A Prayer and Reflection for November 3, 2019,
31st Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C
God of all people,
all true love has its origin in you,
and leads to you.
Your Son Jesus
showed us how to live our lives in a loving way.
Help us to respond to your love for us
by the way we care for those around us.
We bring to you our lives
with all our joys and sorrows.
As we become more aware of your care for us,
may it help us to show more care
for those in need.
Help us to rejoice
with those who are happy,
and to show concern
for those whose lives are filled with sadness.
Through our care for other people,
may they be become more aware of your love for them.
Do you remember this poem
by Thomas Hood (1799 – 1845)
listing all the negative characteristics
of the month of November.
No sun, no moon, no morn, no noon,
no dawn, no dusk, no proper time of day,
no sky, no earthly view,
no distance looking blue,
no road, no street,
no “t’other side the way”
no end to any Row,
no indications where the Crescents go,
no top to any steeple,
no recognitions of familiar people,
no courtesies for showing ‘em,
no knowing ‘em,
no travelling at all, no locomotion,
no inkling of the way, no notion,
“no go” by land or ocean,
no mail, no post,
no news from any foreign coast,
no park, no ring, no afternoon gentility,
no company, no nobility,
no warmth, no cheerfulness, no healthy ease,
no comfortable feel in any member,
no shade, no shine, no butterflies, no bees,
no fruits, no flowers, no leaves, no birds,
However true that may be,
the month of November also has some attractions,
it is not all doom and gloom.
It can be lovely
to sit in the warm and dry and hear the rain beating down.
It can be lovely
to sit by a fire, even an imitation one.
It can be lovely
to see the light of a candle.
It can be lovely
to have a nice hot meal.
It can be lovely
to walk in the country or by the sea
when it is no longer crowded.
For many people, the month of November
brings a mixture of emotions,
and for many years
it has been a time of remembrance.
Among the writers
who have described the sadness and hope
is Vera Brittain.
She had been granted leave from her nursing duties
for Christmas Day, 1915,
and went, in great excitement to Brighton
to await the evening boat train
which was to bring Roland, her fiance,
home on Christmas leave.
She waited in the lounge of the Grand Hotel
for the telephone call
that would bring news of his arrival.
By 10 o’clock that night no news had come.
She concluded that Christmas calls
had overwhelmed the telephone system,
and went to bed, exhausted but unperturbed.
In the morning she was called to the telephone
and rushed to hear the voice she had waited so long to hear.
But the voice was not that of Roland.
It was a message to say that he had died of wounds
at a casualty clearing station on December 23rd.
In the following February, she wrote this:
Perhaps some day the sun will shine again,
and I shall see that still the skies are blue,
and feel once more I do not live in vain,
although bereft of you.
Perhaps the golden meadows at my feet
will make the sunny hours of Spring seem gay,
and I shall find the white May blossoms sweet,
though you have passed away.
Perhaps the summer woods will shimmer bright,
and crimson roses once again be fair,
and autumn harvest fields a rich delight,
although you are not there.
Perhaps some day I shall not shrink in pain
to see the passing of the dying year,
and listen to the Christmas songs again,
although you cannot hear.
But, though kind Time may many joys renew,
there is one greatest joy I shall not know again,
because my heart for loss of you,
was broken, long ago.
Such feelings will be felt not only
for those who have died as a result of war,
but also for family and friends
who have died in other ways.
All death brings sadness,
especially when it is someone we love.
All death brings questions,
some that we ask of ourselves,
some that we ask of God.
Whenever death should come,
even for someone with great faith in God,
most people, if they could choose,
would prefer the one who has died
to be with them still.
Knowing this to be impossible
brings a Christian to prayer.
So today as we remember those who have died,
we pray for them
that they may be at peace and at home with God,
and we pray for ourselves
that we may continue to live our lives
inspired by all they did.
Even so, it can be almost impossible
to get rid of feelings of
depression and sadness and loss.
None of this is easy to do,
partly because whenever someone that we love dies
we wish that they could still be with us,
and partly because it’s not easy
to be sure about what happens after we die.
I have found that in times like these,
among the things that may help a little,
are the following couple of thoughts.
There is a story told by Henri Nouwen
about “the Flying Rodleighs”.
They were trapeze artists
who performed in a German circus.
When the circus came to Freiburg,
two of his friends invited him and his father
to see the show.
Afterwards he said:
I will never forget how enraptured I became,
when I first saw the Rodleighs
move through the air, flying and catching,
as elegant as dancers.
The next day I returned to the circus
to see them again,
and introduced myself to them
as one of their great fans.
They invited me to attend their practice sessions,
gave me free tickets, asked me to dinner,
and suggested I travel with them for a week.
I did … and we became good friends.
One day when I was sitting in Rodleigh’s caravan
talking about flying. He said:
“As a flyer
I must have complete trust in my catcher.
You and the public might think that
I am the great star of the trapeze,
but the real star is Joe, my catcher.
He has to be there for me
with split-second precision
and grab me out of the air
as I come to him in the long jump!”
I asked him “How does it work?”
“Well”, Rodleigh said,
“the secret is that the flyer does nothing,
and the catcher everything.
When I fly to Joe,
I have simply to stretch out my arms and hands
waiting for him to catch me
and pull me safely over the apron behind the catchbar.”
I said, quite surprised, “You do nothing!”
“Nothing”, Rodleigh repeated.
“The worst thing the flyer can do
is to try to catch the catcher.
I’m not supposed to catch Joe.
It’s Joe’s task to catch me.
If I grabbed Joe’s wrists,
I might break them, or he might break mine,
and that would be the end for both of us!
A flyer has to fly, and a catcher has to catch,
and the flyer has to trust, with outstretched arms,
that his catcher will be there for him!”
When Rodleigh said this with so much conviction,
the words of Jesus flashed through my mind:
“Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.”
Dying is trusting in the Catcher.
Caring for the dying is saying:
“Don’t be afraid.
Remember you are the beloved child of God.
He will be there when you make your long jump.
Don’t try to grab him, he will grab you.
Just stretch out your arms and hands,
and trust, trust, trust.”
That’s what we try to do
in this month of November
as we pray for all those we love.
We ask God
to increase our trust that all will be well.
We do this because
our faith tells us that when we die
we will be safe in the hands of God.
The other thought is something,
that although not easy to do,
is, I’m sure, important to try to remember.
When the Irish writer Frank McCourt died,
Mitch Albom, a friend of his,
wrote about some of his memories of Frank.
At the end of his reflection,
and remembering a particular event in Frank’s life,
he wrote this:
“It is Frank at his impish best,
and it makes me smile,
and smiling is the best cradle
in which to rock your memories.”
As you recall your memories of those you love,
may they make you smile.