Getting ready for change…

In the current Gospel readings we are challenged to think about how we will be ready for Jesus to come into the world. 

In the Gospel account Jesus says “In those days after the time of distress, the sun will be darkened, the moon will lose its brightness, the stars will come falling from heaven.” It as an apocalyptic scene where we are challenged to think of the end of the world and judgement. Later in the same reading Jesus talks of the fig tree and recognising when it flowers that summer is near… perhaps a gentler image!

It makes me think about a few things…

  • What can we do to read the signs of the times and recognise when things change in our lives?
  • What does it mean for us to judged or accountable at the end of our lives or the end of time?
  • How can we live our lives in a way that we are ready to meet God face to face?
  • What can we do to be ready to welcome Jesus into our lives in a fresh and new way during our advent journey?

Ultimately this is part of what I believe we are doing… we can easily be lured into the Christmas hustle and bustle or our old routines with watching the latest festive advert – even if it came out before December has even begun! We are challenged to think in a far deeper to spot how we can prepare to welcome Jesus in a real and present way into our lives.

If we can do this the journey of advent will be a real gift to us and help us grow in our love and understanding of each other and God – perhaps the greatest gift I could imagine…

God bless.

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What do you give?

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In the Gospel account this week we hear how Jesus watched as people handed in money to the treasury. The rich giving a great amount, sometimes perhaps with much fanfare and ensuring everyone noticed. He also saw a poor widow hand in two small coins that were worth very little, in reality she was giving all she had.

This is the reality of where the theme for this week comes from. We are asked to recognise that sometimes we can hold back and not give everything to what we do or actually to God.

Even if it is very little, if we give all we can to something there is something deeply satisfying about it. When we hold back we always know in our heart of hearts that we gave what we wanted to and have the lingering question “what could have been different if I gave it my all?”

We can also recognise this week the commitments that people have made to us. It is with gratitude that we can recognise the gifts God has given each of us to use to the full, the love of those who care for us and the satisfaction of finding something in life that fulfils us.

A few thoughts for the week ahead;

  • What can we do to use our talents to the full and not hold something back?
  • How can we be grateful for those who make commitments to us to enable us to do what we do?
  • What is it in giving everything that we find fulfilling?

I truly believe that we give all we have to something it takes on a deeper meaning than just something on our “to do list” – we are giving of ourselves. God challenges us to try to give all we have in our lives and although this might be challenging at times I truly believe this is when we get great “riches and rewards” from what we have done.

God bless.

 

What do we remember?

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This week we pause for a moment to mark 11th November as Remembrance Day and ultimately the centenary of the anniversary that marks the end of the First World War in 1918, which was expected to be the “war to end all wars”.

If only it had been that way… it was estimated that civilian and military casualties were up to 37 million in total. You can see the data relating to the global deaths in conflict since 1400.

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It is estimated in the last 3400 years of recorded history that humans have only been at peace for 268 of them or 8% in total. So what can we take from this as a Christian community in the modern world?

  • Let us never forget the real suffering and sacrifices made in war – perhaps there are never any winners and looking just at the numbers means that we forget the human cost.
  • Give us the patience to build peace in the world – Jesus teaches us about love, forgiveness and tolerance. If we want peace in our world we need to start by building peace in our lives and relationships.
  • We should not simply learn about history but look to learn from history. We have a chance to build communities of faith, understanding and tolerance but we can only do this if we learn the lessons from our very human failings.

And tonight, as I hear the booming sounds of fireworks marking 5th November, I remember the lives and sacrifices of my Grandparents and Great Grandparents who lived through this experience and sometimes never spoke of their experience.

I am grateful for the selfless service and sacrifices that they made to ensure our freedom and the democracy we take for granted each day. May we now simply build a world of peace.

God bless.

IN FLANDERS FIELDS BY Lt Col JOHN McCRAE

In Flanders’ fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place: and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders’ fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe;
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high,
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders’ Fields.

 

 

Faith is not about theory

“Faith has to do with encounter not theory” Pope Francis

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In the Gospel account this week we hear about how Jesus encounters a begging blind man, Bartimaeus, on the road to Jericho. As Jesus and his entourage swept past him Bartimaeus had the courage to call out and ask for Jesus’ help.

We can take a lot from this Gospel account. Jesus calls for Bartimaeus to be brought to him and you can imagine the eager anticipation that he would have being called closer to Jesus rather than being cast aside as society had done.

He could not “see” but had great foresight to recognise Jesus as the “Son of David” and Messiah they had all been waiting for. From the moment of his healing he too would walk the road with Jesus as a disciple.

Pope Francis spoke this weekend to young people in his homily and said that “faith has to do with encounter not theory”, it needs to be caught not taught and this is the challenge for all of us working in education. I have copied a link to this text and clip of the service below. We are challenged to reflect on what draws young people closer to faith by the experiences they have with us?

We are called to “holiness” – not to try and do great things but simply as Saint Teresa of Calcutta said to do “small things with great love.”

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A few thoughts for the week ahead;

  • What can we do to show sight and vision in our own faith and discipleship?
  • How can we welcome and care for those on the margins of society?
  • What can we do to give young people a true encounter with faith?

If we can do one or all of these things we are truly doing great things… one small step at a time.

God bless.

HOLY MASS FOR THE CLOSING
OF THE XV ORDINARY GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE SYNOD OF BISHOPS

HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS POPE FRANCIS

Sunday, 28 October 2018

[Multimedia]


 

The account we have just heard is the last of those that the evangelist Mark relates about the itinerant ministry of Jesus, who is about to enter Jerusalem to die and to rise. Bartimaeus is thus the last of those who follow Jesus along the way: from a beggar along the road to Jericho, he becomes a disciple who walks alongside the others on the way to Jerusalem. We too have walked alongside one another; we have been a “synod”. This Gospel seals three fundamental steps on the journey of faith.

First, let us consider Bartimaeus. His name means “son of Timaeus”. That is how the Gospel describes him: “Bartimaeus son of Timaeus” (Mk 10:46). Yet, oddly, his father is nowhere to be found. Bartimaeus lies alone on the roadside, far from home and fatherless. He is not loved, but abandoned. He is blind and no one listens to him; when he tried to speak, everyone told him to keep quiet. Jesus hears his plea. When he goes to him, he lets him speak. It was not hard to guess what Bartimaeus wanted: clearly, a blind person wants to see or regain his sight. But Jesus takes his time; he takes time to listen. This is the first step in helping the journey of faith: listening. It is the apostolate of the ear: listening before speaking.

Instead, many of those with Jesus ordered Bartimaeus to be quiet (cf. v. 48). For such disciples, a person in need was a nuisance along the way, an obstacle unexpected and unforeseen. They preferred their own timetable above that of the Master, their own talking over listening to others. They were following Jesus, but they had their own plans in mind. This is a risk constantly to guard against. Yet, for Jesus, the cry of those pleading for help is not a nuisance but a challenge. How important it is for us to listen to life! The children of the heavenly Father are concerned with their brothers and sisters, not with useless chatter, but with the needs of their neighbours. They listen patiently and lovingly, just as God does to us and to our prayers, however repetitive they may be. God never grows tired; he is always happy when we seek him. May we too ask for the grace of a heart that listens. I would like to say to the young people, in the name of all of us adults: forgive us if often we have not listened to you, if, instead of opening our hearts, we have filled your ears. As Christ’s Church, we want to listen to you with love, certain of two things: that your lives are precious in God’s eyes, because God is young and loves young people, and that your lives are precious in our eyes too, and indeed necessary for moving forward.

After listening, a second step on the journey of faith is to be a neighbour. Let us look at Jesus: he does not delegate someone from the “large crowd” following him, but goes personally to meet Bartimaeus. He asks him, “What do you want me to do for you?” (v. 51). What do you want… – Jesus is completely taken up with Bartimaeus; he does not try to sidestep him. …me to do – not simply to speak, but to do something. …for you – not according to my own preconceived ideas, but for you, in your particular situation. That is how God operates. He gets personally involved with preferential love for every person. By his actions, he already communicates his message. Faith thus flowers in life.

Faith passes through life. When faith is concerned purely with doctrinal formulae, it risks speaking only to the head without touching the heart. And when it is concerned with activity alone, it risks turning into mere moralizing and social work. Faith, instead, is life: it is living in the love of God who has changed our lives. We cannot choose between doctrine and activism. We are called to carry out God’s work in God’s own way: in closeness, by cleaving to him, in communion with one another, alongside our brothers and sisters. Closeness: that is the secret to communicating the heart of the faith, and not a secondary aspect.

Being a neighbour means bringing the newness of God into the lives of our brothers and sisters. It serves as an antidote to the temptation of easy answers and fast fixes. Let us ask ourselves whether, as Christians, we are capable of becoming neighbours, stepping out of our circles and embracing those who are not “one of us”, those whom God ardently seeks. A temptation so often found in the Scriptures will always be there: the temptation to wash our hands. That is what the crowd does in today’s Gospel. It is what Cain did with Abel, and Pilate with Jesus: they washed their hands. But we want to imitate Jesus and, like him, to dirty our hands. He is the way (cf. Jn 14:6), who stopped on the road for Bartimaeus. He is the light of the world (cf. Jn 9:5), who bent down to help a blind man. Let us realize that the Lord has dirtied his hands for each one of us. Let us look at the cross, start from there and remember that God became my neighbour in sin and death. He became my neighbour: it all starts from there. And when, out of love of him, we too become neighbours, we become bringers of new life. Not teachers of everyone, not specialists in the sacred, but witnesses of the love that saves.

The third step is to bear witness. Let us consider the disciples who, at Jesus’ request, called out to Bartimaeus. They do not approach a beggar with a coin to shut him up, or to dispense advice. They go in Jesus’ name. Indeed, they say only three words to him, and all three are words of Jesus: “Take heart; get up, he is calling you” (v. 49). Everywhere else in the Gospel, Jesus alone says, “Take heart”, for he alone “heartens” those who heed him. In the Gospel, Jesus alone says, “Get up”, and heals in spirit and body. Jesus alone calls, transforming the lives of those who follow him, helping raise up the fallen, bringing God’s light to the darkness of life. So many children, so many young people, like Bartimaeus, are looking for light in their lives. They are looking for true love. And like Bartimaeus who in the midst of that large crowd called out to Jesus alone, they too seek life, but often find only empty promises and few people who really care.

It is not Christian to expect that our brothers and sisters who are seekers should have to knock on our doors; we ought to go out to them, bringing not ourselves but Jesus. He sends us, like those disciples, to encourage others and to raise them up in his name. He sends us forth to say to each person: “God is asking you to let yourself be loved by him”. How often, instead of this liberating message of salvation, have we brought ourselves, our own “recipes” and “labels” into the Church! How often, instead of making the Lord’s words our own, have we peddled our own ideas as his word! How often do people feel the weight of our institutions more than the friendly presence of Jesus! In these cases, we act more like an NGO, a state-controlled agency, and not the community of the saved who dwell in the joy of the Lord.

To listen, to be a neighbour, to bear witness. The journey of faith in today’s Gospel ends in a beautiful and surprising way when Jesus says “Go; your faith has made you well” (v. 52). Yet Bartimaeus had made no profession of faith or done any good work; he had only begged for mercy. To feel oneself in need of salvation is the beginning of faith. It is the direct path to encountering Jesus. The faith that saved Bartimaeus did not have to do with his having clear ideas about God, but in his seeking him and longing to encounter him. Faith has to do with encounter, not theory. In encounter, Jesus passes by; in encounter, the heart of the Church beats. Then, not our preaching, but our witness of life will prove effective.

To all of you who have taken part in this “journey together”, I say “thank you” for your witness. We have worked in communion, with frankness and the desire to serve God’s people. May the Lord bless our steps, so that we can listen to young people, be their neighbours, and bear witness before them to Jesus, the joy of our lives.

What do you really treasure?

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When we think about our faith we are challenged to reflect on how it has an impact in our lives. Where do we place the most value or importance?

It is easy to fall into a trap of thinking of the things that we really need… a bigger house, a nicer holiday, some new clothes. These things can be alluring to us and tempt us to think that they are truly what we need rather than simply what we want. It is a really good challenge to put things back in perspective in the week ahead.

In the Gospel reading this week we hear about a man who asks Jesus – “what do I need to do to get to have eternal life?” He says that he simply needs to lead a good life and follow the commandments. The man seemed pretty chuffed by this as he seemed to tick the boxes and do what was expected.

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I imagine, it what may well be a Columbo moment, Jesus says one more thing “go and sell everything you own and give the money to the poor”. He goes away crestfallen as Jesus has just asked him to do the one thing he would find impossible as a rich man. His money and possessions were his “true treasure”.

We can sometimes get hung up on the things we have and it’s fine to like some things that are precious to us. But we can’t become obsessed with our material things – perhaps our houses, cars, holidays, clothes… if we start putting these before the people we love and before God then we must have really lost the treasure right in front of our eyes.

A few thoughts for the week ahead.

  • What can we do to catch ourselves when we get the balance wrong?
  • How can we treasure and value what is most important to us and show it? Friends, Family, Faith…
  • What can we do to try and not always want more for ourselves?
  • Is there a way we can give something to those who have nothing? Time, support, care or money…

Let’s treasure what we have and use our blessings to benefit the world around us in some small way.

God bless.

 

 

 

We are family…

I couldn’t resist the opportunity to listen again to the Sister Sledge magic… you can’t fail to sing along or have a bit of a groove!

In the readings this week there are several references to the importance of marriage, children and family life. I know that there is so much we can take from this.

I am really blessed by being part of a big family as I grew up as one of 5 children. There was always plenty going on and someone to play with or wind up! As we have grown up to being adults this has extended to our own children and the close knit relationships they have.

I have also just celebrated twenty years of married life. In the Gospel reading there was a discussion on the place of marriage – was it just a legal arrangement or something deeper and Jesus said “What God has united, man must not divide”. My mum always said that the best relationships made you better and improved you and I can definitely say that is the case for me! You need someone who knows you, warts and all, and can challenge and support you even when the going gets tough.

Jesus also talks about how special children are – they show a innocent faith and trust. Rather than excluding them as unimportant in society He said “let the little children come to me” and challenges us not to lose our child-like attributes.

Ultimately we belong to our own families and are challenged to think about how we build our Christian community and  God’s family. What can we do to build up this unconditional love, understanding and support for those around us?

This morning  I made the most of the Sussex countryside by doing the Angus Rowland Forget Me Not Walk and Run.  I normally saunter around the 6+ mile course and chat to old friends and new. This year I had to be at Church to support the Childrens’ liturgy so had to run it.

At the start I was about to plug in and bring my phone to listen to music on the way around but decided it would be better to savour the peace and tranquility without it. In the hour it took to run around the route I hardly met a person and enjoyed the bright and crisp weather. It also got me thinking about two students from school.

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The first person I was thinking of was one of our ex-students who recently lost his life in tragic circumstances and I will be attending the funeral this week. I am sure that this will be really tough for the family and friends and everyone there. It is a challenge to make sense of why this has all happened. I think the biggest challenge is to make sure that we all leave a legacy in some way, how can we ensure that good comes from the toughest times.

The charity run today was in memory of Angus, a student from St Paul’s, who died from Leukaemia when he was in Year 9 at school, aged 14. As you can see his family have used this to bring great good. They have gone on to raise nearly £200,000 for Bloodwise and I am sure the impact of this money will make such a difference in the research on blood cancer. I have a great admiration for Angus’s loving family and all they have done, it not only raises money each year but simply brings “our family” closer together in supporting one another. This truly is a legacy for a life that was cut too short but brought great happiness to his family, friends, school and all who knew him – a true legacy.

So in the week ahead a few thoughts;

  • Let us give thanks for the gift of family around us and all that they bring us.
  • Let us learn from the faith and trust of children and open our hearts in the same way to God.
  • Let us hope to live a life ourselves that leaves a true legacy,  leaves the world in a better place in some small way.

God bless.

Donate to the Angus Rowland Forget Me Not Fund here.

Finding God’s message for us

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In the Gospel reading last week we were challenged to think that we can all play a part in building up the Kingdom of God.

Jesus and His disciples were a pretty close knit group and they liked being “part of the action”.  They liked, like all of us at times, to be at the centre of things and this made them suspicious of people stealing their thunder and working in Jesus’ name.

Jesus taught not to stop anyone from working a miracle in His name – in other words doing God’s work, spreading faith or acting in a loving way. He goes on to say that you should challenge anyone who is an obstacle to living this out.

Ultimately we can find God in unlikely places. When we find ourselves most isolated, more desperate or lost we can find that someone reaches out to us and can actually offer us support and care, the presence of God.

All of us are simply called to be “unlikely prophets” – to do good, to do God’s work.

A few questions to think of;

  • What can we do to look out for God’s message, even from unlikely sources?
  • How can we open our arms and welcome people to be part of our community rather than judging or excluding others which we are sometimes tempted to do?

I hope we can help build the Kingdom of God in small ways each day, if we can do this we can try our best at being disciples in the modern world.

God bless.