Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Good as gold but beware of Trolls!

Know ye not that they which run in a race run all , but one receiveth the prize? So run , that ye may obtain . And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things . Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. I therefore so run , not as uncertainly; so fight I , not as one that beateth the air: But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection : lest that by any means , when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway. (I Cor ix.24-27)

I am not a sportsman.

In fact one might make the analogy that I understand sport as well as Richard Dawkins understands the need for Religion. I'm sorry, I just don't get it. Cricket, Foot Ball, Ice Hockey, Basket Ball, Dwile Flonking et c. leave me completely cold. I don't get dancing either. I didn't watch the opening of the Olympics. I don't get the thrill of winning nor the disappointment of losing. Medals mean very little.

One thing that I do get, though, is that people get a thrill of winning and a disappointment of losing. I understand that people do benefit from sports, find great comfort from the team and find some direction in their lives. In some ways, perhaps, I'm missing out on some remarkable experiences, but then we are all made differently. That's where the analogy with Richard Dawkins breaks down. I don't see sport as a force for evil, by any means, though some aspects do disturb me.

 I read something today that saddened me very deeply. The young chap pictured above is Tom Daley who I believe is a swimmer. Apparently, he missed out on a medal, and has now been at the receiving end of some absolutely atrocious comments for not achieving his goal. I am led to believe that his motivation is to win a medal, not only for his country, but also for the memory of his dead father. Noble sentiments. So how is it then possible that someone can broadcast the message to this young man in his disappointment that he has let down his country and his dead father by not winning the medal?  I may not quite see the connection between medals and glory, but I cannot understand why he needed to be pilloried like this.

 Surely Tom's efforts and training and intention and desire has been to do well at every stage, to give of his all and to discipline himself carefully. But he is as fallible as any one of us. If he has not achieved a medal, then it I very much doubt that it is for want of dedication.

What then has happened?

I think it is a question of identity and identification. From what I see from my students and ex-students in their rather more playful rivalries between football teams, there is very much an identification of the individual with that team - an extension of oneself into the team and, given the number of Chelsea foot ball shirts I see, an extension of the team into oneself. One shares in the successes and defeats of the team.

However, there is a problem. One is not actually part of the team that we support, otherwise we would be actually competing, not cheering from the sidelines. There is a necessary distance between the supporter and the competitor which cannot be realised physically. However, there is an emotional investment which perhaps the supporter and competitor share more fully. When the competitor fails to achieve the goal, she suffers great disappointment, frustration and perhaps some (largely unjustified, in my opinion) anger at herself for failing. If these emotions are shared, then the supporter must feel these sensations too though they will not necessarily correlate with the emotions felt by the athlete. The danger then is turning these emotions onto the competitor. This is what has happened. Anger and emotion have not been controlled. Poor Tom has become the unwarranted object of emotions that are not his and which have not been controlled by a disciplined mind. His Troll is rightly to be censured and sanctioned for not exercising a fragment of the self-discipline and self-control that Tom has.

Rudyard Kipling reminds us:

If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster and treat those two impostors just the same...

First place and last place are as much imposters as Triumph and Disaster. It takes reason and discipline and thought to realise this especially when one is caught up in the moment. The trouble is that the Media whip up the emotions so readily that each of us does get caught up more emotionally than is actually good for us, and I am as guilty of being emotionally whipped up by the Media as any. I very much get the impression that the team for the UK Olympics is being pressured to succeed, not supported, by the Media and subsequently by the ordinary supporters.

Support requires a stable base, standing still, like a diving board. It is the diver who uses the diving board to make his dive. It is not the job of the board to push back otherwise it ruins the dive. If people are going to support Tom, then they should let him find confidence in their support and acceptance of whatever the outcome should be. When we support a team we should be aware and respectful of the distance that separates us from our competitor however much our emotions seek to bridge that distance.

I gather that Tom will be swimming again at some point. I certainly wish him very well: he has my admiration for his self-discipline and training and I am sure that his father would be very proud of him whatever the outcome. I sincerely pray that he will get more joy out of his next competition than can be provided by winning any gold medal.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Adoption, identity and scotch eggs

Sermon preached at Our Lady of Walsingham and St Francis, Rochester, on the eighth Sunday after Trinity.

Bill is playing on his Xbox 360
when his Mum calls him
 to the table for his tea.

As he tucks into his scotch egg,
 he is very much aware of
a certain awkwardness in the air.
Mum has something to say,
and it’s clearly not easy for her.

“Bill,” she says finally,
“I have something to tell you.
 I think you’re now old enough
to understand this and we do owe it to you
 to tell you the truth.

Your dad and I love you very much, but…”
Mum pauses;
 so does Bill, his mouth full of egg.

 Mum breathes a heavy sigh,
“You’re adopted, Bill.
We aren’t your real parents.”

A scotch egg will never
 taste the same again.

What do you expect Bill to do now?


Well, this surely depends
on how Bill is feeling,
and there are many different emotions
 that could be crashing through
 his head at this time.

You might guess that Bill
could be suffering from an identity crisis.

 that he believes of himself
seems to be false.

All those holidays to Port Lympne,
 the birthday parties
and the games of kickabout in the back garden,
all seem strange and distant.

Those cards he made at school
 for Mothering Sunday and Fathers’ Day
seem to be a bit of a lie.
Where is Bill’s true identity?


We begin to find out who we are
at home with our families.

We learn by interacting
with our parents and brothers and sisters around us.

 The people who bring us up
show us how to live,
what values to treasure
and what we should and should not be doing
...not that families always get that right!
The first crucial experiences
that we have in life colour
how we see ourselves and,
further, how we live our lives.

If we find out that our parents
 really aren’t our parents,
then perhaps we are justified in thinking
that the way that they bring us up
 is not the way we should be brought up.

 Is Bill going to reject the people
 he has called Mum and Dad for all his life?

 Is he going to reject what they have taught him?
But this raises another couple of questions.

What would Bill think of his real parents?
Would he trust their values?

Not all parents are good parents after all!
Bill faces big choices.

He can accept the people
 he’s been living with as his family.

 Or he can reject them
and try to find his real family.

Or he can reject both and go it alone.
 Now that’s not an easy choice to make.

What is the right answer?


We do have to remember
the example of Our Lord Jesus Christ here.

 We cannot know precisely
how he knew that St Joseph
was not His real father.

We do know that He was thought of as “the carpenter’s son”.
Yet throughout His ministry,
 Jesus demonstrates quite clearly
 that He is not the son of Joseph.

Is this a rejection of His parentage?

Well, in one way it is.

The Lord tells us very clearly,
 “If any man come to me,
 and hate not his father, and mother,
and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters,
 yea, and his own life also,
 he cannot be my disciple.”

How does that make you feel?

Should we reject our parentage to please God?


If that’s true then we run up
against the commandment
 “Honour thy father and thy mother”.

The Lord cannot be contradicting
 His Heavenly Father, can He?

 The key to understanding
 what Our Lord is telling us
 is to understand what he means
by “hating” our parents.

 In fact, the Greek word
 that is being translated as “hate”
means “to love less”.

It’s the opposite of preferring.

The Lord tells us very clearly
that God is Our real Father before our earthly parents
and that only in serving Him
 do we truly honour our parents,
especially if they have brought us up
 to love God.

 We do not reject our parents
by choosing God;
we choose to see them first
 in the light of the Eternal parentage of God.

Indeed it is only within God
that we find our true selves.

 St Paul tells us,
” For as many as are led by the Spirit of God,
they are the sons of God.”
The more we love God,
 the more do we find in Him
our true lovable identity.

 To reject God as our adopted Father
means that we reject everything
 that is real about ourselves.

We thus accept an identity
which is distorted by our own preconceptions
and disfigured irreparably by our sins.

 Or, in rejecting God,
 we assume a false identity which is given to us
by other people
and which will alter and perish with them.

Our lives must be spent in rejecting anything
that attempts to draw us away from the reality
of our adoption.


The fact that Bill is adopted does not change his past.
 It changes only how he sees his past.

 If he looks back and sees love there
in the birthday parties,
in the holidays
and in games of footie in the back garden,
 then nothing has changed at all.

His cards for Mothering Sunday and Fathers’ Day
 keep all their meaning and perhaps have gained more.

if we realise that we are the adopted children of God
and adopted by His love for us,
 then we stop seeing the world
as children of the world
with all its evil, sadness and decay.

We look beyond it
to the Eternal face of God’s only true Son,
 the brother who signed our adoption certificate
in His Blood.

And although we might be adopted children,
we are offered, through Christ,
 the opportunity to develop a true family likeness
of our Heavenly Father.

How well have you accepted the fact that you’re adopted?

Sunday, July 22, 2012

St Mary Magdalene: Guilt, Evolution and Purity

Today is the Feast of St Mary Magdalene, a woman whose reputation has suffered as much after her passing as before. At Mass in Rochester this morning, we were reminded that it is not good to speculate on other people's past sins, especially when it is not recorded what they were. We need to focus on her devotion to God and to emulate her humility and love.

If we should not speculate on the past sins of St Mary Magdalene, then we should be equally careful when we consider our own past sins, especially when we have confessed, repented and been absolved from them. We will still bear the scars of sins past which will haunt us if we let them. Yet do we use the memory of our sins to help us to be transformed by the love of Christ?

I believe firmly in Evolution. That's not to say that I can be certain that Evolution as THE way that things happened - no-one can. However, the scientific evidence is sufficiently compelling for me. Indeed further, the mechanism of Evolution is incredibly beautiful and, for me, actually provides further evidence of the existence of God who not only kicked the process off but wrote the rules for Evolution. There are still gaps in the theory, especially how puddles of amino acids managed to spark spontaneously into life: maybe we'll find out the truth, maybe we won't. With the discovery of a particle bearing properties predicted by the Higgs Boson, we can certainly find exhilaration that our theories fit the facts. It's worth exploring!

We must be careful of hubris though.

Evolution demonstrates that past actions dramatically affect the future. A moment's weakness in the past evolves gradually into the twisting and warping of lives, the tangling of the threads of our beings, our relationships and our views of the world. Species change, alter and adapt to fit the surroundings. Those that fail to adapt die out. Evolution implies growth, and that growth can be healthy or it can be malignant: it can allow us to grow fully into happiness or we can die out abjectly.

Thus it is that by failing to recognise our weaknesses and strengths in a spirit of honesty and reflection, we condemn ourselves to allowing our weaknesses to evolve within us and thus to twist our humanity into painful and grief-filled shapes which will remain part of us forever unless we allow the Eternal Gardener to prune the malignant growths out of our lives.

The other extreme is to become so aware of our sins that we wallow the guilt of them to consume us. We look at our tangled and twisted shape and believe that this is what we were meant to be, with no way out. Some Christians hold on to the guilt even after they have confessed and confessed and confessed. We do not allow ourselves to be forgiven. even if we are told so clearly that God does not desire the death of a sinner but rather that he might turn from his sins and be forgiven. To disallow God to forgive us is as much pride as denying that we have no sin in the first place.

St Mary Magdalene shows us the way out. Her redemption comes purely from her love and devotion for the Lord Jesus. Her sins are forgiven because she loves much. She does not have her future destiny in mind, nor does she desire to hang on to sins of her past. Her mind and heart are focussed on one person, Jesus. To be intently focussed on Christ is precisely what it means to be pure in heart. Indeed, blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.

That which is pure evolves purely. The memory of past sins may linger but, seen through a pure heart, those sins cease to have a negative effect, lessons can be learned without guilt and our lives seen to be untangled from that which seeks our destruction. All things work for good for all who love God. In purifying ourselves, as Mary Magdalene did, we shall see the truth and effect of the Resurrection of Christ and allow our lives to evolve around this, and after this life we will find our final form to which our evolution has been tending: full human beings in loving union with God in Heaven.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Benedict, Augustine and Osmund: Pilgrimage by staying still

I really ought to have blogged last Wednesday being the Solemnity of the Feast of Holy Father Benedict. As it was, there was a lot happening that day, not all of it very happy, but certainly a day of growth - a day of pilgrimage.

One of the big differences between being a member of the Anglican Catholic Church and being a member of the CofE is that one doesn't usually have an ACC Church on your doorstep. I could walk 100 yards to the nearest CofE Parish Church, but as it is, I have to travel a not inconsiderable distance to get to the parishes which I serve as Lay Reader. However the fact remains that I should not be measuring distance in terms of miles but in terms of belief.

This produces a dichotomy of which Dualists would be proud. The measurement of distance in miles is a physical measurement, it possesses quantifiable units (miles) which can be traced with pedometers or tracked by GPS systems and broadcast on Facebook. Spiritually the system of measurement is far different. I suppose one could say that one's belief is 10 miles west of Rome and thus give some impression that one's understanding of Christianity is very nearly Roman Catholic, but it doesn't specify what those further 10 miles are, or even if they are continuous!

How can one measure one's spiritual distance? Is it wise to do so? Is it wise to try?

Well, Saints Benedict, Augustine and Osmund would say "yes".  All of them regard life as a journey or a pilgrimage back to God. While all three made not inconsiderable journeys in their lifetimes, their focus was on the inner journey back to God.

St Augustine is chronologically the first. His philosophy and theology are filled with this idea of the sinfulness of Man casting him very far into the dark moors from which in grief he must work his way back to the light of God. His little Augustinian Rule forms the basis for Dominican spirituality, but it is a Rule none the less. A measuring stick by which one can measure one's progress back to God.

Next comes Holy Father Benedict and his magnificent Rule designed to take away the stifling distraction of the practical ways of living so as to free the spirit into climbing the ladder of humility back to God. Even then, in his last chapter, he says that the Benedictine Rule is just a starter, just the first foot out on the journey back to God.

And then there's St Osmund. Why on earth have I pulled him into this discussion? Well, it being his feast day, I was struck by his short readings in the Monastic Breviary. St Osmund is an 11th Century Norman nobleman and Chancellor who becomes Bishop of Salisbury. He finishes construction on the Cathedral and then suddenly withdraws from the world in order to concentrate on study and contemplation. He is also responsible for the Sarum Liturgy but on completely conservative principles - no innovations or deviations allowed. There is no place for St Osmund's thought in the CofE! For Osmund, the Sarum Liturgy is to provide stability for the English Church.

St Osmund's withdrawal reflects precisely the withdrawal that both St Augustine and St Benedict espouse. This is a withdrawal to a stable base from which a spiritual pilgrimage can be made. By reducing the number of worries that distract them, they purify their lives so that they have light spiritual baggage for a long interior journey. Stability becomes the springboard into the uncharted regions of the soul the Rule of Life becomes the road map into the unknown; the light of the Holy Ghost shining in the Lantern of prayer lights the way.

Every Sunday, I make my pilgrimage to my spiritual community. While I must travel physically quite a way, I am never far away from what is, for me, a spiritual caravan moving purposefully toward the light of God. In that caravan, distractions can be laid aside and the interior journey can continue with priest and people to the Divine Light - a journey that is simultaneously accompanied by a myriad myriad of saints and angels and yet nevertheless completely solitary and lonesome. Commitment to stability and fidelity will help us to hold that great paradox together.

Monday, July 09, 2012

SS John Fisher and Thomas More: Heroes, Heretics and Hard hearts

Eleazar, one of the principal scribes, an aged man, and of a well favoured countenance, was constrained to open his mouth, and to eat swine's flesh. But he, choosing rather to die gloriously, than to live stained with such an abomination, spit it forth, and came of his own accord to the torment, As it behoved them to come, that are resolute to stand out against such things, as are not lawful for love of life to be tasted. But they that had the charge of that wicked feast, for the old acquaintance they had with the man, taking him aside, besought him to bring flesh of his own provision, such as was lawful for him to use, and make as if he did eat of the flesh taken from the sacrifice commanded by the king; That in so doing he might be delivered from death, and for the old friendship with them find favour. But he began to consider discreetly, and as became his age, and the excellency of his ancient years, and the honour of his gray head, whereon was come, and his most honest education from a child, or rather the holy law made and given by God: therefore he answered accordingly, and willed them straightways to send him to the grave. For it becometh not our age, said he, in any wise to dissemble, whereby many young persons might think that Eleazar, being fourscore years old and ten, were now gone to a strange religion; And so they through mine hypocrisy, and desire to live a little time and a moment longer, should be deceived by me, and I get a stain to mine old age, and make it abominable. For though for the present time I should be delivered from the punishment of men: yet should I not escape the hand of the Almighty, neither alive, nor dead. Wherefore now, manfully changing this life, I will shew myself such an one as mine age requireth, And leave a notable example to such as be young to die willingly and courageously for the honourable and holy laws. And when he had said these words, immediately he went to the torment.  (II Maccabees vi.18)
I hate, with a passion, the English Reformation. Please don't misunderstand me: I do agree that there was some need of reformation to address prevalent issues which were subsequently discussed at the Council of Trent (though without the presence of English Catholics). However, with the establishment of the Church of England comes the charge of treason for dissenters and with Treason comes torture and death regardless of service, good character and position. Many, many good Christians die as a result of reforming the English Church: some are orthodox, some are heretical, but all have a legitimate claim to martyrdom. I hate that these good men die without some council, some discussion, some reasoned discourse to air the conflict of doctrine. While I understand Henry VIII's desire to stabilise his dynasty and broker some peace in a land still recovering from the Wars of the Roses, there are other, better means and thus he is still very far from being my favourite monarch despite being the product of his time.

We celebrate SS Thomas More and John Fisher today, two men who are willing to stand up to a king who forces men to choose between their country and their religion. Their choice is to remain with the Church of their birth, not to recognise the king as Governor of the Church, but rather to continue allegiance to the Primacy of the Pope. Thus it is that they face the tide and are swamped by it, albeit temporarily. Yet as G. K. Chesterton says, "A dead thing can go with the stream, but only a living thing can go against it."

There is much in common with these two men, Eleazar and St Polycarp, all of whom stand against heresy despite the venerability of their ages and offices. The word "heretic" has negative overtones, primarily because people like to think of themselves as being orthodox, in the right, or justified in their beliefs. The word literally has the sense of a choice, an option between many alternatives. However, with choice comes consequence and one cannot avoid what happens as a result of what one chooses.

In this day and age, we are overwhelmed with choices of what to do, what to wear, how to live, who to live with: we relish our freedom to choose and to change our minds when our choice does not have quite the outcome that we hope for. Indeed that freedom to choose is very much a mark of what it means to be truly human. Yet it is a freedom that we do abuse.

Each choice that we make really does affect others. Our little choices can affect the major life-changing choices of other people. If one person chooses to buy their coffee from Costa's, it could potentially be the loss of a sale that causes the closure of a branch of Starbucks with the resulting loss of jobs. For want of a nail... This sounds like a slippery-slope argument but slippery slope arguments are about future consequences; History is about examining the minute causes of large scale events.

Henry VIII did not change the doctrine of the first Seven Councils, though he did tamper with the Canons. This is no problem in Christianity because it is merely a question of governance, not of belief. If one takes the Canons of the Second Council of Nicaea at face value, every Bishop should know the Holy Scriptures by heart. Since then, the availability of printed Bibles and prayer-books have rendered that Canon obsolete, much to the relief of every episcopal heart. Note carefully, though: it is the law that has changed, NOT the doctrine of God. It was Cranmer and his Protestant influences under the juvenile king Edward VI who sought to change the doctrine of the newly established church. Cranmer is indeed a heretic in the real sense of the word but,  in my view at least, a most lovable heretic, and I do spare a thought for him on March 21st on the anniversary of his martyrdom. Despite his heretical beliefs, he did bring forth a prayer-book which now allows and tolerates Catholic teaching as well as Protestant.

This is the rub. In many of the choices that we face in our religion, we have the choice between what is orthodox and what is heretical. Our duty is always to choose the orthodox and thus choose to travel with God on His terms rather than ours. To choose God places a limit on what we can choose to do in our lives. We are bound to follow Christ with our cross - indeed the word "religion" has at its heart the notion of being bound and restricted. The "lig" is the same as the "lig" in ligature. This is something which the secular world cannot grasp, for the secular world seeks to make a choice out of every aspect of life and curses any attempt to restrict the freedom of choice.

In many ways, that is noble. Everyone should have the freedom to choose how to live and to paint their lives onto the canvass of Spacetime. This is the freedom with which God has created us and in which He rejoices. One must remember that the same God Who created the universe has a great interest in the lives of every sentient being and, being of an Infinite Majesty, can and does care about what each individual does. To deny this, is to deny the omnipotence of God.

Yet our choices need limitation in order that we can live with each other. We are limited beings who easily make false absolutes of our own wills. Whether we puff ourselves up with the grandiose conviction of our righteousness or constantly wallow in the abject abnegation of any good within ourselves, we still exhibit the sin of pride that our will and choice takes precedence over the judgment of God Who often convicts us of the contrary. Our hearts harden when our choice is restricted and we push back. Again, we see this in the Reformation as the pendulum swings between Catholic and Protestant, each side almost gleefully making martyrs of their heretics. Nonetheless, the cause of heresy is pride and its cure is the return to the Catholicism of the Seven Oecumenical Councils and to the humility of the hassock.

It is worth pointing out, though, that pride is a very prevalent sin and does not always manifest itself in heresy.

We see this now in the Church of England as it attempts to find some kind of order from the chaos of trying to ordain women as bishops. This is heresy in its technical sense - it certainly is not Catholic doctrine. Yet the Synod wrestles with trying to have its cake and eat it. This is the result of too much choice and of not allowing oneself to be bound by religion. The hardness of heart from the so-called inclusive majority is forcing out the orthodox minority. I honestly wonder if WATCH and FiF have ever actually sat down together to discuss this between themselves rather than use the Synod as their platform.Perhaps they have, but certainly no good has come of it. FiF will label WATCH "heretic" in a more pejorative sense, just as WATCH labels any dissent from the "priesthood" of women as "misogynist".

There will be lesser martyrs on both sides from the fallout of this synod. Treason is no longer punishable by death, but rather by ostracising, denouncing, excommunicating and demonising. The question is whether one is simply going with the flow, or standing against it. However, let us not be hard-hearted in our dealings by rejecting the heretic with the heresy, but rather exercise our charity in humility even in walking apart. Indeed, walking apart may be the most charitable way forward.

Sunday, July 01, 2012

Vision on, vision off

Sermon preached at Our Lady of Walsingham and St Francis on Trinity iv 2012 based on St Luke vi.36

Rolf Harris is painting a picture. It’s one of those large scale works on an orangey-ochre canvass upon which he daubs thick black paint. He’s putting patches here, flicking paint there and generally moving faster than an octopus after fifteen cups of coffee. You can bet your boots that when the picture is still practically unrecognisable, he’ll turn to the camera and utter the immortal phrase, “can you tell what it is yet?”

How would you feel if he just stopped there, the painting unfinished, and you with no clue as to what it is? Is it a hamster in a cage, a picture of Pope Innocent X, or some landscape from the Australian outback? Don’t you find that just infuriating? What can you do with an unfinished painting?


The infuriation comes because we’re not in a position to see fully. We can’t get into Rolf’s mind to “tell what it is” because he hasn’t finished communicating with us. His picture tells us something and until it’s finished, we’ve not got a clue.

Well, that’s not true. We’ve got some ideas. First of all, there doesn’t appear to be a recognisable figure at the moment. This makes it unlikely to be a portrait of Pope Innocent X. We can’t rule that out though. That bit there looks like a bit of fence, so it’s more likely to be a landscape of the Outback. So there are some things that we can say about this picture with confidence. We might not be certain, but we have a good idea.
Science works in much the same way. We collect data and information from measuring carefully. We make and test predictions and there is a lot that we can say about our world. However, there are limits to what our instruments tell us, so we cannot know things for certain. We can however, be confident that our theories are reasonable, give a clear picture of what we observe and produce results that we can predict some future events.
That’s how we live much of our lives - taking in what’s around us and making judgments on what we see. But what if there’s something wrong with your eyesight?
Losing your glasses can be a frightening affair. Things become vague and distorted. You get some impressions of the world around, but they are not accurate. Nonetheless, if you see what you think is going to be a ditch then you still try to avoid it where possible. Likewise, if you see someone heading for what you believe to be a ditch, you can still warn them to look out. What you may not be able to do is judge the size of the ditch accurately. Someone could conceivably come closer to that ditch than you are comfortable viewing.
If you are completely blind to the ditch, then you can say nothing. As Our Lord Jesus says, “Can the blind lead the blind? Shall they not both fall into the ditch?”
Why then do we forget this principle in the way we live our lives?
If we see our worst enemy standing over the dead body of our best friend with a smoking pistol in his hand, what can we say? What would our witness statement to the police be? Well, obviously we can say nothing more than what we have seen, despite our feelings and emotions in the situation. We didn’t see the murder, but that’s assuming that it was a murder in the first place. We make too many assumptions based on what we’re feeling. Our view has been narrowed to what we believe to be one possible scenario. If we are honest, then we can only say what we see and no more. Our vision is not good enough to judge and we have to leave the judgment to one more competent than ourselves.
Our Lord Jesus tells us that we cannot make judgments until we appreciate the limits of what we can see. We need to be humble, looking at ourselves objectively and honestly so that we do not pass judgment on what is beyond our field of vision.
If we truly know that our vision is limited then we know that we have to trust someone to lead us in the right way. The idea of trusting another is not a popular idea – we prefer to rely on our own judgment.  Humility tells us that we can’t always rely on our judgment and that we must seek help from others who see things better. Going to Church becomes of great importance for help and encouragement along the way. We need to go to Church to feel our way through life in our blind spots, to help and to be helped.
Suffering, too, can narrow our vision too far for us to see God at work. In our times of extreme pain and suffering, all the more do we need to cry out for God for the ability to cope with our blindness.  Indeed, part of our pain is in not being able to see the end of the suffering or its purpose. It is easy to lose sight of God when we at our lowest ebb because his purposes are veiled from our sight and we lose heart. In looking to the cross of Christ and His suffering for us, we see another who lost the vision of God’s goodness and His promises. That doesn’t mean that suddenly they vanish, they have been eclipsed for a while.
As Christians, we have been given a vision of our life beyond, where all human suffering is suddenly given explanation, transformation and dignity in the Eternal presence of God. That vision is not perfect – we see only through a glass darkly - but we have a good idea of God’s Holy Word. How can we make sure that we clearly see what He is showing us?