At mass on Sunday 5th February I was overwhelmed. I told the people later. We were saying the first part of the ‘Gloria’ and I knew I was talking to the Father as Jesus told us we could, in the beauty of a child-parent relationship which, we all know, lasts a life-time. I was praying as Jesus did and he told us we can say “abBA” for his Father, meaning Dad or Daddy.
My friend Bill served in occupied Palestine at the end of World War II. Patrolling the street he saw a father and mother deep in conversation and their small son following behind them wanting to look at everything. The boy suddenly realised they were leaving him behind and began to run, calling out “abBA, abBA!” The father turned and came back to embrace and pick up his son. Bill was a priest when he told me that story. In that moment of enlightenment he understood Jesus’ gospel invitation that we can speak to the Father as he did. Last Sunday the understanding became a reality and I was overwhelmed.
No one has ever heard me say “Abba” in my 55 years as a priest but I have never heard a reader say “abBA”, which means they haven’t heard me. Sadly, I acknowledge that people only part listen to the word of God in church, just as we only part listen to the Word of God in our lives.
When you hear the gospel being read at mass do you know which of the four gospel accounts is being read? You were told only a moment ago.
Forgotten already? Not even heard, because you were thinking of something else. Strangely, these genuine and honest people claim they remember word for word what they heard in school or church many years before and will repeat that, but in different words, even an hour later.
All of us know that in time of war the enemy commit crimes but we bravely defend ourselves. Which army gave orders to send the conscripts over the trenches to draw the fire of the enemy and sent the elite troops to follow? Which army cleared a minefield quickly by forcing prisoners of war to link arms and walk across the mined area? The prisoners who survived dug the graves for those who were killed.
My grandfather was cramped in the air raid shelter with his family and waved his fist at the German bombers attacking the Cardiff docks, calling them murderers. He had three sons in the armed forces. He called them heroes. I imagined a German boy in an air raid shelter and his grandfather waving a fist at our heroes and calling them murderers. Another of my priest friends flew 25 bombing missions during World War II and came back from one of the easiest to discover he had helped in the blanketbombing of Dresden, an entirely undefended city in Eastern Germany. He never recovered from the horror of what he had done, the number of people he must have killed and at no risk to himself.
Some years ago I took Holy Communion to a man who was seriously ill, as I did every week. He refused, telling me he had lost £50,000 in shares the previous day, so he didn’t feel like receiving Holy Communion. Would you like everything you touched to turn to gold? Of course! So did Midas in the Greek myth. His daughter ran to meet him when she saw him coming home. He embraced her and she turned to gold. He understood his curse then. Do you know people who want only to become richer, to not care for or need people? Do you admire bling, the only way people like that have to show off? Gold bath taps?
A captain and his men were carefully making a reconnaissance to prepare for their unit’s advance. They came on a badly wounded German soldier, left to die by his own men. The captain had three choices: (a) continue, and leave the soldier to die; (b) abandon the mission and take the man back to the British unit for medical treatment; (c) shoot him to put him out of his agony. Which did the captain choose?
Have you followed the train of thought from my speaking to the Father as Jesus did to that final question? What links the various thoughts?
Everyone was a child of God.
God bless us all, children,
(12th February 2023)