Have you ever walked early in the morning and noticed the leaves and flowers with gentle moisture covering them?

I am sure it didn’t rain during the night!

Or, you have been for a walk along the beach on an early summer morning and paused to sit awhile and need to wipe a gentle layer of dampness off the seat?

In the early morning forest, there is the sound of a persistent drip!

It is called dewfall.

Each evening, the earth cools, and the moisture in the atmosphere transforms into condensation, forming the dew that will cover the ground,

The dew manages to reach each and every blade of grass, piece of clover, twig, sleeping caterpillar, car, item left out on the clothesline, dead leaf, bottle cap, pebble and furled-up fern that happens to be outdoors — every single one, for miles and miles.

All those tiny drops!

If it’s there, the dew is going to cover it.

In lands prone to aridity, the morning dew is a vital gift for the agricultural cycle, especially in the hot summer months. For them, it stood for cleansing, renewal and regeneration.

In our Scriptures, “like the dewfall” is a powerful image. We find it in psalms and prophecies and prayers of blessing.

In the prophet Hosea we read, “God spoke through Hosea: “I will heal their defection, I will love them freely; for my wrath is turned away from them. I will be like the dew for Israel: He shall blossom like the lily” (Hos. 14:5-6).

In Eucharistic Prayer II, at the moment known as “The Epiclesis”, the presider prayers:

“Make holy, therefore, these gifts, we pray, by sending down your Spirit upon them like the dewfall.”

Traditionally we have strong, powerful images for the Holy Spirit and for Pentecost, eg wind and tongues of fire.

We are invited into an alternate image of the Holy Spirit – dewfall.

The Spirit, as the dewfall, arrives in a very quiet, unseen, mysterious unobtrusive, indiscriminate, and gentle way,

Tonight, as the earth cools and the moisture in the atmosphere transforms into condensation, forming the dew that will cover the ground, let us pray that God’s Spirit rest on us as gentle dewfall.

Ascension Sunday

This Sunday Churches celebrate the feast of the Ascension, the return of Jesus to immediacy and intimacy with his Father. A reflection on this feast:

If you were to open the Cambridge Dictionary and look at the entry for ‘step into somebody’s shoes’, the entry states, “to take someone’s place, often by doing the job they have just left.”

The Amandus Church in Freiberg Germany is a late Gothic fortified former village church. Situated on a hill above the old village centre, it is notable for a diversity of architectural styles and for its paintings and organ. One such painting is by the Czech artist, Hans Stiegler.

The north gallery of the Church is dominated by a painting titled, ‘Resurrection of Jesus and Ascension’.  On first inspection the painting appears like many other ‘Ascension’ paintings with the faithful followers of Jesus gazing upwards as Jesus begins to leave this earth.

However, a closer look reveals that Jesus has left his sandals behind! Might I suggest that the feast we celebrate today is as much about us as it is about Jesus.

As persons committed to following in the footsteps of Jesus the Christ, we are called (maybe even challenged!) not to look up, rather to look down!.

The shoes have been left behind, in order that we may ‘take someone’s place, often by doing the job they have just left’.

And, surprise, surprise, one size fits all!

A note of caution, these shoes have a mind of their own and might well take you to places and persons you would rather not go, e.g. tax collectors, the poor, the needy, the forgotten, persons with a physical or psychological disability; you may be taken to the hospital, the prison, the street corner.

6th Sunday of Easter

How could Jesus say, “This is my commandment, that you love one another?”  (Jn. 15:12).

How can you be commanded to love?

Surely love has to be a free response, not an obligation

Dominican theologian and writer Meister Eckhart (1343 – 1416) threw a clear light on this conundrum. He said, “When I am thirsty, the drink commands me; when I am hungry, the food commands me. And God does the same [when he commands me to love].”

In other words, the command to love is not a command that is laid on us from the outside; it is an inner command, an inner urgency placed in our very being by God – like hunger and thirst; or, you might say, like the urgency that an oak tree has to develop as an oak tree. It is not something alien; it is our own, yet it is totally from God.

Jesus’ command to love contains a critical subordinate clause, “as I have loved you!” What was unique in the way Jesus loved?

Where Jesus stretches us beyond our natural instincts and all self-delusion is in his command to love our enemies, to be warm to those who are cold to us, to be kind to those who are cruel to us, to do good to those who hate us, to forgive those who hurt us, to forgive those who won’t forgive us, and to ultimately love and forgive those who are trying to kill us.

More than any creedal formula or another moral issue, command, love, and forgive your enemies is the litmus test for Christian discipleship.

We can ardently believe in and defend every item in the creed and fight passionately for justice in all its dimensions, but the real test of whether or not we are followers of Jesus is the capacity or non-capacity to forgive an enemy, to remain warm and loving towards someone who is not warm and loving to us.

5th Sunday of Easter

Created by Seamus Connolly, John B Keane’s statue is in the town square Listowel, Co. Kerry.

John B Keane was an Irish playwright who lived in Listowel, Co. Kerry. He wrote some very hard-hitting plays.

However, he was a man of deep faith. Towards the end of life, he was diagnosed with cancer, and the cancer was terminal.

Around that time, he was asked on a TV show if he believed in life after death. By way of an answer, he told the following story.

He had a friend, Jack, who lived in Co. Donegal.

The trouble was they hadn’t seen one another in years.

One day, John B phoned Jack.

They arranged to meet in Galway at a certain place they knew.

They arranged a particular day and time. Galway is about halfway between Kerry and Donegal.

As John B was about to leave home, his wife said, ‘But how can you be sure that he’ll show up?’ to which John B responded, ‘Jack is a reliable man. If he says he’ll be there, he’ll be there.’

Then, turning to the interviewer, John B said, ‘As for your question. I firmly believe that Jesus is a reliable person. He has told us that he has gone to prepare a place for us. He will be there. And so will our loved ones..

“Jesus said, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also.” (Jn. 14: 1 3 )

Where in John’s Gospel this passage sits is worth noting. This saying was not uttered on some sunny morning when all is going well, but on the night Jesus was betrayed; Judas has left the group, and in that poignant scene he shared their pain, and shares with all us the sheer tragedy of our mortality. But even as  he prepared them for the sorrow of parting, he also instilled in them the hope of resurrection, the hope of Heaven and homecoming which they could not yet see.

This passage in John is very often chosen, and rightly so, as a reading at funerals, because it expresses both empathy and hope.

The priest/poet Malcolm Guite reflects on these words of Jesus, in sonnet form:

Let Not Your Hearts Be Troubled
Always there comes this parting of the ways
The best is wrested from us, borne away,
No one is with us always, nothing stays,
Night swallows even the most perfect day.
Time makes a tragedy of human love,
We cleave forever to the one we choose
Only to find ‘forever’ in the grave.
We have just time enough to love and lose.

You know too well this trouble in our hearts,
Your heart is troubled for us, feels it too,
You share with us in time that shears and parts
To draw us out of time and into you.
I go that you might come to where I am
Your word comes home to us and brings us home.

(from ‘Parable and Paradox’, Canterbury Press, 2016)