Homily 2nd Sunday Advent Year A – Repent

Homily (Sermon) - Repent

The Readings for Sunday 8th December 2013 or Second Sunday of Advent Year A:
Isaiah 11:1-10
Psalm 71
Romans 15:4-9
Matthew 3:1-12
[These readings can be found at www.universalis.com for the next few weeks.]

I pride myself on my fairness, my ability to see both sides, to understand how and why things happen. And yet twice recently I have felt embarrassed and ashamed of myself for not getting offended when those around me did.

The first time was at work, I was talking to a friend about a film and she said it gave her nightmares. While the film we were talking about was a violent film, I struggled to see where the nightmares could come from. So she explained to me that the scene where the slaves were made to fight each other for the pleasure of the owners really got to her, because that wasn’t that long ago. How could people be that horrible to other people? My first thought was wow, I am so proud of you for saying and feeling that, my second thought was, “Why didn’t I get that upset?”

Only last week Gail and I went to see another film at the cinema. The film portrayed a future world, where most of the people lived hard lives, food was short and they had to work long hours just to get by. Then we see a small elite group in the capital at a party. They filled their stomachs at overflowing tables, then drank a small glass of something to make themselves sick so they could eat some more and try everything on offer. Gail was incensed, such waste with so many needy people. She wasn’t incensed by the movie, but by how well it satirised our world. Again I was proud of her, and again I questioned myself about my reaction. I had appreciated the idea, I had seen the connection to our world, I had smiled but hadn’t got offended.

We are often too calm about what is wrong in our world, in our lives. We are often too complicit in the wrong doing.
We need someone to call us out.
We need to be called a brood of vipers sometimes.
We need to look closely at ourselves and challenge ourselves.
John the Baptist is challenging you. He is challenging me.

We may not be an easy target like the Pharisees and Sadducees in our scripture, but I know I all too often take the easy route and do not do the right thing. 

John is telling us we are not good enough. 
John is telling us to change. 
John is telling us to repent.

Repent….What does that really mean. Think now, what does that word, that act mean to you….

Imagine you are in a desert, not a sandy Saharan style desert, but a wilderness desert, dry grass and small shrubs, a few trees scattered around. Ahead of you is a small light, a flame flickering in between the blades of grass, you start to walk towards it. You are fascinated by the glow of the flame, the beauty and the warmth. Enchanted by the way it appears to live and dance before you. All too quickly it starts to consume the grass, then growth bigger, hotter, consuming brushes and trees, rushing headlong towards you. 

You stop, you consider, then in an instant you have turned, you are running, ahead of you in the distance is water, a lake, no a sea, huge and endless. You rush straight towards it hoping you will reach it before the flames reach you. With every step you take the water rushes towards you, each stride moves you miles towards safety. You plunge deep into the saving water, safe from the fire behind you.

These are the images that John teaches us. To repent is more than saying sorry. Repentance is turning away from sin and rushing towards God. God will rush towards you faster than you can imagine, but you have to turn and start to move towards him.

Repentance is a very familiar word to us Christians; it was as well to the Jews. Maybe it has become tame or bland, as it was with the Pharisees and Sadducees. Maybe we have become too easy going in a world that does far too much wrong and nowhere near enough right. Repentance should be a fast and frantic action. If you realise you are in the middle of a fire you run, if you realise you are sinning, shouldn’t you be running towards God as fast as you can.

The season of advent is about preparing for Christmas, it’s about preparing for the coming of Christ, that is what John was helping the people to do. He wasn’t recommending Christmas presents to the wise men or planning party’s. He was preparing the people to meet Christ. 

Advent is only a short time to prepare. You need to stop. You need to look around you and recognise the fire. You need to turn to God and run. You need to plunge into His forgiveness as you did at your baptism. You need to be ready to stand before your God on Christmas morning. When you welcome Him with joy, He will welcome you with joy. Together you will be able to walk out into the world, walk out into the fire, unharmed and ready to do some good. 

Ready as John said, to bear fruit.






Homily - 32nd Sunday OT Year C - Remembrance Sunday




Remembrance _Poppy

Homily (Sermon) - Remembrance Sunday

The Readings for the twenty seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
2 Maccabees 7:1-2,9-14, Psalm 16, 2 Thessalonians 2:16-3:5
Luke 20:27-38
[These readings can be found at www.universalis.com for the next few weeks.]


Today is a sombre day. Today is a sad day. Today is a day to be thankful. Today is a day to remember.
Today is Remembrance Sunday.

It’s almost 100 years since the start of the Great War. The war to end all wars. The problem is it didn’t. The last 100 years have been very bloody indeed.

65 million died in World War I
2 million in The Mexican Revolution
5 million in the Russian Civil War
1 million in the Spanish civil war
72 million in World War II
4.5 million in the Korean War
3 million in Vietnam
3 million in the Nigerian Civil war
2 million in the Afghan Civil War which we are still fighting today
2 million in the Soviet war in Afghanistan
2 million in Iran-Iraq and gulf war
2 million in the Sudanese war
5.4 million in the Second Congo war
I couldn’t find figures for the Libya, Syria

Between 1914 and 1945 war killed around 7% of the population of the world.

Today we remember the 170 million people killed in war in just the last 100 year.
[Numbers taken from Wikipedia]

War is wrong. Taking life is wrong. Yet the men and women we honour today were fighting for me, they gave up their lives so I could be safe. I am grateful that they did that. I feel pride and horror, sad and relieved, thankful and lucky. I have never seen war, I hope I never have too, I wish we could stop all wars and I will continue to pray that one day we can. But until we become a better human race War is with us. And with war comes death. The imagery and the poetry of Remembrance day focuses quite rightly on loss. Lost family. Lost friends. Lost comrades. Lost youth. Lost life.

In contrast then is the imagery and poetry of today’s readings. They are not about loss. They are about gain. The ultimate prise. Resurrection. Life everlasting. Life once more with our loved ones. Eternity experience with God.

In our first reading we hear of the sacrifices of the 7 brothers tortured and killed for their faith. Their faith allowed them to suffer in this life rather than lose their faith and the gift of resurrection. Next time you stick your tongue out at someone, remember the third brother, who lost his tongue, hands and life so he could keep his life with God. This gesture is made with, as St Paul says, “such inexhaustible comfort and such sure hope”. The young man knows his fate, he knows death awaits, he knows the prise is his.

We are capable of understanding so little of the world beyond this world. Of the divine, of the heavenly. We can touch it in the sacraments, we may find it in prayer, it kindles in our hearts, it grows in our actions, our Faith, our sure hope. Then we lose someone, then we feel the loss, then we feel the pain, then we remember what is lost. The pain makes us forget the sure hope, the promise of our Lord, that this life is passing, and next the life is eternal.

In the Gospel today Jesus is challenge by some Sadducees. They were a group of religious Jews who worked in the temple, and they believed that the soul was not immortal. Death would be the end. They tried to prove this with the legalistic argument about the woman married in turn to seven brothers. Their argument was that, there cannot be an afterlife because it can’t possibly work according to the law of Moses. The women was not allowed to have multiple husbands while alive, therefore because she would have multiple husbands in the afterlife, the afterlife can’t possibly exist.

Christ’s answer was that, as children of the resurrection, they are children of God. The life to come will not be like this life, the rules of this life don’t have a place in the next. He didn’t tell them what the next life will be like, I don’t think any of us could understand if he had. But you do know what it’s going to be like, you have felt it in the sacraments, you fleetingly encounter it in prayer, it’s burning tenderly in your heart, it is the sure hope of faith.

Today is a day to remember. Today is a day for “such inexhaustible comfort and such sure hope”, and I hope Laurence Binyon won’t be offended if I add the last line of our psalm to his poem Ode of Remembrance.

They went with songs to the battle, they were young.
Straight of limb, true of eyes, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted,
They fell with their faces to the foe.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.

They mingle not with their laughing comrades again;
They sit no more at familiar tables of home;
They have no lot in our labour of the day-time;
They sleep beyond England's foam

In justice they shall see your face
And be filled, when they awake, with the sight of your glory.



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Please take a look at the work of the British Legion

It's Movember



For those of you wondering why I look different it because the beard has temporarily gone. It Movember and as such I have shaved the beard and will be concentrating on growing the Mo. I think I an going to go for a Connoisseur look, which is somewhere between Hercule Poirot and a British army officer from the days of empire.

The photo is over ten years old and was the last time I had a mustache. The plan is to be a little more excessive this time if I can.

So what is Movemeber, well it a month long mustache growing event that's in it's 13th year. It raise money and awareness of men's health issues. Until a couple of years ago I had no idea what my prostate was, or what the symptoms of prostate cancer could be. I had no idea how to check myself for signs and I never thought and speaking to doctors with question like like. Being a typical man I assumed I wouldn't get ill, and lucky so far I haven't but friends of mine have. When they got ill I realised how little I knew and did some reading to change that.

There are many issues that men should think about health wise, and many diseases that we need to find cures to and that take money. Movember is about raising the awareness of men's health, it's about raising some money to help research and support and it's about having a little fun. I'll post photo's as we go through the month and would ask that you find out something you didn't know about staying healthy and if you have some spare cash think about donating. The following link lets you do either.

http://uk.movember.com/mospace/6677145

And just in case you forget what the beard looked like this is me just before it got shaved.


God Bless,
J

Homily - 27th Sunday OT Year C - What's Next Lord?

Homily (Sermon) - What's Next Lord?

The Readings for the twenty seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
Habakkuk 1:2-3; 2:2-4
Psalm 94
Timothy 1:6-8, 13-14
Luke 17:5-10
[These readings can be found at www.universalis.com for the next few weeks.]

We have become exceptional good at hiding the servants in today modern cultures. Few of us today have servants working in our fields or waiting on us at table. The analogy used by Christ, of a master expecting his servant to serve, is a little lost and strange. As I read it I felt I would be quite happy to let my servants eat first if they had had a hard day in the fields ploughing or sheep herding.

Then I started to ponder my life and my servants. I have gas, electric and water on tap. I have machines and tools. I can buy prepared food. I don’t need to sow to put clothes on my back. My servants are scattered all over the world.  I do expect my car, my fridge, my oven, my television, my computer all too just work. I expect them to be made well. I expect the people providing the power to run them, just to do their job. I don’t thank them; I just expect them to work.

That is what God expects of us. We are expected to do what we are asked. Not for thanks or praise, just because we are asked.

That is the rather cold message of the second half of our gospel, you are expected to work. You are expected to serve. You are expected to do your duty. You are a useless servant expected to do your duty.

Take a few seconds now to ask yourself a few tough questions. Are you looking for thanks? Are you looking for praise? Are you looking for ways to avoid doing your duty? Have you already found ways to avoid work, avoid service, avoid doing your duty to God? Do you have good excuses that make you feel better about doing less? Do you feel hard done by because you don’t get the recognition you think you deserve?

I fall short on all of those questions. I love the nice things you tell me when I preach, I sometimes feel hard done by when no one says, “I enjoyed your homily”. I work hard as a deacon, but I also steal time back for myself. Before writing this homily I spent time reading and playing games. It’s human, but we are asked to be better, we are asked to serve and serve humbly.

But the lesson isn't quite as cold as it seems right now. We have been promised an eternal life; we have been called sisters and brothers by the son of God. We have been given the gift of Grace, the gift of eternal life, the gift of forgiveness. Christ isn't bargaining with us. He has told you to serve, He has told you, that you are family and loved. They are not linked. You can’t earn his love, you already have it. If you know this, if you feel this, your mustard seed sized faith will enable you to do great things. You will do them because of love not to earn love.

Today’s tough lesson is about humility. It’s about doing what you are called to do? It’s about doing it well. It’s about finishing it and asking what’s next. So let me try and put today’s gospel into context with a short story from a couple of years ago.

My wife Gail and I were renovating a house just down the road from us, for my mum-in-law, Hazel. Actually, when I say Gail and I, I really mean Gail, as she did most of the work and organising. However, at the weekends we were both round there working, but being a man I am not capable, of looking round and seeing what the next task is, so I have taken the safe route and each time I complete a task, I go and find Gail and ask, "What's next love?".

So my weekends ran something like this; I paint a door, "What's next love?”, I paint a ceiling, "What's next love?", I wallpaper the bedroom, "What's next love?". When Hazel moved in, Gail took great delight in telling the story to her mum, apparently every 5 minutes I would pop up saying "Next?"

Even when I am not spending my weekends decorating a house, my life can feel pretty busy most of the time, and I am sure yours do too. We run around trying to manage all the calls on our time, family, work, school and God’s. Sometimes we just feel crushed by the weight of all the things we need to do, but this does not stack up well against Paul’s message to Timothy, “You have been trusted to look after something precious; guard it with the help of the holy Spirit” So I have to wonder what I am doing wrong.

Then I remembered the decorating. God like Gail has a plan, who am I, to randomly select the things I think need doing. Shouldn't I be trying to work with Christ, rather than by myself? If I work with Him, He'll share the burden. Maybe it's time to go back to God and ask "What's next Lord?"



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Pilgrimage to Birmingham

The following video is for the Children at Our Lady of Lourdes Primary School as they prepare for their pilgrimage to Downside. If you have any question you would like to ask me please email me at john@deaconjohn.co.uk


Here are some photos that I took on the day.








Homily - 23rd Sunday OT Year C - Hate

Homily (Sermon) - Hate

The Readings for the twenty third Sunday in Ordinary Time
Wisdom 9:13-18
Psalm 89
Philemon 9-10, 12-17
Luke 14:25-33
[These readings can be found at www.universalis.com for the next few weeks.]

This isn't an easy Sunday to preach. The gospel we have today is not easy, it’s not nice, it’s not simple, it’s not comfortable.

It is a startling message that should make you sit up and listen. It’s not what you expect to hear in church. It’s not what you expect to be told by Christ. It’s not how you live your life today.

What was the first thought that went through your mind when I read:
“If any man comes to me without hating his father, mother, wife, children, brothers and sisters, yes even his own life too, he cannot be my disciple.”
For me it was, “How am I going to preach on that!” but followed quickly by “Weren't we told to love one another.” It’s difficult to reconcile the two statements. Love and hate seem so far apart, and our faith is built on love. “You shall love the lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind.”

But as with so much of the bible you can’t just take one sentence by itself. You have to read what comes before and what comes after. It helps to know a little about the time and place when these words were said. It helps to know a little history and the full story of salvation.

The great crowds that were accompanying Jesus were following Him to Jerusalem. They thought he was King David’s heir, sent to save them. They were expecting him, to retake the land of Israel from the Romans, they were not expecting him to be arrested, judged and crucified.

They wanted to follow a victorious king. Christ was telling them that victory would cost Him His life and to follow Him could cost them theirs.
He tried to explain this in two stories. The first is about building a tower without enough funds to finish it. The message here is, if I start this, will I finish it. Have I got what it takes to do what needs to be done.

The second story about the small army facing the big army, and the question is, what am I prepared to sacrifice? What will I lose if I go on, am I prepared to lose everything?

Everything that is, apart from God’s love, that is impossible to lose.

So we have moved on from hating your family and yourself, to being prepared to give them up to follow Christ. That is still not an easy message to hear, and it’s still a difficult message for me to preach about too. I have no intention of leaving my wife or turning my back on my family. But I do still want to follow Jesus. What do I do now? Where do I look?

Let us start with our first reading and our psalm. In poetic language they describe our mortal lives, our bodies of clay, our return to dust.

We heard in our psalm, “Make us know the shortness of our life, that we may gain wisdom of heart.”

We are immortal souls trapped for a time in mortal bodies, mortal bodies that restrict our ability to understand the infinite. It’s the mud and clay that mean nothing; it’s eternity with your father, mother, wife, children, brothers, sisters and God that means everything.

Paul’s letter to Philemon adds to our understanding of sacrifice, of mortal and immortal. Paul sends a slave, Onesimus back to his master Philemon. Paul describes this as giving up part of himself, which is his sacrifice. He implores Philemon to make a sacrifice as well, to give up his property, his ownership of a slave. He opens Philemon’s eyes to the eternal, to the soul of Onesimus, to the brother who could be eternally with him, not the mortal body of clay, the body of the slave.

The message for us today is difficult; there is no getting away from that. Following Christ is not about having and easy and comfortable life in this world, it’s about recognising the glimpses of something eternal when we see them, and when you recognise the eternal in your father, mother, wife, children, brother, sisters and even yourself, I am sure you will turn to Christ and follow Him, because how else are we going to stay with them and find our way into eternity.



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Homily - 20th Sunday OT Year C - Called to Witness

Homily (Sermon) - Called to Witness

The Readings for the twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Jeremiah 38:4-6, 8-10
Psalm 39
Hebrews 12:1-4
Luke 12:49-53
[These readings can be found at www.universalis.com for the next few weeks.]

A few years ago I saw a documentary about training police officers, I can’t remember too much about the programme but I remember vividly one scene. The trainees were sat in a class room. The door opened and a lady asked if the lecturer could spare someone for a quick errand. The lecturer dispatched a young man and then turned to the remainder of the class and explained that during this lesson they would watch a film depicting a crime. The villains would be obvious but when questioned about it they were to always blame the victim for the crime. They could make up whatever evidence they wanted, but they all had to agree that the victim of the crime was the villain.

The young man returned from his errand after all this had been said, so knew none of it. They all watched the video and then the lecturer started asking the class what they had seen, what crime had been committed and who they should be arresting.

The whole class had seen a woman robbed of her handbag by two young lads, but when the lecturer started asking the class what they had seen, they described a woman shop lifting and two young men stopping her. The lecturer went round the whole class coming to the young man who had run the errand last. When asked to describe what he saw he described a young woman shoplifting and being stopped by two men.

The lesson for the officers that day was the same as our lesson from scripture today. Do not let peer pressure and the views of the majority around you distract you from the truth you know is real!

You are a witness for Christ in the world. You have witnessed something divine, something that has brought you to a faith in Christ. Here in church, surrounded by your fellow witnesses, your sisters and brothers in Christ, it’s easy to believe. It’s easy to once again hear, see, touch and taste the divine. To witness again, to know completely the love of God.

But then you leave here, sent out into the real world, the secular world, the world of challenge and doubt. The world where common sense prevails and you can be perceived as the fool for your beliefs.

It’s not easy being a Christian today. True there have been worse times and places to follow God. Jeremiah got thrown in the well to be left for dead because the King was swayed by the common sense of the people. But the same thing can still happen today, Bishop ├ôscar Romero, was assassinated in 1980 for his views on wealth and poverty and the work his priests were doing.

We live in a world that is driven by wealth. We are fallen people, greed is a part of us, but it’s not a good part. It’s one of the parts we need to fight. We are taught by a loving God to put others first, to follow His teachings. Love God and Love our neighbour. The problem for us is that we can be very softly persecuted for those views. Our society believes that wealth is success, that possessions define the person, that you should have what you want, when you want it, because you are worth it.

I believe you are worth so much more than that. I believe Christ called you his brothers and sisters. I believe you are the adopted children of God.

Christ tells us today, he didn't come to bring peace on earth. He knew the message he brought would cause conflict, sometimes violent conflict but much more often intellectual conflict, differences between friends and families. Differences between you and the people you meet every day of your life. The peace of Christ is not yet for the world, but it is for you. “Peace I leave you, my peace I give you” words you hear every time you come to Mass. This is what you need to take and hold onto when you venture out into the world. You are called to follow Christ to the Cross, You are called to be Christ in this world today. You are called to witness.

Do you know what the word for witness was back in New Testament times? It was Martyr!

I don’t believe that you will be killed and Martyred for your views today in this country. I do think you might be ignored or laughed at. That your witness to the truth will be belittled as old fashioned and not relevant any more. I do think that Christianity today makes people uncomfortable. And I know that it’s never easy being the one person in the room that disagrees with everyone else.

Today’s readings and today’s lesson are not an easy to hear. You believe, and because you believe you must witness, because you do, others will also be given the chance to believe. But for that to happen you must stay true in your witness, you may not be martyred with violence, you are much more likely to be martyred with indifference and dismissal.

When this happens to you and you feel low and cast down, come back to Church, come back to your family, comeback to the Eucharist, come back and experience again the divine. Know that it is Christ who will pull you from the mud and set you back upon the rock.


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Homily - 10th Sunday OT Year C - We have been Rescued!

Homily (Sermon) - We have been Rescued

The Readings for the tenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Old 1 Kings 17:17-24
Psalm Psalm 29
New Galatians 1:11-19
Gospel Luke 7:11-17
[These readings can be found at www.universalis.com for the next few weeks.]


“I will praise you, Lord, you have rescued me”

Around 850 years before Jesus was born the nation of Israel was led by a King called Ahab. Ahab wasn’t the best of Israel Kings and he made a few mistakes, one of the mistakes he made was marrying a young lady called Jezebel. Jezebel was a powerful lady and quickly influenced the Kings policies. During the reign of King Ahab the people were allowed and encouraged to build temples to the false god Baal.

God wasn’t happy with the way his people were being led and really not happy about them worshiping false Gods. So God spoke to Elijah and told him to go to the King, to tell him there was going to be a great drought because of his actions. Ahab wasn’t happy to hear this from Elijah and God told Elijah to go and hide.

Elijah’s first hiding place was out in the country side next to a brook. As the drought took hold, the brook quickly dried up. God then sent Elijah on to the land of Sidon. “I have designated a widow for you there, to provide for you.” God told him.

This is the background to our old testament readying today. Elijah had been staying with the widow for over a year when her son fell ill. The loss of her only son would have been a terrible loss. Not only the loss of her closest family, but also of most of her rights in society. With no husband and no son she would have been reliant on the charity of other for food and shelter.

Elijah then takes the boy’s corpse and pleads to God to bring the boy back to his mother, Elijah prays, “O Lord my God, do you mean to bring grief to the widow who is looking after me by killing her son?” God listens to Elijah and the boy is returned to life and Elijah gives him back to his mother.

This is a very similar story to the one we hear about in the Gospel reading today. Jesus arrives in a small town just as a funeral procession is leaving a widows house. Her son is dead and she follows behind crying.

Jesus is moved by what he sees. He speaks softly to the widow, “Do not cry.” He tells her. Then stopping the procession he says “Young Man. I tell you to get up.”  At this the dead man sits up and starts walking. Then just as Elijah had, Jesus gives the boy to his mother.

The similarities are oblivious. The connection to the prophet Elijah is clear, and the people proclaim Jesus as a great prophet just as Elijah was. But this they got wrong.

Have any of you noticed the difference between the two stories?

The difference is the words of Elijah and the words of Jesus.

Elijah’s words are the words of a prophet, the words of a believer, begging his Loving God to directly intervene of the world.

Jesus’s words are not to God, but from God. They are the words of God himself. They are the words of the Christ. Jesus didn’t pray to His father, he took the authority he had been given and used it. He just gave the young man an instruction, “I tell you tell get up.”

We see here a very clear and beautiful picture in the incarnation. Our Lord and God walking on the face of the earth just as we do. He is a kind and compassionate God, full of love. He is also very aware that the scholars would compare this miracle to Elijah’s and those whose hearts were open to Him would see and understand the differences.

Later when John the Baptist’s disciples came to Christ asking who he was, this was one of the examples quoted to them. It a clear statement to them and to John, that Jesus is the Christ, he is the son of God.

The question for today though is what does this mean to us?

What are we going to take away from today?

What are we going to think about this next week?

In today’s two stories both widows are saved by God. Their life, as well as the life of their sons is given back to them. They are redeemed.

Jesus came to us for a reason. He came to redeem us all. He did that by dying on the cross. The ultimate sacrifice for Sin, the last sacrifice for Sin, the only sacrifice that could be offered for the sins of everyone, for all time. He was the sacrifice.

And because of Him, because God, your creator, loves you enough to die for you, you are redeemed. You are saved. You are rescued.

Today I want you to take the message of redemption and rescue away with you. I want you to put yourself in the place of the widow, I want you to consider what Jesus has done for you. Then I want you to express your feelings about that to God. If you don’t think you know how to do that, then take a look again at today’s psalm.

It starts, “I will praise you, Lord, you have rescued me” and finishes, “O Lord my God, I will thank you for ever.” It your choice, either pray the whole psalm or jut insert your own feelings in between those lines.

“O Lord my God, I will thank you for ever.”

Homily - Ascension - Year C


Homily (Sermon) - It's out turn now.

The Readings for Ascension  Year C:

First Acts 1:1-11
Psalm Ps 46:2-3, 6-7, 8-9  R v6
Second Ephesians 1:17-23
Gospel Luke 24:46-53
[These readings can be found at www.universalis.com for the next few weeks.]

When Gail and I got married we went to Paris for our honeymoon. While there we visited the royal palace at Versailles and spent a wonderful day exploring the palace and the gardens. It's a wonderful place with many beautiful things to see, from antiques to flowers. But what I remember most from that day were the clouds.

They were big, bright, fluffy clouds. Clouds you could see shapes in. Look there it's a bunny rabbit, and over there, a crocodile, that one looks like a car. Do you know the sort of clouds I mean, the one you just have to smile at. The ones that only appear on bright sunny days. The ones that only appear in the very bluest skies.
I am sure it was a sky such as this that the disciples stood under at Bethany. Jesus stood before them and talked about himself in the scriptures, in the Law of Moses, in the Psalms and the Prophets, what we now call the Old Testament. He opened their minds so they could understand. These men had been with him, had witnessed his teaching, his miracles, his torture and death. They now stood with him after his resurrection. They understood that they would be taking the message of repentance and forgiveness of sins out into the world. And as they understood,  He blessed them, and ascended until a cloud took him from their sight.

Today we celebrate the Ascension of the Lord, the moment when our Resurrected Lord leaves this mortal world and returns to heaven. But it's much more than that, it's not about Jesus leaving it's about Jesus taking his rightful position, as Paul tells us and the Ephesians, Jesus sits at the right hand of the Father, as ruler of everything. He is the head of the church, and we as the church are his body. We as the church are the fullness of Christ. Christ is present today in this Mass, in the Eucharist, in the Word we have just listened to, in Father Frank, in Persona Christi and in YOU, in us all. So as Jesus left this mortal world, He also joined us, as we continue to do his work and spread his word. The Disciples knew this, it was evident in the joy they felt as they saw him ascend. Soon the Holy Spirit would come to the disciples and strengthen them for the task, and we will celebrate that at Pentecost next week.

So Ascension is an ending and a beginning, and today we have heard the same story told in both ways. We first heard the story told at the beginning of the Acts of the Apostles, then we heard it again right at the end of Luke's Gospel. It's a little like a two part Doctor Who story, at the end of the first episode you are left wanting to know what happens next, and at the start of the next episode they remind you where you are and lead you into the next part of the story. Most biblical scholars would credit Luke with writing both Luke's Gospel and Acts. So if you were listening closely you may wonder why there are some small difference in the telling. For me these differences come about because the focus of the Gospel is Jesus, while the focus of Acts is the work of the Apostles.

In the final few sentences of Luke's Gospel, he tells us Jesus is divine, he is the Christ, he is God. We hear that the scripture foretold of his coming. In fact we hear this ourselves today in our Psalm, “The Lord goes up with shouts of Joy” Luke goes on to describe a demonstration of Jesus' priesthood as he blesses the disciples, just before he is carried in heaven. After he has gone the disciples worship him, they worship his unseen presence, as we do today, and they were filled with joy, the same joy that we can be filled with when we let Jesus into our hearts and lives.

When we look next to Acts we get the same event as the start of a new story, the story of our faith, of our church spreading over the world. We hear in a lot more detail Jesus preparing the disciples for their task. For example we are told He is with them for 40 days after his resurrection, hence today's celebration is 40 days after Easter. But in the gospel Luke didn't mention any time, in fact you could easily assume Jesus ascended on Easter Sunday. In the gospel, time isn't important, we are being told our Lords Story, when he walked this earth, but in Acts, time, is important. Luke wants us to know the disciples were prepared, that the message they passed down to us is correct. So he tells us of the 40 days Jesus spent preparing them.

Also in Acts we hear about the time the disciples have to do their work, that Jesus will return at a point known only by the Father. They have only an unknown amount of time to tell everyone, to prepare everyone, for the return of Jesus. It is because of them and the people they told, and the people that they in their turn told, and so on over two thousand years, that you come to be sitting here today. So the story we hear started today in Acts is our story, it's one we will continue tomorrow, and the next day, and the day after that, unless... unless we get another perfect cloudy day. A day when you lookup to the clouds and instead of bunny rabbits, or crocodiles you see our Lord coming again in glory.

So until that day, how are we going to add to the story, we are the church, we are Christ's body, we continue his work, what will be written in the Acts of the people of the Parish of Our Lady of Lourdes/St Austines/St John Fisher.

It's our turn now.

Pope Francis - Very Human


I can't help but like what I am seeing and hearing about Pope Francis. He seems very human, still doing the simple things like taking the mini bus to diner with his friends rather than a special car. I loved the comment he made to the cardinals at dinner just after they had elected him Pope, "May God forgive you what what you have done."

With every phone now having a camera we are seeing simple images of him like this shot of him paying his own hotel bill.

When he has been talking publicly he seems well able to go off script, say what he's thinking, for example today The Table reported him saying "half of us are in our old age, this is like the seat of knowledge of life. The old have wisdom. This wisdom is like good wine that gets better over the years. Then we must give the young people wisdom of life, go back to your sees enriched in your ministry from these days""


Pope Francis - First Words


Brothers and sisters good evening.

You all know that the duty of the Conclave was to give a bishop to Rome. It seems that my brother Cardinals have gone almost to the ends of the earth to get him… but here we are. I thank you for the welcome that has come from the diocesan community of Rome.

First of all I would like to say a prayer pray for our Bishop Emeritus Benedict XVI. Let us all pray together for him, that the Lord will bless him and that our Lady will protect him.

Our Father…
Hail Mary…
Glory to the Father…

And now let us begin this journey, the Bishop and the people, this journey of the Church of Rome which presides in charity over all the Churches, a journey of brotherhood in love, of mutual trust. Let us always pray for one another. Let us pray for the whole world that there might be a great sense of brotherhood. My hope is that this journey of the Church that we begin today, together with the help of my Cardinal Vicar, may be fruitful for the evangelization of this beautiful city.

And now I would like to give the blessing. But first I want to ask you a favour. Before the Bishop blesses the people I ask that you would pray to the Lord to bless me – the prayer of the people for their Bishop. Let us say this prayer – your prayer for me – in silence.

[The Protodeacon announced that all those who received the blessing, either in person or by radio, television or by the new means of communication receive the plenary indulgence in the form established by the Church. He prayed that Almighty God protect and guard the Pope so that he may lead the Church for many years to come, and that he would grant peace to the Church throughout the world.]

[Immediately afterwards Pope Francis gave his first blessing Urbi et Orbi – To the City and to the World.]

I will now give my blessing to you and to the whole world, to all men and women of good will.
Brothers and sisters, I am leaving you. Thank you for your welcome. Pray for me and I will be with you again soon... We will see one another soon.
Tomorrow I want to go to pray to the Madonna, that she may protect Rome.
Good night and sleep well!

You can listen to the Vatican Radio recording here: http://media01.radiovaticana.va/audiomp3/00362051.MP3

Taken from Vatican Radio - www.news.va

Grace


Grace.

In the dark, blackest night; gloom that blinds the captive,
The endless days, hopeless, worried eternities of despair,
When all we say or do seems wrong; no answer ever right,
It’s then that God, unseen, is there to gently say, “I care.”

We cannot ever fully know how deep, how great the love,
That holds us close each, every moment: Even times when,
Wearied beyond the wit of man, hope is lost without trace,
Our heavenly Father is there loving; arms held wide open.

Stand amazed, breathless, lost in awe and great wonder,
None can begin to know, to imagine the times, and ways,
The silent, unspoken prayers of desperate hearts are heard,
And God answers not as we expect but with what’s best!

Patrick R.
March 2009

Receive to Give


Receive to Give.

It is so good to be able to give,
Freely with no thought of me,
To simply enjoy friends’ delight,
At smallest unexpected acts,
And yes, we feel so good!
Giving is better than receiving,
simply putting all other’s first,
Or is it?
Have we paused to consider,
Consider our friends’ feelings,
When all we ever, ever do is give,
Some small trinket or cash gift,
Yet perhaps fail to give ourselves?
Are friends’ smiles those of delight?
Or fixed grins grimaces of real fear,
Faced with our tsunami of kindness,
Our well-meaning, blind generosity,
Perhaps they fear our true motives,
Those we do not know ourselves,
Do we seek to own them?
Sell ourselves short buying love,
Never realising,
We are truly loved for ourselves,
The kindly friend we are to them.
Before we can give effectively,
It’s now time to learn to receive,
To know our actions true effect,
So then we can give ourselves,
And our giving will bring such joy.

Patrick R.
February 2010

No Man Listener


No Man Listener.

I am privileged to be me,
To listen
Hear
Offer a smile in return,
The sure hand of a friend
Freely offered
Never seeking any reward,
Except
Privileges that cost nothing
Joy of giving myself freely,
Hope that dispels darkness
Despair; the legacy of today
The possibility the smile; words
Thoughts of the no man listener
May have encouraged,
Sent you my fellow man
On your homeward journey,
Your heart less troubled,
Your foot lighter,
And dare I even hope
Smiling
Lifting the veil of tragedy
For others o this pilgrim way,
A gift from this man,
The rich man with nothing!
Patrick R.
February 2013.

Lenten Abstinence


Lenten Abstinence.

A friend has given up Facebook for Lent!

I was tempted to be really cruel; to respond "Peace at last!"

On reflection I felt that would not be fair or the correct thing to do. We will miss her contributions.

Why do we give things up - Facebook, chocolates, cigarettes, et al?

Who really benefits and gets the glory for our act of selflessness?

Lent is a time of preparation.

Should we be saying, "Lord, teach me your will. What little extra can I offer this season of Lent?
Father empower me by your Holy Spirit to be obedient to your will; to give in your strength not only
during this season of Lent but in the days that follow too."

There is, for example, the false gospel of thou "shalt not" smoke or drink. What is the scriptural
authority for it? The Gospel is positive not negative! If we try to do any of these things in our own
strength then we glorify man not God. What do we achieve that is of lasting benefit?

This Lent why not say "What can I give not what can I give up?" I believe God will bless our giving!

Patrick R.
March 2011

Mothers Day


Mothers Day

Darling, this today is your special day,
Time to salute you, truly say I love you,
Thank you for the precious, gentle love
That gave me life dearest, best friend.

No words, no thoughts can ever express
Those feelings, emotions that overwhelm,
Filling my heart with peace and gratitude,
Each moment I remember my best friend.

Patrick R.
March 2009

A Secret


A Secret.

This is a great secret seldom told,
Forgotten as days unfold!

One person gave us life today,
Made us glad to live this way!

The least we can do is this,
Help our Mum to life of bliss!

Ensure her memories are sweet,
Children never be indiscreet!

Simply with the fondest love ever
Cherish your Mum forever.

Long the days when she is gone,
And we remember all our wrong!

Our failure to say one simple thing,
“I love you Mum!” Let the words ring!

Patrick R.
January 2013.

For Real: For True


For Real: For True.

My friend; believe; this is the truth,
Something real; honest,
Honourable,
My word; handshake,
As I tell you simply this,
You are loved; respected
Simply ‘cos you’re you,
Unique; so special
With charm that’s yours alone,
Gifts only you can share
Making this world a better place
Without the need to try,
Just simply being the real you,
Rewarding me with this prize,
The joy of your company,
Laughter; your gentleness,
And above all else
Your friendship!

Patrick R.
January 2013.

To Love


To Love.

To love truly; love deeply,
With a heart that’s true,
Is to let go of all of self,
Our hopes and fears,
All cherished ambition,
And simply to accept,
You,
You just as you are,
You just ‘cos you’re you,
The one we love,
Whose friendship we cherish,
Who means the world to us,
And,
To whom we offer our all,
For you are you
Just as you are; just as we met,
And fell in love!

Patrick R.
September 2011

A Smile


A Smile.

Life is too short,
Too short for war,
Life is too cruel,
Too hard for unkindness,
Life is too precious,
Too good to be wasted
On petty mean disputes,
Point scoring,
Creating mindless sadness,
Worry,
Inconvenience.
Why not offer a smile
A kind word
They are free; cost nothing,
Hurt less than a frown,
A scowl,
A hastily foolish word,
Ease life’s upward path,
And more than even this
Bring joy and pleasure
To you
The giver!
Patrick R.
September 2011.

Complexity


Complexity.

Three Sudoku puzzles!

The challenging puzzle was easy; the two easy puzzles challenging!

Is this a mirror on life today?

How often do we make life; friendships; relationships more complicated than necessary! We always
seem to seek hidden meanings or agendas.

The greatest mystery; God’s perfect love is the simplest thing in the world for all of us to understand.
Our Lord’s first disciples were simple men; unschooled; fishermen. Even the youngest child can
respond to love.

Lord grant us a new beginning; the gift of simple understanding; to live our lives as You would have
us live them.

Patrick R.
December 2012.

Big Bang


Big Bang.

Fido enjoyed dinner. Meat; gravy; evidence was over the floor and the walls. It was a mess.

The chimney exploded; crumbled. Debris scattered in every direction.

Two “Big Bangs!” Total confusion!

Despite all man’s worst efforts there remains order in this world. Day follows night; sunset comes
after sunrise; the sea knows its boundaries; the sun, moon and stars continue on their orbit; they do
not fall from the skies.

What has been for millions of years still is!

No explosion; no “Big Bang” could create order; this legacy for all eternity.

Only the master creator created order.

Patrick R.
December 2012

Tee Hee


Tee Hee.

He was enchanted. Tiny eyes sparkled open wide with excitement, His face beamed as he gurgled;
tiny hands clapped out of time; his toes waved messages only he understood. He was too young;
too innocent to know this was Christmas. He had not been bewitched by the spirit of the age. All he
knew was that it was good; he was surrounded by love.

What will this Christmas mean to each one of us?

May God grant each one of us the childlike innocence; simplicity that will enable us to understand;
treasure the true meaning of unfailing love.

Patrick R.
December 2012.

Giving


Giving.

The only gift of true value anyone of us can give is the one that is offered freely, without conditions, with love
and no thought of any reward. Anything else is damaged goods, without worth and simply an end to a means; our own satisfaction and glorification!

At this Christmas season, and as we give, Father may we all always remember that special free gift given
for each one of us; the gift of eternal life through Christ Jesus, your only Son, our Lord and Saviour. May we
always give as you give that your name may be glorified.

Patrick R.
December 2012.

Live Today


Live Today.

Man’s foolish wisdom,
A little learning
Without real understanding,
Foretell
The end is nigh,
Despite our Lord’s words,
“None shall know
The date; time of His return,”
For we are to be prepared,
Live
Seeking first His Kingdom,
As if dear friend
Every day
Each moment was our last,
Our opportunity
To proclaim His Kingdom,
Live in newness of life
Ever expectant,
In harmony with our Lord,
Our God,
Ever singing,
A hymn of praise; love
Celebration,
Our Redeemer lives!
Patrick R.
December 2012.

Testimony


Testimony.

My words announce me,
My life is testimony
To the love of God!

Patrick R.
December 2012

Shout


Shout.

Stop; listen and hear,
Hallelujah,
Our Lord is risen,
Unite today in celebration,
Tell the good news to all!

Patrick R.
December 2012.

Mark 6:30-34

Short Homily on Mark 6:30-34

'The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”
So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place. But many who saw them leaving recognized them and ran on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.'

It's good to hear this passage of scripture, without hearing what comes after. If you read on, it would be far to easy to ignore what we just heard. Why? Because what follows is the feeding of the 5000.  Here we have a few simple lines about the disciples returning to Jesus, a promise of some quiet times, and the introduction of a large crowd miles from home. So is this passage just the setting of the scene, a literary journey to where Mark really want us to be? Well I don't think so.

We know from earlier in Mark's gospel that Jesus sent the disciples out to preach repentance, cast out devils and heal the sick. We also know that they took very little with them relying on the Lord to provide for them. It must have been a hard and marvelous journey for them, and they returned tired and in need of rest.
On first reading I felt sorry for the disciples, their promise of some quiet time disappeared when they saw the large crowd waiting for them on the bank. I thought, the Lords work is never done, I smiled and thought this is a good example for us, deacons in formation, we need to get used to the call of the Lord.

But then I prayed about what I should be saying today, and that  wasn't it. Then the line “Sometimes the journey is enough” got stuck in my head.

When they arrived on the shore and saw the crowds they were ready. We don't know what happened on the boat, but we do know the disciples spent the journey in the company of Jesus, and that was all they needed.

As Christians we have been called to do the Lords work. It's a wonderful job and a demanding job and sometimes we get tired. Like last week, I got home on Thursday evening, with 30mins to eat, change and get back out the door to teach an evening at our journey in faith class. Gail looked at me, and said “I'll drive you round tonight love”, we spent ten minutes together in the car, Gail, me & God. I got out of the car refreshed and and ready for the evening.

We can do wonderful things with the Lord, and like the disciples in today's gospel we get tired, and sometimes we don't have time to stop, but sometimes, as long as Jesus is with you,
the journey,  is   all   you   need.

It can happen to the best of us

5-year-old Bristol boy runs up £1,300 iTunes bill


Full story in The Post and on www.thisisbristol.co.uk here the direct link

http://www.thisisbristol.co.uk/5-year-old-Bristol-boy-runs-1-300-iTunes/story-18273979-detail/story.html#axzz2MBW7lprE

I heard this story last night while at a liturgy meeting with Sharon, and I was really interested to read this story in the papers this morning. Sharon is one of the best parents I know, always taking a leading role in their development at school and church. If she can get caught like this then anyone could.

For those of you that don’t have smart phone or tablets this is what’s happening. There are games written by development companies that are given away free. They are designed to be quite addictive and the player is encouraged to build things, towns, gardens, armies, etc. Everything in the game costs game money, and you get given an amount of money at the start of the game and you can earn more as you play, just like you would in the board game monopoly. The problem is that the really nice and fun items you want for your town, garden or army cost huge amounts of money that would take you days, weeks or months to earn while playing the game.

They therefore allow you to purchase in game money with real money. That’s one way they make a profit from the game. The problem is that while most games on iTunes cost small amounts £0.69 to £2.99 some of these in games charge huge amounts of up to £69.99. I can’t see anyone, who earns money and owns the credit card that is registered with iTunes, reasonable spending £70 quid on a game, so these games and purchases have to be aimed at children.

I have nothing against computer games, or against people and companies making a profit, but I do object to targeting children with such inflated prices. Apple is normally very good at protecting their users and it’s possible they just haven’t realised yet the way some of its partners on iTunes are taking advantage of families and children. If you would like to offer any feedback to Apple their feedback web page is here http://www.apple.com/feedback/itunesapp.html

Homily 4th Sunday of Lent Year C - Laetare


Homily (Sermon) - Laetare – Rejoice – Be Joyful – Laetare my brothers and sisters

The Readings for Sunday 9th March 2013 or Forth Sunday of Lent Year C:
Old Joshua 5:9-12

Psalm Psalm 33:2-7  Response v9
New 2 Corinthians 5:17-21
Gospel Luke 15:1-3, 11-32

[These readings can be found at www.universalis.com for the next few weeks.]


Laetare – Rejoice – Be Joyful – Laetare my brothers and sisters.

We are half way through the 40 days of Lent, over halfway in fact. We have only 18 more Lenten days before Easter, and today we look forward to the joy of Easter, the joy of our redemption, today we share in the constant joy of heaven. That's why today is Laetare Sunday, Laetare means “be joyful” or “rejoice”. And that's why today's readings are all about the joy of redemption.

In our first reading we hear about the Jewish nation, God's chosen people, as they ate their first meal in the promised land after 40 years of wandering. Our 40 days of Lenten prayer, penitence, almsgiving and self-denial reflect the experiences they had in the wilderness. Can you imagine the joy they felt hearing the words God had spoken to their leader Joshua, “Today I have taken the shame of Egypt away from you.” The Lord had promised them a land and here they were eating the produce of that land in the presence of the Lord. Now imagine the joy we will feel in a few short weeks as we celebrate the resurrection of our Lord Jesus, the Christ, on Easter Sunday, and know that through his death and resurrection we have been reconciled to God.

This joy is what Paul is writing to the Corinthians about, and the message Paul had for the Corinthians is also for us today. We have been redeemed, reconciled, saved, forgiven, washed clean. We, through the death of the sinless one for us, can sit down with God at the banquet in heaven. We know this, as the Corinthians knew this, but many in our world, as many in their world don't know this. Paul challenges us, he challenges you, he challenges me, to be ambassadors for Christ. An ambassador is someone who speaks for someone else, you now speak for Christ. It's a little scary isn't when you think about it. So maybe, a challenge for us all this week is to take this Sunday's message to the world, this week in whatever you do, Be Joyful. It may surprise you who notices, and if someone notices you may just have helped Jesus reconcile one more person, one more lost daughter or lost son returning to the father.

Which leads us to our gospel today, the parable of the prodigal son. I am sure we all know this one very well. The story of two sons and a father. The younger son takes his inheritance and leaves for a far a away land, there he has a really great time for a while, spends all his money, then falls on hard times. He falls so low that a pig is more respected than he is. At this point he realises his mistakes and is sorry. He returns home and is welcomed with open arms, not as a servant or slave which is all he feels he deserves but as a son, come back to life. What joy would he have felt as his father hugged him. That joy is ours as well, as we bring our less than perfect lives to this church, to the Eucharist we are about to share, we encounter our father. He is giving us a huge of hug, putting a robe about us and a ring on our finger.

But maybe like me you heard that parable today and thought, I always feel sorry for the older brother. He works hard for his father, always the good son, the younger brother gets a calf to celebrate his return the older brother gets nothing not even a small goat. But then we hear, as he angrily sulks, his father comes out to talk to him. “My son, you are with me always and all I have is yours.” In that moment he realises the love his father has for him and the love he has for his father. That joy too is ours, as Christians we work for our God, He is with us always, all He has is our. In fact He loves us so much He even gave us the life of his only son.

Now think of the Fathers story. You have two sons you love, one makes some mistakes with his life and is separated from you. You look for him every day and hope he will return. Then after a long time, far across the fields you see him returning. The joy of today is not just ours, it's a joy our God shares with us. And as Paul told us we are now ambassadors of that joy. It's time to take it out into the world.

Finally I want to talk about today's psalm. Father has often talked about the psalms and how wonderful they are and the value in reading them. He has often encouraged us to take the psalm home and read it each evening before we go to bed. Today's is a joyous psalm, a psalm of praise, so I have a different suggestion for you this week. Take the psalm home and read it each morning before you leave the house, let it fill you with joy, then take the joy of the prodigal son, the joy of his older brother, the joy of the people of Israel and the joy of your father out into the world.

Laetare – Rejoice – Be Joyful – Laetare my brothers and sisters.



Homily Index

Previous Papal Resignations


I am no expert on this and have quickly done some digging via Wikipedia and the BCC into previous papal resignations. These sources are by no means error free so apologies for an inaccuracy.

In 1294 Pope Celestine V issued a solemn decree declaring it permissible for a pope to resign. He then resigned after only 5 months as pope. Both the BBC and Wikipedia quote Canon Law, which I assume is based on this decree, as allowing a pope to resign and that to be valid the resignation must be made freely, which is the phrase Pope benedict used today,
“For this reason, and well aware of the seriousness of this act, with full freedom I declare that I renounce the ministry of Bishop of Rome, Successor of Saint Peter, entrusted to me by the Cardinals on 19 April 2005, in such a way, that as from 28 February 2013, at 20:00 hours, the See of Rome, the See of Saint Peter, will be vacant and a Conclave to elect the new Supreme Pontiff will have to be convoked by those whose competence it is.”
Prior to Pope Celestine in 1294, there were also two resignations in 1045 and 1046. Pope Benedict IX, who was described as “a demon from hell in the disguise of a priest”, resigned for financial advantage at the pressure of his successor Pope Gregory VI. Pope Gregory VI in turn resigned, because he had effectively paid for the position of Pope, the sin of Simony (paying for sacraments see the story of Simon Acts 8:18-24). Pope Gregory was succeeded by Pope Clement II who dies in 1947, and he was replaced again by Pope Benedict IX who is the only man to have been Pope twice.

The last resignation of a pope was Pope Gregory XII in 1415. This was to help end the Western Schism. There were multiple and political claims to the papal chair. Pope Gregory stepped down and asked Council of Constance to elect the new pope. There were two other claimants, the antipope John XXIII, who also resigned, and the Avignon Pope Benedict XIII who was excommunicated by Pope Gregory XII before he resigned. The council then elected Pope Martin V.

So it is almost 600 years since a pope has resigned. This is a brave and courageous decision by Pope Benedict XVI, a decision he says he has only taken after “repeatedly examined my conscience before God”. Let us pray for Pope Benedict XVI, wisdom for the coming Conclave, and for all of Christ’s Church as we journey through this time of change.

Update: It seems lots of people are asking this question and it has been directly addressed on the Vatican News site here : http://www.news.va/en/news/virtually-unprecedented-papal-resignation-througho

Pope Benedict Resigns - Statement from Archbishop Vincent Nichols


Statement from Archbishop Vincent Nichols
Pope Benedict’s announcement today has shocked and surprised everyone. Yet, on reflection, I am sure that many will recognise it to be a decision of great courage and characteristic clarity of mind and action.
The Holy Father recognises the challenges facing the Church and that “strength of mind and body are necessary” for his tasks of governing the Church and proclaiming the Gospel.
I salute his courage and his decision.
I ask people of faith to keep Pope Benedict in their prayers. We Catholics will do so, with great affection and the highest esteem for his ministry as our Holy Father remembering with joy his Visit to the United Kingdom in 2010. Pray, too, for the Church and all the steps that must take place in the next weeks. We entrust ourselves to the loving Providence of God and the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Archbishop Vincent Nichols


Pope Benedict XVI Resigns

http://www.news.va/en/news/pope-benedict-xvi-announces-his-resignation-at-end

Pope Benedict XVI on Monday said he plans on resigning the papal office on February 28th. Below please find his announcement.

Full text of Pope's declaration

Dear Brothers,
I have convoked you to this Consistory, not only for the three canonizations, but also to communicate to you a decision of great importance for the life of the Church. After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry. I am well aware that this ministry, due to its essential spiritual nature, must be carried out not only with words and deeds, but no less with prayer and suffering. However, in today’s world, subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith, in order to govern the bark of Saint Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary, strength which in the last few months, has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me. For this reason, and well aware of the seriousness of this act, with full freedom I declare that I renounce the ministry of Bishop of Rome, Successor of Saint Peter, entrusted to me by the Cardinals on 19 April 2005, in such a way, that as from 28 February 2013, at 20:00 hours, the See of Rome, the See of Saint Peter, will be vacant and a Conclave to elect the new Supreme Pontiff will have to be convoked by those whose competence it is.Dear Brothers, I thank you most sincerely for all the love and work with which you have supported me in my ministry and I ask pardon for all my defects. And now, let us entrust the Holy Church to the care of Our Supreme Pastor, Our Lord Jesus Christ, and implore his holy Mother Mary, so that she may assist the Cardinal Fathers with her maternal solicitude, in electing a new Supreme Pontiff. With regard to myself, I wish to also devotedly serve the Holy Church of God in the future through a life dedicated to prayer. 
From the Vatican, 10 February 2013 
BENEDICTUS PP XVI

Homily 3rd Sunday of Ordinary Time Year C - But always as One Body.


Homily (Sermon) - But always as one body.

The Readings for Sunday 26th January 2013 or Third Sunday of Ordinary Time Year C:
Old Nehemiah 8:2-6,8-10
Psalm Psalm 18
New 1 Corinthians 12:12-30
Gospel Luke 1:1-4, 4:14-21
[These readings can be found at www.universalis.com for the next few weeks.]

I am really happy to be coming to join you today in worship and I was really pleased to find that today’s New Testament reading form St Paul’s letter to the Corinthians was all about togetherness. We are all part of Christ’s body, whether we are Methodist, Baptist, Anglican, Free Church, Roman Catholic or any the Christian denominations. Far too often we let the small differences between our beliefs dominate us, and we miss the huge similarities.

Weekends like this are wonderful. We embrace our One Body, the Body of Christ, and come together in lots of different ways. For me, what is special, is seeing new faces, new smiles, meeting other parts of the body of Christ. Learning what gifts you have, seeing how you serve the Lord in your work and worship. Learning from you and growing in my own faith.

Paul wrote todays reading because he wanted to teach the Corinthians that being different from each other, didn't mean being better or worse than each other. The Corinthian’s were suffering from very human conditions; they were guilty, as we often all are, of pride and of greed.

I am guessing those with money or power, those with strength or intelligence, those with beauty or charisma, were able to gain position and influence over those without. I am guessing that a hierarchy began to exist, not a hierarchy of service for other using those gifts, but a hierarchy of requiring service because they possessed those gifts.

Paul was telling the Corinthian’s, and more importantly today, Paul is telling us, that we may be different, and it’s good and proper that we are different, but that we are all equal as part of Christ’s body, and as part of Christ’s Body we are called to work together to do Christ’s work.

There is so much work out there, in the secular world today, that Christ needs us to do, it’s often really difficult to know where to start. But we can find lessons to help, in our Gospel reading. We have to starts described today and both can help us as we start going about Christ’s work as Christ’s Body.

The first start is that of Luke, Luke is starting his Gospel. He wasn't setting out to write a book that would be read by billions of people for 2000 years. He was writing a description of what happened so that someone else would find it easier to believe not in what happened as a history lesson, but what it meant for them in their life.

Luke’s place in the Body of Christ was not as an Apostle, not as a prophet, not as a miracle worker; Luke’s place was as a teacher. Does that make Luke better or worse than Paul or John, Mosses or Jacob, or any of us? No of course not, but it demonstrates to us how great the work of Christ’s body can be, and should inspire us to work for the Lord.

Our second start, is the description of the start of Christ’s work, His reading from the prophet Isaiah. A prophesy that He Himself was to fulfill  I have always found it interesting that Christ read the scroll handed to Him, sat down, and then started talking. That in fact was the way the synagogue worked, the teacher of the day would read scripture and then sit with the people and explain what it meant. They would talk about it, discuss it. I would encourage you to day the same today, think about what you have heard, talk it through with the other parts of the Body, the Christians around you. Think how Christ is calling you through those words to serve him. Think how working together you may combine your gifts into some special, something Christ like, something that can serve Him and the world He came to serve.

For me this reading has also has a personal meaning. My journey towards ordination as a Deacon had several wonderful moments along the way. One of those was receiving the ministry of Reader or Lector, the following Sunday I read at all the Masses at our church. The Old Testament reading was the reading we have just heard about Christ reading from Isaiah. It really struck me then, as it does now, that Christ has asked me:

“…to bring the good news to the poor,
to proclaim liberty to captives
and to the blind new sight,
to set the downtrodden free,
to proclaim the Lord’s year of favour.”

When I was Ordained I was presented with the bible and instructed “Believe what you read. Teach what you believe. Practice what you teach.” And while that is good advice for all of us, we should also remember we are all different, we all bring different gifts, and we are all asked to serve in different ways, but always as One Body.




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Homily for the Epiphany of the Lord 2013

Homily (Sermon) – Epiphany of the Lord 

Reading
Old Isaiah 60:1-6
Psalm Psalm 71
New Ephesians 3:2-3, 5-6
Gospel Matthew 2:1-12
[These readings can be found at www.universalis.com for the next few weeks.]

As they entered the stable they fell to their knees and offered the gifts they had brought. The gifts were rare and valuable gifts and it may be that the wise men had no idea of the prophetic nature of the gifts. But a prophetic nature they had.

Gold for the kingship of Christ, David's heir, the expected leader of the Jewish race. Frankincense, a sweet smelling spice, used in incense, representing Christ High Priest, the Priest who would offer the ultimate sacrifice for us to God, and Myrhh another spice this time for use in preparing a body after death, here Christ's death as the sacrificial lamb, is foreshadowed.

The words in the hymn We Three Kings couldn't describe better the treasures they gave and the meanings they had. Next time you sing the words, think about them. It's a wonderful lesson set to music.

King for ever, ceasing never, over us all to reign.
Prayer and praising, all are raising, Worship him God most high.
Sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying. Sealed in the stone-cold tomb.

There is a line in Proverbs (25:2) “It is the glory of God to conceal things, but the glory of kings is to search things out.” And with that phase in mind and the story of the wise men, or Kings, in our hearts, I want you to consider, that you, by your baptism, are a member of the Royal Priesthood of the Church. It is your glory, to search for Gods concealed treasure, and when you find them, in your moments of epiphany, it is your honour, to offer them in worship and homage to Christ.

Christ offers you adoption into His royal family. You are a King, a Queen, a Prince, a Princess, you are royalty! You are a member of the royal family of Christ

What do you intend to do with this gift. The wise men that we heard about in today’s Gospel spent their lives studying and searching for Christ. Will you do the same? They were the first gentiles to see Christ, to worship Him, to bring Him gifts. You are called by your baptism to do the same, but you are also called to stand beside Christ, to work with Him. To take His message, His promise, His Gift out to the world. That’s what being part of this Church means.

This year we celebrate a Year of Faith, a yearlong celebration for the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council. Vatican 2 was unique, unlike all the councils before, Vatican 2 was called not to address a spreading heresy, but to look at the Church, and to look at the role it needed to play in the modern world.

One of the first documents that Vatican 2 produced was Lumen Gentium, so called because Lumen Gentium are the first words, in Latin, of the first sentence.
“Christ is the Light of nations. Because this is so, this Sacred Synod gathered together in the Holy Spirit eagerly desires, by proclaiming the Gospel to every creature, to bring the light of Christ to all men, a light brightly visible on the countenance of the Church.” 
Lumen Gentium, describe the Church and the role of the Church. Chapter 4 is all about you, the laity. I want to read you a beautiful paragraph from Lumen Gentium, about you, about your life, about your calling.
“The laity, by their very vocation, seek the kingdom of God by engaging in temporal affairs and by ordering them according to the plan of God. They live in the world, that is, in each and in all of the secular professions and occupations. They live in the ordinary circumstances of family and social life, from which the very web of their existence is woven. They are called there by God that by exercising their proper function and led by the spirit of the Gospel they may work for the sanctification of the world from within as a leaven.”
Isn't that a beautiful!

Do you know what a leaven is? Leaven is a raising agent; yeast in bread is a leaven. Without yeast your loaf of bread would be flat like a pitta or nan bread, but add yeast to the mix and the bread rises into a soft and delicious loaf. The yeast works from within. That’s the comparison the Church uses to describe your work. You are to be led by the Holy Spirit to work for the sanctification of the world from within as a leaven.

As you go about your lives this week, I want you to think about ‘ordering the daily events of your life according to Gods plan’, and ‘about sanctifying the world from within.’

You were given a wonderful job 50 years ago, what are you going to do about it this year?




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