If that sounds well-nigh impossible to readers of that sober and upright journal, let me assure you you are no more surprised than I. Having celebrated the 7.30 Eucharist this morning, I felt I could justifiably have coffee in the garden and whoosh through the paper before starting my “oughts” of the day.
And so I found an article by Judy Hirst, quoting some words of Mother Mary Clare’s
“When you go before God, you cannot leave anything behind. You carry in your heart every person, every incident, every feeling you have ever had and as you lay them before God so you bring all the mess as well. My prayer …is really one sentence. “Here I am,- what a mess”
The words came from an essay by Bishop Jack Nicholls in Living the Eucharist (an Aff Cath publication of papers from one of their summer conferences). I dimly remembered being given the book, but this encouraged me to take it off the shelf…and in that same chapter I found 2 other gems.
The first piece is some words used to sum up the philosophy of a rehab centre, Phoenix House, which Bishop Jack knows well
“We are here because there is no refuge finally from ourselves. Until we confront ourselves in the eyes and hearts of others we are running. Until we suffer them to know our secrets, we can know no safety from them. Afraid to know ourselves, we can know no others. Where else but in our common ground can we find such a mirror. Here at least we can appear clearly to ourselves; not as the giant of our dreams nor the dwarf of our fears, but as people; part of the whole, with a share in its purpose. Here together we can take root and grow, not alone in death but alive in ourselves and in others.”
Knowing and being known. The gift of recognition of the reality of ourselves and of others….
What has finally brought me to my knees (literally) this morning is the final quote, from Jung
“I admire you Christians because when you see someone hungry and thirsty, you see Jesus. When you see somebody in prison or in hospital you see Jesus. When you see someone who is strange, a stranger or naked, you see Jesus. What I don’t understand is that you don’t see Jesus in your own brokenness. Why are the poor always outside of you? Can’t you see that they are inside of you; in your hunger and thirst? That you too are sick; that you too are imprisoned in your own fears and need for honour and power; that you too have strange things inside of you which you don’t understand; that you too are naked?”
I spend so much time speaking to others about God present in the pain and mess of the world,- and I believe absolutely in his presence there. But I so often tend to think of it “there”…as if I’m a spectator….as if my own need for transformation, which I’m always aware of, is somehow distinct from all that. God is “out there” making all things new…but I’m somehow in a different place, frustrated that I can’t achieve that same newness myself.
But for this morning, I’m breathless with the awareness that when I stop and say to God
“Here I am,- what a mess!” he is already embroiled in every bit of that messiness,- and is changing it, changing me….
Father, your own Son did not refuse to be born
in the very thick of our muddle.
Humbly imitating him, may we show to your world
The new life by which we are transformed.