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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.

Fr Ferdinand's Homily Corpus Christi

Posted on 9th June, 2021

Feast of the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ.

6th June 2021

 

Most, if not all of us, are regular Mass Goers: at the weekend and even during the week. Regular Mass goers run a risk; the risk is that going to Mass becomes a routine, that we participate on automatic pilot. Today's feast of The Body and Blood of Jesus is a good moment to reflect on the Eucharist and to appreciate the Eucharist better as a gift and as a challenge.

 

In today's Gospel we hear how Jesus and the twelve are together for a meal, for supper, it is the Last Supper before Jesus' death on the cross.

 

To have a meal with friends or with the family is often a moment of grace: it is a time of sharing, of celebration, of love. For Jesus too, meals were important moments. We read in the gospels that Jesus is often at table. We read how he shares meals with the outcasts and with those considered unclean. And there is great abundance; all eat as much as they want. In the Gospels, the meals of Jesus are signs of God's love and compassion, they are signs of God's Kingdom to which all are invited.

 

The meal Jesus shared with his disciples that night was special; it was the Pass-over meal. For the Jewish people, Pass-over is the main feast of the year. It remembers how God liberated the Jewish people from slavery in Egypt, and how he made a Covenant with them. God promised to be their God and they would be his People. Many times the people were un-faithful and broke the covenant. The prophets of the Old testament reminded the people of God's covenant over and over again and they promised that God would make a new Covenant.

 

It is striking also, that the Jewish People celebrate the Pass-over with a meal with the family or with friends. Not in the synagogue or in the Temple, but with a meal in someone's home. It shows the sacred character meals can have.

 

It was during a meal, the Last Supper, that Jesus inaugurated the New Covenant. It was new because all unfaithfulness of the past would be forgiven. It was new as well, because the covenant would not be limited to the people of Israel. God promises his love to all who believe in Jesus, people of any background or nationality.

 

During the Last Supper, Jesus sets a sign of the new relationship of love between God and his People. He gives himself to his friends fully: This is my Body, he says. This is my Blood.

 

There is a story about a man called Jim. Jim would go to church every day at noon for just a few minutes, and then he would leave. The sacristan was very curious about Jim's daily routine, and one day he stopped him to ask: Why do you come here every day? I come to pray, Jim answered. That's impossible, what prayer can you say in two minutes? I am an old, ignorant man. I pray to God in my own way. But what do you say? I say: Jesus, here I am, it's Jim. And then I leave.

 

After some years, Jim became ill and had to go to the hospital. When it seemed that Jim was dying a priest was called. The priest was touched by the joy on Jim's face and asked Jim, why are you so happy? Well, aren't you happy when you receive a visitor? asked Jim. Of course, but we have never seen anyone come to visit you. When I came here, I asked for two chairs. One was for you father, and one was reserved for my guest. But what guest, the priest asked. I used to go to church to visit Jesus every day at noon. But when I couldn't do that anymore, Jesus came here. Jesus comes to visit you? What does he say? He says:  Jim, here I am , it's Jesus.

 

This happens every time we come together to celebrate the Eucharist. Jesus comes to visit us. Sometimes we have had a good week, sometimes we have had a bad week, we may feel we are worthy, we may feel we are not worthy. But each time when we receive Communion, Jesus comes, he gives himself and says:

Alice, here I am, it's Jesus, for you...

Michael, here I am, it's Jesus, for you....

Angela, here I am, it's Jesus, for you....

 

The Eucharist is a tremendous gift...The Eucharist is also a challenge..The challenge is to remain faithful.

 

We pray that the gift of Jesus' body and blood will help us to be his faithful friends, to be committed to God's Kingdom, and to make the options Jesus himself would make.

Fr Ferdinand's Homily Trinity Sunday

Posted on 1st June, 2021

Homily for Trinity Sunday

St. Vincent de Paul Church 30th May 2021

 

Today's Gospel reading is the conclusion of St Matthew's gospel. Jesus, after his resurrection, appears to his disciples on a mountain and sends them out to all nations. Jesus commands his disciples to go and baptise people in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

 

Father, Son and Holy Spirit: we speak of three persons in one God, the Trinity.

 

The Trinity is whom we are celebrating this Sunday. We might have expected this weekend, readings which would explain the Trinity to us. No, there are no readings in the Bible which explain God. The Bible does not give algorithms to solve the mystery of God. Holy Scripture gives us stories of events which reveal something about God; events in which the people of God discovered something of God.

 

What do today's readings reveal about God?

 

In the first reading, Moses reminds the people that God has been pro-active in their history: by speaking from the burning bush and by liberating them from slavery. He asks the people: Do you remember all that the Lord God did for you before your eyes in Egypt?

 

In the second reading, St Paul tells us that God has sent his Spirit, the Spirit which frees us from fear and makes us God's children. Last Sunday, on the feast of Pentecost, we celebrated the descent of the Holy Spirit on the disciples.

 

And today's Gospel tells us that God sent Jesus, his Son, who now in turn is sending us.

What do today's readings reveal about the Trinity, about God? They reveal that God is a God who reaches out to his people in love.

 

God reaches out in the events of our lives, God reaches out by visiting us in Jesus, The Father and Jesus reach out by sending us the Holy Spirit.

 

The Trinity does not withdraw cozily into the heavens. God comes to us in love, through the people we meet and live with, in our daily lives, through his Word, through the Eucharist we celebrate. God comes to us in love and will never abandon us. At the end of today's Gospel, Jesus promises: I am with you always, yes to the end of time.

 

It is 'proper' to God to reach out. Saint John writes: God is love. Love is not self-centred, love does not seek itself, but reaches out and crosses barriers.

 

God continues to reach out in love. We can become the channels through which God reaches out to others. That is why in today's Gospel reading, Jesus is sending his disciples: Go, therefore make disciples of all the nations, baptise them and teach them. Now we are called to reach out, in love and respect, to our brothers and sisters, whoever they may be, to cross boundaries.

 

God does not withdraw cozily into the heavens. So  we, as church and as parish community, should not withdraw cozily and focus on ourselves. Rather, we are sent by Jesus to reach out and be a sign of his love and friendship to those around us.

 

Homily 7th Sunday of Easter Time 2021

Posted on 19th May, 2021

Homily Sunday 7-B Eastertide 2021

 

Some people call this 7th Sunday of Easter a Sandwich Sunday. A sandwich has two slices of bread with food like ham or cheese, or something else in between.

We could call this Sunday a sandwich Sunday because it falls between two important feasts: The feast of the Ascension, last Thursday and the feast of Pentecost, next Sunday.

Before saying something about the ham and cheese of today, I will say something about the two slices of bread which hold the ham and cheese.

 

First the feast of the Ascension: On the Ascension of Jesus, we remember that 40 days after Easter, Jesus ascended into heaven. Sometimes we imagine the Ascension as Jesus disappearing into the skies like a rocket, to a faraway place in the universe.

 

No, it is not like that. At the Ascension of Jesus, we celebrate that after having appeared to his disciples for forty days, Jesus entered into the glory of God, his Father.

 

So, Jesus has not travelled to a distant place, he has not abandoned us; but his way of being present has changed. Just as God is always present, Jesus is now always present, always near us. I am with you always, yes to the end of time.

 

The second slice of bread is the feast of Pentecost. Before ascending into heaven, Jesus told his disciples to wait for the Holy Spirit, who would make them into his courageous witnesses until the ends of the earth.

 

Now what about the ham and cheese of today? Today's Gospel takes place after the Last Supper. Jesus has said farewell to his disciples, and now he is praying to His heavenly Father for his disciples.

He prays: Holy Father, keep those you have given me true to your name, so that they may be one like us. Jesus prays for his disciples, that they may be united, that they may be one.

Why is this Jesus' first intention? Why is unity among his followers so important?  Because unity is a sign that Jesus' message is true.

 

Unity is a powerful witness. A community which is united is attractive, it attracts people to the message of Jesus. A community which is divided repels, it deters people from Jesus' message.

We all know that unity among Jesus' followers is fragile, it can easily break, and it needs continual effort to be achieved.  What can we learn from Jesus' words?

 

Jesus prays “that they may be one like us”. Like us, like Jesus and the Father. They have a common plan, a common mission, yet each with a role to play...

Jesus and the Father had a common plan, a common mission. This is true also for Jesus' followers: we too have a common mission: to bring God's love into the world.

 

Jesus and the Father each had a role to play: So do we. We are all different people, each with his/her own history, character, and upbringing. Unity does not come from expecting we shall all be the same. Unity comes from accepting the differences and respecting one another. Unity comes about when each plays his/her role.

 

To bring about this unity, to grow in unity we need the second slice of the sandwich: the coming of the Holy Spirit. For unity in the church, for unity among the churches, for peace in the Holy Land, for Peace in Myanmar, for peace in Northern Ireland, we need to pray for the coming of the Holy Spirit.

 

One of the Synod recommendations for the church in Liverpool is to become more welcoming and more inclusive. In these last days before Pentecost, let us welcome the Holy Spirit!

We open our hearts for the Spirit to sow seeds of love, of concord, of respect, of courage in order to become more and more Jesus' disciples united in Mission.

 

Sixth Sunday of Easter

(Day of Prayer for Christians of the East)

 

“Remain in my love” says Jesus. It is good to notice this word ‘remain’ which occurs several times in today’s Gospel. It had already come up last Sunday when Jesus compared himself to a vine: “I am the vine, you are the branches”, he said. “Whoever remains in me, with me in him, bears fruit in plenty.”

 

‘Remain’ indicates something which lasts, which endures. It signifies faithfulness.

“Remain in my love”: it is not enough to love Jesus for a day, for one day a week; it has to be something which continues every day and lasts the whole of our lives. But really, it is not so much a question of our loving Jesus, but of letting him love us. “Remain in my love”, he says. We are to be conscious that Jesus loves us always, and to such an extent that he has given his life for us (which is what we celebrate in this Eucharist). So this encourages us to respond to him with fidelity.

 

I think we can apply this idea to the Christians of the East for whom we are praying in a special way today. These Christian communities give us an example of fidelity. They go back in history to the first communities of those who embraced the faith in Jesus Christ, in the land where Jesus lived and in the surrounding countries. They have had a difficult history, for there were persecutions under the rule of different Roman emperors, and then these lands were overrun by the Muslims. Yet in the midst of Islam they have survived and are still surviving. Despite suffering discrimination, and sometimes persecution, they have given and are giving faithful witness to the Lord Jesus. So we can give thanks to God for their example.

 

Let me tell you a bit more about these Christians of the Middle East. They belong to Churches in their own right, Churches which have their own liturgy, their own legal systems, and their own spiritual traditions. Some of these Churches are Catholic, in other words they recognize the Pope as the head of the Universal Church. But many of these Christians belong to Churches which do not give this recognition to the Pope. We can thank God that there is more and more cooperation between the Churches, but one of the things that we should pray for today is that all Christians may be united, since our divisions are a scandal to those who are not Christians.

 

Let me mention in particular the Eastern Catholic Churches. There is the Maronite Church which originated in Lebanon; the Melkite or Greek Catholic Church; the Syrian Catholic Church; each of these churches is headed by a Patriarch, who takes his title from Antioch of Syria,  the city in which the followers of Jesus were first called ‘Christians’. Then there is the Coptic Catholic Church headed by the Patriarch of Alexandria; the Chaldean Church which originated in Iraq and is the largest Christian community in the country; there is finally the Armenian Catholic Church.  There is also the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, so in the land of Jesus there are Latin rite Catholics, like us, but who are Arabic-speaking.

 

This multiplicity of Churches is perhaps bewildering, but the variety is a source of richness. It means that the Universal Church is like a bouquet of flowers, each one with its own shape and colour, but coming together into one.

 

Alongside the Catholics there are those Christians who do not recognize the Pope as the head of the Universal Church. We often refer to them as the Orthodox Churches.

The most numerous of all are the Coptic Orthodox who are about 10 million.

 

At the beginning of March, as you will remember, Pope Francis journeyed to Iraq. On arrival, in his first speech, he said:

 

I greet with affection the bishops and priests, men and women religious and all the faithful of the Catholic Church. I have come as a pilgrim to encourage them in their witness of faith, hope and love in the midst of Iraqi society. I also greet the members of other Christian Churches and Ecclesial Communities, the followers of Islam and the representatives of other religious traditions. May God grant that we journey together as brothers and sisters in “the firm conviction that authentic teachings of religions invite us to remain rooted in the values of peace… mutual understanding, human fraternity and harmonious coexistence” (Document on Human Fraternity, Abu Dhabi, 4 February 2019).

 

The Pope’s message of fraternity and peace really made an impression on the people of Iraq, since they, and indeed the people of the whole region, have been suffering from violence and war, to which must be added now the effects of the Coronavirus pandemic.

 

Let us open our hearts to the Christians of the East. As we pray for them, let us be inspired by their courage, their endurance and their faithful witness to the Gospel.

                                                                                      

Day-of-the-Lord Letter by the Bishops of England and Wales

 

Click above to find the letter by the Bishops of England and Wales concerning the return to church on Sundays 

Third Sunday of Easter B (2021)

 

Today’s gospel gives us the account of an appearance of the Risen Jesus. The first lines recall a previous appearance, when Jesus joined two disciples who were walking to a village called Emmaus. They were despondent, because the death of Jesus on the cross had destroyed all the hopes they had in him as the one who would set Israel free. Jesus explained to them, referring to the Scriptures, how he in fact had fulfilled all the prophecies, which announced that the Christ, the Anointed One, the Messiah, had to suffer and so enter into glory. As the disciples realized later, while Jesus was speaking to them their hearts were on fire – in other words, they were filled with hope and joy.

 

We see the same thing happening in today’s gospel. The disciples in Jerusalem are frightened when Jesus comes suddenly in their midst. They think he is a ghost. After reassuring them that he is truly Jesus, their Master, who has risen from the dead and is well and alive, Jesus says to them: “Everything written about me in the Law of Moses, in the Prophets and in the Psalms has to be fulfilled.” He then opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.

 

It would seem that the disciples really understood what Jesus told them. In the First Reading we have heard that Peter, preaching to the people about Jesus, about his passion, death and resurrection, was able to say: “This was the way God carried out what he had foretold, when he said through all his prophets that his Christ would suffer.”

 

In our profession of faith, which we recite on Sundays, we say about Jesus: “For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate; he suffered death and was buried. On the third day he rose again in accordance with the Scriptures.”

So we see again underlined the importance of the Scriptures. We can ask ourselves: What place do the Scriptures have in our lives?

 

We can perhaps learn from our Muslim brothers and sisters.  In many Muslim families the Qur’an is as it were enthroned, and given a place of honor in the living-room.  I wonder whether in our homes the Bible is given a prominent place.

 

But of course the Bible is not just to be looked at and admired; it is also to be read.  A good number of times Pope Francis has encouraged people to carry with them a Bible, or at least a copy of the Gospels, one they can slip in their pocket or in their purse, so that they can dip into it when they are travelling, or when they are waiting for an appointment. He has had thousands of copies of the Gospels distributed in St Peter’s Square. We could try to follow the encouragement given to us by Pope Francis.

 

Again we can learn from Muslims.  As you may well know, at this time, from last Tuesday until the middle of May, they are observing Ramadan. Now Ramadan is a special month, not only of fasting, but also of more intense prayer. During Ramadan many Muslims make a point of reading their Holy Book, the Qur’an. The Qur’an is in fact divided into thirty sections, one for each day of the month, so by reading a section each day during Ramadan they will have read the whole Qur’an.

 

Why do we not try to read a little bit of Scripture each day? You might say: “But we hear the Scriptures read for us at Sunday Mass”. This is true, but we only hear short passages. It is very helpful to read before and after the readings that we have at Mass, so that we can put them in their context and understand them better.

Jesus has promised to be with us always, and one of the ways in which he is present to us is through the Scriptures. He has sent his Holy Spirit down upon the Church, and he continues to give each one of us this same Spirit. It is the Spirit who inspired the Scriptures, helping the various authors of the sacred books, both of the Old Testament and the New Testament, to find the best way of presenting their message. So when we read Scripture it is the Spirit in our hearts who helps us to understand what has been written under the influence of the same Spirit. In other words, the Scriptures are not just books about the past. We could say that they are alive. They have a message for us today.

 

Let us listen once more to the words of Jesus in today’s gospel:

So you see how it is written that the Christ would suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that, in his name, repentance for the forgiveness of sins would be preached to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses to this.

 

Let us take notice of these last words. “You are witnesses to this.” If we nourish ourselves through the Scriptures we will be better witnesses. We shall be able to follow the instruction given by the apostle Peter:

Simply reverence the Lord Christ in your hearts, and always have your answer ready for people who ask you the reason for the hope that you all have. But give it with courtesy and respect and with a clear conscience (1 P 3:15-16).

 

As he came to his disciples, so Jesus is coming to us in this Eucharist. Let us ask him to teach us and strengthen our faith in him. As he nourishes us with his own body and blood, let us ask him to give us courage to be his witnesses, wherever we are, for the glory of God, the Father. Amen.