Seasonal Reflections:Sr. Maureen Murphy
Although it seems that we have only just celebrated the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord marking the end of the Christmas season, we must now turn our thoughts to Lent because Ash Wednesday is almost here. Pope Francis calls us to experience this time of grace anew, with joy and in truth.
For many who think of Lent as a time of gloom and doom perhaps joy and truth might seem a contradiction in terms. They prefer to exercise and even emphasise their self control in giving up something and constantly reminding others to do likewise.
The Gospel, however, shows us a different way – be careful not to parade your good deeds to attract attention, do not stand up in the synagogues and at street corners for people to see you pray, do not put on a gloomy look or pull long faces to show you are fasting. (Mt:6: 1-6,16-18) Do everything in secret and your Father who sees everything that is done in secret will reward you.
On Saturday I attended the funeral Mass of my close friend, Father Frank Thompson MHM, the person the Lord used to lead me to our Congregation. Herbert House was packed with people who had come from all over the country to give thanks for a life of priestly ministry of a priest who spent forty five years evangelising whilst appealing for funds for the Missions. How could he have touched so many lives in that kind of ministry? The answer is simply by good deeds, most of which were known only to the individual and to God. As a member of Samaritans he would have spent hours listening to people, known only as Frank and a number – never by his real name – an anonymous act of love known only by God. Person after person recounted their own story and the following poem chosen by Frank for his funeral booklet held the same message.
Abou Ben Adhem by Leigh Hunt
Abou Ben Adhem (may his tribe increase!)
Awoke one night from a deep dream of peace,
And saw, within the moonlight in his room,
Making it rich, and like a lily in bloom,
An angel writing in a book of gold:-
Exceeding peace had made Ben Adhem bold,
And to the Presence in the room he said
“What writest thou?” – The vision raised its head
And with a look made of all sweet accord,
Answered “The names of those who love the Lord”
“And is mine one?” said Abou. “Nay,not so,”
Replied the Angel. Abou spoke more low,
But cheerily still, and said, “I pray thee then
Write me as one that loves his fellow men”
The angel wrote, and vanished. The next night
It came again with a great wakening light,
And showed the names whom love of God had blessed,
And lo! Ben Adhem’s name led all the rest.
The Book of Revelation (14:13) also encourages us in good works since we read “Blessed are those who die in the Lord. Blessed indeed the Spirit says; now they can rest after their work since their good deeds go before them.”
I remember when Sister Francis Teresa (RIP) was my novice director for a short period she asked me “To do something each day that only the Lord knows about” I wondered at the time if she told the community because it was amazing how many times I found mucky spoons in the sink or a bin that needed emptying etc. Of course all of us can offer a prayer for someone in need even if we are bedridden. If such things do not appeal we can always take up the suggestion of Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity who said “ Hold a crucifix in your hand, look at it and listen!”
Even Shakespeare left us the following words “ How far that little candle throws his beams! So shines a good deed in a weary world” (Merchant of Venice)
So, let us try to make Lent positive and do something for God and each other. Collectively we can make a big difference to our community, our parish, our world.
May the Lord give you peace!
Sister Maureen Murphy, FMSJ