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Today's Gospel reading is part of the Passion narrative from John's Gospel, which we hear every Good Friday. Jesus is on trial. After having been arrested and brought before Caiaphas, the Jewish High Priest,  he is now standing before Pontius Pilate, the Roman ruler at the time.

 

The Jewish leaders want to kill Jesus; he has become a threat to their authority.

 

However, they were not allowed to sentence him to death. The Romans had withdrawn from the Jewish court the power to sentence people to death.

 

Therefore, the Jewish leaders accuse Jesus of having called himself King. This was a sensitive issue for the Romans; they did not tolerate kings in their territory,  for kings could be a threat to their authority.

Therefore, Pilate asks Jesus: Are you the King of the Jews? Yes, I am a King, Jesus answers, but my Kingdom is not of this world.

 

Jesus was wary of being called a King. He did not want to be misunderstood and to be identified with the kings of the world. When he entered Jerusalem and people wanted to make him King, he sat on a donkey to demonstrate the nature of his kingship.

 

My kingdom is not of this world. Jesus' kingdom is different. It is not placed on us from the outside, but it begins in the human heart. His Kingdom starts when we welcome Jesus into our hearts, and when we allow him to reign, when we allow him to lead us.

 

His Kingdom is not enforced on us but it is like a gift.

 

To let Jesus lead us means to choose for him:

To choose love rather than hatred, to choose enthusiasm rather than cynicism, to choose unity rather than division, to choose trust rather than fear, to choose gentleness rather than extremism, and to choose truth rather than falsehood and lies.

 

Jesus' kingdom begins in our hearts, but it does not remain enclosed there. From our hearts it spreads, it flows like a river, into our families and community, our relationships and places of work, into the world of sports and entertainment, the world of politics and economics.

 

Jesus compares the Kingdom to yeast. He says: the kingdom of heaven is like the yeast a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour till it was leavened all through.

The kingdom has a humble beginning in our hearts but it is destined for enormous growth in the whole of society.

 

The events of last Sunday when a bomb exploded at the Women's Hospital demonstrate what happens when people do not welcome the Kingdom in their hearts and make choices contrary to this kingdom, trying to instil fear and division.

 

In the wake of these events,  we are called not to give in to the temptation of fear, disunity and mistrust, but to continue to welcome the kingdom as a gift in our hearts, to let Jesus lead us, and to choose and work for unity, trust and understanding.

 

Thirty-third Sunday of the Year (B)

(13-14 November 2021)

 

As the liturgical year draws to a close – next Sunday will be the last one – the Gospel reading turns our attention to the end of time. Jesus refers to the sun turned to darkness and a moon that loses its brightness. The meeting of COP26, which has just finished in Glasgow, has reminded us how fragile our earth is. We see, if only on TV, the damage caused by raging fires and terrible floods; we are aware of the typhoons and tornados that strike different countries, and we hear of the havoc caused by earthquakes and the eruption of volcanoes. We are living in a time of distress.

 

Yet the message of the Gospel is one of hope. The Son of Man – a title that Jesus uses for himself – will come in great power. He will send “angels to gather his chosen from the four winds”. We can understand these angels to be all those people, in every part of the world, East and West, North and South, teachers, nurses, doctors, workers in care homes, all who give the best of themselves in the service of their fellow human beings. Such people, even though they may be unaware of it, are acting like Jesus who “went about doing good” (Acts 10:38).

 

So we are not to fear. We are to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus because from him will come our salvation. He has died for us, and risen from the dead, he wants to share his life with us. He has offered himself for us, once and for all. This is the firm foundation of our hope.

 

We say in the creed, our profession of faith that we recite every Sunday:  “He (Jesus) will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead”. But we do not know when this will happen.  Jesus says this very clearly in today’s Gospel: “But as for that day or hour, nobody knows it, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, no one but the Father.”

 

 Some of the first Christians thought that Jesus would return very soon, even in their lifetimes, and so they were just waiting for this to happen. St Paul says that he had heard that there were some Christians “living in idleness, doing no work themselves but interfering with everyone else’s” (2 Thessalonians 3:11). He tells them “Please do not get excited too soon or alarmed by any predictions or rumours” about the Second Coming of the Lord (2 Thessalonians 2:2).

 

This does not mean that we have nothing to do. We are to continue to live according to the teaching of Jesus, to continue to love our brothers and sisters, seeing Jesus in them, to continue learning how to respect the Created Universe which has been entrusted to us.  Paul writes to these Christians, some of whom were tempted to wait passively for the end of time, telling them: “Never grow tired of doing what is right” (2 Thessalonians 3:13). This is the best way to prepare for the coming of the Lord.

 

After the Consecration we proclaim: “When we eat this Bread and drink this Cup, we proclaim your death, O Lord, until you come again”. May this be a joyful acclamation, an expression of our faith in Jesus, our hope which rests in him, and our love of God and of our neighbour. Amen.

 

 

Terry's Homily 32nd Sunday Year B 7 Nov 2021

Posted on 12th November, 2021

Homily for 32nd Sunday Year B

 

This morning, we are gathered here for our usual Sunday celebration. But we make this gathering a little special on this first Sunday of November, by remembering and praying for all those who have died during this long pandemic of COVID  19.

 

I think each one of us here has been affected deeply by the sufferings of those who died in Intensive Care wards, in the nursing homes or at home during the past 20 months or so. Many of us have attended at least one funeral during this time and we were all struck by the loneliness, the solitude of those members of the grieving family who were able to gather for prayer and for the farewell Mass. It was so noticeable when most people had to stand around outside and only the very closest of relatives were allowed in. They were painful moments and lonely. Now, that is in the past, even if our grief is still very raw to this day.

In this Eucharist, our memorial of Jesus’ own suffering, we join our pain to that of God’s Son at the time of his death, in the hope that God will somehow bring some good out of it, just as God accomplished our salvation out of the sufferings of the crucifixion. We hope that, struck by all these afflictions, the national and regional health authorities and councils will apply themselves to improvements in the management of our amazing NHS and make the necessary reforms in the care of our elderly. We offer our suffering to God and unite ourselves to the agonies of others across the world who do not even have the most basic care or the most basic support to face up to this pandemic and who have still not been vaccinated.

 

In the story we just read, in the first reading, about the widow at the time of Elijah, God saw the suffering of that poor woman – the figure of the people of Israel – and came to her rescue. In the Gospel, Jesus perceives the treasure that the poorest widow gave as her temple offering. It was a treasure because it came from her great distress and her poverty. In human eyes, she gave nothing: a penny. In the eyes of God, she could not have given better; she gave her heart. Is hers not an example of Christian sharing that we try to emulate ourselves? It is often said that this parish was built on the pennies of the poor!

 

In Christian wisdom, suffering is not senseless or useless. Suffering cannot be escaped in life. Death itself is the one sure thing about anyone’s life. Death, like birth, is essential for life. But with the death of a loved one, comes the suffering of grief and mourning, sometimes heart-rending and crucifying in itself. In that suffering, we have to reach into our inner-most recesses to find the strength to live through it and come out the other side. That is where we can find Christ, in his suffering on the cross. That is where, if we search with the eyes of our heart, we find salvation. Every cloud, every cloud has a silver lining. We just need to be patient in our seeking of it.

 

Our world itself is suffering now and as it suffers, we suffer with it. The typhoons lashing across the Pacific nations; the fires in the Mediterranean, Australia and the Southern States, even in Siberia; the flooding in Cumbria, the Borders and Wales: they all bring great suffering to people. This suffering is now concentrating the minds of our leaders in Glasgow, in the summit COP 26. Its also concentrating our minds. Covid, global warming, destructive weather; it’s all connected and it all comes as a result of our human greed and selfishness, our short-sightedness, over the past generations.

 

It calls us all to conversion; to change our ways, to leave behind self-centred desires, the individualism that we have been living for too long now. It tells us to remember that we are all connected; everyone, black, white, yellow, rich poor, young and old. We are all one, children of the same God and part of our loving God’s beautiful creation which our selfishness is destroying.

 

COP 26 is showing us that there is only one way out of this. It is to unite, to change our lives, to change, indeed, our hearts’ desires, and to seek out the good of all humankind and of the nature by which we live. Another way of saying that is; to seek the Kingdom of God. For it is only there that we will find true happiness and the relief of all our suffering.Homily for Sunday 32 of Year B . Terry

 

 

Homily for St. Vincent de Paul by Fr. Ferdinand

Posted on 27th September, 2021

Homily for St. Vincent de Paul by Fr. Ferdinand 

 

What always strikes us listening about the life of St Vincent, is that he was not a Saint from birth.

Vincent was born in a poor peasant family in the South of France. As a teenager he fled the poverty of his village, was ordained illegally at 19 and began to build a secure future as a priest, eager to take on lucrative jobs and seeking good positions.

 

But what made him change? What caused his conversion? He began to change when he started to see, to truly see the misery of the people among whom he was working. Seeing the misery of the poor made him gradually change and devote his life to God in the service of the poor.

 

Who taught St Vincent to see? It was Jesus who taught him to see!

 

In today's Gospel, we heard: when Jesus saw the crowds, he felt sorry for them because they were harassed and dejected, like sheep without a shepherd.

 

Jesus teaches us to see. When Jesus sees he is not just looking… His seeing is like entering the real life of the other.  He sees what is truly in front of him, without immediate judgment.

 

When Jesus saw the crowds, he felt sorry for them. When Jesus sees the reality of  people's lives, he allows his heart to be touched, he feels compassion.

 

Compassion is a powerful emotion. It does not come from the head, but according to the Bible, it comes from our bowels, from the centre of our bodies.

 

To truly see is the first step, and to be moved with compassion by what we see is the second step.

It does not stop here. Compassion is more than just an emotion, it leads to action. When Jesus saw the crowds and felt sorry for them, he asked his disciples to pray for more labourers for the harvest, to relieve the people's distress.

 

Compassion leads to practical action. This is the third step, practical action.

 

Likewise with St Vincent; when he started seeing truly the reality of the poor in Paris, it changed his heart and his life. It made him more compassionate and made him act in favour of the poor.

He founded groups of men and women to assist the poor and visit the sick and, together with Louise de Marillac he formed the Congregation of the daughters of Charity, whose work was with the sick and the poor. He also founded a congregation of Priests, the Vincentians.

 

What do we see when we look around us? We do not see the misery of the poor of Paris  of the 17th century, but there are many other situations which, following the example of St Vincent would touch our hearts: we only need to think about those who are lonely and without friends, those who are sick, those who arrive on our shores without anything, the state of our Mother Earth.

 

How do we react to what we see? Does it leave us indifferent or maybe hopeless?

 

This week I heard on the radio about a survey which was held among young people between the ages of 15 and 24 in ten different countries. And more than half of them expressed the view that humanity is doomed because of climate change.

 

When St Vincent was faced with the reality of the poor of Paris, it could have left him with a sense of hopelessness and doom. It did not. It made him more compassionate and led him to action.

Today, on the feastday of our Patron Saint, let us ask St Vincent to pray for us, that we may follow his example.

That our hearts may beat with compassion, and that we may act with hope, in favour of God's Kingdom.

Fr. Ferdinand 

Saint Vincent de Paul and Fratelli Tutti

Posted on 27th September, 2021

Saint Vincent de Paul and Fratelli Tutti

Vincent was the third born son in a farming family in the South of France. Two sisters arrived in the family after him. There is a story told that as a young boy he gave all his money to a beggar. This would show that right from his youth he had a love for the poor. I would doubt the authenticity of this report, for I don’t think that a farmer’s son would have any money of his own.

Though Vincent took part in the running of the farm according to his capacity – in particular in looking after the flocks – he was not really suited to this work. He was happy when his parents decided to have him study for the priesthood. He contributed to the expenses by tutoring the children of wealthy families, He saw the priesthood as a way to an easier life.

 

At the age of 19 Vincent was ordained a priest. He was not, however, able to exercise his ministry because he did not have the required age. So he continued studying, first in Toulouse, and later in Paris. He was eager to arrive in Paris in order to enter into contact with noble families. He was driven by ambition.

 

I have mentioned these seemingly negative points to show that one is not born a saint, one becomes a saint by attention to the reality which the Lord provides for our lives.

In Paris Vincent became associated with the Ladies of Charity, a group which Louise de Marillac had gathered around her. Vincent was horrified by the poverty these ladies revealed and were trying to alleviate. It was this reality that shaped his mission.

 

When the husband of Louise de Marillac died, Vincent was instrumental in forming with her the Congregation of the Daughters of Charity. He also founded a congregation of priests, the Congregation of the Mission, known in the English-speaking world as the Vincentians. He felt that it was necessary to give sound instruction to future priests, and this has always been one of the characteristics of his congregation.

 

Pope Francis does not speak about St Vincent de Paul in Fratelli Tutti. He does speak about Francis of Assisi. He adapts his title from words of Francis ( FT 1) He refers to the saint as “This saint of fraternal love, simplicity and joy” (FT2).  He refers to the visit of Francis to the Sultan Malik el-Kamil, “that shows his openness of heart, which knew no bounds and transcended differences of origin, nationality, colour or religion” (FT 3). He concluded: “Francis did not wage a war of words aimed at imposing doctrines; he simply spread the love of God.” (FT 4). I would encourage you to read these passages yourselves.

 

Pope Francis says that he has drawn inspiration from non Catholics: “Martin Luther King, Desmond Tutu, Mahatma Gandhi and many more” (FT 286). In the very last paragraph of the encyclical he evokes the figure of a saint waiting to be Canonized. I want to quote this paragraph in full.

 

“Blessed Charles directed his ideal of total surrender to God towards an identification with the poor, abandoned in the depths of the African desert. In that setting he expressed his desire to feel himself a brother to every human being and asked a friend to ‘pray to God that I truly be the brother of all’. Yet only by identifying with the least did he come at last to be the brother of all. May God inspire that dream in each one of us. Amen.” (FT 287).

 

He expressed the “desire” to feel the universal brother, and he felt the need to ask for prayer, which shows that this desire was not automatically realized. Charles had to grow in holiness.

In his introduction to the encyclical Pope Francis refers to the Covid-19 pandemic which, he says, has exposed our false securities (Cf. 7). We have all been shaken by this storm and, as he had said in his solitary prayer for an end to the pandemic: “We are all in the same boat together”.

It is in this spirit that Pope Francis describes the present state of the world. He points to Dark Clouds over a Closed World (the title of the first of the eight chapters of his letter). Because in our world today there is an emphasis on promoting individual interests, we tend to feel alone. St Vincent de Paul would surely agree with this. There are significant headings in this chapter: “Globalisation and progress without a shared roadmap” introducing FT 29-31; “An absence of human dignity on the borders” where Pope Francis speaks about migration which “will play a pivotal role in the future of our world.” (FT 40 and 37-41).

 

In Fratelli Tutti Pope Francis is presenting a vision of how the world should be, a world of universal brotherhood, but he is not proposing to us that we should just wait for it to come, rather he is telling us to be active so that this fraternity and social friendship may be achieved. This is the purpose of chapter three Envisaging and Engendering an Open World. “Envisaging”, because we have to have a clear idea of what we want; “engendering”, because our actions produce effects, whether negative or positive. Both envisaging and engendering are needed. An artist may have a clear idea of the subject he or she wishes to portray, but if no paint is put on the canvas there will be no portrait.

 

Pope Francis reminds us that growth depends on relationships. Our self-consciousness develops through encounter with others. This is valid for individual persons, and at every stage of their existence, from infancy to old age. It is valid for married couples and for families, for societies and for the Church. The challenge is to move beyond oneself. The enemy of growth is self-centredness, which closes the horizon. So he speaks of “Moving beyond ourselves” (FT 88-94); “a love ever more open” (FT 95-105).

 

St Vincent de Paul would be very happy, I am sure, with Chapter Four “A Heart open to the Whole World”. Pope Francis speaks again of the attitude towards migrants, suggesting four words as a guide: welcome, protect, promote and integrate (FT 129). The gifts of other people are to be recognized, not dismissed (FT 133 sq).

 

The Pope is not engaging in party politics, but rather stressing the need for A Better Kind of Politics (the title of chapter five). He is advocating political activity which is “truly at the service of the common good” (FT 154) and which “makes room for everyone, including the most vulnerable” (FT 155).

 

Chapter Six is entitled “Dialogue and Friendship  in Society” “Approaching, speaking, listening, looking at, coming to know and understand one another, and to find common ground: all these things are summed up in the one word ‘dialogue’ “ (FT 198). Dialogue can be very public, for instance in peace negotiations, but it can often be rather hidden. As Pope Francis says: “persistent and courageous dialogue does not make headlines” (FT 198). The break-up of a marriage, leading to divorce, is “news”, but the patient dialogue that keeps a marriage going for many long years is not talked about. The same holds good for a religious community. Dialogue is out-going. It should be a characteristic of the “out-going Church” that Pope Francis is encouraging. He remarks that “some people attempt to flee from reality, taking refuge in their own little world; others react to it with destructive violence. Yet between selfish indifference and violent protest there is always another possible option: that of dialogue” (FT 199). Dialogue is not self-seeking; it is not an attempt “to seize every possible advantage” over the other, but rather cooperation “in the pursuit of the common good” (FT 202). In this process we have to be ready to accept the truth wherever it is to be found: “even people who can be considered questionable on account of their errors have something to offer which must not be overlooked” (FT 217). At the same time we have to be ready to express ourselves, not hiding our reality out of fear of raising opposition: “Let us not forget that differences are creative, they create tension and in the resolution of tension lies humanity’s progress” (FT 203). This supposes nevertheless “the ability to recognize other people’s rights to be themselves and to be different” (FT 218).

All this calls for an attitude of kindness which means “to show interest, to give the gift of a smile, to speak a word of encouragement, to listen amid general indifference. If we make a daily effort to do exactly this, we can create a healthy social atmosphere in which misunderstandings can be overcome and conflict forestalled “(FT 224).

 

This takes us to Chapter Seven Paths of Renewed Encounter.  Here again Pope Francis insists on the importance of truth: “Truth, in fact, is an inseparable companion of justice and mercy. All three together are essential to building peace; each, moreover, prevents the other from being altered… Truth should not lead to revenge, but rather to reconciliation and forgiveness” (FT 227).

 

Here the Pope goes against the usual advice “to forgive and forget”. On the contrary, he states:  “Forgiving does not mean forgetting. Or better, in the face of a reality that can in no way be denied, relativized or concealed, forgiveness is still possible. In the face of an action that can never be tolerated, justified or excused, we can still forgive. In the face of something that cannot be forgotten for any reason, we can still forgive. Free and heartfelt forgiveness is something noble, a reflection of God’s own infinite ability to forgive. If forgiveness is gratuitous, then it can be shown even to someone who resists repentance and is unable to beg pardon” (FT 250). He has already said very clearly that the Shoah should not be forgotten, nor should the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki be forgotten (cf.FT 247, 248). He continues with these strong words: “Those who truly forgive do not forget. Instead, they choose not to yield to the same destructive force that caused them so much suffering. They break the vicious circle; they halt the advance of the forces of destruction. They choose not to spread in society the spirit of revenge that will sooner or later return to take its toll. Revenge never truly satisfies victims. Some crimes are so horrendous and cruel that the punishment of those who perpetrated them does not serve to repair the harm done. Even killing the criminal would not be enough, nor could any form of torture prove commensurate with the sufferings inflicted on the victim. Revenge resolves nothing” (251).

 

 

The final chapter of Fratelli Tutti is dedicated to Religions at the service of Fraternity in our World. Pope Francis appeals for the voice of religions to be heard, not only that of Christianity, but of all religions. “From our faith experience and from the wisdom accumulated over centuries, but also from lessons learned from our many weaknesses and failures, we, the believers of the different religions, know that our witness to God benefits our societies. The effort to seek God with a sincere heart, provided it is never sullied by ideological or self-serving aims, helps us recognize one another as travelling companions, truly brothers and sisters” (FT 274). He returns to the document on Human Fraternity which he had signed together with the Grand Imam of al-Azhar in Abu Dhabi on 4 February 2019. “In my fraternal meeting, which I gladly recall, with the Grand Imam Ahmad Al-Tayyeb, we resolutely [declared] that religions must never incite war, hateful attitudes, hostility and extremism, nor must they incite violence or the shedding of blood. These tragic realities are the consequence of a deviation from religious teachings. They result from a political manipulation of religions and from interpretations made by religious groups who, in the course of history, have taken advantage of the power of religious sentiment in the hearts of men and women… God, the Almighty, has no need to be defended by anyone and does not want his name to be used to terrorize people” (FT 285).

 

I hope that this summary of Fratelli Tutti will encourage you to read it. It is long, but it doesn’t have to be read at one go. It can be taken chapter by chapter.

Michael Louis Fitzgerald 

22nd Sunday Ordinary Time Homily

The Season of Creation

29 Aug 2021

 

Two thoughts or phrases in these readings caught my attention this weekend and I would like to share some reflections around them. These reflections do come in the context of the time of prayer and action which now comes around each year, encouraged by Pope Francis and the Leaders of all Christian Churches belonging to the World Council of Churches. I’m referring to the Season of Creation. This begins this week on the 1st of September and continues until Monday, 4th October.

 

You will already have seen the calendar published by the Green Churches Network, of which our church of the Archdiocese of Liverpool is a member. The calendar is called Season of Creation 2021 and is meant as an aid for us all in our prayer and action during the month. We priests, encouraged by the Archdiocese, see this month as so important that we have printed the calendar in colour for you all to take home. We would invite you not only to stick it on the fridge door, but also to refer to it each day and try to follow some of its ideas for daily actions in this season of creation.

 

True faith can only be seen to be true when it is put into action. Did you notice what St James wrote in his letter that we have just read in our second reading? He wrote – “But be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves.” Another way of putting that would be, “Actions speak louder than words”. Elsewhere he writes, “So too, faith by itself, if it does not result in action, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith and I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds.” (2:18) Faith, like love, leads us to act, if not, it is empty.

To come back to the phrases that struck me in preparing this Mass, the first one is this: “So now, Israel, give heed to the statutes and ordinances that I am teaching you to observe, so that you may live to enter and occupy the land that the Lord, the God of your ancestors, is giving you.”

 

When God sealed a covenant or a friendship with Abraham, he promised him a homeland; he who was a wondering Aramean… God promised him that he would have a land that he could call his own, that would be the place in which his descendants would prosper and thrive and multiply. And God fulfilled his promise. Abraham’s descendants, known as Israel, settled in the Promised Land. They cared for it and it produced food a-plenty. The people we now call Jews have always been attached to this land. They know how important the land is to their survival as a people – or as the People of God. They know that they must care for it. For if they do not, they will lose their land and be scattered, yet again, across the world without a true identity.

 

To do this, they have to be inventive. They work hard today to introduce new methods of conservation of the land and the forests. They are well advanced in solar power and wind power and they have introduced irrigation in the desert, reclaiming land that was lost for centuries. That dry land is now producing great fruit. If they hadn’t changed their ways of working the land, they would still be living in the desert.  They had to abandon their traditional ways and take on new ways of farming and living off the land.

 

Their situation brings us back to the gospel, and this is the where Jesus condemns those who stick to traditions that no longer make sense or are no longer good for the people. For some of them, it was more important to stick to tradition than to see the needs of the people and take care of them. It was obeying traditional rules and following traditional ways that took precedence over the love of neighbour. Jesus tells them that there is only one tradition that counts and that is love your neighbour.

 

It is love of neighbour that tells us that we too must be willing to change. The change in climate with all the dangerous consequences that we are beginning to see around us also tells us that we must change. We cannot continue to exploit God’s creation in our now traditional manner without suffering the consequences of our selfishness and greed. We have to make changes in our traditions; changes that take into consideration the needs of the planet, of nature, of the environment. This means real changes, in our diets, in our means of travel, in the travelling we do, in the clothes that we purchase, in the things we discard simply because we want better or are tired of them.

 

Yes, the changes we have to make to our lifestyle are biblical – not in the sense of massive or stupendous, but in the sense that they come from the inspiration of the Word of God, from Jesus himself, who tells us that our love for each other has consequences.

 

The first priority in God’s eyes is how we relate to one another, in particular how we relate to the weakest and most vulnerable among us. Jesus did not hesitate to heal the sick on the Sabbath even though the tradition of the elders held that this constituted work and so was unlawful. The words and deeds of Jesus are always are best guide to what is of real value in our own tradition and our own lifestyle and what it is that may need to be put aside.

 

During this coming month, let us pray for the success on the Conference on Climate Change that will take place in Glasgow in November.

Homily for 11th July 2021

Posted on 13th July, 2021

15th Sunday Ordinary Time B

SVP

 

I’d like today to take a little look with you at the first reading. It concerns an ancient prophet, Amos. He lived at a time when there were more than enough prophets in the court of the King of Israel. They were kept and paid for by the king. Their task was not so much to pass on the Word of God to the people, but to convince them that the secret ambitions and policies of the king were in fact the will of God. If they wanted to keep their heads on their shoulders, the court prophets had to tell the people only what the king wanted. Amos challenged these corrupt prophets who turned against him. “Flee, away,” they said, “we want no more of your style of prophesying.”

 

Indeed, it was Amos alone who proclaimed the authentic message of God for the people. He saw that while, outwardly, Israel seemed to be thriving and healthy, inwardly it was stricken with a malignant cancer. For not only was it guilty of social injustices, it was also abandoning its call to be in a special relationship with Yahwe. There will be no more special privileges for this corrupt Israel, declares Amos, only disaster. “Behold the eyes of the Lord God are upon this sinful kingdom, and I will wipe it off the face of the earth”, he declares. God scorns those who try to bribe him by burning incense in the shrine at Bethel one day in the week, while on the other six days they defraud the poverty-stricken folk of the nation.

 

You may already be thinking like me that much of God’s message, as prophesied by Amos, could be applied to our own age. Amos criticised the inequalities amongst the people of that time of so much prosperity; the luxurious dwellings and life-style of the wealthy, their selfish and greedy exploitation of the poor, their lack of concern for justice, the way in which the courts were used to evade the law and perpetuate abuses.

 

In those days people displayed all the outward trappings of religion, but in their hearts there was no place for God. They would not listen to God’s call. And so it was that Israel slithered down the slope of its own destruction.  Is this not similar to our situation today?

 

When Jesus came, he too warned the people that if they did not repent and turn their hearts to God, their end was nigh. He wept over Jerusalem, because its people would not open their hearts to God. And only 40 years later, the city was destroyed and the temple with it, never again to be rebuilt.

In the Gospel, Jesus warns his missionaries that people will refuse to listen to them, just as he himself had been ignored; but their message could not be forced on the people. The disciples must give witness to their faith by what they do. If people do not accept their witness, they must simply move on.

Today, in this country and across Europe in general, we see how people have become disorientated, lost, turned in on their own little world of family and work.

 

For many people, life is losing its meaning beyond their immediate sentient relationships and their search for more wealth. We tend to seek immediate gratification, living-for ourselves, taking all that we can from our environment without thought for the less favoured or for future generations. Decisions are made for today, not for the long-term. The push for legalised Euthanasia and last week’s move in parliament to liberalise further the use of abortion seek to give us a insidious control on the decision of who lives and who dies. Our leaders now even suggest that it is acceptable that 10s of thousands fall sick and die as long as the economy is protected and the wealth of the rich and the owners grows.

 

We might say that we desperately need another Amos; even more so, another Christ.

Yet, the Christ is amongst us. He is here in our midst. He lives with us and in us. Is that not what we celebrate when our children make their first Holy Communion? Are we not celebrating our faith in the presence of Christ, even the presence of God, in the bread and wine of the Eucharist? When we have our children baptised, are we not saying, “Yes, I believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who lives with us and in our community. He is the light of my life. It is his way I would walk. We seek baptism for our children because we believe that God alone can save us from our weaknesses. We seek their baptism because we want to pass on our faith to them, so that they too may live in God’s love. To pass on the faith, brothers and sisters, we too must grow in faith, we must kindle the flame of faith in our hearts, by our prayer, by reading the scriptures, by playing an active part in the life of the community of disciples, by caring for the wounded and broken victim on the other side of the road.”

 

Christ is the good news who gives us hope and brings sense and direction to our lives. He leads us, by the gift of the Holy Spirit, into the service of the community and of society as a whole. Let us heed the call of Amos and follow him.

 

Terry 

Homily 20th June 2021. Terry

Posted on 23rd June, 2021

12th Sunday Ordinary Time B

SVP 19 June 2021

 

Funerals have been a feature for me these past weeks, happily not here in St Vincent’s. It is noticeable that people who have not seen the inside of their parish church for maybe decades want to come back for this most significant moment in their family’s life. This is surely something to be welcomed. They tell you that the church is always there, a constant in life. It was there that they were christened, made their first communion, received confirmation, were married. It is good that we can welcome them when there is a death. Even so, when they come to the Funeral Mass, they can no longer answer the priest, or know when to sit or stand. They do not receive communion and, among those who do, it can be clear that they no longer know how to. Somewhere along the road Catholics have lost their Catholic culture; the culture that had sustained a community for nigh on 200 years.

 

I find myself asking what went wrong? How come people can talk of this church as their church, yet never step over the threshold and no longer have any idea about Catholic practice, either in liturgy or in social life as a whole?

 

Christian faith, I have to remind myself, is about more than culture and more than liturgy. It is about the way that we live. At the earliest time of the Church, and often throughout the centuries that followed, the disciples did not use the word ‘religion’ to describe their Christian faith, they spoke rather about THE WAY. The WAY of being, the way of life, the way of Jesus… Which meant a life of prayer, a life in a living and life-giving community, a life at the service of others.

 

I am puzzled by this collapse of the Christian way of life. I am puzzled, but not overly anxious. I am not too anxious because my trust does not lie in the numbers who come to church. It does not lie in knowing and following the cultural practices of the church, for we who do may not be any better than those who have lost them. No, my trust is best described by the words of St. Paul who writes in the second reading we just heard – “The love of Christ impels us”. It is this conviction that God loves me that keeps me faithful and that keeps me in the community of Christ’s disciples. The Catholic culture helps. It is a means of expressing my belonging to the community which is the Body of Christ.

 

It makes me feel very sorry, and I regret enormously, that people as a whole today do not know God’s love. Because they do not know it, they seek solace and assurance in so many other minor deities that always fail to assuage their hunger for love and for spiritual satisfaction. All too often these deities even lead them to ruin, as we realise now, as nature – the other part of God’s beloved creation – turns against us.

My greatest desire in life is to share the hope and joy of the Gospel with all those around me. And this should be the greatest desire of all Christians.

 

Our baptismal vocation is not to gather each Sunday in Church to praise God and during the week to defend ourselves against the power of sin, even if this is what many of us were taught. Remember the image that was popular for many years in the last century; the image of the barque of Peter – like Noah’s ark tossed about on the rough and stormy seas that we learnt to refer to as “The World”? It may have been a valid image then, but it is no longer so today.

 

Our vocation is to live the Gospel in joy and in hope and living the gospel is best described in the Beatitudes of Matthew’s Gospel, chapter 5, or again in the one commandment that counts above all others, “You shall love your God and your neighbour as yourself”. Love is joy, love is hope, love is oneness with the beloved, is it not?

 

Pope Francis writes in his letter ‘The Joy of the Gospel’, “If something should rightly disturb us and trouble our consciences, it is the fact that so many of our brothers and sisters are living without the strength, light and consolation born of friendship with Jesus Christ, without a community of faith to support them, without meaning and a goal in life”.  EG 49

 

This synod, which we celebrate this weekend, should encourage us, as we weather the storm of the diminution of church numbers and church participation. It should encourage us to allow the Holy Spirit to transform our lives and transform our church into a joyful, life-giving people of God, confident of God’s love and God’s presence amongst us. As Pope Francis said in another part of that letter same letter, “Christians have the duty to proclaim the Gospel without excluding anyone. Instead of seeming to impose new obligations, they should appear as people who wish to share their joy, who point to a horizon of beauty and who invite others to a delicious banquet. It is not by proselytizing that the Church grows, but “by attraction”.  EG 14

11th Sunday Ordinary Time Ferdinand

Posted on 18th June, 2021

Homily for 13th June 2021

 

Today Jesus is telling us two parables. In the first, we hear about a farmer who is sowing. He does not use a machine to sow, but scatters the seeds by hand. And when he has finished, he goes home to have his tea. The sower has played his part. The seed sprouts by itself, it becomes a shoot, which becomes a plant, and the plant will bear fruit.

 

The sower needs to be patient and to trust because nature has its own rhythm.

 

In the second parable we hear about a small seed, a mustard seed. It is very small, yet once it is sown, it can become a big shrub with branches, on which the birds can rest.

 

Both parables of Jesus are uplifting: God is at work! God is at work in our lives, God is at work in the Church and God is at work outside the Church. We do not always understand how, but God is at work and is able to turn something insignificant into something substantial.

 

The words of Jesus invite us to trust and to be patient, because just as nature has its own rhythm, God has God's own time.

 

What is our role? If the field is prepared, but there is no one to sow, there will be no harvest. There would only be weeds. Our role is to sow: to sow an encouraging word, maybe just a smile, to sow actions of service and love, to sow our witness as followers of Jesus.

 

Tomorrow four children of St Vincent's Primary School will be baptised in our parish. They are not infants, they are pupils of year 4 and 5, who themselves asked to be baptised. It was the words and the witness of their class-mates that inspired them.

 

That was the seed. The witness of their class-mates sprouted in their hearts and became a desire to be baptised. Tomorrow their desire will become a reality and we hope that the plant will continue to develop and grow into a life of service and witness. Yes, God is at work! The witness of these four children may inspire and attract others...

 

Pope Francis recently said: "The church grows by attraction. And who provokes attraction? The Holy Spirit!"

 

Besides sowing, as Christians we still have another role to play, this is to collaborate with God and God's Spirit. When these four children felt the desire to be baptised, fear or shame could have taken the upper hand and made the desire die.

 

No, we want to collaborate with the Spirit, and overcome fear and resistance. We want to listen to the Spirit who speaks in us and through others.  In this way the Kingdom will grow in us and around us.

Fr. Ferdinand

 

Terry's Homily 12 July 2021

Posted on 12th June, 2021

11th Sunday B

Our Lady of Walsingham, Netherton

12 July 2021

 

Today is the final week before the synod decision day. Most of the work is done- the work of listening with the heart, of listening in prayer. This is a listening where each person has an equal voice and says the truth as they understand and feel it. During all these months, we have prayed to support those who have done the “work” of the synod; the members, and the leaders.

 

Now, a week before the event, we are invited to pray that the process of decision-making next Saturday will go according to the will of the Holy Spirit.

 

It is important for us to remember that this synod is not approaching the end, even if we may feel a little tired of the whole process. When we celebrate the synod next Sunday in a gathering in the Cathedral, it is not the end that we will celebrate but the beginning.

 

These past three years mark the beginning of a rediscovered way of being church. We could say that the celebrations next Sunday are a celebration of the work done and a celebration of the work yet to be done. This work is to allow the Spirit of the Gospel we have just read enter truly into our hearts and the heart of the church. Our new task will be to ensure that this process of growth in the Spirit is allowed to continue and that it will not be stifled and starved by those who are frightened of this life-giving process.  

 

Synodality, we can remind ourselves, was not invented here in Liverpool in 2018.  It is a way of being church that was practised at the beginning of the Church. Its roots are to be found in the book of the Acts of the Apostles. As the church grew, its practice slowly disappeared. Its spirit, however, was kept alive in the monasteries, in what was called the Chapter meetings, where every sister and every brother was considered equal and had an equal say in the government of the monastery.

 

Synodality was then revived by the bishops of the Second Vatican Council in the early 1960’s and has been developed by the succeeding Popes, most notably at the levels of the bishops and Rome. But it has also made its way into the life of many local churches throughout the world, especially in the French speaking churches of Africa and in South America.

 

When I was a missionary in Burkina Faso, which had been colonised and evangelised by the French, synodality was a common practice. Every village had a Christian Community Council which would meet every week, headed by the president of the Christian Community and guided by the catechist. Every month their delegates would meet with all the leaders of all the other village Christian communities, at the parish council, with the priests and religious of the parish. These monthly meetings would begin with a morning of prayer and reflection and then continue with deliberations and decision making in the afternoon.

 

Every year, the leaders of these parochial bodies would assemble with the bishop and all the priests at diocesan level. Usually, these annual meetings would last 2 to 3 days. It was here that the pastoral plan of the past year would be reviewed and a new one decided on for the next year. Every 5 years, there would be a greater assembly of all the leaders and influencers in the diocesan church, where the pastoral 5 year plan would be prepared and promulgated. This is the way of a synodal church. And this church, existing in one of the poorest countries in the world, a country that is 40 or 50 % Muslim and with a large majority of people of traditional religions, is a thriving, blossoming church, where each year the baptism of adults is numbered in the thousands..

 

This is the way of being church that we are now called to develop, or at least a similar model. Experience shows that it can bring about an end to clericalism, where Father decides all. It can restore the vocation and the place of all baptised Christians, giving voice to those who live in the Spirit they received at Baptism. It can open up the church to the world in which we live, encouraging us to be missionary, to go out to the peripheries as Pope Francis so likes to tell us.

 

In the gospel reading today Christ gives us the image of the seed that is sown. The farmer sows it and then patiently waits until his hope is rewarded by the appearance of the first shoots breaking the surface of the soil. Then he watches as the shoots grow and extend until they give the fruit that was intended. Similarly, we have begun the process of Synod. It is now the work of the Holy Spirit to transform the seed into the plant God intended. In the end, after all our efforts, it is the Spirit of God who makes fruitful change happen. So, we call on the Pentecostal Spirit to breathe strongly on our Church today and awaken in all our hearts that loving desire for sharing, for communion, for witness, which is the ideal at the heart of this Synodal reawakening.