Weekly Newsletter(click to download PDF)
The Rector writes ...
To say that we live in uncertain times is an understatement. Each day seems to bring its fresh quota of violence and one almost becomes inured to the cruelty and inhumanity which so many in our world are experiencing. Last week’s atrocity in Nice was particularly horrifying – and we offer our condolences to the large number of French nationals who worship with us regularly – but it is really no more than the tip of an iceberg where individual lives seem to count for so little. Media focus tends to be intense but short-lived, and we need to keep in mind those millions of people who are transient refugees. Over past months I have been trying to help someone who is stateless – no passport, no family, no seeming possibility of creating any personal security. Clearly a small nation like Britain needs to have a clear and fair immigration policy – much of the rhetoric around the recent referendum drew attention to the very real concerns many people have about questions of multi-culturalism and assimilation – but we need to remind ourselves, and those around us, of our Christian belief in the absolute value of every life, no matter how limited or challenged that life might appear to be.
Saint John Paul 11 saw the situation with absolute clarity: “the whole of human history has been the story of a dour combat with the powers of evil, stretching, so our Lord tells us, from the very dawn of history until the last day. Finding ourselves in the midst of the battlefield, we have to struggle to do what is right, and it is at great cost to ourselves and aided by God’s grace, that we succeed in achieving our own inner integrity”. Christians have to be realists, and, although we are committed to an unquenchable hope in the ultimate triumph of the Father’s kingdom of justice and peace, we recognize the malevolence which constantly tries to undermine all that is good and true. “Sin” is not a notion invented by theologians and preachers: rather it is the naming of a negative force which effects the creation at every level. The old Serpent may well have had its head crushed, but in its death agony its flailing tail still wreaks havoc.
“Being in the image of God, the human individual possesses the dignity of a person, who is not just something, but someone” (Catechism: 357). This, surely, is the insight which should inform the way we treat one another – and should underpin society’s service of “the common good”. It is this essential dignity pertaining to the human person which is marked by a transcendental quality: conceived in time, we are destined for everlasting communion with God. Saint Catherine of Siena asks: “What made you establish man in so great a dignity?” and goes on to personalise her reply: “Certainly, the incalculable love by which you have looked on your creature in yourself. You are taken with love for her, for by love you created her, by love you have given her a being capable of tasting your eternal Good”.Despite every sign to the contrary – andat times they appear almost overwhelming – we remain committed to God’s loving intention. “In reality it is only in the mystery of the Word made flesh that the mystery of our humanity becomes clear” (Saint John Chrysostom).
Saint John, the great apostle of love, makes clear that love is not so much an emotion, as an action: God demonstrates his love for the world in allowing and accepting the sacrifice of the Cross. As with God, so with us. The changes for which we long in human interrelations, as in the structures of this world’s governance, begin in the individual heart, and in the decisions which each one of us makes. “Be compassionate”, says Jesus, “as your Father is compassionate” (Luke 6:36). The air we breathe at the moment is so full of cynicism: judgements are made, motives are asserted and it is hard for our own reactions not be hardened. We need toremember Father Faber’s phrase that, in contrast, "the Heart of the eternal is most wonderfully kind”, and to try to mirror a little more compassion, a little more kindness, in our own lives.