Fr Tom Grufferty invites us to walk out of our comfort zone and march on a journey of mindfulness with St Matthew.
By Fr Tom Grufferty
Some years ago I was impressed at the number of books on mindfulness on sale in all kinds of bookshops. I decided to investigate this new phenomenon. Almost like a child again I started off with a colouring book with beautiful scenes of nature. I was instantly amazed at how easy it was to leave behind stress and tension. At first I was not fully aware of what was happening but as I did the colouring I became more focused, more energised and I slept better. I began to enjoy a better quality of life so much so that I bought several other books on mindfulness with the same wonderful outcomes, but even better.
Naturally as a priest I began to apply the techniques of mindfulness to my own personal use of scripture with the following result. Although I have always preferred Saint Luke – my favourite Evangelist – I opted for Saint Matthew because I thought he might be more mindful-friendly. I approached the gospel not only by reading the words but also by being aware of its spiritual, emotional, psychological, mental and even physical benefits. This was a really exciting and altogether different approach to the Scriptures for me.
The first thing I became aware of that I was on a journey with Matthew, with Jesus and with all the other characters in the gospel. All writers but especially the Evangelists invite us to walk out of our comfort zone and march with them into an unknown world, in many cases Heaven itself. Luke, of course, is famous for its epic journey of Jesus from the Galilee in the north to Jerusalem in the south. It’s a journey with food as an important ingredient in that journey.
You’re welcome to join me in this simple exercise, Just sit upright, take off your watch as we should never monitor the time spent with God. Breathe naturally, be aware of your breathing and finally put your two feet firmly on the ground, but walk Levi into his Good News. The first people we meet in our journey are a wonderful collection of people, in the genealogy of Jesus. Invite your ancestors to join you, especially parents and grandparents. Pick out a favourite person who influenced you most. You are at a bus stop waiting for these people to turn up. Be patient as time spent at the bus stop of life is always precious.
Wait there long enough and along comes the most exotic characters in the entire bible. The Magi are beautifully dressed. Surprise, surprise they have joined us from the east and they are following a star. Even so, they might well ask you for directions. Be ready because you know where the saviour of the world is.
As our community grows by the minute with the people from the east and from the west we head in the direction of a stable with Mary, Joseph and a newly born baby. Make contact with your own parents here too, even if they have died, share with them the good things and the happy memories you have as a child. You may want to stay in the stable for as long as you like. There may well be issues here that need addressing. When you have acknowledged them, place them all into the Crib. The child there may be small but he has a heart to absorb all the burdens of life. Stay at the crib for as long as you like.
The first time I did this I stayed for at least a week with many rewarding results.
Only when you are ready move out on your Pilgrimage with Mary, Joseph and Jesus into Egypt. Be mindful of your personal sense of security, you are protected by special people in particular your travelling companions. Stay in Egypt with all the sights you have ever seen, with all the flights you have taken, with all the journeys you have made. Google your favourite landscape and stay with it for as long as you wish. The flight into Egypt is you soaring into the heights.
Some time now, you will hear somebody calling you back home to Nazareth.
Fr Tom Grufferty is a priest of the Portsmouth Diocese.