actually good to let this violence be seen for what it really is.” The film was rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America for “intense violent thematic material and disturbing images – all involving teens.” 

Monday, 2 April 2012

Holy Week - Monday

Thomas Merton, O.C.S.O.: Give it time
If we really want prayer, we'll have to give it time. We must slow down to a human tempo and we'll begin to have time to listen. And as soon as we listen to what's going on, things will begin to take shape by themselves.

This is what the Zen people do. They give a great deal of time to doing whatever they need to do. That's what we have to learn when it comes to prayer. We have to give it time . . . The best way to pray is: Stop. Let prayer pray within you, whether you know it or not. (Seeds, edited by Robert Inchausti, Shambala)

Merton (1915 - 1968) was a Trappist monk at the Abbey of Gethsemani in Kentucky. He was a peace and civil rights activist, spiritual writer, and one of the most influential contemplatives of the 20th century.

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Holy Week ~ A song to sit with

Holy Week ~ Palm Sunday

In 2000 I was part of a group of friars who had gathered in the Holy Land to reflect and pray on the origins of our Order in the place where we came to be.  A highlight of the trip was being able to read and ponder on many scripture passages in the place that they actually happened.  One of my memories is very pertinent for today.

Our tour bus stopped on the top of the Mount of Olives. The plan was to walk down a road, more of an alley – a very steep alley at that, which has been there for three thousand years.

At our left was the largest Jewish cemetery established in the ancient belief the Messiah will appear on the Mount of Olives. At the bottom of the hill is the Garden of Gethsemane, guarded by the remains of olive trees that overheard the betrayal of Judas Iscariot. Straight ahead was Mount Zion, with the ancient walls of the city of Jerusalem. This is the route that Jesus took when he entered the city on Palm Sunday.

Right by the bus were a couple of local men. They waited for the tourists like us. “Would you like to borrow a donkey to ride down the hill?” they asked. “Perhaps you would sit upon one and we can take your picture.” These were not kind offers by generous new friends. This was the way those men make their living.

None of us took them up on the offer, particularly when we heard it was £50 for the picture and three times as much to “borrow” the donkey. These concessionaires would demand such fees because of the location. The Mount of Olives is the most famous place on earth to “borrow” a donkey. We turned down their invitation. It was enough for us to know we were on the same road with Jesus.

The people behind us, however, were some Americans. They were shelling out cash right and left for the privilege of riding those donkeys down the hill. The scene was somewhat comical. I think if they really wanted to take their Scripture seriously, they should have insisted that no money should have changed hands.

Our Scriptures tell us the donkey was borrowed. Jesus sent two disciples ahead of him on his way to Jerusalem. When they got to the small village of Bethphage, he said, “Go to the village up there, and you will find the colt of a donkey. Untie it and bring it to me. And if anybody asks, ‘Where are you going with my animal,’ simply say the Lord needs it, and we will bring it right back.”

This time through the familiar story, it’s the act of borrowing that catches my attention.

Anybody who has heard the story knows how exciting it is. Hundreds of people lined the road of the city. The Passover holiday was near and excitement ignited the air. Jesus intentionally chooses to join the festival parade in this way. He is the One that everybody awaits. He is the rightful ruler of God’s people, not Caesar. He comes to redeem the people from the oppression of the empire.  And they sing, “Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!”

But he comes on a borrowed donkey. Now what kind of king is this?

All of us know the story. Jesus was born in a borrowed place and laid in a borrowed manger. As he travelled, he had no place of his own to spend the night. He rode into the city on a borrowed donkey. He ate his final meal in a borrowed room. He was crucified on a borrowed cross, wearing a borrowed crown that soldiers forced upon his head. And when he died, friends placed his body in a borrowed tomb.

Jesus was a borrower. He did not grasp or grab what did not belong to him, but shared what was given to him freely. As the early church pondered the identity and character of Jesus, it declared and as we heard in our New Testament reading: “Jesus did not count equality with God as something to be crasped.” Our Lord did not hold onto his divinity and throw his weight around. He never forced himself upon anybody. So Jesus emptied himself poured himself out. He gave himself completely away for the benefit of others.

Have you ever considered how remarkable this is? Jesus didn’t own very much–just the tunic on his body and the sandals on his feet. After he was arrested and condemned, the soldiers tossed dice to see who would take his clothing.

He commanded the same of those who followed him. As he instructed them, “When you go out to proclaim the good news, take no money, no knapsack, no extra tunic, no extra shoes, not even a walking stick. Take only a word of peace, borrow the bed given to you, and proclaim that God’s kingdom has come very close.”

At its core, the Good News of God does not need a lot of props. What it needs is the kind of people who believe it simply as they can.

That is remarkable, especially in our culture so bent on consumption. Materialism infects a lot of otherwise Christian people. The best places in town buy a lot of fancy equipment to razzle-dazzle the crowds. They crank up the volume to amplify what they say. They put on a good show because they have been seduced to think the Gospel depends on having a lot of toys. But today we remember how the Saviour of the world is the One who borrows a donkey to ride downhill to his cross.

Who are the real blessed ones? At the sermon on the mount, Christ says they are the people who don’t have very much: the poor in spirit, those who mourn the loss of a loved one, those who are meek, those who are hungry for food and thirsty for righteousness. These are the blessed ones, says Our Lord. Who are the blessed ones? Blessed are those who keep a light hold on all that they have, for they know that everything in life depends on the generosity of God. They are the people who have everything.

There is a beauty to simplicity, to not owning much and needing very little. Those with this freedom will pay attention to the people around them. Little distracts them from the deep needs of the world. Nothing competes with their imagination or faithfulness.

From everything we know about him, Jesus was just like the people of his time, and he owned very little. What Jesus did possess was of infinite value. He possessed a deep knowledge of the scriptures. And that’s how he knew the prophets expected the true ruler of God’s people to be completely humble.

Jesus possessed a deep sensitivity to the world’s deepest needs. He paid attention to the hurts of poor and rich alike, comprehending the forces that twist a good person out of shape, seeing how forgiveness can cancel every festering hurt and always healing the minds, bodies, and spirits of the people whom he encountered on the way.

Most of all, his greatest possession was a love for every person. His love was never a hovering, needy love, but rather a willingness to give what he could for the well-being to those around him. In the words of the early church, Jesus emptied himself. He humbled himself.

And this is the kind of God that we glimpse in the man who borrows a donkey. Today we remember how Jesus gives himself to the world. On this festive day, he rides a borrowed donkey into the centre of the city that will reject him. A person with few possessions, he empties himself of all that he has. It’s all for the benefit of saving the world. And God keeps doing this saving work, setting us free from all selfishness and claiming us in the name of Jesus who owned very little, but who ultimately wishes to possess our hearts.

And then, dramatically, the tone of our liturgy changes. Now those same voices that cried out Hosanna, now shout the words ‘Crucify him!’ We begin to sense just how complicated and searing the events of these days will be. How are we going to live these days? How can we make this week truly holy? Maybe we can just make time. Some time to pray.  Some time to focus on the cross that we wear or that we have on the walls of our homes.  Some time to think of the love that is being offered to me. Some time to think of all those things that complicate my life unnecessarily. Let us all take time over these days to ponder the lengths that God goes through to communicate his love. To tell us that we matter.

May you have a blessed and holy week.