Letting God Find Us

In all three of the stories in Luke’s Gospel today we have something or someone who is lost. The lost sheep, the lost coin and the lost son often known as the prodigal son. The shepherd searches for the lost sheep and the woman searches for the lost coin and the father searches the horizon waiting for the son to return. What Jesus is telling us when he tells these stories that God is searching for us. Many talk about the spiritual life as our quest for God, our search for God. The spiritual life is sometimes described as finding God in our lives. I think that it is the other way round. God is searching for us. What we need to do is to allow ourselves to be found by God. God is passionate about us. St Catherine of Siena has a phrase that expresses this. She says that God is “mad in love” with us. Here are some of her words. “O eternal Father! O fiery abyss of charity! O eternal beauty, O eternal wisdom, O eternal goodness, O eternal mercy! O hope and refuge of sinners! O immeasurable generosity! O eternal, infinite Good! O mad lover! And you have need of your creature? It seems so to me, for you act as if you could not live without her, in spite of the fact that you are Life itself, and everything has life from you and nothing can have life without you. Why then are you so mad?  Because you have fallen in love with what you have made!”

So often people imagine God as a distant figure, sitting in judgement on us, waiting for us to do the right thing. In the first reading this weekend from Exodus God says to Moses about the people of Israel who have apostatised: “ Leave me, now, my wrath shall blaze out against them and devour them;” After Moses pleads God relents. This suggests this is God’s perception of his creation. Bishop Robert Barron in his reflection on this gospel says that the three stories suggest there are three ways of being found. The coin represents people who are spiritually dead. They don’t know they are lost. They are so far from God, so alienated from their real purpose. They have wandered in the land of unlikeness. They are closed in themselves. There is hope because God diligently  searches and finds those who don’t now they are lost. The sheep are those who know they are in trouble. They realise that they are spiritually compromised. God finds them too and carries them home on his shoulders. Finally, in the story of the prodigal son, the son has gone into conscious rebellion of his Father, and there are those who consciously rebel against God and realise they are lost and are seeking a way back.

What is common to all three stories is that there is rejoicing in being found. We need as a parish and a church to rejoice in those who return. Perhaps we need to open are heart and let God find us.

Newsletter for week starting 15th September 2019

 

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Newsletter for week starting 08 September 2019

 

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Confirmation – Winning the Hearts of Our Young People

Our purpose in life is to be holy. To be fully the person that God created us to be. We need to understand what this means in our life and in our time. The Second Vatican Council helped us to recognise anew this call to holiness is for everyone. “All the faithful, whatever their condition or state,  are all called by the Lord each  in his or her own way to that perfect holiness by which the Father himself is perfect.” This is a call of one who loves us first  and who wants us to come to know and experience this love he has for us. We can express this love as a friendship. “I do not call you servants any longer but friend”,says Jesus.  Pope Francis in his Apostolic Exhortation to Young People which he wrote in March this year says “ Jesus wants to be a friend to every young person. This discernment is the basis of all else” When Jesus, risen from the dead, encountered Peter by the lakeside, his great question was.” Simon Son of John do you love me?” He was asking Peter, Do you love me as a friend?  God is offering us an invitation to be part of a love story.

This invitation to holiness, to friendship and love is especially relevant for our young people.

As a parish community we have a responsibility to support and help the parents of young people in their duty to guide their sons and daughters to discover what God wants of them. What are the implications of God calling us to be holy, to share in the friendship of Jesus.

Preparing for Confirmation is the ideal time for deepening friendship with Christ and opening our hearts to him.I am inviting  our young people who have not received the fullness of the Holy Spirit in Confirmation with the encouragement of their parents to sign up for our Confirmation preparation programme. This will be their opportunity to grow in their understanding that they are chosen by God. This year we are using a Confirmation Programme called “ CHOSEN” . The goal of the programme is to offer the young person a powerful, life-changing experience as he or she prepares to receive the Sacrament of Confirmation. It is our hope that “CHOSEN” will not only offer them a thorough knowledge and understanding of the Catholic Faith, but will also win over their hearts at this critical time in their life. The programme has been carefully designed to address and answer our young peoples fundamental questions about life, and to challenge them to embrace a life of faith.

It is important that the young people sign up as soon as possible because we would like to begin the sessions on Sunday 6th October. The meeting for parents will be on 30th September at 8pm in the St Thomas Hall.  Fill out a form that you can obtain in the Narthex. 

“Jesus is walking in our midst, as he did in Galilee. He walks through our streets, and he quietly stops and looks into our eyes. His call is attractive and intriguing.” (Pope Francis “ Christus Vivit” no: 277)

Newsletter starting 01 Sept 2019

 

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The Grace of True Humility

My rector at the junior seminary started his talk on humility by telling us of a priest who is speaking about humility to a group of nuns and recommended a book. “This is the greatest book I have ever read on the subject. It is an excellent, lucid and scholarly exposition, and I wrote it.” Was he boasting, blowing his own trumpet, or just being honest?

St Benedict in his rule wrote about the twelve steps of  humility, like twelve steps on a ladder. Its length and position in the rule is arguably the heart of Benedict’s Presentation of the way to God. An initial reading of Chapter Seven of the rule might not be easy for us to appreciate who are living in the 21st century. It is stark and demanding. It might seem to a modern reader as an expression of a spirituality that is no longer acceptable. The Australian Cistercian monk of Tarrawarra Abbey, Michael Casey, has indeed written a book on St Benedict’s teaching on humility, entitled “Truthful Living”. In this book he provides a bridge between an ancient text and the present day.

Jesus isn’t asking us to humiliate ourselves when he tells the story in the Gospel for this Sunday. He isn’t asking us to think less of ourselves than other people. Nor does it mean undervaluing our talents. There is nothing more off-putting than someone constantly professing: “I am not good at anything. I am not important.” We need to remember that the word “humility” come from “humus” which as every gardener knows is the very stuff of the earth. To be humble means to have your feet firmly on the ground. We need to have an honest acceptance of the seeds of talent given to each one of us by God. 

“Humility is never arrogant because it recognising that what talents we have are gifts from God. “What do you have that you have not received? And if you have not received why do you glory as if you had not received it? (1 Cor 4:7) Rather than hiding talents, humility sees the duty to nurture them so as to reflect back the glory of the giver.” (Sylvester O’Flynn). Jesus is our model of humility. “Learn of me, for I am meek and humble of heart” In recent days in the readings at daily Mass we have been hearing how Jesus was condemning the Pharisees as hypocrites. The word means a play actor, pretender, dissembler. Humility means setting aside the mask. It is a kind of nakedness that allows us to be seen without the bulwark of social conventions “We present ourselves to others transparently, in all our imperfection and vulnerability. We depend on their good will for acceptance and love, not on the success of our efforts at self promotion.” (Michael Casey).

Lord help me to be at home with myself. Help me to be myself. Give me the grace of true humility.

Newsletter for week starting 25 August 2019

 

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The Narrow Door

Are we all going to heaven?  We read in this Sunday’s first reading, “God is coming to gather the nations of every language. God created us to be with him to come to know his love. Our destiny is to be with him forever.”  We believe that with the death and resurrection of Jesus, humankind has been saved and through baptism we have been given the gift of everlasting life. Thus we all have the possibility of salvation and the church is the means of salvation. As John Paul II taught in his letter, Redemptoris missio, “it is necessary to keep these two truths together, namely, the real possibility of salvation in Christ for all mankind and the necessity of the Church for salvation.” We need to hold together the two truths. Together there is the hope of salvation for all, while renouncing the claim to know that all will be saved. The distinction between hope and knowledge is crucial. Human beings do not know the outcome of God’s judgment. We should leave judgment to God, trusting in his love.

If we believe that the Church is a means of salvation then we need to heed the warning of Jesus. We should not presume that being  baptised and being part of God’s family, the Church, means you are saved. You have the hope and means of salvation. Jesus says we need to enter by the narrow door. Belonging to the family through baptism is not enough. “ Lord, open to us” but he will answer, “I do not know where you come from.” Then you will find yourself saying, “We once ate and drank in your company; you taught in our streets” but he will reply, “I do not know where you come from. Away from me, all you wicked men!” Salvation comes when we accept Jesus and start to follow him. This is the narrow door, the only door to life and it is a demanding entrance. At times, it may be painful, like the discipline mentioned in Hebrews, “but later it yields the peaceful fruit  of righteousness” (12:11). We also need to bear in mind what the Church says in the  Vatican Council document Lumen Gentium 16. “Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience—those too may achieve eternal salvation. We will be amazed who we will meet in heaven.

Newsletter starting 18 August 2019

 

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To love, live and speak the truth

Many of us worry about what other people think of us. We want to be liked. We want to be accepted and part of the group. I don’t think anyone likes to be an outsider. Thus we might find ourselves self-censoring what we say to others so as not to offend or alienate them. If this is true of many of us, then I think it is not a good idea to volunteer to be God’s prophet. God often asks the prophet to share things with people that they don’t want to hear. We see this clearly in the reading from the book of Jeremiah. Jeremiah is one of my favourite prophets from the Old Testament. As one commentator pointed out, “He is called a prophet of doom. He lived at the most tragic period of Israel’s history during which Jerusalem was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar and the people were carried off into exile.  He answered God’s call to be a prophet but he did this most reluctantly.” He tried to escape his mission as prophet by pretending to God that he was a stutterer, but God told him to quit pretending and get on with the job. People didn’t want to hear God’s message of repentance and the destruction that would follow if they didn’t respond to the call for repentance. Jeremiah told the people what God wanted them to do. The message was not palatable and so the king was petitioned to have Jeremiah  put to death because “he is unquestionably disheartening the remaining solders in the city and all the people too, by talking like this. The fellow does not have the welfare of this people at heart so much as its ruin.” He was seized, dropped into a cistern and left to die. “There was no water in the well, only mud, into which Jeremiah sank.” If he had only told people what they wanted to hear then he would have been fine and everyone’s best friend. He was rescued by an Ethiopian eunuch. Jeremiah was faithful to God as a prophet, speaking to his people the words that God wanted them to hear. Like Jeremiah, am I faithful to the Lord? Do I live by his word? Am I prepared to follow his way? If we take the gospel message seriously and try to live it boldly, we may be shunned, we may find ourselves on the outside and those we consider friends or family might avoid us. We are challenged to live and speak the truth. This can be costly “The world around us does not share many of our basic values: the meaning of human existence, the worth of human life, the purpose of human sexuality, the dignity of the poor, our need for the church and the sacraments. Speaking up on such matters, even speaking carefully and gently can quickly make us unpopular.” Lord help me to love the truth and give me the courage to speak the truth and live the truth.