Our Lady of Mercy & St Joseph, Lymington

 

 

 

Fr David Adams Parish Priest and Co-Ordinating Pastor

Our Lady of Mercy & St Joseph

132 High Street, Lymington

Hampshire SO41 9AQ

Mass 10.30am every Sunday

All enquiries contact the Parish office: 

Telephone  01590 676696

Email: lymbrockmil@portsmouthdiocese.org.uk

office@lymbrockmil.org.uk

The parish of Our Lady of Mercy & St Joseph is part of the Catholic Diocese of Portsmouth.

Portsmouth Roman Catholic Diocesan Trust is Registered Charity 246871

 

PLEASE CONSIDER SUPPORTING THE PARISH FINANCIALLY WITH A REGULAR STANDING ORDER:

 

A/C NAME: “PRCDTR-LYMINGTON - OUR LADY”

A/C NUMBER: 00882225

SORT CODE: 30-93-04

 

ACKNOWLEDGING HYPOCRISY  29th August,

also for 5th,12th,19th September 2021

The first step in being freed from hypocrisy is having the humility to acknowledge that we are easily susceptible to this embarrassing fault. Jesus condemns malicious hypocrisy very severely and society not only condemns the sin but is pretty merciless towards the sinner as well. Regarding society in general this is hugely ironic because hypocrisy is rife at all levels of society and particularly in some sections of the media.

The societal and religious taboo around hypocrisy only makes the problem worse. Hypocrisy is all about the disconnect between what we portray to the world (outside) and what we are feeling, thinking, intending, scheming and planning on the inside. This covers a whole range of human situations from the innocent and trivial to the sinister and malicious. Babies are too naïve to be hypocritical but young children, without any malice or fault, learn very quickly how to manipulate their parents. From the polite smile masking inner irritation to the little white lie hiding an embarrassing experience, we are all skilled at masking our inner reality. Sometimes this is absolutely necessary for survival. But it is also a necessary strategy for those intent on evil.

Societal and religious judgement and condemnation make people afraid and encourage the presentation of our “acceptable side” and the hiding of those things that are disapproved of by self-appointed judges.

Clinging to human traditions while neglecting the really important things like justice, mercy and good faith usually begins in a fairly innocent place. We naturally latch onto the things we can control, the easy things, the little things, the things that don’t turn our lives upside down. The really important things can be very demanding. The bigger problems begin when this early religious naivety hardens into a fearful, self-preservation and self aggrandisement at the expense of others. This is when toxic corruption sets in. Jesus reserves his severest criticism for those who seek approval from others for appearing righteous while they are intentionally seeking above all personal advantage & power. But Jesus has compassion for those who must hide their true selves from the cruel judgements of the ignorant and prejudiced. (DMA)

EATING THE FLESH AND DRINKING THE BLOOD OF JESUS  (John chp.6) August 22nd 2021

I deliberately quote these words from John chapter 6 because we need to face them square on. As in the gospel, we find that these words are quite shocking and in some sense “intolerable”. This is deliberate because the truth of God is beyond all our expectations and is even offensive to our all too human ways of thinking and relating (Matt 16:23).

 

However, we must interpret these words in the light of everything else that we know and believe about God and Jesus. We must understand them in the broadest, most inclusive and most gracious way possible. This is perhaps what Jesus means when he says “the words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life. It is the Spirit that gives life, the flesh has nothing to offer” (John 6:63). Anything less leads to impossible contradictions. For example to link Jesus’s words exclusively to the reception of sacramental Holy Communion would automatically exclude the vast majority of humankind. It would even exclude all the baptised children who have not received their Holy Communion.

The first response to these words is given us by Sacred Scripture: Here we are told to feast on Divine wisdom; to devour God’s word, to accept the “bread” that God provides (Prov chp 9). In terms of Jesus this means fully accepting that in him God has indeed taken “flesh and blood”.

 

Basically “Eat the Incarnation”, fully accept and digest it because only then will we realise that the same life is in us. “Unless you eat the flesh, you cannot have life in you.” Accepting that God has taken on flesh and blood in Jesus means we can accept that God has taken flesh and blood in us. This is why eating and drinking is synonymous with believing (cfr. John 6:35).

Jesus, the spiritual artist, gave us a very simple, accessible ritual through which we can celebrate, embrace and receive this mystery of “God with us”. This mystery is, of course, a mystery of life, death and resurrection. Just as Jesus, on the Cross, is the expression of God’s forgiving, healing and reconciling love, so the Eucharist makes that sacrifice sacramentally accessible. In our frailty, vulnerability, sinfulness and unworthiness, God is with us making new life & resurrection possible.

 

When we “eat this Bread and drink this Cup” we are consciously receiving and celebrating our union with bread and wine, which is from creation, which is from Christ, the energy of Divine love, who is from God. Or to put it the other way: we are consciously receiving and celebrating our union with God in Jesus the Christ - in creation - in bread and wine. If God is at home with us, then we can accept ourselves in all the dimensions of our humanity: body, blood, soul and the divinity God shares with us. (DMA)

 

 1st August 2021

This reflection also covers the 8th & 15th August 2021

as Fr David is away at a family celebration on the 8th & 15th

THE HOLY EUCHARIST IN TWO WORLD VIEWS

PART TWO: OUR MODERN UNDERSTANDING OF THE UNIVERSE

Reality is what it is. Our philosophies and concepts are just words and thoughts that help us describe and to some extent understand reality. But they are not reality itself.

Aristotelian/Thomistic philosophy is no longer a generally accepted framework outside the Church. Its limitations are particularly evident regarding evolution, modern physics, biology & cosmology. It cannot accommodate the dynamic, relational understanding of reality which underpins evolution and every other sphere of knowledge today.

The Catholic Church has accepted the reality of evolution but it has not officially or culturally digested its implications. So many of its images, words, rituals and presumptions are still embedded in the medieval world. This results in a profound disconnect for any thinking person who is not content with keeping modern life and religion in separate “watertight” compartments.

The difference between our present world view and the medieval world view cannot be over-emphasised. It is massive in almost every sphere of knowledge. Now we know that everything is inter-related and inter-dependent. Reality is relational in its essence.( Incidentally this re-invigorates our appreciation of God as Trinity. God is relational by nature!) And just like our bodies the Universe is essentially “holographic”. Each recognisable element or part belongs to a greater “whole”.

 

God is in total harmony with God’s creation and so no laws of nature must be set aside or overridden. The whole of creation is a miracle of divine love and power. So, in terms of God’s relationship with us and the material world the Eucharist is in fact the most natural thing.

Everything is connected because everything has emerged from, and is held in being by, the Divine Energy. Jesus was consciously aware that he had “come from God”. He also knew everyone & everything else had the same source. He knew and believed that bread and wine belonged to the same physical world as his own flesh and blood. Together they share the same essence – the Divine energy. This relationship constitutes their reality. The Universe in its totality is already the living Body, Blood and Soul of God. As part of the Universe bread and wine, Jesus’s flesh and blood and our flesh and blood are all united, are all one in the same source. We are all “one body, one Spirit in Christ” (E.P. 3)

When we celebrate Eucharist the reality of bread and wine changes. We no longer see them as separate, isolated entities, as disconnected material elements. We see them (by faith) in their full relational reality. Bread and wine participate in the same Divine energy that brings into being the flesh and blood of all humanity, including Jesus. The words of the Liturgy reveal this true nature of bread and wine and thus also reveal our true nature and the true nature of everything. God is “through all, with all and in all” (Eph. 4:6) and God is “all in all” (1 Cor 15:28). DMA

THE HOLY EUCHARIST: IN TWO WORLD VIEWS

PART ONE: FROM MEDIEVAL TIMES UNTIL THE 19th CENTURY 25TH July 2021

From medieval times Catholic theology in the West was dominated by the work of St Thomas Aquinas (12th cent.) St Thomas adopted and improved the philosophical framework of Aristotle, the early Greek philosopher (4th cent BC). For Aristotle the “isness” of a thing, which he called the “substance” (not to be confused with chemical substance) is known by the “accidents”, the empirical, observable properties.

So, St Thomas affirmed (by faith) that when the bread and wine are consecrated at Mass the “isness” of the bread and wine is changed into the “isness” of the Body & Blood of Jesus the Christ. However, the “accidents” manifestly do not change, all the empirical evidence remains the same. For St Thomas, this was such a contravention of natural laws as he understood them, that it could only be explained as a miracle.

This contributed in in no small part, to the mystification of the Eucharist and the unhealthy emphasis on the “power” of the priest who alone could bring about this marvellous event. Another unintended consequence has been the objectification of the Eucharist. It came to be presented as a holy object to be preserved and worshipped and ritualised as if this was its the primary purpose. This only encouraged people NOT to receive Holy Communion and it deepened the sense of separation. If we cannot receive Holy Communion at least we can worship from afar.

This is completely contrary to the desire of Jesus who wants us to eat and drink and who has overcome all separation. He is Emmanuel “God with us”.

Many Catholics today have a physical understanding of the Eucharist which is not consistent with the theology of St Thomas. This distortion is particularly common among those who reject Vatican II and want to return to a medieval Catholic world.

St Thomas Aquinas teaches us that Jesus’s presence in the Eucharist is not a physical presence but a sacramental presence. He tells us that while the sacrament is present in many tabernacles around the world the presence of Christ is one and undivided. The sacrament might be taken in procession, but the presence of Christ does not move. The sacramental presence ceases when the physical elements lose their “sign” capability. So when the bread is no longer recognisable as bread, for example when the particles are too small, then sacramental presence ceases. When wine is so diluted as to no longer be recognisable as wine the sacramental presence ceases. St Thomas describes this as follows; it is like when a bird dies, God ceases to be the God of that creature.

Next time we will explore a different way of understanding the Eucharist that is more consistent with our current scientific understandings of the Universe. (DMA)

(Our Bishop has designated this year as one of special focus on the gift of the Holy Eucharist so we will devote a number of reflections to this very important aspect of our faith experience.)

 

NEXT PUBLIC MASS

 

As of 24th July our 3 churches will be open.

Saturday 6pm Our Lady of Mercy, Lymington

Sunday 9am St Francis of Assisi, Milford on Sea

Sunday 10.30am Our Lady of Mercy, Lymington

Sunday 6pm St Anne's, Brockenhurst

 

There is no longer a booking system.

We strongly recommend you wear a mask in church

Sanitize your hands

Sign in for Test n Trace by scanning the QR code on your NHS app

By easing up restrictions our churches, we can no longer guarantee that our premises are Covid secure any more.

 

Weekday Masses from 27th July will be

Tuesday OLMSJ  Lymington

Wednesday  St Francis Milford on Sea

Thursday St Anne's Brockenhurst

There will not be a Mass Monday (Father's day off),

Friday or Saturday.

DESTROYING HOSTILITY IN HIS OWN PERSON 18th July

 

A few centuries ago Christians were tearing themselves apart because of religious divisions. The mind-set or consciousness that reacts by fear, hostility, rejection and violence is never far from the surface even in our own "civilised" societies. The Catholic Church is divided again today between those who accept Vatican 2 and those who reject it. Divided between those who want to preserve clerical power as an exclusive celibate male domain and those who want the Church to open up ministry to all. Literal conflict may not have broken out but the war of words in the press and on social media is as toxic and hostile as ever. The situation gives still more credence to the view that this kind of religion really does produce nothing but oppression and conflict.

A new start is needed, a new consciousness has to arise, humanity has to move on or else we will destroy ourselves and the whole planet with us.

But isn’t this “new start” and “new humanity” precisely what Jesus has done? Our second reading could not put it more clearly. For he is the peace between us, and has made the two into one and broken down the barrier which used to keep them apart, actually destroying in his own body the hostility caused by the rules and decrees of the Law. This was to create one single New Humanity in himself.

 

After this religion can never be used as an excuse for or source of violence and hatred between peoples. Yet when we examine history it’s almost as if nothing happened at all. Is it because Christianity developed into just another competitive, even hostile religion like any other?

Rather than becoming a rival religion should Christianity have developed as a reconciling agent uniting all things in heaven and on earth and bringing everything together under Christ? Christ who stands not as another “name” or another competing deity but as the historical symbol of the Divine presence in everything and everyone.

But this is something that many so-called Christians cannot understand. They make the cross of Christ meaningless. Such a distortion of all that Jesus stands for just adds further weight to the secularists’ argument that this kind of religion is nothing but a threat to the human race. Paul suggests that Jesus would be in total agreement with that. He acknowledges that the Law was a cause of hostility.

Hostile religion begins with the security of the tribe but it ends with the bitterness of conflict. It’s the wide easy path to destruction. The hard narrow way of the cross means hostility has to be overcome within the person so that peace can be made outside. If we cannot transform our pain through love we will always transmit it in hate and anger. The way of peace is a hard road and few find it or are willing to pay the price for it. (DMA)

“GO, PROPHESY TO MY PEOPLE”  11th July

 

So it was that the outsider Amos used his talent for disturbing the peace. He went to the shrine of Bethel, which was the sanctuary of the king, a chapel royal. There he came face to face with Amaziah, the priest of Bethel. He was exasperated by the preaching of Amos and accused him of being disloyal - an old trick to discredit the prophet who opposes the status quo. The royal functionary telegrammed the king: “Amos is plotting against you…The land is unable to endure all his words.”

In today’s reading the priest tells the prophet to go home and leave the royal sanctuary in peace. Amos replies with the story of his own experience. He has never belonged to the official guild of prophets. He was a shepherd; now he is God’s spokesman. The single cause of this radical change was a compelling event: “The Lord took me.” To Amaziah’s command: “Go home”, Amos rejoins with God’s command: “Go, prophesy to my people Israel.”

Amos states simply that he did not become a prophet by self – appointment or by royal appointment; he was conscripted by God for the declared purpose of announcing his message. Therefore, he is not torn between two competing loyalties: his loyalty to the word of God has clear priority over any other loyalty in his life.

 

In today’s Gospel Jesus summons the twelve apostles and sends them out on a missionary tour. Like the prophet Amos, the chosen followers of Jesus have to carry the word of God as a challenge to others.

In that mission the apostles have the authority and the power of Jesus. They have to travel on that.

So, they are not to rely on their own resources but on the authority that has been given to them and the hospitality that will be offered them. With no bread and no money, they have to depend on the kindness of others: that vulnerability makes their message their real resource. If they have bread to eat, it means that people are not only hospitable to them but to the word they preach. If they are not accepted, they have no option but to move on. And when a town rejects their message, the apostles are to shake the dust from their feet – a symbolic act performed by strict Jews returning to Palestine after journeying abroad.

Both the prophets and the apostles have to rely on the authority and the power given to them. In taking to the road, they will test their message on foreign soil; they will see if their conviction can pass beyond the boundaries of national difference and personal indifference; they will discover if their vocation can survive the official stamp of disapproval. For it is not only the message that is being tested, it is the messenger.

This process continues every day in the life of the Church and the world – every time a preacher braces himself to declare the word of God, every time a Christian goes public on the values of the Gospel, every time any man or woman takes a stand against injustice.

(From Seasons of the Word by Denis McBride)

 

CONTENT WITH WEAKNESS 4th July 2021

 

Mark summarises the reaction of the Nazareth community to their fellow citizen: "And they would not accept him." For them, the sheer ordinariness of Jesus cancels out his new wisdom and works. Nothing kills like frozen familiarity. How does Jesus react to the locals? He says to them: A prophet is only despised in his own country among his own relations and in his own house.

This is a hard saying. The other evangelists soften it saying, "No prophet is accepted in his own country." In Mark's version Jesus is rejected by his own relations and by those in his own house. Mark has already told us that Jesus' relatives believe him to be out of his mind (3:21): now the rejection seems to be complete.

Jesus' experience of rejection in Nazareth renders him powerless to do any miracle among his own people. This is an extraordinary statement about the human Jesus: people’s lack of trust limits his ministry. Jesus is profoundly affected by the way people react to him. He is not a robot, programmed for flawless performance, indifferent to all responses. Distrust disables him. So he moves elsewhere, refusing to be enslaved by his failure to reach his own people. And he never returns to Nazareth again.

By coping with discouragement and failure, Jesus points beyond himself to the power of the Father. The cross of Jesus becomes the most striking symbol of weakness pointing beyond itself, beyond the brokenness of Jesus to the glory of the resurrection. New life emerges out of dereliction. This theme, so constant in the writing of Paul, is applied by the apostle to his own life.

 

Paul shares a very personal experience. He has come to learn that his own weaknesses are not a problem for God, as if God has no truck with poor achievers. Paul's human limitations, which refuse to go away, not only force him to be more realistic about himself, they also force him to change his image of God. Paul discovers through his own handicap that God's grace does work through human frailty: "So I shall be very happy to make my weaknesses my special boast so that the power of Christ may stay over me, and that is why I am content with my weaknesses...For it is when I am weak that I am strong."

Being content with our weaknesses is not an attitude that comes easy to most of us, educated to be content with nothing less than perfection. We might still suspect that God disassociates himself from those who are beaten down by their own limitations; but, like Paul, we have to learn that God isn't like that. Failure and human weakness give God immense scope to act out his own purposes.

Nazareth was the beginning of a new road for Jesus. Paul's thorn in the flesh was the occasion for a whole new way of looking at God and at himself. And we know from experience that when we admit our failures and limitations, that exercise in honesty can mark the beginning of a new understanding. If God can take failure in his stride, we might even end up boasting about God's fantastic style!

(From Seasons of the Word by Denis McBride)

 

HEALING SOCIETY FROM THE BOTTOM UP

June 27th 2021

 

The crowd gathered around Jesus, by the sea, is comprised mostly of the poor class of the day. The two main characters in this saga are from opposite classes. Shame and honour codes require different treatment of both. Jairus, a ruling class personage, approached Jesus as an equal. Contrast Jairus with the woman, an unclean, lower class personage. The woman is nameless she has no status. No one comes forward to defend her. Mark makes no bones about the serious nature of her poverty and illness. She has been treated poorly by doctors and has spent all her income trying to get well, but to no avail. She is an outcast's outcast.

The restoration of the woman is dramatic. According to the levirate law, she was permanently segregated from the community. Her blood disorder demanded it. She was not permitted to contaminate the community. Adding insult to injury, she was further abused by the very system that should have helped her-the medical community. In antiquity the poor who were in dire need of medical attention were often taken advantage of. The woman had spent everything she had and had nothing to show for her efforts. Jesus, the Great Physician, will cure her and charge her nothing. Jesus violates the purity code and his own purity by touching her, just as he did in the healing of the leper. Her healing signified restoration to physical wholeness as well as social wholeness. The healing restored her to the community.

Jairus came to Jesus out of a privileged social class that rejected him-not as a member of that class, but as an individual in great need. Jairus's plea was interrupted by an outcast woman who touched Jesus and subsequently fell at Jesus' knees to pay him homage. According to the culture, the official deserved greater attention and higher priority.

 

From the bottom of the honour scale she intrudes upon the daughter of someone on the top of the honour scale-but by the story's conclusion, she herself has become the 'daughter' at the centre of the story. “ Jesus elevated the woman to a status greater than Jesus' male disciples because she had faith greater than theirs.

Jesus continues on his first mission-to heal Jairus's daughter. The official mourning had already commenced. Mark highlights their disbelief. Jesus throws everyone out of the house. Jesus dismisses everyone but the parents of the girl and the disciples. He completes his mission, takes the girl by the hand, and restores her to life. The erudite symbolism of the moment is irresistible. The number twelve is of great significance.

The girl represents the twelve tribes of Israel. Mark's Jesus believes he is presiding at the collapse of the social order determined by Jairus's Judaism. The twelve-year-old daughter of privilege was dead. The woman with no privilege suffered for twelve years not only with the physical ailment, but with the effects of exclusive purity codes. She took the initiative to restore her status. She reached out to gain access. She sought freedom. Jesus responded to her initiative. Israel need only embrace the reign of God in their midst, thereby tearing down the walls of social and religious status. In the reign of God, all are welcome.

'This alone will liberate the lowly outcast and snatch the 'noble' from death. Mark's narrative of symbolic action thus achieves the same effect as Matthew's blunt announcement to the Jewish leaders that 'tax collectors and prostitutes are making their way into the kingdom of God before you' (Mt 21:3 1)-and with equal shock value"!

(source unknown)

 

FEAR IN A STORM     20th June 2021

In today's Gospel Jesus suggests to his disciples that they cross the lake to the other side. The sun has set; soon it will be nightfall. The pressing crowds are left behind, but what lies ahead is no picnic. The lake is normally calm, but because of its position - about seven hundred feet below sea level - it is subject to sudden windstorms, which sweep down from the surrounding hills, rush through the narrow gorges that break upon the lake, and whip up the saucer-like sea. This is what happens in today’s Gospel: the rapid change of weather causes the waves to break into the boat so that it starts to fill.

In the midst of this chaos Jesus is fast asleep on the small bench at the back of the boat, his head on a cushion. The disciples have no intention of letting Jesus doze through a disaster; the boat is sinking and, perhaps like most fishermen, the disciples cannot swim to save their lives. They wake Jesus with an accusation: "Master, do you not care? We are going down!" Jesus wakes up, rebukes the wind and commands the sea to be quiet. After rebuking the tempest Jesus rebukes his disciples for their large fear and little faith. In the midst of the calm there arises the central question about Jesus: "Who then is this?"

The question about Jesus' identity arises from seeing, what Jesus actually does. People begin to wonder about who Jesus is when they witness what he does. If everyone had been washed overboard, for example, the question would not have arisen. The question is posed; the answer, however, will be understood only after the resurrection.

We believe with St. Mark that the answer to the question "Who is this man?" is that he is the Son of God. That proclamation of the identity of Jesus is at the heart of our Christian creed. But the question remains whether our faith in Jesus will stay with us even during threat and danger and storm. The experience of the disciples on the Sea of Galilee is a graphic one: they feel all at sea, they feel up to their neck in difficulty, they feel powerless to withstand the environment of threat. For sure, their experience is not alien to us.

We believe that Jesus accompanies us on our journey to God, that he is "on board" with us. Sometimes, when we see such disorder and chaos around our world, we might wonder if Jesus has chosen to sleep through disaster - even though we know that his presence is no insurance against our own fear and anxiety. To journey with Jesus is to journey through storms, not around them. The peace of our Galilees will be disturbed. But we know that the disciples of Jesus went on to face shipwreck and hardship and rejection. Ultimately, many of them came face to face with a violent death and martyrdom. What kept them going is what keeps us going: a strenuous belief that Jesus is Lord of all chaos, a stubborn faith which tells us that there is no storm that will not be stilled at last by the peace of his presence.

In the meantime, we struggle on and hold on to our hats! (from Denis McBride - Seasons of the Word)

 

The Growth of the Kingdom 13th June 2021

 

In the first parable of today's Gospel Jesus compares the kingdom of God to what happens when seed is sown by a farmer. Once the seed is sown, the farmer waits for harvest time. The cycle of growth follows its own secret rhythm; how it all happens the farmer does not know. Even though nothing much seems to be happening, the miracle of growth is taking place. The farmer cannot improve the crop by staying awake at night and worrying; the seed is nurtured in its own silence. The harvest will not be rushed; neither will the kingdom of God be advanced by those restless for instant results. Just as the harvest comes in its own time, so the kingdom will reach its completion in God's appointed time. It is God's kingdom, not ours. In the second parable Jesus compares the kingdom to a mustard seed that grows into the largest shrub so that the birds of the air can shelter in its shade. In the ancient world the size of the mustard seed was a byword for the smallest and most insignificant thing anyone could imagine.

According to the Koran: "God will bring good and evil to light, even if they are no bigger than a mustard seed." In Jesus' parable the contrast is made between the smallness of the seed and the exuberance of its growth. Unremarkable beginnings can make for mighty achievements. Littleness is no index of importance. The small mustard seed grows to become a shelter for all the birds of the air.

It is worth noting that the phrase "birds of the air" was a traditional Jewish expression for the Gentiles, all the non-Jews. In today's first reading, for example, the prophet Ezekiel speaks of the universal openness of God's welcome in the image of the tree where all birds can find a resting place. Every kind of bird will live beneath it, every winged creature rest in the shade of its branches. Similarly in Jesus' teaching: the kingdom of God is open to all peoples. The greatness of the kingdom, which grows from such a small beginning, is for the benefit of all peoples; it is not the exclusive domain of any one flock.

When we think of the small beginnings of Jesus' ministry in Galilee to the spread of his message throughout the world, we can appreciate the vast growth that has taken place in history. The seed which Jesus planted has indeed grown: who could have guessed in Galilee in 27AD what would emerge from Jesus' ministry? From small beginnings – Jesus' preaching, his attention to the afflicted, his quiet transformations, his unusual company of followers – there did indeed arise the greatness of the kingdom of God.

God's work still continues, not only in the Christian churches but in people and places unknown and unrecognized by us. At the heart of the familiar God works in so many ways. His kingdom grows of its own accord; how, we do not know. This doesn't mean that we can be complacent, but it does save us from cynicism and despair. We have reason to rejoice in God' s work, that his kingdom still attracts and welcomes so many different people. We are part of that kingdom. And we shouldn't be surprised if we seem to be sharing the shade with some really strange birds! (from Denis McBride – Seasons of the Word)

 

Dear parishioners,

As you know, Father David celebrated his 40th anniversary of ordination on 4th May just gone. Unfortunately, we were not able to celebrate this special occasion as we would have liked due to the restrictions that are currently in place. However, we hope and pray that we will able to do so later in the year.

The three parishes of Lymington, Brockenhurst and Milford thought that it would be a nice idea to organise a collection so that we are able to give Fr David a present to mark his anniversary.  We will organise events in the parishes to celebrate when we have a better idea as to when restrictions are going to be relaxed.

However, in the meantime If you would like to make a donation please use the link below.

https://donate.giveasyoulive.com/fundraising/fr-davids-40th-anniversary-collection

Many thanks.

The Chairs of the Parish Council of the three parishes:

Ian Holden- St Anne’s Brockenhurst

Mike Reynolds- OLMSJ, Lymington

Roger Maughan- St Francis of Assisi, Milford on Sea

Corpus Christi 6th June 2021

“RECEIVE YOUR OWN MYSTERY” (St Augustine, 4th century)

Today we are also celebrating the feast of the Body and Blood of Christ (known previously by its Latin title: Corpus Christi).

Jesus was a spiritual genius and artist because he took simple things used in everyday meals and, by a unique association with himself in the death and resurrection he was to experience, he created a transformational ritual. This ritual which we have come to call the “Mass”or the Eucharist has been at the centre of the liturgical life of Catholic & Orthodox Christianity since the beginning.

The Eucharist is first of all the celebration of God’s work in Jesus freeing us from sin and death and sharing with us Divine life. For this free, undeserved grace we can only give heartfelt thanks, which is in fact the meaning of the word Eucharist. Secondly the Eucharist is invitation and challenge. The invitation is to be “one body, one spirit in Christ” so that we can no longer regard ourselves as separate from others. Rather we are invited to recognise our responsibilities for others and to others. The call is to treat others as ourselves, to love others as ourselves.

This way of love is a challenge to accept the sacrifices love may ask of us. As Jesus gave his life and death for us, so we are called to give our living and our dying for one another. In this way the Eucharist expresses something that is happening in our every day lives: a growing experience of gratitude to God and a growing capacity to love as Jesus has loved us. All this is made possible by the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. Eucharist reveals the ultimate pattern and purpose of our lives.

In the Eucharist we celebrate the gift of ourselves in God. Holy communion makes a powerful statement that God’s life is in us, as the prayer at Mass says: “By the mingling of this water and wine may we come to share in the divinity of Christ who humbled himself to share in our humanity”. Holy Communion gradually attunes us and confirms us in this mystery of loving union with God. If God can take simple bread and wine and make them his Body & Blood, Soul & Divinity how much more does God takes us and delight in us being the “Body and Blood, Soul & Divinity of Christ” in the world today. This is not our doing, it is by God’s graciousness alone. We are no better than anyone else, it is just that by faith, we are made aware of this relationship and by the Holy Spirit that we can begin to respond appropriately. This is the Good News to be shared respectfully with others.

God’s big HUG and EMBRACE which is the Eucharist accompanies us at every stage of our lives. It is the hug and embrace of unconditional love which desires the best for us and nurtures the best in us. When we’re very young its all hugs and kisses and comfort. As we grow there is also encouragement. As we get older still there is also challenge. As we get older still its there is a call to loving service and responsibility. We are never ready for so great a gift or for so much love. We respond gradually, sometimes enthusiastically, sometimes indifferently, sometimes we rebel, maybe upset at God for not making things go as we would like. As long as we keep returning to the Source in humility with as much acceptance as we can muster the grace continues its work. Everything is turned to our good once we allow ourselves to be caught up in the flow of God’s love which fills the whole creation. (DMA)

Dear parishioners,

As you know, Father David celebrated his 40th anniversary of ordination on 4th May just gone. Unfortunately, we were not able to celebrate this special occasion as we would have liked due to the restrictions that are currently in place. However, we hope and pray that we will able to do so later in the year.

The three parishes of Lymington, Brockenhurst and Milford thought that it would be a nice idea to organise a collection so that we are able to give Fr David a present to mark his anniversary.  We will organise events in the parishes to celebrate when we have a better idea as to when restrictions are going to be relaxed.

However, in the meantime If you would like to make a donation please use the link below.

https://donate.giveasyoulive.com/fundraising/fr-davids-40th-anniversary-collection

Many thanks.

The Chairs of the Parish Council of the three parishes:

Ian Holden- St Anne’s Brockenhurst

Mike Reynolds- OLMSJ, Lymington

Roger Maughan- St Francis of Assisi, Milford on Sea

GOD’S CHOICE: – YESTERDAY, TODAY & FOREVER

 30th May

 The only choice that ultimately matters is the choice that God has made from all eternity. Before the world was made God chose the whole of creation, humanity included, us included, IN CHRIST (cfr Ephesians 1:4). The Christ is the eternal union between the Divinity and the creation, between the Infinite and the finite, between, spirit and matter, between heaven and earth. In a finite and limited way, we share in the Self of the Christ (cfr. 2 Timothy 2:13). God is the whole of creation, but the creation is not the whole of God. God is the whole of me and you, but you and I are not the whole of God.

The Blessed Trinity, one God, is not a puzzle to be solved, nor a mystery to be shelved or ignored and left to the academics. Our God, Father, Son & Holy Spirit, is the life in which we live, the flow that carries us forward and the power that binds everything together. The Holy Trinity is our origin, our purpose, our meaning and our ultimate glory.

God is not just relational by nature. God is relationship itself in a very dynamic sense. God, Father, Son & Holy Spirit is not just loving but is love itself. God is love and love is always giving and receiving, always flowing back & forth. In God it is the giving and receiving of Divine life. The Divine Beauty, Goodness and Truth is made visible in the Christ. The exchange or flow of life and love between the Invisible and Visible (the Christ) is the Spirit.

The God who is love can only be truly known and loved in freedom. We are that part of the Christ mystery that can, by the Spirit, begin to respond in love and freedom to the One who is the Source of all, the Divine Mother/Father. We are invited to receive the love and to let the love flow through us and to give the love to everyone and everything.

That is why our relationships with others are so important. Every opportunity to help, encourage, support, forgive, heal, strengthen, to share, to receive and so on, is an opportunity to let God’s love flow in and out of us to the other.

In God we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28);

the God who is, who was, and who is to come (Rev 1:8).

God is in all and through all and with all (Eph 4:6).

Everything exists from God, through God and for God (Rom 11:36).

Glory be to God the Father through Jesus Christ his Son in the unity of the Holy Spirit, for ever and ever. Amen

The Big Yes that is Confirmation 23rd May 2021

Yes to Life: to your wonderful, awesome, mysterious life; to the beautiful, awesome & terrible Universe; to the Life of which your life is a part.

Yes to Love: to receiving and giving love with: family; friends; a future life partner; maybe your children to be; with all humanity; with God who loves you & everyone totally, unconditionally and forever.

Yes to Acceptance: of reality; of the circumstances of your life; of limitations; weakness; suffering; sinfulness; the fragility of life; the necessity of struggle and hard work.

Yes to Responsibility: for yourself, for others; for society; your country; your world; for other creatures; to give and not just to take.

Yes to your Potential: to the Spirit in you; to the gifts, capabilities and creativity that is in you; that you can discover and use for your fulfilment and for the good of others.

Yes to Solidarity: with all who desire and work for peace, freedom, truth, tolerance, fairness, justice & compassion: the “Church” of God.

Yes to Joy: the joy of life; of love; of trusting you are loved completely by God; gratitude for laughter, pleasure and the gift of existence.

Yes to the Journey: to openness, to learning, to the necessity of growing, changing and moving on; carrying forward the blessings of the past and open to the blessings still to come.

Yes to Forgiveness: for yourself; for your friends & loved ones; for others; for your “enemies”.

Yes to God: to the unfolding mystery of God in you and you in God; to God who is all in all.

(DMA)

All things are yours,….., the world, life, death, the present, the future – all belong to you, and you belong to Christ and Christ belongs to God” (1 Cor 3:21ff)

Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God made visible in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8: 35-39)

LOVE ENDURES 16th May 2021

 

“No one has ever seen God, but as long as we love one another God will live in us and God’s love will be complete in us”. (1 John 4: 12).

 

CAC core faculty member, Cynthia Bourgeault, beautifully describes growth in “conscious love” in her sermon, given at her daughter’s wedding. I hope you will find it quite profound, as I did.

 

It’s easy to look at marriage as the culmination of love, the end point of the journey that begins with “falling in love.” [But] marriage is not the culmination of love, but only the beginning.

 

Love remains and deepens, but its form changes. Or, more accurately, it renews itself in a different way. Less and less does it draw its waters from the old springs of romance, and you should not worry if over time these dimensions fade or are seen less frequently. More and more, love draws its replenishment from love itself: from the practice of conscious love, expressed in your mutual servanthood to one another.

 

It will transform your lives and through its power in your own lives will reach out to touch the world. But how to stay in touch with that power? At those times when stress mounts and romance seems far away, how do you practice that conscious love that will renew itself and renew your relationship?

Here is the one [practice] that works for me:

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things (1 Corinthians 13:7).“Love bears all things.”

This does not mean a dreary sort of putting-up-with or victimization. There are two meanings of the word bear, and they both apply.

 

The first means “to hold up, to sustain”—like a bearing wall, which carries the weight of the house. To bear [also] means “to give birth, to be fruitful.” So love is that which in any situation is the most life-giving and fruitful.

 

“Love believes all things.” [This] does not mean to be gullible, to refuse to face up to the truth. Rather, it means that in every possible circumstance of life, there is a way of perceiving that leads to cynicism and divisiveness, a closing off of possibility; and there is a way that leads to higher faith and love, to a higher and more fruitful outcome. To “believe all things” means always to orient yourselves toward the highest possible outcome in any situation and strive for its actualization.

 

“Love hopes all things.” In the practice of conscious love you begin to discover a hope that is related not to outcome but to a wellspring a source of strength that wells up from deep within you independent of all outcomes. It is a hope that can never be taken away from you because it is love itself working in you, conferring the strength to stay present to that “highest possible outcome” that can be believed and aspired to.

 

Finally, “love endures all things.” Everything that is tough and brittle shatters; everything that is cynical rots. The only way to endure is to forgive, over and over, to give back that openness and possibility for new beginning which is the very essence of love itself. And in such a way love comes full circle and can fully “sustain and make fruitful,” and the cycle begins again, at a deeper place. And conscious love deepens and becomes more and more rooted.

 

(from Fr Richard Rohr’s Daily Reflection - Wednesday, May 2, 2018)

 

Congratulations to Fr David who celebrates his 40th Anniversary of his Ordination on Tuesday 4th May.

 

As we can’t all meet up to contribute to a gift for Fr David,the three parishes of Our Lady of Mercy & St Joseph, Lymington, St Francis of Assisi, Milford on Sea and St Anne’s, Brockenhurst have set up a Give as you live page for anyone who would like to donate towards a gift to acknowledge Fr David’s important day.

https://donate.giveasyoulive.com/fundraising/fr-davids-40th-anniversary-collection

 

Hopefully there will be a date in the not so distant future when we can all meet together to present him with his gift.

 

 

Gracious and loving God, we thank your for the gift of our priest, Father David.

Through him, we experience your presence in the sacraments.

Help Father David to be strong in his vocation.

Set his soul on fire with love for your people.

Grant him the wisdom, understanding, and strength he needs to follow in the footsteps of Jesus.

Inspire him with the vision of your Kingdom.

Give him the words he needs to spread the Gospel.

Allow him to experience joy in his ministry.

Help him to be an instrument of your divine grace.

We ask this through Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns as our Eternal Priest.

Amen.

 

May the love of the Lord be with you always.

Blessings on the anniversary of your ordination to the priesthood Father David.

 

 

GOD’S LOVE IMAGED THROUGH THE FEMININE & MASCULINE 9th May 2021

The treasures of wisdom in Christ are, as St Paul wrote, “infinitely rich”. That is why, like St Peter, we are always coming to realise new dimensions of truth or recovering lost pearls of God’s wisdom. God & God-is-love are the greatest truths. So how we imagine God-is-love or present God-is-love to others is crucially important, not only for ourselves but also for the work of sharing the Good News with others. We have to receive the Good News before we can share the Good News. We must know, both conceptually and emotionally (mind & heart knowledge), that it is “not our love for God” that has priority but “God’s love for us”.

We are in danger of diminishing or even distorting God’s love if we present it only in terms of our own limited understanding, feelings or experience. God’s love can only be revealed by the whole creation. For us humans that means all of humanity, male and female and anyone who doesn’t fit neatly into those gender categories. The relational God of creation (“Let us make…Gen. 1:26) is imaged in male & female & the whole of humanity.

It is not a coincidence that in the two millennia of Christianity, experienced generally through the mediation of patriarchal institutional structures, Mary the Mother of the Lord and wife of Joseph has had such an important role. Mary bore and gave us not just the Christ child but also the maternal face and heart of God. When Jesus’s humanity got obscured by his Divinity it was Mary who communicated the tenderness, gentleness and indulgence of God. She anchored the Word in the flesh. When St Alphonsus Liguori (1696–1787, founder of the Redemptorists) declared that “Mary represented the hand of God’s mercy and Jesus represented the hand of God’s justice”, he was voicing the common theological presumptions of his time. In retrospect, thanks to Vatican II and our greater familiarity with the Scriptures, we can see that these presumptions were warped.

The limitations, distortions and impoverishments that inevitably result from a heavily patriarchal institution and culture mean that the situation is essentially unhealthy. Patriarchy is inherently pathological. Unfortunately, virtually everything we do and say in our Church is affected by it.

Our current English translation of the Liturgy is one of the most blatant examples, notwithstanding many important theological and spiritual gems. Already patriarchal in its Latin form it has been given an added twist by a very small, exclusively male, celibate, clerical and generally European group with an explicit brief to avoid inclusive language and cultural intelligibility and keep slavishly to a Latinised form of English.

Phrases like the following reflect perhaps the human experience of a distant, insecure relationship between a son & his father: (the Father) who “summons” his children (EP 3), the ubiquitous use of “Almighty” (although it must be admitted this is preferable to “All powerful”), hoping God will look upon “these offerings, with a serene and kindly countenance”, those who were “pleasing to you at their passing from this life”.

We also have the presentation of an unhealthy dualistic conflict between body and soul, inherited not from Christ but from strands of pagan philosophy. This ignores the words of Scripture in Colossians 2:23: “human commands and teachings - (that) have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-imposed piety, humility and severe treatment of the body, but they are of no value in checking self-indulgence”.

Then there is the paradoxical “dance” between what we “merit” by our efforts and the undeserved grace we hope to receive. And this is just the tip of the iceberg when one considers how female representation and input in the whole area of marital relationships, child-bearing and nurturing has been excluded. So, to fully experience “God’s love for us” as distinct from “our love for God” we need the witness of the whole of humanity, feminine and masculine and indeed of the whole of creation. (DMA)

REFLECTIONS ON TODAY’S READINGS 2nd May 2021

Direct confrontation often causes more harm than good. Saul was aggressively hunting down the followers of Jesus. That aggressive energy was still driving him when, only days after his dramatic conversion, he begins challenging his former co-religionists with his new-found faith “Jesus is the Son of God” (Acts 9:20). Today’s reading describes him “preaching fearlessly in the name of the Lord”. Having raised a proverbial hornet’s nest Paul and his companions began to suffer the unintended consequences of his zeal. His minders took the wise and prudent decision to quietly spirit him away. Today’s extract finishes with: “The churches throughout Judaea, Galilee and Samaria were now left in peace, building themselves up, living in the fear of the Lord, and filled with the consolation of the Holy Spirit”. How we say something has a greater effect than what we say. Are we trying to share a truth or insight we have come to realise or are we just trying to prove ourselves “right” and the other person “wrong”? Before we presume to confront or challenge or dialogue it would be good to become aware of the energies that are driving us. Are they angry and aggressive or peaceful and benevolent?

We are often prone to anxiety. And God can sometimes be sensed, experienced or thought of as One who is overwhelming and all-demanding. In contrast we experience ourselves as weak and sinful and never good or holy enough.

If we are not careful our negative imaginings and anxieties can run away with us. In our second reading today, John recognises the vulnerability of our consciences which can “raise accusations against us”. We need to “quieten our consciences” to preserve the peace Christ gives us and even our mental health! The way to do this is to honestly assess the reality of our practical compassion and love. Are we really trying to love and care for one another according to our capacity and means? If yes, we can be at peace. If no, we need to repent.

“I am the Vine and you are the branches”. The life, beauty and goodness of God is manifest in everything. We human beings can begin to appreciate these qualities in the experience of our relationships. It is in our relationships that God’s life, beauty and goodness are freely given and received as love. The fullness of God’s self-giving can only be received in relationships of love and freedom. One has to be in it to win it, as the popular saying goes! One has to be in the relationship to receive the blessings of the relationship. “Remain in me”, Jesus says, “as I remain in you”. We are part of the Divine mystery. As Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 2:13: we may be unfaithful, but he is always faithful for he cannot disown his own self. And it is only in this Divine relationship that we can “bear fruit”. This is because the fruit is none other than the personal goodness of God given to us and flowing through us as pure gift. As Paul wrote in Galatians 5:22: the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. By keeping the great commandment, love one another as I have loved you, we will bear much fruit. (DMA).

Jesus the Good Shepherd 25th April 2021

The wandering figure of the good shepherd, anxiously tending his sheep to the point where he is willing to surrender his life for them, is the image Jesus uses about himself in today's Gospel. That mixture of tenderness and toughness, care and self-sacrifice, is one that summarizes his own practice of leadership. It is not a leadership of detachment and defensiveness; rather it is a leadership of physical involvement and self -sacrificial love. In the good shepherd's foolish extravagant love, his own life matters less than that of his sheep.

The good shepherd is not an image of religious authority that is eternally pleased with its own importance, blind to the useless pain it causes in those it leads. The authority of the shepherd costs the shepherd, not the sheep. The image of the shepherd cannot be separated from how the shepherd actually cares for his own sheep. His concern is not untroubled, his courage is not bloodless, his love is not detached. When we see how Jesus actually behaves as a leader, we see his tenderness and courage. Jesus tackles his opponents, face to face. He confronts those who steal the dignity of the little ones. He names the wolves in sheep's clothing. He is willing to leave his enemies looking sheepish. He warns his followers about the rough terrain ahead. He goes there before them. He is defensive when people attack his own followers.

He is realistic about people's wayward ways. He endures isolation and insult. He faces his own fear but stays loyal. He risks being slaughtered himself. He does lay down his life for his sheep. In his life and in his death Jesus sought out the lost and the least and the last. When he wanted to speak of a tender God he told the people about a shepherd who, when he loses one of his sheep, leaves the other sheep and goes off in search of the lost one. The shepherd refuses to accept the loss of one sheep as "just one of those things". He searches for the lost sheep until he finds it, and then taking it on his shoulders he returns to share his joy with all his neighbours.

That is Jesus' image of pastoral care, a search that continues until a find can be made. We know, of course, that a search is not automatic after a loss. Many losses are not even registered. Where there is no love, there is no loss. Some people are regarded as "no great loss". Other people are encouraged to "get lost". But all of us hope that when we are lost someone, somewhere, will be looking for us, like the good shepherd.

The good shepherd challenges our own way of leaving people for lost: "I have come to seek out and save the lost." Probably all of us know two or three people who have wandered away (from the family, from the friendship group), from the Church, who have lost their sense of belonging, who feel they have no community to belong to. How will they know they are welcome back if no one tells them? How will they be helped back if no one offers to make the journey with them? (from Seasons of the Word by Denis McBride)

A TOUGH ADMISSION & UNDESERVED BLESSINGS

18th April 2021

 

We must have some sympathy with the religious authorities who had Jesus executed. They had been on the receiving end of the harshest words that Jesus ever spoke. They had been determined to do away with him. They had him arrested, tortured and cruelly put to death. Peter reminds them of all the grizzly details and of their responsibility, proverbially rubbing their noses in it! Yet amazingly Peter also describes some mitigating circumstances: neither you, nor your leaders had any idea what you were really doing. Even more astonishing Peter calls them to accept forgiveness and promises that God will send them this Christ, whom they had just killed, as their Lord and Saviour! Peter is calling for the most radical, heart tearing, gut wrenching conversion that could possibly be imagined!

We can, perhaps, understand a little of how the people and leaders must have felt. Often in Lenten pious literature and prayers we are reminded that our sins made Jesus suffer. There is a sense in which that is true, but we must not take it in such a way as to negate the saving work that Jesus did on our behalf. The Father wants, and Jesus wants to save us from our sins, from fear, anxiety, guilt and discouragement. Our focus must be on the Lord and we should allow ourselves to feel gratitude, love and joy for the love Jesus revealed on the cross.

For these reasons I concluded long ago that one of the traditional expressions of contrition is not as helpful as it should be. O my God, I am sorry and beg pardon for all my sins because they deserve Thy dreadful punishments, because they have crucified my loving Saviour, Jesus Christ, and most of all because they offend Thine infinite goodness etc.

This presents a very severe portrait of God and one that Jesus himself did not offer. It concentrates on all the negative effects of sin and increases feelings of guilt and anxiety at a time when a person needs to be encouraged to have trust and confidence in God. It has all the hallmarks of the heresy of Jansenism, which had such a chilling impact on the Church of Northern Europe in the 18th-19th centuries. We are still living with the ghosts of Jansenism today and people’s experience of God is still blighted by its chill.

The Gospel presents us with an altogether different picture of the Risen Jesus. Jesus is bursting full of joy and loving energy. He is the same Lord and Saviour who died on the cross, but he has a new body which is in complete harmony with the Spirit (St Paul calls it a “spiritual body”; “The first man, Adam, became a living being; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit” 1 Cor 15:45). It transcends space and time and is personally present to everyone in the universal presence of the Christ (cfr. Eph 1:23). It is not limited in the way our present bodies are. This universal presence of Christ is mysteriously manifest in creation, in you and me, in everyone & everything, in the sacrament that is the Church, and in the sacraments that celebrate the Divine life in us. Jesus’ risen body is a sign that God’s love triumphs over our sin and death and unites all the realms of existence. It shows that the Father can be trusted to the utmost as Jesus did when he accepted the Father’s will in the Garden. In this Easter let us receive the blessing of Jesus, trust in his wonderful love and allow the Spirit more deeply into our lives. (DMA)

 

WOUNDED & RESURRECTED 11th April 2021

 

The archetypal encounter between doubting Thomas and the Risen Jesus (John 20: 19-28) is not really a story about believing in the fact of the resurrection, but a story about believing someone could be wounded and also resurrected at the same time! That is a quite different message, and still desperately needed. “Put your finger here,” Jesus says to Thomas (20:27). And like Thomas, we are indeed wounded and resurrected at the same time, all of us. In fact, this might be the primary pastoral message of the whole Gospel. Earlier, I wrote that great love and great suffering (both healing and woundedness) are the universal, always available paths of transformation, because they are the only things strong enough to take away the ego’s protections and pretensions. Great love and great suffering bring us back to God, with the second normally following the first, and I believe this is how Jesus himself walked humanity back to God. It is not just a path of resurrection rewards, but always a path that includes death and woundedness. We cannot jump over this world, or its woundedness, and still try to love God. We must love God through, in, with, and even because of this world. This is the message Christianity was supposed to initiate, proclaim and encourage, and what Jesus modelled. We were made to love and trust this world, “to cultivate it and take care of it” (Genesis 2:15

 

Do not think I am talking about believing only what you can see with your eyes or proposing mere materialism. I am talking about observing, touching, loving the physical, the material, the inspirited universe – in all its suffering state – as the necessary starting place for any healthy spirituality and any true development. Death and resurrection, not death or resurrection. This is indeed the depth of everything. To stay on the surface of anything is invariably to miss its message – even the surface of our sinfulness. Jesus invited Thomas and all doubters into a tangible kind of religion, a religion that makes touching human pain and suffering the way into both compassion and understanding. For most of us, the mere touching of another’s wound probably feels like an act of outward kindness; we don’t realise that its full intended effect is to change us as much as it might change them. Human sympathy is the best and easiest way to open the heart space and to make us live inside our own bodies. God never intended most human beings to become philosophers or theologians, but God wants all humans to represent the very Sympathy and Empathy of God. And its okay if it takes a while to get there.

(Extracts from The Universal Christ by Fr Richard Rohr OFM, pp111-113, SPCK, 2019)

 

DAILY RESURRECTION 4th April 2021

What the resurrection of Jesus promises is that things can always be new again. It’s never too late to start over. Nothing is irrevocable. No betrayal is final. No sin is unforgivable. Every form of death can be overcome. There isn’t any loss that can’t be redeemed. Every day is virgin. There is really no such thing as old age.

In the resurrection we are assured that there are no doors that are eternally closed, every time we close a door or one is closed on us, God opens another for us. The resurrection assures us that God never gives up on us, even if we give up on ourselves, that God writes straight with the crooked lines of our lives, that we can forever re-virginize, regain lost innocence, become post-sophisticated, and move beyond bitterness. In a scheme of things where Jesus breathes out forgiveness on those who betray him and God raises dead bodies from the dead, we can begin to believe that in the end all will be well and every manner of being will be well and everything, including our own lives, will eventually end sunny side up.

However, the challenge of living this out is not just that of believing that Jesus rose physically from the grave,

but also, and perhaps even more importantly, to believe that – no matter our age, mistakes, betrayals, wounds, and deaths – we can begin each day afresh, virgin, innocent again, a child, a moral infant, stunned at the newness of it all. No matter what we’ve done, our future is forever pregnant with wonderful new possibility. Resurrection is not just a question of one day, after death, rising from the dead, but it is also about daily rising from the many mini-graves within which we so often find ourselves.

How does belief in the resurrection help us rise from these mini-graves? By keeping us open to surprise, newness, and freshness in our lives. Not an easy thing to do. We are human and we cannot avoid falling – into depression, bitterness, sin, betrayal, cynicism, and the tiredness that comes with age. Like Jesus, we too will have our crucifixions. More than one grave awaits us. Yet our faith in the resurrection invites us precisely to live beyond these. As John Shea once so aptly put it: What the resurrection teaches us is not how to live – but how to live again, and again, and again!

by Fr Ron Rolheiser OMI (April 23rd 2000); for a source of very helpful reflections visit: www.ronrolheiser.com

THE PASSION TRANSPOSED INTO TODAY’S SITUATION

Palm Sunday 28th March 2021

 

Haven’t you seen the enormous procession of people, without tunic, belt or hood, having tested positive for coronavirus?

Don’t you see the Via Crucis of the care workers climbing the Calvary of the pandemic, overwhelmed by the power and pain of heartache?

Those who said that the Nazarene would not come out for this Holy Week haven’t seen the doctors with their white coats and their sensitive spirits, who carry the cross of the sorrow of those who are afflicted.

Can’t you see how many scientists are sweating blood and water, as at Gethsemane, as they try to find a vaccine or similar treatment?

Do not say that Jesus does not walk the streets this year, when so many people have to work in order to bring nourishment and medicines to the entire world.

Have you not seen the number of people from Cyrene offering themselves in one way or another to carry the heaviest of crosses?

Don’t you see how many people, how many like Veronica, have exposed themselves to the infection in order to wipe the face of people affected by the virus?

Who said that Jesus would not fall to the ground each time that we hear the chilling figures about yet more victims?

Isn’t it the vast quantity of care homes, filled with elderly people who are most at risk, and their carers, who are living the Passion?

Isn’t it like a crown of thorns for children who have to live through this crisis in lockdown, without really understanding and without being able to run around in the parks and streets?

Don’t they feel themselves unjustly condemned, all the schools, universities and so many shops that have been forced to close?

All the peoples of the earth, have they not been beaten and flagellated by the scourge of this virus?

Aren’t they just like the hand-washing Pontius Pilate, those in charge who are only looking to derive some political advantage from the situation?

Aren’t they suffering, powerless like the disciples without their Master, all those families confined to their houses, so many of them with problems, not knowing how and when all this will end?

The sorrowful face of Mary, doesn’t it reflect the faces of so many mothers and family members who suffer through the death and distancing of their loved ones?

Isn’t it like being stripped of their garments, the anguish of so many families and small businesses that are watching their finances vanish?

The agony of Jesus, isn’t it found in the lack of ventilators in the intensive care units of so many countries?

Do not say “there will be no Holy Week”, do not say it, because the drama of the Passion continues in the lives of all who suffer and in all who sacrifice themselves for the sake of others.

 

(by Miquel-Àngel Ferrés: Originally written in Catalan; this English version from a French translation by Fr Ferrés is Rector of St Peter’s Church in Figueres, a town between Perpignan (France) and Girona (Spain) )

 

Covering all the Angles 14th March 2021

 

Is condemnation language working for us today? I think not. Surely anyone who “refuses to believe” is one of those for whom Jesus prays: “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do”. To our modern minds loving and condemning seem incompatible. It might be more helpful to think of consequences. Refusing love has consequences but God’s love is never limited by our actions. God remains sovereignly free to love and to bless. Where sin abounds, grace abounds even more!

 

The “Good News of the Kingdom” in its simplest expression is that, in Christ, the shadows of guilt and shame and the threats of Divine punishment and condemnation are consigned to history. God’s Spirit of life and love now sets us free to concentrate on doing good, growing in the knowledge and love of God and of the whole of humanity. We are no longer to be paralysed by fear and anxiety nor constantly pre-occupied with the false notion that we have to repeatedly win back, earn or deserve God’s favour. The forgiveness of God is a pure gift of love given when we were “dead in our sins”. The freedom given us by God’s unconditional love means we have the spiritual energy to deal with sin (all harmful, evil, destructive behaviour, both individual & collective) in a new way. This is the calm recognition of the reality of sin and an unshakeable determination to address and deal with its causes, consequences and cures. For people this is an impossible task to complete but, with God’s help, not impossible to begin. We leave the fulfilment to God!

 

The coming of the Kingdom is not the completion but is the living in the NOW of the unconditional love of God that surrounds every moment and every situation in hope and mercy. The Kingdom is then trust in the love and mercy, doing the good and struggling against the evil.

 

We cannot complete the task ourselves because we would uproot both the wheat and the weeds together, our recognition of what constitutes evil is only partial and spiritually immature. We strain out gnats and swallow camels. “Do not judge and you will not be judged, do not condemn and you will not be condemned, forgive and you will be forgiven, give and gifts will be given to you” – words of our Divine Teacher.

 

Dealing with sin in a new way means first understanding the true nature of sin – as Jesus says in John’s Gospel – “how wrong the world is about sin, about judgement and about who is in the right”. The world so often blames the victim; if the people are poor it’s their own fault. If they seek justice they are rebels and terrorists.

 

Dealing with sin in a new way means recognising complexity at all levels, social, cultural, genetic, economic, and religious and that the wavelength of consequences is long and persistent, rippling down the generations. The healing of wounds in the individual and collective memory requires patient, thorough and persistent remedies. Diseased plants must be treated and new, healthy stock must be planted.

 

This is why new growth has to be tended and pruned and the old roots have to be nourished as well. There are huge challenges of discernment as we seek to discover what is the loving response, what is the wise course of action in relation to new and complex issues such as economic globalisation, environmental responsibility, cultural and religious diversity, relationships, gender, sexuality, bio-ethics etc.

 

We have to work to cover all the angles. If we celebrate new freedoms we must not neglect foundational responsibilities. Supporting and strengthening the traditional family does not mean one has to be unjust to those for whom this model cannot work. St Paul tells us the Spirit works in all sorts of different ways in all sorts of different people. The motivation we need to struggle for a good cause shapes how we see the world. Very understandably we can usually only see things from our point of view.

Only God can cover all the angles, only the Spirit can lead us into the ever wider unfolding of God’s creation. Only the Divine artist sees the whole picture. Relating to others without judgement or condemnation gives respect to God who is “in all, and through all and with all”. (DMA)

 

 

THE DISTURBING PROPHET 7th March

The word of God in the Bible, especially the prophetic word, often challenges our hard-heartedness. This is usually so entrenched in self-interest, security, collusion & habit that we don’t recognise it for what it is. We also tend to lose our capacity to imagine life, relationships, the world in a different way.

We regard any invitation to re-imagine our economics, our politics, our social & family relationships as foolishness & folly. We don’t see the wisdom of the love and unity with which God binds the whole of humanity & indeed all creation.

So we tend to be shocked, surprised and upset by the passion of the prophet who does see things very differently and who is often frustrated by our spiritual blindness. Jesus acting fearlessly with passion and power is a bit too scary for us.

One of the many paradoxes of God’s relationship with us is that the mercy of God which has compassion on our weakness & our helplessness, and which makes excuses for us, is the same mercy of God that vehemently attacks our complacency, our fear and our enslavement to our “idols”.

AND WHAT OF THE COMMANDMENTS?

If Jesus has done away with the Law, if the letter of the Law brings death rather than life, if we are called to live in the new relationship of grace, then what place do the commandments now have?

The commandments represent good foundations. They are thousands of years old. They belong to a certain age & culture but the basics are still important for us today. If our society loses basic values and ignores basic responsibilities it is going to be in serious trouble. Whatever the noble heights of our ethical principles may be, the whole edifice, the whole of society is in danger of imploding or just disintegrating in the free for all of individual selfishness.

So it is true we live by grace not by law. Our moral awareness and our ethical principles are much broader, deeper, higher and more sophisticated than ever before. We have come along way since Moses and the commandments nearly 3000 years ago. However, the perennial weeds of fear, selfishness, greed, anger, hatred, violence, lust, pride, etc. can strangle the best ideals. The prophets will call us to new frontiers of inclusivity, compassion and caring but they will also warn us not to undermine the foundations by losing sight of basic responsibilities and rights. Sometimes their words and actions will be severe and shocking. But then that is only a response to the depth of our complacency and the strength of our addiction to our “idols”. (DMA).

 

A note from  Cathy’s  family:

 

We know how much Cathy loved  her community friends, her family, her  sisters and  brothers in  Christ.

Experiencing that same love being reflected  back from you all in the past few weeks has been positively overwhelming.

We would  like  to say thank you.

Thank you  for the cards, the notes, the gifts, the offers of  help, t runs to the  shops,  the visits,  the prayers and for everything you have all done.

And  thank you for  loving  our  mum, for loving Cathy, just  as much as  she loved you all.

 

Tony, Rich, Chris, Jen  and Kate.

 

WHAT IS GOD ASKING – WHAT IS GOD GIVING?

28th February 2021

 

For much of human history people have been fearful of God. In the emerging consciousness of humanity the deity was difficult to find and hard to understand. People were suspicious of the forces that seemed to arbitrarily control their lives. Gods were to be feared not loved. They had to be placated and kept on side. This way of imaging God was dark and toxic.

The Old Testament patriarch, Abraham, was called away from such pagan religion into a relationship with the living God. This was the beginning of revelation as we have experienced it in the Judeo-Christian tradition. The pagan peoples who lived close to Abraham and the early Israelites are known to have practiced some kind of child sacrifice at various times. They obviously had an influence on the Jewish people. You can imagine the scenario; “We are so devoted to our god we are prepared to sacrifice our children! What are you prepared to do for your god?”

The story of Abraham and Isaac is a response to that kind of taunt. At some point people began to realise and believe that God doesn’t want the sacrifice of humans – perhaps God will be pleased with an animal instead? But God doesn’t really want animals to be killed either (cfr Micah 6: 6-8).

 

It takes thousands of years for people to realise that God doesn’t want anything killed or destroyed at all. Jesus reveals God as life-giver not life-taker!

Instead of demanding that we sacrifice ourselves God actually makes the sacrifice on our behalf. At one time we thought we had to kill things to get to God. In Jesus God accepts death to reveal the divine love, which is unconditional, gratuitous, inclusive and indiscriminate. Jesus accepts being killed, accepts being a victim so that we would no longer turn others into victims. God can be loved. We are not seeing a toxic God of our own imaging but the God whom Jesus reveals – Father and Mother to all.

There is another important teaching of spiritual wisdom here. Life gives and life takes away. Sometimes life takes from us the very people or things we have been cherishing the most. Isaac was the child of the promise – the whole future depended on him. Our life our work, the people we love, the people we depend on, the gifts God has given us, the enjoyments and pleasures we experience, our own life too, some day we will have to let them all go back to God. We must even hand over our sin, as Psalm 65 says: To you all flesh will come with its burden of sin, too heavy for us our offences but you wipe them away.

We believe and trust in God’s goodness and we hope new life will be given in ways we cannot now understand or imagine. (DMA)

 

Wild Beasts and Angels 21st February 2021

Immediately after Jesus hears the words from heaven”: “You are my son, the beloved, with you I am well pleased”, he is driven by the Spirit into the wilderness. This will be a time of testing, of focusing and new strength.

This experience of Jesus symbolically connects with the calling of the Israelite people and their journey into the desert towards the Promised Land. It also links with the spiritual advice of Scripture: My child, when you come to serve the Lord, prepare yourself for testing (Sirach 2:1).

The Spirit drives Jesus out because it is imperative that he recognises, confronts and disarms the diabolical (i.e. tearing apart) forces. Jesus, if he is to be the servant and son of the Father, cannot be a slave to any other need or power.

This is true also for us. If we are to do God’s work we have to be free spiritually. We have to grow in harmony with God’s will and be ready to commit ourselves wholeheartedly.

How do we find out what is really driving us, what our dependencies are and whose agenda we’re following? We have to be shoved out into the desert. There has to be some experience, voluntary or involuntary, that unmasks the wild beasts. (Perhaps lockdown has done this for us.) We’ve all seen the adverts for products that help us give up smoking. The craving is often depicted as an angry, demanding fantasy creature which has to be defeated. Without restraint a desire can become a demon, an uncontrollable desire is a wild beast.

Getting away from business as usual, giving up our little indulgences and comforts, not giving in to our bad habits – this can help to unmask the beast. But God, coming to us disguised as our life does the real work when we are no longer “in control”. This reveals the strength of the “enemy”. Identifying and getting the measure of the strength of the enemy is a necessary strategy for ultimate victory. Victory, however, is not the elimination of desire but the refocusing of desire on what is life-giving.

We need to think and experience for ourselves what are our own wild beasts. They could be: a need for praise, recognition, status, control, power, moral superiority, comfort, harmful gratifications; they could be bitterness and resentments that we haven’t let go, hurts that haven’t been healed, or fears that are paralysing our lives and relationships

Unmasking the wild beasts reveals the truth, it lets the light in. It enables us to experience the help of the angels. The powers of our soul – (the desires for life, love and happiness, distorted by our fears, addictions and insecurities and led by ignorance into futile searching), are re-focussed on the love of God which enfolds and fills all.

The Spirit helps us on the way to wholeness and freedom. We begin to recover that harmony with God, with ourselves and with all of creation that we sense we have lost. The desert experience is not something that we do just once. Usually we are brought back again and again as the different layers of the ego are purified and re-aligned. But when we confront the wild beasts and accept the ministry of the angels, when we have been through our time of testing, then we have some good news to share. Then we can begin to speak with some authority and have something positive to offer through compassionate actions. (DMA)

17th February    Ash Wednesday

Dear People,

After prolonged pressure I’ve done a short (9:30mins) reflection for Ash Wednesday on Youtube. (link below)

The process of getting the video off my phone, onto google drive,then downloaded to the PC, then uploaded to Youtube is a bit tedious & time consuming.

I hope you don’t find the video equally tedious!

I’m sure you’ll pray in the way that you find most helpful, remembering that God doesn’t need our words.

However here are a few words for any who might appreciate them:

Loving Father, all we’ve lost, all we’ve gained we entrust to you.

By your Spirit Nurture the gifts you have given us so that we can receive new joy, new strength,

new creativity for the challenges that lie ahead, and a new love for all people and all creation.

We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Peace & every good.

Fr David

Please click on the link below to hear the Reflection.

THE RISK OF BECOMING AN OUTCAST  14th February

In Jesus’ time and culture a leper was anyone with a visibly “offensive” skin complaint. They were excluded from the local community and forced to live away from others. If they approached other people they had to shout “Unclean, unclean” to warn them of the danger of contamination. If someone touched them or anything they came in contact with, they would become unclean too. “Lepers” were regarded as being punished by God for something either they or their parents had done. The victim was further victimised by social and religious rejection.

In the gospel the leper approaches Jesus doubting his good intentions; “If you want to you can cure me!” In some of the earliest Greek manuscripts of Mark’s gospel Jesus is described as being: moved with anger. Later manuscripts have the phrase: moved with pity. If Jesus did experience anger was it because he felt affronted, or because he was angry at the suffering caused by sickness and social and religious rejection? Be that as it may, Jesus makes it clear that he definitely does want to cure the person. And that is what he does.

Jesus then sternly warns him not to tell anyone. Jesus is a person who has strong feelings and is not afraid to show them. Is Jesus worried about being treated as unclean? Will this make it virtually impossible for him to move about and preach? Does he want to avoid a whole flood of sick people demanding cures but not interested in what he has to say?

One thing is clear, Jesus did not want to be thought of as just another faith healer. He had something greater to accomplish.

Despite his warning the leper cannot keep silent. The result is that Jesus cannot go openly into any town. In other words Jesus suffers the same fate as the leper.

There are many things to reflect on here. People who have suffered physically, emotionally and socially may become bitter and cynical. We would probably feel the same. We may be fortunate to be able to offer help. We mustn’t expect immediate gratitude and trust in return. Secondly if you help an outcast you are not going to be appreciated by the people who have done the casting out! When AIDS started claiming its first victims those who provided support and sympathy got the same rejection as the sufferers (cfr the TV drama “It’s a Sin). If there is someone in the family who has upset others it can be difficult if not all are ready to be reconciled.

There are many divisions in the world, cultural, political, religious and economic. Those who are trying to overcome divisions, to build bridges get condemned from both sides. Paul’s words are relevant: Never do anything offensive to anyone….try to be helpful to everyone at all times. If Christians could become known for this it would help matters considerably. In this respect some prophetic work has been done at both local & international level by the Sant’Egidio Community in Rome. They are showing a way forward. (DMA)

GOD WHO HEALS                     7th February

 

Jesus didn’t just talk about a God who heals, Jesus actually healed people. He spoke with authority because he was speaking about his own experience of the Father. He acted with power to heal because God’s healing love flowed freely through him.

It is good to reflect that of all the ways God might hypothetically use power, God uses it to heal. That is tremendously reassuring and affirming. Jesus does not destroy. The demons are dispelled they are not destroyed. They depart as sickness leaves the body when the fever is over, or as disorder is dispelled when order is re-established.

The healing love of God is not only directed to body and soul, it is also offered to the spirit. Evil is a sickness of the spirit. Jesus said: Those who are well have no need of a physician, it is the sick who need one. I have come to call not the righteous but sinners (cfr Mark 2:17). Part of the sickness of evil is the corruption of desire – to some degree we want what is not good for us or for others. God has to change our desire without destroying our freedom. It is a unique kind of healing. It is multi-layered, on going and life-long.

Jesus treats all forms of suffering as directly or indirectly symbolic of the power of evil. Modern human understanding is beginning to return to this holistic perspective. Everything is interconnected and interrelated. This is not the same as saying everything is somebody’s fault. Guilt, as an oppressive negative experience associated with the past, is not part of the solution but part of the problem. It is one of the things that Jesus wants to heal. Accepting responsibility for the past and taking responsibility for how we think, speak and act now & in the future is part of that healing.

Everything is related. The soul and the spirit are affected by the body (e.g. post-natal depression) and the body is affected by the soul and spirit (e.g. some forms of addiction). The individual is affected by the group and by society in general. Fashion, secular myth and current preoccupation are part of the cultural air we breathe and it is difficult to think, speak and act counter-culturally.

Diet, climate, geography, life-style, pollution or the lack of it, all these affect us physically, emotionally and spiritually. Psychic and spiritual health are adversely affected by a lack of love (lack of God) and definitely skewed by individual or corporate malice. It is possible that certain kinds of emotional and spiritual problems are caused by a kind of spiritual pollution. Just as toxic chemicals can harm our bodies so our psyches can be harmed by negative spiritual energies, e.g. anxiety, hopelessness, self-hatred etc.. In the light of modern quantum physics these interconnections are becoming more understandable.

This is why we must be careful not to dismiss possession as something belonging solely to the ancient cultural world and now irrelevant to us. We need to know what possesses us or perhaps obsesses us. An addict begins by enjoying something but ends up totally dependent on that thing. The enjoyment soon diminishes and then the suffering begins. However, its not just the obvious addictions that trouble us. There are those “hidden in plain sight”, things we take for granted like entitlement, military solutions, our superiority, the right to exploit other creatures or the myth of an ever increasing standard of living. (DMA)

 

JESUS' ALTERNATIVE REALITY

24th January 2021

 

I am told that there are three kinds of cultures in the Western world today, each with its own “bottom line”: political cultures based on the manipulation of power, economic cultures based on the manipulation of money, and religious cultures based on the manipulation of some theory about God.

These three cultures are based on different forms of violence, although it is usually denied by most participants and hidden from the superficial observer. Evil gains its power from disguise. Jesus undid the mask of disguise and revealed that our true loyalty was seldom really to God, but to power, money, and group belonging. (In fact, religion is often the easiest place to hide from God.)

Jesus announced, lived, and inaugurated a new social order, an alternative to violence, exclusion, and separation. Jesus went so far as to promise us this alternate reality. It is no fantastical utopia, but a very real and achievable peace—by the grace of God. He called it the Reign or Kingdom of God. It is the subject of his inaugural address (Luke 4:14-30) [1], his Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), and most of his parables. Indeed, it is the guiding image of Jesus’ entire ministry. Most Christians glibly recite “Thy kingdom come,” but this means almost nothing until and unless they also say, “My kingdom go.”

Challenging the status quo is unpopular. Jesus was killed for opposing the religious and political powers of his time. “It is better for one man to die for the people” (John 18:14) than to question the bottom line that is holding the whole system together.

When Christians accept that Jesus was killed for the same reason that people have been killed in all of human history (rather than because he walked around saying “I am God”), we will have turned an important corner on our quest for the historical Jesus. He was rejected because of his worldview much more than his God-view. Yet these two are intrinsically connected.

This now and not-yet Reign of God is the foundation for our personal hope and our cosmic optimism, but it is also the source of our deepest alienation from the world as it is. We are strangers and nomads on this earth (see Hebrews 11:13). Our task is to learn how to live in both worlds until they become one—at least in us.

(Fr Richard Rohr OFM, Thursday, January 18, 2018)

17th January 2021

PEACE SUNDAY

A Culture of Care as a Path to Peace:

Pope Francis urges us all to create “a Culture of Care as a Path to Peace -a culture of care as a way to combat the culture of indifference, waste and confrontation so prevalent in our time.” In this new year 2021, we should individually and collectively make up our minds about contributing to peace in our homes, community and country. As Christians, our faith teaches us that we can accomplish great things if we put on love or if our actions are motivated by love. Catholic Social Teaching also instructs that, “it is from the inner wellspring of love that the values of truth, freedom, and justice are born and grow.” Start today, by thinking of an area of unresolved conflict within our home, community and country, and list ways in which we could be part of the solution.

 

POPE FRANCIS & NEW APPROACHES TO CHRSITIAN UNITY:

(Vatican II gave us new perspectives in our relationship with other Christians) This was best captured in the insight of the German theologian Heinrich Fries: “In the question of ‘the Church and the Churches’ Vatican II discovered a principle according to which the [Catholic] Church’s identity and continuity were to be preserved not by separating off or denying everything that was not itself but by linking fidelity to itself with openness to others rather than with the denigration of others.” The 55 years since the council have certainly seen a harvesting of much fruit from the conciliar vision – through dialogues, spiritual ecumenism, ecumenical friendships, common witness and collaborations. Alongside the all-important grass-roots ecumenism, there has been an official promotion of the council’s ecumenical vision by the popes of the last half century, albeit with varying emphases. The overall focus of Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI on doctrinal purity within the Catholic Church has seen a certain parallel in the ecumenical sphere, with a focus on doctrinal differences and an attempt to find a way through them.

 

Pope Francis has introduced a new approach to Christian unity, one that gives priority more to unity in fides qua creditur and common witness to the Gospel, with a lighter focus on differences in the matter of fides quae creditur and the matter of doctrinal purity. (Note from DMA: This is the distinction between fides qua creditur, the faith by which one believes, and fides quae creditur, the faith that one believes. The difference is between "faith" taken as the virtue that empowers one to believe and "faith" taken as the beliefs that one accepts.)

Francis prefers a focus, not on differences, but on what is common: “If we concentrate on the convictions we share, and if we keep in mind the principle of the hierarchy of truths, we will be able to progress decidedly towards common expressions of proclamation, service and witness” (Evangelii Gaudium, 246). Pope Francis’ approach to doctrinal differences is to let the theologians work all that out, and in the meantime to focus on working together across a suffering world to build the reign of God, particularly by addressing social and ecological problems side by side. What Pope Francis says in Fratelli Tutti captures his approach to ecumenical friendships and dialogue: “I have frequently called for the growth of a culture of encounter capable of transcending our differences and divisions. This means working to create a many-faceted polyhedron whose different sides form a variegated unity, in which ‘the whole is greater than the (sum of the) part(s)’. The image of a polyhedron can represent a society where differences coexist, complementing, enriching and reciprocally illuminating one another, even amid disagreements and reservations. Each of us can learn something from others” (FT 215).

 

(from an article in The Tablet, 16-01-2021 “The whole is greater than the part” by Ormond Rush is associate professor and reader in the Institute for Religion & Critical Inquiry in the Australian Catholic University.)

BAPTISM – CELEBRATING THE GIFT OF DIVINE COMMUNION

10th January 2021

 

Unity is not the same as uniformity. Unity, in fact, is the reconciliation of differences, and those differences must be maintained--and yet overcome! You must actually distinguish things and separate them before you can spiritually unite them, usually at cost to yourself (Ephesians 2:14-16), which is perhaps why so few go there. If only we had made that simple distinction between uniformity and true unity, so many problems--and overemphasized, separate identities--could have moved to a much higher level of love and service.

 

P aul already made this universal principle very clear in several of his letters. For example, "There is a variety of gifts, but it is always the same Spirit. There are all sorts of service to be done, but always the same Lord, working in all sorts of different ways in different people. It is the same God working in all of them" (1 Corinthians 12:4-6). We see this beautiful diversity and yet unity in the universe--from Latin, unus + versus, "to turn around one thing."

We are not seeking some naïve "everything is one"; rather, we seek much more: the hard fought and much deeper "unity of the Spirit which was given us all to drink" (1 Corinthians 12:13). Here we must study, pray, wait, reconcile, and work to achieve true unity--not an absurd and boring uniformity, which is rather undesirable except by marching armies.

The deeper unity we seek and work for is described by Julian of Norwich when she writes, "The love of God creates in us such a oneing that when it is truly seen, no person can separate themselves from another person" (Showings, 65), or any other creature, I would add.

 

This is something that we can enjoy originally at primal and then deeper levels of consciousness. Children already enjoy this unity at a pre-rational level, and mystics later enjoy it consciously at a trans-rational and universal level.

So what we might now call deep ecumenism is not some 21st century glib assertion. It is not classic pantheism or unfounded New Age optimism. It is in fact the whole method, energy, and final goal by which God is indeed ushering in an ever recurring "new age" (Matthew 19:28) that some allow themselves to enjoy pre-emptively ahead of time! That is a very good name for enlightenment or salvation.

 

You see, we are already one, but most people just don't know it yet. Jesus' final prayer is that we can consciously know and live this radical union now (John 17:21-26). Such a daring assertion of primal unity between God and all creation is at the heart of the perennial tradition, and the only grounding for any true and lasting humanism. (Secular humanists try to ground our common dignity in our rationality, but then it does not apply to children, the senile, the mentally ill--any we decide who are not "rational."

 

Christian humanism grounds our dignity in our common divine DNA and thus makes it untouchable and inclusive of all!) Our job is not to discover this, but only to retrieve what has already been discovered--and rediscovered--again and again, in the mystics, prophets, and saints of all religions. Until then we are all lost in separation--while grace and necessary suffering gradually "fill in every valley and level every mountain" to make a "straight highway to God" (Isaiah 40:4.3). (from the writings of Fr Richard Rohr OFM)

 

 

3rd January 2021

CLOSURE OF OUR CHURCHES AT LYMINGTON, BROCKENHURST AND MILFORD ON SEA.

 

Very reluctantly I have taken the decision to close our churches of

OLMSJ, Lymington;

St Anne's, Brockenhurst

& St Francis of Assisi, Milford on Sea, until further notice.

 

As parish priest I have sole responsibility for the safety of all who use our places of worship and I take sole responsibility for this decision. The current government guidelines allow places of worship to remain open for communal celebration. However, if you examine these guidelines you will notice significant inconsistencies.

 

Also, the increased transmissibility of the new variant COVID virus casts doubt on the effectiveness of existing measures. Added to this we are all aware of the extreme pressures experienced by the NHS and by our critical care wards in particular. We must not risk more serious cases, nor must we be indifferent to the very difficult situation that our doctors, nurses and other hospital staff are going through.

 

We know that the roll-out of the vaccination programme will make a significant difference. We have much to be thankful for. Having come this far in the struggle with this virus we must not falter at the last hurdle. Patience, calmness, responsible behaviour, support for those in need and trust in God will see us through.

 

We thank God our Father for the creative power of the Divine Word present in all people and all creation and most evident in the love, compassion, courage, ingenuity and selfless endeavour of all those who are striving to alleviate suffering, ignorance and oppression. (Father David Adams)

 

January 2021

 

As we are now in tier 4, and this variant of the virus is spreading rapidly, I have decided to cancel public Masses until further notice.

 

As soon as we entered tier 3 we had several cancellations of places for the Masses over Christmas.

 

Since being in tier 4 we have had only a few requests to attend Mass.

 

So I'm sure you won't be surprised at my course of action.

 

In this rapidly changing situation it is important to take action speedily. I shall be watching the infection rate, which is rapidy rising in the New Forest, listening to the science and watching the government briefings. When I think it is safe to do so I shall open for Mass again.

 

As Parish priest I am responsible for the health & safety of my stewards and you the congregation. I can assure you that my decision has not been taken lightly.

 

Our prayers are with all those who are suffering & all those working tirelessly to alleviate suffering.

 

May God give us peace, patience & perseverance and a happier New Year.

 

Fr David

An Evolving Faith - The Work of Healing

3rd January 2021

 

Up to now, top-down religion has pretty much spoiled the show. We need trained experts, scholars, leaders, and teachers, but the truths of Christianity must be made much more accessible, available, localized, and pastoral. Most people do not need to have encyclopaedic knowledge of theology or Scripture. To begin with, why not flatten out the huge and unbiblical distinction between clergy and laity?

 

While Christian churches do much good, we have one huge pastoral problem that is making Christianity largely ineffective—and largely decorative. Solid orthodox theology is sorely needed (and yes, I am obsessed with it), yet we clearly need good and compassionate pastoral and healing practices ten times more!

 

It seems to me that we must begin to validate Paul’s original teaching on “many gifts and many ministries” (1 Corinthians 12:4-11). Together, these diverse gifts “make a unity in the work of service” (Ephesians 4:12-13, Jerusalem Bible). Individual communities may do this well, but on the whole we need Christian people who are trained in, validated for, and encouraged to make home and hospital visits; do hospice work and jail ministry; support immigrants and refugees; help with soup kitchens or food banks; counsel couples before, during, and after marriage; share child development resources with families; offer ministries of emotional, sexual, and relational healing; help with financial counselling; build low-cost housing; take care of the elderly; run support centres—all of which put Christian people in immediate touch with other people and for which no ordination is needed. Ordination would probably even get in the way.

 

Remember, healing was most of the work Jesus did. This fact is almost too obvious.

 

My vision of any future church is much flatter and much more inclusive. Either we see Christ in everyone, or we hardly see Christ in anyone. Frankly, my hope for Christianity is that it becomes less “churchy,” less patriarchal, and more concerned with living its mission statement than with endlessly reciting our heavenly vision and philosophy statement—the Nicene Creed—every Sunday. There seem to be very few actionable items in most Christians’ lives beyond attending worship services, which largely creates a closed and self-validating system.

Simply put, any notion of a future church must be a fully practical church that is concerned about getting the job of love done—and done better and better. Centuries emphasizing art and architecture, music, liturgy, and prescribed roles have their place, but their overemphasis has made us a very top-heavy and decorative church that is constantly concerned with its own in-house salvation. (Fr Richard Rohr OFM, Tuesday, December 31, 2019)

CHRISTMASTIDE QUESTIONS  27th December

Can God really become one of us? And if God was among us would that person be what we were expecting or would they completely surprise us? Are the fullness of Divinity and the fullness of humanity aspects of the same mystery? Is the fullness of our humanity its capacity to image the Divine in both strength and weakness?

The prologue of John’s gospel tells us that the reality that gives life and expression to all things is the same reality that gives life and expression to Jesus. This reality is the Word, the Mind, the Intelligence of God. God becomes flesh in Jesus. God becomes bread and wine in the Eucharist. God becomes you and me in this moment.

Here we are on some little planet, in a little solar system on the edge of a little galaxy, in a vast universe of countless galaxies and stars.

There was Jesus, a baby, born in an obscure region of the Roman empire in a far off time. Here are bread and wine, simple everyday things. Here we are with our ordinary lives, our ordinary virtues and our ordinary sins. Just because we are physically insignificant doesn’t mean we aren’t greatly loved and valued. We are a little part of a great mystery but because we are a part we also share the greatness and the glory of the whole reality, the whole mystery of God.

God in Jesus, God in Eucharist, God in you and me - its all part of the same awe inspiring, mind boggling mystery. It just seems to be the way, that we have to see it out there, in Jesus, out there in the Eucharist, before we can believe it and see it in ourselves and in others too.

Do we want to see this? What is it that makes us hesitant, slow to believe that this is true? Why would we not want it to be true? How can we receive this gift if we won’t accept it? If not now, when? If not here, where? If not in these circumstances, then in what? If we want God to act we must let God act through us. If we want things to change we must be the change. (DMA)

FAMILY: Jesus didn’t idolise the tribal family. He didn’t despise it either. Jesus gathered a family of those in harmony with the Father’s will. This “will” is love of one another and the whole human race. It sees the Divine in each person and thing, beyond gender, race or worldly status. The “father-mother-child(ren)” relationship is the majority human experience & must be honoured and protected. Secure, happy & loving families provide an ideal context nurturing children. At the same time we must respect and love those who can’t relate in this way or who choose other models of community, both natural & spiritual. Jesus indicated that gender is for this life only & that it won’t be part of our experience later on (Luke 20:30). While we must respect an individual’s gender experience, causing gender confusion at an early age will only do harm. (DMA).

20th December 4th Sunday of Advent

LET IT BE DONE ACCORDING TO YOUR WORD

At the beginning of his gospel Luke presents the stories of the birth of John the Baptist and the birth of Jesus. Zechariah and Elizabeth, the parents of John, are blameless and upright keepers of the Law. Yet they are barren, they have no children. We can see them as symbolic of the sterility of the Law. No matter how good the rules they cannot ignite one spark of divine love or conceive any divine life. In fact the Law becomes an instrument, not of holiness, but of division and hostility, cfr Ephesians 2:14.

Mary, in contrast, has no qualifications with respect to the law, or at least they are ignored, she is rather “so highly favoured”, or as the Latin Bible translated gratia plena, “full of grace”. Mary is the one who must receive the Divine initiative. This free gift of God’s love is promised in the gratuity of creation. And it has been promised in history most clearly through Abraham and the prophets of Israel, including King David who is mentioned in the first reading today. This promise is unconditional and independent of the Law. The two-sided covenant based on the keeping of the Law ended in failure. As St Peter said and history has proved we cannot keep the Law . And self-righteousness is achieved only at the cost of self-deception.

God abandoned that covenant and promised a new one. This is the one-sided Covenant based solely on God’s love and forgiveness, cfr Jeremiah 31:31 – for they shall all know me from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity and remember their sin no more. This new Covenant is realised in Jesus – he will save his people from their sins & reveal divinity in humanity (Matt 1:21).

Mary is the first one to be invited to the wedding feast of God. Her consent is requested because love can only be freely given and freely received. Mary’s freedom from the negativity of sin is demonstrated above all in her joyful acceptance of grace. She does not offer any protestations of unworthiness. These only witness to our estrangement from God and to the fact that we are trapped in our own categories of deserving/undeserving, worthy/unworthy. Mary’s disturbance arises because she knows her nothingness and could not presume. Her question arises not from doubt but from simple inquiry. Mary’s “Yes” to God arises from her joyful willingness to let God’s work of love be fulfilled through her. Similarly God invites all of us to let God love us and transform us. (DMA)

SHARING IN GOD’S JOY 

3rd Sunday of Advent 13th December 2020

(Joy is not a superficial happiness, contentment or satisfaction. It is not the result of, nor dependent upon, self-centred acquisition, possession or achievement. It is not to be identified with pleasure but it can co-exist with pleasure. Paradoxically, joy can be experienced (not necessarily felt) even in suffering. And while great sorrow obscures it, joy is not lost but remains hidden for a while as the sun behind the clouds. It is the natural state of God’s gift of pure being in loving relationship with all.)

Mary tells us where the source of true joy is to be found. My spirit rejoices in God, my Saviour. We are all seeking happiness but deep down, almost unknown even to ourselves we are seeking God’s joy and blessedness. The good news is that we do not have to search very far. Jesus said: The kingdom is within you, it is among you.

The joy is not far no matter what clouds get in the way. The pearl of great price, the hidden treasure is already within us. We have only to discover it, to accept it and rejoice in it. When, like Mary, we realize our nothingness and realize at the same time that God looks upon us with love, then our joy will blossom.

Just like Mary, God has done great things for us and is still doing great things for us at this very moment. God has lavished love upon us. The Law with its record of debt has been abolished and sinful humanity is forever forgiven.

We have been made God’s daughters and sons. God has shared the Holy Spirit with us and blessed us with every spiritual blessing in Christ. All holiness, virtue, freedom is ours in Christ. It can never be lost. It is always there for us to receive, and to receive as often as we need to. As Paul wrote, our spiritual nature is being renewed every day. God’s giving now is as fresh and as lavish as the first giving we experienced.

God is the secure rock of our faith. God is our temple. God is everything we need. When we realise this and accept it in trust then we are not dismayed by our nothingness. If we haven’t got goodness it is okay – Jesus says: No one is good except God alone. If we feel undeserving, unworthy, useless, empty, and a failure, that is okay. It is our nothingness. Our nothingness and our emptiness is the space that God fills. It provides the room for God to work.

Once we begin to appreciate this then our joy arises from the deepest part of our souls because God is there! No disaster or misfortune can take this away from us because it is always secure in God. It is not a possession we can lose because it is not ours to lose. We must just do what we can to keep the space empty!

This joy can begin now but our experience is necessarily weak at first because our awareness of this grace has only just begun to penetrate into our hearts and minds and influence our lives. When sorrows come this joy cannot be felt near the surface of our souls so we have to rely on the anchor of hope. When God will be all in all, our joy will be complete.(DMA)

6th December 2nd Sunday of Advent

THE COMING KINGDOM

Healing the past.

Awake to the present.

Preparing for the future.

Things are moving very quickly these days – communications, politics, technology, social attitudes, commercial initiatives. There are good things happening and developments that are not so good. We value our freedom, yet our choices are limited. And many people in the world do not have the freedoms that we enjoy. We can take responsibility for our personal lives and change them to some extent but as individuals we have little control over the big movements and changes taking place in the world. However, when we get together with other people who share our values, at least some of our beliefs and our concerns then we can begin to make a real impact. We are reminded that evil triumphs when good people do nothing.

Life, the Christ Mystery, is unfolding and as creatures called to grow in freedom and relationship, we have our part to play. The Kingdom that is coming is partly the fruit of what was sown before. We truly reap what we sow. If we use our freedom, personally and together with others, for what is good, working for peace, harmony, fairness, and compassion then joy and happiness will grow. If we allow the negative currents to grow stronger and do not challenge them then we will suffer the consequences.

There are big issues that need to be addressed today: getting through the pandemic, Brexit, reducing greenhouse gases to halt climate change, addressing poverty & inequality, providing employment and housing, finding a way through the broad spectrum of relationship and gender issues, awareness of the effects of our consumer culture & materialism. Managing the growing use of automated technologies replacing the need for human labour, healing the culture clashes between secular, liberal, democratic societies and those that are autocratic, patriarchal and politically, ethnically and religiously intolerant or even violent, handling the dawn of quantum computing which carries both huge potential & threat.

The church, as an institution, and particularly in the West, has lost a lot of credibility and respect. Clericalism has covered a multitude of sins which have now been uncovered often by people outside the Church! Women are desperately needed in positions of authority and oversight to provide wise and healthy balance and innovative perspectives. The loss of credibility is particularly acute when it comes to relationship and gender issues. Things are openly discussed on the radio, the internet, social media, and TV that cannot be satisfactorily addressed in a church where people of all ages and backgrounds are gathered for prayer and worship. But conversations are urgently needed between parents and their children, between parents, teachers, and children, among young people themselves and more broadly within the church community. To do nothing is to risk our young people being a prey to whatever is “out there” and sadly it’s not all good. Doing nothing is the cyber equivalent to “throwing them to the wolves”.

Our Christian, Catholic vision and faith has valuable wisdom to share, wisdom that is vital to human happiness in personal, family, and social life. It’s about respect and gratitude for life; true love and care for the other person, respect for animals and the environment. It is about the amazing possibility of a free, conscious and loving relationship with the Divine. It is about how our human relationships can receive the fullness of God’s love and joy. These issues must be addressed respectfully and responsibly, calmly, and compassionately. The condemnations, anxieties, guilts, embarrassments and negativities of the past must be left there. (DMA)

29th November 1st Sunday of Advent

WHAT MIGHT IT MEAN TO BE ASLEEP? 

 

We are rushing around getting anxious and fretful about a whole load of things that “need” to be done. We’re still worrying over the past and all the regrets, sometimes dreaming about how better things could have been “if only”. We’re increasingly fearful of the future. We’ve grown comfortable with our indulgences and our sins. We’re very sensitive about what others say about us on Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat. Without realising how or why we’ve become more angry, upset or frustrated. We haven’t got time for real prayer, the real, heart to heart, honest, “this is me” type of prayer. We only associate with people who think the same way as we do, have a similar standard of living and who don’t demand very much of us. The papers we read, the films and programmes we watch are the sort that won’t disturb or upset us. We’ve become more fearful of strangers and less confident in dealing with life. We are becoming boring even to ourselves, thinking the same things, saying the same things and doing the same things. Life is grey, the world seems a threatening place. There has been too much change or not enough change. If we’re old we resent the young, if we’re young we resent the old! We have stopped thinking for ourselves, stopped searching, seeking, asking or knocking. We just tend to go with whatever is popular, as long as it suits us. Perhaps we can think of other ways in which we can be spiritually asleep.

 

WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE AWAKE?:

Jesus said we need to change and become like little children if we want to get on God’s wavelength and discover the peace and joy God wants us to have. The changing, the turning around (i.e. repenting), the being born again are all other ways of describing waking up. By the gift of God’s Spirit, we begin to realise we are loved, we are important to God but also so is everyone else. God’s mercy helps us let go of the past with all its burden of regret. God’s care helps us to stop worrying about the future. We still make reasonable preparation but without the anxiety. Not burdened by either nostalgia or anxiety we can be more present to the present moment. We can be more aware and appreciative of the here and now. Letting go of our fear but also our naivety we can respond to others with a positive, welcoming attitude. Aware of our strengths and weaknesses and our gifts and talents we are more confident about what we can achieve when we exercise determination and perseverance. Increasingly freer from resentment, anxiety, fear, prejudice and self-pity we experience more spontaneous joy and laughter. Less pre-occupied with ourselves and our own needs we are freer to love others and be loved by others. To be awake is to be alive, alert, ready to respond with good-will, compassion and encouragement. To be awake is to be present to God who only meets us in the present moment and in the other, who is the Other in disguise. Perhaps we can think of other ways which indicate we are awake? (DMA)

CHRIST THE KING    22nd November

How can we talk of Jesus Christ the King today? What does it mean? First, we have to remember that “Christ” is not Jesus’s surname! We should properly talk about Jesus the Christ. The Christ is the Divine Word, the Divine blueprint or plan expressed and made visible in creation, in all that is. Everything, us included, has come from the Divine Word and everything is held in being by the creative love and power of God. So the Christ cannot be anything other than Sovereign, King, Lord or whatever title of supremacy we may care to use.

Here is a great mystery, from the experience of “what is”, the visible, we are invited to contemplate the invisible source of all that is. This openness to the Divine Other is faith. In the encounter with Jesus of Nazareth people came to experience, know and believe that Jesus was and is from God in a unique way. In the life, teaching and loving sacrifice of Jesus people experienced Divine love and came to the conviction that this is what life is all about, this is what true love really is, this is the meaning and purpose of everything. And Jesus reveals not only who God is but also the true and full nature and potential of humanity.

By God’s gift and God’s Spirit we have received this faith, this conviction, we experience it in the lives of all good, compassionate and holy people, we celebrate it in Eucharist and all the sacraments, and hopefully, we communicate it, in some measure, to those we meet, and especially to those in need.

And here is another great mystery: the whole of creation, and us included, are in a process of becoming, of growing, or as St Paul wrote, of “giving birth”. We are being drawn out of our prison of “disobedience” and into the embrace of the loving mercy of God. In this mystery of becoming God’s love is humble and gentle, merciful, patient and compassionate. The powers of the “world” and the forces of negativity may seem to hold sway for a while but they are all passing away.

God’s love has triumphed, does triumph and always will triumph. God is always and already in all and through all and with all. Ultimately, we will all experience the inexpressible joy of knowing and experiencing that God is, indeed, ALL IN ALL. (DMA)

Bitesize

“Hide not your talents. They for use were made. What’s a sundial in the shade?” – Ben Franklin

THE HAVES & THE HAVE NOTS 15th November

 

The way the Scriptures are presented this Sunday - the praise of initiative, generosity and hard work and their rewards – indicates that we are to use God’s gifts creatively, diligently and magnanimously and resist the paralysis of fear, anxiety and laziness. This is all well and good and we all need to take on board this encouragement. At the same time, we must not become slaves to busyness or to secular notions of productivity and usefulness which diminish respect for the sanctity of life and the value of being and relationships.

The encouragement to diligent enterprise is a very simple, straight-forward message. However, therein lies a danger. The danger is that we will interpret this in a materialistic way. We may even take it as a ringing endorsement of our capitalist, economic system. The capitalist system is not all bad, but neither is it all good.

It is a mysterious fact that the words of Jesus: “To those who have will more be given and from those who have not even what they have will be taken away”, prove to be true both in the “Kingdom” and in the “world”.

In the “world” (meaning the dominant economic, social & cultural system) the wealthy, healthy, clever and “beautiful” people have an overwhelming advantage. The rich get richer and the poor get poorer, as the saying goes.

In the “Kingdom” (meaning living by the light of God’s love for everyone & everything) those who share love receive more love; those who share joy & peace receive more joy & peace. Those who share wisdom and understanding receive more wisdom and understanding.

However, there is one important difference between having more in the “world” and having more in the “Kingdom”. In the “world”, which is driven by the fear of scarcity, one can only become rich at the expense of someone else.

In the “Kingdom”, which draws on the infinite abundance of God, one can only become rich in God’s grace by enriching others with the same grace. In the “world” the flow is inward to the separate self, both individual and collective. In the “Kingdom” the flow is outwards towards everyone and everything.

Another reason why all may not be quite as simple as it sounds is that several Scripture scholars think the original meaning of the parable may have been completely obscured by the time it came to be written down in the Gospels.

The interpretation goes like this: in Jesus’s time a wealthy person could only sustain and increase their wealth by exploitation of the poor.

Some servants are happy to go along with this unjust system and they are amply rewarded.

One brave person exposes the harshness and greed of the master and refuses to be complicit. Of course, he is punished by the system just a Jesus was.

The parable, in this interpretation, would have been too culturally subversive even for the followers of Jesus. God’s way of thinking is just too different from our worldly way.

So, the parable was given a more acceptable twist: hard work, enterprise, making profit – appreciated as much by the “children of this world” as by the “children of light” (cfr. Luke 16:9ff). (DMA)

 

November, Month of the Faithful Departed.

During the month of November we pray for all our deceased family members and friends. We aim to remember how they helped and loved us whilst they were with us and we commit to keeping their memory alive by adopting the qualities we most admired in them. We also pray for those who have died that have fought for our way of life and our religious freedom, and we pray for those who have died alone who have no one to remember them.

Remembrance Sunday 8th November 2020

Remembrance Sunday falls on the Sunday nearest Armistice Day, 11 November, which marks the end of the First World War. On this day are remembered all those who gave their lives for their country, all who suffered and died through acts of war and those who were left behind to grieve and mourn.

On this day we are asked to pray

•          For peace and reconciliation between nations, that enemies may put aside all differences.

•          For all those who have died through war or acts of violence in defence of our country, may we never forget their sacrifice.

SAINTS: BECOMING WHAT WE ALREADY ARE

All Sainst 1st November 2020

 

There is a disturbing truth about holiness. It is not that holiness is very difficult, or that it requires heroic self-sacrifice or that you have to be born in the right place, at the right time and with the right background.

The disturbing truth is almost the opposite of the above. Holiness is very simple. It requires nothing more than the acceptance of a child. The giving of it, far from being hedged around with awkward conditions, is totally unconditional, indiscriminate, lavish and undeserved. What is more disturbing is that it is already here, already fully given. Every grace, every virtue, every blessing, every healing, every joy that we could even dare to imagine, even the impossible things, all these have already be given to us in Jesus Christ. And Christ is not far away from us but actually our true and deepest identity. In other words everything we could aspire to is already within us and already is us. It is the treasure hidden in the field for which we let go all else because it just cannot compare to it.

Why do I say this is disturbing? It is because something so wonderful, good news so great is so close to us and yet we are, most of the time, blind to it and unaware of it. John tells us: We are already the children of God. Our task is to become what we already are. This is not difficult. God does all the hard work we have only to let ourselves be carried there back to our true selves which is Christ.

This spiritual journey is along the way of the cross, the way of contradictions and paradoxes. It is the way of dying to the false self in order to rise and live in the true self. It is about falling and rising, losing and finding. The journey embraces reality in all its dimensions. It is a journey inward to discover the God self within, the Christ within. It is also a journey outward to engage with the world and with others, because everything is encompassed by the mystery of God. Paul writes: Christ is in everything, Christ is everything. This is the true reality.

Even though Paul at one time murdered and persecuted the early Christians he was given to see that deep within he had a spiritual self which delighted in God’s will. Mother Julian of Norwich, the 14th century English mystic wrote: there is in every soul …a godly will that never has assented to sin and never will. St Catherine of Genoa ran through the streets shouting: “My deepest me is God! My deepest me is God! This is Christ within us, God’s being shared with us. We’re tempted to think this is too good to be true but of course God is always going to “blow our minds” in the best possible way!

The task of holiness is to receive this precious gift and live in its power and light. God looks on us with tremendous love and tenderness, it is a love graciously given, undeserved, unmerited which flows over us whether we are good or wicked. Prayer opens the door and enables us to look back at God and receive that love. Just one glimpse of that love will change our lives forever, sin will begin to lose its power over us and freedom and joy will grow. God made us “very good” (Genesis 1:31) and we can thank the Lord with joy “for the wonder of our being, for the wonders of all God’s creation” (Psalm 138/139). DMA

 

THERE IS ONLY ONE LOVE    25th October

The Pharisees (literally “separated ones”) were a group that began with the hasidim (God’s loyal ones) in the 2nd century before Jesus. They concentrated on control of religious rather than political affairs. Their supreme concern and delight was to keep the law, including the traditions of the elders (Torah) in every exact detail. Most scribes belonged to the Pharisee group. They were model Jews by their own standards. They tended to keep themselves apart from others whom they considered either unclean or sinful in some way. While there were exceptions (e.g. Nicodemus) they were generally arrogant, judgemental and disdainful of others. This arrogance, combined with a dry legalism which put exact ritual observance before love and mercy led them into conflict with Jesus.

It is not clear why they thought the question “Which is the greatest commandment of the Law?” could cause potential embarrassment for Jesus. Perhaps there is a clue in Jesus’ answer. Jesus did not give them the answer they wanted because he mentions two commandments: Love God and love your neighbour as yourself. So perhaps we can infer that the Pharisees wanted to drive a wedge between these two commandments & to show that Jesus, by loving people as he did, was somehow infringing the first and greatest commandment.

The greatest temptation of religious people of any time or place is to hate others for the love of God. We can so easily delude ourselves into thinking that our own fears, greed, & hatreds can be justified by appealing to religious duty. Very conveniently, and probably for the most part unconsciously, we excuse ourselves and blame God: “Well don’t blame me for trying to kill you, I am only obeying God’s commandment. It is a holy duty! I have got to do it!” The cross of Jesus directly addressed this sin of the world. God is always with the victim, always on both sides of any divide.

Jesus’ teaching was not dramatically new as our extract from Exodus indicates. However the fundamental shift is that for Exodus “neighbour” meant primarily anyone of your own race – foreigners & pagans were not included. Jesus universalises this commandment & brings it, from a relatively obscure position, to be the second greatest commandment. He then says that all the writings of the Law (1st five books of the Hebrew bible) and the prophets hang or rest upon these two. This is an antidote to fundamentalism and legalism because everything has to be referred back to love, love is the greatest law.

God accepts and loves us, so we can love ourselves and others in the same way. Of course there is a deeper truth here. There is a deep unity of all things in God. When you love your neighbour you are, in fact, loving your greater Self. This unity is based first of all at the level of being: All things came into being through him (i.e the Word), John 1:3; in him all things hold together, Colossians 1:17. There is union finally at the level of love – God’s embrace of love for everything & everyone. (DMA).

 

Owing to a parishioner being tested positive for Covid-19

Fr David is in isolation up to and including the 18th October.

 

Therefore, Sunday Masses on 18th October at

 St Anne’s, St Francis and Our Lady of Mercy & St Joseph are cancelled.

 

The next Masses on a Sunday will be:

25th October OLMSJ, Lymington

1st November, St Anne’s, Brockenhurst & St Francis of Assisi, Milford on Sea

Due to social distancing seats are limited and must be booked in advance via the parish office : 01590 676696

Give to God what belongs to God 18th October

The enemies of Jesus, an unlikely alliance of Pharisees (religious, anti-Roman), and Herodians (ruling classes, pro-Roman) try to trap Jesus. They frame a question in such a way as to force a damned if you do and damned if you don’t kind of answer. If Jesus says No to paying tax he can be arrested and executed as a rebel (or terrorist in contemporary terms). If Jesus says Yes pay the taxes he will alienate all ordinary people who detested the Roman occupation. (Incidentally, Jewish tax collectors were the most despised people in Israel at that time).

Why did Jesus have these enemies? He was obviously upsetting the system. He threatened the whole religious industry because if God gives freely then you no longer need to pay for it with money or animals. The whole economy of Jerusalem was being turned upside down and people’s jobs were on the line! Not only that but people’s self-importance, power and faults were being exposed. Few of us take kindly to that!

Jesus accuses the questioners of being hypocrites. First of all because their real intention is malicious – they want to trap Jesus.

Secondly, because they themselves are using the Roman coinage. This was itself tantamount to idolatry (the inscription often referred to the divine emperor) and revealed a practical acceptance of their rule.

Jesus’ response to them is a flash of wisdom and inspiration: Give to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s.

This can be understood as saying respect the civil authorities, as far as possible, as this is necessary for the smooth running of society. However, we must look to our relationship with God above all else, loving God with all our mind, heart, soul and strength. Living in God’s love, doing the will of the God the Father/Mother is what is really important.

Of course, Jesus has much better things to give his followers than money. When we really appreciate the spiritual blessings – God’s unconditional love, forgiveness, gift of the Holy Spirit, sharing in God’s life – then gold, silver, jewels etc are all very pretty and we can enjoy them and learn to use them wisely but they don’t have any real value. God values all the creation and especially people. Each person is a precious gift. (DMA)

IMAGES OF THE BANQUET         11th October

Isaiah’s description of the banquet comes in a short section, chapters 25-27, which scholars agree to be a later interpolation into the text. Whereas most of Isaiah 1-39 is attributed to Isaiah himself, and dates from the eighth

century BC, these chapters, which refer to the fall of an imperial city, are probably from the fifth century. The wonderful feast celebrates the end of history as we know it: for God will “destroy death for ever”.

However, Isaiah (if I may still call the author that) is as interested in politics as he is in eschatology (the branch of theology concerned with end times); Israel’s troubled and precarious existence as a tiny state, tossed and sometimes crushed between surrounding and warring empires, will finally be resolved. Their loyalty to their God will be vindicated, as he brings about their salvation. Yet Isaiah is not narrowly nationalistic. While Israel’s shame in front of mightier nations will be removed, at the same time all nations will be invited to the banquet on the mountain of Jerusalem.

On the one hand, Isaiah envisages punishment for oppressive nations (the lectionary with its customary delicacy cuts the reading just before the grim fate of Moab is described).

On the other hand, the prophet proclaims a future where “the inhabitants of the world learn righteousness” (26:9) and recognise the Lord’s rule.

Both Matthew and Luke make use of a version of the parable of the wedding–feast, and their different treatments of it reveal their own theological interests. In Luke, Jesus is urging the wealthy to show hospitality to the poor and the handicapped, who will not be able to repay it. He is concerned to encourage generosity to the needy and to break down social barriers. The second set of guests invited are “the poor and maimed and blind and lame”, while the third are summoned from “the highways and hedgerows”.

Matthew uses the parable quite differently, to continue his narrative of the conflict between Jesus and the Jewish leaders over the question of God’s relation to Israel. Again he presents the story as an illustration of the kingdom

of heaven. The motif reappears of the servants who are ill treated and killed, who represent the prophets. The king’s revenge on their murderers is described with Matthew’s usual lack of squeamishness. He is not interested in whether the second set of guests are poor or maimed (indeed, they seem to be expected to be able to afford a wedding garment).

His point is simply that the feast is now open to all-comers. Once again, the challenge is aimed at Jesus’ religious opponents: the time of fulfilment is here, and the kingdom of heaven will welcome anyone who accepts the invitation, Jew and Gentile alike.

(From Priests & People , preaching and teaching the Word by Margaret Atkins).

IS THE KINGDOM BEING TAKEN FROM US? 4th October

 

In the Gospel this weekend Jesus says to the religious leaders: “The kingdom of God shall be taken away from you and given to those who will produce its fruit”.

It is important that we regularly ask that question of the Lord in our prayer: Are we losing the kingdom, are we losing our souls?

Forget about heaven and hell for a moment. It is about what is happening now in our hearts, minds, emotions, bodies, relationships and lives. Seeing things only in terms of “when I die” can be a subtle way to avoid the here and now issues.

History gives us many examples of people, communities, regions, countries “losing it”. Losing openness, tolerance, love, compassion, joy, variety, acceptance, values, meaning and whatever else makes the heart sing. A parish community can have its priests, its liturgies, its groups and still be cold and unwelcoming, judgemental and narrow-minded. It can have too little of the Spirit who comes from God and too much of the spirit of the world (fear, lethargy, discouragement, greed, factions, prejudices etc).

The soul is a very delicate thing. It can expand out to the whole universe and in its appreciation and acceptance embrace everything, even the mystery of God. The soul thrives on love, truth, compassion and freedom.

 

It responds to beauty and to disfigurement, to joy and to pain. It relishes spontaneity, diversity and harmony. With faith it can flourish on challenge and overcome adversity. Above all the soul can be refreshed and renewed by another or by the Other.

But the soul can also shrink and wither. It can lose the joy. It can become locked into anxiety, bitterness, security and comfort. The soul can become fearful and self-preoccupied. Remember I am not talking so much about sin, although that may be part of the picture but about life, energy, creativity, appreciation, joy, openness or rather the lack of these experiences. We can be going to the sacraments but our souls can still be starving because we are not really letting Christ into the whole of our lives. One moment with the Lord will have little impact if we spend hours & hours consuming only the trivial and superficial.

Bad leadership can also stifle the soul. Rigid, authoritarian and regimental leadership negates confidence, creativity and God-given self-worth. And weak leadership which fails to call forth the best in us can encourage complacency. If we are living only in the expectations of others. We may not belong to ourselves. If they are the mirrors which reflect back to us our reality then we won’t know who we really are. We won’t realise that we are mirrored by Christ as children of God. We need to ask ourselves who am I when I am not a husband, wife, father, mother, wage earner, single person, etc? Do I know myself as one uniquely loved and called by the Other who is the real friend and life of our souls? (DMA)

GETTING INTO THE DANCE     27th September

 

True religion is not first morality and then relationship. It is first relationship and then morality.

 

Think of the way a family nurtures a new baby. First come the bonds of joy, love, tenderness and belonging. The first years are fairly crucial. If the right foundations are laid the young person can go forward with confidence, self-worth and trust. They are free enough to begin taking responsibility and seeing beyond their own needs. They learn that right and wrong have their source in love. In the absence of sufficient love and affirmation a person becomes haunted by a certain emptiness and a feeling of unworthiness. It becomes more difficult to break free from the preoccupation with one’s own needs. It takes longer to begin responding to the needs of others.

 

This development pattern is also true in our relationship with God. It is not us loving God so that God will have to love us. It is God loving us first so that we can love in return. We do not get it all right and then enter the “kingdom” of God’s loving friendship. The offer of God’s friendship is given to us and then we begin to get it right. If we have fear and anxiety as the foundation of our relationship with God we will continually try to win God over. Our spiritual lives will be very self-centred.

We won’t be able to share the Good News because deep down we haven’t heard it ourselves. We can’t give what we haven’t got.

 

This explains why we can take years anxiously struggling to be good and holy. We either give up in discouragement or deny the shadow both to ourselves and others. We then have to fabricate a righteousness to mask the shadow. We cannot imagine God loving us with our sins and weaknesses. Deep down we resent the effort to “make God love us” and we don’t really like the false image of God we have in our imaginations. It is no wonder that joy does not characterise our Christianity as much as it should.

 

It may be shocking to us but “the tax collectors and prostitutes are making their way into the kingdom of God before” us. There isn’t any indication here that tax collectors and prostitutes have been able to instantly change their occupations. What has changed is that they have accepted God into their lives. They have accepted God’s undeserved love. They agreed to join the dance. The joy and strength this love gives will enable them to let go of anything that is not right in God’s eyes. Pope Francis wants the whole Church to receive again with joy this liberating and enabling loving mercy of God (DMA).

THE FIRST AND THE LAST:  20th September

 

One way of responding to the teaching of Jesus is to take a Gospel passage and identify with each of the main characters in the parable or story. Then one needs to recognise one’s feeling and reactions. It is called “owning our biases”. We all approach the Gospel with preconceived ideas and basic assumptions about life. This is just the way we are and it’s not a matter for guilt or blame. We can however take responsibility for ourselves which opens the way to seeing things in a new light and responding in a different way. Jesus is always challenging our basic assumptions about self, others, the world, what is good and bad and what is worth striving for. If we want a relationship with God now and if we hope for that relationship to endure for eternal life then we must continue the effort to get on God’s wavelength. Thankfully God will do all the hard work if we let her.

Take this Sunday’s Gospel. There are three main characters, the landowner, the labourers hired first and the labourers hired last. We need to stand “in the shoes” of these different people and experience what it feels like. Then we can ask ourselves why we think and feel the way we do.

Some years ago, when I was in South Africa I noticed that in certain places in the towns labourers and craftsmen would stand around waiting to be hired by contractors. Imagine if you have a family to feed or if one of your children is sick. You don’t have regular job & therefore no regular wage.

 

You have to depend on others to hire you. Then when you have been hired and have worked hard all day long you get the same money as someone who has only worked a few hours. How does that make you feel? What are the expectations of justice and fairness? What if you are a trade union representative?

Now put yourself in the shoes of a labourer hired last. You have been waiting for most of the day. You are getting more and more depressed and worried. Will you get enough money to live on? Will you have to work on into the night? How will you feel having to go home to the family with only a little money, not enough to pay the bills and buy food? How will you feel when you are paid the same as those who have worked all day? You receive something you didn’t earn or deserve. The gift comes from the sheer benevolence of the landowner. How does that feel? Would you feel more secure if you had earned the wages?

Now put yourself in the position of the landowner. It is your land, your money and you control the work. Would you pay the labourers the same? Would you think about their personal circumstances? Would you be influenced by the objections of other people?

If the landowner represents God it means that God looks to the needs of each person. It means that God gives according to God’s own goodness. God is free to do as she sees fit with her gifts. As God is loving to us all we have no reason to complain. (DMA)

THE SCANDAL OF FORGIVENESS

13th September

 

It is strange that the Good News is sometimes also disturbing news. But this disturbance is only the discomfort of moving from a small spiritual place to a much bigger spiritual place. Jesus is always connecting us to the mystery of God who is always greater, always fresh and new.

We have our own ideas about forgiveness, our own limits and conditions. The Scripture begins by softening us up somewhat. The reading from Ecclesiasticus takes the approach of reason. If we seek forgiveness from God how can we refuse forgiveness to another human being? What right have we to seek vengeance when that right belongs to God?

 

The Gospel takes things further. Peter wants to set a reasonable limit to forgiveness – seven times – surely that is enough? Jesus completely blows that one away. Not seven times but seventy-seven times – Jesus effectively says that there is no limit to forgiveness. The reason is clear from the parable. God’s forgiveness is prodigal, lavish, unlimited. In fact it is scandalous and shocking. In the parable the servant owes the master a ridiculous amount of money – equivalent to millions of pounds at today’s values. The master feels sorry for the servant and cancels all the debt. But this servant has lent a few pennies to another and he demands repayment. When this is not forthcoming he has the other servant put into prison.

 

The message of the parable is clear. Our debt to God is far greater than we could ever imagine. By comparison our debts to each other are almost insignificant. If God has forgiven us then we should forgive each other.

But the Gospel is more disturbing still. And this is the really worrying part. The master in the parable imprisons the ungrateful and pitiless servant who refused to forgive and hands him over to the torturers. Jesus says this is how his heavenly Father will deal with us unless we forgive from the heart. Now clearly Matthew cannot believe God has a band of torturers just waiting to inflict pain. Surely, Jesus cannot be saying his heavenly Father is a sadistic torturer?

 

No, of course not, rather Jesus is using strong language to wake us up to the damage that unforgiveness and resentment can do to our own hearts, souls and bodies! Refusing to forgive is like locking ourselves into a prison and torturing ourselves with our own pain. It is like holding thorns tightly to the breast afraid to let go. In effect we end up torturing ourselves. The only way out is to ask God for the grace to forgive. (DMA)

 

The Season of Creation is an ecumenical liturgical season dedicated to prayer, reflection and celebration of God the Creator running from 1st September to 4th October. This year the theme is Jubilee for the Earth. There is a lovely Liturgy Guide which can be found at https://ourcommonhome.org/media/docs/2020-Season-of-Creation-Liturgy-Guide-LISTEN.pdf

 

HOW DO WE RESPOND TO SERIOUS BAD BEHAVIOUR?

6th September

 

Notice in the Gospel for this Sunday, how the work of forgiveness & reconciliation, the power to “bind & loose” & the freedom to initiate good works are given to all the disciples, irrespective of gender.

Of all the sacraments, Reconciliation has been the one which the Church, over the centuries, has moulded, re-worked and changed the most. We only have to compare the text of this Sunday’s Gospel to our present practice to see the difference.

 

For many complex, often understandable reasons, the vast majority of Catholics who are still attending Mass regularly on a Sunday do not frequent the sacrament of Reconciliation. A reasonable proportion may avail of the sacrament once or twice a year. Recent exhortations to return to a more frequent, devotional reception of the sacrament seem to have been largely ignored. In order to respect Church discipline children must make a first Reconciliation before they make their first Holy Communion. However, as the parents don’t go themselves very few are brought to Reconciliation after that.

Let us return to the basics here. Sacred Scripture teaches that God loves us and calls us to love one another and the whole human race, even our enemies. Love does no wrong to the other and positively tries to do good where it can. Any behaviour (intentions, words & actions) that is, in any way, damaging to self or others, or to the relationship with God is bad, unhealthy, sinful.

Scripture warns us that when we engage in bad behaviour then harmful consequences follow. Remember we are punished by our sins not for our sins. Scripture admonishes us to change and seek forgiveness from those we have offended and from God. It also assures us that if we are sincerely sorry, even after countless “falls”, then God’s forgiveness is there for us.

 

Institutional corruption is to be courageously exposed and challenged. The weak, powerless and vulnerable are to be given special protection. As far as possible the good name of the offender is to be protected. But this protection of the offender is a not an absolute. The welfare of the injured always takes priority. Scripture encourages restorative justice, re-building relationships and making amends as far as possible.

Scripture tells us that God has reconciled the world to God’s self. In fact, on God’s side it always was, is and ever will be fully reconciled. The world already has General Absolution! Scripture encourages us to confess our sins to one another, pray for one another and so experience healing (James 5:16). The grace of reconciliation, forgiveness & healing has to be an every day, everywhere experience. Its for couples, for families, for places of work, for life at school & college, for friends. Our receiving forgiveness is inseparably linked to our giving forgiveness.

 

The time is long overdue for a wholesale re-working of how the Church community responds to us when we mess up, fail & seriously sin. Ignorant, misguided and damaging “sin” labels need to be discarded. We need to re-think better ways of how we can acknowledge our damaging & harmful behaviour; how we might be helped to change; how the vulnerable can be properly protected; how the assurance of God’s forgiveness is best communicated. The sacrament of Reconciliation must be a healing, encouraging, restoring encounter accorded the appropriate confidentiality. However, it must not be abused in such a way as to enable an unrepentant offender to go on causing serious harm to another, vulnerable person. The Church has changed the way it does this sacrament many times before. It can do so again. (DMA)

 

God’s Way of Thinking! 30th August

Our readings for this Sunday are rich in many ways. We see Jeremiah struggling with the difficult and unpopular task to which God had called him. He had to warn the political and religious leaders that the policies they were pursuing would only end in disaster. His truth-telling was not appreciated! Jeremiah tried to suppress and ignore his calling but he couldn’t do it

 

We see Peter, no sooner had he been blessed with Divine insight given by the Father, than he falls back into an all too understandable human way of thinking. Like all of us, Peter & Jeremiah recoil from suffering or even the thought of it. We don’t wish it on others and to seek it for ourselves would be morbid. So we sympathise with them both here.

However, God didn’t call Jeremiah to suffer but to speak “truth to power”. Jesus wasn’t determined to suffer pain and death. He was determined to do the Father’s will, to be faithful to his Father & to his sisters and brothers. He was indeed determined to stay this course even if it meant suffering and death.

The logic of a love that is so strong and pure that it is willing to suffer for the good of the other is the way of our God, who is love. The “way of the world” is only interested in self-advantage to the detriment of the other.

It is good to know that the heroes of our faith, who received Divine callings, were still very human and could get themselves in a mess just like we do. We too can and do receive God’s blessings and inspirations and we too can be called to bear witness and to speak the truth courageously. We too are called to love and to accept the cross (the sacrifices) that true love inevitably requires of us. As St Therese of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face remarked, we don’t carry our crosses gloriously, but like Jesus, we stumble and fall. And if we persevere the strength has come not from ourselves but only from God.

 

Finally, Paul reminds us that this Divine wisdom is received primarily by loving and not just by thinking. God has given God’s self to us. We are invited to give ourselves to God and to allow God to give us the “new mind”, the “mind of Christ” which will enable us to change our behaviour. It will help us understand what God wants. We don’t try to change our behaviour to make God love us, that is a futile endeavour. God already loves us, it is by accepting that love, and only by that love that we can begin to change our behaviour for the better. Can this be our prayer? (DMA)

LISTEN 2020 Season of Creation Liturgy G[...]
Adobe Acrobat document [2.6 MB]

This beautiful historic church of Our Lady of Mercy & St Joseph, Lymington, is badly in need of funds for essential repairs.

You can make a donation via the webpage.

This webpage is temporary - in use just for the Coronavirus.

Go to the menu on the left and scroll down past all the Coronavirus pages to

Lymington’s Historic Catholic church needs your help.’

Thank you for your generosity.

God bless you.

Our Lady of Mercy & St Joseph ,Lymington

 

6pm Saturday Mass has been CANCELLED for the foreseeable future.

 

Due to the restrictions imposed by the Government and Diocese there are a limited number of seats for Mass

 

THEREFORE,

ALL SEATS MUST BE BOOKED IN ADVANCE,

for the  Sunday 10.30am​ Mass,

BY RINGINGTHE PARISH OFFICE

01590 676696

 

YOU MUST GIVE A CONTACT TELEPHONE NUMBER WHEN YOU RING TO BOOK

WHICH WILL GO TO ‘TRACK & TRACE’ IF NEEDED.

 

 

REFLECTIONS ON AUTHORITY & LEADERSHIP IN THE CHURCH  23rd August

Any short extract of literature needs to be understood in context. In fact, taking things out of context can lead to great misunderstandings and distortions. (This certainly applies to the short extract from Romans 11:33-36 for this Sunday. The preceding verses 25-32 point to the mystery & paradox of God’s mercy: ‘God has imprisoned all human beings in their disobedience to show mercy to all’ v32).

So “You are Peter & on this rock…” (Matt 16:18) needs to be understood alongside Matt 16:23 where Jesus says to Peter: “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling-block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things”. So, Peter is gifted by the Father’s revelation but at the same time remains a frail human being subject to weakness & worldly thinking. So, church leaders may or may not be open to God’s inspiration but they will always be “earthen vessels” prone to frailty.

In this Sunday’s Gospel passage we read that the keys of the kingdom of heaven are given to Peter, with power to “bind & loose”. However, we need to understand these words in the light of other passages where Jesus gives a similar authority to all the disciples (Matt 18:18).

Also, we must consider Matt. 23:8-12: But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all students. And call no one your father on earth, for you have one Father—the one in heaven. Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Messiah. The greatest among you will be your servant. All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted.

And in Mark’s Gospel (Mk 10:41-45) Jesus says how authority is to be exercised: When the ten heard this, they began to be angry with James and John. So Jesus called them and said to them, “You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”

St Peter himself wrote: (1 Peter 5: 1-3) I exhort the elders among you …. Do not lord it over those in your charge, but be examples to the flock.

A healthy church community is one in which everyone is respected, listened to, has a part to play, and is able to co-operate and collaborate. A healthy community is one where God’s love is the supreme law, where each is responsible for and accountable to the other. A healthy community needs leadership that nurtures the gifts of the Holy Spirit working “in all sorts of different ways, in different people” (1 Cor 12:6).

Pope Francis has been trying to re-balance how authority is exercised in the Church by exposing clericalism and re-introducing dialogue, collaboration and subsidiarity. However, there has been little progress, if any, on the inclusion of women in the leadership of the Church. A few token gestures have made recently but much more needs to be done to exorcise the demons of patriarchy and misogyny. For the vast majority of young people today this is one of the major scandals which diminishes the light of Christ in the Church. (DMA)

MARY RECEIVES THE FULLNESS OF GRACE

16th August

“Mary, assumed body & soul into the glory of heaven” can be seen as the final triumph of God’s graciousness towards humanity. Where death & decay were once understood as just punishments for sin, now they must be understood in the context of grace. Where once body & soul were pitched against each other in a false dichotomy now they can only be seen as reconciled and united in the mystery of Christ - the creative Word. Mary was sinless not by a independently achieved perfection of thought, word and deed (cfr Phil 3:9) but by the favour of God whose forgiveness covers all (Jer 31:34), and whose grace produces the perfect goodness. In this relationship of grace there is “no longer any consciousness of sin” (Heb 10:2). For the parent a child’s accidents, mistakes, temper tantrums and sulks are not “sins” bringing condemnation and separation but learning experiences on the journey of life.

Mary as mother of Jesus, the eternal Word made flesh, is ennobled in her motherhood. This nobility is shared by the whole creation which is one with the Divine because it receives its being from the Word (John 1:3).

What of Mary’s body? In Scripture body has many meanings: the community is the Body of Christ. As the Word became flesh, so the Word becomes bread & wine, the sacramental Body & Blood of Christ.

The universe is the body of the Christ who “fills the whole creation” (Eph 1:23, Teilhard de Chardin & more recently Pope Benedict). Paul writes that there are different kinds of bodies and that the mortal body that is “sown” is not the same as the spiritual body that is “raised” (1 Cor 15:44). So when we speak of “body” we mustn’t assume we fully understand what we are talking about. But the implication here is that the material body is subsumed within the spiritual body just as the colours of the spectrum are drawn back into the oneness of pure light. Or like the tulip that dies back into its source, the bulb. So the unity of body and soul, and all the dimensions of created being are held within the creative energy of the Divine Word, the source of all creation.

For the Church, Mary assumed expresses the final triumph of God’s grace for God’s creatures. The language of separation, alienation, decay & condemnation is no longer relevant. All the experiences of life - the beautiful, the good, the tragic & ugly, the destructive and vain, the heroic & the wicked are seen in a new light. The empirical realities are what they are, flesh is still flesh, decay still happens, wickedness is still evil, love must still suffer and struggle - but everything is bathed in a new light. This light is the glory of the love of God made visible in Christ Jesus & everything in creation is subject to it and nothing has the power to diminish it. Mary personally receives the fullness of grace and is therefore the symbol of graced humanity. (DMA)

 

TRUSTING THAT GOD IS WITH US IN STORMY TIMES

9th August 2020

In today’s Gospel two things are going on simultaneously. As the disciples set off across the lake, Jesus goes up on the mountain to pray (v.23). The biblical idea is of Jesus ascending the mountain, a traditional place for contact with God. In prayer, Jesus returns to the source of all that he is and does.

But while Jesus is in close contact with God the crossing of the lake becomes a conflict, a battle with a heavy sea. Jesus leaves the union of prayer with God to join his struggling disciples. Yet, despite their need for him, his presence strikes fear into their hearts as they cry out, “It is a ghost” (v.26).

Jesus reveals himself to them in a formula, which has a long history in the Bible: “It is I” (v.27). From Moses’ encounter with the burning bush (see Ex 3:14), down to the conflicts of the prophets with the false gods introduced into Israel (see Is 43:10; 45:18), this formula was used to speak of the presence of the true God to his people: “It is I”. Equally important to moments when God or the Angel of God speaks to his people are the words of encouragement: “Do not be afraid”.

Peter’s response is typical. At first he is prepared to take a risk upon the word of Jesus. If it is Jesus, he will only have to call him across the water, and he will come (v.28). At first he places his trust in the Lord, but then succumbs to the pressures of the storm around him. However, in this situation he calls on the help of the Lord, and Jesus holds him and keeps him safe (vv.30 -31). In Peter’s situation of little faith and doubt, his Lord has stood by him. So it is with all the disciples in the boat. Jesus and Peter get into the boat, the wind drops and all confess: “Truly, you are the Son of God” (v.33).

In the experience of the disciples and Peter we find reflected the experience of every Christian. We often begin with the great courage, which only faith can give us, but such courage of faith dwindles when wind and wave assail it. In this situation we remain ultimately dependent upon the gracious help of our Lord. Without Jesus we can make no headway. Jesus is the one who is close to God, who unfailingly looks to him for guidance and strength, while we go on with the everyday things in our lives, never giving our God a thought. Yet, when difficulties come God is there, coming out of the darkness into our lives. But even then our faith can falter. He sometimes asks us to do strange things: to jump out of the boat into the stormy water. Encouragingly, Peter’s story – and the story of disciples who thought Jesus was only a ghost – tells us it is to those of little faith that Jesus still comes, holding us close and leading us into safety and peace which only he can give.

(From “This is the Gospel of the Lord” Year A, by Francis J. Moloney).

YOU GIVE THEM SOMETHING TO EAT 2nd August

With the death of the Baptist Jesus crosses the lake, to be alone with his disciples. However, the crowds travel the long distance around the lake to receive the wholeness that Jesus brought into their lives. The sight of their brokenness moves him.

Now the crowds must be nourished for their journey. The disciples do not see this as their responsibility. They ask Jesus to send the people off to look after themselves. But people who have been restored to wholeness by Jesus must be nourished, and he demands that his disciples see to that nourishment: “Give them something to eat yourselves” (v.16). He has been unable to take the disciples into a lonely place to instruct them, but he will instruct them by calling them to minister to a broken and needy people.

The disciples can only reply in the terms of the poverty of their possessions, but Jesus asks them to come to him with the little they have. He accepts their poverty, blesses it and gives it back to them (v.19). Jesus himself does not minister to the people; the disciples have the task of distributing the loaves to the crowd. The large number of people adds to the wonder of what has happened.

Reading this Gospel, we think immediately of the Eucharist. Jesus raises his eyes, blesses, breaks and the disciples distribute (v.19). Jesus is the one who both restores the broken to wholeness (v.14), and who nourishes them for the journey. It is not enough for Jesus to tell his people: “Go, you have been healed”. He must also travel with them, nourishing them on their journey. However, it is not only Jesus who is involved in this task. He has intimately associated his disciples, and thus those of us who form the Church of today, with his life-giving mission. We are commanded to feed those in need.

Like the first disciples who preferred that the people go to the villages to look after themselves, we too shy clear of the challenge of Christian loving. This often happens because, again like the disciples in the story, we feel we have little or nothing to offer. But Jesus can take what little we have to offer, bless it, and give it back to us so that we might bring fullness to those whose lives we touch. As Jesus transforms the eucharistic bread, so he also transforms us into eucharistic people. The meal of Jesus is always open. As long as there are people looking for the gifts Jesus offers, this nourishment can never be totally consumed. But the story also tells us that Jesus wants disciples who are prepared to distribute his gifts.

(From “This is the Gospel of The Lord” Year A by Francis J. Moloney SDB).

THE TREASURE WITHIN & WITHOUT 26th July

 

St Augustine said that “our hearts are restless till they rest in you, O Lord”. If we desire peace, blessing, true joy and every good, there is only one source and that is God. But how do we find God, connect with God, be with God? From our little self-centred perspective God can seem so far away, so far above.

We are confused, our lives are a bundled of contradictions and conflicting desires and aspirations. Each of us, individually and all of us collectively are like the net full of fish. We are a mixture of good and bad, positive and negative. Only God can transform the bad into the good and bring peace and harmony to our souls and to humanity as a whole.

But what is impossible for us, is supremely possible for God. We cannot ascend to God so God has descended to us. We cannot find God, so God has found us. We cannot reconcile ourselves to God, so God has reconciled the whole world to himself in the Christ.

The priceless pearl is, in the words of St Paul: “Christ among you, your hope of glory”. It is the Holy Spirit within us uniting us to the Father and the Son and welling up as a spring of eternal life bringing joy, hope, restoration and everlasting love. The Kingdom of God, says Jesus, is not here or there, it is within us, among us.

In fact every thing and everywhere can be a portal to the Divine because everything has come from the hand of God. As God purifies our hearts more and more we begin to see God more and more, (Blessed are the pure in heart they shall see God!).

If we approach everything seeking light and love ,and are ready, according to our capacity, to give light and love then we will find those infinite treasures of wisdom and knowledge hidden in Christ (Col. 2:3). Jesus said there is more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents and again that: the one who is forgiven little loves little. So even our falling into sin can be turned to good if by grace it leads us to fall into the merciful hands of God with greater humility.

So all our relationships, activities, work, hobbies, interests can lead us to God if we receive them with gratitude and we are open-hearted and loving to all.

It is just a shame that some self-appointed “gatekeepers” are so judgemental and narrow minded. They want to keep control and be the Masters and Rabbis. They want people to depend only on them. So they do not encourage people to find God everywhere and to celebrate the Spirit that God has poured out on all flesh (Joel 2:28) and the gifts God gives to all people, irrespective of gender, race, status or age.

So we are graciously invited to connect to the Divine life present everywhere. This is a connection nourished by prayer and Sacred Liturgy, but a connection that we must personally respond to & seek to nurture. But even so it is all grace. This union in our deepest heart and soul is not a retreat into introspection or a flight from the world. Drawing on the Divine life within enables us rather to engage with the world to bring, above all by our actions, attitudes and our relationships, something of the peace and love of Christ. (DMA)

 

 

LEAVING THE FINAL JUDGEMENT TO GOD 19th July

That demand for instant judgement, for rooting out those who have done harm in the community, for bringing the last judgement into the present tense, is something that is seriously challenged in today’s scripture.

The author of Wisdom tries to answer the pressing question: why does God allow the bad to flourish? Why is God so patient and moderate with Israel’s enemies? He argues that God’s moderation is not a result of weakness: his justice, after all, has its source in strength. But how does God actually use this sovereign strength? The answer is that he disposes of it in favour of governing with “great lenience”. So God’s mercy is heaped on everyone in sight, even on traditional enemies. And in this there is a purpose:

By acting thus you have taught a lesson to your people

how virtuous man must be kindly to his fellow men,

and you have given your sons the good hope

that after sin you will grant repentance.

 

The people are asked to share in the same spirit of God and act with kindness to their fellow human beings. The argument is that God’s leniency will give the people of Israel the good hope that when they wrong God, they too will surely benefit from his forgiveness. This same hope is enshrined in the Our Father: “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”

The scandal of God’s patience and forbearance with wrong-doers appears again in the Gospel. The kingdom of heaven is compared to a farmer who is confronted with a serious problem: his field is alive with wheat and a poisonous weed, darnel, which can only be distinguished from the wheat when the growth is advanced.

 

The farmer’s servants want to weed out the darnel, but the farmer tells them to leave it alone; he is worried that uprooting the weeds will endanger the wheat. He orders that no premature attempt be made to separate them. Thus both the wheat and the darnel are allowed to grow, and only at the final harvest are they separated.

 

T he message of the parable is something that Jesus lived throughout his ministry. He reached out to all sorts of people, mixing with prostitutes, priests, crooks, scribes, politicians, children, tax-collectors. Religious separatism was something Jesus refused to advocate, making it his business to seek out and save the lost. The Pharisees, those whose very name means “the separated ones”, criticised him for associating with the wrong crowd. But Jesus knew that all communities are a mixture of the good and bad, the crooked and the cracked. And further that it isn’t always easy to tell which is which. In the end Jesus is the one weeded out by the authorities and thrown on to the killing fields.

 

The message of the parable still challenges the Church today. It is not the place of the Church to set up inquisitions, support witch hunts, organise purges to free the field for its own approved supporters. The Church is not God. As Christians we have no authority to pronounce the final judgement on anyone. The last word cannot be said about anyone until death, and then it is God’s part, not ours, to say it.

 

(From Seasons of the Word by Denis McBride)

Risk assessment opening church july 2020[...]
Microsoft Word document [141.3 KB]

May I share this homily from Pope Francis with you.

FINDING HAPPINESS 12th July

You can have flaws, be anxious, and even be angry, but do not forget that your life is the greatest enterprise in the world. Only you can stop it from going bust. Many appreciate you, admire you and love you. Remember that to be happy is not to have a sky without a storm, a road without accidents, work without fatigue, relationships without disappointments.

To be happy is to find strength in forgiveness, hope in battles, security in the stage of fear, love in discord. It is not only to enjoy the smile, but also to reflect on the sadness. It is not only to celebrate the successes, but to learn lessons from the failures. It is not only to feel happy with the applause, but to be happy in anonymity.

Being happy is not a fatality of destiny, but an achievement for those who can travel within themselves. To be happy is to stop feeling like a victim and become your destiny's author. It is to cross deserts, yet to be able to find an oasis in the depths of our soul. It is to thank God for every morning, for the miracle of life.

Being happy is not being afraid of your own feelings.

It's to be able to talk about you. It is having the courage to hear a "no". It is confidence in the face of criticism, even when unjustified. It is to kiss your children, pamper your parents, to live poetic moments with friends, even when they hurt us.

To be happy is to let live the creature that lives in each of us, free, joyful and simple. It is to have maturity to be able to say: "I made mistakes". It is to have the courage to say "I am sorry". It is to have the sensitivity to say, "I need you". It is to have the ability to say "I love you". May your life become a garden of opportunities for happiness. That in spring may it be a lover of joy. In winter a lover of wisdom. And when you make a mistake, start all over again.

For only then will you be in love with life. You will find that to be happy is not to have a perfect life. But use the tears to irrigate tolerance. Use your losses to train patience. Use your mistakes to sculptor serenity. Use pain to better appreciate pleasure. Use obstacles to open windows of intelligence. Never give up .... Never give up on people who love you. Never give up on happiness, for life is an incredible adventure. (Homily by Pope Francis, July 2020)

To contact Fr David

Telephone   01590 676696

Or email

lymbrockmil@portsmouthdiocese.org.uk

KEYHOLDERS- Please do not enter the church during this time of isolation.

           SCROLL DOWN FOR FURTHER INFORMATION         

 

THERE MIGHT BE MASS BUT NOT AS WE KNOW IT!

5th July

We have been working through the five pages of Diocesan Re-Opening Guidelines and the fourteen pages of the Risk Assessment required by Government legislation. These documents arrived late on Friday and were further amended today, Saturday!

First of all, our Bishops remind us that no one is obliged to go to Mass. We are encouraged to pray and if possible follow Mass online. Those in an at risk group, 70+ and/or shielding should continue to stay at home as much as possible. Anyone displaying symptoms that may indicate a COVID-19 virus infection MUST NOT attempt to come to church. We are all to remember that there will be no toilet facilities available.

Hopefully, we will be able to begin a very limited provision of Sunday Mass on 12th July. And even that may not happen if we do not have the required stewards at all our churches. But it will not be Mass as we have known it. To say it will be minimal would be an understatement. There will only be space for a few. Places will need to be booked and contact details given at the time of booking. We will need to ensure that as many people as possible have the opportunity to participate in Mass at least once a month. This will be unavoidably selective and divisive.

We will need to practice social distancing and scrupulous hand hygiene. We should wear masks but we will need to provide our own. We should sanitise our hands on entering and leaving the church. Hand sanitisers will be available at the church door. Seating will be allocated by the stewards. Instructions will be given for receiving Holy Communion which should be in the hand only. We will be instructed on how to leave the church at the end of Mass.

There will not be any leaflets, singing, or candles. We can have some recorded music during Holy Communion but not such as to prolong the celebration. Sacristans, Servers, Readers and Ministers of Holy Communion will not be required. The duration of Mass will be much shorter and unessential elements will be omitted.

Perhaps it is good to remind ourselves that this is not a unique situation in Church history by any means. In modern times millions of Catholics around the world still have very limited provision of Mass and the sacraments. For the last 30 years or so for some communities in rural France Mass has only been celebrated once a month. In poorer parts of the world it may be available once or twice a year. Pope Innocent III also placed the kingdom of England under an interdict for six years between March 1208 and May 1213, after King John refused to accept the pope's appointee Stephen Langton as Archbishop of Canterbury. An interdict effectively bans nearly all celebrations of the sacraments. I often wondered many years ago why many priests in Ireland celebrated the Mass so quickly. Apparently, it became the norm during the penal times when Catholics were persecuted, and Mass prohibited. The priest would gather the people around, often out in the countryside availing of a suitable rock or fallen tree and by necessity would celebrate Mass speedily. So these restrictions are nothing new really.

At the beginning of this pandemic I, and a few other priests, suggested to the Bishop that it may be better to calmly and patiently wait until we can return to a full, joyful, unrestricted celebration of the Holy Eucharist as we were able to do before this crisis started. It might be a while, but it would save a lot of expense and anxiety. It would also spare those elderly priests who are living alone with no parish staff or volunteers to help put in place the necessary health & safety measures. We would also be all experiencing the same deprivation and learning the same lessons together. There wouldn’t be just the lucky few for whom it is safe and easy to come to church. It would also protect the good, positive memories we have of celebrating Eucharist together and allow absence to make the heart grow fonder! If Mass is newly associated with anxiety, hassle, restriction, and dissatisfaction people may not be so keen to return.

Anyway, that approach was not adopted. So as soon as we can, we will distribute information about booking a place at one of the Sunday Masses for 12th July. This will be emailed around in the usual way. It will very deliberately NOT be published on the website because it will only cause problems if people turn up without a booking. Our few, generous, stewards have enough to do without having to turn away disgruntled visitors. It is surprising how rude some Christians can be when they don’t get their own way! DMA.

PASTORAL MESSAGE FROM BISHOP PHILIP 28th June

 

My dear People, “You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Mt 16: 18 ESV). These words of Jesus from the Gospel today, the Feast of St. Peter and St. Paul, are thrilling. They reassure us that the Church is founded on Christ and led by the Holy Spirit, that as disciples of Christ, abiding in Him, we will be safe in the Truth, and that whatever perils the Barque of Peter might encounter in history, the Church’s life and mission will endure on earth until the Lord returns at the End-Time. Dear friends, these last months of coronavirus have been extraordinary and very distressing. Let us commend to the prayers of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church, all who have been ill and those who have generously cared for them, all who have died and their families, and all who have suffered - and will continue to suffer - financially or in whatever way because of the pandemic. We humbly ask God our Father to grant everyone a safe and effective recovery. In His name, I want to thank every one of you in the Diocese of Portsmouth, and not least our clergy. Thank you for all you have been doing during this time to preserve and deepen your Catholic faith. Each day, our priests have continued to pray and to offer Holy Mass for their people. Each day, parish and school communities have sought to care for the poor and needy. Each day, our faithful, whilst having to endure a long and painful period of time without the salvific support of the Sacraments, have continued to offer prayer at home and to join live-streamed liturgies and devotions online. Each day, our chaplains have worked on the front-line, along with others caring for the dying. Many parishes, many priests and many people have been amazingly creative, keeping in touch with one another and with the most vulnerable by phone and by email. It is now a great consolation that, within the requisite safeguards, our parish churches at last have begun to reopen and the public celebration of the Sacred Liturgy is to resume.

We know, of course, that the danger has not passed. COVID will be with us for some time to come. Let us implore from the Lord His continuing protection. Let us pray for a resolution of this pandemic. Let us ask Him for the discovery of an effective vaccine and for a secure recovery. But I want to recall another line of Scripture, this time from St. Paul: “Now is the favourable time: this is the day of salvation” (2 Cor 6: 2). These words surely speak to us. For now is a favourable time! This is the time to pray for the gift of hope. Hope is the anticipation that God is about to act in our lives to bring about something new. The Holy Spirit is at work, uniting us with Jesus and through Him with the Father, which is why Mother Church can look forward with renewed hope and trust. The pandemic has been a huge challenge to our parishes, our schools, our Diocese. But we now need to move forward, to be reunited joyfully with the Lord in His Sacraments, to draw new life and energy from Him and to reopen, rebuild and rejuvenate our communities. To do this, we need to look beyond COVID and to resume our historic mission of Bringing People Closer to Jesus Christ through His Church. As the Diocese of Portsmouth, this is our purpose. The pandemic has made many review their priorities in life, their values, their spirituality. We must not now become absorbed solely with internal repairs. We need to look beyond, to seek and to serve the needy, to reach out in love to those who wish to know more about the Gospel and the Catholic faith. “Now is the favourable time: this is the day of salvation”. So let’s get going again – with these words before us over the weeks and months ahead! Let us enlist the help of St. Peter and St. Paul that we may deepen our own conversion to Christ and thus be equipped to go out on mission. Let us ask our inspiring patrons to pray for us: Mary Immaculate, St. Edmund of Abingdon and Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati. And let us continue ever to love and care for one another. With my prayers and best wishes – please pray for me too –

 

In Corde Iesu, +Philip, Bishop of Portsmouth

29th June 2020 The Solemnity of St. Peter and St. Paul

THE LORD IS AT OUR SIDE – A MIGHTY HERO

21st June

Our gospel today is full of paradox. Three times Jesus says: “Do not be afraid”. Then Jesus says that if we should fear anyone we should fear God who has the ultimate power. Then Jesus counters this by saying that God has compassion even for the sparrows. But God respects us deeply and also respects the radical choices we make. God does not force herself upon us if that is not what we really want.

There is no neat and easy solution to this paradox and we should be suspicious if any were offered. The paradox arises from the meeting of two freedoms, God’s and ours. If we allow God’s love to fill us, to hold us and keep us then no earthly terror, or power, or evil can have the ultimate victory over us (“Do not fear those who can kill the body…”). But this is scary stuff and Jesus needs to constantly reassure us not to be afraid.

Of course in our cosy Western Christianity we have effectively neutralised any danger of being rejected by the world. Our Christianity is so lukewarm, our confrontation of injustice and evil so weak that no one bothers to persecute us! Our danger is not in denying Jesus with words. We are very good at protestations of faith. Our danger is to deny Jesus by our actions, or lack of them.

We need to ask ourselves what we are really afraid of. Is it the ridicule of others or the rejection of others? Is it physical pain and discomfort? Is it the loss of wealth and prestige? Jesus says that if we insist on living out of fear then just remember who should be feared the most! So lets fear God if it brings us back into God’s love and truth. Jesus is not talking about ultimate rewards and punishments because God’s love is beyond all that (the free gift of grace comes after sin and considerably outweighs the sin!).

Jesus is challenging us here and now to make a decision. God is the only source of our good. If you are a follower of Jesus you are assured of ultimate victory. If we allow God to lovingly hold us and lead us then fear will gradually be banished from our lives. (DMA)

CORPUS CHRISTI 14TH JUNE

 

RECEIVE YOUR OWN MYSTERY

 

Today we are also celebrating the feast of the Body and Blood of Christ (known previously by its Latin title: Corpus Christi).

 

Jesus was a spiritual genius and artist because he took simple things used in everyday meals and, by a unique association with himself in the death and resurrection he was to experience, he created a transformational ritual. This ritual which we have come to call the “Mass” has been at the centre of the liturgical life of Catholic & Orthodox Christianity since the beginning.

 

The Eucharist is first of all the celebration of God’s work in Jesus freeing us from sin and death and sharing with us Divine life. For this free, undeserved grace we can only give heartfelt thanks, which is in fact the meaning of the word Eucharist. Secondly the Eucharist is invitation and challenge. The invitation is to be “one body, one spirit in Christ” so that we can no longer regard ourselves as separate from others. Rather we are invited to recognise our responsibilities for others and to others. The call is to treat others as ourselves, to love others as ourselves. This way of love is a challenge to accept the sacrifices love may ask of us. As Jesus gave his life and death for us, so we are called to give our living and our dying for one another. In this way the Eucharist expresses something that is happening in our everyday lives: a growing experience of gratitude to God and a growing capacity to love as Jesus has loved us. All this is made possible by the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. Eucharist reveals the ultimate pattern and purpose of our lives.

 

In the Eucharist we celebrate the gift of ourselves in God. Holy communion makes a powerful statement that God’s life is in us, as the prayer at Mass says: “By the mingling of this water and wine may we come to share the divinity of Christ who humbled himself to share in our humanity”. Holy Communion gradually attunes us and confirms us in this mystery of loving union with God. If God can take simple bread and wine and make them his Body & Blood how much more does God takes us and delight in us being the “Body and Blood of Christ” in the world today. This is not our doing; it is by God’s graciousness alone. We are no better than anyone else, it is just that by faith, we are made aware of this relationship and by the Holy Spirit that we can begin to respond appropriately. This is the Good News to be shared respectfully with others.

 

God’s big HUG and EMBRACE which is the Eucharist accompanies us at every stage of our lives. It is the hug and embrace of unconditional love which desires the best for us and nurtures the best in us. When we’re very young it’s all hugs and kisses and comfort. As we grow there is also encouragement. As we get older still there is also challenge. As we get older still it’s there is a call to loving service and responsibility. We are never ready for so great a gift or for so much love. We respond gradually, sometimes enthusiastically, sometimes indifferently, sometimes we rebel, maybe upset at God for not making things go as we would like. As long as we keep returning to the Source in humility with as much acceptance as we can muster the grace continues its work. Everything is turned to our good once we allow ourselves to be caught up in the flow of God’s love which fills the whole creation. (DMA)

 

EVERY LIFE MATTERS – ALL HUMANITY HAS BEEN CHOSEN BY GOD FROM ALL ETERNITY

Trinity Sunday 7th June 2020

 

Before the world was made God chose the whole of creation, humanity included, us included, IN CHRIST (cfr Ephesians 1:4). The Christ is the eternal union between the Divinity and the creation, between the Infinite and the finite, between, spirit and matter, between heaven and earth. In a finite and limited way we share in the Self of the Christ (cfr. 2 Timothy 2:13). God is the whole of creation, but the creation is not the whole of God. God is the whole of me and you, but you and I are not the whole of God.

The Blessed Trinity, one God, is not a puzzle to be solved, nor a mystery to be shelved or ignored and left to the academics. Our God, Father, Son & Holy Spirit, is the life in which we live, the flow that carries us forward and the power that binds everything together. The Holy Trinity is our origin, our purpose, our meaning and our ultimate glory.

 

God is not just relational by nature. God is relationship itself in a very dynamic sense. God, Father, Son & Holy Spirit is not just loving but is love itself. God is love and love is always giving and receiving, always flowing back & forth. In God it is the giving and receiving of Divine life. The Divine Beauty, Goodness and Truth is made visible in the Christ. The exchange or flow of life and love between the Invisible and Visible (the Christ) is the Spirit.

 

The God who is love can only be truly known and loved in freedom. We are that part of the Christ mystery that can, by the Spirit, begin to respond in love and freedom to the One who is the Source of all, the Divine Mother/Father. We are invited to receive the love and to let the love flow through us and to give the love to everyone and everything.

 

That is why our relationships with others are so important. Every opportunity to help, encourage, support, forgive, heal, strengthen, to share, to receive and so on, is an opportunity to let God’s love flow in and out of us to the other.

This is why, at this time of cultural, social and economic shock we appreciate more deeply the people who are showing practical love and care: the medical staff, the care staff who look after us when we are helpless, the essential workers enabling us to receive the food we need and the services that enable society to function. This is the life of God, the Blessed Trinity in action within us poor, unworthy but still wonderful human beings. We are earthen vessels that hold this Divine treasure (2 Cor 4:7). (DMA)

 

In God we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28); the God who is, who was, and who is to come (Rev 1:8). God is in all and through all and with all (Eph 4:6). Everything exists from God, through God and for God (Rom 11:36). Glory be to God the Father through Jesus Christ his Son in the unity of the Holy Spirit, for ever and ever. Amen)

RE- REOPENING CHURCHES 

The plans for reopening the churches are with the Bishop in consultation with the Clergy. The Diocese has to be compliant with Government guidelines. As instructed by Bishop Philip, we are waiting to see the final draft of the guidelines before we can consider opening any of our churches.

When the final draft is submitted by the Bishop, Linda, as our 3 parishes H&S co-ordinator & myself have been asked to do the risk assessments of all 3 churches and work out the possibilities which will be, of course, different for each of our churches.

Therefore, as the person legally liable for the safety of my parishioners I must insist that nothing is done without my express permission.

31st MAY

I WILL POUR OUT MY SPIRIT ON ALL FLESH (Joel 2:28)

For Luke, the writer of the Acts of the Apostles and the Gospel, Pentecost is the great empowerment of the disciples of Jesus. They had been discouraged by Jesus death, mysteriously enlivened by the resurrection experiences of Jesus but they were still afraid and unsure of their next move.

So they were altogether, women, men, apostles, disciples - and Jesus’ mother was there too with Jesus’ relations. They were praying for the gift of the Holy Spirit. Amazingly, just as was prophesied by the prophet Joel, the Holy Spirit comes down on all of them, with wind & tongues of flame. They are given courage and boldness to openly praise God for all God’s wonderful works. And all those who heard it were amazed that they could hear the praises of God in their own language.

So, irrespective of gender and status, the great gift of the Holy Spirit is given to everyone, male & female, slave or free person. The praises of God are declared in the different languages of the hearers. They didn’t have to listen to it in Hebrew or get a translator.

So the Holy Spirit was overcoming divisions, prejudices, statuses and empowering everyone male or female, young or old. The Holy Spirit was establishing the democracy of the Spirit. In harmony with Jesus’ own teaching the Spirit does away with selfish ambition, status, power, privilege. The Holy Spirit does away with special clothing and any other obsession with appearances or trivial things. The Holy Spirit makes known to everyone that God is with us in all our situations. We don’t have to be in any particular places, or say any particular words, or use any particular style of language. We don’t have try to reach up to God, or try to make ourselves acceptable to God. We don’t have to change God’s mind or persuade God to be good to us. God has already done all this for us in Jesus. God is now Emmanuel, God With Us. In Christ we become his Body & Blood and God is present with us in the ordinary things and situations of every day.

The Holy Spirit gathers the community together where all are brothers and sisters. No one sets themselves up as the only Teacher or Master, because Christ is the Teacher. No one allows themselves to be

called Father and the others do not allow anyone to dictate or dominate the group because they have only one Father, in heaven. Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit the followers of Jesus learn from the gentleness and humility of Jesus. They allow themselves to be changed and become as children, not silly, naïve and irresponsible, but spontaneous, grateful, non-judgemental, trusting, believing, & benevolent. The Spirit teaches them to love and serve one another with joy and graciousness. The Spirit teaches them that they are all one. So there is no need for competition, jealousy or envy. Everyone has an equal value in God’s eyes and everyone has some role they can fulfil which helps the community. No one is better than anyone else.

The Holy Spirit teaches everyone that they are on a spiritual growth journey. The Spirit is leading them into the fuller truth. They will come to know other “sheep” that Jesus has that don’t come from the same culture or religious tradition. The followers of Jesus will listen to them, share with them and learn from them. They will admire and respect the work that God has done in gathering all these different groups in different parts of the world.

The Holy Spirit will dwell in the hearts of all, leading them on a spiritual journey of prayer. On this journey it doesn’t matter about words, because the Spirit will pray in ways that are beyond words. The prayer of the “little ones who have faith” will be primarily thanksgiving and praise. They will praise God for all the wonders of the creation. They will thank God for all the greatness of God’s compassion, mercy and goodness revealed in Jesus.

They will delight in all the marvellous things they can do, in all the gifts and talents they have, in the many ways they can be kind, loving, caring and life-giving. They will recognise also limitations, weaknesses, faults and failings. But because they have complete trust in God’s love they do not waste energy on self-condemnation, guilt or anxiety. They do not allow themselves to be paralysed by discouragement. Instead, taking responsibility for themselves and for those in need they take positive action and do all they can to make things better for everyone. (DMA)

RELATIONSHIP: THE REAL ISSUE

24th May

Following on from this Sunday’s Gospel (in John 17:20) Jesus prays for a radical unity for those who believe in him. That is a unity rooted in the relational being of God: Father, Son & Holy Spirit, (“May they be one in us”). This unity is not a facile agreement to disagree, nor is it an imposed uniformity or conformity. It is the love that seeks to hold together, with respect and non-judgement, the whole spectrum of perspectives. It does this while at the same time inviting all to an openness of heart and mind that acknowledges and accepts difference. So the people of God are on a constant journey of discovery. This process of being led “to the fullness of truth” (John 16:13) is never a smooth path because our egos always resist surrendering the prized possession of superiority in the imagined state of “being right”. Pope Francis has been trying to re-establish in the Church the structures and processes of dialogue as endorsed by the Second Vatican Council. He has called this process synodality. For the official exposition of synodality cfr: Synodality in the Life and Mission of the Church, a document published by the Vatican Theological Commission on 2nd March 2018 and available from the Vatican website. Its basically about giving everyone a voice, listening to all and together, by the grace of the Holy Spirit, finding a consensus, a way forward that all can accept.

The Church has always experienced tension, controversy, argument and discussion. It is there in the heart of the Hebrew & Christian scriptures. It is the wrestling with a God who is always breaking in upon our closed minds and hearts, always leading us to a fuller and more wholesome understanding and way of life. The clash of ideas and attitudes is a necessary and healthy process in the context of God’s inexhaustible patience and the freedom we have been given.

It would be very unhealthy for the Church if people were afraid to express their thoughts and feelings. Dialogue and discussion are as much a human right as they are a necessity. All that God asks of us is that we respect each other & not judge one another, that we are open and honest and faithful to that part of truth that is given to us. We need to recognise that none of us has the whole picture, that truth is present on all sides. Our viewpoint is precisely that – a view from a point. There are many other points! We do not have all the answers and we do not need to have them. Thankfully we have a God who is the answer to everything. God understands even if we do not!

At work, at home, in the Church and in society, if we cannot agree on everything then we try to operate on mutually acceptable compromise. However there are some things that cannot be compromised though even here people will disagree. In the Church the one thing that cannot be compromised (as I see it!) is the “Good News” – the free gift of God’s love and mercy, given to all irrespective of sex, age, race, status or any other human label that can be applied. All of us and every authority in the Church must be humble enough to accept examination by the light of God’s mercy revealed in Jesus. There can be no exceptions based on power, status or vested interest. Jesus does not pray for the “world” or the “worldly” church. No one has the right to limit God’s mercy. No one can claim to be acting in the name of Jesus if they exclude or scapegoat another person or group for any excuse whatsoever.

Beyond divisions of right and left, conservative and liberal is the relationship with all people that God has revealed in Jesus. The love of God and the holiness of each person in God’s love can never be compromised. (DMA)

JESUS HAS LEFT THE BUILDING!

17th May

This time is a great opportunity to dig deep and uncover some of the neglected aspects of our faith which can nourish us in perhaps new and invigorating ways. I have used the slightly facetious heading to help us be less dependent on physical buildings. There’s nothing wrong with them but they can become very constraining and use up much of our resources and energy. Remembering “new wine, new wineskins” the post-Vatican 2 recovery of community, active participation, collaboration and shared ministry has suffered from the limitations of many older buildings designed with a very different set of priorities. It was new wine into old wineskins!!

 

The first break in this understandable dependency on buildings came at the crucifixion of Jesus when he “yielded up his spirit”: “and suddenly the veil of the sanctuary was torn in two from top to bottom..” (Matt 27:51). God had left the building. Christ’s body is the real Temple which fills the whole universe. “I could not see any temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb..” (Rev 21:22). As God is everywhere in every possible way, “over all, through all and in all (Eph. 4:6), so all creation is part of the temple. It’s a bit like Russian dolls, one mystery nested inside another mystery. The community is God’s temple (1 Cor 3:16) and so is each person. Jesus says he is going to prepare a “place”. Scholarly research has linked this to the temple. God is preparing each one of us to be a place, a temple: “you will understand that I am in my Father and you in me and I in you” (John 14:20). And a bit further on: “Anyone who loves me will keep my word, and will be loved by my Father, and we shall come and make a home in that person” (John 14:23).

 

As Bishop Philip said some years ago, we need to concentrate not on the Church of the Lord, but rather on the Lord of the Church.

 

During this time instead of wasting energy fretting and worrying over so many things we may feel we’ve lost or cannot have. We can concentrate on the “one thing necessary” (Luke 10:42), our personal and collective relationship with the Lord. We can imagine and discover new ways of being together, sharing, interacting and helping. We can receive more deeply the “peace the world cannot give” and be assured like St Paul: “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nothing already in existence and nothing still to come, nor any power, nor height nor depths, nor any other created thing will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom 8:38-39).

We are never alone because our loving, kind and gentle God is always with us, healing, guiding, forgiving, consoling, patiently teaching, strengthening and empowering. And with just a few others, ( like Mum, Dad and the children) these blessings are multiplied “For where two or three are gathered in my name I am with them” (Matt 18:20).

 

We can re-discover and rebuild the domestic church. Knowing that whoever loves has been begotten by God (1 John 4:7) we know it isn’t about religious labels or whether people are able to have explicit faith. Its about what is in our hearts. If we can be united in genuine love, care and compassion then we can trust we are united in God. (DMA)

Dear People,

I just had a phone call from Judith Giles (Lymington) to say that her son, Jeremy Giles, sadly died during the week at his home in Salisbury.

Jeremy had been unwell for sometime and did not die from Covid-19.

Jeremy went to primary school at Our Lady & St Joseph, Lymington in the 1970s where his mother taught. He had a very happy childhood in Lymington enjoying crabbing by the quay and sailing. May he rest in peace and rise in glory. Amen.

We pray for him, his mother Judith, and his family.

CHURCH CLOSURE: WHY WE MUST MOURN.

by Sara Parvis, a senior lecturer in Patristics at the University of Edinburgh. Published in The Tablet, 30-04-20

 

Devotion to the Blessed Sacrament is part of the lifeblood of the Catholic faith. A theologian writes of the depth of her grief at being unable to receive the Eucharist – and why we must not allow self-pity to distract us from our responsibility to protect the most vulnerable

The little Catholic chapel in Edinburgh that I normally attend has a glass front, and looks on to a garden. This means that you can still see both the tabernacle and the lit sanctuary lamp next to it from the lane behind the church, even when the back gate is locked.

I was enormously proud of the Church’s prompt response to the coronavirus pandemic, and had little time for those who thought otherwise. It was just the reverse of the child abuse crisis: we saw the institution moving swiftly to protect the vulnerable, showing intelligence and resolve, and swallowing the probable cost to its own status and financial security without hesitation. Led by Pope Francis, who smothered all self-pitying tendencies by directing our gaze to the health workers, bus drivers and supermarket workers daily risking themselves for others, the Church laid down its life, the life of its public Eucharist, for the good of the people, in hope and trust that in due time God would allow it to take it up again.

Our local community of Dominican friars moved quickly to become connected to their people in other ways, broadcasting their celebrations of the Mass on their Facebook page and sending out a daily email with spiritual reflections and jokey video clips intended to keep our spirits up, braving for the common good the risk of inciting volatile responses from pent-up parishioners with frustration in their hearts and too much time on their hands.

I have always had a strong devotion to receiving the Eucharist; praying before the Blessed Sacrament in the tabernacle and on the altar has also become very dear to me in recent years. We need a tangible sense of Christ’s presence. We need to know that Christ is with us. Of course, you can find Christ in others, in prayer, and clothed in the flesh of Scripture. You can find Christ in your heart, in your memory, understanding and will. But Christ in the Eucharist has a sureness, a concreteness, that is irreplaceable. Yet I knew we had to give that up to safeguard as far as possible the lives of our fellow parishioners and their families.

I was surprised, therefore, at the strength of my reactions to watching from afar the Dominican community celebrating the Triduum without the people. I felt not only terrible desolation but also naked jealousy. It looked like some kind of clericalist fantasy: no lay people, and above all no women. I so missed every lay reader, psalm singer, coffee maker; I missed the thrill of gathering in the fresh, cold night as a raggle-taggle group in the lane for the blessing of the new fire, the dark, excited procession back into the church, the organ and bells at the Gloria, the invocation of the saints and the sloshing of the holy water over us all, ending with sharing the Eucharist together. I missed joining everyone afterwards to share our Easter joy. So many are Vatican II Catholics in their seventies and eighties, my parents’ generation, who had remained faithful and joyful over so many years. These were also the people most in danger from the virus. I thought of what the chances were of going back to normal again next year, and wept.

Instead, we watched other people feast on the risen Christ together while we fasted separately from behind an impregnable online wall. It was meant to comfort, but it felt like being shut out of Paradise. The “Act of Spiritual Communion” said at every Eucharist jarred more than anything. “Since I cannot at this moment receive You sacramentally, come at least spiritually into my heart. I embrace You as if You were already there and unite myself wholly to You.” “At least” spiritually! “As if” you were already there! What atrocious theology! St Alphonsus Liguori was bad enough; the suggestion, widely offered by friends both clerical and lay, that being separated from the sacraments might somehow help us appreciate them more was salt on the wound. It seemed to make a mockery of my fast, dictating the terms of my grief, somehow hinting that it was my faith that was lacking.

Yet I also recognised over the successive liturgies the shining witness of the friars to Christ in the quiet dignity of their celebrations, and their care for one another and for us. So I carried on wrestling with it all. I started a series of arguments with different people (over the phone and by email), and did some further reading and thinking. Another Dominican, expert in the theology of sacramental desire, took me to task for misprizing the notion of Spiritual Communion as somehow second best, argued it all out with me, and sent me off to read St Thomas Aquinas on the subject (Summa III.80.1, since you ask). I realised that he was right that physical and Spiritual Communion are equivalent in Thomas’ teaching (much to my surprise). I also saw that, for St Thomas, although the Eucharist heals and feeds us as individuals, just as important is its function of making us into the Church, joining us as Christ’s members to the Head.

At this, it all fell into place, with a bit of help from Mary Magdalene. The deep grief I felt was her grief at the apparent disappearance of Christ’s body, the gathered Church. Only the dry bones, dismembered and deprived of flesh, seemed to remain of the assembly of the people that we had been. But Ezekiel had prophesied to us resurrection as a people, a rejoining of bone to sinew and flesh to flesh. Christ would still raise Lazarus for Martha and Mary, no matter how late his coming seemed, and in the meantime he would weep with them. While we wait and watch and ponder the Crucifixion from afar, or in some cases very close-up, only a truly sacramental desire, continually renewed in our hearts, to be again the re-membered Church, can keep us from oblivion and allow us to see and hear the resurrected Lord once more. It is and has long been the depths of our longing to be the Church, our longing to be the Body of Christ, which is the source of our grief. This is why we mourn, and this is how and why we shall be comforted when Christ shall choose to raise us.

Meanwhile, we must stand at the gate and gaze on Christ until it is opened and we can enter the garden once more.

Fr David's reflection 26th April

KEEP CALM: KEEP TAKING THE MEDICINE OF THE PRESENT MOMENT AND TRUST IN GOD (Part One)

One of the glaringly obvious things from the Gospels is that Jesus’s relationship with his Father (and our Father) was nourished overwhelmingly by his connection with creation and with people. Jesus’s words and parables spring from nature, domestic life, and the simple, predominantly rural economy: lilies of the field, birds of the air, sheep and shepherds, seed and sower, a woman sweeping the floor, builders laying foundations etc. He attended the synagogue of course but invariably the Gospels record only the conflicts that ensued. Jesus taught in the temple but there is not a single mention of Jesus participating in official temple worship. In fact, he caused a major disturbance by driving out the money changers and the merchants with a whip of chords! When Jesus prays, he often goes off to the hills by himself. And he teaches us, literally or metaphorically to “go to our private room and pray to our Father in that secret place.” (Matt 6:6)

The Church rightly encourages us to read the Scriptures, especially the Gospels. Indeed, as the Second Vatican Council (1962-5) declared: “Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ”. However, the truth is that the simplicity and power of the Gospel witness has been overlaid by centuries of “churchianity” with its unavoidable entanglement of both “nourishing wheat and poisonous weeds” (Matt 13:24). We have had an overdose of outer authority but little nurturing of inner experience and the personal authority that it gives. We’ve become dependent on middle management (clerics like myself) who mostly haven’t had the natural training and experience that ordinary life affords. Again, the witness of Scripture has been ignored. For St Paul wrote of a church leader: (he must be) a man who manages his own household well and brings up his children obedient and well behaved: how can a man who does not understand how to manage his own household take care of the Church of God? (1 Tim. 3:4)

So, despite all the best intentions our relationship with God has to some extent become second-hand. It has been conditioned, controlled, and perhaps reduced to our passive reception of Sacraments, our attendance, or more hopefully, our participation in worship and our following of instructions. Of course, genuine trust in God and love of God has always been able to grow in these circumstances, no doubt. But the consequence has been that most of the positive feelings and associations of God’s presence, peace & acceptance have been formed around physical attendance at church. And for many of us this fusion has been welded together since early childhood and so is deeply embedded. This has been largely positive and helpful for people.

However there have been downsides. We feel lost and spiritually disorientated when we can no longer get to church! It has also nurtured an unhealthy “co-dependency” between clergy and laity. Clergy get recognition, respect, authority, and power, and of course a living! Laity don’t have the burden of responsibility and the relationship with God can be made safe and manageable. This very subtly nurtures our sense of self-righteousness and reinforces the illusion that we are in some way in control. We can more easily satisfy ourselves that we have done the works that God wants (John 6:28). And there is something more that I’ve noticed over the years. The strong link between our relationship with God and attending church that is presumed and encouraged by the Church, hasn’t worked for everyone. Many people don’t meet the requirements, can’t jump the hurdles or don’t feel listened to or accepted. And if they are still coming to church it is because of the community, the love, friendship and support that is offered. The archaic and clumsy language of the Liturgy is suffered rather than enjoyed and the implicit medieval worldview is perceived as quaint but largely irrelevant.

KEEP CALM: KEEP TAKING THE MEDICINE OF THE PRESENT MOMENT AND TRUST IN GOD

Part Two

So what is the medicine of the present moment? This time is all very strange, and we all want to get back to the way things were, perhaps? But there are always blessings in times of trial. I think one of the things that God is giving us is an opportunity to deepen our relationship with God right where we are, personally, one to One. It should be a little easier for us to praise God in creation. We are geographically blessed here in many ways. Others are not so fortunate. We know God is everywhere, but that knowledge is in our heads but not always in our hearts, or bodies or souls. In fact, when we think of ourselves, we often lack confidence. We are more inclined to think of our faults and weaknesses and so end up discouraged and doubting God’s love for us. But God wants us to enjoy God’s being with us wherever we are. As Jesus said: Not on this mountain nor in Jerusalem rather what the Father wants is for people to worship in spirit and in truth. (John 4:22ff).

Jesus invites us to go into our private room and shut the door and talk with God in that special place. This can just be within our own hearts and minds at any moment. So we need to just talk to God wherever we are. Giving thanks, praising God for the goodness and beauty in the world and in people and in ourselves! Asking God to help us and others in all the difficulties and fears and anxieties. Thanking God that he is quite happy to be with us sinners, just as Jesus ate and drank with ordinary people and enjoyed their company. Every grace we could possibly imagine is all there for us in Christ. Just believe you have received it and it will be yours, Jesus says (Mark 11:24). In this way those feelings of peace and presence that are more usually associated with being in a church building will also become stronger wherever we are. If Holy Communion has been teaching us anything it is that God wants to live in us and love through us. It is just sad that this wasn’t emphasised enough in our Catholic upbringing, or maybe we weren’t listening. Too much emphasis was placed on God outside us, God in special people but not so much in us ordinary people with ordinary lives and ordinary hopes and fears. St Teresa of Jesus (16th cent.) wrote that as we come to realise how much God loves us we will be able to endure the embarrassment of being with One so different from ourselves.

Having greater joy in God-with-us (Emmanuel), always and everywhere (sufferings not withstanding) does not make the gathering of the community unnecessary or less important, because church is about being together in Christ. What is does mean is that we have much more to “bring to the party” & to share with others. Our prayer, our listening to the word of God, our celebration of the Eucharist will be more meaningful and enjoyable because we will be bringing the whole of our lives to God with one another and we will be receiving God into the whole of our lives.

So God is inviting us to a re-configuration, a re-balancing of our spiritual lives so that we can have greater peace, greater confidence in God and a humble but real inner authority. We should be grateful for the service of others but not dependent upon them. (Call no one on earth your father … Do not allow yourselves to be called Master or Teacher…Matt 23:9; Where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them. Matt. 18:20;) Good parents don’t keep their children dependent and subservient they nurture them to maturity and responsible freedom. All the charisms of service in the Church are to be used to build up the Body of Christ “until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ (Eph 4:13). (DMA)

From Fr David 26th April

Dear Sisters & Brothers,

 

I am really pushing the boat out this weekend (not literally as the harbour

is closed & I haven’t got a boat & the paddleboard doesn’t quite qualify!).

The reflection is TWO pages long!! I promise this won’t become a habit. Now you really will want things to get back to normal.

Also there has been a minor miracle in the parish office. Three years’ worth of paperwork, which was accumulating in plastic boxes, has finally been sorted. Thankfully most of it can just be recycled as we now use electronic filing for most things. I’ll have to spend the next

five weeks putting out the bags, one or two at a time, for our marvellous waste collectors.

My next job is to vacuum all those books which have been sitting on the shelf for six years and rarely used. (They remind me of all those yachts in Lymington harbour & surrounds. I wonder how often they get taken “off the shelf”. Can anyone tell me the market value of all the boats & yachts registered in the UK. It must be billions.)

And there is a bag of old batteries waiting to go to Tesco for recycling.

 

Anyway, enough wittering on. I’m tempted to mention intravenous disinfectant & ultra-violet light but I really must resist.

Oh, I will just mention that I did manage to cut my hair (No.4 all over with clippers). I have to say it doesn’t look too bad from the front. But Linda tells me the back is another story. For some reasonshe doesn’t want her own hair clipped. I can’t think why.

And did you see the David Tenant & Catherine Tate sketch on Comic Relief, very funny (or maybe you weren’t bothered!)

There are the usual attachments & DON’T FORGET THE WEBSITE FOR MORE GOODIES FOR THE SOUL.

Keep safe & well & strong in Faith, Hope & Love.

 

God bless

Fr David

 

From Fr David 19th April

 

Dear Friends,

I hope you are all keeping safe & well.

We are OK here. We have all we need and we’ve been getting on with lots of jobs that have been put off over the years. We’ve also started the big spring clean but we still have 10 or more rooms to do!

 

The flower boxes have been weeded and pruned & watered. But we were certainly grateful for the rain over the past two days. The car park has been swept down one side and the other side with the drainage gully is waiting to be done. We have over 25 bags of green waste waiting to go to the tip.

 

I’m also doing a virtual cycle ride on the exercise bike, about 1 hour every other day, also daily back exercises & some balance training. Olly the dog gets a walk out or several runs in the car park, depending. He is a very nosey dog & likes to stop every 2 minutes assessing the smells & often watering a lamp post or similar spot. It can be a bit awkward when one is trying to keep to the social distancing because the people behind you then catch up. So Olly cannot be allowed to indulge his nasal curiosity for too long!

 

The Waitrose shop went off smoothly on Wednesday followed by obligatory hand washing & cleaning of purchases. Most things were available but not all. We have of course been spoilt for choice for many years and been taking all these things for granted to some extent.

 

I’ve been praying for you all, and especially when I celebrate Mass. This is a somewhat strange experience as you can imagine. It is definitely the exception and cannot, as Pope Francis has emphasised, become a “norm”.

We look forward to the time when we can get back to being together as before. I do however appreciate the slower pace of life and I don’t have any great desire to be hyperactive!

 

Anyway, let us know if there is anything we can do. Do look at the website for links to helpful and inspiring material. Keep safe & well, as far as its in your power and God bless.

 

Fr David

10th April

Dear People,                                                                        You will find pdfs below with resources for Good Friday. Please click to download.

The commemoration of the Passion is traditionally held at 3pm on Good Friday.

Included are the Scripture readings, the prayers, Stations of the Cross prayers & hymn verses (plus pictures in a separate PDF).

Unfortunately, the Koder meditations that accompany the pictures are too long to reproduce, so just use your imaginations.

There is a reflection about asking for forgiveness & trusting in God’s mercy.

There are a couple of penitential psalms and a psalm of thanksgiving for God’s mercy.

Finally three hymns appropriate to Good Friday.

I hope you will find at least something helpful.

We look forward to celebrating Easter – the triumph of God’s life, love and mercy for all!

Keep safe & well.

God bless you all.

Fr David

A message from Father David 4th April

Dear Sisters and Brothers,

It's good to see you have found the website. You will find lots of resources at this time of crisis to help you here.  It also directs you to the live streamed Masses and the latest information from Bishop Philip

Thank you to all of you who offered help. We have had many more offers of help than requests for help, but this may change in the coming weeks so we have kept your name ‘on the books’ and will contact you if anything changes.

If, in the coming weeks, you have changed your mind and find you need help with shopping or collecting medication, or you would just like a friendly phone call, please contact the parish office 01590 676696 and we will organise that for you.

This is a difficult time for all of us, but we must pray and stay strong and we will get through this together. We are approaching Palm Sunday leading to the Holiest of weeks in our Liturgical calendar. Our churches remain closed, but the Holy week services will take place at the usual times, sadly without a congregation.

Linda has added a 'Prayer Request' page to the website. It will include details of Anniversaries at this time and the names of the sick and housebound. If you want to request prayer for someone please email the request to lymbrockmil@portsmouthdiocese.org.uk

Please remember all priests at this time. The Mass is a celebration for the priest and people together as a worshipping faith community. It is alien for them not to have any responses from the congregation when they are celebrating Mass alone. They need your prayers and support as they 'stay safe, stay home.' So please remember them in your prayers

Finally, reluctantly, I have to approach financial support for your parishes. For many of you this crisis will involve financial hardship and I do understand that. But this crisis will also significantly affect the upkeep of our parishes.

I'd like to thank those who are continuing to contribute by Standing Order or Direct debit. For those who use the envelope scheme or give cash each Sunday, perhaps you will consider setting aside an amount each week that you can afford. You could put the contribution in a marked envelope and keep it until such a time when it can be handed in. If you wish to contribute by Standing Order or Direct Debit instead, please contact the parish office

There are also Special Collections that need our support too: The Clergy Assistance Fund (22/03/20); and support for the Holy Places (Good Friday

Keep safe & well. God bless.

Fr David

ON JOINING UP THE DOTS 29th March

If we want to grow in our faith understanding we need to start “joining up the dots”. It took me a long time to wake up to this. Its like having all the ingredients of a cake and cooking them separately and NOT enjoying the result! Once you mix them together and cook them in the oven of “pondering & treasuring” as Mary did, the results are rewarding. For example, the 2nd Vatican Council (1960s) reminded us that Christ is present in creation, in all people, in the Word, in the Sacraments, in the ministers of the word & sacraments, in the gathered People of God, in all the baptised etc. Start connecting all these dots and suddenly one is enveloped and filled with the loving, creative presence of Christ in every possible way.

I want to concentrate here on some other “dots”, which taken together will help us appreciate the wonderful work God has done in Christ. It will also help to allay our fears and root us more confidently in trusting God’s great love and mercy. So what are the “dots”? No.1: “… for they will all know me, from the least to the greatest – declares the Lord – since I shall forgive their guilt and never call their sin to mind.” (Jeremiah 31:31 re: the New Covenant, nearly 600 yrs before Jesus). No.2: “worshippers, when they had once been purified, would have no consciousness of sins” (Heb 10:2). No.3: “(we are ) ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter (of the Law) but of the Spirit, for the letter (of the Law) kills but the Spirit gives life.” (2 Cor 3:6). No.4: “ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the Law.” (1 Cor 15:56). No.5: “…so that by his (Christ’s) death he could set aside him who held the power of death, namely the devil, and set free all those who had been held in slavery all their lives by the fear of death.” (Heb 2:15). No.6: “I watched satan fall like lightening from heaven.” (Luke 10:18). And finally, No.7: “..the accuser (lit. satan) of our brothers and sisters, who accused them day and night before our God, has been thrown down.” (Rev 12:10)

So cooking all these ingredients in the oven of pondering and treasuring, what do we get? In the New Covenant, i.e. the new relationship, God forgives our sin and indeed has no consciousness of it. (cfr. John 5:22 –“Nor does the Father judge anyone;.”.). Our consciousness of sin is about a sense, experience or conviction that having broken the “Law” we are thereby judged and condemned.

It is an experience of separation or alienation from God, a sense that the relationship has been broken from our side and we are helpless. In our consciousness we have an “accuser” a satan or devil, who is constantly accusing us and burdening us with a sense of guilt. From this experience arises the fear of death, in the spiritual sense. (This is different from the instinctive fear of danger & death which is natural to us as sentient beings. Jesus was so afraid in the garden, he sweated blood, and sadly some other people have suffered similarly.) Now from God’s side there comes not condemnation but justification. The judgement is a judgement of forgiveness and mercy. God looks on us not as rejected children but as loved children. We are wounded yes, and the divine Physician only wants to heal and restore.

 

So what of our sins, our selfish, angry, destructive behaviour? Of course, God not want that! God wants only our good and the good of everyone else. So, does God punish us for our sins? No, God weeps over the wounds we inflict on ourselves and others. We are punished BY our sins not for our sins. Acknowledging responsibility (confession) is not self-condemnation but the necessary precursor to healing and restoration. So behaving justly, wisely, lovingly is an imperative. We must do what is right for the right reasons. Our future, our planet depends on it. But let us explore further. The accuser (satan) has been thrown out of heaven. But where is heaven? Like the kingdom of God it is both within us (Luke 17:21) and beyond us. To experience heaven is to experience “it” within the consciousness of our own being. Yet because heaven is relationship with Divine Love it is also from beyond our being. In the consciousness of our being is heaven, purgatory and hell. The angel with a flaming sword that was placed by God at the gates of Paradise after Adam and Eve were banished from it (Genesis 3:24) has been cast out. The gates of heaven are now laid open. Learning from trusting children, as Jesus bade us, we are changed by love and can run joyfully into the arms of our lovinng Father. (Matt. 18:3).

“Be compassionate as your Father is compassionate. Do not judge and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned; forgive and you will be forgiven. Give, and there will be gifts for you: a full measure, pressed own, shaken together, and overflowing will be poured into your lap; because the standard you use will be the standard used for you.” (Luke 6: 36-38). (DMA)

 

Pope’s Easter Message: “The contagion of hope”

Sunday, April 12th, 2020 @ 11:05 am

 

Pope Francis’ 'Urbi et Orbi message on Easter Sunday challenges us to ban indifference, self-centredness, division and forgetfulness during this time of Covid-19 – and to spread the “contagion” of hope.

 

By Seàn-Patrick Lovett, Vatican News

 

No banner hung from the central balcony of St Peter’s Basilica. No bands played the Vatican anthem. No floral arrangements decorated St Peter’s Square. Nearby streets were empty and silent, as Italy continues to respect a nationwide coronavirus lockdown.

 

Inside the Basilica, surrounded only by his closest collaborators, Pope Francis delivered his traditional Easter Urbi et Orbi message to the city of Rome and the world.

 

A different “contagion”

Millions of people watched and listened on various media platforms as the Pope repeated the Easter proclamation: “Christ, my hope, is risen!”. He called this message “a different ‘contagion’”, one that is transmitted “from heart to heart”.

 

This Good News is like a new flame that springs up “in the night of a world already faced with epochal challenges, and now oppressed by a pandemic severely testing our whole human family”, said the Pope.

 

Christ’s resurrection is not a “magic formula that makes problems vanish”, he continued, “it is the victory of love over the root of evil”. This victory “does not ‘by-pass’ suffering and death, but passes through them, opening a path in the abyss, transforming evil into good”, he added.

 

Comfort for those affected by the coronavirus

The Pope’s thoughts turned immediately to those directly affected by the coronavirus. “For many, this is an Easter of solitude, lived amid the sorrow and hardship that the pandemic is causing, from physical suffering to economic difficulties”, he said.

 

“This disease has not only deprived us of human closeness, but also of the possibility of receiving in person the consolation that flows from the sacraments, particularly the Eucharist and Reconciliation”, said Pope Francis.

 

“But the Lord has not left us alone”, he added. “United in our prayer, we are convinced that He has laid His hand upon us”.

 

Gratitude to those providing essential services

The Pope then expressed his gratitude and affection to doctors and nurses, and “to all who work diligently to guarantee the essential services necessary for civil society, and to the law enforcement and military personnel who in many countries have helped ease people’s difficulties and sufferings”.

 

Encouragement to work for the common good

Pope Francis acknowledged that “this is also a time of worry about an uncertain future, about jobs that are at risk”. He encouraged political leaders “to work actively for the common good”, providing the means “to enable everyone to lead a dignified life and, when circumstances allow, to assist them in resuming their normal daily activities”.

 

Not a time for indifference

This is not a time for indifference, said the Pope, “because the whole world is suffering and needs to be united in facing the pandemic”. He prayed that the risen Jesus may grant hope “to all the poor, to those living on the peripheries, to refugees and the homeless”.  Pope Francis also called for the relaxation of international sanctions and for “the reduction, if not the forgiveness, of the debt burdening the balance sheets of the poorest nations”.

 

Not a time for self-centredness

This is not a time for self-centredness, continued Pope Francis, because “the challenge we are facing is shared by all”. Europe, in particular, was able “to overcome the rivalries of the past” following the Second World War, “thanks to a concrete spirit of solidarity”. It is urgent “these rivalries do not regain force”, the Pope continued. We all need to recognize ourselves “as part of a single family and support one another”. Selfishly pursuing particular interests risks “damaging the peaceful coexistence and development of future generations”, he added.

 

Not a time for division

This is not a time for division, said the Pope, as he appealed for “an immediate global ceasefire in all corners of the world”. Criticizing the vast amounts of money spent on the arms trade, Pope Francis called for a solution to the ongoing conflicts in Syria, Yemen, Iraq and Lebanon. He said he hoped Israelis and Palestinians might resume dialogue, that the situation in eastern Ukraine might be resolved, and that “terrorist attacks carried out against so many innocent people in different African countries may come to an end”.

 

Not a time for forgetfulness

This is not a time for forgetfulness, continued Pope Francis, referring to the humanitarian crises being faced in Asia and Africa. He prayed for refugees and migrants “living in unbearable conditions, especially in Libya and on the border between Greece and Turkey”. The Pope prayed also that solutions may be found in Venezuela, allowing “international assistance to a population suffering from the grave political, socio-economic and health situation” there.

 

Christ dispels the darkness of suffering

“Indifference, self-centredness, division and forgetfulness are not words we want to hear at this time”, said the Pope. These words “seem to prevail when fear and death overwhelm us”, and we want to ban them forever, he added.

 

Pope Francis concluded his Urbi et Orbi message with a prayer: “May Christ, who has already defeated death and opened for us the way to eternal salvation, dispel the darkness of our suffering humanity and lead us into the light of His glorious day. A day that knows no end”.

20 - Easter Sunday Yr A 120420.pdf
Adobe Acrobat document [338.1 KB]
20-Redemptorist Liturgy Scan 120420.pdf
Adobe Acrobat document [1.4 MB]
The Easter Vigil 2020.pdf
Adobe Acrobat document [290.9 KB]
Good Friday Readings Prayers Hymns etc.p[...]
Adobe Acrobat document [420.5 KB]
Koder Stations the Folly of the Cross - [...]
Adobe Acrobat document [3.9 MB]
Holy Thursday - Mass Readings Reflectio[...]
Adobe Acrobat document [1.7 MB]

ACCESS TO THE OTHER SACRAMENTS

Pope Francis has said that these crisis conditions now permit Bishops to authorise General Absolution when it is needed. And he has also said, in effect, that if it is not possible or advisable to access a priest we should pray to God directly expressing our sorrow for sin and our desire for forgiveness and then trust confidently in God’s mercy.

Fr David will to be available on the phone for counselling and reassurance. He will also be on call to administer the Anointing of the Sick in urgent cases.