success stories

Posted February 13, 2004

Book: Small World
Authors: Sheila Cassidy, Celia Deane-Drummond, Joseph Donders, John Rawshorne, Wendy M. Wright, Phumzile Zondi
CAFOD, London SW9 9TY, pp. 99

An excerpt from the jacket:

Lent is a special time for expectancy, reflection and making choices. Who do we want to be? What values are we to live by? Who are we to follow?

The CAFOD/DLT Lent Book invites us to see in a new way, with the eyes of the gospel: the world is turned on its head, so that the last shall be first, and the first shall be last.

Some of our finest spiritual writers have contributed to these reflections on the common lectionary readings for each day of Lent 2004. We are invited to draw closer to God through prayer an action, through contemplation and the transformation of the world.

An excerpt from the book:

Ash Wednesday to Saturday after Ash Wednesday
The desert experience
Jl2:12-18; Ps51; Co5:20-6:2; Mt 6:1-6, 16-18
‘For he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, rich in faithful love.’ Joel 2:13

I am completely useless at keeping Lent in the time honoured way. On one Ask Wednesday I solemnly gave up sherry at breakfast time (not that I drink sherry for breakfast, you understand) and gave in to the desperate urge for a drink at ten past six that evening. Part of my problem is that as a tireless fighter in the battle of the bulge I have long since shifted down my culinary excesses to the bare minimum required to keep body and soul together, and any further cutbacks would lead to more neuroses than it is worth. (Even as I write this, I know it’s not really true, but that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it.)

We think of Lent as a time when we try to find extra space for prayer and think of things t go without. But my personal theory is that Lent is a time for cutbacks and reflection chosen more by God than by us. By this I mean that just when life is going most smoothly, the fog may descend, leaving us weeping and floundering in our own tailor-made Lent. My own personal desert experience was a spell in solitary confinement in a Chilean gaol in the 1970s. Everything was laid on free of charge: pain, fear, bread and water. It was an enormously powerful experience, during which I felt very close to God.

We each have our ‘private Lents’: those times when lovers leave or beat us to a pulp; when parents die; when our kids take up drugs; or when we find ourselves suffering from cancer or some other hideous ailment. But what about the Lent that Christians share together, the liturgical season which is upon us? We could ‘choose’ our Lent, by giving up chocolate or wine as usual. Or we might instead carve out our own bit of desert time each day, no to ‘do’ anything but simply to listen to the God who calls us so urgently. I suspect that it’s only through this kind of ‘waste-of-time’ prayer that we will come to know in our dry, dry bones, the truth of Joel’s words: that the Lord is all tenderness and compassion, slow to anger and rich in graciousness.

Thought for the day

The Lord calls me by name
to waste time with him as lovers do
gazing at the sea or into the flame of a candle.


Lord of the Desert
give me the strength to make time for you this Lent.
Teach me to listen for your voice in the rustle of leaves in the wind
and in the silence of my own heart.

Fifth week of Lent

On not drawing a line
Is 43:16-21; Ps 126; Ph 3:8-14; Jn 8:1-11
‘If there is one of you who has not sinned, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.’ John 8:7

That morning Jesus did not agree with the people around him. They had been doing the simplest thing in the world. Something so simple, that we are doing it all the time. They had been drawing a divisive line between the good ones and the evil ones. They were good, and the woman was bad, no longer worthy to live.

She had been caught in the act of adultery. Something you cannot do on your own. Yet she was the oly one they pushed in front of him. She was unclean, a sinner, and they were the ones standing in for the law, for purity and integrity.

Jesus did not even look up at them. He remained sitting, drawing with his finger some lines in the sand: crosses, circles, triangles. They tried to force him to take sides. They asked him, “Moses had ordered us in the Law to condemn women like this to death by stoning. What have you to say?”

He did not answer them, but when they persisted, he finally looked up and even then, he did not answer their question at all. He asked them his question. “Who among you is without sin?” How could they draw that line around her? Put her in a circle” Did they not realize that they belonged in that circle, too? Finally, they did, and they left the scene, one by one, the older ones first.

It is a story so simple that it repeats itself all the time. How often do we divide the people around us into the good ones and the bad ones? We belong to the good ones, they to the bad ones. How often do we frustrate, boycott and sabotage each other because of that line. But Jesus says, “That line is a lie. It will be no help in th world you want to restore. All of you are co-responsible for the world as it is. You all have to change your ways, and to sin no more.”

It is what he told the woman, and, by implication, all of them, and all of us.

Thought for the day

‘For when the One Great Scorer comes, to write against your name,
He marks — not that you won or lost, but how you played the game.’ Grantland Rice, 1880-1954

Let us pray

Loving God
as we grow older help us to live in peace.
Help us to do what is just,
as responsible members of the body of your Son,
our Lord and Brother Jesus Christ. Amen