Category Archives: Faith

Will you have a growth heart-set this Christmas?

Develop a growth heart-set

This week we have started the advent journey and it is easy to be swept away by the tinsel, trees and preparations for Christmas itself. I believe that Advent is a really important journey, sometimes busy and challenging, which gets us ready to open our hearts to one another and God. So what can you do this year to make a difference?

Many people know all about growth-mindset – the sense that we should be resilient and see that our ability and intelligence can grow from what we learn and even from our mistakes. We are all willing, as parents and teachers, to praise our children for their efforts, commitment and hard work. What could be different when we start to think about developing a growth heart-set?

At the moment there seems plenty that people can disagree on, whether it be their view on Brexit or projections for what life holds in the future for all of us. I always believe that there is always more, in our humanity, that unites us than divides us but we need to approach life with an open mind and open heart.

The challenge is for us is to think about how we can live this out in Advent this year. In the most basic way Christians believe that God is the source of love and this is everlasting and unconditional. This can inspire and challenge us to act in a loving way in any way we can.

A few questions to consider.

  • What can you do to try to respond in the most loving way even when things are tough?
  • What would it mean to have a growth heart-set for you this year?
  • On the advent journey or over the Christmas period what would it look like to give the gift of love to those around you?

I hope and pray that all of you have a peaceful, prayerful and happy Advent journey and that all of us can simply open our hearts to one another and God’s plan for all of us.

God bless.

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Will you be a builder?

What will you do to build the Kingdom of God?

We are challenged to meet the young people we serve where they are in their life. We have to find a way to engage with them and walk with them whatever is going on. It is maybe simple and easy to get along with each other when the sun shines on life but it is more challenging when we face turbulent waters.

Rather than looking to focus on the current Gospel readings I am aiming to look at building on the themes of a talk we had on the spiritual life and Catholic faith of the school. We were engaged and inspired by James Kibble, a great friend of mine, who is Head of Salesian School in Chertsey.

James challenged us to think about different aspects of living out our ethos and posed seven questions. The first is – “How will we build community with God present?”

St Paul himself knew all about conflict and community, at times having to make a sharp exit when he had upset people! He does, however, talk a lot about love and faith both of which provide important ingredients for our school community and church as “God’s chosen people”.

If you can take two minutes to read the reflection below it will challenge us to think about the deeper purpose of what we do.

  • What can we do to build up our community not by grand gestures but by the small actions we do each day?
  • How can we recognise the potential in those around us and value them and what they bring to us?
  • What can we do to help our community grow and flourish in the days and years ahead? What will be your legacy personally?

Prophets of a future not our own

It helps, now and then, to step back and take a long view. 

The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts, it is even beyond our vision.

We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of the magnificent
enterprise that is God’s work. Nothing we do is complete, which is a way of
saying that the Kingdom always lies beyond us.

No statement says all that could be said.

No prayer fully expresses our faith.

No confession brings perfection.

No pastoral visit brings wholeness.

No program accomplishes the Church’s mission.

No set of goals and objectives includes everything.

This is what we are about.

We plant the seeds that one day will grow.

We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise.

We lay foundations that will need further development.

We provide yeast that produces far beyond our capabilities.

We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that.

This enables us to do something, and to do it very well.

It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an
opportunity for the Lord’s grace to enter and do the rest.

We may never see the end results, but that is the difference between the master
builder and the worker.

We are workers, not master builders; ministers, not messiahs.

We are prophets of a future not our own. 

______________

This prayer was first presented by Cardinal Dearden in 1979 and quoted by Pope Francis in 2015 and often attributed to the leadership of Saint Oscar Romero

This reflection is an excerpt from a homily written for Cardinal Dearden by then-Fr. Ken Untener on the occasion of the Mass for Deceased Priests, October 25, 1979. Pope Francis quoted Cardinal Dearden in his remarks to the Roman Curia on December 21, 2015. Fr. Untener was named bishop of Saginaw, Michigan, in 1980.

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.

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.