The name of the mountain pass ‘Rest and Be Thankful’ surely has a note of irony to it, as that scenic road is blocked every now and again by landslides. Clearing the road and making it passable is akin to painting the Forth Road Bridge. That’s our modern equivalent of responding to the ancient cry as recalled in today’s gospel: ‘Prepare a way for the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley will be filled in, every mountain and hill will be laid low, winding ways will be strengthened and rough roads made smooth.’ This passage comes from the prophet Isaiah roughly 2,600 years ago, well before the invention of motorised transport. It shows that beaten tracks – and later on, paved roads – were crucial for maintaining effective control over conquered territories, and made movement of goods and people much easier and safer, hence it was good for trade too. The importance of an extensive network of good quality roads was emphasised recently by the British Government in a rather bizarre way; the budget proposal included more money for dealing with potholes than for education.
Please take note that the Advent Talks at St Peter’s have been cancelled.
Apologies for any inconvenience
Some call it one of the greatest moments in our recent history and paint a very optimistic picture of a bright future. For others, it’s one of the greatest follies of our time, and they present a gloomy picture of the imminent total collapse of the country and of society at every level. Of course, I’m talking about Brexit. Those highly polarised and polarising views make the headlines because they attract attention. And that’s what the proponents of the opposing sides want to capture: our attention. Such a tactic isn’t new; on the contrary, it’s been so common since time immemorial that it has its own literary term: hyperbole. I’ve found a rather good definition of it: ‘Hyperbole is a literary device wherein the author uses specific words and phrases that exaggerate and overemphasise the basic crux of the statement in order to produce a grander, more noticeable effect. The purpose of hyperbole is to create a larger-than-life effect and overly stress a specific point. Such sentences usually convey an action or sentiment that is generally not practically or realistically possible or plausible but helps to emphasise an emotion.’
‘Paradise’ is no more. The town in California, ravaged by the recent wildfires, looks like a post-apocalyptic ghost town. The disaster hit so suddenly that many of the town’s residents were only saved by the skin of their teeth; many didn’t make it and died where they were. Sadly, it is the latest, but not a one-off tragic event on such a massive scale. Less than a couple of months ago a deadly tsunami hit Indonesia, leaving behind damaged property, settlements razed to the ground and over a thousand dead. You might also remember the deadly floods in the Indian state of Kerala, as well as many other natural disasters around the world. Each of them left behind a trail of material, physical and mental devastation. Each of those tragic events has been the end of the world for the affected as they knew it.
Our religious traditions are diverse. But our differences are not the cause of conflict and dispute, or a cold distance between us… We believe and hope in a fraternal world. We desire that men and women of different religions may everywhere gather and promote harmony… Our future consists in living together. (Pope Francis, Assisi Sept. 2016) Continue reading “Scottish Interfaith Week – 11-18 November 2018”
Perhaps you may be familiar with a version of the quip: ‘Two Jews have three opinions…’ Ostensibly it smacks of a negative remark that labels the Jews as quarrelsome. In fact, the quip is a source of pride for many Jewish people as it describes their mindset and attitude towards Truth with a capital T. The quip has a second line, which is usually missing in popular usage. The whole sentence goes more or less like this: ‘Two Jews have three opinions, all of which have merit.’ Rabbi Rick Sherwin explains that ‘The statement is based on an ancient Jewish text that conveys a serious lesson: consider another’s perspective not as right or wrong, but as offering merit, whether you agree with it or not. Ultimately, it is a statement of respect.’