Isaiah 11:6 - Christmas Tiger

Isaiah 11:6 "The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them."

I wonder if the young child who added his you tiger to our crib a couple of year ago knew this passage, probably not, but each year since the tiger has returned to our crib along with all the more traditional figures. I am glad the tiger keeps coming back to remind me of Isaiah prophesy, as I will continue to look forward to the time when all enemies will live together in peace.


A thought for Christmas

For the first time this Christmas I actual read 'A Christmas Carol'. Like all of you, I know the story well. I have watched it many times over the years in many different forms. Classic versions with Albert Finney, George C. Scott, and Patrick Stewart. Fun versions with Mickey Mouse & Kermit the Frog. Even re-worked version with Doctor Who or Jimmy Stewart in 'It's a wonderful life'.

For me the story captures the Christmas spirit. It's bitter sweet. There is joy but also sadness. Christmas is much more than Coke-a-Cola's “holidays are coming”, paint the world red, happy family Christmas images. I think we need to feel a little sadness at Christmas, to let us relish the joy.

At Christmas our Lord came into the world, and because of that wonder we rejoice, but if we look at his first Christmas presents we see his life mapped out. Gold for a king, Frankincense for the priest, and Myrrh for his death. Just listen to the lyrics of the hymn We three Kings. Sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying. Sealed in the stone-cold tomb. But His death was His gift to us, the gift that secures our salvation. You can see why I think Christmas needs to feel bitter sweet, but when it does we must relish the sweetness.

And it's one of those moments of sweetness I want to leave you with. As I read “A Christmas Carol” I came across a sentence I hadn't heard before. It read :

“But they didn't devote the whole evening to music. After a while they played at forfeits; for it is good to be children sometimes, and never better than at Christmas, when its mighty Founder was a child himself.”

I wish you all a happy new year, and in the words of Tiny Tim, “May God Bless us, Everyone”

Homily Nativity of the Lord – I wish you a happy and holy Christmas

Homily (Sermon) – I wish you a happy and holy Christmas

The Readings for the Mass During the Day Christmas Day or Nativity of the Lord Year
Isaiah 52:7-10
Psalm 97
Hebrews 1:1-6
John 1:1-18
[There are four masses for Christmas day. The Vigil, Midnight, Dawn and the Day. All these readings can be found at www.universalis.com for the next few weeks.]

There is something really special about Christmas. Some of our faith spills out into the rest of the world, for a small time the world thinks of others first, they visit friends and family, they give presents, the think about the poor and needy. The world is genuinely a better place at Christmas, it’s a happier place at Christmas, and it’s a holier place at Christmas. If you think about that, and I really do want you to think about that, isn't it right that our faith should wash across the whole world today.

Because, on that first Christmas day something incredible, something fantastic, something wonderful, something divine happened here on earth. The creator of everything; the creator of you and me; the creator of the seas and oceans; the creator of the land and mountains; the creator of the planets, stars and galaxies; the Word through whom all things were created, came to earth. He came to us, He came to be with us, to teach us, and to save us. He came because He loved us. Isn't that amazing!

I have just read to you the start of John’s gospel, one of the most beautiful and one of the most remarkable passages in the bible. John doesn't tell us about the nativity, he doesn't mention Mary & Joseph, he doesn't mention the stable, the shepherds, the wise men, the angels or Herod. While the other Gospel writers tell us about the birth of Jesus, what happen from the human side. John mirrors the Genesis opening of the Old Testament, he tells us the Divine and eternal story.

John uses a language that’s poetic, beautiful and maybe a little confusing. He talks about Jesus as the Word. We all know words are powerful; they have the power to bring both pain and joy. How do you feel if someone teases or bullies you, and how do you feel when someone tells you they love you. Words are powerful things. John knew his, but that was only part of John’s reason for referring to Christ as the Word.

The first line of John’s Gospel today was, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God.” This is almost a copy of the opening words from Genesis, “In the beginning God created heaven and earth.” John is deliberately linking  his Gospel to the creation story. John wants you to know, no he needs you to know that Christ wasn’t just a man, he was at the same time God. He wanted you to know that the baby born in that stable was around at the start of everything, had always been there, would always be there, but at that moment in time he came directly into our world, God became man, and walked among us.

So where was Jesus in the Genesis story, you don’t hear Him mentioned by name? But you do, and that’s the main reason why John refers to Him as the word. As God creates the world and universe in seven days, he speaks them into existence.  “God said, “Let there be light” and there was light.

Everything is created because God said something, what was spoken was Words, it was through the Words that all things were created. Jesus was those Words, He was there at the start of everything, He was God, He was the Word that created everything, so John said in today’s gospel, “Through Him all things came to be.”

The coming of God into our world was so important; God spent thousands of years preparing us. Making sure we were ready to hear Christ words, ready to understand the salvation He offers us. He showed the future to the prophets like Isaiah, who left us tempting visions of Christ, “How beautiful on the mountain, are the feet of the one who brings good news, who heralds peace, brings happiness, proclaims salvation, and tells Zion ‘Your God is King!’” Doesn’t this sound like the sermon on the mount.

Our universe is almost 14 billion years old, mankind has been around for 200,000 years, civilisations started about 10,000 years ago, and God has always been there. 6-8 thousand years ago the Old Testament starts to tell us how God choose Israel, and how he prepared them for the messiah, for Christ.

Two thousand years ago, in a stable, in Bethlehem, a light entered our world, a light to shine in the dark, a light that darkness could not overpower. Welcome that light, the Word, Christ Jesus, into your hearts today.  Allow it to burn in your hearts, and let it shine on everyone you meet, so that this Christmas it’s your faith that spills across the world and makes it a happier and holier place.

I wish you a happy and holy Christmas, and may God bless us, everyone!



Homily Index

Homily – 2014 2011 Year B – Advent 3rd Sunday

Homily – (Originally 2011 but valid for 2014) Year B – Advent 3rd Sunday

Readings
Isaiah 61:1-2, 10-11
Luke 1:46-50, 53-54 Rsp Is 61:10
Thessalonians 5:16-24
John 1:6-8, 19-28

Gaudete (Gow-Day-Tay) my friends, Gaudete. Christ is coming, Rejoice.

Today is Gaudete Sunday, the middle of Advent. We take our penitential purple and add a little white for Christ and we get pink. So today we light a pink or rose candle. Today we have the option to wear pink vestments. Today is a day to lighten the penitential mood just a little. Today is a day to stop and think what the coming of Christ means to us, and when we really get that meaning, it's a day to rejoice. That's what Gaudete means, it's Latin for rejoice.

Our reading today are full of joy, exultation and rejoicing.

“My soul rejoices in the Lord”
“I Exult for Joy in the Lord”
“Be Happy at all times.”
“God has called you, he will not fail you”
So today our challenge is to live, to exult, to rejoice, to be truly happy. When you leave today go and do something wonderful. Visit friends, go for a walk, play your favourite music, watch your favourite film, come to the carol service this afternoon, do something you love, and as you do reflect on the joy you feel. Every joy comes from God, so know that the joy you feel is the Spirit flowing through you, and offer that joy to God in love and prayer.

Tomorrow we return to the purple of Advent, a time of preparation. A time to make ourselves ready for the coming of Christ. With all the worldly concerns of Christmas, the shopping, the parties, the trips to family or friends, it's all to easy to forget we are preparing our souls to be ready for Christ. John the Baptist knew he was preparing, and he knew who he was preparing for. It would be wise for us in our preparations to reflect on John's words and actions.

John was different. He lived a humble and meagre life in the desert. He challenged the people of his day, he baptised Jews. No one baptised Jews, Jews were already Gods people, it was only gentiles that needed baptising when they became Jews.

But John's preached that the people needed to repent, to make themselves ready, for the coming of the light. John created such a phenomenon, that the authorities began to question who he was or who the people might think he was.

In the answers to the questions they asked him, he made it clear, he was there only to prepare. To help people prepare. To let them know the lives they were leading fell short of the expectations, of the one who was coming.

Our lives also fall short. We have two weeks to head out into John's wilderness and prepare. Have you been to confession this advent? Have you been to a penitential mass yet? Have you altered your reading this Advent? Have you eaten or drunk a little less? What have you done to prepare?

John, one of the greatest servants of God, gives us an image today of who we are waiting for, who we are preparing to meet. In John's own words, he was not fit to undo the sandal-strap of the one who was coming after him. This seems an odd phrase to us now, but it was a phrase steeped in the culture of the time. A disciple would expect to do anything for his master, to act as his servant in all thing, except undoing his sandals, a task so low that it was only fit for slaves. John's statement today, tell us that he felt, he wasn't even fit to be a slave of the one to come after him. If John wasn't fit to be even a slave of Christ, then what about us.

Well we know the next part of the story, we know that as a result of Christ's gift, Christ's sacrifice for us on the Cross, we are redeemed, we are called to Christ's family as sisters and brothers.

Are you ready to stand here on Christmas day and great your Lord, to welcome the light into the world, to share the divine joy he brings, to offer yourself, to him, to accept the gift he offers you. Are you ready? Have you prepared? You have two weeks my friends.

Joy is coming. Light is dawning. Christmas is almost here. Christ is almost here. Think about that, when the meaning sinks in rejoice, Gaudete (Gow-Day-Tay). Live a little in the pink today, look at everything through rose colour glasses. Tomorrow take a walk with John, find forgiveness for what you have got wrong. Let us all make sure we are ready for Christmas, ready for Chris.

For The Fallen

Laurence Binyon was too old to enlist at the start of the First World War, he turned 45 ten days after the war started. Seven weeks after the war started this poem was published as news of the British casualties began to be reported. The war that everyone thought would be over by Christmas went on for another 4 years and claimed the lives of 65 million people.

Laurence Binyon was born in 1869, I was born in 1969, so there is 100 years between our births so this year 2014 as we remember the 100 anniversary of the start of World War 1 I am the same age as Laurence Binyon. I would be too old to enlist. I am left thinking would I be disappointed I could go to serve my country or would I be relieved. With hindsight, relieved is all I can think I would have felt, but 1914 was a different time. While Laurence was too old to join the army he did join the Red Cross and served as a medical orderly.

I always assumed that this poem was written after the war or at least towards the end of it. I never dreamt it was written right at the start. The horror of trench warfare hadn't really started by September 2014. The battles the British Expeditionary Force had fought in were across open ground and were critical in stopping the German advance. As the front line stretched out from coast to coast the troops dug in and 400 miles of trenches connected the North Sea to the Alps.

Another wrong assumption I had was that the poem was written in the trenches. As Laurence never went to war the poem wasn't written there. It was as he sat above the cliffs in north Cornwall at Pentire Point, near Polzeath. Such beauty in sharp contrast to the subject.



For the Fallen

With proud thanksgiving, a mother for her children,
England mourns for her dead across the sea.
Flesh of her flesh they were, spirit of her spirit,
Fallen in the cause of the free.

Solemn the drums thrill: Death august and royal
Sings sorrow up into immortal spheres.
There is music in the midst of desolation
And a glory that shines upon our tears.

They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, 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.

But where our desires are and our hopes profound,
Felt as a well-spring that is hidden from sight,
To the innermost heart of their own land they are known
As the stars are known to the Night;

As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust,
Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain,
As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness,
To the end, to the end, they remain.


by Robert Laurence Binyon
First published 21st September 1914 in The Times

Wanted: Photos of CWL Wartime Recreation Huts and Canteens

During World War 1 and World War 2 the Catholic Women's League setup and ran recreation Huts, canteens and tea vans for the troops all over the world. Very few photos remain and we would love to find some more. Can you help?

If you have and photo's please contact me john@deaconjohn.co.uk

God Bless,
J

CWL ladies in uniform

Mobile Canteen Geldrop, Holland, WWII

Westminster Hut WWI



Homily for the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica and Remembrance Sunday

Homily (sermon) - Remembrance Sunday

Readings for the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica  Year A:
Ezekiel 47:1-2,8-9,12, Psalm 45, 1 Corinthians 3:9-11,16-17, John 2:13-22

[All these readings can be found at www.universalis.com for the next few weeks. Remember to scroll down for the readings of the day.]


The Church today is celebrating the dedication of the Lateran Basilica in Rome. The feast is one of unity towards the See of Peter and is celebrated across the world. The readings teach of Christ’s love for His father’s house and Paul describes how Christ built the foundation of the Church, the Church that each one of us is a part of.

We are called to build our Church, to continue to grow our Church. We are the stones, the bricks, the steel and glass, the beams and windows of our Church today. We are building our Church as we were instructed, we are building our Church from our love of God, we are building our Church to serve our world today. Our children will build on us and their children will build on them. The Church therefore always grows, always adapts, and is always ready to face the challenges of the current world.

We may think the world of 2014 has it problems. But 100 years ago the problems the world had were much worse. Since the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand on June 28th 1914 the world had been descending into war. The Great War started on August 1st, and Britain declared war on Germany on August 4th. One hundred years ago today British troops were dying at Ypres.

Today we remember the sacrifice of those who fought and those who died. The 888,246 British soldiers who lost their lives in The Great War. The 65 million people that were killed during that war. The 170 million who have died in war in the last 100 years.

But today we are directed by our scripture to look to our Church, we need to look at the stones we have been laid upon, the people who were the Church 100 years ago, we need to thank God for them and for their work. Then we need to challenge ourselves to build a Church to serve the world we see today. The smallest of things can make a surprising difference.

During the first world war the Catholic Woman League made a request for funds to build a recreation hut for the soldiers in Boulogne.  Immediate and generous donation allowed the ladies to open this hut for the soldiers. More followed all across Europe, and all were staffed by the Catholic ladies of the CWL. By the end of The Great War there were 35 huts providing for practical and the spiritual needs of the soldiers. Meals were provided 24 hours a day, and Mass was said on Sundays. Some huts even had permanent alters. After the war these huts provided help in rebuilding the shattered towns and villages.

As the world descended into World War II the CWL restarted the huts and over the next few years opened and staffed over 180 canteens and huts around the world. These continued long after the war and again helped to rebuild.

There are now shrines in many of the places where these huts stood. A crucifix in Westminster cathedral is made from the Cross that stood next the Westminster Hut. Next time you are there I think you can see it on the wall in the gift shop.

The huts are now all gone and few people would remember or know of the work those ladies did during the two wars. But the work, like the work of the Church we are all called to do, didn’t stop with the last hut. No, as the huts were closed and the land sold, the money was put to good use and is still being used today. The CWL Service Committee works closely with the Catholic Bishop to the Forces to help anyone connected to the forces, who is in need. Beds, wheel chairs and school books have already been provided. During the most recent war in Afghanistan the committee was asked to provide flip-flops and shorts for injured soldiers who they heard only has combat boots to wear while recover from leg wounds.

As Ezekiel said in our first reading, there is a river that flows from our Church, and where that river passes there is life. The ladies who built and staffed that first hut almost 100 years ago, built the Church their world needed, and where they passed they brought life. The ladies who manage the Service Committee today are building the Church our world needs and their work brings life. You are a stone in that same Church. What are you building for the world today and where will you bring life to today’s world.



Homily Index

Praying with New Media

Diocesan Pastoral Council 

Praying with New Media




http://www.universalis.com   -  Universalis, Catholic calendar
The prayer of the church, the Divine office. This is the most used app on my phone and iPad. I use it to easily access the divine office which is a lovely way to pray. I also use it as a missal for weekday and Sunday Mass.  You can build iBooks for reading on kindle and other devices. Available on android, iOS, PC and Mac.

Pray as you go  -  pray-as-you-go.org

My current favourite app delivers Podcasts daily to your phone, 10mins of music, reflections and scripture to guide you in your prayer. Available on iOS and android, as well as a podcast and website.

twitter.com

Twitter is a micro social medial site. It allows people to share 140 character messages and photos with the world. It's very ego centric as you collect followers. However it is a great source of news, inspiration and a way to profess your faith. You can follow parishioners, evangelists, bishops and the Pope. If you want you can follow me @JohnCScanlon  If you follow me you can look at who I follow 50% are Christian tweeters  you may want to follow.

Facebook.com

Similar to twitter but you collect friends instead of followers and you are not limited to 140 characters. Facebook allows friends, families and communities to share things going on in their lives. Why not share your faith or be inspired by other sharing theirs. Many organisations have quality Facebook pages. Look at the CWL page.

Pray traditional prayers in a different way

Just search the apps stores or google for the prayers you are looking for. I particularly like iRosary and StationsOfTheCross, but there are lots out there.

iRosary: This rosary app allows you to pray with a beautiful app giving you all the words of each prayer so if you don't know this prayer forwards, backwards and sidewinders the app will lead you through it easily. It's a wonderful way to spend the train ride between Parkway and Swindon.
StationsOfTheCross: This app leads you through the Stations of the Cross with reflections and images.

Confession apps - iConfess

A few years ago every news station was carry news of confession apps. These are not tools to let you confess without a priest but are preparation tools. They give you a chance to reflect on what you want to talk about in confession and if you like they will remind you while you are in confession. You might get a strange look but then again you might not the priest I first used is app with was very interested and we had a good chat about it after the sacrament of reconciliation.

Free candle app - Free Candle

I like the simplicity of this app. All it does is display a burning candle on the screen, but in an office you probably can light a candle and this can give you something to focus on.

Blogs and websites

My blog can be found at www.deaconjohn.co.uk on it you will find homilies I have preached and articles on things I feel the need to write about. Many Christians, deacons, religious, priests and bishops blog or run web sites. Your parish probably has a web site. Visit them often if you like, the authors can see the numbers of people visiting and your visit encourages them to keep writing. Learn to comment on them if they allow it and encourage those authors proclaiming The Lord.

Vatican.va is the Vatican website where you can follow news from the Vatican and get access to all the papal documents and council documents. A book of the documents from Vatican II would cost you £10 but they are all free on this site. There are also Vatican.va apps which enable access to all the same content.

A Bible

I have used pocketsword for a long time but there are lots of other. Pocket sword lets you have multiple translation and commentaries. Really useful if you are leading anything and get a difficult question as you can search the passage and then check several translation and several commentaries to help you answer. You have to download the different bibles separately, many are free but some have to be paid for.

There are many bible apps out there find one that works for you.
Also consider a kindle or ebook, or the kindle app. That way you can buy an electronic copy of the bible to read. I would recommend a reading bible like The Message which is a little different in language terms to the bible readings you hear at church. Unfortunately I haven’t found a CTS bible electronically yet.

Also, consider an mp3 version of the bible. You can listen to this while sitting on the bus, driving to work or walking the dog. The bible has a verbal tradition; it's been written to be heard.

Homily 28th Sunday Ordinary Time Year A - The heavenly banquet.

Homily (sermon)
The Heavenly Banquet

Readings for the twenty eighth Sunday of Ordinary Time Year A:
Isaiah 25:6-10, Psalm 22, Philippians 4:12-14,19-20, Matthew 22:1-14

[All these readings can be found at www.universalis.com for the next few weeks. Remember to scroll down for the readings of the day.]

We are invited today to banquet of rich food and fine wine. A banquet that will be held on God’s mountain. At this banquet death and shame will be lifted from us, our sadness turned to joy, our tears wiped away. We will live like Adam and Eve in paradise. We are today invited to share heaven with God.

Do you like the sound of that?

Do you think you will RSVP to that invitation?

Will you go to the banquet?

Jesus was very worried that we wouldn’t come, that we would lose our way and get distracted. That this world would get in the way, that we wouldn’t believe the invitation. So he told the priests and elders a couple of parables. In the first parable the king calls those invited to the banquet but they don’t come and even worse attack the kings messengers. That’s easy to interpret, it’s aimed at Gods chosen people Israel, as they turn their back on God and don’t accept his invitation. Then wonderfully God offers the invitation to everyone, to us the gentiles, we are now able to come to Gods heavenly banquet.

The second parable strikes me much harder, I don’t like it. It seems unfair. The people now come and enjoy the banquet, but one man isn’t wearing a wedding garment and just because of his clothes is thrown out. That scares me as I want to be at that banquet, I want to stay at that banquet, I don’t want to be thrown out. How do I ensure I wear the right clothes?

Well the clothes represent your life, or at least your life since accepting the invitation, your life since you accepted the gift of grace. Your clothes and your life are washed white at baptism, kept clean by the life you lead and the sacraments, particularly reconciliation and the Eucharist.

We all do wrong, we all sin, we all ruin the clothes we will wear to the banquet. God knows that, which is why he never stops forgiving, never stops showering us in grace. By accepting his grace we become responsible for our lives, we must try and live lives worthy of that grace, to be proud and grateful for the clothes God has given us. Clothes that through Grace, are so easy to clean so easy to repair.

The next question is then what should I be doing in my new clothes. Well today’s psalm can help, psalm 22, is one of my favourites. It’s often read at baptisms and speaks wonderfully of the lifelong protection God provides. Today the last verse has stood out for me, I have often drawn comfort from the line, “Surely goodness and kindness shall follow me all the days of my life.” But today I read it differently; today I found a challenge it that line. Maybe it means I am challenged to provided goodness and kindness all of my days, it follows me because I am supposed to leave a trail of goodness and kindness. If I dwell with the lord, my life is His, I have a responsibility to live a life filled with the grace he has given me. When I fail I can always turn back to Him and always be forgiven, but when I succeed what differences can I make to this damaged world, how can I do my bit to help Gods kingdom come, on earth as it is at the banquet on that mountain in heaven.



Homily Index

Homily 19th Sunday Ordinary Time Year A - Courage! It is I!

Homily (sermon)
Courage! It is I!

The Readings for the Nineteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time Year A:
1 Kings 19:9, 11-13 - Psalm 84 - Romans 9:1-5 – Matthew 14:22-33

[All these readings can be found at www.universalis.com for the next few weeks. Remember to scroll down for the readings of the day.]


It is not easy to respond to or even hear the call of God. The call can get lost in all the noise and activity of our daily lives. Then if we do hear His call, will we have the courage to respond, the courage as Peter did, to step out of the boat.

As I said a few weeks ago I am proud of this community, I am proud of the changes I have seen over the last 3 years, I am proud of what you do and how you do it. I think you are an example in this diocese and in this country. You have embraced the challenges presented by parishes in communion and are thriving and growing. I love being here, I love serving here, I love being part of this parish. You should all be proud of what you have achieved these last few years.

Now as I look out at the faces I know and love I am excited to see what you will be called to do, and what, with Christ’s help you will do next.

I can think of a thousand challenges for you. You could read here at church, teach at our children’s liturgy, arrange flowers, clean, prepare for Mass, welcome, sing, lead bible study, join one of the committees and arrange social events or our liturgy, you could lobby parliament or large corporates for justice, you could invite your neighbours to church events, you could feed the homeless and support to poor, you could raise money and pay off the debts of this church, you could do so many things but what you should do first, is listen to God. He actually knows what he wants you to do, and I recommend you try and find out what that is and give it a go.

Elijah, spent a night alone in a cave waiting for God.  In the morning Elijah listened not to the mighty wind, not to the earthquake, not to the fire, but to the gentle breeze. If you are too hear God in our big and noisy world you need to find quiet, you need to find time alone, you need to listen to the voice no louder than the breeze. The strange thing is once you start to listen that voice, the still and quiet voice has the power to be heard above the loudest of storms.

Take for example Peter and the disciples on the boat in the storm. They were able to hear His voice in the storm, “Courage! It is I! Do not be afraid.” Peter in response to our Lords call, stepped from the boat and walked upon the water.

Could you do that? Would you do that?

I have no idea what our Lord will ask of you, I don’t know if it will be easy or hard, I don’t know if you have the skills and abilities to do it, but I do know, I do believe, I do have absolute faith that if God asks you to do something, with his help you will be able to do it.

Peter soon got scared by the winds and started to slip below the water, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if that started to happen to you when you start to do something new for the Lord. Few if any of us have the faith to move mountains by asking them to move. Few if any of us would feel we had the faith to step out on a lake and walk across it. And none of us could achieve even the smallest thing for God, if God wasn’t involved.

I want you to listen to God. Pray to Him and ask Him what He is asking you to do. Listen, listen and keep listening. He might not tell you immediately, you might not hear Him immediately. God shouted at me for 30 years before I heard the first whisper.

Once you start to hear, don’t panic. Once you start to think I should be doing something about this or that, I should be helping here or there. That’s when you start to pray for the strength, for the faith, for the gifts to do what’s being asked. That’s when you start to talk to your friends, the people in the pews next to you, Fr Frank and Fr Jim, even me. God may be telling us the same thing or just to help you. Once you start and things start going wrong cry out for help and I promise you, Jesus will reach down and pull you up, just as he puller Peter from the lake.

We are called to be a people of hope, a people of action, a people of God, a people who are called by God to serve. In three years’ time when you next hear these readings what will God have asked you to do and what will you being doing with God.

Homily 16th Sunday Ordinary Time Year A - End of Times

Homily (Sermon) - End of Times

I don't always get to preach but I always get to listen to a homily, often more than one. This week I was chatting to a good friend about the homily she was preparing and was really interested in what she was preparing. She is a great preacher and has kindly agreed to let me publish her work here. I am particularly grateful as this weeks gospel follows on directly from last weeks, and I think this homily is a good lesson for us all and follows on well from my homily from last week. So here is Christine Butler's wonderful homily on this Sunday's Gospel. If you have any comment's please let me know and I'll make sure they get get back to Chris.
Thanks Chris.

The Readings for the Sixteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time Year A:
Matthew 13:24-43
[All these readings can be found at www.universalis.com for the next few weeks. Remember to scroll down for the readings of the day.]

Many of us are not happy about talking or thinking about judgement and end times, it seems to have gone out of fashion, a bit too uncomfortable maybe, but today's reading asks us to do just that and it is not something we should shy away from debating and discussing.  This is the second parable Jesus told using a pastoral theme – because Jesus knew his audience, many of them would have been workers in the field and would totally understand the example – but maybe not so much the meaning.

Unlike the last parable of the sower there are 2 sowings in this parable, the good wheat sown during the day by the good sower and the bad weed which is sown under the cover of darkness when all were asleep, by his enemy. Both grew up together and were not distinguishable from each other.  It is likely that the weed was Darnell, weeds that at first looked just like wheat and were impossible to separate until the ears of the wheat appeared – just as we cannot always tell good from evil until the fruit is seen.  Darnell is poisonous and leads to symptoms of drunkenness and possibly death if ingested, but it is not a disaster, it won’t ruin the whole crop, there is hope.

Jesus says the weeds will be collected and ultimately be destroyed before the good grain is harvested.  The weed will be burned, evil will be defeated and removed. Only then will the good fruit be harvested and stored.

We do live in an imperfect world and we can’t prevent that, we can’t rid the world of evil, indeed we cannot always see which is evil.  If we watch the news how many of us can understand the crisis in Israel and Palestine, people try and blame one side or the other and declare that they are evil, but the conflict is so deeply rooted how can we decide who is the protagonist and who the defender, who is wheat and who the weeds.

If we look closer to home who can claim our church is perfect, it is not the shining example we would wish to be, nowhere is, but Jesus is making it clear it is not up to us to judge, whether that is world issues or things happening in our local church.  But we can live as faithfully as possible and produce good fruit, Jesus promises there will be a harvest, evil must pay the price for it actions.  

So this parable is not comfortable but it is an important reminder to continue to produce good fruit, Jesus promises hope for the future, the harvest is secure.  WE can trust the Jesus is good, our king and continue to follow him but we shouldn't try and tame him as Mr beaver says in the Lion the witch and the wardrobe when Lucy asks isn't Aslan safe.
 “Safe?” said Mr Beaver; Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn't safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”
We can trust that Jesus is good, the king, our role is to follow him, produce good fruit and continue to trust.



Homily Index

Homily Pentecost Year A - Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life

Homily (Sermon) – Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life.

The Readings for Pentecost:
Acts 2:1-11
Psalm 103
1 Corinthians 12:3-7, 12-13
Sequence
John 20:19-23

[ All these readings can be found at www.universalis.com for the next few weeks. Remember to scroll down for the readings of the day.]

Today we celebrate Pentecost the giving of the Holy Spirit, as power as tongues of fire, as gentle as Christ’s breath. A gift for the disciples and every Christian who has followed in their footstep, A gift to everyone here. As with any gift you have to decide what to do with it. You have received this gift from God. Have you put it to good use or have you left it unused at the back of the proverbial wardrobe.

When I was in formation for the deaconate, we spent a weekend away in Salisbury studying Canon Law. That weekend I remember Gail, my wife, wasn’t able to come with me and I was feeling a little lonely. The subject though necessary wasn’t inspiring me and all the questions about whether I was really called to the deaconate were running round my head.

On Saturday night we met in the chapel, a beautiful room on the top floor of the building we were staying in. David who was in his last year of formation was leading prayers that evening, he greeted us with the following words, “I thought you would like to know that as we gather together on this Pentecost evening, we are gathering in an upstairs room, and there are 12 men and their wives.”

It was a simple moment but a profound one for me. That was one of the moment’s in my life when I physically experienced the touch of the Holy Spirit. My questions and my prayers about my calling received an answer. “Yes, you are called, follow me.”

At Pentecost Christ gave the apostles the gift of the Holy Spirit, you have that same gift, I have that same gift. Our difficultly is often working out what we are called to do with it. Pope Francis wants us to be a people of the risen Christ, filled with love and joy. A people ready to embrace and care for the world. A people to take Christ’s message to the world. You are called to do just that.

We can learn a lot from the Jewish traditions that the first Easter and Pentecost were part of. The saving act of Christ’s death and resurrection at Easter was at the time of passover, the celebration of God saving the Jewish people from slavery in Egypt. Christ completed that act by saving everyone from sin and death.

There are 7 weeks, 50 days, between Easter and Pentecost. There are seven weeks between Passover and Shavuot, the Jewish festival of weeks. During this time the Jewish people studied the Law of Moses, the Law given to them by God to guide them and protect them. At the end of the seven weeks they celebrated Shavuot, the celebration of God giving them the Law on Mount Sinai. We celebrate Easter for 50 days, we live and study with the risen Christ, we prepare for our sending into the world as the disciples were sent on the Pentecost morning.

One tradition of Shavuot is that men would gather together to study the law all night without sleep. It was also a festival of pilgrimage when people would journey to Jerusalem. You can start to see the background of the Pentecost readings we know so well. As the disciples gathered together after all that had happen, years of travelling, preaching and miracles with Jesus, His death, His resurrection, His ascension. They reflected on his teaching, the Law, their calling, what they were going to do next. In the midst of this Christ’s appeared and gave them the Holy Spirit. The gift given to every Christian. The gift that enables us to work for Christ, to work as Christ in today’s world.

They poured onto the streets and started their work immediately. All who heard them heard them understood them. That’s a message for us today, we have to speak in a way that will be understood. One of my favourite quotes is attributed to St. Francis of Assisi, “Preach the gospel everyday and when necessary use words.” Being understood isn’t really about language. If you want to teach those close to you about love, then love them. If you want to teach about joy, then be joyful. If you want to teach about charity then give, if you want to teach about peace then be a peacemaker, if you want to teach about Christ then be Christ, be a Christian.

I ask you today, not to pray for the Holy Spirit to come, because He is always with you, but to pray for the strength to go out into the world with the Holy Spirit. God is calling you, Christ is sending you, the Holy Spirit is with you. Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life.


Homily Index

Godspell at Ashfield Prison

I am often amazed at some of the wonderful places I get to go and some of the wonderful things I get to experience. It’s not always the big events that amaze me, sometimes it’s the small things. Today I was surprised and filled with joy and laughter by a play. The inmates at Ashfield Prison in Pucklechurch were putting on a version of Godspell and Gail and I had been invited along with a few dozen members of our parish and some of the locals from Pucklechurch.

I don’t really know what I was expecting, but I was amazed by what we experienced. The afternoon and the show was completely God filled from start to finish. The warmest welcome you could hope to receive, smiles and jokes, friendly faces. The show itself was fun, the actors and singers had so much enthusiasm you genuinely laughed at every bad joke. You clapped with every song. You grinned all the way through. I loved it and I want to thank everyone cast and crew, directors and supporters, guards and prisoners for everything they did. They made a windy and rainy afternoon very special.

I have spent the rest of the day writing a homily for tomorrows Sunday Mass. The readings are all about hearing Gods voice and entering His kingdom. This afternoon sitting in the audience watching the show I could clearly hear His voice, I felt at home. I love my God, I love the vocation He’s called me to, and I love some of the wonderful experiences you get to share as part of the family of God.
Amen.

Homily 4th Sunday of Easter Year A - In the Lord's own house shall I dwell

Homily (Sermon) – In the Lord's own house shall I dwell

The Readings for forth Sunday of Easter year A:
Acts 2:14,36-41
Psalm 22
1 Peter 2:20-25
John 10:1-10

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

I think we have lost our ability to fully recognise all of the love and caring in our readings today. We hear a lot about sheep in the bible but very few of us keep sheep anymore. The people these stories were originally told too were farmers or friends of farmers. They knew about animals; they knew about sheep and how they behaved. They knew the value of a sheep, the wool, the milk and the meat. They cared for their sheep because without wool, milk and meat their families would be cold and hungry. They knew that most of the time sheep can’t look after themselves, the threats from wolves and other predators were too great.

To look after sheep you need to keep them safe at night, you need to take them to food and water if you want good wool and milk. If you look after your sheep they will trust you, follow you, knowing that the next meal or the next sheltered night will be provided. But sheep are also fickle; they wander off, go astray and get lost. They get distracted by much of the world around them and what doesn't distract scares and panics them. Looking after sheep is a full time job particularly for a shepherd 2000 years ago.

You my sisters and brothers are loved and valued sheep, as am I. You live in a world that distracts you and scares you. You are happy to wander off and get distracted. You are often worried or even scared by the world around you and may often feel alone and confused.  Ours is a world still filled with predators, ours is a world where we very much need to run to our shepherd.

You are asked today to listen, to listen for the voice of your shepherd. You are asked today to follow the voice you know. You are invited today to enter the kingdom of God, you are shown the door, His name is Jesus.

Today’s readings are not meant to be complex theology. They are presented as a simple picture. You are loved, you will be kept safe, you are welcome. God’s house has been built for you.

So why do we sometimes find it so difficult to walk through the door?

I think the reason is that like sheep we are too distracted by the world we live in. Work, family, hobbies and sometimes even Church get in the way of walking up to and through that door.

We miss that wonderful voice in all the noise of the world. You don’t need quiet to hear Jesus’ voice shouting “Follow me, here I am, come this way”, but you do need to be listening.

Just yesterday afternoon I heard that voice. I heard it singing and laughing and joking. I heard it shouting the good news. I heard it at Ashfield Prison in Pucklechurch. The prisoners there were putting on the show Godspell and Gail and I were lucky enough to be invited. We received such a warm welcome along with several dozen other visitors, we watched such a great show and through it you could hear, if you were listening the voice of God saying “through me you are saved, through me is home, through me is joy.” It seems strange to say that I really felt at home in a prison but with Jesus there how could it not be home?

Are you looking for peace, for quiet, for love, for joy, for safety, for rest, for company, for inspiration? Then you need to start by listening. He is everywhere; I assure you, He is calling your name right now. Soon enough you will hear that wonderful voice calling you, soon enough you will see the gate, soon enough you’ll pass through that gateway, pass through Jesus Christ Himself and enter His home.

Today’s Psalm is the perfect listening prayer, the perfect image of our true home. I don’t know where you will next hear His voice, His call, but I hope it’s soon, maybe it now. Pickup today’s psalm, psalm 22, read it again, picture your true home and listen. I promise you, He is calling your name, He is calling you home.



Homily Index

Homily Palm Sunday Year A - Preparing for Easter

Homily (Sermon) – Preparing for Easter

The Readings for Palm Sunday year A:
Matthew 21:1-11
Isaiah 50:4-7
Psalm 21
Philippians 2:6-11
Matthew 26:14-27:66
[ All these readings can be found at www.universalis.com for the next few weeks.]


Our Lenten time of preparation is almost over. How has your Lent been? Are you prepared? Are you ready?

We have been preparing for Easter, but what does that really mean?

Can you tell me what you have been preparing for, what you are ready for? Can you tell me what you are going to do next Sunday and beyond?

If you are struggling with any of those questions then you are not alone. I don’t yet feel prepared. I am not entirely sure what will be different next Sunday. Luckily we still have a week to ponder these questions and a lot can happen in a week. A lot happend to Jesus in a week.

Today is Palm Sunday. Today Jesus entered Jerusalem to the jubilant cries of the Israelite people. They carpeted His way with palm leaves, welcoming their King; they called to Him to save them. The more educated of them would have recognised His entrance into Jerusalem as the same way the Maccabee’s were greeted when they reclaimed and purified the temple after it desecration.

He rode upon a donkey; this was not as we might assume a humble act, but it was a declaration of intent. Kings would ride a horse to war but a donkey if they were coming in peace. Jesus came to declare peace, to purify and reclaim world, He came as the King, worshiped and adored by tens of thousands as he entered the city and only six day later he was killed as a common thief and not one of his friends lifted a finger to help.

We are entering into the most holy time of the year, Holy Week. We are invited to travel with Christ. Today we see him enter the city of Jerusalem. Thursday we will sit down to the Passover meal with Him. Friday we will stand at the foot of His cross. We will watch Him die. Saturday we will morn. As the sun sets on Saturday evening we will gather together to watch for the return of His light, then we will rejoice for He is Risen. This journey is emotional; it’s a time to grow closer to your God who died for you. It’s the final steps of your preparation.

Pope Francis challenges us an Easter people, a people of the risen Christ. We have to prepare in Lent to be that Easter people. We spend time in prayer, we spend time giving charitably, we spend time fasting, we spend time preparing, preparing for Easter. Not for one Easter Mass, not for one day, not for 50 days, No! We spend time preparing to be the people of Christ, the people of the risen Christ, the people of light and hope and love. We have been saved; rejoice. We have been saved; Worship and thank Him. We have been saved; go out into the world and save others.

Don’t get stuck in Lent. Don’t get stuck in guilt. Don’t get stuck!

Start thinking now, what you will do as an Easter person.

How will you celebrate, live, teach, serve, love? How will you respond to the challenge of your Pope? How will you respond to the call of your God? Try and do something new, it doesn’t have to be big, just new and Easter filled.

We will be celebrating the Stations of the Resurrection during Eastertide this year at Our Lady of Lourdes. In the same way that the Stations of the Cross let us journey with Christ to his death, so the Stations of the Resurrection let us journey with the risen Christ from his resurrection.

Fill yourself this Easter with joy. Fill yourself with light. Fill yourself with Love. Fill yourself with Life. Fill yourself till you overflow. Christ won all those things for you that first Easter weekend.

Our Lenten time of preparation is almost over. I am beginning to think I am ready to be an Easter person. How ready are you?

2014 Diaconal Retreat


A wonderful, spiritual and and relaxing time was experienced by the diaconal family at the start of March. The annual retreat at Ammerdown was arrange by Vincent and Rosemary Woods. Our retreat leader was Dom Michael Clothier, a Benedictine monk from Downside, who provide challenge and inspiration. All present are very grateful to Dom Michael, Vincent, Rosemary and everyone at Ammerdown for a great weekend.

The weather which has done little but rain this year changed for us as well, bright sunshine even to the point of need sun glasses, although few of us had them.

Many if not all of the diaconal family present lead very busy lives in work, family and parish activities. The chance to spend a little time with each other and God really helps us in our ministry. We had a chance to stop, to enjoy quite, to pray together, to celebrate mass together, to discuss our experience and receive or offer advice and support.

For Gail and I it reminds us just how privileged we are to be part of this family and how much fun it is to catch up with them again.


Homily 1st Sunday in Lent Year A - Repent and believe in the Gospel

Homily (Sermon) – Repent and believe in the Gospel

The Readings for First Sunday in Lent
Genesis 2:7-9,3:1-7
Psalm 50
Romans 5:12-19
Matthew 4:1-11
[ All these readings can be found at www.universalis.com for the next few weeks.]

There can be little doubt from our readings today that we have entered the season of Lent.

Lent is a time to repent, a time to be reconciled, a time to say sorry, a time to make your life right with God.

Adam and Eve got it wrong. We all have that ability. As a race we have continually turned away from God and done wrong. We trick ourselves sometimes into thinking we are doing the right thing or the there is nothing really wrong with our actions. We desire and lust after things and people; we are greedy and gluttonous; we are lazy, and angry and envious; we are selfish and full of pride. We all too often pander to our own desires and forget to give, to love, to serve. Like Adam and Eve we get it wrong, like every human, we get it wrong. Sorry not every human. Christ was human and he got it right.

In today’s gospel we find Christ in the wilderness. He is fasting and praying, He is preparing for the His ministry. We can learn a good lesson here. Christ gave us His ministry; fasting and prayer are a good ways to prepare to do His work.

After 40 days He is visited and tempted by the devil. It is his strengths that are tested, His ability to perform miracles and His relationship with His Father. You may be tested too; your strengths may be where you are at your weakest. Christ never used His gifts for himself, only for others. What do you use your strengths and gifts for?

This Lent is a time to remember what Christ went through for us, not just his 40 days in the wilderness but his entire life. Christ came to visit us, to live with us, to love us and serve us; this lent remember that. Christ came to teach us; this lent remember that. Christ came to die for us, to die because of everything you and I do wrong. Every desire I indulge, every lie I tell, every good deed I am too lazy to do, every prideful moment I boast of is one more hammer blow on the nails in his hands and in his feet.

Christ death is because of me. Lent is a time to realise that. Lent is a time to slow those hammer blows. Lent is a time to say sorry, to make it right with God.

Maybe for you Lent is a time to feed your soul on Scripture. Pick up your bible and read. Follow the life that was given for you in any of the Gospels. See what the Apostles did after Christ’s resurrection in Acts. Learn from the letters of Paul, Peter, John or Jude. Look forward with John’s vision in revelations. Look back at the salvation history of the Jews, the law, the wisdom and the prophetic writing of the Old Testament.

Maybe for you Lent is a time of prayer. A time to talk with God, a time to place your worries and cares before him, a time to intercede for others, a time to plead for yourself and your world to you creator.

Maybe for you Lent is an active time. A time to serve. A time to do good deeds. A time to give of yourself and of your wealth. A charitable time.

I hope for you Lent is a time for preparation. You have 40 days to make thing right with God, 40 days to be ready to celebrate his resurrection. To be ready for Easter.

Easter is a glorious time, a wonderful time, a time of light and hope. Easter is not one day, or just 8 days, or even 40 days. Easter is a lifetime. Easter is the life we are called to lead. Pope Francis wants us to be an Easter people, a people who bring light and hope and the message of Christ to the world. We need look into our hearts during this lent and understand what is wrong. We need to bring that wrongness to Christ and let him heal us. We need to embrace the Easter journey, the last supper, the prayer at Gethsemane, the arrest, trial, execution and resurrection of Christ. We need to be ready after this lentern time to take Christ’s joy out into the world.

Decide how you are to prepare yourself this Lent, do it well, and make sure you are ready to live the life your Pope is asking you to live. Prepare yourself to live the Easter Life.






Homily 5th Sunday Ordinary Time Year A - The Light of the World

Homily (Sermon) – The light of the world

The Readings for Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Isaiah 58:7-10
Psalm 111
1 Corinthians 2:1-5
Matthew 5:13-16
[ All these readings can be found at www.universalis.com for the next few weeks.]

There are days when it is so difficult to shine.

Days or weeks when life seems to be too much, when everything is against you.

There can be months or years of illness, poverty and sadness in life.

That’s not the message of today’s gospel but it is sometimes the picture of the world it is being preached to.

I have had a week at work where everything went wrong.

I have a best friend who is sacred and waiting for a cancer operation. My uncle and God father is in hospital after a serious heart attack.
My family and friends get sick, grow old. We lose those close to us.

Mary, a great friend of my mum in Ireland is probably in her last few days a life, and the distance between here and Ireland make it very difficult to give my mum a hug. Those close to me are tired, scared, and worried.

I though today’s reading were going to be easy to preach on. Yet I found myself this week unable to write a single word every time I tried to prepare. How can you be the light of the world when you feel the darkness so much sometimes? How can you shine when all around is dark?

The truth is, that the smallest amount of light at those times makes the biggest difference. Let me show you….

[Lights off in church. Light a candle.]

And one light in the darkness can inspire others.

[Light a second and third candle from the first.]

No one ever told me following Christ was going to be easy. But there are times when I don’t expect it to be so difficult, so much hard work, so much tiredness, so much darkness.

When I was baptised there was a candle burning, the Pascal candle, the light of Christ. That light because of my baptism is burning in my heart. I am called to not just let that light shine when I am happy, joyful and content, but I am called to make that light shine when I am tired, scared, lonely, angry and in the dark.

I am called to make that light shine in the darkness.

The same light was burning at your baptism. That same light burns in every heart in this room. This room is ablaze with the light of Christ, your light.

Take that light out into the darkness of our world.

Feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, cloth the naked, comfort the sad and the sick. Treasure your friends and family.

Be Christ in this world.

You are the light of the world, no one, no darkness can hide you, go and shine in the world out there, go and be the example that draws the world to God.




Homily 2nd Sunday Ordinary Time - Baptism

Homily (Sermon) – Baptism

The Readings for Second Sunday in Ordinary Time
Isaiah 49:3,5-6
Psalm 39
1 Corinthians 1:1-3
John 1:29-34
[ All these readings can be found at www.universalis.com for the next few weeks.]

I love the fact that our community of churches works together in the way it does. The idea of visiting each other on this weekend is fantastic. It’s the second time I have been invited here and I am full of joy at being able to come back.

I am a deacon at Our Lady of Lourdes, just 100 yards in that direction. I am a Catholic and am proud to say did most of my theological study at the Wesley Methodist College. The readings we have heard today are the same readings that would have been read at Catholic services around the world today and also at services in a lot of other denominations. The Gospel reading is about Baptism, the sacrament that unites all Christian denominations. We all believe that Baptism is the welcome into the Church; it’s the point at which we become Christian.

The one odd thing about our Gospel today is that it’s Jesus who is Baptised. There has only been one man who didn’t need the gifts of baptism, and that was Jesus. As John describes the Baptism in today’s Gospel we realise that one reason for Jesus’ baptism was to show John, and the people, who Jesus was. The Holy Spirit descending from heaven and resting on Him, was confirmation for John the Baptist, that this was the Christ. The man and God he had been sent to pave the way for. The other reason we hear about Jesus’ baptism is that we now share it. Christ’s baptism was for us. As John baptised Jesus with water, Jesus now baptises us with the holy spirit. We share Christ’s baptism.

Baptism mean plunge, Christ was fully immersed in the Jordon. This descent into the water and return to the air, is the journey we share with Christ, as he died on the cross, descended into hell, defeated death and rose again to eternal life. Because baptism is a moment we really share with Jesus, we share in Christ’s death and in His victory over death.

Pope Francis over the last two weeks has been speaking about baptism. He challenged all the people who gather in St Peter’s square last week to remember or find out the date they were baptised, the date on which their Christian journey started. An important date and one which I think all too many of us, including myself, either forget or don’t know. I offer you today that same challenge, if you don’t know the day you were baptised try and find out and celebrate that day. Celebrate your Christian life.

Baptism frees us from sin. It's not a magical spell that means we will never be naughty or bad again. But the gift of God's grace, a grace that will, through our whole life strengthen us to resist the bad things God hates and to do the good things God loves. Because of our baptism the Holy Spirit will live with us, and support us all our Christian life.

But what is a Christian life. It’s a life of service to our God and to our fellow man. William Temple, the Archbishop of Canterbury in the 1940’s once said, “The Church is the only organisation that does not exist for itself, but for those who live outside of it.” That’s a message worth remembering and acting on. Today we are reaching out of our individual Christian communities to other Christian communities, and while that is a great thing we are called to do more, we are called to reach further, to work for those who don’t know Christ, to serve them and show them Christ’s love.

Baptism is a gift, it’s a joy, it’s a moment shared with Christ that enables us to live a life filled with Christ’s joy. You, all of you, are brothers and sister of Jesus. Go out into the world and share that joy.