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Hello from Rivendell.

You may know that J.R.R.Tolkien described Rivendell
as a perfect place for story-telling and thinking.
Those words have influenced
what I will try to include here.

Each week, hopefully, you will find two items.

In “Sunday Reflection”
there will be a Prayer and a Reflection to think about
based on the Prayers and Scripture Readings for that Sunday.

On Wednesdays
there will be something a little different.
Over the years I have come across all sorts of writings
by many different people.
Not all of them have been by people who believed in God,
but all have believed in people.
The things about which they have thought and written
remind me of what Abraham Lincoln once said:
“I have always plucked a thistle and planted a flower
where I thought a flower would grow.”

It is quite possible that amongst all that appears
under the title of “Wednesday Thought”
some will find thistles and some will find flowers.
I hope that in most of the writings
you will find more flowers than thistles.

What all sorts of people have said can be of help to us,
and if we reflect on them,
they might influence for good,
the way we are,
and what we think, and say, and do.

If you know of anyone
who might find something here that is helpful,
please let them know of my website address.

 

May you have a happy time reflecting.

Barry

If you would like
to make a comment or contact me,
but without using the comment facility,
and so making sure that
I’m the only one who can read it,
please email me on:
rivendellsfoodforthought@gmail.com

Sunday Reflection for February 23, 2020

A Prayer and Reflection for February 23, 2020,
7th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

Prayer

God of all people,
in your Son, Jesus,
you have shown us how to live
and how to treat people.

May we learn from him
how to be more understanding,
so that we may be kind to people.

May we accept them without conditions,
and grow in our willingness and ability
to forgive.

May our lives be filled
with the same forgiving love
that we see in the life of Jesus.

Reflection

I once saw the following on a Seaside postcard.
A very large, domineering wife,
was speaking to her skinny, hen-pecked husband:
“You are lazy, worthless,
bad-tempered, and a liar!”
The skinny hen-pecked husband
replied to his large, domineering wife:
“Well, nobody is perfect!”

On hearing the words of Jesus:
“Be perfect” we might well respond by saying
“Well, nobody is perfect!”

Recommendations in the Bible about
how we should behave
are not always easy to follow.
We know what we should be like,
but it can be difficult to achieve.

Sometimes if we try to live out
the message of Jesus,
it can have a serious effect on our lives.
An American woman who found this out was
Lydia Maria Child.
Born on February 11, 1802,
she died October 20, 1880 aged 78.
At a time when few women
had a chance to earn a decent living,
she established herself as
a well-paid and successful novelist,
a magazine editor,
and the author of a widely read guide
to household economy.

She was an independent thinker
with a soft spot for the downtrodden.
She sacrificed her career in America
by taking a highly unpopular stand
against slavery.

She believed that slavery was so morally repugnant
that it should be abolished immediately.
In
“An Appeal in Favor of
that Class of Americans Called Africans”
she wrote:
“A Roman priest persuaded Louis 13th
to sanction slavery
for the sake of converting the negroes
to Christianity;
and thus this bloody iniquity,
disguised with gown, hood, and rosary,
entered the fair dominions of France.

To be violently wrested from his home,
and condemned to toil without hope,
by Christians, to whom he had done no wrong,
was, methinks, a very odd beginning
to the poor negro’s
course of religious instruction!

When this evil had once begun,
it, of course, gathered strength rapidly,
for all the bad passions of human nature
were eagerly enlisted in its cause.

The British formed settlements in North America,
and in the West Indies;
and these were stocked with slaves.
From 1680 to 1786,
2,130,000 negroes were imported
into the British colonies!

In almost all great evils
there is some redeeming feature,
some good results,
even where it is not intended:
pride and vanity,
utterly selfish and wrong in themselves,
often throw money into the hands of the poor,
and thus tend to excite industry and ingenuity,
while they produce comfort.

But slavery is all evil, within and without,
root and branch, bud, blossom and fruit!”

Her anti-slavery work
enraged most of the nation,
and cost her dearly.
She could no longer sell books
or publish her writings,
and she lost her job at a children’s magazine.
But she continued
to argue eloquently and courageously
against injustice of all kinds.

She devoted the rest of her life
to fighting discrimination in all forms.
The poet John Greenleaf Whittier
(who wrote the hymn:
Dear Lord and Father of mankind)
said that
“no woman sacrificed so much for principles,
as Mrs Child.”

After the American Civil War
she worked tirelessly
on behalf of equal rights for former slaves,
for Native Americans,
and for women.

At a meeting of the Massachusetts
Anti-Slavery Society (1857)
she said:
‘The United States is a warning
rather than an example to the world.’

In one of her poems she wrote about
a message that is
central for any Christian.
It captures one way that
our faith
should have an influence on our lives.
It suggests a way of looking at life.
A way that can be of help
in trying to achieve
what seems the impossible task of doing
what Jesus asks of us in today’s gospel:
“be perfect,
as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

Lydia wrote about
how we view the world we live in,
a world that we believe Jesus passed through.

The World I am Passing Through.

Few, in the early days of youth,
trusted like me in love and truth.
I’ve learned sad lessons from the years,
but slowly, and with many tears;
for God made me to kindly view
the world that I was passing through.

How little did I once believe
that friendly tones could e’er deceive!
That kindness and forbearance long,
might meet ingratitude and wrong!
I could not help but kindly view
the world that I was passing through.

And though I’ve learned some souls are base,
I would not, therefore, hate the race;
I still would bless my fellow men,
and trust them, though deceived again.
God help me still to kindly view
the world that I am passing through.

Through weary conflicts I have passed,
and struggled into rest at last;
such rest as when the rack has broke
a joint, or nerve, at every stroke.
The wish survives to kindly view
the world that I am passing through.

From all that fate has brought to me
I strive to learn humility,
and trust in Him who rules above,
whose universal law is love.
Thus only can I kindly view
the world that I am passing through.

When I approach the setting sun,
and feel my journey nearly done,
may earth be veiled in genial light,
and her last smile to me seem bright.
Help me, till then, to kindly view
the world that I am passing through.

And all who tempt a trusting heart
from faith and hope to drift apart,
may they themselves be spared the pain
of losing power to trust again.
God help us all to kindly view
the world that we are passing through.

Whatever our lives may be like,
whether they are filled with light,
and they are full of happiness,
or whether they seem filled with darkness
due to sadness and suffering,
may we always kindly view
the world that we are all passing through.

Sunday Reflection for February 16, 2020

A Prayer and Reflection for February 16, 2020,
6th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

Prayer

God of all people,
in your Son, Jesus,
you have shown us what it means
to live in your way.

Help us to be loving and faithful people.

May we respect and care for each other,
and put other people’s needs before our own.

In this way may we follow your law of love,
and always see and do what is right.

May our hearts always be filled
with reconciliation,
and full of love for you and those around us.

With Jesus as our guide,
may we always walk in his way,
especially amid the tensions and troubles of life.

May we always trust in you,
knowing that your Holy Spirit
will inspire and encourage us.

Reflection

The Declaration of Independence,
is a statement made on July 4, 1776,
which announced that the 13 American colonies,
then at war with Great Britain,
were now independent states,
and thus no longer a part of the British Empire.

The second sentence,
is a sweeping statement of individual human rights:

We hold these truths to be self-evident,
that all men are created equal,
that they are endowed by their Creator
with certain unalienable Rights,
that among these are
Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.

That sentence has been called
“one of the best known sentences in the English language”
and
“the most potent and consequential words
in American history.”

The famous wording of the Declaration
has often been invoked to protect
the rights of individuals and marginalised groups,
and has come to represent for many people
a moral standard for which the United States should strive.

Once upon a time in America,
there was a man who liked to show off.
One day when he was holding forth, he said
“One of my ancestors
signed the Declaration of Independence.”

At the time,
he was talking in the presence of a Rabbi,
who was getting fed up with all of this bragging,
and silenced the man by saying:
“Really?
One of my ancestors wrote the 10 Commandments.”

In today’s gospel,
Jesus refers to the Law and the Commandments,
but he’s not really talking about the Ten Commandments,
from which we work out our rules for life.
He is really referring to the Law
as it was worked out by the Scribes.

The Scribes were the people
who had turned the Ten Commandments
into thousands of rules and regulations.
For example:
The Ten Commandments say that
the Sabbath Day is to be kept holy,
on that day no one is to work.

But what is meant by work?
The Scribes defined work,
by saying that it included carrying a burden.

They then defined a burden
by saying that it was, amongst other things:
food equal in weight to a dried fig,
enough milk for one swallow,
enough ink to write two letters of the alphabet,
and so on and on.

The Scribes worked out
all the intricate details and regulations of the Law.
The Pharisees kept themselves apart from most people
so that
they could keep all these laws and regulations perfectly.
For them that was what religion was all about.

When Jesus said he had come to fulfil the Law,
he didn’t mean he was going to add lots more rules,
he meant
he was going to bring out the real meaning of the Law.

The central meaning of the Ten Commandments
can be summed up in the words respect or reverence.
Respect or reverence for God, for parents, for life,
for property, for truth,
for other people and their possessions.

This respect or reverence
is not about obeying lots of petty rules,
it is in the instruction to work out
how to live our life based on
the positive commandment of Jesus
to love God and our neighbour.

As William Barclay says,
Jesus sets before us,
not the Law of God, but the Love of God.
When Jesus was asked
what is the greatest of all the Commandments,
he didn’t give us
a list of all the things we must do or not do,
he simply said
we must love God and love our neighbour.

Of course, that is much easier to say than to do.
Partly because there will always be
people that we really don’t like at all,
and also,
there are those to whom we need to say sorry
for when we have not treated them with love.

At Mass there are a number of things
to help us with all of this.
One of them is offering each other the sign of peace.
The constant practice of turning to people,
some of whom we may not know,
and saying ‘Peace be with you’
can help us do this.
It keeps us in practice,
as we try to fulfil the Law and Commandments,
in the way Jesus describes.

Also, it can help to remind us
that we are all created equal,
and endowed by God with the unalienable rights
of Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.

Wednesday Thought for February 12, 2020

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Life has taught us that
love does not consist in gazing at each other,
but in looking outward together
in the same direction.
Antoine de Saint-Exupery

We find rest in those we love,
and we provide a resting place in ourselves
for those who love us.
Bernard of Clairvaux

The great tragedy of life
is not that people perish,
but that they cease to love.
W. Somerset Maugham

Sunday Reflection for February 9, 2020

A Prayer and Reflection for February 9, 2020,
5th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

Prayer

God of all people,
you ask us to make your name known and loved.

With loving care you are aware of our tears and laughter,
our sorrows and joys.

Help us to follow in the footsteps of your Son, Jesus.

May we bring the light of his gospel message to everyone.
May we do this joyfully.

Help us to bear witness
that life is meaningful and worth living.

May we be people who care for others.

May we become like a city of light on a hill-top,
bringing your message of love and justice
to the world.

Reflection

I’ve read that someone called La Rochefoucauld said
An old man gives good advice
in order to console himself
for no longer being in condition
to set a bad example.

In today’s gospel Jesus tells his followers
You are the light of the world.
It’s another way of telling them, and us,
to be good examples.

I sometimes think that
the people who give a good example,
will very often not realise it.

I see it constantly in how parents and teachers
look after children,
especially when it is difficult to do so.

Another example that is very powerful
is given by people who cope and respond
to tragedy and sadness in their life.

Robin Eames,
who was the Anglican Archbishop of Armagh,
once spoke about someone who did this
after the events at Enniskillen in 1987.
He said:

The tragic and horrifying events
would never be forgotten by those of us who were there.
Like so many other such events,
the world learned of the details,
registered its shock,
and was prepared as so often,
to move on to other things.

And then quite suddenly,
someone changed that process.
His words, his attitude,
his sheer human goodness and faith
shone out like a beacon of hope in the darkness.

On Sunday, November 8, 1987,
Alf McCreary was driving from Belfast
to his mother’s home in the small village of Bessbrook,
set among the picturesque scenery of South Armagh,
near the Irish border.
It was a grey morning,
as befitting Remembrance Day,
which has a special meaning in Northern Ireland.
In towns and villages groups of people
were gathering around the Cenotaph
to remember the dead of two World Wars,
and of many conflicts since then,
and not least in Northern Ireland itself.

Alf said:
Remembrance Day had become to me a day of sadness
for the dead of all wars and conflicts,
and also a moment for a personal renewal of a commitment
to work where possible
for the elimination of hatred and misunderstanding.
In my mind’s eye I saw the usual group of people
around the Cenotaph in my home village.

Suddenly the background music on my car radio
was punctuated by a news flash.
As crowds gathered for the Remembrance Day services
at the Cenotaph in Enniskillen,
a bomb had gone off.

First reports indicated serious casualties.
Emergency and rescue services were rushing to the scene.
It was scarcely believable,
even to hardened veterans of hundreds of news flashes
about violence in Northern Ireland.

How could anyone place a bomb at a Cenotaph?
It was like somebody mowing down
a row of mourners at a funeral
just because they were there.

More news filtered through.
Pandemonium, people killed,
heavy casualties, serious injuries.

As we drove home, the reporters on the radio
pieced together the story.
Later, on television, the visual horror unfolded.
Television has the power and professionalism
to tell an horrific story extremely well.

I remember the scenes of devastation,
the rubble, the rescue workers,
and the anguished face of the Anglican Archbishop of Armagh,
Dr Robin Eames,
who had been due to preach
at the Enniskillen Remembrance Day Service,
as he tried to find Christian words of comfort
in front of the microphones and cameras,
and tried also to explain the inexplicable.

It was a Remembrance Day which no one would ever forget.

The next morning I listened to the radio, over breakfast.
In Northern Ireland BBC Radio News carried further details.

And then they broadcast an interview
with a man called Gordon Wilson,
who with his daughter, Marie,
had been caught directly in the blast.
He had been injured, she had been killed.
As he began talking I became absolutely frozen,
with a cup of tea half-way to my lips.
I could not move.
His words, and his tone of barely controlled anguish,
were burning deep into my very being.
This is what he said:

The wall collapsed, and we were thrown forward,
rubble and stones all around us and under us.
I remember thinking I’m not hurt,
but there’s a pain in my shoulder.

I shouted to Marie, Are you alright?
and she said, Yes.
She found my hand and said,
Is that your hand Dad?
I said, Are you alright dear?
But we were under six feet of rubble.
Three or four times I asked her,
she always said, Yes, I’m alright.
I asked her the fifth time, Are you alright, Marie?
She said, Daddy, I love you very much.

Those were the last words she spoke to me.

I kept shouting, Marie are you alright?
There was no reply.

I have lost my daughter,
but I know there has to be a plan.
If I didn’t think that, I would commit suicide.
It’s part of a greater plan,
and God is good, and we shall meet again.

Some years later Gordon wrote this:

I am sure that the majority of the people in Ireland
want and indeed long for peace,
and I am convinced that some day peace will come,
but don’t ask me how.
I just know in my heart that peace will come,
and that we must go on striving to find it.

Our Lord said,
“You shall love the Lord your God
with all your heart,
and with all your soul,
and with all your mind.
This is the first and greatest commandment.
And the second is like it,
you shall love your neighbour as yourself.”

It’s as difficult and as all-powerful as that.
Maybe we are so familiar with the words
that only a tragedy as great as Enniskillen
can shake us to our roots
with the awfulness of what can happen if,
individually and collectively,
we cease to love our neighbour as ourselves.

Peace will come,
maybe not tomorrow but come it will,
because Good must triumph over Evil,
and Love will triumph over Hatred.

But my Peace is of another kind.
Perhaps it is really the same Peace, in the end,
or indeed a better one.
I enjoy the Peace of knowing beyond doubt
that Marie is in the presence of her Lord,
and that, with God’s will,
we shall again hold her hand.

We have come a long way on our journey.
The tragedy of Enniskillen
is not a road which I would have chosen.
If I had known in advance
I would have pleaded like our Lord in Gethsemane,
“Father if it be possible, let this cup pass from me;
nevertheless not as I will, but as you will.”

And I am sure that all who have been touched
by the tragedy of Northern Ireland,
would want to speak likewise.

But we cannot change what’s happened.
We have to go on living, as best we can,
with whatever strength we are given to do so.

If I have a message, it is this:
I believe very strongly in the words of our Lord
when he said,
“A new commandment I give you,
that you love one another.”

That’s basically it.
Those words about love were burned into me
by Marie’s experience.

Her last words were
“Daddy, I love you very much”.
She went out on words of love,
and I have to stay on that plane.
Hopefully and thankfully, with God’s Grace,
I will keep on trying to do that.

The first and last words in this whole story
are about love.
That’s what helps me to keep going,
to get through my days and to sleep at nights.
Love God and your neighbour.

In life and after death
there’s only one ultimate standard
by which we are judged.
Marie showed that, to us all,
as she lay under the rubble at the Cenotaph holding my hand,
with her life slipping away.

The bottom line is love.
There’s nothing more I can say.

May we pray that
our lives will shine with such a light.

Wednesday Thought for February 5, 2020

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True, you can’t take money with you,
but then that’s not the place
where it comes in so handy.
Brendan Francis

I’m opposed to millionaires,
but it would be dangerous
to offer me the position.
Mark Twain

There are some meetings in life
so useful, so truly wonderful,
that they seem like
visible interventions of Providence.
Ernest Hello

Sunday Reflection for February 2, 2020

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A Prayer and Reflection for February 2, 2020,
4th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

Prayer

God of all people,
we ask for the wisdom
to follow the light of Jesus.

May his light guide us
on our journey through life.

Help us to bring the light of Jesus
to all around us.

You fulfilled the hope of Simeon
who did not die until he had been privileged
to welcome Jesus, the light of the world.

As we welcome the light of Jesus into our lives,
may it shine through all we do and say.
May it lighten the way
for all who are searching for God.

Reflection

Another word used to describe today is
Candlemas.
This is linked to when Jesus calls himself
The Light of the World.
So in many churches
lighted candles will play a prominent part.

In Somerset, in Wells cathedral,
you will find this notice:
Lighted candles
have always been a part of religious festivities,
expressing something of the glory of God,
and our joy in his service.

In a place hallowed by the devotion of generations
we offer you candles to light;
candles to accompany your prayers;
candles to go on burning
when your own prayers have to cease.

A lighted candle
tells of Christ, the Light of the World,
the flame of whose love burns in our hearts
causing us to shine for him
in the dark places of human life.

One candle can give light to another
without ceasing itself to burn.

The light which Christ has kindled in us
burns all the brighter
for being offered to others.

The candle flame
burning bright and steady symbolises prayer,
prayer going straight up to God
who loves to hear and accept it;
prayer bringing Christ’s light
into our lives and the lives of those we meet.

Perhaps when you light your candle,
you have time only for a brief prayer,
but your candle outlasts it,
expressing your desire constantly
to lift up your heart to God
out of love for him who creates and recreates us,
out of love for the world
of which, Jesus says, we are the light.

So we pray:
God of all people,
candles bring beauty and light to our homes.
In the darkness
they can remind us of your gift of light,
and always
they remind us of Jesus, the light of the world.
Keep us safe, and turn our hearts to you
so that
we may bring your light of faith, hope, and love
to everyone we meet.

If you have a candle to light,
you might like to say this prayer:

May the light of this candle
reminds us of Jesus the Light of the World.

May our faith
bring the light of Jesus
into the lives of all
who find it difficult to believe in God.

May our hope
bring the light of Jesus
into the lives of all
who worry too much.

May our love
bring the light of Jesus
into the lives of all
who are sad or lonely.

May our loving care
bring the light of Jesus
into the lives of all
our families and friends.

May God bless you.

May Jesus, the light of the world,
help you to shine for him
in the dark places of the world.

May your prayers bring the light of Jesus
into your lives,
and the lives of those you meet.

May the light of Jesus,
that is reflected in your lives,
always burn brightly.

Sunday Reflection for January 26, 2020

A Prayer and Reflection for January 26, 2020,
3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

Prayer

God of all people,
your Son Jesus invites us to follow him
as faithful disciples.

Open our minds to his message.

Help us respond to his love for us.

May he be among us
like a pathway of light guiding us to you.

Open our eyes that we may discover him.

May we also see more clearly
the joys and sorrows of the people around us.

As we try to care for them,
may we all come closer to you.

May we become more like Jesus,
and be a light to the world.

Where there is despair
may we bring a spark of hope.

Where there is sadness
may we bring the radiance of joy.

Where there is indifference
may we bring a glow of love.

Reflection

You may remember
the fable about a vulture and a humming-bird.
(You will know, of course, that in a fable,
animals and birds can speak!)

One day a vulture
was flying over a South American rain forest.
Suddenly, in a clearing,
he spotted a tiny humming-bird, lying on its back.
The vulture,
licking its beak in anticipation of a tasty meal,
swooped down, landing softly behind it.

It was just about to gobble it up,
when it noticed that the bird was not dead.
The humming-bird was lying on its back
with its two little feet in the air,
and with a very serious expression on its face.

The vulture said:
“Oi, what do you think you are doing?”

The humming-bird whispered:
“Keep quiet, don’t even breathe too loudly.
If you disturb me it could be fatal!”

So the vulture repeated in a whisper:
“What are you doing?”

The humming-bird replied:
“I’m holding up the sky.
If I move, it may fall on top of us.”

To which the vulture said:
“I don’t think so.”
and promptly eat it.

This fable is sometimes told
to remind us that if we are not careful
we can allow some part of our lives
to take on such an importance,
or to have such an effect on us,
and we can become so focussed on it,
that it brings a kind of paralysis or death
to the rest of our lives.

Sometimes, without realising it,
we can drift into being like the humming-bird.
We may almost lose contact with real life,
and live in an unreal world.

The gospels remind us that
Jesus came to bring us good news,
good news for our ordinary, everyday life,
whatever it may be like.

Our lives may not always be easy or happy,
or even all that we want them to be,
but we are called to follow Jesus,
and to try to be like him
in how we live our normal daily lives.

Elizabeth Lamb once said:
You are needed where you are.
As in the heavens,
each and every star fills its appointed space,
so you fill that place where God has need.
Do not doubt,
your hand held out to help a friend,
your love to warm an empty heart,
even your smile to light the dark.
You are in your needed place.

Recently people have been praying
for peace in the world,
and for unity among christians.

It might be good to remember that
it is not just the unity of Christians
that we should be concerned about.

It is important to show care and concern
for all creation and for all people
whether or not they believe in God.

So may we pray that
we will not imitate the stupid humming-bird,
but always remember every day
that God has something special for all of us to do,
and only we can do it.

If we can try to make
the way we treat people be not like the vulture,
but be guided by the message of Jesus
we will discover that we are in our needed place.

The Jesuit priest Mark Link
tells the story of an old man
who collapsed on a Brooklyn street in America
and was taken to Kings County Hospital.

From a blurred address in the man’s wallet,
nurses had deciphered the name of a marine
who appeared to be the old man’s son.
They put in an emergency call to the Army camp.

When the marine arrived,
the old man stretched out his hand feebly.
The marine took it,
and held it for the next four hours,
until the man died.

After the man had died,
the marine asked a nurse:
“Who was he?”

The nurse, somewhat puzzled, replied:
“Wasn’t he your Dad?”

The Marine said:
“No,
but I saw that he needed a son,
so I stayed.”