Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Week 10 Tuesday (Year 2)

Readings: 1 Kings 17:7-16; Psalm 4; Matthew 5:13-16

Ernest Hemingway wrote a short story which consisted of just six words: 'For sale: baby shoes. Never used'. Another great author of the last century, John Steinbeck, pointed out how we use very short words for the most significant human experiences: war, peace, life, death, love, hate.

Today's readings are simple in this way. Elijah is hungry and thirsty, the woman offers him what she has, meal and oil. Add a little water and there is bread. Jesus speaks about salt and light, simple words and simple realities but things of great power.

We have the simplest words for the most important things: God, Abba, God is love.

And yet we move towards complication. Why do we need to complicate our lives so much? Is this something sin wants to do, to pull us away from a simple appreciation of the gifts we have?


I had a vivid experience of recovering the simple during a Holy Week retreat at Quarr Abbey some years ago. The place was cold, the hours of praying were long, and the food was Lenten. After two days the simple breakfast of homemade brown bread, butter and coffee was the tastiest and most satisfying meal imaginable. I knew again what it meant to be hungry. I knew again what it meant to be tired and appreciated sleep. I knew again what it meant to be cold and appreciated heat. And - this is what we hope for in going on retreat - I knew again what it meant to be without God, and appreciated the need to seek Him.

We are the salt of the earth and the light of the world. It is perfectly simple and so easy to understand. But something else enters in. The salt loses its savour. When we experience empty blandness again we return to appreciating salt. The light is allowed to weaken and even to go out. When we experience darkness again we return to appreciating light.

The widow of Zarephath, who helped Elijah, gets honourable mention in the preaching of Jesus. Her jar of meal and jug of oil have been taken to symbolise the sacramental life of the Church. These sacred mysteries are always on offer - reconciliation and the Eucharist - to restore and sustain our life, to make us salty again, to make us radiant again.

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