A Prayer and Reflection for Sunday, August 1, 2021
18th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
God of all people,
all over the world there is a longing
for a life of freedom and happiness.
May we do what we can to bring these
to a waiting world.
May we follow the example of Jesus,
and try to make sure
that the hungry have nourishing food,
and the thirsty have clean water.
You may wonder where I am going
with this week’s reflection,
but I hope it will start to become clear
with the quotation from Dostoevsky.
Whenever the summer holidays arrive,
I remember the days when I was a Scout Leader,
and went camping.
It was once suggested to Robert Baden-Powell,
the founder of Scouts and Guides,
that it would be a good idea if Scouts
from all over the world could get together.
The 1st of these events, called a World Jamboree,
took place in Olympia, London in 1920.
In 1979 I was just getting ready
to go to the 15th World Jamboree.
It was due to take place in Iran,
but only a few months before we left,
the anti-Shah revolution took place,
and it was cancelled.
Instead, 1500 Scouts from the United Kingdom
were sent to 6 different places:
Sweden, Switzerland, 2 sites in USA,
and 2 in Canada.
I ended up at Birds Hill Campsite
just outside Winnipeg, Canada.
World gatherings of any groups of people
are not cheap things to do,
and some people question the expense of it.
All I can say is that if you’ve ever been to one,
you might question the expense,
but you would rarely question the value.
The friendliness is such that
it can do a great deal for world peace.
That reason alone would make it worthwhile.
When the Jamboree was over
we all stayed with different Canadian families.
On one of the days the family I was with
said “Let’s go for a car drive down the road.”
So we did.
200 miles later (!)
we stopped on the American-Canadian border,
where Manitoba meets North Dakota.
At this place, since 1932,
there has been an International Peace Garden.
It has got flower gardens, landscaped areas,
lakes, nature trails,
and a Chapel of Peace.
Inside the Chapel, on 3 of the walls,
they have engraved quotations
from people of peace throughout history.
Among them was a quotation that summed up
one of the main reasons
for the existence of Scouting and Guiding,
and many youth organisations.
It also explains why such events
as Jamborees and Olympic Games,
though very expensive, can have great value.
comes from the Russian writer, Dostoevsky:
“Until you have become really, in actual fact,
a brother to everyone,
Brotherhood will not come to pass.”
Thirty three years later, in 2012,
in the main news on Radio 4 at 8.00am,
these were the 1st seven items:
People accused of cheating
in a Badminton game at the Olympics.
A swimmer becoming the all-time winner of medals.
The possible winners of medals for Britain later that day.
The death of Gore Vidal, an American writer.
Human rights abuses in Syria.
How to boost High Street Banking lending.
Then, last of all, it mentioned
a major food crisis affecting 18 million people in Africa.
The current Olympics started recently,
and there is a possibility that
with even more troubles across the world than in 2012
the BBC News programmes, and much of the media,
will once again get its priorities confused,
although I hope I am wrong.
Sport will be at the top of the agenda.
News items will be more concerned
with what is happening in the world of sport
than with the lives of millions of poor people
just trying to stay alive.
In 2012 reports from CAFOD and other Aid agencies
confirmed the scale of a disaster in Africa.
The United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund
estimated that over a million under-fives
faced the threat of severe acute malnutrition.
The gospel today is from
John Chapter 6 verses 24 to 35.
In it, the people ask Jesus
“What can we do
in order to do
what God wants us to do?”
Many disasters, often created by people at war,
can make us question whether the little we try to do
is what God wants us to do,
and can be of any practical help.
It reminds me of something written by Mary McGlone:
“A number of years ago,
I took what was supposed to be a 14-hour bus ride
from Lima to Arequipa, Peru.
Knowing that 14 hours was an optimistic estimate,
everyone boarded the bus with provisions
for whatever mishap might come our way.
Of course, the bus broke down.
We sat for more than an hour
as the sun began to heat up the bus.
No one was allowed off,
everyone was crabby, hungry, thirsty.
I had one orange
hidden in my otherwise depleted food pack.
I realised there was no way
I could secretly peel an orange on a hot bus.
I waited until I was desperate.
Then I pulled out the orange,
felt the toddler on the Mum’s lap next to me
look and lean into my seat.
I peeled the orange,
and offered mother and child a couple of sections.
People started to look at me, so I shared more.
Finally I was left with one section for myself.
Then the woman in front of me said:
‘I have some bread,
but it would make us too thirsty.’
A young man said:
‘I have a litre of Coke.’
Little by little,
the bus became the scene of a picnic potluck,
each sharing what they had hidden,
and receiving from one another.
And it all got started with an orange.
I can’t claim that our bus ride repeated
Jesus’ miracle with the loaves,
but there are similarities.
Everyone was hungry;
no one had enough to meet their need.
In Jesus’ case, one child gave all that he had.
In our case, each opened up their hidden store,
and we found that among us there was more than enough.
Interpreting both stories,
it seems to me that the key
is that when we give out of our scarcity,
we will find that there is enough.”
You may remember the English poet John Donne
who wrote the following in the 17th century.
He was comparing people to countries.
He said that people are not isolated islands,
we are all a part of a larger thing,
and if one person dies,
everyone is affected.
No man is an island,
entire of itself;
every man is a piece of the continent,
a part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less,
as well as if a promontory were,
as well as if a manor
of thy friend’s or of thine own were.
Any man’s death diminishes me,
because I am involved in mankind;
never send to know for whom the bell tolls,
it tolls for thee.