The scent of humility

According to Isaac the Syrian, a famous 7th-Century bishop and theologian, a person who’s genuinely humble gives off a certain scent that other people will sense and that even animals will pick up so that wild animals, including snakes, will fall under its spell and never harm that person. Here’s his logic: a humble person,…

On late migrations

Jesus says that if we follow him the cross, pain, will find us. That message is chronically misunderstood. Maybe we would understand it better if Jesus had worded it this way: The more sensitive you become, the more pain will seep into your life. We catch the connection then. Sensitive person suffer more deeply, just…

A lesson in aging

We live in a culture that idealises youth and marginalises the old. And, as James Hillman says, the old don’t let go easily either of the throne or the drive that took them there. I know; I’m aging. For most of my life, I’ve been able to think of myself as young. Because I was…

Imagining grace

Imagine this: a man, entirely careless of all moral and spiritual affairs, lives his life in utter selfishness, pleasure his only pursuit. He lives the high life, never prays, never goes to church, has numerous sexual affairs, and has no concern for anyone but himself. After a long life of this, he’s diagnosed with a…

Intelligence versus wisdom

There’s a huge difference between being bright and being wise, between brilliance and wisdom. We can be highly intelligent, but not very wise. Ideally, of course, we should strive to be both, but that isn’t always the case, particularly today. We’re living in a culture that rewards brilliance above wisdom and within which we pride…

Divine understanding

A number of years ago at a symposium on Faith and evangelisation, one of the speakers made a rather startling statement. She, a Christian activist, ended her presentation with words to this effect: “I work for the poor and I do it out of my Christian Faith. I’m committed to this because of Jesus, but I…

Our grandiosity and our wounds

We wake up into life with the incurable sense that we’re special, that we’re the centre of the universe. And, subjectively, we are! In our awareness we’re the centre of the universe and life does revolve around us. Our own being is what’s most massively real to us. As Descartes famously said, the only thing…

What it means to be  born again

What does it mean to ‘be born again’, to ‘be born from above’? If you’re an Evangelical or Baptist, you’ve probably already answered that for yourself. However, if you’re a Roman Catholic or a mainline Protestant then the phrase probably isn’t a normal part of your spiritual vocabulary and, indeed, might connote for you a…

God’s finger in our lives

The problem in the world and in the Churches, Jim Wallis suggests, is that, perennially, conservatives get it wrong and liberals (over-reacting to conservatives) then don’t get it at all. Nowhere is this truer, I believe, than in how we discern the finger of God in the events of our lives. Jesus tells us to…

Needed: specific kinds of saints

Simone Weil once commented that it’s not enough today to be merely a saint; rather “we must have the saintliness demanded by the present moment”. She’s surely right on that second premise; we need saints whose virtues speak to the times. What kind of saint is needed today? Someone who can show us how we…