Letter 2013 14 April

Dear Ealing Abbey Parishioner,
The mallards are back in the monastery garden. There they were this morning, sitting by the pond outside our refectory with noses snugly tucked under their wings, complacently awaiting their third breakfast, reliably provided by gooey hearted humans. Of course, what we know and they probably don’t, is that Jemima’s chance of ever getting her brood safely back across Castlebar Road to Heronsforde is exceedingly small since they will, most likely, be gobbled up by the foxes or whatever other beasts of the night lurk in our garden, who have their own young ones to feed. That’s how the world is.

That’s how the world is; but need it be like that for us? We have many ways of protecting ourselves against the natural world, but what of ourselves, of our own relentless desire to want and do the wrong things? That is what, perhaps, this Sunday’s Gospel is about. Peter and the disciples meet Jesus by the Sea of Galilee. They have been fishing but caught nothing until Jesus tells them where to fish; whereupon they catch more than they could have imagined. They are given breakfast cooked on a charcoal fire, just like the fire Peter warmed himself by when he denied Jesus, and there he is gently, but piercingly, tested by Jesus; ‘Do you love me?’ To succeed the disciples need to know frustration; to be fed, they need to know what it is to be hungry; to be reconciled and forgiven Peter needs first to remember what he has done. Just as Isaiah learnt at the beginning of his prophecy when he said he was unworthy ‘a man of unclean lips’, and saw his mouth made clean by the touch of a burning coal, a charcoal most likely.

It is the same for us. Jesus does not miraculously make the past go away. Instead he leads us to understand who and what we are, with plenty that’s wrong with us, but yet overwhelmingly loved and made good. Good Friday and Easter night go together.

Yours in Christ,
Abbot Martin