Lenten Prayer with St Cuthbert – Day 34

Cuthbert, now in his early fifties, senses his body beginning to feel the strain of his years of asceticism. He wants to spend his last remaining days in prayer and praise on his beloved Farne, so after just two years as bishop, he decides to retire. He takes one final tour around the diocese, visiting monasteries and other places, giving words of encouragement and exhortation. In the course of which he comes to one of Aelfflaed’s houses on the Tyne at her invitation. This is possibly the last time he meets his spiritual daughter and they dine together. The story that follows was related by Aelfflaed, herself, to the author of the Anonymous ‘Life’ of Cuthbert, but Bede, while adding some amusing detail, has also softened its drama as he retells it, and supplied some unnecessary commentary relating to her behaviour. Nevertheless, it is another incident where Cuthbert sees, or senses, someone’s death. In this case, a simple shepherd out on the hills, where Cuthbert, himself, started his life.

There was clearly something going on in Zacchaeus’ heart before Jesus arrived in Jericho on his way to Jerusalem. Being extremely wealthy, and despised by everyone except others in his profession, wasn’t the life he wanted; he was looking for a way out. He will have heard how Jesus touches lepers, welcomes children, talks to Samaritans, walks with prostitutes, eats with tax collectors, and castigates the religious elite. Here is a man who lives on the edge of society, yet exhibits the presence of God. So this dignified little man runs ahead and climbs a tree in order to see the wandering, healing rabbi. The story is so well known and equally as comical. But every time we hear it, Jesus’ pronouncement of salvation never fails to fill the heart with joy.

And then comes another parable about Israel failing to share the gift of God, which was designed to multiply his blessing to the whole of his creation, in the same way that a single smile can spread through a room and change the world. Now it applies to us as well…

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