20 December 2019

There is a beauty to winter
that I did not appreciate
in my younger years

A winter’s afternoon at the harbour in Skerries in north Co Dublin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Patrick Comerford

I was in Dublin for a day yesterday, to collect some books needed for work reasons and to see my GP for a Vitamin B12 injection and for advice for a major travel trip planned in the New Year.

The busy preparations and demands of Advent, Christmas and Epiphany and the extra rounds of school visits and church meetings mean I have spent little time in Dublin in recent weeks.

After yesterday’s working morning in Dublin, two of us decided to take a break and spend the afternoon in Skerries.

The storms and high waves the previous night meant the harbour was quiet and most small boats had been lifted over the previous day or two.

In the rain and with high waters, the harbour looked forbidding, even foreboding, but still very beautiful. There is a beauty to winter weather that I never appreciated when I was much younger.

Darkness was closing in, and we decided against a walk on the beach on such a wet, cold afternoon, and instead went for lunch in the Olive on Strand Street and then crossed to Gerry’s, where the wine shelves are still the most fascinating in any supermarket I know, and to buy some candy canes for a sermon illustration on the Sunday after Christmas.

As we made our way back along the north coast, Loughshinny and Rush were blanketed in a winter darkness that I have learned to appreciate at Christmas-time.

Google Maps warned us to avoid the traffic on the M50. We should have ignored the warning. We ended up on narrow, remote, dark and flooded roads in parts of north and west Dublin that I am sure I have never seen in daylight or sunlight. If Chris Rea is using Google Maps, then I understand why he is still ‘driving home for Christmas.’

Back in Knocklyon, I read a report in The Guardian that while a diet like mine is generally healthy, low in cholesterol and protective of heart disease, people like me must take vitamin B12 supplements or risk a condition that causes permanent numbness in their hands and feet.

The report cited experts who say most people get their vitamin B12 from milk, but the plant-based substitutes do not have high enough levels to protect adults and children from peripheral neuropathy, which is irreversible.

I had been warned about all this over 10 years ago when a battery of tests confirmed both my sarcoidosis and my severe Vitamin B12 deficiency, and I had heard the warnings then of the danger of a serious neuropathy. Other risks include bone fractures as a result of lower bone density.

I was glad I had visited my GP earlier in the day. But the walk around the harbour at Skerries also lifted my spirits before returning to Askeaton today. I may have sarcoidosis and a Vitamin B12 deficiency – but they will never have me.

In Olive on Strand Street, Skerries, for a late afternoon lunch (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Reading Saint Luke’s Gospel
in Advent 2019: Luke 20

‘A man planted a vineyard …’ (Luke 20: 9) … a small vineyard in Platanias near Rethymnon in Crete (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Patrick Comerford

During the Season of Advent this year, I am joining many people in reading a chapter from Saint Luke’s Gospel each morning. In all, there are 24 chapters in Saint Luke’s Gospel, so this means being able to read through the full Gospel, reaching the last chapter on Christmas Eve [24 December 2019].

Why not join me as I read through Saint Luke’s Gospel each morning this Advent?

Luke 20 (NRSVA):

1 One day, as he was teaching the people in the temple and telling the good news, the chief priests and the scribes came with the elders 2 and said to him, ‘Tell us, by what authority are you doing these things? Who is it who gave you this authority?’ 3 He answered them, ‘I will also ask you a question, and you tell me: 4 Did the baptism of John come from heaven, or was it of human origin?’ 5 They discussed it with one another, saying, ‘If we say, “From heaven”, he will say, “Why did you not believe him?” 6 But if we say, “Of human origin”, all the people will stone us; for they are convinced that John was a prophet.’ 7 So they answered that they did not know where it came from. 8 Then Jesus said to them, ‘Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.’

9 He began to tell the people this parable: ‘A man planted a vineyard, and leased it to tenants, and went to another country for a long time. 10 When the season came, he sent a slave to the tenants in order that they might give him his share of the produce of the vineyard; but the tenants beat him and sent him away empty-handed. 11 Next he sent another slave; that one also they beat and insulted and sent away empty-handed. 12 And he sent yet a third; this one also they wounded and threw out. 13 Then the owner of the vineyard said, “What shall I do? I will send my beloved son; perhaps they will respect him.” 14 But when the tenants saw him, they discussed it among themselves and said, “This is the heir; let us kill him so that the inheritance may be ours.” 15 So they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. What then will the owner of the vineyard do to them? 16 He will come and destroy those tenants and give the vineyard to others.’ When they heard this, they said, ‘Heaven forbid!’ 17 But he looked at them and said, ‘What then does this text mean:

“The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone”?

18 Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces; and it will crush anyone on whom it falls.’ 19 When the scribes and chief priests realized that he had told this parable against them, they wanted to lay hands on him at that very hour, but they feared the people.

20 So they watched him and sent spies who pretended to be honest, in order to trap him by what he said, so as to hand him over to the jurisdiction and authority of the governor. 21 So they asked him, ‘Teacher, we know that you are right in what you say and teach, and you show deference to no one, but teach the way of God in accordance with truth. 22 Is it lawful for us to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?’ 23 But he perceived their craftiness and said to them, 24 ‘Show me a denarius. Whose head and whose title does it bear?’ They said, ‘The emperor’s.’ 25 He said to them, ‘Then give to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.’ 26 And they were not able in the presence of the people to trap him by what he said; and being amazed by his answer, they became silent.

27 Some Sadducees, those who say there is no resurrection, came to him 28 and asked him a question, ‘Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies, leaving a wife but no children, the man shall marry the widow and raise up children for his brother. 29 Now there were seven brothers; the first married, and died childless; 30 then the second 31 and the third married her, and so in the same way all seven died childless. 32 Finally the woman also died. 33 In the resurrection, therefore, whose wife will the woman be? For the seven had married her.’

34 Jesus said to them, ‘Those who belong to this age marry and are given in marriage; 35 but those who are considered worthy of a place in that age and in the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage. 36 Indeed they cannot die any more, because they are like angels and are children of God, being children of the resurrection. 37 And the fact that the dead are raised Moses himself showed, in the story about the bush, where he speaks of the Lord as the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. 38 Now he is God not of the dead, but of the living; for to him all of them are alive.’ 39 Then some of the scribes answered, ‘Teacher, you have spoken well.’ 40 For they no longer dared to ask him another question.

41 Then he said to them, ‘How can they say that the Messiah is David’s son? 42 For David himself says in the book of Psalms,

“The Lord said to my Lord,
‘Sit at my right hand,
43 until I make your enemies your footstool’.”

44 David thus calls him Lord; so how can he be his son?’

45 In the hearing of all the people he said to the disciples, 46 ‘Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and love to be greeted with respect in the market-places, and to have the best seats in the synagogues and places of honour at banquets. 47 They devour widows’ houses and for the sake of appearance say long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.’

A prayer for today:

A prayer today from the Prayer Diary of the Anglican mission agency USPG, United Society Partners in the Gospel:

Let us pray for Guyana preparing for elections to be held on 2 March 2020.

Tomorrow: Luke 21.

Yesterday: Luke 19.

‘Now there were seven brothers’ (Luke 20: 29) … the Seven Brothers Taverna at the Harbour in Rethymnon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org