Saturday, 5 January 2019

St Bartholomew, Brighton Epiphany Family Mass 6.1.18

As I reflected on today’s Feast two words came to my mind – spiritual journey.

Firstly the spiritual journey of humankind as we enter together a perilous New Year with all the tumult of Brexit. As I drove down this morning from Haywards Heath I thought of the spiritual journeys of Sussex folk. How blest we are that our life’s journey has brought us to such a beautiful county and city!

Then, secondly, there is the spiritual journey of the wise men to Our Lord and their offering at journey’s end. Linked to this is the Church’s spiritual journey through her Seasons. We travel through Advent and Christmas into Epiphany and the green of ordinary time. Our journey continues with the purple of Lent and Holy Week, the white of Easter and Ascension, the red frontals of Pentecost and then back to green. We do well to familiarise ourselves with the liturgical seasons which are given to serve life’s spiritual journey.

This brought me to the final thought of another much simpler spiritual journey.

It is of but a few inches - fifteen inches…

The story goes that there was once a rabbi in Cracow, Isaac son of Yekel, who dreamed one night that there was a great treasure under the bridge at Prague.

He set off at once for Prague, but when he got there found that there was a heavy guard on the bridge. The rabbi had no choice but to explain his dream to one of the guards.

When the guard heard the story he burst into uncontrollable laughter. ‘How crazy can you get? Suppose everyone went off after their dreams? Why I once dreamed that there was a treasure hidden in a house in Cracow. It was in the house of a man called Isaac, son of Yekel but do you think I was going off to Cracow because of that dream? In any case, half of Cracow is called Isaac, son of Yekel.’

So the Rabbi Isaac returned to Cracow.

The rabbi had treasure at home. He did not need to go to Prague.

So it is with the spiritual journey. If we want spiritual riches we are more likely to find them by opening our eyes to what we have already than by journeying the world over.

The truth of Christmas is about God coming down to our level to dwell in human hearts.

If people want to journey to God today they need move inches and not miles.

Fifteen inches, to be precise, down from the head to the heart. That is where we find God.

Our restless minds distract us, move us away from the treasure to be found in the stillness of the heart.

When the mind can be stilled, and lowered, into the heart - there is salvation.

The Kingdom of Christ is within us.

Sometimes this discovery is made through pain.

I remember once hearing a Theology lecturer, Tom Smail, speak about the way his relationship with Our Lord had most deepened through what he described as God’s shock treatment.

Tom was almost bald.  I remember the joke he told at his own expense. I’m bald he said because the Lord keeps bashing me on the head to lower my religion from my head down into my heart!

It could be you feel the Lord is having a go at you this morning. If you are in pain where is that silver lining? Don’t waste your sorrow - God is surely there somewhere in it if you will but listen for him!

Sometimes painful experience helps make us more fully what we’re meant to be.

This is the essence of the spiritual journey, a journey with Jesus and to Jesus but also by its nature a journey into greater self-possession.

As New Year begins how do we at St. Bartholomew’s move forwards effectively in our spiritual journey?

We have every reason to do so – we want our new priest when he is appointed to be caught up into a dynamic, forward moving parish and not faced with an uphill struggle!

I suppose I have answered my question with the story of Rabbi Isaac.
The spiritual journey we’re called to is primarily the 15 inches one down from head to heart.

Accomplishing that journey within means taking time day by day to reflect, to sit or kneel in God’s presence and indeed our own presence. There we find hunger and longing, hurt and inadequacy, pride and fearfulness. None of these melt away on the spiritual journey but they can be owned and offered to the Lord who meets us just as we are.

The journey within takes courage. There is so much that would keep us on the surface, not least the multitude of recreational options available to us, the manifold activities we can choose to fill up our lives!

The inner journey takes courage and it takes time, time to be.

Was it Pascal who said that most of mankind’s problems derive from our inability to sit still in a room?

Just maybe 15 minutes a day - 5 minutes with the Scriptures, 5 minutes in quiet worship and 5 minutes in intercession, prayer for others, including our parish - what a difference if we made that the flavour of our spiritual journey in the coming year!

‘Jesus loves us as we are’ it is said. As we own that love day by day we own ourselves, our souls and bodies and make them more and more fully a living sacrifice to be united with his perfect Offering in the Mass.

Speaking of this sort of spiritual journey T.S.Eliot wrote these great lines: And the end of all our exploring – will be to arrive where we started – and to know the place for the first time.

Wise men still journey to Jesus but they do not move anywhere.

Whatever we do in 2019 as individuals or as a Church may we be the Church better by being Christians better so that the depths of Christ may resonate from our prayers and our worship and our lives here at St Bartholomew’s!  

Be still and know that I am God!

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