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In Such Times

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A couple of extracts from my latest book In Such Times: Reflections On Living With Fear

The essence of prayer is the knowledge of our deep and inherent belonging to, and within, God. Often, prayer is no more than a sigh, or a sense of his presence. When Jesus chides his disciples for their want of faith, it is because their fear has momentarily caused them to forget that they belong to God and that they are held together in him. But in order to remain confident of our belonging in and to God, we have to be constantly available, waiting and watching for his coming in moments of transfiguring grace.

Everything has a history and a context, including the most violent and frightening events going on around us. This does not mean that we should condone or accept violence on the basis that aggressors are justified because of the wrongs done to them in the past. But the wrongs do need to be faced and, where possible, put right. One such wrong is the seemingly intractable state of conflict which exists between Palestinians and Israelis. Prayer work requires that we re-vision the whole picture. The fact that Palestinians have, over the past century, been killed, tortured and driven from their lands does not justify acts of terrorism, including those that have been committed by others ostensibly in their name, but it does go some way towards explaining them. So in prayer we re-vision the whole situation, in its historical context, rather than dwelling exclusively on the terrorist attack itself. We dwell on the attack and its victims separately. Similarly, the history of the Jews, ever since the destruction of the Temple in 70CE, and, more recently, the Holocaust, validates their existence as a nation, but it in no way legitimizes their treatment of Palestinians. All who have played a part in bringing about the current situation in Palestine-Israel need to own the truth about its history and seek ways to heal the pain of both Palestinians and Israelis, working for justice, reparation and forgiveness, leading to a new way of seeing this decades long tragedy.

Market values and material priorities have so disrupted the inner life of the human person that productivity has become the justification of that person’s existence, which is one reason why the polite question to ask someone we meet for the first time is “What do you do?” What we do, or what people assume we do, or don’t do, defines or confines us, as it has for women until very recently. But productivity is not necessarily the result of a creative life.

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