It’s midnight. The wedding attendants have been waiting for a long time for the bridegroom. At last, he arrives. The five sensible ones are admitted to the feast, but the other five suddenly find they are unprepared. They scrabble around in a panic, and set out to find oil for their lamps.
After some time, the wedding attendants come back, knocking on the door and calling for the bridegroom to let them in. But it is too late. The doors are shut.
Like the five sensible ones who take oil with their lamps, we are called to prepare for the kingdom of heaven and to keep our gaze fixed on Christ. We must be prepared to show our love for Christ through our actions.
Joy Wanless is a volunteer with CAFOD Salford. She shares about what inspired her to become a prayer-writing volunteer. Find out how you can join her.
Me, write a reflection, write prayers? Not I! I was used to reciting traditional prayers and following liturgies prepared by others. Belonging to the Spirituality Team in Salford diocese changed all that. As I became more interested in following CAFOD stories, learning about the treacherous difficulties of life in many parts of the world and the generosity of CAFOD volunteers, I wanted to fuel their passion by enmeshing the prayer with the stories.
A very moving moment from a story which touched me greatly was at a Water Pilgrimage we planned around the diocese, travelling between the churches. As part of the prayer we gave out pieces of rope and invited people to tie them tightly round their waists. This was inspired by the story of Ayapan who ties string round her waist and drinks hot water to cope with hunger.
Based on the Gospel for Sunday 22 October – Matthew 22:15-21 “Give back to Caesar what belongs to Caesar – and to God what belongs to God”
The Religious authorities are determined to undermine Jesus’ authority and once again Jesus manages to undermine their authority instead.
Clearly, the authorities do not stand apart from the Roman occupation, since they readily seem to be able to produce a coin with Caesar’s head on it. It is significant that Jesus is unable to produce a coin himself since he is homeless, dependent on the goodness, generosity and hospitality of others.
Jesus affirms the need to fulfil our civic duties, but even more so – as creatures who are bearers of God’s image – we are called to go beyond the law showing love, mercy and justice to others and to all of creation. This love is made manifest not in a passive desire to avoid doing wrong, but in an active determination to work for the flourishing of all.
Dear Lord, help us to fulfil our civic duties towards one another and towards the common good. Help us to remember that every person is made in your image, and every part of creation reflects your glory. Inspire us to use our civil rights to advocate for the flourishing of all peoples and all creation. Amen.
Linda Jones is Head of the CAFOD Theology Programme. On the second anniversary of Pope Francis encyclical, Laudato Si’, she reflects on how we can free our hearts and minds to transform our world.
We can each imagine what the world could be like, though we might each have a very different picture in our minds. As Christians, we have a passionate love of God and our neighbour, especially neighbours who are treated as if they don’t matter. We can hear the ‘cry of the earth and the cry of the poor’, and we long to respond.
Yet the challenges are so many, and seemingly so huge, that some of us simply find it all too much. Where do we start? Is it even worth bothering to try? Pope Francis identifies some of the biggest issues facing us in his inspiring encyclical, Laudato Si’: climate change, pollution, migration, work, poverty and inequality… rapidification, an over-reliance on technological change for solutions, and more.
Rachel McCarthy works in the CAFOD Theology Programme. She reflects on the Ethiopia food crisis on the anniversary of Laudato Si’, Pope Francis’ landmark encyclical on ecology.
It pains me to hear about the devastating drought in Ethiopia.
I have no doubt that our partners are doing all they can to tackle the Ethiopia crisis. Thanks to your generosity, we are able to support families to cope with the drought in a way which respects their dignity.
Yet it is still a distressing situation. Herit is a mother who lives in a village in the northern Tigray region. She has toiled for many years to help her family be self-sufficient, so I can only imagine how devastating this must be for her. “I have worked hard for a better life,” she says, “to go back to dependency is very difficult for me. I feel sad, it hurts me inside.”
For me, Herit’s words echo someone I met in Kenya with CAFOD a few years ago. John, a village leader in rural Isiolo diocese, greeted me warmly and walked with me up a hill to where his community were gathered. We looked across the slope of the field, across the swirls of dust where the fruit trees once grew, and there was not a drop of water in sight. Looking into his eyes, I saw the pain as he expressed what this lack of water meant for his people. Hunger.
Rachel McCarthy works in the Theology Programme at CAFOD. She reflects on the Gospel story of the transfiguration and how our global neighbours living in poverty are transforming their lives.
“As Jesus was praying, the aspect of his face was changed and his clothing became sparkling white” (Luke 9:29).
This Sunday, we will hear again the amazing story of Jesus’ transfiguration, when the Lord appears transformed by radiant light on the mountain before his disciples. It may be a story you are very familiar with, but it is worth reflecting on this divine transformation today.
Father Paul Ngole works for our partner Caritas Moroto in Uganda. He reflects on how Jesus leads the disciples up the mountain to a place of peace, prayer and serenity. In the same way, the Lord intends us all to experience the love and joy of God.
The theme of transformation is, of course, central to our Lenten practice. As we journey through these 40 days and nights, renewing our baptismal promises and deepening our faith, we prepare our hearts and minds to celebrate Easter, when the Risen Christ will set us free. Continue reading “Lent 2016: Transforming lives”
Rachel McCarthy works in the CAFOD Theology Programme. She reflects on the journey of Lent in this Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy.
As we celebrate the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, we are called to reflect on God’s overflowing love for us all. In the pastoral letter Misericordiae Vultus, Pope Francis invites us to contemplate God’s mercy as “a spring that will never run dry, no matter how many people draw from it” #25. Lent offers an opportunity to draw from the wellsprings, to feel the refreshing waters pour over us, and to share this source of life and love with our neighbours.
The Year of Mercy is not something to be rushed into. For me, throwing ourselves into a sort of hurried anxiety to appear merciful to others would be missing the point. The holy year is, similarly to the season of Lent, more of a journey on which the Lord accompanies us.
To truly understand what it means to be merciful, we must first reflect on the mercy we have received from God. I recall a few times in my life when I have been touched by God’s mercy. One which stands out was when I was sitting on the ground, reflecting through imaginative contemplation on the story of a woman who was a sinner (Luke 7:36-50). The woman bends down to Jesus, her tears falling upon his feet and she wipes them away with her hair. Listening to the words of the Gospel with the summer’s breeze flowing through my hair, I felt the same feeling I do every year on kissing the Cross on Good Friday: an outpouring of love for God.
It is worth meditating on the words of the Gospel to understand the mystery of mercy. While they are at table together, Jesus says to Simon, “I tell you that her sins, many as they are, have been forgiven her, because she has shown such great love. It is someone who is forgiven little who shows little love” (Luke 7:47). Continue reading “Contemplating the river of mercy”
The Year of Mercy is an opportunity to celebrate God’s love and to bring mercy to others. Celia Deane-Drummond, a member of the CAFOD Theological reference group, reflects on God’s mercy towards creation and what this teaches us today.
Most of us have had times in our lives when we have known what it means to receive mercy from others. Perhaps through the caring we received after an injury or illness, either physical or mental; perhaps through knowing we have done something wrong and feeling dependent on someone else’s forgiveness; perhaps just sheer material need that depends on another’s act of generosity. Mercy is what we need when we are vulnerable and in need of love, healing and forgiveness. It accompanies those good actions like a quiet breath of hope.
The only time that Pope Francis explicitly mentions mercy in Laudato Si’ is in a paragraph on God’s love for creation where he cites Pope Benedict XVI’s Catechesis, written ten years earlier in 2005. For love has a way of binding up all other attitudes towards the created world, and without which mercy becomes impossible. So, in the same paragraph, Pope Francis refers back to the work of the early Church father, Basil the Great, as well as the well-known medieval poet, Dante, in order to support his claim. It is worth meditating on this passage a little more in order to unpack what mercy might mean in relation to the created world:
“Even the fleeting life of the least of beings is the object of his love, and in its few seconds of existence, God enfolds it with his affection. Saint Basil the Great described the Creator as “goodness without measure”, while Dante Alighieri spoke of “the love which moves the sun and the stars”. Consequently, we can ascend from created things “to the greatness of God and to his loving mercy”(§77). Continue reading “Love and mercy: learning God’s tenderness towards creation”
On International Migrants Day, CAFOD’s Susy Brouard reflects on the Jubilee of Mercy and compassion for refugees.
Susy Brouard from CAFOD’s Theology Programme reflects on the new Doors of Mercy which are being opened around the world, and the ones which already exist…..
Last week Pope Francis launched the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy by pushing open the normally bricked-up bronze doors of St Peter’s Basilica in Rome. This was the very first Door of Mercy to be opened this Jubilee year, which began 8 December. The Holy Father asked Catholics that as they walk through it, they should take on the role of the Good Samaritan.
Throughout England and Wales, dioceses, schools and parishes have taken up the Pope’s initiative in diverse ways – my personal favourite is the Jubilee of Mercy double-decker bus which will tour parts of Greater Manchester and Lancaster come February next year. Inside, priests will be available for confession, a blessing or simply a chat.
Opening new Doors of Mercy is a fantastic idea which will open up spaces where people can find healing and reconciliation. However, last week, in conversation with a Religious sister who works with vulnerable women, she raised the fact that there already are, within and outside the Catholic Church, Doors of Mercy, which people walk through daily and find places of healing and sanctuary. How true, I thought!
As a CAFOD member of staff I began to reflect on where the Doors of Mercy are in our work. I thought immediately of the work that our sister agencies in the Caritas network are doing with refugees. Surely any entrance to a building which provides a safe refuge for those who have nothing is a Door of Mercy? Surely any entrance to a building which provides sanitation facilities, psychosocial support and above all, a warm and genuine welcome, is a Door of Mercy? These Doors, as well as the new ones, need to be highlighted and celebrated.