Sermons from St
Paula O'Shaughnessy, Sunday, July 16th,
I have a friend from ballet school called Sylvie. She is so elegant and graceful – an accomplished ballet dancer. Her movements show such art and beauty – a wonderful bodyline. To watch her dance is mesmerising. How amazing that she can do what she does; such is the magic. But, like with many great artists, she has had many trials in her life. She meets these with courage and brings a great power to her dance, seemingly taking the trials and difficulties of life and transforming their power into dance. It is difficult not to admire her and not to be inspired when watching her dance.
The gift from God, that Sylvie has received and nurtures, transforming pain into exquisite beauty – truly is a gift from God.
The body can be so constricting, with its limitations and frailties. St Paul in today's reading reminds us of the difficulties there are of trying to resolve mind, body and spirit. How there can be such tensions between them. The dangers, the weaknesses of the flesh. Too much focus on the flesh, and not enough on the spirit, leads us away from God. But let us not over-simplify this interpretation. The balance of mind, body and spirit is key. It is not a case of taking all focus away from the flesh and all will be well. The flesh integral to our being, as we live and breath. To neglect and deny that part of ourselves is to deny what is real. The importance of the spirit is to be recognised and to be nurtured. This is the difficult part. If we allow the spiritual side of our lives to wither or be neglected, then we are not whole. The life which the Holy Spirit breathes into each one of us is essential to our integrity, our being.
We become truly alive in the Holy Trinity – if we are open to this possibility. It takes courage, commitment and vigilance to live in this way. Yet, as Paul writes in 1 Corinthians, there is another difficulty:
'For now we see through a glass darkly'
The faith and hope is that we will see 'face to face' but now only 'I know in part'.
Faith, Hope and Love – which Paul entreats us to strive to live by. But how hard. It depends on where we are, who we are with. We may find that our hearts harden, with each wound we receive, and each disappointment, each trial, and each person who upsets us. When times are hard, how difficult to keep faith, hop and love. I include myself in this – to try to soften a hardening heart.
Are we to be like the hostile ground, where the seeds are sown, described in the Gospel passage today? Are we able to withstand the hostility of others, or the inhospitable circumstances we may find ourselves in?
But to find and to hold onto faith in God is essential, at all times, - and so to be truly alive in the Holy Trinity. We are required to pray, in times of trial and darkness. We need to hold a mirror up to ourselves, to see ourselves as we are. To have deeply fertile soil, as our faith in God. This means reaching out to God, to have sense to see how much we need to pray and not to rely solely on earthly and transitory resources. That we should seek God in all people and in all places. Living in harmony between flesh and spirit. Turning away from the tendencies to intolerance, judgement and hatred. Seeing these for what they are – the way of spiritual death. To return before straying, ensures that we do not lose our way, that there is no spiritual ground to make up.
If we are to sow seeds, then we should sow kind acts, then memory's garden will smell sweet.
The foundress of the order of the Poor Sisters of Nazareth wrote the following prayer, entreating us to open our eyes and see the world anew:
'See the Divine Infant in the Little Ones, try to love them very much for His sake and in the dear old people see Our Bless Lady and St Joseph'
Let us put our bodies, minds and souls to the expression of love and beauty – as in the way my ballet dancer friend Sylvie does – a living inspiration, that there may be in the world and in us an abundance of faith, hope and love."