26 July 2022

Praying with the World Church in
Ordinary Time: Tuesday 26 July 2022

‘The field is the world, and the good seed are the children of the kingdom’ (Matthew 13: 38) … fields of green and gold near High Leigh in Hoddesdon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

I am in the High Leigh Conference Centre at Hoddesdon in Hertfordshire this week, taking part in the annual conference of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel). The conference, which began yesterday, has the theme ‘Living Stones, Living Hope.’

In the Calendar of the Church today, we remember Anne and Joachim, Parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary, with a lesser festival (26 July 2022). In the Parish of Saint Mary and Saint Giles, Stony Stratford, and All Saints’ Church, Calverton, the intercessions this week also remember the Revd Charles George Perceval, Rector of Calverton, who was born on 25 December 1796 and died on this day, 26 July 1858, aged 61.

Charles Perceval was the son of an Irish peer, Charles George Perceval, 2nd Baron Arden, of Liscarroll Castle, near Buttevant, and Kanturk Castle, Co Cork. Perceval was a devout High Churchman and a supporter of the Tractarians. Many of the Tractarian leaders met in his Rectory in Calverton, including Edward Bouverie Pusey, John Henry Newman and Edward Manning, and some of the Tracts for the Times were planned if not written in Calverton.

I am continuing my prayer diary each morning this week in this way:

1,Reading the Gospel reading of the morning;

2,a short reflections on the reading;

3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary, ‘Pray with the World Church.’

The Virgin Mary with her parents, Saint Anne and Saint Joachim, in a mosaic by the Russian artist Boris Anrep (1883-1969) in the Cathedral of Christ the King, Mullingar, Co Westmeath (Photograph: Patrick Comerford; click on images for full-screen views)

Common Worship provides this Gospel reading for the Eucharist on today’s Lesser Festival commemorating Anne and Joachim, Parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary:

Matthew 13: 16-17 (NRSVA):

[Jesus said to his disciples:] 16 ‘But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. 17 Truly I tell you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, but did not see it, and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it.’

On the other hand, the Church of Ireland lectionary provides this Gospel reading for celebrations of the Eucharist today:

Matthew 13: 36-43 (NRSVA):

36 Then he left the crowds and went into the house. And his disciples approached him, saying, ‘Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field.’ 37 He answered, ‘The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man; 38 the field is the world, and the good seed are the children of the kingdom; the weeds are the children of the evil one, 39 and the enemy who sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels. 40 Just as the weeds are collected and burned up with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. 41 The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers, 42 and they will throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Let anyone with ears listen!’

Gnasher and Gnipper in the Beano always seemed to be ready to gnash their teeth

Today’s reflection:

In my imagination, when I was a child, not only were the summers long and sunny, but weekend entertainment was simpler and less complicated. The highlights of the weekend seemed to be Dr Who and Dixon of Dock Green, and the weekly editions of the Eagle and the Beano.

I may have been just a little too old (16) for the first appearance of Gnasher (1968), the pet dog of Dennis the Menace in the Beano.

The G- tagged onto the beginning of the name of both Gnasher and his son Gnipper is pronounced silently, just like the silent P at the beginning of Psmith, the Rupert Psmith in so many PG Wodehouse novels.

Most of the Beano speech bubbles for both Gnasher and Gnipper consist of normal English words beginning with the letter ‘N’ with a silent ‘G’ added to the beginning, as in ‘Gnight, Gnight.’

I was a little too old for the introduction of Gnasher. Nonetheless, my friends in my late teens and early 20s loved Gnasher and Gniper, joked about those silent ‘Gs’ and even recalled how as children we had joked about ‘weeping and G-nashing of teeth.’

There is very little to joke about in today’s Gospel reading (Matthew 13: 36-43). The idea of people being thrown into the furnace of fire is not a very appealing image for children, and so to joke about it is a childhood method of coping.

Nor is the idea of people being thrown into the furnace of fire a very inviting image after a week in which we have suffered burning heats and raging heat not only here but across Europe.

It is worth reminding ourselves that throughout history, humanity has stooped to burn what we dislike and what we want to expunge, and we have done it constantly.

We have been burning books as Christians since Saint Athanasius ordered the burning of texts in Alexandria in the year 367.

In the Middle Ages and later, we burned heretics at the stake. The Inquisition burned heretics and Jews in public squares. Heretics were burned publicly as an accompanying theme for the outdoor sermons of San Bernardino da Siena in the early 15th century, along with mirrors, cosmetics, fine dresses, playing cards … even musical instruments, and, of course, books, song sheets, artworks, paintings and sculpture.

In his sermons, the book-burning friar regularly called for Jews and gays to be either isolated from society or eliminated from the human community.

In Florence, the supporters of Savonarola collected and publicly burned thousands of objects, including cosmetics, art, and books in 1497.

More recently, the Nazis staged regular book burnings, especially burning books by Jewish writers, including Thomas Mann, Karl Marx and Albert Einstein.

Extremists of all religious and political persuasions want to burn the symbols and totems of their opponents, whether it is Pastor Terry Jones burning the Quran and effigies of Bill Clinton and Barack Obama in Florida or jihadists burning the Twin Towers in New York.

The limits of our extremists seem to be defined by their inflammatory words.

But who is being burned in this Gospel reading?

Who is doing the burning?

And who will be weeping and gnashing their teeth?

Contrary to many shoddy readings of this Gospel reading, Christians are not asked to burn anyone or anything at all. And, if we have enemies, we are called not to burn them but to live with them, even love them. Judgment is left with God, while we are left to love and to pray.

Too often we think of who might be excluded from God’s plans rather than who is counted in. When we do that, we descend to our greatest depths rather than reaching our potential heights.

Today’s Prayer:

Collect (Common Worship):

Lord God of Israel,
who bestowed such grace on Anne and Joachim
that their daughter Mary grew up obedient to your word
and made ready to be the mother of your Son:
help us to commit ourselves in all things to your keeping
and grant us the salvation you promised to your people;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

The theme in the prayer diary of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel) this week is ‘The Way Towards Healing,’ looking at the work for peace of the Churches in Korea. This theme was introduced on Sunday by Shin Seung-min, National Council of Churches in Korea.

Tuesday 26 July 2022:

The USPG Prayer Diary invites us to pray today in these words:

Let us pray for the National Council of Churches in Korea, a thriving example of ecumenism, as they work together to promote peace.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

An icon of Saint Anne with her child, the Virgin Mary, with her child, the Christ Child, in the Church of Saint Eleftherios and Saint Anna in Corfu (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

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