For the last couple of weekends millions of people in the UK have been watching entertaining programmes like ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ or ‘The X-Factor’. I’ve been doing something similar, but I haven’t watched any of the mentioned, as I personally find them rather boring. For the last three Sunday nights I’ve been following ‘Andrew Marr’s History of the World’. Presented in a fascinating way, it helped me to realise that there were two inventions in ancient times which became the foundation stones of human civilisation: alphabet and money. Both became ways of sharing and exchange: the former made possible the sharing of ideas, the latter the exchange of goods. Now we take these two for granted, but just imagine world without them. If they had not been invented we would have been as developed as some tribes in remote jungles in South America or the Pacific.
Some time ago I was approached by a group of several young women, rather virulently asking me why the Church foolishly maintains its stance with regard to marriage as one inseparable, life-long lasting bond, and why it doesn’t allow divorced and remarried people to take communion. They were so agitated because their children would soon make their First Communions, but their mothers could not take Communion with them. As a man brought up single-handedly by my mum, I have a lot of sympathy and understanding for people whose marriages have irreparably fallen apart. I know it’s hardly ever an easy decision, and it’s usually a desperate one.
She has always taken her faith seriously. As a teenager and then a university student she was involved in parish youth groups. Once she met a wonderful man and they fell in love. He had no religious background whatsoever, but she strongly hoped to lead him to faith in God. With that hope she decided to move in with him. But soon she got frustrated as he didn’t show any interest in her religion. Saddened and broken she took part in a weekend retreat for students. On Sunday morning she was late and I assumed it was a ‘standard student oversleep’. But in fact she had talked to her boyfriend as she had radically decided to leave him and end their sinful relationship. It must have been extremely difficult for her. A few days later that devastated man asked me a lot of questions in his email. I didn’t manage to reply – my computer had crashed and I’d lost his address. One year later he sent me another email, this time full of joy and happiness. It turned out he’d been pondering on his girlfriend’s decision and decided to find out more about God that made her leave him. He’d found his way and was being prepared for baptism. Her radical decision subsequently brought the result she couldn’t get in giving him her body.
The American ambassador to Libya killed in Benghazi, western countries’ embassies and their staff attacked in many countries, clashes between angry mobs and police trying to protect diplomatic missions. All these have recently happened because of an alleged very poor film made by an individual living in California. The film apparently was a private affair, not involving any established entertaining company or American authorities. Moreover, the film had been available on the Internet long before the current riots and killings. Truly appalling is the readiness of many people to kill someone because they feel upset.
The glory days of disabled sportsmen and women are concluding this weekend. For the last eleven days we’ve had a chance to watch them competing for medals, as many watchers all over the world have not. Seemingly people fighting against other competitors as well as against the odds should be even more exciting to watch than the able-bodied Olympians. Recent reports estimate about a 2.5 million-wide audience, roughly half the one watching Match of the Day. Disability still puts us in an uncomfortable situation; we still don’t know what to do – should we express our sympathy or should we rather behave as if the disabled were ‘en-abled’? This uncertainty derives from the helplessness we face when we meet people with mental or physical impairment.
A friend of mine makes steaks for dinner, and I notice she is cutting off the edge of the steaks. I ask her about it, and she answers that her mother has always done this. So I ask her mother, and she replies that her mother has always done this too. Fortunately I can ask that elderly lady the same question, and it turns out that she has been doing this because her frying pan was very small. That purposeful manner turned into an absurd family tradition, mindlessly handed down from one generation to the next.
‘This is intolerable language. How could anyone accept it?’
These words, taken from today’s gospel, describe the reaction of people listening to Jesus about eating his body and drinking his blood. This is not an accidental crowd of spectators; at least some of them made an effort to cross the lake and to find Jesus; these are people who care. Yet despite all their efforts they have reached the barrier they can’t step over. The message cannot be contained within their worldview, hence it is totally unacceptable and consequently it must be rejected along with its propagator.