A Sermon for Holy Communion at SS. Mary and Nicholas, Littlemore, Oxford
Thursday, 21st July 2011, 7.30 p.m.
Gospel: Matthew 13:10-17
Eyes to see, and ears to hear
When we read this story, for many of us the first reaction is “But why? Why keep it secret? Why speak in parables, not in plain language?”
I have an old friend, a holy nun (she would resist the word holy, as is her right) who had a time of seeing to the reality of things, God’s reality. At the sacrament of Holy Communion she could see the Holy Spirit. Nuns being nuns, Reverend Mother said, “well if you can see so much, we’ve a leak in the laundry and perhaps you can find it”. And she did.
I asked her what it was like. Very much to my surprise, she said “it’s hell”. I thought it would have been wonderful and spiritual. But it is not for mere mortals to see all that God can see, all the time. Sometimes we need spiritual truth we can mull over in front of the telly, with a cup of tea.
Perhaps you know the feeling described to me in a lecture one time – to my shame I forget who was speaking – quoting Bishop Ian Ramsey, one of the “great white hopes” of the Church of England, who thwarted all that by dropping dead when he was made bishop of Durham – he spoke of the moment when “the penny drops, the ice breaks” and some new understanding becomes clear. Often it is something we already know, but haven’t yet expressed.
There is a scene in the Forsyte Saga when after a sociable day with one of their nephews, one spinster aunt says to the other – having fathomed that his interest in his cousin’s wife is romantic rather than social – “Oh my dear, I’ve just had the most terrible thought”. The elder sister replies, “then you mustn’t tell me, dear.” The penny had dropped, the ice broken.
O God, give us ears to hear, and eyes to see, but please, not all the time.