www.olqmhereford.org.uk

Our Lady Queen of Martyrs

Roman Catholic Church Hereford

 

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SERMON FOR 29th SUNDAY - 22nd OCTOBER 2017.



Once again our Gospel reading is dominated by the clash between Jesus and the Pharisees, we have heard in recent weeks of his criticism of them, mainly in parables. Jesus is extremely critical of them, often accusing them of hypocrisy, that what they say is not matched by what they did, they only have the appearance of faith, but were actually more interested in status, power and money.


       A lot of what Jesus tells us is to do with the sin of hypocrisy, he constantly warns against it, that we should be consistent in all that we do, because nothing can damage the faith or the Church as much as a real hypocritical Christian, someone who is harsh and judgmental of others, and yet is full of sin in their own lives, often never dreaming of applying standards to their lives, which they ruthlessly demand of others. Which is why today, I think the most important reading is the 2ndreading, what Paul is saying to those believers in Thessalonika. They must have been wonderful Christians, Paul says of them,


 “We thank God for you all, and constantly remember before God our Father how you have shown your faith in action, worked for love and persevered through hope. What a fantastic compliment to give to those relatively new Christians, that they were everything a Christian should be, they were anything but hypocrites, they showed their faith in action and had worked for love, as Paul said when they first heard the word from him


  “it came not just as words, but as power and as the Holy Spirit and as utter conviction.”


 Like us those Christians would have found it difficult to live Christian lives, they lived in a very immoral world, a world where power and money were God, a world that was cruel and barbarous, not so much different from our own; down the centuries things have not changed that much. They would have been faced with the issue presented in the gospel today, the issue of money, of political allegiance, should they pay taxes to Caesar or not, how far should they be a part of society, should they work to be good citizens. The answer to all those questions is yes, our faith calls on us, as Jesus hinted at in his answer to the question by the Pharisees, that we should render to Caesar or to any government what is their due, but we should also render to God what is his due. We have to be both good citizens of earth and good citizens of heaven. And yet how do we live in a world that can often be so contrary to what we believe, when money is often treated as God, where the point of life seems to be amassing personal possessions, where there is so much abuse of others, and so much violence, where life itself is often treated with contempt.


     Well we take to heart the example of those first Christians and we live real Christian lives-lives that are devoted to the love of God and to one another, where we try to be and act as Christ. Perhaps we could ask ourselves a question, what image do we give to others, what image do we reflect in our lives, is it God, Christ, the image those first Christians gave, as Paul described them for us, or is it a purely earthly image, selfishness, self interest, materialistic? For all of us it is probably a mixed image, sometimes Christ-like sometimes not. For Paul, it was only the sight and experience of Christians living truly Christian lives that spread the faith, seeing good Christians at work spread the faith in Jesus and it is still the same today, the best way to show our faith, is to live good Christian lives-it is why those early Christian communities grew so strongly.


  In our world it is so often money which is the root of so much evil and unhappiness, there is no greater witness we can give than by showing we are not slaves of money, our lives are not dedicated to amassing it, that instead we serve Christ, we work for him and worship him. Let us show our faith in action, let us not be half-hearted Christians, who only superficially follow Jesus, who only have the name of Christian, but let us be Christians in reality in hearts, may it be who and what we are, may we have a true conviction in our faith and show it in action and in love.

 Finally on this World Mission Sunday, we are asked to pray for the missionary work of the Church, for the growing churches in Africa and Asia especially, and to keep all missionaries in our prayers, all those who travel to far off places and give witness to their faith and who come to the aid of those in need. Pope Frances in his message for today, which is printed in the Bulletin, calls on us to pray for the young churches and in our own communities to be full of the joy of faith, to be missionaries in our own families and communities.




 SERMON 28th SUNDAY - 15th OCTOBER 2017.




 

After hearing about vineyards in the parables of our recent Sunday readings  today we have a change, still a parable, but one using the image of a wedding banquet, or in modern language a wedding reception. We heard of the King, presumably meant to be God, who invites his people to celebrate the marriage of his Son. He invites many people, yet so many reject the invitation, even though it is the King who invites them, hardly a polite or sensible thing to do. But even more some of the Kings messengers who carry the invitations are attacked and murdered, and hence the action of the King, who sends his troops to punish those responsible. Even though the imagery is different from recent weeks, the meaning is the same, of God’s chosen people being called by God, called to celebrate with God, with God who sends his son, Jesus, the bridegroom, but they reject him, and kill him. Just as with the rebellious tenants in last weeks gospels, who try to take over the vineyard they are renting from the landowner and kill all his servants, so the subjects of the king seem to rebel against him by refusing to come to his sons wedding. It is once again a parable aimed at some of those religious leaders of the day, Pharisees, scribes, high priests who refuse to listen to him and try to kill him. Just like last week the meaning of the parable would not have passed them by, and perhaps helped provoke them in their campaign against him.


         But today’s parable takes a step further, because after the King has punished those who refused to come to the wedding, he sends out invites to other people, to anyone who could be found and they instead come to the wedding feast. Perhaps here there is a hint of what would happen in the time of the Apostles, how because so many of the chosen people rejected Christ, the word was taken to everyone else, to the Romans and Greeks, the pagans, those who had been thought unworthy of Gods word, but now receive it. So Jesus is prophesying about what would happen in the future, the work of such apostles as Peter and especially of Paul.


                  We are the descendants of those people, of those pagans who received the word of God from the mouths of the Apostles, but we should not be too complacent, for we still have to respond to the invitation he sends to us, to his banquet, to the wedding feast as well, or as Isaiah described it in the 1streading, as a banquet of rich food, of fine wines, of food rich and juicy. It is a wonderful invitation, but it is one that we can sometimes fail to respond to, like the people of the parable. And many people do fail to respond , it is what still seems to happen, because every Sunday, the Church bells here at St. Begh’s ring out inviting people to the celebration of the mass, which is quite literally the banquet of the Lord, where we are offered those wonderful gifts of God’s word and also of holy Communion. We are invited to the banquet of the supper of the Lord, we are invited to share in the gift that God’s son, Jesus, the bridegroom, is to us, to eat of his body and blood and to hear his word, and yet how many when they hear the bells ring out don’t bother, most of the parish, most of those who are baptised Catholics don’t bother coming to this celebration of our faith. It is our duty to invite them, to invite them back, and to lead such lives of faith and love that others will want to share in the gifts we receive him in Church.


                    But that is not where the challenge of the Gospel parable ends today, because in the parable there is that guest not dressed properly, someone not wearing a wedding garment. For me this is one of the most scary parts of scripture, of that guest who came in, but was found not be dressed properly and was thrown out. Who was that guest, what is the meaning of it? Well perhaps it means all those who are invited and then turn up must act properly, they must dress themselves in proper words and actions, they must live according to their faith. All of us who come here, who accept God’s invitation to the feast must live according to our faith and act accordingly, we must not be hypocrites, people who say we are faithful and religious, but in our words and actions, the way we dress ourselves show something different. Perhaps it is our fault sometimes, my fault sometimes,for so many not accepting God’s invitation to come to the feast here in Church, perhaps we have put others off, by not living out our faith, by being hypocrites, by not showing the love of Christ in our lives, by not showing the joy of our faith in our lives. Perhaps many of our fellow parishioners would come to join us here if we would but ask them and show how wonderful it is to hear Gods word and to receive the gift of holy communion. Amen.

                                                                  





   SERMON  27th SUNDAY 2017.


Well we should be used to hearing about vineyards, they have been part of many of our recent Sunday Gospels, and off course it is very appropriate language for this Harvest Sunday. Today we heard the parable of the rebellious tenants who try to seize a vineyard from its owner, and who will no doubt come to a wretched end. Like the other parables we have heard it was aimed at the chief priests and elders and it has a very harsh meaning, it is very critical of them. As we all said in the psalm the vineyard is the house of Israel, the vineyard stands for the people of God, for the community for Israel, and those chief priest and elders have been very poor stewards or tenants of the vineyard.

                 Throughout the Bible the image of a vineyard or vine is used to describe the people of Israel, the people of God, we heard in the psalm how God brought a vine-the people out of Egypt and then planted them in the promised land and through Gods care the vine grew strong. Even Isaiah in our first reading talked in the same way, of the people being a like a vine in Gods hand, but despite Gods care and love, that vine didn’t produce good fruit, like in the parable, the elders, rebelled, turned to other Gods and thus the vine began to die. According to Jesus in the gospel parable, the elders and chief priests had been very poor tenants in the vineyard, they had not cared for the vine, for the people, in fact they had ignored or even killed all the messengers sent by God, meaning the prophets, who had been sent to the vine. And even more so, they were rejecting Gods son sent by God, and they will also kill him. The meaning of Our Lords words could not have escaped the understanding of those listening and no doubt it helped prompt their plans to get rid of him. The fruit that they produced was indeed bad and diseased.

                  We, off course, are part of God’s vineyard, we call the Church the vineyard of the Lord, we also have been loved and cared for by God, and in light of what we have heard we should ask what kind of fruit we have produced, what has Gods love produced in us. Very appropriate questions to ask as we celebrate our Harvest Sunday this weekend. Have we produced rich, succulent fruit, in other words love, love of God and love of others, or has it been only sour grapes from us, hatred, division, harsh judgement etc. I suppose for all of us it has been a mixed harvest, sometimes good fruit, sometimes bad. The guidance we need to help us produce good fruit can be found with St. Paul today, who gives us some marvellous advice, he said,

 fill your minds with everything that is true, everything that is noble, everything that is good and pure, everything that we love and honour, and everything that can be thought virtuous or worthy of praise.”

  Paul wrote these words to the community he had founded in Phillipi, that was one of the Vines he had planted and watered and cared for, and he was concerned as to the kind of fruit it produced. For him to write those words hints that he was concerned over their unity, perhaps they were becoming fractious and divided or in danger of being so. Such disunity could destroy their community, destroy the peace they had, so they must not give into fear, jealousy and anxiety which can be so destructive. In light of that advice perhaps we could think about our own families, our own community, our parish, are we a healthy vineyard, is our community strong, do we produce rich, abundant fruit, are we truly loving towards one another. In a way all of us are stewards of this parish community, we have the same duty as those chief priests and elders in the Gospel, we have the duty to care for one another, to be good and holy examples to one another, to build up this community, do we do that? When the great day of judgement comes, when the owner of the Vineyard-Christ, returns, what will he say about how well we have cared for the vine of our families and community, how will he judge us?

     Finally, today we are showing our faith in action, we are showing the fruit of our faith in some good works, for this is our Harvest Sunday, and so many of you have brought food items to Church today, now placed before the altar, items to be given to our local food-bank, to come to the aid of those in need in our local community. Also today we are having the retiring collection for CAFOD, donations to be used for those in need in the developing nations, where there is such need of our help.  Our generosity to these Harvests collections, of foodstuffs and money, shows that we are showing our faith in action, giving witness to our faith with this generosity, thus coming to the aid of those in need. May be rewarded on the last day for this kindness.        


SERMON 26th SUNDAY - 1stOCTOBER.




As we listen to these parables of Jesus, such as the very short one we have heard today, we should be able to identify ourselves with the characters within the parables, like the two sons today. Neither was perfect, both in their own way were disobedient to their father, one in word and one in actions. They are real people, flawed, imperfect characters just like us. That was also the case last week, when we heard the parable of the ungrateful workers in the vineyard, who couldn’t bear the generosity of the landowner to those who had worked less hours than they did, they couldn’t cope with such generosity, they were overtaken by jealousy and envy-just as we so often are.


                        Jesus seems to be making a similar point today, criticising some of the religious leaders for not being able to accept the life and teaching of John the Baptist, despite the fact that many notorious sinners came back to God because of his preaching. For some reason the sight of tax collectors and prostitutes repenting of their sins annoyed them, for some reason they would rather see them condemned. The sight of Gods generosity, the sight of a holy man proclaiming Gods mercy, only filled them with anger, as it did with the way Jesus went about with simmers, even having them amongst his disciples. It was the same kind of generosity that those workers in the vineyard found hard to accept. Perhaps this is a very human reaction, God might forgive, but we find it hard, God may not judge, but we often do, and all this is reflected in the parable.


                       A lot of the parables share this theme of the generosity of God, how generous he is with his forgiveness, the chances he gives to sinners to repent, to return to him, think of the parable of the one lost sheep and the effort the shepherd goes to to find that one sheep. The parable of the prodigal son is perhaps the best


example, such a marvellous story of freely given forgiveness, of someone who didn’t deserve forgiveness, who had acted dreadfully, and yet is forgiven. This is how God is, but as is often the case we are not, we are like the other brother in the parable of the prodigal son, who cannot forgive.


                        Yet perhaps we can be, perhaps we can be like Jesus, we can be like God the Father, we can be like John the Baptist, we don’t have to be people who fail in word or in deed, we can forgive and we can do this by grace, by accepting Gods free offer of life transforming grace, the power of the Holy Spirit. This grace if offered to us here today through listening and reflecting upon the word of God we have heard. St. Paul said to us,


There must be no competition among you, no conceit; but everybody is to be self-effacing. Always consider the other person to be better than yourself, so that nobody thinks of his own interests first but everybody thinks of other people's interests instead. In your minds you must be the same as Christ Jesus:”


 That is good advice, in other words try to be less selfish and more selfless, be humble, consider other people before ourselves, but that can be hard to do, hence the need for grace, the gift given to us in the sacraments.


 After all we don’t want to be like those chief priests and elders who Jesus addresses the parable to today, who thought they were truly holy and righteous and yet even the worst of sinners were making their way before them to the kingdom of heaven, they were big left behind in their pride and harsh judgement. Perhaps we could all ask ourselves how these words of Jesus apply to us today, to be honest with ourselves, to pray for Gods grace, to inspire us to be more loving and forgiving of others. Amen.


 






SERMON 25th SUNDAY - 24th SEPTEMBER.


SERMON 25A 2014.


                            God’s word can be very unsettling, particularly on the lips of Jesus, every time I hear the phrase “I came to call sinners not the Virtuous”, it makes me stop and think, as it does every-time I hear the words at the end of today’s Gospel-the last will be first and the first last. Jesus in so much of what he said and did confounded people, especially religious people, what he preached was not easy and comfortable but was designed to make them and us stop and think. I suppose this is because we are all tempted to reduce our faith, our religion to what is safe and comfortable, to perhaps reduce the challenge it poses us, but I hope it is in listening to God’s word in Church that we are reminded of the challenge that our faith is to us. Over recent weeks that has certainly been the case, we heard such teaching as, renounce yourselves take up your cross and follow me, we have been reminded that our faith might call on us to suffer, to quite literally carry the cross of suffering, we have been reminded of the need to forgive one another over and over again and that perhaps for some of us the cross we have to carry is the burden of other people sins and the burden, the pain of having to forgive those who sin against us. It is not easy to hear this.


    It is no different today with the simple and straightforward parable of the generous landlord, the landlord who recruits workers throughout the day and pays them all exactly the same, no matter how many hours they have worked. The point of the parable is that the landlord, who we are meant to understand as being God, is not being unfair to those who worked all day, after all he gives them exactly what he said he would, but instead that he is generous with those who come later, even those who barely spend an hour working for him. If we are honest, we would probably have complained at the landlord, I know I would, it does seem unfair the way the landlord works. But I think at the root of that reaction is jealousy, jealousy that the landlord has been more generous to other people than to us. That generosity unsettles us, because we are so often afraid of loosing out to others, especially to those who we think haven’t worked as hard as we have. But of course the point of the parable isn’t the number of hours we work, the point of the parable is the  forgiveness we should show to others, a forgiveness we so often find hard to offer, but which God, and his Son, Jesus, seemed to offer so easily, as Jesus did throughout his ministry.


    It was the way Jesus offered forgiveness to others that caused the real controversy in his ministry, time and again this caused real scandal among the religious people of the day, they didn’t like it when Jesus went to the sinners, the tax collectors, the prostitutes, the poor, the sick and said he was forgiving their sins. Many couldn’t accept this, how could God forgive such people, how could God be so generous, surely God was like them, who refused to forgive and who condemned others so easily. Perhaps we would have reacted like some of the Pharisees and scribes didn’t who couldn’t believe what Jesus was doing, when he acted just like the generous landlord in the Gospel and gave to everyone who came to him. Like them we might have found such actions intimidating and far too challenging to accept, our pride and self conceit gets in the way.


   But thank goodness God and his Son are not like us, often so narrow minded, jealous, insecure and so easily threatened. For as we heard the great prophet Isaiah say today,


 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, my ways not your ways - it is the Lord who speaks. Yes, the heavens are as high above earth as my ways are above your ways, my thoughts above your thoughts.”


  Jesus showed this in his ministry, God’s ways are so different from others, and thank goodness he is, or there would be no hope for any of us, for God’s works and words seen in his son are far more loving, forgiving and understanding than we so often are.


  The challenge we face in our lives is for our ways, our thoughts to become like God’s ways and thoughts, to become like Christ, to become like that generous landlord who was loving and generous in all did. This isn’t easy, our pride, our often selfishness, our concern for ourselves, our fear can so often stop us from being so loving and forgiving. Our faith can indeed be unsettling, is indeed demanding, for indeed the first shall be last and the last shall be first. Amen.


SERMON 24th SUNDAY - 17th SEPTEMBER.


As I said at the beginning of mass, today is celebrated as Home Mission Sunday, when we are encouraged to think about the work of mission and evangelisation in our own parish, homes and schools. Sometimes we think that mission is just about what goes on overseas in mission countries, where missionaries labour to bring the news of Jesus to people who have never heard of him. Such work is vital and we must support that work, as we will shortly be doing with the annual CAFOD Harvest fast day on Friday 6th October, by the way for that day there is a CAFOD info evening this Thursday at 7pm. But there is also that basic mission work of mission in our own communities which this home mission Sunday reminds us of.  I think this is a duty that we can all be a bit scared of, that thought of sharing our faith, evanglisising can be a bit off putting, we can be very reserved about and even very private about our faith. But if we believe our faith in Jesus is special enough in order to bring us here today, then it is something that we should want others to share in the joy of. But there are all kinds of ways of sharing the faith, not just that rather challenging  that image which can come to mind of walking down streets and knocking doors or standing out on a high st trying to engage others in conversation. Mission is done that way, but also in other ways as well


The Bishops of England and Wales who direct us to celebrate this day, remind us that prayer is the basic work of sharing our faith, praying for the Church and praying for others. To pray for those we know who may not know of Jesus, those who have no faith and perhaps those of our families and fellow parishioners who have given up the practice of the faith and lost belief, praying for them is perhaps the best thing we can do, and setting them a good example with our own Christian lives and worship here in this Church.


In the parish this is something we are trying to think about at the moment with our small evangelisation group, which has begun to think about how we can better share our faith with others, and to begin by asking the most basic of questions, how welcoming are we as a parish, what first impressions do we give, do newcomers, or visitors or those returning to the parish from time away find this a welcoming place, is it an easy place to worship, is our service prayerful and joyful, inspirational even, do people feel welcomed. These are obviously important questions for me, but also for everyone here, how are newcomers, guests, returnees welcomed here or maybe not, or even to go further and ask if those of us have been coming here for a long time feel welcomed. After all there isn’t much point going out into the streets and homes and schools of the local area and inviting people here, if all they find when they come here is coldness and indifference. Fortunately I don’t think that is the case here, many people have said to me they have found Our Lady’s to be warm and welcoming and thats why they worship here and visit here, and thats not down to me, I’ve only been here two years, but down to you and all the former clergy of this parish; but we can always do things better. I think for us here at Our Lady’s we need to especially ask how welcoming are we to the many people and families from other countries who have come to Hereford in recent ye4ars, so many from eastern Europe and from India especially, how welcoming are we to them.


  The Gospel reading we have just heard does I think guide our minds in this direction today, with the parable of the unforgiving servant-a very powerful parable, thought provoking, reminding us that the kindness, love and generosity we have been shown by God and others, we must share with others, that we owe forgiveness and kindness to one another-most of all those in need, which is often the stranger and newcomer in our midst.  As St. Paul said in his reading today , we can all have an influence on others, we can give a good or a bad example, the welcome we give to strangers and newcomers here can lead them closer to God or further away from him; our warmth and kindness can build up the church, our coldness and indifference can damage it. Most of all though, it is, as the Gospel parable talks of today, the forgiveness we are willing to offer or withhold that matters. We are all called to be like Jesus and forgive others, we have this power, each and every one of us, in forgiving we can bring others back to God, and visa-versa.  We can in a way save one another, by offering forgiveness and mercy, a mercy which may if needed bring them back to God and his Church.


 Finally, attached to each bulletin today is a little prayer card, it has been produced for this home mission Sunday, inside it has a come home prayer, we are invited to say that prayer, for relatives, friends, colleagues who may have left the church or lost faith, we are invited to write their names inside and say the come home prayer for them each day, the prayer in the card also asks us to pray for tour parish, to pray that we will warmly welcome all those who come here, especially those returning to the practice of their faith. Also all the kids and families here today will also be offered a family prayer map which is for parents with children to complete, to put in names of those you want to pray for, there are bits to colour in and stickers, which the kids should enjoy. Amen.


 





SERMON – 23rd SUNDAY OF THE YEAR 2017 - 10th September.

               This last week, saw the anniversary of when I joined Belmont Abbey, I walked through it’s hallowed doors on 2nd September 1987, and became a postulant, and then a few months later a novice, so I have been a monk now for 30 years, I don’t look old enough do I, or perhaps older! And it was 6 years later that I completed all my training and instruction and was ordained Priest on the 4th September 1993, so this last week, was also thetanniversary of that day as well. I should perhaps say it seems like yesterday, but it doesn’t, it seems a very long time ago. People often ask me why I became a monk at Belmont Abbey, what led me to think that was my vocation, it is a question hard to answer because I didn’t have any dramatic experience or spiritual calling, really I just thought it might be for me, this might be my vocation and I thought I had better give it a go. I didn’t think I would last, in fact at one point after about 6 months I nearly left, but I persevered and here I am 30 years later, and here you are, stuck listening to my sermons. This last week has been a eventful one for the monastery, on Thursday we had the sad funeral of Fr. Antony, when the church was full, many oblates, friends and former students from the school were there; but on a happier not on Monday, which was the anniversary of the dedication of the Abbey Church, the solemn profession of Br. Alistair, who will shortly be returning to Rome to finish his studies, also a new postulant has arrived, Br. Nicholas, he looks a bit overwhelmed at the moment! please keep them in your prayers.

        The point of that little personal pre-amble is that living in a monastery, living at Belmont Abbey, is about living in a community, a monastery is a family of people, maybe a slightly odd one, with all the members of that family being men, and not being related by blood, and being of all different ages and characters, but in the end it is just a family, a community, men trying to live together lives of faith. And this is what all of our readings were about today-the need to live with one another as Christians, to protect our Christian families and communities, to remember that we are responsible for one another. That is what we heard Jesus talking about to his disciples, about how to maintain those early Christian communities, that they should work hard to keep people within them, to try to win back those who stray or wander away. To help them do this he gives those disciples the power to forgive sins, as he says to bind sin or to loose sin, he tells them that their communities will be powerful, because when only two or three gather together, he will listen to their prayers, and even more he will be there with them, strengthening and comforting them.

          Our other scripture readings today followed the same theme, we heard from the great prophet Ezekiel, using typically strong language, where he says that God will hold us responsible for other people, that we should help others, we should even warn others who lead sinful lives and if we don’t then God will punish us as he punishes them. In other words we are responsible for one another, not just our nearest and dearest but everyone around us -  we cannot be blind and deaf to the needs of those around us. St. Paul today in the passage from his letter to the Romans gave a little commentary on the commandment to love our neighbour, which means not just avoiding doing harm to them, but to do them good-he uses that beautiful phrase, the debt of mutual love, the debt we owe to all of our neighbours, and the debt we owe them is love of them.

         This is very demanding language, as demanding as in last weeks Gospel where Jesus said we have to renounce ourselves, take up our cross and follow him, and that cross could be a cross of suffering. Perhaps the obligations we owe to others, other people we might not like very much is also part of the weight of the cross we have to carry, the burden of other peoples weaknesses and sins may be that cross for us. I remember being told once, not long after I had entered Belmont Abbey, that the other monks would be the cross I had to carry, the cross of all their weaknesses and sins and irritations that they caused me, and I in my turn might be the cross they had to carry-Abbot Jerome described it as the gentle sand-papering of community life. I don’t suppose its very different in your own families, the same kind of joys, challenges and problems. But despite all the difficulties and pain and irritations of family life and community life, the rewards are wonderful, that sense of belonging, the sense of security, and the love and respect that is freely given and received.

     This idea of fighting to maintain communities or families or whatever you want to call groups of people who meet or live together is ever more important, because our communities and families today seem to be in danger of disintegrating. We constantly hear about the threat to families, of broken families, broken relationships, we hear and experience in Church of how few people want to join us here in our community of the parish. In this world it is so easy, so tempting, to just be interested in your self or just your immediate family, to forget about the wider community or society. This is why we have formed or are trying to form a Evangelisation group in our parish, to consider as a parish how we can share the faith with others, how we can reach out to those who no longer join us here, how we can be more welcoming and hospitable, more on this in the months to come as the group and the PAC consider such questions. Because it is so easy to forget about the community of the Church, we can be focused just on ourselves or immediate families, bt we must also have a care for the church, which is for us our parish community here in Hereford, and it is something we should all accept responsibility for and fight for it, to truly help, serve and even correct one another. In other words to love one another.

 


                                        SERMON 22A - 3rd SEPTEMBER.



To help us to fully understand today’s Gospel reading, we have to remind ourselves of what we heard last Sunday, which is the context for today’s Gospel reading,  because before Jesus tells Peter off for questioning him about his forthcoming death, Peter had made that great statement of faith, that Jesus was the Christ the Son of the living God, and Jesus said that he, Peter, would be the rock on which the Church would be built. As we have just heard  in today’s Gospel, Jesus then immediately predicts his own death, that because he is the Christ, he is destined, bound to die, it is an inevitable part of his mission and vocation. Peter can’t accept this and we heard what happened, he couldn't understand how the Christ had to suffer and die. Poor Peter, what a conflict of emotions he must have felt, he is inspired by the Spirit to see Jesus for who he really is, and then accused of working for the devil. He was called the rock on which the Church would be built, but then Jesus accuses him of being a rock, that he Jesus could stumble over, a rock in his way. We have to feel sorry for Peter, how on earth could he understand what Jesus was saying, would we be any different. Peter would finally only be able to understand after the death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus, that Jesus was meant to be a sacrifice for the benefit of mankind, he wasn’t a revolutionary come to rid the Holy Land of the occupying Roman Army, he instead came to rid the world of sin and death, and he could only do this through the free offering of his own life. Peter couldn’t help thinking the way he did, in the manner of the world, but Jesus challenged him to think as God did, as he Jesus did.


                          Peter and all the other disciples had to come to understand that Jesus's mission was to die on the cross, it was his Fathers will for him, and in obeying that will, his death was his glory, by his death he gave glory to God, because he was obedient even unto death. The world of the time saw the death of Jesus on the cross as a failure, as a humiliation, but it was actually the greatest thing that ever happened, God showing us how much he loved us by sending his Son to die on a  cross, so that our sins might be forgiven, it was the ultimate act of love, of self sacrifice. Maybe it is not something we like to think about, but it is so much a part of our faith. I am sure of all of us have crosses or crucifixes in our homes, that is meant to be a reminder to us of the death of Christ on the cross. We call this mass, the sacrifice of the mass, we believe the sacrificed body and blood of Christ is made present here on our altar, in every mass we are somehow made present at the death of Christ on the cross – hence all of our ritual, our fine vestments, the bells, the incense, the kneeling and genuflecting, all reminding us that what happens here today isn't just a remembrance of Jesus, it is the making present of his sacrifice, of his death.


                           Maybe we don't like to think about this because of what Jesus went on to say to Peter-that if anyone wanted to be his follower, they too must take up their cross and follow him-scary language. As were the words of St. Paul today - offer your living bodies as holy sacrifice, truly pleasing to God, and the words of Jeremiah in the 1st reading- of how the word of the Lord had meant for him insult and derision-he was everybody’s butt a laughing stock, because he was God's prophet. Doing Gods will had meant for Jesus, for Paul and Jeremiah, suffering and humiliation, maybe the same will be asked of us, that God's will may be for us to suffer in some way, and as for Jesus in that suffering to give glory to God.


                            This is hard language and difficult to understand, to many in the world it seems like madness perhaps. But at the heart of our faith is sacrifice, because true love demands sacrifice, if you love someone you sacrifice for them, you make yourself less so that they can become more. This is what parents do for their children, what children then do for their elderly parents, it is what soldiers do for their country, it is what friends do for each other when they are in need. It is what God and his son have dome for us, they have sacrificed for us. Love at its heart demands sacrifice, when we sacrifice out of love for each other, when we in a sense suffer for each other, give of our time, energy and resources for one another. It is what Jesus did for us on the cross, giving all of himself for us so that might be saved from sin and death and we in our turn must be prepared to act the same way, to take up our cross what ever it may be. Jesus says that all of those who believe in him, who love him, who love God the Father as he did, be prepared to show that love in accepting whatever cross we are asked to carry, and in the accepting of that cross giving witness to our faith, giving witness to our love for God and for him, God's son.


 











SERMON 21A 2017 - 27th AUGUST.


I always used to find this a really depressing time of the year, especially as a child, the summer holiday was coming to an end, and in all the shops were the going back to school sales, advertising school uniforms and supplies, very depressing things to see as a child? But then again I didn’t really enjoy my school days, Christian brothers-tough lot, fortunately our schools are much nicer places to be! Please do pray for our school communities, our Lady’s and St. Mary’s as they in a weeks time will begin their new school year, and especially those kids starting in a new school. You may have seen in the bulletin that these are special days for us in Herefordshire because we are marking the anniversaries of the martyrdoms of several local saints, those priests who gave their lives in the penal times of the 16th and 17thcenturies, last week John Kemble, and this weekend Roger Cadwallader, and John Roberts, we ask for their intercession for our parish and try to be inspired by their holy example in our own lives of faith. This coming week we also have the example of the great John the Baptist, whose martyrdom or passion we remember on Tuesday. Over these weeks and days we would also do well to remember the coming 100th anniversary of the apparitions of Mary in Fatima this October. I am leading a deanery pilgrimage there next month, which I am very much looking forward to, never been there before. I have placed at the back of Church sheets for you to take if you would like the pilgrimage  group to light candles there for your intentions, and if you would like the names of loved ones to be remembered in our masses there; they are by the bulletins at the back of Church.


 Anyway back to today, with that very familiar Gospel reading, one of those I think many of us Catholics can quote of by heart-with Jesus asking the 12 what the gossip is about him, what the people and the crowds are saying about him, and they give their answers, but then he asks them what they think and we have Simons great statement of faith in Jesus as the messiah and in response Our Lords giving of his new name-peter and promising that the church would be built on him and to him would therefore be given the keys of the kingdom of heaven. Simon, as a sign of his faith in declaring Jesus to be the Christ is given the name of Peter, which as we know means rock, giving an insight into what his role in the future church would be, built on the rock of his faith in Christ. Such is his faith that he was given the keys of the kingdom of heaven with the power to forgive sin, the power to save, what a gift to give to a mortal man, being given that godly power, something that only God could do up until that day, but from that day vested in Simon peter and the other apostles and to each generation of church leaders that followed. As Catholics we believe those words of Jesus t Peter are still a living power in the Church today, as Pope Francis and the other Bishops have that Godly authority in our own generation, an authority not to rule over us as such but to serve us. Pope Francis in particular as we know in his ministry as Pope has emphasised the virtue of mercy, that God is  a God of love and mercy, a mercy therefore which should flow through the Church through the forgiveness of sin.


  Yet despite the words of Jesus to Peter in our Gospel, Simon Peter was still a weak fallible man, he often failed, failures recorded in the Gospels, indeed next week we will hear the 2ndpart of todays Gospel, for after Jesus predicts his coming passion and death Peter remonstrates with him and argues with him, Jesus in response slaps him down and accuses him of speaking for the devil. We also know of Peters failure of faith at the actual time of Jesus’s arrest and trial, when he denied knowing Jesus 3 times.  Troubling behaviour perhaps, the Churches first leader failing so, but it reminds us of Gods mercy, forgiving such betrayals, such weakness, and of how though the apostles and we are weak in our raw humanity, with grace, with gods power we can do wonderful things – such as Peter building up the Church in his own time. If Our Lord could build so well on peters faith, despite his failures, presumably he can make use of us as well, despite our many failings in faith and conduct.


Finally, perhaps we would do well today to imagine Jesus asking us the same question as he asked Peter and the other disciples, “Who am I”, or if a friend or relative or colleague asked us that question, how would we answer? , presumably our answer- Jesus is the Christ, the son of God,  is the reason why we are here today, that we like Peter, have been inspired like Peter, to believe that Jesus is the saviour, the source of the eternal life we look forward to. That same faith, should inspire in us the same desire to serve Christ as Peter did—not as Bishop of Rome and the foundation stone of the Church, but in our own smaller ways, whatever our calling in life is, to build up this community, to allow the grace of God to grow in us, and thus to grow in this community—to build up this community, as Peter built up the early Church, and as followers of Jesus to  lead each other in the ways of faith, to be examples of faith to one another and to forgive each other our sins.



SERMON 20th AUGUST - 20th SUNDAY OF THE YEAR.



 Our readings for this Sunday fit in with the theme of unity and peace, because all of our readings speak to us of what we call the Universal call to salvation. Of how it is Gods will that all people should be saved, of how all peoples can come to the knowledge and the love of God, no-one is beyond Gods mercy. You could say that hasn’t always been the case, because if we look back to the Old Testament, the Jewish people were alone in the ancient world to be Gods people, they were his chosen people, chosen to receive his blessings. This choice was first made to the great man Abraham, and of how God made out of his family and descendants his chosen people, the Hebrews, the Jewish people. This was re-confirmed with the great man Moses who led the people out of slavery in Egypt, and then God gave his people the law-the 10 commandments, and then their own country-Canann or Palestine, now Israel. The Hebrews were Gods special people, chosen by him to receive his grace and blessings, no-other people was blessed in this way. But if we read some parts of the Old Testament there are hints or prophecies that one day this would change, that one day all peoples would be chosen by God, that everyone could receive his blessings. And we had one of the hints of this universal call to salvation in the words of the great Prophet Isaiah in our first reading. Isaiah lived and worked 800 years before Jesus, and he prophecies that one day “foreigners” would attach themselves to the Lord, and of how his house, his temple if you will would become  a house for all peoples; that al those many pagan nations would one day share in the blessings of knowing and serving the one true God. This same idea was expressed in our psalm today, with the prayer – let all the peoples know you O Lord.


  We believe that these prophecies, these prayers were fulfilled, bought to life in the work of Jesus off course, he brought salvation not only for the Jews-his people, but for all peoples. In his own ministry he didn’t have much to do with non-Jews, it was his apostles who began this work, but there are hints, encounters, in his own ministry, which show us what was going to happen. We heard one of those hints in the Gospel, with Jesus meeting this pagan woman. She must have heard about Jesus, heard the rumours of his great power and so she pleads for her sick daughter, she doesn’t give up when he initially refuses to help, but persists, and because of this faith she shows, he grants her request, even though she is not one of the chosen people. In the Gospels there are several other examples of Jesus helping non-Jews, there is the famous Roman Centurion who asks for Jesus to heal his servant and who shows great faith in Jesus; we repeat that solders words at every mass just before having communion, “Lord I am not worthy to have you under my roof, but only say the words and my sins shall be healed.” And there is also a Samaritan woman who Jesus meets at a well, it is one of the Gospels read in lent, that woman comes to faith in Jesus. All these encounters Our Lord had are hints as to what would happen in the future, that all peoples would be called to salvation, not just the chosen people, but everyone, everyone could be saved, all peoples sins would be forgiven by Jesus in his suffering, death and resurrection.


  The first person to really understand this was St. Paul, that first great missionary of the Church, he began to understand that Jesus was calling everyone to salvation, you didn’t have to be Jewish, you didn’ t have to become Jewish in order to become a Christian, you just need to believe in Jesus and be baptised. We hear today part of his letter to the Christian community in Rome, where he is introducing himself to the Christians of that city, where he would shortly end up, imprisoned there for two years and then martyred. It was a community made up of Jewish converts to Christianity and also pagan converts, a mixed community, those pagans didn’t have to follow the Jewish law and ritual, just to be baptised. Paul does say that most of the Jewish people had rejected Jesus, rejected his teaching, rejected him as the saviour, but he says they are still Gods people, still specially loved by him and very interestingly he says that one day they will all come to the knowledge of Jesus, and that this will be one of the signs of the end of the world, of the 2nd coming of Jesus. And there rejection of Jesus is in a way a blessing for all of those pagans, because it meant salvation had also been offered to them. We must never forget that the Hebrews are Gods people, as indeed we are, and that the roots of our faith are in the Jewish faith, we share the same old Testament, and off course our lord was Jewish as were all of the Apostles; there can never be any excuse for anti-Jewish feelings. We must also remember that we also share much with those of the Muslim faith, they too give great respect to the books and teachings of the Old Testament, they honour Abraham, they we and the Hebrews honour the holy city of Jerusalem and we all believe in the one true creator God. God, our father loves all people and we believe through Jesus his son he wishes all peoples to be saved, he wants all people to know and love him, so at this time of division and discord in the holy lands of the Bible, and violence between those of different faiths and views, let us renew our prayers for peace and unity, let us not despair, but to trust in God, that what may be beyond our faith is most definitely not beyond his power. That just as Jesus answered the prayer of that pagan woman, because of the strength of her faith, may he also answer our faith filled prayers today, to build peace and unity and to come to the aid of those in need. Amen.


 



SERMON FOR 30th JULY - 17th SUNDAY OF THE YEAR.

Over recent Sundays we have heard lots of parables preached by Jesus, the famous parable of the sower, and last week that of the weeds and the wheat, the mustard seed and also of the yeast. Most of these used the images of things growing, seeds growing into plants and trees, all teaching us about listening to God’s word and thereby growing in our faith. And although we listen to similar parables today, the meaning slightly changes, as we hear the parables of the treasure found in a field, the pearl of great price and also of the dragnet cast into the sea.

                  The parables today involve finding something special, at first by accident with the treasure found in a field, and then finding something special by long hard work, by searching for the pearl of great price. And upon coming across these treasures the people concerned seize the moment, they do not hesitate they immediately do all they can to have that treasure, to have that priceless pearl. Everything else is sacrificed, everything is sold or given up so that they can have that treasure or pearl. Presumably we are not being told to seek after physical treasures, to imitate the many people in this world who are obsessed with money and possessions, but rather to seek after that which really matters-faith, the love of God, the word of God, whatever we want to call it, and to have the wisdom, the right judgement, the discernment to be able to understand what really matters. So often in this life it is easy to be taken in, to be distracted by what does not matter, what is of no value and to lose what really matters, and in order to judge carefully between them we need wisdom, real careful discernment.

                  In the readings today we were given one good example of someone who did exactly this, the great King Solomon, who in a vision is offered anything by God, one wish and it would be granted to him, and Solomon asks for wisdom, for right judgement, to be able to work out what is right and what is wrong. In saying this he showed great wisdom, knowing that it was this that he would need more than anything else as he ruled the people. And off course Solomon is granted his request, and is given in abundance the gift of wisdom.

                   This is something I pray for every day, the gift of wisdom, knowing what to do in difficult situations, knowing when to keep my mouth shut and when to speak up. Knowing what to do in the most difficult of situations, or praying to be guided that I do will be right or at least won’t do harm to anybody. In my training as a priest this was called discernment, trying to work out what God’s will is for you, what is the journey you should follow in life, what is God calling you to do, and in order to work it our you need that God-given wisdom, to recognise what is really important and to stick to it.

                     Although Solomon was given that great gift, we are more fortunate than him, because he did not know of Christ, he did not know of God’s son, he didn’t know of the Holy Spirit, so although he was offered something special we are offered something even more special-to be able to know and love God, in his Son Jesus Christ, who was the very word and wisdom of God made flesh-to be able to receive him in the word that is preached and in Holy Communion. We are far more fortunate than Solomon, for the treasure we are offered is, as St. Paul said today, is Christ himself, and fort us to become true images of Christ, that by our faith we become like Christ, that we are adopted by God and become his sons and daughters. This is the great treasure in the field, this is the pearl of great price-Jesus himself, who we can know and love and even become part of – this is the treasure we should seek after, and when we find it we should rejoice and never let go of it, because this is more valuable than anything else. It is more valuable because only this treasure, only this wisdom and knowledge will enable us to pass that day of final judgement, which the parable of the dragnet talked of today, with the good being separated from the bad, only the knowledge and love of Christ will count us among the just.

                       So, finally today, let us pray for that wisdom, that right judgement, that discernment to help us hold fast to the treasure that is Christ, to his word, may it be more valuable to us than anything else, more than any silver or gold. Amen.


PRESENTATION ON THE LOCAL CHARITY VENNTURE GIVEN

AT THE SUNDAY MASSES ON 23rd JULY.

Good morning. Many thanks to Father Matthew for the invitation to speak to you


today.


I am a volunteer trustee for local charity Vennture.


Vennture staff and volunteers come from 24 different churches across the city. And


as a RC I've learned a lot about different Christian denominations here on our


doorstep working together with a commitment to


- Simply love people better.


We are committed to working with people when they’re vulnerable,


working hard to try and “Give meaning to the power of Jesus’ Love” in Hereford and


the local area.


Vennture cares by equipping people to form meaningful relationships with those


facing challenge or crisis –


either on the street or in the home.


Our fully trained volunteers come from diverse backgrounds – teachers, shop


workers, doctors, farmers, solicitors, home makers, students and retirees even


priests!


Churched and unchurched, those of all-faith and none are united by their desire to


keep people safe and help people to help themselves.


We currently have 5 projects and we would love for you to get involved in one of


them.


I'm not going to ask for your money today but as I tell you a few stories about our


work I'd like you to challenge yourself and see if you could picture yourself as a


volunteer putting meaning to the power of Jesus love.


You won't be on your own, you will have fantastic training , your commitment will still


leave you time to do all the other important things in your life and it's a practical way


of trying to be one of the good seeds mentioned in today's gospel.


Still with me?


Our 5 projects are ambitious, exciting,challenging and rewarding.


Let's start with Street Pastors and Lean on Me.


Street Pastors - The most high profile of our projects. Working between 10pm and


4am teams of 3 pastors patrol our city streets most fri and sat. They interact with


one in 4 young people in the night time economy. A good chance they have helped


one of your children or grandchildren - if only to offer them one of the 824 bottles of


water they have handed out this year or one of the 688 pair of free flip flops.


Lean on Me.


Rigorously trained volunteers care for the injured or impaired in Hereford’s night time


economy. Accurately assessing, supervising recovery and reuniting with friends and


family.


Street Pastors and Lean on Me volunteers work hard to make sure people get home


safe.


Last Saturday a young lad - a bit the worse for wear on his own. Passed out. Lost his


girlfriend. He was taken to our Lean on Me centre in Union st. Check him out


Assessed by our volunteers as not needing A and E thus saving blocking up the


county hospital. Decide to take him home. Once establishing where he lived and after


a real struggle to get him out of car and in to front door he suddenly becomes very


lucid pleading with our 2 pastors to take their shoes off or he would be in serious


trouble from his mum.


As they carefully tried to get him upstairs they explained that their shoes on the


carpet were probably the least of his problems. Mission accomplished -he was home


safe.


Family Pastors


Doing our bit to reverse the tide of family breakdown in some of Hereford’s 1,023


most troubled families.


Our volunteers come alongside families in their homes, for 1 hour a week. Listening,


encouraging and supporting change. They are a consistency in the familie’s life as


they support them for 6-9 months.


My wife Anna went to info evening as part of her job - no intention of volunteering.


But when she heard that the commitment was an hour a week showing Jesus love to


a family who may not ever have come across such commitment in their lives - she


found herself leaving the meeting having signed up.


She has since found the volunteering rewarding challenging frustrating and


revelatory about how families very close to this church are living day in and day out.


Successes for Family Pastors come in small ways.


We encourage families to take baby steps. But these steps can have a huge impact.


For example the mum who had never received good parenting herself and didn't know


how to deal with her 5 year old. After several months of working with her volunteer


she read a bedtime story


to her little girl for the first time.


Both mum and the Family Pastor had no idea of the impact on the little girl who said


it had been the best day of her life. Our CEO Rob Thomas can't tell that story without


coming to tears as he knows the impact our work is making to that small local family.


Vennture Ambassadors


A new project. Ambassador teams volunteer in Hereford during the day to keep


people safe, support the vulnerable and provide first aid.


Their mission is to make Hereford an even better place to shop, visit and work.


They want to be a friendly, helpful, reassuring and welcoming presence.


Hereford is not at first glance an obvious place for homeless and rough sleepers. In


fact the care agencies reckon there are about 7 known rough sleepers in the city.


But this new project has reminded us of the classic Beatles song: all the lonely


people where do they all come from.


Our ambassadors have chatted to people facing acute loneliness in their lives who


come and just sit in town to be close to people. A quiet word from one of our


volunteers can make a real difference.


We also try and support the many lone shop workers.


In genteel church st recently a lone shop worker watched a domestic argument


starting up outside her shop. It was crossing the line between farcical and nasty. It


ended with the male pushing an ice cream cone gently into the face of the women. Not


enough for the police to be called and most people walked on by. But that shops


worker was left traumatised and was helped significantly by being able to talk


through with one of our volunteers.


Almost there


People First.


A brand new project similar to family pastors but dedicated to working alongside


some of our most vulnerable individuals. We have just appointed a paid link worker


and will be building up a team of specialist volunteers.


In total Vennture currently have 31 Lean on me volunteers,40 Family Pastors , 31


Street Pastors and 8 Vennture Ambassadors with 9 people in the recruitment pipeline


Would you consider volunteering just a couple of hours a week to help us.


Even if you can't volunteer for us you can actively help by praying for our volunteers


and staff and families.


I'll be at the back of the church after mass. Not to grab volunteers but with some info


to take away. Have a think, get in touch with us pray for our work and thanks for


listening.






SERMON 16A 2017 - 23rd JULY 2017.


                        Well, another week, another parable, last Sunday we heard the parable of the sower, with the teaching of listening to the word of God and this week we have other parables of the kingdom, of the darnel or the weeds, the mustard seed and the yeast, and again there is that phrase listen anyone who has ears to hear. So let us listen to today’s parables and consider what they mean, what is Jesus sharing with us. After all the parables are a tool he used to teach, they are a way of teaching truth in simple terms, using images from every day life, often images from nature, hopefully making it easier to understand.


        The parable of the darnel is a very relevant parable for us today, because it talks about the power of evil, it talks about someone seeking to destroy others and it talks about what the response of the good person should be. The owner of the field where the evil man sowed darnel or weeds among the wheat is patient, he doesn’t act hastily, he doesn’t decide to tear out the weeds straight away, in case he destroys any of the good crop, so he waits until the harvest. So we are meant to be patient in the face of evil! The parable of the mustard seed can be read in a similar way, the forces of good, God himself, often seem overwhelmed by evil, what we do seems irrelevant in the world in which we live, where there is so much evil, yet that mustard seed grows into a shrub tall and strong. Even the parable of the yeast has hints of goodness slowly transforming the world, as a loaf rises slowly in the oven, perhaps all too slowly. So these parables are raising the problem of living in a world where there is so much evil and when we ourselves at times can act in evil ways, destructive ways, when in our own lives we are the darnel doing harm to others.


        How do we live in such a world, how do we respond, how do we respond to the evil we see around us, all the recent stabbings of young people in London and other places, the constant threat of terrorism, the stories we hear of terrible violence in places like Afghanistan, Iraq and the Holy Land, of young men as suicide bombers killing many people and even doing it in God’s name. Well Jesus seems to be telling us to be patient and tolerant, to trust in God, that perhaps God can even get a harvest from the weeds, from those who commit evil acts. Our responsibility is to give witness to the path of goodness and holiness in a world where evil and good seem to co-exist, we are called to have faith that good will triumph, that the power of God will overcome evil. Sometimes we can be tempted to despair at the state of the world around us, that there is so much evil, yet there is also a lot of goodness  and we must contribute to that. We must be those little mustard seeds, or like the yeast, we must do our bit, small though it may be to sow hope in the world, to be people of goodness and holiness, so that wherever evil may be we can counter it simply by our faith, our prayer and our love. We must believe that we do can grow into something powerful and large, that with the power of the Spirit who is alive and active in the world, we can counter evil not with violence or anger or with yet more evil, but with faith and love.


                    So once again let us listen to Jesus today and his parables and be instructed by his word, let us not loose faith in him because of the evil and violence around us, but may it lead to greater hope in him, our loving saviour, in whose hands is our salvation and the salvation of the world.


 




SERMON 15A 2017 - SUNDAY 16th JULY 2017.

                              If we had to sum up that Gospel reading, the word we could use would be “Listen”, since the parable of the sower is all about calling on people to listen to the word of God proclaimed, and yet how often people don’t. In listening to that parable, there is perhaps a sense of exasperation in the words of Jesus, after all why would he preach such a parable about listening to him, listening to God, when so many people were so evidently listening to him and were desperate for his words. Well the context in Matthews Gospel gives us the background. In previous chapters in Matthews Gospel Jesus has had many confrontations with the Pharisees, he has been called a glutton by them,  then he is accused of being possessed by the Devil an so although may were listening, many refused to listen, especially amongst the religious leaders.  In response Jesus quotes the prophet Isaiah about how many of the people reject the word of God, not that they don’t listen, they simply refuse to accept it.

                         So in that atmosphere Jesus is trying to get a point across by speaking in parables--simple, homespun language that the people might understand. In the parable he uses imagery that would have been familiar to them all the imagery of nature, of farming, of crops, it, along with the explanation he gives, it would have been easy to understand -  for those who were willing to listen. It has the simplest of messages, listen to me, listen to God and respond, react, respond in faith, respond to the invitation I make to know and love me, and in doing so you will be knowing and loving your creator, the very reason for your existence. Perversely though many don’t listen, as the parable tells us for all kinds of reasons.

                         So when we listen to the parable what part of it do we imagine applies to us, what ground are we for the seed that is sown, that seed that represents the word of God, are we the rich soil or the thorns or the path? It is very easy to imagine that we are the goodies in the story, the people that produce a rich harvest, the rich soil in which the seed grows strongly; but are we, does the word of God we hear in church every week, that powerful seed, actually grow strong is us, does it guide us in our lives, do others see that seed, that word in action in our lives. In light of Christ’s explanation of the parable where he talks of why people reject the seed, the word of God, we can consider what in our lives makes us deaf to Gods word, what stops us listening and responding to the invitation Christ makes to us. So often worry, anxiety can effect us, worries about the world in which we live, about our families, so often the attraction of possessions, money can make us deaf to Gods word, perhaps so often simple laziness, an unwillingness to listen and change the way we live.

                        Yet, in simply being here today we are people who are at least trying to listen to Gods word, trying to make a response in faith to that word, it’s never a perfect response, we often fail, are weak, we let worry, anxiety, temptation, laziness get in the way, but we keep on trying to listen, trying to follow Christ’s word. But we are fortunate because the sower keeps on sowing, God keeps on speaking, Christ keeps on calling us to listen, God is very generous with his word, the seed is scattered everywhere, almost with abandon. It isn’t just scattered on the rich soil, after all how many of us can be seen as rich soil all the time, so often we are living amidst the thorns, on the path, or on the rocks, and that is where God speaks to us, and perhaps that is when we need it most. So let us listen to the God who loves us, and is always there for us, and put our trust in him and may we produce that hundred fold crop of the word growing strongly within us. Amen.


SERMON 14A 2017 - SUNDAY 9th JULY 2017..


                  Are they not wonderfully comforting words of Jesus, calling on us, who are so often overburdened with the worries and cares of life to find rest in him. To take strength from his example, to ask for the strength that only he can give, to help us persevere through the hardships we all so often face. Our Lord doesn't say that we won't face problems, but that in our faith in him we can find rest and peace for our souls. For one of the great gifts of our faith, is the gift of peace which the Holy Spirit gives to us, it is a peace which we should pray for every day, it is a gift of peace that we can receive in this mass-for in the mass we remember the words of Jesus.


  “Peace I leave you, my peace I give you.”


                  This is a peace which the world cannot give, and if we seek it in the world, then we will not find it. It is not a peace that so often the learned and the clever of this world can provide, which it is why the ways of faith are so alien so many people in this world, because they seek meaning from things such a money, possessions, status and fame, but we know, we God's children know, that true peace can only be found in Christ, because he is the Son of God become man, he is the one who reveals God the Father to us, whereas so many of the things in this world can only blind us to God's presence. Jesus revealed God to us by being that perfect servant of God, he was totally obedient to his father, obedient even unto the cross, willing to offer all of himself out of love and obedience to his Father, and also out of love for us. We were reminded of that with that prophecy in our 1st reading of the humble king riding a donkey-words fulfilled when Jesus entered Jerusalem riding on a donkey on Palm Sunday, giving witness to God with that great act of humility, not as a great king or emperor entering his place, but as a humble preacher entering the city where only a few days later he would give his life


                      We need to be those children of God who do not seek ultimate meaning from the things we see around us, which so many people value, we should be different, we should follow the words of Paul in his reading today, we have to be those spiritual people, to be those people interested in spiritual things, to be interested in God and the way God speaks to us through Jesus and the Holy Spirit-to be a people whose hope is in God and in his promises alone, to seek the peace he gives, a peace that comes from prayer and worship and which we show forth in lives of love and service of others – in other words living and being like Jesus, Jesus the ultimate servant. We should be able to do this, because we have the spirit of Christ living in us, this is what it means to be a Christian, that when we were baptised the Holy Spirit was sown in us, we became temples of the Holy Spirit, and every time we receive Holy Communion this presence of Christ is strengthened and deepened. After all the Church is the living Body of Christ, it is not  a building, the Church is “us”, we as the members of Christ’s body, and Christ as the head, we are spiritually united with him by our baptisms and by all the sacraments we receive, most especially in the Eucharist. We remember this in so many of the words and prayers of this mass, remembering and praying for the peace that only Christ can give. In every mass the priest prays that the spirit will be here with us, making the sacrifice of Christ present on the altar before us, and enabling us to eat and drink the very body and blood of Christ, a gift that brings us unity with Christ and one another and forgiveness of sin - in other words the peace of Christ. The priest also says ,


 “May this sacrifice of our reconciliation....advance the peace and reconciliation of the world.”


  What a wonderful thought that is, that in Church, in the mass, what we do, including our prayers can advance the peace of the world, because we offer the sacrifice of Christ, who alone offers true peace. In every mass we attend and take part in we really need to join in spiritually with the prayers that are offered, to make them our own, to truly pray for peace, peace in our own hearts, peace in our families, schools, societies and parish, that the peace of Christ may reign in our lives whatever burdens of life we may carry. Amen.



Sermon for Solemnity off Peter and Paul - 29th June.


                                         Recently I had my 52nd  birthday, now you are all thinking, Fr. Matthew doesn’t look like he is 52 years old, he looks much younger. On my birthday it felt very strange, I don’t feel 52 and I wondered where all the years had gone,. Well, for me the years have gone in being a monk and a priest. I first became a monk when I was 22, so almost exactly 30 years ago, when I went to Belmont. Now one of the very first big things that happened to me at Belmont Abbey, was that I had to choose a new name.


  Now you might ask why should I have to choose a new Christian name, well being a given a new Christian name is a sign of beginning a new life, a sign of the commitment you are making to be a monk and to follow Jesus. Also there was a very practical reason, in that in the monastery you were just called by your first name and another monk already had my name, so it would have been very confusing to have two monks being called by the same name. So I was given the new name Matthew, I was able to chose it myself, although the Abbot, the head monk has to be happy with it. I chose it because there had been another Matthew in the monastery who had died two or three years before I joined up. I haven’t forgotten my old Christian name, my family still use it and that is still my name on my passport and driving license-can anyone guess what it is or perhaps I have told some of you before – Mark.


                      Today we celebrate the feast day of two of the greatest men in the history of the Church, Peter, the greatest Apostle, the rock on whom the Church would be built, and the first Bishop of Rome, and then Paul, originally a persecutor of the faith, then converted by Jesus himself, and who became the great missionary, the man who took the faith to the world, to the Greeks and the Romans. Off course  both of them also changed their names when they first began to follow Christ, Peter was off course simon originally and Paul was Saul. Now its been traditional since the early centuries of the Church to remember these two great men on the same day, because both of them ended their days in Rome, both were in some way responsible for the Christian community in that city. This feast of Peter and Paul originated in Rome, the Christians were very conscious there of their debt they owed to these two men. I myself was very fortunate to do some of my priestly studies in Rome, and I had plenty of time to go and see the many places in Rome associated with Peter and Paul. Perhaps the most special, was walking underneath St. Peters Basilica  itself in the Vatican, into a recently excavated cemetery, and seeing the very grave and coffin of Peter, which lies directly under the high altar itself.


       In the readings today we are reminded of the cost that peter and Paul had to pay for being followers of Christ, for being disciples. We heard in the first reading of James being beheaded and then Peter being arrested and condemned and only being saved by an Angel of God. And then we heard of St. Paul writing to Timothy, a letter that may well have been written form prison not long before Paul was put to death, as Paul says his life was poured away for the glory of God. The cost of being a disciple for Peter and Paul was high, death, but a death that gave glory to God. Peter and Paul were men of great authority in the Church, they had witnessed Christ, he it was who had appointed them disciples, he it was who had given them their authority to go out and preach the Gospel, as we hear in the Gospel today. That most famous of Gospel passages, words said to Peter, On this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of the underworld can never hold out against it.


      Yet there is a tremendous contradiction in these two figures, they did such wonderful things, all recorded in the Acts of the Apostles, and yet we also know that they were weak men, they also failed, We all know how during the ministry of Jesus, peter repeatedly failed in his faith, Jesus on a number of times had to correct him, in fact immediately after today’s Gospel reading, when Peter remonstrates with Jesus after he prophecies his passion and death, Jesus accuses him of speaking for the devil. And we are all familiar with Peters 3 fold betrayal, when he denied knowing Jesus three times. We know how Paul was an original persecutor of the faith, partly responsible for the death of the first martyrs Stephen and then for the arrest and deaths of many more Christians. And yet despite all this, they became the greatest of Our Lords followers, two great apostles, foundation stones on which the Church is built. Their failures, their sins, often terrible sins, their weak faith at times, the doubt they had in their own ability, didn’t stop Our Lord building on then the Church.


    This is a great consolation to us, when we are truly honest with ourselves, we know how weak we can be, we know how sinful, how lacking in faith, we are no different from Peter and Paul, so if God could do great things with them, so he can with us. St’s Peter and Paul were men of great faith, a faith built on acknowledging their own weakness and being open to the power of the Holy Spirit. Their experience of being forgiven their sins, often terrible sins, made their faith strong, being forgiven by Jesus so freely and lovingly made them men of great faith, the same gift is open to us, since we may be weak, but we can be strong in Christ.


   



Sermon for 12th Sunday of the Year - Sunday 25th June 2017.



There are lots of phrases that occur throughout scripture, phrases heard over and over again, and once phrase that crops up again and again, especially in the Gospels, is “Do not be afraid.” We hear it said by the Angel Gabriel to Mary and to Johns the Baptists father-Zechariah, Jesus also uses it frequently, especially in calling people to follow him, and especially, as today, when he is teaching his Apostles. Judging by the way this phrase is used over and over again, we are being reminded of how fear can cripple us, it can even cripple our faith. Fear is a temptation we all face in our lives, we can be afraid of so many things, of spiders, of flying in a plane, afraid of blood, of heights, one of my many fears, afraid of storms, afraid of speaking in public, afraid of being made to look foolish, perhaps even afraid of our faith and the demands it makes of us.. I can remember when I was doing my studies at Belmont, being terrified of having to preach, I couldn’t imagine myself doing it properly, you might be tempted to still say the same, after hearing my sermons. I remember preaching my first sermon when still not ordained, not even a Deacon, I preached it here at Our Lady’s in the old church, the now parish hall, 24 years ago!! Fr. Thomas, who off course used to be here, forced me to do it, and for some reason I based the sermon around my favourite food-Brussels sprouts, I must have been mad. Fear can make you do funny things.


                In the scriptures though, usually when someone is called by God to a special task, they have to wrestle with their fears, we heard of the prophet Jeremiah today, a most reluctant prophet, terrified of doing gods will, because he knew how unpopular he would be, yet he did it anyway. Jeremiah had to preach that Jerusalem, indeed the whole country was going to be destroyed, he ended up being thrown in a well, no wonder he was scared. We know how Jesus had to wrestle with fear, in the garden of Gethsemne before his arrest, he prayed that his passion might pass him by, he was truly frightened and yet he followed God’s will, as did Jeremiah and all the holy prophets of old. In the Gospel though the emphasis is on the fear of the disciples, Jesus was talking to them about the kind of work they would have to do, to preach as he had preached, to work on the mission, and he warns them about all the dangers they would face. But they are not to be afraid, they are not to be afraid of the hostility they may face, or be afraid because they feel unworthy or lacking in ability for what Jesus has called them to do. They should rather trust in God, trust in the grace of God, not to give into fear.


                 And when we talk about grace, the power of the holy spirit being with the disciples and being with us, we can consider the words of St. Paul, which are perhaps the most important, that through Christ’s passion, death and resurrection  divine grace came to so many as an abundant free gift. We believe that grace abounds, grace is plentiful if we would but ask and have the courage to accept it. Grace, the power of the Holy Spirit is what made the apostles such good preachers of the word and it can be the same with us. We should believe that grace can overcome anything, it can overcome sin, suffering and even fear, it can overcome terror, it can overcome all of our weaknesses, and it is that grace that we can receive today merely in listening to Gods word and most of all in receiving holy communion.


               Living in this world is full of fears, full of things to be afraid of, everything from terrorism to unemployment, but we are being told today to have hope and trust in God, and not to put our trust in the things of this world-money or possessions, because that can just involve yet more fear. Declaring ourselves for Christ in this world can be difficult, standing out as a Christian and making such a declaration in our words and in our lifestyles can be a fearful thing to do. This is something we all have to wrestle with, this fear, the fear of being seen to be different, the fear of being criticised or laughed at, the fear of the unknown. So often for us we can be afraid because we think ourselves unworthy, or the mission of the Gospel is beyond us, I couldn’t possibly read in Church many say, I couldn’t be a catechist. Others say, I’m afraid, I’m afraid to stand out in public. Many are afraid to make a commitment, afraid of the demands that will be made. So perhaps the Gospel today is very relevant, let us listen to the words of Jesus and not be afraid, to trust in him, to trust in grace, and to declare ourselves for him in the presence of men.




CORPUS CHRISTI 2017 - SUNDAY 18th JUNE 2017.


                       Corpus Christi is one of a series of great Feast days that we celebrate around this time of year, for after Pentecost, the 50th day of Easter, we then have Trinity Sunday-last Sunday for us, today the following Sunday - Corpus Christi, this coming Friday the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, then next Sunday the Feast of Peter and Paul, which this year falls on a Sunday and also off course next weekend we have our 1st Holy Communions, when 37 children will receive the Eucharist, the corpus Christi for the 1st time. So these are special days, with so many wonderful feast days.


                        Our scripture readings today remind us of what we celebrate, most especially those powerful words from St. Johns Gospel, the teaching Jesus gives in the 6th Chapter, which appropriately follows on from the miracle of the feeding of the 5000. To the people listening he tells them not to yearn for physical food for their stomachs, but to yearn for the food that he only he can give. He describes the food he gives as the living bread from heaven, and it is this bread that gives eternal life. He then says so clearly that this bread is his flesh and blood, and that if we wish to have eternal life we must eat of it. This is some of the clearest teaching on the Eucharist, on holy communion in the whole of the Gospels, the bread we eat here today is the flesh and blood of Jesus, given to us, so that we may have eternal life, it truly is the bread of life. Jesus makes it so clear that this bread and wine, about to be placed on our altar is not ordinary food, it is food for our souls, food for our salvation. It is even more special than the bread that was mentioned in our 1st reading, the manna that the Jewish people were given after they had escaped from Egypt, the manna they ate for those 40 years, that in a way was also bread from heaven, but all those who ate of it still died. But the bread we receive here today will help to raise us up to eternal life-for it is the Corpus Christi, the very body of Christ, Christ the living Son of God.


                         St. Paul in his words from his letter to the Corinthians reminds of one of the implications of this teaching, that if we do eat and drink the body and blood of Christ, then it is a communion with Christ, we become one with him, we are united with him and since we all eat and drink from the same plate and cup, then we are united with one another as well – becoming one with each other and one with Christ. So what we do here today is a real sign of unity, that as members of the Church we should truly be close to and united with each other, because we share the very body and blood of Jesus-it reminds us that as well as eating the body of Christ we are members of the body of Christ, we become part of Christ’s body, the body that is the Church, the fellowship of believers, Christ as the head and we as it's members.


                                  What a fortunate people we are therefore to gather here to receive such a wonderful gift, the Corpus Christi, the body and blood of Christ, we would do well today to remind ourselves how special gift it is and to appreciate and reverence the gift that it is to us.


we talk about the sacrifice of the mass, we say the mass is a sacrifice, meaning that it isn’t just a remembering of what happened to Jesus on Good Friday, his suffering and death, it is not just symbolic, we believe that we are made present at the sacrifice of Christ on the cross, we are here at the foot of the cross watching Jesus suffering and death. It doesn’t happen again, but we are made present at that one moment when he Gods son offered his life as a sacrifice for us, out of love for us. We should stand speechless, dumbfounded. We also talk about the real presence, that the bread and wine, really do become the body and blood of Jesus, we are in his presence, which off course is always with us, with reservation of communion in the tabernacle.


What we believe about the Eucharist should be clear by what we do here in Church, so much of what we do here is because of what we believe the Eucharist to be, we genuflect and bow, we kneel, we venerate the tabernacle and the altar, I kiss the altar, bells ring at special times, we often have the Thurible, we decorate our church with beautiful flowers, veils and statues, all done because of what we believe takes place on the altar behind me. We use valuable chalices and plates, I wear beautiful vestments, we have this wonderful Church because of what we believe takes place on the altar, the making present of the bread come down from heaven, the food for eternal life. So today let us renew our reverence, renew our awe and wonder at the gift of Holy Communion we receive here today.


                                       So let us strengthen  and increase our faith that Jesus is truly present in the bread and wine, for we do believe in the real presence of Christ here today, that it is the living bread come down from heaven, that eating and drinking it is a communion with the body and blood of Christ and that it gives us the gift of everlasting life.


                                      


                               




MOST HOLY TRINITY SUNDAY 2017 - SUNDAY 11th JUNE 2017.

Last Sunday we celebrated the great feast of Pentecost, remembering the coming of the Holy Spirit exactly 50 days after Easter Sunday. Pentecost ends the season of Easter and we have now returned to the ordinary time of the year, a period which will last all the way up until the beginning of Advent in late November. Accordingly the Paschal candle has now been moved (gone), and now stands by the font and the normal church colour, reverts to green. But this time of year doesn’t feel very ordinary because we now have a whole series of great feast days.  The Sunday after Pentecost, today is always celebrated as Trinity Sunday. Also next Sunday is Corpus Christi-the Body of Christ, in the past always celebrated on a Thursday, but now moved to Sunday, and in two weeks we have our 1st Holy Communion weekend, so it is anything but ordinary, and even in the weeks to come we have the Feast of St's Peter and Paul, always celebrated on the 29th June and also the great Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus on Friday 23rd June, that lovely catholic devotion of the Sacred Heart. (the month of June having this theme of special devotion to the sacred heart.) So we have this lovely series of great feasts as we return to the ordinary time of the year.

     But today we celebrate the feast of the Trinity, why this feast and why now. Well there is a clue as to what it is about in having it as soon as the time of Easter finishes. The trinity is all about how God has revealed himself to us, how he has shown himself to us, and since at Easter we remembered how Jesus showed himself to be God by dieing and then rising from the dead, and at Pentecost last Sunday we remembered the great Godly work of the holy spirit, then it seems appropriate to celebrate what all this means, that somehow God is three yet one, three persons in the one God, something we believe because of what Jesus and the spirit have done, which they showed to us at Easter and Pentecost. You might though ask, does this really matter, what does all this talk of trinity really mean, perhaps it only really matters to theologians and teachers. But it does matter, the trinity does matter, because the trinity answers the question who is God, what do we believe about God, how has he shown himself to us. For example if someone asked you what does a Christian, a catholic believe, what is the unique teaching, what makes the Christian faith different from all the other world faiths, how would you answer, would you say it's all the same, the same for Christians, Jews, Muslims, what would you say?? Well, the answer you should give would be the trinity, believing in this is what it means to be a Christian- you could just do this  (make the sign of the Cross), because every time we do that we are saying we believe in the trinity, three persons in the one God, and we know that because of what God has done, how he has spoken and how he has acted. This is what we believe about God, our Christian understanding of God.

          That is the theme of the readings today. We heard from the Book of Exodus, part of the account of when God revealed himself to the chosen people on Mount Sinai and gave Moses the 10 commandments. God revealed himself to them, his chosen people, as one God, the only God and the Jewish people were unique in the ancient world in having only one God, the creator God, and also a transcendent God, not a god like a superhero with human characteristics, but a great spirit being, the creator, who had chosen them as his own people. And he loved and cared for them, he was close to them, he acted to save them, by helping them escape from Egypt and cross the red sea and eventually get to the promised land. As Moses said, to them God was

a God of tenderness and compassion, slow to anger, rich in kindness and faithfulness.”

 He was their God, loving and close to them, but off course they didn’t know anything of the hidden depth to God, of the unity of 3 persons in God, of God's word and Gods spirit, only made known with the coming of Jesus, when he showed his power as God become man. Jesus, as the very word of God become flesh in all the wonderful things he said and did, in his power over sin and death, all his wonderful words and miracles, showed this greater depth to God, shown most of all when he triumphed over death and rose from the grave, something only God could do, and when he then ascended back to the father. We heard some of his wonderful teaching of how close he was to God the father, in the Gospel reading, when he spoke with the Pharisee Nicodemus, of how he was Gods son, sent because God loved the world so much, cared so much, offering his Son as a sacrifice-and by this death proving he was Gods son.

         The Apostles witnessed all this, men like Peter and Paul witnessed the power of God at work in Jesus, witnessed most of all his resurrection and then experienced first hand the power of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost and the days after. They stayed loyal to the Jewish teaching of only one God, to the revelation of God to the chosen people, that God was one and there was no other, but because of what Jesus and the spirit had done, they were led to believe and for the Church to eventually define the one God as a community of 3 persons, 3 persons so close, that they were one, united in love, one God.  So much so that we heard that great blessing written by Paul, expressing the closeness of father, son and spirit, it is the blessing given at the end of the letter to the Corinthians that we heard of in our 2nd reading today, words that have echoed down the centuries,

 “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.”

           The trinity is a wonderful teaching. It teaches us how wonderful God is, a God of love, who cares about us and who made us and then by the work of Jesus and the spirit saved us from ourselves from our sins. What a fortunate people we are to have a God who is close to us, who cares about us, who has revealed himself to us, who invites us to share in the very unity and fellowship of himself, and who wants us to know and love him in this world and in the next. Amen.

 


SERMON PENTECOST 2017 - SUNDAY 4th JUNE 2017.

           So here we are 50 days since Easter Sunday, celebrating the great day of Pentecost, the coming of the Holy Spirit. Today, rather strangely we have heard two versions of that story, in the Gospel, St. John records Jesus as giving the spirit on the 1st day, the day of his resurrection, when in that beautiful phrase, he breathes the spirit upon them, the spirit coming from his newly resurrected body. But Luke, in the Acts of the Apostles, records that more familiar scene to us, of the spirit coming on the 50th day, with the disciples, Mary and others gathered together. The first scene is so intimate and quiet, the 2ndso powerful, with the wind, noise and what looked like tongues of fire. Its a reminder of the different ways the spirit can act, the different ways he can be with us and inspire us. We have remembered today that scene from the 1streading, with the disciples receiving the spirit as power and strength and how they went out and proclaimed the gospel message to all the people in Jerusalem, by having our scripture readings read in different languages today. A reminder of how those disciples could be understood in every language, that all the pilgrims gathered there in Jerusalem from all over the world could hear and understand. The power of the spirit was thus creating one new language for all people, no longer would people be divided and separated, but in the spirit they could all be one, the one language of faith. In a way we might think back to the that old testament scene of the tower of babel, of how man’s pride and sin was punished, by God making men unable to understand one another, no longer sharing one language. But on that Pentecost day, all that division is healed, as the power of the spirit comes on the world. So Pentecost is a new beginning for mankind and the world, the spirit beginning to bring the knowledge and love of God to all peoples, bringing faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus to all peoples, building a new unity amongst the peoples of the world. This is clear in our own little parish here in Hereford, there are people here from all over the world, from numerous nations, different cultures, languages and backgrounds, and yet all one in the same spirit and faith, something that we have celebrated today with different languages used to proclaim the word of God.

   Pentecost is also celebrated as the birthday of the church, the day of its foundation, the day when the gospel message was first preached, when the spirit inspired the procreational of salvation in Jesus Christ. For the Jewish people this day was special as well, their feast of Pentecost marked the giving of the law and the 10 commandments on Mount Sinai, when during the exodus from Egypt led by Moses, there were led to that holy mountain, and God gave the new law to Moses. That was a new start for those people, a blessing from God to them, Pentecost is the same for us with the coming of the spirit, as is each anniversary of this day, an opportunity to pray and ask for the grace of the holy spirit to once again come upon us. And Gods spirit, now unleashed upon the world can work in so many different ways, in the Gospel, when Jesus breathed the spirit upon the disciples, he commissions them to go out and forgive sin, he gives them the power to absolve, in other words to reconcile people to God and to one another, the spirit healing all the divisions caused by sin, between men and God and between people building unity in other words, building peace. This is one of the greatest gifts of the spirit, peace building, and inspiring us to be peacemakers, all of us by  can be inspired to this vocation by offering mercy and forgiveness to others.

                         St. Paul talks about this in the passage we heard from his letter to the Corinthians, where he talks about the one spirit working in many different ways, in different people, all for the same good purpose. And what is that purpose, that aim of the spirits working, to build up the church, to build up the fellowship or the community of believers, to build up our unity with one another and with God. Paul uses the image of a body to do this, he describes the church, the people of God as the body of Christ, Christ as the head, and we as the members, and all of us have a role in that body, building it up and strengthening all through the power of the holy spirit. The spirit inspiring all the different vocations and ministries the church needs, whether to be ordained or lay, whether to be married or single, a father or mother, teacher, whatever different work we do, it is all aimed at building the Church, building up Gods kingdom on earth, and keeping that church united, as one, at peace. At this time, this particular work of the spirit should be in our thoughts, as we continue to mark the year of mercy, with Pope Francis encouraging us all to be ministers of mercy and reconciliation, to be as merciful as God the father is merciful. And as ever in our world, there is that great need for restored peace and unity amongst divided peoples and nations, there is the need to be real peacemakers in our actions, words and in our prayers. To pay for peace.

         Finally, we all read together today, the prayer called the sequence, a prayer asking for all the power and gifts of the holy spirit to come upon us, why not take the service sheet home today and re-read that powerful prayer, in which we ask for peace, solace, healing, comforting, strength, forgiveness, guidance and joy. And to pray not just for yourself but for our church, the living breathing body of Christ, to pray for it, for our oneness and unity, for this part of the church here in Hereford. Please say a prayer this week for the children who shortly will be making their 1st Holy Communion and the young people who in two weeks will be being confirmed, pray that they will receive the gifts of the spirit, most of all strength of faith. In the words of the famous hymn, “Come holy ghost, creator come, from thy bright heavenly home, come take possession of our souls and make them all thine own. Amen.”

 

 

 


SOLEMNITY OF THE ASCENSION 2017 - SUNDAY 28th MAY 2017.

     It seems appropriate today, on this great feast day of the Ascension, to call to mind the terrible events of last week in Manchester, and to remember and pray for all the victims of the bombing in Manchester, we will off course be praying especially today for all the victims and their families, praying for those who are grieving the loss of loved ones, especially beloved  children and the many who have been so badly injured. Our response to this and other such events is off course one of sadness and bewilderment, but we must also respond in faith, in both praying and working for peace. To help guide our thoughts, today is appropriately, World Communications Day, when we pray for the work of the Church in promoting the Gospel in the modern day mass media and those in the Church, especially the Communications office of the Bishops conference, to promote Gospel values and teaching in the modern media industries. Pope Francis in the letter he has issued for today urges those who both work in the mass media and those who read and watch what they produce to not become overwhelmed or fascinated by the seemingly endless cycle of bad news, with constant reports of atrocities and scandals and the like, with all the anxiety and fear that can result from this. To not despair of the evils of the world, but to remain hopeful and to work to build understanding and reconciliation amongst divided peoples. To be inspired today by Our Lords command to go out and to proclaim the good news, the command he gave to his disciples just moments before his ascension, to communicate the message of salvation, A MESSAGE OF HOPE.

 Today, we have heard two versions of what happened on that ascension day, St. Matthews version of Our Lords ascension into heaven, and also the beginning of the Book of the Acts of the Apostles which we believe was written by St. Luke, where he begins with his description of the Ascension. In both of these passages there is the promise made by Jesus, that although he is leaving the Disciples physically, he will send them the Holy Spirit, who will give them all of his power, strength and inspiration, to help them share the faith with others, this happened on the day we know as Pentecost which we will celebrate next Sunday, the 50th day after Easter. It was the spirit that enabled those apostles to do what Jesus commanded at his ascension, to preach the Gospel, which they began to do on Pentecost and could be understood in every language when they preached in Jerusalem, which we will remember by, in our 9.30am mass, by having our readings read in other languages Polish and Malayalam as well as in English.

 But it is the Ascension that we think on today,  it is St. Luke who tells us that it was 40 days after Easter Sunday that Jesus ascended to heaven, watched by his disciples as we have heard described, and hence our tradition of celebrating this day, almost 40 days after Easter. During those 40 days Jesus had appeared to his disciples and others, showing them that he had truly returned to life, that he had bodily risen from the grave, and preparing them for his final departure from them. He commissions them to go out and tell the world about him, about what they have witnessed, to go and baptise in his name, to preach the forgiveness of sin, to preach salvation in his name, and he promises to send them in a few days time the Holy Spirit who will help them to do this. The ascension of Jesus is part of what they would give witness to, of what they would share with others, that God’s son had been born as a human child, had grown and matured as a man, preached and worked miracles, then suffered died, rose from the dead and then ascended back to where he came from; he came from heaven and that is where he went back, body and soul, not as  a ghost or a spirit, but body and soul, where he still is, interceding with God on our behalf and sending us the Holy Spirit to help us. This feast of the Ascension therefore gives us the good news that Jesus lives still, we can’t see him, but he is alive in heaven, and we can know him, can love him in the here and now by the Holy Spirit that he sends to us-a spirit which is at work in this holy mass, in the word that is read and proclaimed and most of all in the sacrifice of the mass and the holy communion we receive. But the story which we remember isn’t finished, because Jesus promised that one day he would return to us, as we heard those two men in white say in our 1st reading-that Jesus will come back in the same way as he went up-he is going to come back, on the last day or the day of judgement, this is a day we should be preparing for with the help of the Holy Spirit.

 Today also reminds us of what is in store for us, of our fate, for we believe that just as we will share in Jesus’s death-after all we will all die one day, we will also, by our faith share in his return to life, his resurrection, that we will rise bodily from the dead on the day that Jesus returns,  and also if found worthy will ascend back to heaven with him, that we will be with him where he is now, living in the very sight and presence of God, which is what heaven is, to live in the sight of God. This is the fate in store for us, for those who believe in Jesus, that he truly did suffer, die, rise and ascend to heaven. Jesus in a way is the pathfinder, where he has gone we hope to follow, as I will shortly say, in the prayer known as the preface, which is the prayer between the offertory and the Holy. Holy, Holy prayer, I will say,

  “ That we will be confident of following, where, he, our heard and founder, has gone before.”

 And we can be confident of this, we can be confident that we have this wonderful hope, because of the Holy Spirit Jesus sends to us, it was the holy spirit who inspired those apostles to do so many wonderful things to preach with such power and to work so many miracles, it can be the same with us. We also believe that our faith can make us strong in the face of evil, in the face of the devil, that the spirit helps us to fight evil in our lives, to keep us strong in the face of temptation and not to let evil overwhelm us; especially our shock and bewilderment at such events as in Manchester on Monday. Therefore in our own lives it should be clear that we trust in God and his son and the spirit to help, guide, heal and protect us, for these are the signs that the Holy Spirit is with us, that we are not people who trust in our own power and strength alone, but know that we need God’s help as well, that on our own we will crumble in the face of this world and its evils, but with him we are never alone.  This is the faith we need to have, it was a faith St. Paul talked of today in the part of the letter we heard read which he wrote to the Christian community he had founded in the Greek colony of Ephesus, this was St. Paul’s prayer for those Christians, it should be our prayer today as well,   “May he, Jesus, enlighten the eyes of your mind so that you can see what hope his call holds for us, what rich glories he has promised we will receive and how great is his power.” Our faith should comfort and console us, our faith should give us that peace of Christ, even in the face of suffering and evil. We can but perhaps respond in prayer, turning to God our father through and in the spirit, seeking his strength and comfort, and especially at this time making use of the Pentecost novena, which we have been encouraged to pray and use in this period between ascension and Pentecost, the novena entitled - thy kingdom come –I finish with the novena prayer.

“Father God, your Son, taught us to pray for the coming of the Kingdom; teach us how you are leading us, strengthen us for bold service, unite us in love for your Son and for the World. Amen. May your kingdom come.

 

 

 



SERMON EASTER 6A 2017 - 21st MAY 2017.


                  My friends we are now approaching a busy time of the year having now reached the 6thSunday of Easter. We approach a series of important feast days, next Sunday is the great solemnity of the Ascension, the 40th day after Easter, although off course, its actually the 43rd, since we no longer celebrate it on a Thursday as was traditional, and then off course the week after, we reach the 50th day after Easter-the even greater feast of Pentecost, and the coming of the holy spirit. And then over the weeks that follow the other great feasts of Corpus Christi, Holy Trinity and Peter and Paul, during this time as a parish we will also be celebrating our 1st holy communions and confirmations.


 This year our Bishops, both Catholic and Anglican of England and Wales have asked us to especially mark the period between ascension and Pentecost, to really make holy that period of 10 days. They are asking us to participate in a Pentecost novena called “Thy Kingdom Come.” Putting aside 10 minutes on each of those ten days for prayer, beginning on Ascension Thursday, next Thursday an ending on Pentecost Sunday. Special prayer cards are available for this purpose, the idea is that we spend a little bit of time in silence, read the daily text on the prayer card and finish with the lords prayer. To use that period when we remember when Jesus left his disciples and ascended to heaven, promising to send them the spirit or advocate, that Jesus also talked of in the gospel reading today. To be like those disciples praying for and preparing for the coming of the holy spirit, to pray that that special breathe of God may also come upon us, that the spirit of peace might come upon us and our troubled world, to pray that Gods  kingdom may come. The world, our communities an families have a great need for people to pray in this way, lets try and be those people.


   Our thoughts today are definitely being guided in that direction by our gospel reading, part of the last preaching our lord gave short before his arrest. He tells them that he is going to be leaving them, that they will no longer see him- a reference to both his coming death and then also his ascension to his father in heaven. He says he will not though be abandoning them, because from his place in heaven he will send them the spirit, or the advocate, who he also describes as the spirit of truth, who will be with them forever. It is that spirit which will bring to them his strength and grace and power, as we will remember on Pentecost when the power of the spirit came upon them, and they courageously preached the word, being understood in every language.  In our 1st reading we also saw how the spirit inspired those first believers, we heard of Philip, who was one of the first Deacons of the Church, he was a companion of Stephen, the 1st martyr. We heard of how he boldly proclaimed the faith and brought a Samaritan town to the faith, working great miracles as well.  We also heard of a kind of primitive confirmation rite, that those who were baptised were later on confirmed by the visiting apostles, who laid their hands on them and they then received the holy spirit, as so many of us have been confirmed by a Bishop when we were teenagers.  It is the spirit that helps us to know and love God in the here and now, and to keep Gods commandments, most especially loving him and loving one another. We also need the spirit if we are going to be able to do what St. Peter tells us to do today, in that 2ndreading – to reverence the Lord Jesus in our hearts, meaning to follow and obey him above all other things, and to always be ready to share our faith with others, to be able to defend our faith, to defend the gospel teachings of love of God and of our neighbour and to speak up for those most in need, the poorest and neediest members of our communities.


Finally, today, our Bishops as well as encouraging us to be prayerful in that period between  ascension and Pentecost, to try to be open to the inspiration of the holy spirit, the spirit of truth, have also issued a letter concerning the forthcoming general election, giving us guidance and reminding us of important issues to consider on how we might consider to vote, not telling us how to vote, but perhaps the issues we might want to consider especially the sanctity of human life and the care for those most in need in our society. They quote for us the teaching of Pope Francis that we should consider, that our faith should guide us in changing this world, to leave it a better place, to recognise that we are all brothers and sisters and that the earth is our common home, to consider the needs of refugees and migrants, of children and the vulnerable, of the scourge of modern slavery and poverty and the threats to family life.  Please give their letter and comments your consideration. Amen.


 






SERMON FOR THE 5th SUNDAY OF EASTER - SUNDAY 14th MAY.





             Last week I preached about the Gospel of the Good Shepherd, with Jesus describing himself as the shepherd and the gate of the sheepfold, and how we in our own lives have a vocation to be shepherds as well, in other words to be servants of one another. Every one of us in some way is responsible for others, for other members of the church-God’s flock. As Christ shepherds us, so must we, inspired by him, shepherd and serve others, to be Christ to one another. That theme continues today, although using different language, with Jesus talking to the Disciples once again in the Gospel reading, talking to them immediately after the Last Supper, shortly before his arrest. He is preparing them for what is to happen, he tells them not to be troubled, not to be afraid but to trust in him, to trust that although he will soon be leaving them, it will only be so that he can prepare a place for them in heaven. And in response to the questioning of Thomas and Philip who don’t understand what his saying, he makes that great statement, that he is the way, the truth and the life, and that only through him can people approach God the Father. And that if they have faith in him, we will be able to do great things, things as great as Jesus did, because his power will be in us, as his followers. These words remind us then what a powerful vocation it is to be a Christian, that we will be able to be like Christ, that we can be a shepherd like him, a servant like him, we can do great things, inspired by him.


          But how can this be, how can we possibly do the things Jesus did, well, because we believe that we are members of his Church, and the Church is the Body of Christ, that in our baptism, in the Eucharist, we are joined intimately to Jesus, and that therefore he can work through us and do great things. St Peter in the 2nd reading talked about this, Peter is talking about the people of God, the Church, the community of believers, and he talks about Jesus as being the living stone and the corner stone of the Church, all of it’s weight is on him, without him the Church would collapse and fall. As members of that Church, we also for Peter are living stones, part of the living body of Christ, we became that when we were baptised and we are strengthened to be living stones when we receive the Eucharist, as we are here today. For the real Church is not buildings, but people, the faithful, the people of God, the community of believers united with Jesus. Peter goes onto say that if we are built on Christ, if we are his faithful followers, then we are a


“Chosen race, a royal priesthood, a consecrated nation, a people set apart to sing the praises of God.” Such words remind us how special it is to be the followers of Jesus, how special it is to be baptised, how special it is to he here as a community celebrating the Eucharist, that we are a holy people. Consecrated, set apart to serve God. We are a holy people, each one of us was anointed with the holy spirit at our baptism, we regularly receive the very body and blood of Christ in Holy Communion, we have by the sacraments, by our prayers become one with Christ, in the Church, which is his body, the very body of Christ-we truly are the living stones of the Church, with Christ as the corner stone. So united by the spirit we have received we are truly united to Christ and united to one another, we should therefore be a real living family and community, who care for each other and serve each other.


    So no wonder Christ says we will be able to do the same things he did, because we are one with him in the Spirit; and in fact we do one such work here today, we celebrate the miracle of the Eucharist, and in this Eucharist every one of us is united with every one else by eating and drinking the same body and blood of Christ, and in so doing are called to contribute to the building up of the Church, to build up the community of our parish, our unity and fellowship as the people of God.


     So just as last week, we are being reminded in our readings today of the duty we have to serve one another, Jesus is the ultimate example of this service, as are the first believers, the Apostles-who we heard of in our first reading from the Acts of the Apostles. There we heard of how the Apostles in Jerusalem faced with one of the early crisis in the Church decided to appoint men to help them in their ministry, men who would be called deacons, meaning those who would serve, and we heard that list of seven names of men who would have the special duty of coming to the aid of those in need-Stephen, the first martyr being the first of them.  Deacons are the ultimate example in the Church of service.


 Now in the past the role of Deacon was just a stepping stone on the way to becoming a priest, the final stage of preparation that a man would go through before Priesthood, but since the Vatican council in the 1960’s the Church has rediscovered the permanent deaconate, married men who will always have this ordained ministry, having a very similiar role to those 7 men we heard of in the first reading. Today Deacons have a 3 fold ministry, that of service, and also at the altar and of the word. Deacons assist the priest in the mass, they can baptise and celebrate funerals and weddings, although not the mass itself, they have the ministry of preaching and as we have discussed this role of service, which for them is in our schools, nursing homes and with the housebound.  They are for us a real living examples of what Christian service is all about, that because we are one with Christ in the body of the Church, because the spirit lives in us, because of the sacraments we have received, because we are the living stones of the Church, then we should truly serve and care for one another, that in Christ we can do great things, we can do the same things he did, because he Christ is for us the way, the truth and the life.


 






SERMON FOR THE 4th SUNDAY OF EASTER - SUNDAY 7th MAY.           

Today, as I said at the beginning of mass is traditionally known as Good Shepherd Sunday, taking it’s name from the Gospel reading that is always read on this day-from chapter 10 of Johns Gospel, with Jesus describing himself as the Good shepherd. And because of this theme of Jesus as the good shepherd today is also the world day of prayer for vocations, when we are asked to pray especially that more young men and women will accept the call to become priests and religious, to become shepherds to the people of God today. Archbishop George has asked us all today to pray especially for the young men training for the priesthood in our Archdiocese of Cardiff, fortunately there are real signs of hope and progress, next month two young men are due to be ordained as Deacons n the Archdiocese – Robert James and Nicolas Williams, and in July two existing Deacons will be ordained as priests – Daniel Stanton and Peter McLaren, with several others in the midst of their seminary studies in London. Please pray for their perseverance in their chosen vocations. We also off course pray for the Belmont monastic community, which serves this and most of the other parishes in Herefordshire – next month Deacon Patrick Lobo, who preached here in Lent is due to be ordained priest and several others are in the midst of their formation, Br. Alistair studying in Rome and Br. Augustine due to begin his formal studies this year. Please pray that Belmont will be granted vocations to that it can continue to serve such parishes as this one.

  Each year the Holy Father issues a letter, this years letter is the 54th such letter for this world day of prayer for vocations, I have attached it to each copy of the Bulletin, please have  a good read of it and reflect upon it. The letter this year has the title “Led by the spirit for mission”, in it Holy Father reminds us that we must be a people of prayer, praying for vocations, and praying for the church in its work of mission and evangelisation. He encourages us to pray through listening to God as word, reading and listening to Holy scripture and praying before the blessed sacrament in Eucharistic adoration especially.  He also reminds us that we all have a vocation, not just those called to be priests and religious, but we all have the vocation to be missionaries, to show forth Christ to others in what we do and say, a work that only be successful by being rooted in and built upon prayer.

           In the Gospel today Jesus speaks to all of us, priests, religious and lay people about being good shepherds of one another. For Jesus, a true shepherd, a true leader, is selfless and unconcerned for himself, like a shepherd in the fields he gives up everything to look after the sheep, even to risking his life to save them from wolves and other predators.  Such a gospel is a warning to all Christian leaders, to me as well as a priest, to remind me of the duty I have as a priest, to be as Jesus was, in the way he served and cared for others. But it is also warning to all of us, since the duty of caring for others, of setting a good example for others isn’t just reserved to the clergy. We can all be shepherds, according to whatever our vocation is, whether as parents, grandparents, godparents, as teachers, nurses, doctors, all of us in whatever kind of lives we have are called to care for others, in some way to be shepherds for others, to watch out for others. Those of you parents whose children are preparing to make their 1st Holy Communion, and those of you parents of those young people preparing to be confirmed as well have a very special duty at this time to be there shepherds in the ways of faith.

And so perhaps we should take the warning of Jesus to heart today, to be wary of that blindness which he talks off, to make sure that we are not led away from following our vocations, not led astray by the temptations of this world-greed, envy, vain ambition, the desire for other comforts and distractions. So often we can find ourselves putting our trust in things we lead us away from Christ and the church. Such distractions, idols can so easily make us blind and indifferent to the needs of other people, to become utterly selfish. But because we are all called to be shepherds to others, then we need to be listening to the voice of Christ, we need to be people who pray, who read scripture, who are attentive to his voice, as the Holy Father in his letter for this year reminds us

     Also a parish community like this one at Our Lady’s needs all of it’s parishioners to have a strong sense of vocation, of service, of being shepherds of one another to have a understanding that this parish needs everyone to be really committed to it, and to be fulfilling our own vocation whatever that may be.  To be here on a Sunday worshipping God, but also to have that Spirit of prayer and to be really trying to live out our Christian lives every day of the week.  Our Christian faith demands a lot of us, our faith should give us all a real sense of vocation, a sense of mission and purpose, that we have a job to do as Christians, to share the good news of Jesus with others, we must not be blind to that vocation we all share, not to be blind to one another’s needs, and it is perhaps in physically coming to one another’s aid in times of need that we give the best witness to our faith, because then we are truly acting as shepherds. As a community we are trying to do this with pour plans to provide hot food and meals to those in need, every Saturday lunchtime, we begin this now in only two weeks time; PLEASE PRAY FOR ITS SUCCESS. Perhaps all this is summed up in the final words of the Gospel reading, “I have come so that they may have life and have it to the full.” Reminding us that we all have a god given potential, a vocation, a vocation that God wants us to fulfil, that is in our nature to fulfil, and that vocation is to serve others and do Gods will, just as Jesus did. To be shepherds of one another.

 

 



SERMON  - 2nd SUNDAY OF EASTER - 23rd APRIL 2017.


Today is the last day of the Easter Octave, the last of the 8 days of Easter, with each day celebrated as Easter Sunday itself, so our cry is still, “Alleluia, Christ is Risen, Alleluia.” And although these words are full of joy, we are all so sad at the new last night that the Holy Father has died. And although we are sad, we can be so happy for Pope John Paul himself, his long years of suffering have come to an end, especially his suffering of recent days and he has entered his new heavenly home. We can also rejoice at such a long life so well lived, and that right to the end of his life the Holy father gave witness to the value of human life and to his own unshakeable faith in God. And also how apt it was for the Holy Fathers life to come to an end within the aster octave on the eve of this Sunday after Easter, a day we se as being another Easter day,


              And on this eighth day of Easter we always listen to the same Gospel, St. John describing what happening on the evening of that Easter day, with the risen Jesus appearing to the disciples, and then again 8 days later, but this time Thomas, who was absent previously being there and making his great statement of faith. The Gospel writer John makes use of the disciple John, to make it clear that Jesus had truly risen from the dead, that he was no ghost or spirit or just a mass hallucination by the disciples, he could be seen, he could be touched, he could teach them, as we heard giving them the authority to forgive sin. John makes is clear that we really believe that Jesus bodily rose form the dead, leaving behind an empty tomb, and we too, because of our baptism can share in that same resurrection from the dead. This is a faith that the Holy father has proclaimed boldly and proudly over his time  as Priest, Bishop and as Pope for the past 26 years.


                But it is not only the Gospel reading today that is special, all 3 readings are, and they all share the common theme of community, of a worshipping community that shares the same faith. We heard in our reading from the Acts of the Apostles of the earliest Christian community, the one in Jerusalem, and how they lived together, shared everything and prayed together. This might be a bit of an ideal view of that early community, but they are presented to us as what a Christian community should be like. Appropriately today we also listen to the teaching of the first Pope, Peter, when he reminds then of the wonderful faith they have, in the risen Christ, and that because they belong to a Christian community, they may well face persecution, the strength of their faith may be tested, people will hate them, and so will their loyalty to the Christian community survive that hate. And then we had the Gospel reading, of that most basic of Christian communities, the 11 disciples and the others who actually witnessed Jesus risen from the dead, the unity of faith and purpose that they had from that point on, is an example for us to follow in our own parish community. It is a unity and purpose that Pope John Paul has encouraged us towards in his pontificate, and what a great personal example of faith he ahs given us.


               In light of all this teaching on what a Christian community should be like and on the faith we should have-that Jesus is our Lord and our God, and after the witness that Pope John Paul has given to us in the strength of his own faith, we should perhaps consider the strength of our own faith and of our own community. Being a Christian does make demands of us, we are required to believe that Jesus is alive today, and is a power in this world. This is what motivated Pope John Paul and what gave him such strength in the trials and burdens of his life, especially those of recent years. Being a  Christian means being part of a worshipping community, and that community demands our commitment-that was very clear from the reading we heard from the acts of the Apostles-they prayed and worshipped together, they shared their resources, they were absolutely committed to the building up of that community, as were the first disciples and the fellowship they had. And as St. peter told us, believing in Jesus and being a member of a community will make others hate us, we may well be persecuted for proclaiming our faith, at the very least we can expect to be criticised for the faith we profess.


 


SERMON- EASTER SUNDAY 2017.


   My friends our cry today is, Alleluia, Christ is risen, alleluia, our 40 days of Lenten preparation have ended, today we proclaim Jesus Christ risen from the dead. For the first time in 40 days we can sing alleluia, the word which means Christ is risen. Today we can also sing the Gloria, omitted throughout lent. Our Church once again has flowers in it, the veils covering the statues and crosses have been removed, our Easter or paschal candle stands near to me here, blessed last night at the Easter vigil mass, it is symbol for the light of Christ shining in our world. So our church is filled with colour and splendour as we celebrate the resurrection, so Alleluia, Christ is risen, alleluia. Such is the greatness of this day, that the next 8 days are all celebrated as Easter day itself, today being the first day of the Easter octave, 8 days, ending next Sunday with each one  a celebration of the resurrection.


  The Gospel that we have just heard tells us what happened on that first Easter day when early in the morning Mary of Magdala goes to the tomb, finds the tomb empty, the body of Jesus not there. She doesn’t understand what it means, thinks the body has been stolen or moved to another tomb perhaps. She runs and tells the disciples, Peter and the beloved disciple rush to the tomb, Peter like Mary doesn’t understand, but he sees that the cloths covering his body and head are still there and the one covering his head is neatly rolled up, pointing to the body not being stolen, or the cloths wouldn’t still be there. The beloved disciple though, who we believe to be John, the one who wrote the Gospel does believe, he remembers the many predictions of Jesus of his death and resurrection and he believes, he believes that Jesus is risen. In a way it’s a shame that we don’t hear what happens next, but we do in the forthcoming days of the Easter octave, of how Mary stays at the tomb, and then Jesus appears to her, she doesn’t recognise him at first, but when he says her name she does, thus Mary is the first witness of the risen Christ. That same Easter day Jesus also appears to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, who likewise don’t recognise him at first but do when they share a meal, and then in the evening Jesus appears to the disciples, all except Thomas. Thomas refuses to believe when they tell him, but a week later Jesus appears to all the disciples again and this time Thomas is there, and is invited to touch the very wounds in the body of Jesus and he acclaims Jesus as My Lord and my God-we will listen to that Gospel account next Sunday.


  But we have to wait to hear of these visions of the recent Christ, today instead we celebrate the empty tomb, that Jesus did bodily rise from the grave, his tomb was left empty, his body returned to life, but a body no longer subject to decay or death, a new glorious body, which explains perhaps why some who saw him didn’t recognise him at first, like Mary, he was the same but different. The resurrection we believe in, is the bodily resurrection, Jesus didn’t just return as a ghost or spirit, he left his tomb empty. All the accounts of people seeing the risen Christ emphasis this, even though we heard today how Peter at first didn’t understand what had happened, he soon would when later that first Easter day Jesus appears to him. We also heard Peters version of these events in our first reading when years later, as recorded in the Acts of the Apostles, he proclaims his faith in the risen Christ to a pagan man called Cornelius and his family. That Jesus had appeared to him and others, and that he had even eaten and drunk with him, emphasising that Jesus had truly come back to life.


  As well as Peter telling us what he believed we have also heard what St. Paul believed in the 2ndreading from his letter to the Colossians, even though  he was not one of the original apostles, he received visions of the risen Jesus, such as on the road to Damascus, when he converted to the faith. In his life he experienced the power of the risen Christ. He knew that after our lords resurrection and his appearances he had eventually ascended back to the father in heaven, a day we celebrate as the ascension in 40 days time, and as Paul tells us that is where Jesus is now, sitting at Gods right hand in glory. And Paul goes onto tell us what this all means for us, that what happened to Jesus will also happen to us, that although we will all die like Jesus, by our faith and by the baptism we have received  we will rise to a new life as he did, as Paul says, But when Jesus is revealed, you too will be revealed in all your glory with him. This is the wonderful hope that we have, that Jesus now in heaven, will one day return, to take us back to heaven with him, when we shall be alive him and be one with him, sharing his heavenly nature. How wonderful God is to us, how great is his mercy to us, sending his son to triumph over death, offering his life as a sacrifice for us so that all of our sins could be forgiven, so that we can have this wonderful heavenly hope of sharing in the resurrection from the dead. It is off course a mercy that we especially celebrate this year, in this Holy Year of Mercy, the holy year called by Pope Francis, seen in the banner next to me here, which reminds us that we must as merciful, as God the father is merciful to us. On this resurrection day should all pray that Gods boundless mercy will find a home in all men’s hearts, especially in all those places where there is such terrible violence, may the sight of the resurrection, the hope of our faith shine in all the troubled nations of the middle east and in all those places afflicted with terrorism; especially all those poor people affected by the bombings in Brussells in recent days.


My friends today in the light of the resurrection we are all invited to renew or faith, to renew our faith in the risen Christ and the heavenly life he callus to by renewing our baptismal promises, the promises taken or us by our parents and godparents and which we then took for ourselves when we were confirmed. In these promises we reject the power of evil and proclaim our faith in the trinity. We are then sprinkled with the newly blessed holy water, blessed last night at the Easter vigil mass. When we were baptised we received the benefits of Jesus’ death and resurrection, we died to sin and rose to a new life with Christ, let us renew that faith now and most especially in this year of mercy pledge to share this faith in Jesus with others, by giving to other the same mercy that we have received from Christ.




SERMON – GOOD FRIDAY 2017.

            Every year on Good Friday we listen to that long passion reading from St. Johns Gospel, listening to Our Lords final journey, his crucifixion, death and burial. Johns version of events is roughly similar to that of the other Gospel writers, to Luke whose passion we heard read on Palm Sunday for example, but there are unique bits to Johns version, the long conversation with Pontius Pilate, Mary at the foot of the cross, our Lords words to Mary and John just before he dies and then after his death, the spear stuck in his side and out flows blood and water. But like all the gospels it is made clear to us that Jesus let himself be taken, he let himself be taken as a criminal and executed, he allowed it to happen because it was the fathers will, and as an obedient son he co-operated with that will.

            All that happens here today should make it clear that we remember Our Lords suffering and death, much of what happens reminds us of a funeral, the service began in silence and will end so, the sanctuary, the area around the altar has been stripped of veils, candles, cloths etc., there are no lit candles, all the lamps have been extinguished, the tabernacle is empty. There is no Eucharist today, no consecration, the holy communion I will distribute are the hosts that were consecrated last night and which are now placed in the temporary tabernacle on the altar of repose in Our Lady's chapel. Here today the cross is at the heart of all that we do, in a few moments I will walk to the back of the Church and gradually unveil a large crucifix, singing “This is the wood of the cross on which hung the saviour of the world.”

           We will all then come forward and venerate the cross, genuflecting before it and kissing either the feet of the figure on the cross or the hands, in this way showing reverence for the sacrifice Jesus endured for our sake. When we look at the cross, at the crucifix, we should think of one word-sacrifice, the sacrifice Christ made for us, the sacrifice his father called him to make, and as an obedient son he fulfilled his fathers will. The cross was Christ's glory, it was glorious because he offered his life freely, in obedience, and as St. Paul said in his reading today, he became for all who obey him the source of eternal salvation. The cross was terrible for him, but life - giving for us, for us it is salvation, because by the cross our sins have been forgiven. When I talk to children about this day, they often ask why is it called Good Friday, the simple answer is that it is Good for us, because we benefit by Christ's death on the cross.-we are given eternal salvation. What a fortunate people we are to have such a saviour, to have such a God who is prepared to pay such a price for us, to save us from sin and death. As we look at the cross today we should stand speechless before it, amazed at the price that was paid to save us; Gods own son became man, just so that he could die for us. Perhaps the words of Isaiah in the 1st reading should come to mind, words fulfilled when Jesus was on the cross,

  As the crowds were appalled on seeing him so disfigured did he look that he seemed no longer human - so will the crowds be astonished at him, and kings stand speechless before him; for they shall see something never told and witness something never heard before:”

               This should evoke a response from us, we cannot be indifferent to what we remember today, and what we see before us here in Church, when we remember how God loved the world so much that he sent his Son to die for us. We should respond to it with love, to love God and his son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another.

                Finally one of the unique parts of St. Johns passion, is what happened after Our Lords death when the soldiers make sure he is dead by piercing his side with a spear, and then we are told by John that blood and water flower out from his side, John emphasises this point, he presses home the point, he tells us he has a witness to this. This blood and water, most agree refers to the water of baptism and the blood of the Eucharist, that from the side of the dead Christ flows the power for the sacraments. From his death comes the power for baptism and the Eucharist, in baptism we become members of the Church, in the Eucharist we receive the food of everlasting life, the very bread of heaven, it is in baptism and in the Eucharist that our sins are forgiven and through all the other sacraments. The death of Christ is truly useful to us, it should be everything to us. Now in light of the cross, in the light of Our Lords sacrifice we pray the traditional bidding prayers for today, 10 prayers, when we pray for the whole world and all it's.


SERMON  - HOLY THURSDAY.


My friends tonight we begin the Solemn Triduum, the triduum is the time between Holy Thursday and Easter Sunday, when we remember in these wonderful services the suffering, death, laying to rest and resurrection of Jesus. These are the central elements of our faith, in our services during these days we remember and re-enact the great saving works of Jesus. The Gospel reading we have just heard, described for us the last supper, St. Johns version, it ended with a command, Jesus telling his disciples and us, to copy him, what he has done, to go and wash other peoples feet. Washing feet is the act of a servant, even a slave, so we are being told to serve  one another, to love, cherish and care for one another, as Jesus did. About this time in Rome, Pope Francis will be doing this, during his time as Pope, now 3 years,  his choice of the feet he has washed has been very striking,  the feet of  woman and male prisoners in jail, not just Christians but Muslims as well  and I think last year the elderly in a care home and this year very appropriately he is going to wash the feet of 12 middle eastern migrants in a immigrant centre in Rome. After this sermon I will be washing the feet of 12 parishioners, men and women, a reminder to me and I hope to you of our duty to serve one another as Christ has served us. It is a particularly apt thing to do this year, because of the Holy Year of mercy that we are within, called by Pope Francis and lasting through till this November, when, as on the banner next to me here, we are called to be merciful, as our heavenly father is merciful. One way we show mercy is to serve one another, to humble ourselves before one another-symbolised in the washing of feet.

  The washing of feet took place at the last supper, when our lord gathered with his disciples to celebrate the great Jewish feast of Passover. In that annual meal the Jewish people remembered and indeed still do remember the great events of hundreds of years before when they were saved from slavery in Egypt, and how there own first born were saved from the final terrible 10thplague that God sent on the Egyptians, the death of the first born. We heard of that first Passover meal in our first reading from the Book of exodus, how the blood of a slaughtered lamb kept safe the first born of the Hebrews. Every year since those events, that saving work of God is remembered in the ritual Passover meal. And it was in the middle of that meal, of that act of remembrance, that Jesus instituted a new sacred meal, a new act of remembrance commanding his disciples to remember him, to remember what was going to happen the next day when he died on the cross, by offering bread and wine. In that suffering and death he would be the new lamb offered in sacrifice, the lamb of God, sacrificed so that our sins would be forgiven, washed away in his blood.

But we don’t hear about this event in the Gospel reading, John instead concentrates on the washing of feet and rather strangely doesn’t record the bread and wine at the last supper , but instead we heard of it in our 2nd reading when Paul in his letter to the Christian community in Corinth recounts the other 2nd command our lord gave at the last supper, that we must offer bread and wine in his memory, and it will become for us his very body and blood the food of eternal life. In this communion, in this Eucharist Chris makes himself present to us very day, in the bread and wine we receive we can every day receive the benefits o his suffering and death, which are the forgiveness of our sins and the promise of everlasting life. For we believe that what happens in the mass isn’t just sign and symbol, it isn’t just a remembrance of wonderful events from the past as for the Jewish people, who still remember the events of the exodus. What happens here in this mass, is the making present of Christ’s death on the cross before us and that his body and blood are truly made present on the altar, what we call the real presence, hence the devotion we show, the genuflections, bowing and kneeling, the bells, all telling us that something truly special is happening here. But tonight w also remember that Christ isn’t just present before us in holy communion, we are also reminded that Christ is present in one another, in our brothers and sisters and most especially the least of our brothers and sisters, the washing of feet reminds us of this, most especially when Pope Francis washes today the feet f 12 migrants in Rome.

 So tonight’s mass is powerful, full of powerful imagery, there is also the powerful background of the growing conspiracy against Jesus, of the forces of darkness mobilising against him. We heard in the Gospel of the betrayal of Jesus by Judas, Jesus knew what was Judas was going to do, knew that Satan had entered him, he knew that his hour, his time had finally arrived; darkness was coming. We remember this when at the end of mass we re-enact and remember what happened to our Lord after the last supper, when he made his final journey as a free man to the garden of Gethsemane, and where his suffering began and he was arrested, where Judas betrays him with a kiss, paid 30 pieces of silver. We remember this, by taking the blessed Sacrament/holy communion from the tabernacle and walking in procession to the side chapel of our lady, to what we call tonight the altar of repose. There we place the blessed sacrament and symbolically watch with Jesus, watch and remember how he became almost overwhelmed with fear and anxiety at the prospect of the suffering that lay ahead. Jesus said to his disciples, have you not the strength to watch with me one hour

  Then in preparation for tomorrow the church is stripped, all veils, cloths, books candle are removed in remembrance our lords death on good Friday, so for tomorrows service the church is bare, ready for us to remember the tomb in which our lords body was  laid. And so I now perform the washing of feet, obeying our lords command given t he last supper.


SERMON PALM SUNDAY - 9th APRIL 2017.


Don’t worry I am not going to give a long sermon today, the passion Gospel that we have just listened to from St. Mark speaks so well for itself, beginning with the conspiracy being planned against Jesus , then the last supper, and the sealing of the tomb with the dead body of Jesus inside.  It is the long tradition of the Church to hear read on this day and on Good Friday the whole story, of the passion and death of Jesus, not as we normally do each Sunday just to read little sections, but the whole account of how Jesus willingly gave himself up to death for us, motivated to do that out of love for us and obedience to God. Luke presents Jesus as the ultimate suffering servant, willingly undergoing the passion, motivated out of love for us, so that our sins might be forgiven. Hearing this whole account of the passion is a good way to begin our celebration of holy week, as this week in the various services,  we remember the last supper, the washing of the disciples feet, the suffering of our Lord in the Garden, his trial, then suffering, torture and death on the cross. We are all very familiar with what happened, but perhaps just for a moment lets consider what it means,  which is in fact described to us in the very short but powerful 2nd reading from St. Paul. Paul said because of what happened, he, Jesus was divine, and accordingly all beings in heaven and on earth kneel before him, and that every tongue should acclaim him as Lord; and we do this because he willingly accepted death, death on a  cross. So today we begin to celebrate that great moment when God revealed himself in Jesus, and showed the man Jesus to also be the very son of God, God become man, God become flesh, God become one of us, proved to us in his death and then rising to life, and if we have faith in him, we can share in that resurrection and eternal life. This is the good news we will celebrate at Easter. Amen.


 



SERMON LENT 5A - 2nd APRIL 2017.


                         We know that Holy week must be close now, only one week away, with the veiling of all the statues and crosses in the Church, a tradition that reminds us that the day when we remember the death of Christ draws ever nearer. That theme will intensify on Holy Thursday when after the mass of the last supper we remove all candles, holy water, veils, books etc from the church, symbolically stripping the church to remember the day when Jesus died. The veiling therefore reminds us to intensify our Lenten preparation, to continue those Lenten works of prayer, fasting and charity and most of all repentance of sin. To help us we have our latest Lenten Gospel reading to listen to, the 5th in our famous series of Gospel readings, gospels chosen especially for lent, to help guide us in our preparation for Easter, and to help guide especially those preparing to be baptised and received into the church at Easter.


                           We have heard the famous account of the raising of Lazarus from the dead, a miracle performed quite openly, in front of many people. It is an event that does remind us of Easter of when Our Lord himself rose from the dead, and also perhaps helps us understand why Jesus faced such opposition. In Johns Gospel, where we find this event recorded, we read that before this miracle Jesus had left Jerusalem and gone back to the far side of the Jordan, because the Jewish authorities had threatened to stone him because of his teaching. Then immediately after this miracle we are told that the Jewish authorities gather together and decide that they have to get rid of Jesus, he is too much of a threat to them, especially after raising a man to life who had been dead for 4 days. Why would they think like this, maybe there were convinced it was all a trick, maybe they thought Jesus was going to take over, maybe they were frightened of what the Roman Army might do. But whatever the reason, the raising of Lazarus, convinces the leaders that they must get rid of Jesus. The reaction to this miracle helps us to understand why there was such a conspiracy against Jesus.


                            Johns record of this event begins with telling us that Lazarus and his sisters were good friends of Jesus, in fact they crop up a number of times in the Gospels, they lived in Bethany only a couple of miles from Jerusalem. The news that Lazarus was ill takes  a while to reach Jesus, with him being a good few days journey away on the far side of the Jordan. He delays though in going to Bethany-Why? Was he reluctant to go, uncertain whether to go back near to Jerusalem where there was such a threat to his life, or rather as he said-so that Gods glory may be seen, so that with Lazarus dead for a number of days there could be no doubt as to his returning him to life, no-one could say that it was all just a trick. When he finally arrives he has that powerful meeting with Martha, Lazarus's sister, he proclaims himself to be the resurrection, and that whoever believes in him will never die, words perfectly fulfilled on that first Easter morning when he rose from the dead. And then we have Martha's great statement of faith-like the Samaritan woman in the Gospel of two weeks ago, like the healed blind man in last weeks Gospel, that she believes Jesus is the Son of God, the long promised saviour.


                                And it is this miracle that shows that Jesus was the son of God, only God could bring someone back to life who had been dead for 4 days, and off course only a son of God could come back to life himself after being in the tomb for 3 days. This miracle teaches us the same as the event of the transfiguration, the Gospel we heard on the 2nd Sunday of Lent, where Jesus showed his glory as God's son. But this miracle also reminds us about something else concerning Jesus, he wasn't just the Son of God, he wasn't just divine, he was also the Son of Mary, he was also a full human being in every way but sin. For we heard today one of the most powerful passages from scripture, outside the tomb of Lazarus Jesus wept, he knew the pain of the death of a loved one, he knew what it was like to grieve when a dearly loved friend suffered and died. He knew the joy and pain of human friendship, he didn't just have a group of followers, he had friends, people like Martha, Mary and Lazarus. Come Easter we will also celebrate this humanity of Jesus, we will remember his divinity when he rose to a new life, but also his humanity, for he did truly died on the cross, he suffered a true death as only a real human being can.


                                        So this great miracle therefore really does direct our minds to what we will remember next week, our Lords triumph over death, but we should also remember, that what happened to Jesus was far greater than what happened to Lazarus. Lazarus was returned to his earthly life, he would die again, his body lies in the grave waiting for the resurrection from the dead. But Jesus rose to a new life, his new glorified body would never die again, he would never need to suffer again, or know death again, he rose to an eternal life, which is what we look forward to, which is what Easter tells us we can look forward to, a new eternal life. So let us be like Martha, our Lords good friend and put our faith in him, that he is the resurrection and the life, that he is the Christ the son of God, who offers us that eternal life. Amen.


                                                





SERMON  - 4thSUNDAY OF LENT.

                                  As well as being Mothers day, this is also a special Sunday, the 4th Sunday of lent, it used to be known as Laetare Sunday, a Latin word taken from one of the prayers of the mass, meaning Rejoice, and indeed we can rejoice, because Easter is now getting closer and closer. The tradition has developed that on this day, this Laetare or rejoicing Sunday, not only of celebrating the role of Mothers, but also of having a rest from all of our Lenten penance’s and works, that if we have given something up for lent, we can have a little bit of it today, so I can once again have my favourite food today, a steaming plate of Brussels sprouts for lunch, or if we have undertaken some kind of extra work we are allowed to have a rest from it today. So today is a day to relax and rejoice.

                                   But we still have the inspiration of Holy Scripture today, and the themes of the previous weeks of Lent continues. We have heard of great men of the Old Testament, in the previous weeks of Lent we have heard of Adam and Eve, of Abraham of Moses and Elijah and been reminded of how Jesus fulfilled all of their great work and words, especially that of Moses, with Jesus being presented as the new Moses. Today we have heard of another great old Testament figure, that of David, we heard in our 1st reading of his calling and then anointing by the equally great figure of the prophet Samuel. God chose him as the King we were told, not because he was the biggest or most attractive, but because God looked beyond his appearance and chose him because of his heart. And just as with all the other Old Testament figures we have heard of, we see Jesus as being the new David, Jesus was a descendant of David, born in Bethlehem the city of David, and also being a  King as was David.

                                   As well as powerful Old Testament readings to listen to we have another powerful Gospel reading to hear and heed today, the 4th in a powerful series of readings, following on from the temptations in the desert, the transfiguration and the meeting with the Samaritan woman at the well, today it is the beautiful story of the healing of the blind man in the temple in Jerusalem, a healing which causes great consternation there, and which has a great impact on the man concerned.  We hear how Jesus performs this miracle, making a paste with dirt and his own spittle and telling him to go in one of the pools in the temple. This was a kind of anointing, it might make us think of the anointing David received at the hands of the prophet Samuel, and also it might make us think of Baptism, with the man washing in the pool and off course when we were baptised we were also washed with water and like David anointed with holy oil. As I spoke last week, baptism should be on our minds this Lent because we are preparing to renew our baptismal promises on Easter Sunday, we are preparing to renew our commitment to turn away from sin and be faithful to God, to believe in the Holy Trinity, and what happens to this man in the Gospel reminds us of this, because this man comes to faith in Jesus.                                                            

                             He though faces great opposition as does Jesus, the temple authorities and Pharisees cannot accept what has happened, they are angry that Jesus should work such a miracle on the Sabbath day, they are intimidated by him and jealous of him, they want to disprove what he has done, they try to deny that the man had ever been blind, that it is actually a trick. Perhaps this opposition is mean to make us think of the darkness of unbelief, of a lack of faith, perhaps of evil itself, even amongst those who proclaimed themselves to be holy. And yet this blind man who had lived in darkness who was presumed to be a great sinner because of his disability, that he must have been punished by God with blindness because of his sins, actually comes to new sight and more importantly to faith, he now truly lives in the light, because he comes to faith in Jesus, he calls Jesus a prophet, and the we are told that he worships Jesus, as should we if we are a people of real living faith.

                           So the story of this blind man who comes to new sight and to new faith is an example for us to follow, like him we can face opposition, disbelief, embarrassment because of our faith and like him we have to turn away from darkness, the darkness of disbelief and of evil and to believe in and worship Jesus.  This journey of faith begins in baptism and it is a journey that we re-commit ourselves to this Lent and most especially on Easter Sunday. Finally this coming week let us try to show our willingness to turn away from sin, to reject the power of evil, to renew our faith, by receiving the sacrament of reconciliation or confession; the normal times of confession are available. The teaching of the Church is that we should all attend confession at least once a year, ideally in lent, as a preparation for Easter, as a preparation for when we renew our baptismal promises. Let us also take strength from the example of the adults in this parish who are preparing to be baptised at Easter and to be received into the church, before Easter they will be making their 1st confession in preparation for the other sacraments they are to receive-may their example of faith inspire us. So please take advantage of this opportunity, to receive the grace of the forgiveness of sin and the strength to avoid sin in the future-to be like that healed former blind man, who leaves darkness behind and who was able to live in the light, the light of faith in Christ.


SERMON FOR THE 3rd SUNDAY OF LENT - 19th MARCH 2017.


              So far in this Lenten season we have listened to two wonderful events in the life of Jesus, his 40 days in the wilderness and then being tempted by the Devil, a encounter which reminds us that Lent is a time when we should try to turn away from Sin. And then last week we heard the even more wonderful account of the transfiguration with Jesus being transformed on the mountain top, showing to his disciples that he was the Son of God, as he shone with the glory of God. This is another theme of Lent, because at Easter we celebrate how in his death and resurrection Jesus showed himself to be a true man and the true Son of God. And then today, the third in this ancient series of Lenten Gospel readings, we hear the quieter and less dramatic encounter between Jesus and this Samaritan woman, although what they talk about is no less important. Because this talk of life giving water, is, as I said at the beginning of mass, meant to make us think about Baptism, and in Lent baptism is important because come Easter, come the masses of Easter Sunday we will all stand up and renew our faith and we do this by renewing our promises of baptism. Instead of saying the creed on Easter Sunday we renew these baptismal promises, do you reject the devil and all his works and all his empty promise and do you believe in God the father, son and holy spirit – may all of our Lenten works and prayers prepare us well to do this.


                  So lets consider this encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well, where Jesus talks to her of this living water that only he can give-the water that wells up in us to eternal life-;with the depth of meaning there is in Johns Gospel, we not only see this water as a symbol for life generally, but also as a symbol for the living water of baptism. This idea of living water being given by Christ is made abundantly clear by the evangelist, later in his Gospel, when from the side of the dead Christ on the cross there flow streams of blood and water-from the death of Christ comes the living water of baptism and the blood of Christ to be consumed in the Eucharist. This was prefigured in our first reading with that famous account of the Hebrews, who were moaning and grumbling in the desert at the lack of food and water, were watered in the desert by the water that flowed from the rock. St. Paul in one of his letters describes this rock as a symbol for Christ.


                             But there is more to this encounter of Jesus with the Samaritan woman, than a reference to the living waters of baptism, we are also being told of the implication of baptism, that by baptism we should be a faithful people-a people of a living faith, built on the living waters of baptism. We see this woman, a woman who had no reason to believe in Jesus, who as a Samaritan-as a sort of heretic, would be expected to have no faith-least of all in this strange man Jesus-and yet she is so quickly moved to faith-there is little hesitancy in her heart and she goes to her friends and family and proclaims him as the Christ. There is a real example of faith here-a faith we need to imitate-a faith built on the living waters of baptism-the promises and implications of which we are about to renew-it contrasts sharply with the lack of faith of the Hebrews in the first reading-who moan, grumble and murmur in the desert- and have little faith in Gods saving works.


                      Perhaps this is the lesson we can take from this reading today-to develop a living faith, not to have the couldn’t care less attitude of many people, with no faith, or to a moaner and a grumbler as were many of the Jews in the exodus experience. We are also being reminded of what our faith should consist of-that it is only through Christ that we can be saved-he is the only one who gives this life giving water, he is the Christ, the bringer of salvation-he is the giver of life-and since water is that basic requirement for life especially in such a hot place as Palestine-there is no better way to describe him than as giving the water of everlasting life.


  Finally this week, there are some wonderful saints days to guide us in our Lenten journey, wonderful examples of faith. Tomorrow the feast of St. Joseph, the spouse of Mary, then on Tuesday, the feast of the passing or the death of St. Benedict, obviously a special day at Belmont Abbey a monastic community, that follows the rule of life written by St. Benedict. Then this coming Saturday, 25th March, the feast of the Annunciation, when the angel Gabriel visited Mary, and announced that she would conceive by the power of the holy spirit, Gods son would become flesh in her womb. Mary and all of Gods saints are good examples for us to consider in these Lenten days, examples of people who listened to Gods word and obeyed it, may we do the same.


 


 


 



SERMON FOR THE 2nd SUNDAY OF LENT - 12th MARCH 2017.


In the Gospel we've just heard, we have one of the most spectacular occurrences of the New Testament described to us, that of the Transfiguration, its even stranger than last week, when we had the temptations of Jesus in the desert, when the Devil tired to make him jump of the Temple, turn stones into bread and to bow down and worship him. Both these stories in some way are very apt for the season of lent, since both point the way to Easter. In today’s Gospel, with the transfiguration, that we see a kind of prophecy of the resurrection, with the glorifies body of Jesus.  Also we should remember that the series of Gospel readings we are listening to this year, are also very much to do with those being received into the Church at Easter, after all Lent originally came about as the final part of preparation for converts and then it’s use extended to the whole Church, and this list of  Gospel readings that we listen to was designed to help converts in their final weeks of preparation.


                                         As I said all the readings today look forward to Easter in some way. In the first reading, we have the promises made to Abraham, that out of Abraham God will make a great nation, and that he would lead them to a new land, the promised land. They will become a great tribe and all peoples will bless themselves by them. This is exactly what happen in the mass, when we call Abraham our father in faith. We see in this promise to Abraham of a new land, a symbolic prophecy of the New Covenant and the New Church which Christ brought. And then in the 2nd reading Paul speaks about Easter as well, that because of what happened at Easter, we can have a new life, that Christ by dieing and then rising from the dead has given us the chance of eternal life; to live in the new land which God promised to Abraham.


                                        And it's this new life, life after death which we see prefigured in the Gospel In the Gospel we have a hint of what our resurrection will be like, his face changed and his clothing became as brilliant as lightning, such a thing may happen to us at the resurrection.


                                         So should we just see in this Gospel a kind of prophecy about the resurrection, yes, but a lot more as well. We can see in it, Jesus being presented as the Fulfilment of all that had gone before. Of the promises made to Abraham, and all the holy men who came after him. Also if we look carefully at the Gospel what happens to Jesus also happened to Moses on Mt Sinai, both heard the vioce of God, both were on a MT, even the face of Moses began to shine brightly as well Also the sheer fact of Moses and Elijah appearing to him emphasises that he is the fulfilment of their work, he fulfils the law of Moses and the prophecies of Elijah. All that had gone on in Isreal for countless centuries was fulfilled in Christ, when he died and rose from the dead. And the final moment of fulfilment will be when all the dead rise up to a new bodily life.


                 So on our minds today, should be the resurrection of Christ, to which the transfiguration points, and which fulfills all that had gone before. ((((We are told by Matthew, whose version of the transfiguration we have today, that Jesus and his disciples are on their way to Jerusalem, on their way to that final confrontation. In the Gospel their is a very strong sense of this movement, of tension increasing, as Jesus nears Jerusalem. And of course we are on the same journey towards Easter, there should be a slowly building momentum, as the most important feast of the year gets closer.)))) Through this time we should be examining our lives, judging how good our Christian performance has been, have we been acting like Christ. Hopefully we will also be inspired by those who are preparing to be received in to the Church at Easter, for this is what they should be doing, preparing to  become Catholics by prayer, fasting and works of charity, by considering how our Christian faith should be actively lived out in our lives.


                                          Like our converts we should also be considering our baptism, since at Easter we will be renewing our baptismal promises. Since when we were baptised the seeds of Christ’s death and the resurrection were sown in us, the stain of original was removed and the seeds of eternal life were given us. We were transformed, this transformation continued in our first confession and communion and was completed in our confirmation, through all these sacraments we should have been gradually changing, becoming more like Christ. Did this happen, or have we reverted in some way, to non-Christian lives. We should be members of a new people, a people built on the faith of Abraham, Elijah and Moses and all the Apostles, has this happened, have we been transformed. Do we see Christ as the fulfilment of our lives, does he sum up everything we do. Or rather have we lost touch with him a bit. Let us pray that we are not like this. And if we have lost touch with Christ somehow, if we haven’t put our trust and hope in his salvation, in his death and resurrection, then lets re-vivify this hope that we should have.


                                         Make this time of lent a time when you remind yourselves of what is really important in life, allowing God to transform us into the image of his son, to become like him;



SERMON FOR THE 1st SUNDAY OF LENT - 5th MARCH 2017.


SERMON – 1st SUNDAY of LENT.


               That reading of Our Lord being tempted in the wilderness by the devil is the traditional one for this first Sunday of Lent, Our Lord’s 40 days of prayer and fasting in preparation for his public ministry is the inspiration for this period of 40 days preparation for Easter, when we in a way imitate our Lord in our own preparation. In the wilderness Our Lord, at the end of those 40 days, is faced by the Devil, who tempts him, who tries to make him turn away from God’s will for him, tries to tempt Jesus into disobedience, tries to tempt him into pride, to misuse his power as God’s Son. But, off course, Jesus resists, he stays obedient and loyal to his heavenly Father. But the devil will return, right at the end of his ministry, in the garden of Gethsemne, as Jesus is terrified of what awaits him the following day, events we will remember at the end of these 40 days of Lent.


              You could say today that all the readings we have heard are about Sin, we have heard of Jesus resisting the temptation to Sin, but this is contrasted with the first reading today, with the familiar story of the fall from the Book of Genesis, the account of man’s first sin, that original sin, when the first man and woman, unlike Jesus, give in to the temptation of the Devil. The sin they committed was one of dis-obedience, not obeying God, motivated by pride, and that sin led to them being separated from God, being expelled from the garden of Eden. It is a very dramatic story, and although we don’t necessarily believe it is literally true, it is true in the sense of telling us something about ourselves, about our human condition. It tells us, reminds us, that we all sin against God, we have all been tempted by the Devil, tempted to turn away from God, because of pride, and this sin leads to our separation from God, and from one another; we all share in that original sin of Adam and Eve. Our Sin likewise leads to disunity, sin leads to separation and violence as people grow to hate each other and to forget about God. This was what the psalm was about today, psalm number 50, known as the Miserere, traditionally thought to have been written by King David, as he bewails his own sinfulness (The sin of adultery with Bathsehba) and pleads for forgiveness from God, he pleads that God will give him a pure heart, and that he will not be cast away by God. It is a beautiful prayer, a prayer that God will heal men’s sins, a prayer answered in the coming of Jesus Christ.


                 We heard how Jesus resisted the temptations of the Devil, and was the first man not to sin, and how according to the words of St. Paul today, all men’s sins have now been forgiven, through Jesus. Paul says that although all men have sinned, all have shared in Adams sin, what we call original sin, and therefore all men suffer death, but all this is now changed because of Jesus. For Paul, Jesus is the new Adam, and just as the first Adam brought death into the world because of his sin, the new Adam Jesus brings life into the world, not just because he resisted the Devils temptation, but because he offered his life, his blood as a sacrifice by which our sins could be forgiven, in his death on the cross. Paul says that because of what Jesus did all men are once again righteous before God, and this is described by Paul as being a gift, a gift given to us by Jesus, a free gift, a gift we haven’t deserved but are offered anyway because of God’s love for us. This gift he says far outweighs the fall, because we are not just offered forgiveness of sin, but life everlasting with Jesus in heaven, and this is offered to every person.


                  This is truly good news, the news that all men’s sins, all the way back to Adam have been forgiven, all that had separated mankind from God, all that division because of man’s pride and disobedience has been healed, and we can once again know and love God, who loved us so much that he sent his son to suffer and die for us so that this healing could be worked. This is what we are preparing to celebrate at Easter, God’s love, the abundance of grace he offers us through his son. Jesus Christ.


                      Finally, in our celebration of the sacraments we can tap into this offering of forgiveness, a forgiveness that continues to be offered to us as we remember Christ’s death on the cross in this Eucharist, that forgiveness continues to be offered to us in the sacrament of reconciliation or confession, which is why in lent it is so appropriate to make a confession, to endeavour once again to turn away from sin, to ask for God’s healing. To have the courage to turn back to God, to turn away from pride and disobedience, to turn away from that behaviour which destroys our relationship with others. Archbishop George has directed that each parish church should be open every Wednesday evening of Lent for confessions, it is called “The light is on for you”. So Ill be here every Wednesday evening from 7-8pm for confessions, and there will also be exposition of the blessed sacrament during the hour, concluding with benediction just before 8. Why not come along and just pray in the presence of Our Lord, there will also be the normal times for confession on Saturday mornings, and all the other traditional Lenten devotions, such as stations of thje cross every Friday evening at 6, and all kinds of other talks etc being given locally-see the bulletin for details.


So lets all have the courage to make our confession this Lent, and to rejoice in the free gift of forgiveness we are offered in and through Jesus Christ



SERMON FOR 8th SUNDAY OF THE YEAR - 26th FEBRUARY 2017.


There was some very familiar teaching in that Gospel, once again taken from the great sermon on the Mount from St. Matthews Gospel. That familiar warning against the love of money, also a warning about fear and anxiety, especially worry over earthly things, food and drink and clothing and the like, and Our Lord encouraging us to trust that God will give us and our families what we need. It is a very topical warning as well, the love of money is always a temptation to us, and that fear of not having enough money, not having enough to look after ourselves and our families. There has been that recent controversy over changes to the benefits system with both catholic and Anglican bishops warning about changes made leading to greater poverty and that so many people do not have enough to live on, so much so that many people now need to use food banks, which off course we collect for here, and try to help those who are so much in need. Despite our society seeming to get richer and richer and with ever greater wonders of technology, there is ever greater worry and anxiety, the fear of not having enough money, the fear of not having the latest gadgets for example, the fear of not being able to provide for our families, and that great temptation to just put our trust in money, or in the love of money, to put our trust in what possessions money can buy us, often thee latest gadgets. I am tempted by this kind of fear as well, a little while ago my mobile phone stopped working, it wouldn’t turn on and and I was almost panic stricken, how was I going to manage, how would I check my e-mails etc etc, I got so worried and wound up, until I realised that it was just the battery, and all I had to do was charge it up. Isn’t it strange how so many of us have become slaves to modern day technology, to phones, i-pads, games consoles, Sky TV, facebook and twitter etc and when we don't have them, we worry so much about it, and when we are without it, its like our lives have ended, how can we go on, we ask! It is so easy to become not only the slave of money, but also of all these latest gadgets and gizmo's and put our trust in them, and when without them feel lost.


                    Our Lord though today is giving us that simple message, stop worrying, have faith, trust that God will providefor what you need, and don’t look for meaning or real happiness from money and all the modern day gizmos and gadgets that money can buy us. We may have to use these things, and off course they can be very handy and improve the quality of our lives,but lets not seek all our happiness from them. For what really matters is off course our families and our faith in God, and lets trust in him to provide for us. As Jesus says, look at the greatest gift of all the beauty of creation, how wonderful nature is, and if God cares for that so well, will he not also provide for us. Let us not seek meaning and fulfilment from material things, but from God, because only he can truly provide for us, only he can feed our souls, no amount of money or gadget can ever do that. Modern life is full of all kinds of worries and fears, even with all the wonders of science and technology, with the wonders of modern day health care as well, yet it is still so easy to be overwhelmed by worry and anxiety, with all the uncertainties and trials and even tragedies of life. Only faith in God, only the knowledge of his love for us can truly keep us safe and give is that inner peace which we all crave, the peace that comes from the Holy Spirit comforting and consoling. That spirit offered to us here today through the word that is proclaimed and the precious gift of holy communion


                       Its therefore good that lent is about to begin this coming Wednesday, for such teaching is at the heart of Lent. Lent, that period of 40 days preparation for Easter is the time when we are encouraged to grasp hold of our faith again, that if we have become distracted by money and possessions, or overwhelmed by worry and anxiety, then we turn back to our loving God. We call lent a penitential season, a time when we say sorry for our frequent lack of faith and our weak faith, when we have given ourselves over to the love of other things, or become ensnared in the sin of despair. It s also a time when we should try to show our faith in action, in good works, those traditional Lenten works of prayer, fasting and alsm-giving or charity. Lets all try to make this lent a time when we do come back to our faith, and grow in faith by turning away from sin and show our faith in prayers and actions. This lent lets try to go to confession, if it has been a long time since your last confession, make that precious effort to receive the priceless gift of forgiveness. Lets try to be prayerful each day, to say daily, if only short prayers, at the back of church are Lenten prayer books, some for adults and some for kids, which have short daily prayers and reflections, they are all free, take one home and make use of it, and make each Lenten day holy by praying. And lets show our faith in action, this Ash Wednesday let us show our faith by us adults, keeping the tradition of fasting and abstinence, lets avoid meat and one meal, and maybe offer the money saved to charity or in items donated to the foodbank. We could off course give things up for lent, but lets do this in a spiritual way, to offer it up to God as a sacrifice, to offer it to him as a prayer, as a offering to him; and instead of maybe giving things up, to undertake works of charity, to come to the aid of family, friends and neighbours in need. Maybe try to come to church that bit more often, to come to a weekday mass, to pray the rosary, and off course the stations of the cross service.


           This Lent let us try re-invigorate our faith in all these ways, if we need to let us re-discover us, let us bring it into our daily lives, and it will help us to push aside the earthly gods of money and possessions and will keep us strong in the face of all the worries and anxieties of this world we live in. Amen.





SERMON - 7th SUNDAY OF THE YEAR - 19th FEBRUARY.

                                        The newspapers we read, the televisions we watch the radios we listen to are often full of horrific stories of the dreadful things people do to other people. In recent days we have heard about the abuse of young people and children, we regularly hear of people being beaten up and stabbed, and then there are the even worse stories of events in other countries, the atrocities in Iraq and Afghanistan and other places. And yet in light of all this we hear Jesus today telling us to forgive, to turn the other cheek, to love our enemies, to love those who prey on the weakest members of society, to love those who might even prey on our children-hard teaching, in light of real evil, impossible to follow perhaps. Perhaps most of us are fortunate in that we don’t have such enemies, people who commit such evils against us, the enemies we have may be merely people we don’t get on with, or who we have fallen out with-perhaps their only attacks against us will be gossip and rumour mongering - but of course, this itself can be quite destructive.

                                   We did hear in our 1st reading of how this call to love and forgiveness was really nothing new, it is was present in the law given to Moses on Mount Sinai, with the Lord telling Moses that he and all the people should strive to be perfect, part of which was not holding grievances against your neighbour, of loving them as you would love yourself. Christian morality has though taken the Jewish law that extra step further, even righteous retribution is not allowed, someone’s evil acts, does not absolve us of our responsibility for them, we must do to others, what we would have them do to us, their behaviour is therefore irrelevant, our duty remains unchanged no matter what they do. Our duty is not to be just as good as any other person, just to follow normal patterns of behaviour, but to try to follow the example of Christ-perhaps not so much by our own efforts but by grace, the inspiration of the sacraments and by prayer-and it may take us a life-time to make progress in it. As Jesus said you must be perfect as your heavenly father is perfect, you must set the highest standards of behaviour for yourself.

                                      Perhaps there is one thing that can inspire us to such acts of selflessness and courageous forgiveness and that is the example of Jesus-perhaps his example on the cross, when after hours of torture and humiliation at the hands of his persecutors he forgives them; this heavenly man, as Paul described him, somehow forgave his enemies. But perhaps there were other enemies of Jesus that he forgave, not just those roman soldiers and Jewish leaders who had condemned him to such a fate, but us, humanity-on the cross we were his enemies, he was there because of us, because of our sins, by his suffering he forgave us our sins. Perhaps reminding ourselves of this basic fact of our faith, that everyone of us has been an enemy of God, of Jesus at one time or another, that on the cross, we were to Jesus his enemies who needed to be forgiven and saved, might inspire us, in our own much inferior way to offer something of the same forgiveness to those who sin against us, and who are our enemies. Perhaps then the miracle of salvation might work through us, in that by forgiving our enemy, they suddenly meet Christ and are challenged to change their ways. Forgiveness can save, condemnation, judgement and seeking revenge never will.

           Finally, this is all very appropriate as in only a few weeks we begin the season of Lent, when we are asked to prepare for Easter, when we remember what Christ endured for us. Whatever way we choose to mark Lent, and we should mark it in some way, let us try to become that little bit less selfish, and looking to our own needs and instead become selfless as Christ was, to seek the grace to be able to be loving and forgiving towards us, just as we expect such love and forgiveness from Christ.



6th SUNDAY OF THE YEAR - 12th FEBRUARY 2017.


                   Today we are continuing to listen to the sermon on the mount- that most famous teaching of Christ - last week we heard how we must be the light for the world, the salt of the earth and be like a city built on a hilltop. Today our Lord continues his teaching, which we will hear over the next few weeks as well. We should remember in listening to this teaching, that Matthew who records it for us is presenting Jesus as the new Moses, with Jesus giving the new law on a new mountain top. That’s clear in today’s Gospel with Jesus talking explicitly of those old commandments given to Moses on Mount Sinai and re-interprets them, and demands of us much greater response to them. If we felt challenged  by the command to be the light of the world-then we should be astounded by the demands being made of us today. So let us look closely of what Christ is demanding of us as the new Moses, with his new law.


    In the Gospel today Jesus recalls four of the commandments-do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not get divorced, and do not make false testimony-all pretty clear commandments, fairly straightforward-but then Christ says a true following of them not only involves keeping them physically and outwardly, but also inwardly and spiritually. It is easy enough for most people to avoid murder for example, but not so easy to avoid any kind of hostile thought, or to avoid a lustful thought, or to avoid even swearing and using Gods name in vain. Listening to this teaching should terrify us, how on earth can we keep this teaching, how can we avoid sinful thoughts, the odd thought of violence, jealousy and lust-utterly impossible. This must have been the feelings of the Disciples as well and those crowds who were listening to the words of Jesus on the Mount-how on earth can we obey this-the law given to Moses on Mt. Sinai, the 10 commandments themselves was hard enough and had been broken frequently, so how could they be expected to obey this far harder and stricter interpretation of the law of Moses.


           Jesus is telling his disciples and others who were listening that the righteousness that we need in order to enter the Kingdom-includes not only our actions, but also our inner motives-Jesus is effectively saying that God demands of us absolute and total obedience-exactly the same obedience and perfection that Christ showed. In listening to this reading we are being challenged to radically renew our faith, not to just physically live out our faith, but to make it fresh and personal to us. It is so apt that we listen to this powerful teaching on this Racial justice Sunday, when we are asked to pray and work for greater respect and peace between those of different cultural backgrounds, and those of different colours and religious faiths. It is so easy to disrespect others, to judge others or even hate others just because of their culture, faith or colour, our world is still so afflicted by such evils. Our Lord warns us against this today, to not let such thoughts into our minds, into our thoughts, let alone how we act. On the front page of the bulletin, there are these words of Pope Francis, who is such a wonderful voice speaking up for tolerance and respect,


Each person is precious, persons are more important than things, and the worth of an institution is measured by the way it treats the life and dignity of human beings.”


 Those words of Pope Francis remind us that we must treat each other well, as we of course would like to be treated, with respect and tolerance, and to show in our good works a love for others especially those most in need, hence our project here at Our Lady’s to start offering hot meals to the needy and homeless in our local community, hopefully such actions and good works will show forth our Christian tolerance, respect and kindness for others, not matter who they are.


 But its not easy off course, for there are other voices in our society and world who speak, seemingly contrary to Pope Francis, and it is so easy to be lured into following those voices, which are full of fear and hate. Lets not listen to them, but to our Holy Father, and most of all to Jesus in the Gospel today. And when it is hard, when we feel tempted by those voices, or when the demands of our faith seem overwhelming, lets remind ourselves that Our Lord and saviour will help us along the way, for our Christian faith not only demands a lot of us, but it also enables us to achieve what is demanded of us-through grace, through the gifts of the spirit, through the spirit both working in the sacraments and outside them , the spirit that gives us the strength to keep this law, and that also brings us forgiveness when we break it. This power of the spirit was hinted at in the second reading today-the spirit that teaches us about God, that teaches us about the depths of God, that gives us the gift of wisdom, and enables us to do Gods will. In this liturgy today we are given this very same spirit to enable us to keep Gods commandments, and also the forgiveness for when we break them, most of all in the reception of Holy Communion.


 I think these are good thoughts to have at this time, since  the season of Lent begins in a couple of weeks time, when we all try to live out our faith to the full, to renew our faith, to turn away from any sinful behaviour, to make our faith stronger, to make it more of an image of the life of Christ himself-to be open to the power of the spirit, and to enable it to renew our lives and our faith in God, and to show that faith in love towards our neighbour in our words and actions. Amen.


   




SERMON 5A 2017 - SUNDAY5th FEBRUARY 2017

               My friends in that Gospel, which continues Our Lords teaching from the Sermon on the Mount, he compliments his disciples, he speaks well of them, he almost boasts about them, he describes them as the salt of the earth and the light of the world. It must have been hard for those disciples to hear that, they might have asked themselves, is that what we are? Do we deserve to be spoken so well off? Perhaps Our Lord was also challenging them, that this is what they must become, the salt of the earth and the light of the world-and perhaps most challenging of all-that other people seeing this, would give glory and thanks to God for them. Those words are also aimed at us today-this is what we must be, that if we follow the teaching of the be-attitudes which we heard last week, if we are gentle, humble, forgiving, merciful, pure of heart, if we are peacemakers, then we will be the salt and light of the earth, we will be truly valuable and people will give thanks to God for us. There are yet more challenges in the other readings today, the Prophet Isaiah says to the people of his time and to us today, to come to the aid of those in need, the hungry, the homeless, the poor, the naked, to come to the aid of those in need and not to take advantage of those in need, not to live off the misery of others, to show real integrity in the way you lead your life. Paul in the passage from his letter to the Corinthians sets a similar challenge telling them that all he ever did was preach Christ and give witness to Christ, not any fancy arguments just Christ and Christ crucified, and the implication is that we should do the same.

                   So all of our readings set us a big challenge today, rather frightening and perhaps overwhelming. All that we have heard is calling us to be sincere Christians, to practice what we preach, to practice integrity, and in St. Paul's words to be like Christ, to speak and act as he did. In our families, our friendships, our work, we must be valuable, we must be those kind of people who make life worth living for others, who improve the lot of others, who make others happy and reduce the burdens other people carry. We should be truly valuable to society around us. It is perhaps that image of the salt that really makes this clear, salt, that thing necessary for life, especially in  a hot country in the middle east. It would be a very valuable thing, often taxed, such was the demand for it, apparently people would even be paid their wages in salt sometimes. Without it, you would die, without it any food or meal would be bland and boring, salt is therefore a really good reminder of what we should be. That we should be as precious, as valuable as beneficial as salt, that if we were absent, people would really notice the lack of us. Or if we are not like this, if we have lost that salt, if there is nothing valuable about is, if we are just Christian in name only, or if we actually do harm to others, if we live off the misery of others, then our absence will not be noticed, perhaps even applauded. Or has often been said, there is nothing worse than a half hearted Christian, a Christian who has lost his salt.

     As I have mentioned in recent weeks I have suggested one way in which we can be useful to our local community, one way to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world practically, is by expanding the help we give to those in need locally, around us here. We discussed at the parish AGM last Monday about joining those local churches who provide hot meals to those in need. Those who came to the AGM were keen for us to do this and felt it was our obligation, so we are going to try to give it a go. Every week on a Saturday lunchtime, using our parish room and kitchen, can you help, can you be, in this way, that salt of the earth, that of the world. We will need a good 20 volunteers each committed to one Saturday lunchtime a month, and some to take more responsibility helping to run it. There is a meeting to discuss it and to meet with those who run some of the other places that give food, on Monday 13th Feb at 7.00pm in the parish room. There are also signup sheets at the back of Church, to give me some indication that enough people are willing to help. We will also need people to donate items, we aim to provide soup to start with, or parishioners to make soup for us etc.

                       So finally, how are we inspired and strengthened to undertake such tasks as this where do we get that salt from, how do we make ourselves so useful and valuable, what guides us and motivates us to do this, well by the power of the holy spirit, the holy spirit that is here with us now, the spirit that works through the word of God that is proclaimed and preached, the spirit that we receive in the holy Eucharist, the spirit that we receive in our prayers; the spirit that Paul spoke of-of how in his life he demonstrated the power of the Holy Spirit, which helped him to be as valuable and useful as he was. It is the Holy Spirit that will help us to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world, will help us to full of integrity and determination and perseverance in our Christian lives. More than anything else it is what receiving Eucharist the or holy communion should inspire us to. For if we truly believe that the communion is the body and blood of Christ, then surely it should inspire us to be like him, because in receiving communion we become one with him, united with him. We should therefore, by the Eucharist be like St. Paul, full of the presence and power of Christ, full of that salt and light, full of blessings and hope for all those we know and meet, and to those in need around us - so much so that they will give thanks and glory to God for all that we are to them. Amen.



SERMON 3A 2017 - 22nd JANUARY 2017.


                        In this still new year, we continue to hear in our Sunday Gospel readings of the beginning of the public ministry of Jesus, only 2 weeks ago we remembered the baptism of Jesus, and last week John the Baptism giving witness to Jesus, that he was the Lamb of God, whose mission was to take away the sin of the world. Today we hear how John the Baptist is arrested and Jesus takes the centre stage, moving back to Galilee, making his base in the town of Capernaum, thus according to Matthew fulfilling one of the Old Testament prophecies. In the passage we have just heard there seems to be a great sense of urgency, straight away Jesus begins preaching, preaching that the Kingdom of God is near at hand, and that his listeners should repent; there is no time to lose. He begins to choose his first disciples, Peter and Andrew, James and John, and upon being called to follow him, they immediately leave their work behind and follow him. Jesus then begins there formation, begins to teach them and instruct them, for their role as fishers of men.


                         In listening to this Gospel reading today we should remember how we also are called to be fishers of men, that Jesus asks us to follow him, that we are called on to repent and turn back to God, to turn aside from all those distractions and false Gods in our world and to be our Lords true disciples. That word repent is important, for it isn’t just about saying sorry, about repentance, it is also about having new priorities, a change of perspective, a change in lifestyle even, to follow that light of Christ which Isaiah prophesied of in the first reading today. Today, we could look at the call to repent and follow Jesus, in the light of Christian unity, since we are in the midst of the annual week of prayer for Christian unity, and the duty we have to build up the unity of the Church. To help us we had that beautiful reading from Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, with Paul pleading with the members of that community to be united – “to be united again in your belief and practice.” If we all have the duty, like those first disciples to build up the Kingdom of God upon earth, meaning to build up the Church then we have to work at Christian unity, since Christian disunity and division does so much damage, and causes so much scandal. This is one of those urgent works at which we must be busy, in prayer and action, to remember the duty we all have to grow in the knowledge of our faith, a knowledge which will help us to share it with others and help us to understand the views and teaching of other Christian denominations.


                           All these themes of discipleship, of Christian unity, of being called to be fishers of men, makes me think of one word, and that word is Vocation, a word which tells us that God has a plan for us, for each one of us, each one of us has a role in building up his kingdom, in building up his Church, each one of us is a disciple. Every one of us is called to holiness, we are not just called to be physically present in Church on a Sunday, but are called to be holy and spotless, are called to a path of growing in the knowledge and the love of God. This Christian vocation which we all have may not be dramatic, it may be a vocation to live as a Christian parent, spouse, brother or sister or in whatever job we have, but we are all called to be holy and this is seen at least in part in being desperate to do Gods will, just as desperate as Jesus was, just as desperate as those disciples were, who immediately followed him when he called them. Lets us give this some thought and prayer today and over these days, lets think how is God calling me, what am I being called to do, how I am being called to build up unity, to build peace, to proclaim the Kingdom, what can I do, how can I be holy in my family and in my work, in my friendships and in my parish.


   A week Monday, 30th January we are having our parish AGM, when we celebrate the last year in our parish, reflect on what has happened and look to the future. One thing I would like the parish to reflect upon is how we can demonstrate our faith by coming to the aid of the neediest members of our local community, of whom there are many, a appropriate thought for this homeless Sunday. There is a suggestion that one thing we can do is to join the group of churches who provide hot food to the needy, this would be quite an undertaking, but can we as a parish find the resources, mainly people/volunteers to offer such help once a week every week. We already do a lot for the sick and the housebound, and give to charities but we need to give witness to our faith to the wider community. Such work would be done in conjunction with our fellow Christians in other churches, which is one way of building Christian unity. So on this homeless Sunday maybe this is something we can think about and pray about. Maybe there are other things we can do, so please think about coming along to the AGM and giving your opinion.


   Finally perhaps more than anything else we are called to be people and individuals of prayer, because it is in prayer that we show our faith and trust in God and that our desire is to understand and follow his will for us. So may we follow him, do his will and according to our own vocation, whatever it may be, may we follow Christ and be fishers of men.


 






SERMON 2A 2017. 15th JANUARY 2017.

                                        My friends we are now back in the ordinary time of the year, today being the 2ndordinary Sunday. Our celebration of Xmas is over and all the feasts that follow of the Epiphany that we celebrated last Sunday. It is clear that it is ordinary time from the green vestment I am wearing and the green veil on the tabernacle and on this lectern, green being the colour of ordinary time. We will be celebrating ordinary time up until the beginning of Lent, with Ash Wednesday this year being on 5th March, quite a way away, with Easter Sunday being later this year on 20th April. But no Sunday is ever really ordinary, no celebration of the mass can be ordinary, and even this week there are some special days and events making this Sunday not ordinary but special. For a starter this coming week on Wednesday is the beginning of the week of prayer for Christian unity, every year from 18th - 25thJanuary is the special week of prayer, when we pray for ever greater unity between all those who believe in Jesus as their lord and Saviour. The week builds up to 25th January, the feast of the conversion of St. Paul, when we remember how that great apostle and missionary became a Christian with his conversion on the road to Damascus. Also this Sunday, today, is the annual peace Sunday, when we are all asked to pray for the gift of peace in our world, and to pray especially for the work of the catholic peace movement – “Pax Christi.” Praying for peace and indeed praying for unity are off course intentions we should always have in our prayers, but today we are reminded of how important they are, both peace and unity in our lives and families, the importance of maintaining good strong relationships in our families and community and never letting any pride or greed or fear cause division and anger and threatening that peace or unity. And also to pray for peace and unity in our world, as Pope Farncis has asked us to do, to pray for peace and unity between and within divided nations and communities, so we should pray especially today for such poor divided places likeSyria, Iraq, the Yemen, the Holy Land and so many other places around our world.

                                         It can be very troubling nowadays reading the papers or watching the television news and reading and seeing all the terrible things going on in our world, terrible acts of violence committed, often done in the name of God, by extremists who believe they are doing Gods will; people who proclaim faith in God and yet do all they can to destroy peace and unity. In the face of this we must not despair but resort to prayer, to pray to Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, that the spirit of peace will descend upon us, our families and our world, helping to build peace. Fortunately we have just listened to a lovely Gospel reading to inspire us in this way. We heard from St. Johns Gospel about the immediate aftermath of the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist. John gives witness to Jesus and says he is the “Lamb of God.” the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. This was a lovely way to describe Jesus, reminding us that the fate of this world is not in our hands, but in the hands of Jesus, all we need do is trust in him, have faith and not despair. Calling Jesus the Lamb of God reminds us that Jesus offered his life as a sacrifice for all mankind, that just as those of the Jewish faith would offer actual lambs as sacrifices to God in the temple in Jerusalem as a way of seeking forgiveness for their sins, so we believe Jesus is that ultimate Lamb of sacrifice who freely offers himself as a sacrifice for us and the world, so that we may be at peace and be united. So special is that title, that we repeat it in very mass, we say or sing three times just before receiving communion, calling on Jesus, the Lamb of God, to have mercy on us and to grant us peace. Jesus as Gods son, as the lamb of God is our hope and out strength, in his name can pray with confidence for peace and unity, as we heard from the Prophet Isaiah in our 1st reading, he, the Saviour, will be the light of the nations, he will save all people. And appropriately today from St. Paul, as we prepare to celebrate his conversion next Saturday, reminding the people of Corinth in his letter that Jesus is the saviour of all peoples, not just the Jews but everyone, and may Jesus and his Father send them grace and peace.

                   Let us echo that prayer today on this peace Sunday and in this week of prayer for unity, may God the Father, Our Lord and Saviour Jesus, the very lamb of God, who gave his life for us as a sacrifice, send us grace and peace, upon this so often troubled and divided world. We may feel helpless in the face of all the division and violence around us and in the world, but let us persevere in faith and prayer, trusting that what may be beyond our efforts, the mission of building true peace and unity, is most certainly not beyond the efforts of God and his loving Son, who offered his very life for us and for everyone in this world.

                           


SUNDAY 1st JANUARY - MARY, MOTHER OF GOD SERMON.

                               Well, happy new year to you all, as we gather here in Church on this last day of the Christmas octave, always celebrated as the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God. Today we continue to marvel at Gods great act of salvation, when his son became flesh and was born of the Virgin Mary. In particular today we honour Mary’s role in salvation history, how by her agreement, God became flesh in her womb, and accordingly we call her Mother of God. a title given to her, not just to honour her, but also to emphasise our faith in Jesus Christ as the Son of God, the 2ndperson of the Holy Trinity. So as we begin this New Year, and no doubt make plenty of New Years resolutions, let us take Mary as our example and inspiration.

        We heard in our Gospel today of part of the Nativity story, of the shepherds visiting the stable, and then 8 days after his birth, the child being circumcised and being given the name which the Angel Gabriel had foretold. We are also told that Mary pondered upon and treasured all these wonderful events in her heart, perhaps this can be one of our new years resolutions, to be people who ponder the word of God in our hearts, to be a people of prayer, to be people who through prayer grow aware of the closeness of Christ to us and of the love he and his father have for us. And there is such a great need in this world for people of prayer, especially this day which is also the world day of prayer for peace, when we can not only honour Mary as the Mother of God, but as Queen of peace.

        Every year the Pope issues a letter for this day, dedicated to peace, exhorting all peoples to work for peace, as he says in his letter this year, after all the violence of last year, there is ever so much need for prayers for peace. In his first message on this day, pope Benedict talks abut the need for truth in order to build peace, whenever we live in truth, then we naturally work for peace. And true peace is not just the absence of armed conflict, but the presence of truth and justice for all. He even says that one reason he chose the name Benedict when he was elected was this need for peace. Benedict of course is the inspiration behind the Benedictine order, whose monasteries inspired a civilisation of peace in Europe and whose motto is the word pax meaning Peace.

       True peace he says need everyone to follow the path of truth, to build truly real and honest relationships with one another, whether as individuals or even nations, to follow the path of forgiveness and reconciliation. We need to pray that we will be truthful in all that we do, truthful with others, family, friends work colleagues, and then peace will grow in our lives, as it will between nations. The Pope reminds us that we all have a duty to proclaim this Gospel of peace, we are all obliged to try to build peace in all that we do. To do this we have to be always sensitive to the needs of others, open to the demands for justice and open to hear those who cry out for justice around this world. Every day we must work to build peace, and to do this by following the commandments of love, to love God and one another.

   But of course it doesn’t all depend on us, we have to have faith that God will and can build peace in this world, but we need to be his voice and hands for this work. We also need to ask for the prayers of Mary, Queen of peace, to be as prayerful as she was, to be like here as she pondered all the events of salvation in her heart.

  This year may we all make the same new years resolution, to pray and work for peace, peace in our own hearts, peace in our  families and to pray for peace between nations, Amen.

 

 


SERMON CHRISTMAS VIGIL/MIDNIGHT MASS 2015.

                                        My friends we gather in our beautifully decorated Church to celebrate this vigil/midnight mass of Xmas, we gather before our crib, showing that scene we have just heard described in the Gospel, of the birth of the child in the stable in Bethlehem. Our Church is decorated in the traditional way with all the beautiful flowers and wreathes to let us know that this is truly a special day. We also gather before our wreathe, no longer the advent wreathe, but our Xmas wreathe, for tonight we lit the 5th and final white candle. These candles of our wreathe, and indeed the many lit candles around our Church speak of Christ as the light of the world, the light that banishes sin and evil and despair, the light that we should follow, the light that guides us in our lives. It is so appropriate therefore that our Church is ablaze with colour and decoration, that in the midst of this dark and cold winter night, the light of the birth of the Christ child shines forth, reminding us our advent time of preparation is over, and now that we have arrived at the moment of celebration- to join with those angels in our Gospel reading who proclaimed,

 “Glory to God in the highest heaven and peace to me who enjoy his favour, for today a Saviour has been born to us, he is Christ the Lord.”

      This year now coming to an end has been a special one for us, only a few weeks ago we celebrated the 20thanniversary of the consecration of this parish church, the banners behind the altar remind us of this, so we continue to give thanks for this beautiful church and for all those who worked so hard to fundraise for it. Also our Archdiocese has been celebrating in the past year, this year is the 100thanniversary of the founding of the Archdiocese of Cardiff, on the back sheet of the order of service there is printed the special prayer for this year. Also throughout the past year there has been the Year of Mercy, the holy year proclaimed by Pope Francis, in which we have celebrated Gods love and mercy, and that we must be as merciful to others as God is merciful to us. As a parish and Church we have much to be thankful for, and os it is right to celebrate.

                                          No doubt your own homes are also beautifully decorated with Xmas trees and lights and other decorations, no doubt you are planning all kinds of festivities for tomorrow. Each of your families will have your own particular traditions for Xmas day, what you eat and drink, people you spend the day with or visit on the day, relatives and friends you phone, what you may watch on TV, games you may play-all of which make Xmas day so special. I think I e shared with you last year my own particular traditions, every Xmas afternoon I watch the greatest film ever made, you might think it would be a religious one like “The greatest story ever told”, a film about the Nativity, even the Song of Bernadette, no, the greatest film ever made, is Carry on up the Kyber, the perfect film for a Xmas day afternoon, with Sir Sydney Rough Diamond, the Khasi of Kalibar, Bungidin and Princess Jelli, there is off course my own particular clerical role model-the Reverend Belcher, who uses the line, money is a burden, let me relieve you of that burden!! I will spend tomorrow at Belmont with my monastic community, sharing Christmas dinner, and watching TV etc, I might have a problem persuading the Abbot and community to watch Carry on up the Kyber, rather that the strictly xmas special, or the latest Dr. Who xmas special!!

                                             But seriously all of that celebration, but there is off course a reason for all of our celebration, which is why we are here this evening, the reason is the the Gospel story we have just heard with all those familiar details of the birth of the child in Bethlehem, and which we have watched the children enact for us so beautifully. The census taken by the Romans, the journey of Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem, then no room to be found, the birth in a stable, the manger, and then the angelic message to the shepherds in the fields, that this child is special, he is Christ the Lord, the long promised Saviour. In one way there is a real contradiction here, such a wonderful event, the birth of Jesus happening is such humble circumstances, Jesus we believe and celebrate today was the very Son of God, God become man, we use the word incarnation to describe it-God become flesh, and yet it took place in such poverty and secrecy. Hardly anyone knew it had happened,, it happened amidst farm animals in a stable. For us it was the greatest event in human history, yet it took place in the most humble of circumstances, with only the shepherds being given the good news by the Angels, with those famous words,

“Glory to God in the highest heaven and peace to me who enjoy his favour, for today a Saviour has been born to us, he is Christ the Lord.”

   The birth of the saviour, promised by the prophets of old, like the prophet Isaiah who we heard of in our 1streading, a saviour by saving us from the power of evil and sin, and the punishment of death that goes with sin. And exactly how would he save us - by sacrificing himself. So my friends, perhaps we should take our gaze from our crib and move for a second to the cross, and remember, that the child was born in order to die for us, he became a child, so that he could grow up to be the man who would offer his life on the cross-the child was born to die for us; and this wonderful sacrifice benefits all of us and all generations because of who the child is, the very Son of God.

     Pondering this, pondering this amazing love God has for us, a love shown ins ending his son to become one of us and then die for us, must surely move us in faith, must lead to a response from us - , in the words of St. Paul, that we surely must live good and religious lives in this world, we must be self restrained, and give up everything that does not lead to God, and have no ambition except to do good.

    It is my hope and prayer that this years celebration of Christmas will inspire us all in this way,

    So finally, may our celebration of this feast of our Lord birth, our celebration of God become man in Jesus Christ, help us to grow in faith, to grow in the knowledge and the love of God. May your own families celebration of these days be blessed and happy as we celebrate our salvation in Jesus Christ. Today let us join with the angels proclaiming.

“Glory to God in the highest heaven and peace to me who enjoy his favour, for today a Saviour has been born to us, he is Christ the Lord.”

 

(Please take the order of service home and perhaps make use of the prayer on the back page and sometime over these days re-read the scripture readings from this mass.)





SERMON ADVENT 4A 2016 - 18th DECEMBER.


                       Well here we are on the 4th Sunday of advent, our advent wreathe is almost fully completed with its  4 candles, although I can never say that without thinking about the two Ronnie’s sketch, if you remember-4 candles, handles for forks!! Christmas is now very close only  one week away, but it is not here yet, we are still in a state of preparation, only 4 candles are lit on our Advent wreathe; and despite the busyness of these days, of shopping for food and presents, of planning trips to see family or to give hospitality to those visiting us, let us use these minutes in Church today to prepare in the best way we can for Xmas. The scripture readings we have just heard can help us to do this. We have just listened to St. Matthews version of the annunciation, of the announcing of the conception of the child in the womb of Mary. Matthews version is the less well know version, there is also the better known Luke’s version which is given to us from the point of view of Mary, of the Angel Gabriel speaking to Mary directly. Here today though we hear the equally beautiful and powerful account of the vision Joseph has in a dream of the Angel telling him to take Mary as his wife, not to reject her because of this pregnancy, because she had conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit. Both Matthews and Luke’s accounts share all those beautiful details, of the message from an angel, of dreams and visions in which God spoke to Mary and Joseph, of a virgin conceiving a child, a child who came into being by the power of the Holy Spirit. Both accounts of the annunciation tell us that something truly wonderful has happened, God is working in a way never seen before, and things will never be the same again.


                     Perhaps all this is summed up in one word-“Emmanuel.”-the prophecy that Matthew says is fulfilled in the conception of the child, the prophecy from Isaiah, that we heard of in our first reading – “The maiden is with child, she will give birth to a son whom she will call Emmanuel, a name which means God is with us.” Isaiah had made this prophecy 600 years earlier, it had been given at a time of great national crisis, when Israel was threatened by it’s enemies, and there was an aged King Ahaz and no royal heir, so he tells the people that their will be a new King one day who will protect and lead the people and protect them from their enemies, he reminds them that God will not abandon them into the hands of their enemies. Yet Matthew also sees something else in these words, that they also speak of the birth of Jesus, of not just another King, but something far greater and that they are fulfilled in the conception and birth of Jesus, the maiden or virgin is Mary, and Jesus is the Emmanuel- a name which tells us so much about Jesus, and why he is so special.

                   St. Paul in his reading today, tells us why Jesus is so special and what this name Emmanuel really means, Paul tells the Christians in Rome that Jesus was both the Son of God and also a full human being, he was a descendant of King David, because of Mary his human mother, but by the power of the Spirit he is also the Son of God. He says that this coming of Christ both God and man was promised long ago by the prophets, that one day God would fully and truly reveal himself to the people, words fulfilled in Jesus, who is GOD WITH US. So for Matthew and Paul Jesus is something totally new, not just another Son of a king, or another Prophet but God become man, conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit, but also fully human because of Mary his mother. With the birth of this child so many prophecies of old were fulfilled, especially that promise made by such men as Isaiah, that God would never abandon his people, he would always love and care for them, a love shown most of all when he sent his Son to become one of us. This is what we are preparing to celebrate, Gods’ wonderful love for us, and how he has shown it in Christ his son, and it is faith in Christ that will give meaning to all of our Christmas celebrations. So this Xmas let us celebrate with a real purpose, let us give and receive presents, let us eat and drink, let us share time with family and friends but all because God is with us in Jesus Christ. Am





SERMON FOR 3rd SUNDAY OF ADVENT - 11th DECEMBER 2016.




                     Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, Rejoice            


 As I mentioned at the beginning of Mass, the theme of today, is rejoice, or to quote Isaiah in his reading today-rejoice and sing for joy! Rejoice and be happy at the nearness of the feast of the lords birth. Rejoice and be happy that we are to celebrate the great feast of god become man, rejoice and be happy at our salvation from sin and death, rejoice and be happy that Gods’s promises to the prophets have been fulfilled in our lord and saviour Jesus Christ.  I can’t though pretend that I am rejoicing at wearing this pink vestment though, but it gives all of you a good laugh! It is nice to see though the third, pink candle lit on our advent wreath, reminding us that Xmas is now only two week away. And also to mark this the newsletters are printed on pink paper, I thought you would appreciate that.


Today we have heard a slightly puzzling Gospel for this 3rd Sunday of advent. It is not strange to hear of John the Baptist, he is the great figure of Advent, the voice calling people on people to repent in preparation for the coming of the Christ. Yet we hear of him in prison near the end of his life, and seeming to doubt that Jesus is the chosen one, is he the one the scriptures speak off, is he really the one he pointed people to. It seems very strange to think John the Baptist doubting Jesus or questioning his faith in him, he was the greatest prophet, but perhaps in his situation of a dark cell, it would be natural to question and wonder-as no doubt we would. After all Jesus was living a very different kind of life and ministry, Jesus was in the very midst of society, he hadn’t gone out to the desert, where people had had to go to find John. Perhaps John had heard rumours of Jesus meeting with great sinners-tax–collectors and prostitutes, perhaps he just naturally wondered what Jesus was doing.


    The answer Jesus gave to the question John sent via his disciples would have wiped away any doubts, because Jesus simply quotes scripture-the prophet Isaiah, words that were very much associated with the saviour who was to come-words that we heard in the first reading,


the blind see again, and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised to life and the Good News is proclaimed to the poor; and happy is the man who does not lose faith in me.”


   Jesus doesn’t criticise John for this questioning, for his seeming uncertainty and doubt, instead he applauds John, that he wasn’t a reed swaying in the breeze, he was a strong voice for God who didn’t waver, nor did he wear fine clothes, in other words he wasn’t interested in society’s approval or getting financial reward. Instead he simply proclaimed the word of God, proclaimed repentance welcome or not. And thus he was the greatest man born of woman, the greatest prophet, because he did his duty.


This is the moral of the story for us today, the meaning of these readings, to be like John the Baptist, to make sure that our minds and hearts are set on the Kingdom of God and upon Jesus. Johns mind was set on Christ, ours needs to be as well, we need to make sure that we are not like reeds swaying in the breeze. Does our loyalty to Christ remain strong, or do we so often seek fulfilment from the things in this world. Are we more concerned with fine clothes and possessions that world can provide; do we have other Gods that go before Christ in our lives.


 It is indeed a great contradiction that this advent season of preparation for Xmas is the ultimate annual test of where our hope and trust is, there are so many temptations of money, food, possessions that try to turn us away from the true meaning of Christmas; or winter festival as many prefer to call it. This advent are we really waiting patiently for the Lords return, are we waiting to celebrate his first coming 2000 years ago and are we also yearning for his return in glory. Perhaps the answer for most of us, including me is a mixed one, we try, but fail, there are so many demands on our time, problems we have at work and at home, relationship problems and money worries. So many things that stop us looking beyond the here and now, and looking to the eternal.


  So this advent let us therefore take advantage of the grace God offers us, to help us prepare spiritually, to help us to be strong in the midst of the temptation around us and put Christ back into Xmas, to yearn for him, to have him as our ultimate priority. Every year at this time I talk about the sacrament of reconciliation or confession, John the Baptist did preach REPENT, turn away from sin, every year I remind people that it is still part of the faith, it is still part of our catholic life, that it is a grace a gift, a place to be forgiven and spiritually refreshed, a gift that helps us put Christ back at the heart of things, a real way to experience his love and care, a way to get back on track.


 So please take advantage of the Bishops initiative this Advent when each parish church is open on Wednesday evenings for Confession and the normal times on Saturdays here at Our Lady’s. It is my prayer that many parishioners will come forward to receive the grace of the Sacrament of reconciliation, to receive the gift that it is, to help us not be reeds swaying in the breeze or be nothing more than consumers of goods and money. Through the grace given to us in confessing our need of forgiveness, and our need of Gods strength and inspiration, Christ can truly be with us this coming Xmas, helping it to be a truly blessed and holy celebration; a time when we truly rejoice at our salvation. Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, Rejoice


 


 


 





SERMON 2nd SUNDAY OF ADVENT.




Almost every Sunday, we listen to a reading from one of the Prophets of the Old Testament, there are many of them, they originally spoke and wrote their words at least 2500 years ago, many centuries even before Christ was born. Many of them were active at times of great crisis, when the nation and people faced great threats from abroad, such as with the great prophet Isaiah, whose words we have just heard. They were written 600 years before Jesus, when there was a great threat from the Assyrian Empire, and when there was a weak King, and also much corruption in the land and not much leadership given by the religious leaders of the day. He wrote to comfort the people to tell them to still have hope, that God would protect them, that they were his people, that he would send them a good King, who would lead them well. We have just heard his prophecy, that a shoot would spring from the stock of Jesse, now Jesse was the Father of King David, so presumably Isaiah, is telling the people that there will be a new King, a descendant of King David, who would lead the people well, words fulfilled so perfectly in Jesus, who was of David’s line.


                  Time after time the prophets called on the people to trust in God and to turn back to him, to turn away from their sins, and repent, and if they did God would be with them and protect them. This call is very much a part of the Advent season, because we listen to the prophets making this call and we are presented with perhaps the greatest prophet of all, the one who fulfilled so many prophecies himself, that is John the Baptist, who as we heard in the Gospel, called on the people to repent of their sins. He called on them to do this because the long promised Saviour was about to show himself, the man who would fulfil so many of the prophecies of old was about to make himself known, the root from the stock of Jesse had finally arrived.


                  John tells the people to repent because the Kingdom of God is close at hand, in other words all God’s plans and all the prophecies, the promises about God coming to the aid of his people, to rescue them from all their enemies are about to be fulfilled. The great prophet Isaiah uses some wonderful images to predict what this Kingdom will be like – “The wolf lives with the lamb, the panther lies down with the kid, calf and lion cub feed together with a little boy to lead them. The cow and the bear make friends, their young lie down together. They do no hurt, no harm, on all my holy mountain, for the country is filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters swell the sea.” What wonderful images of peace and tranquillity, the end of all violence and conflict in nature and amidst mankind, this will be the Kingdom the Saviour brings, the descendant of Jesse and King David.


              St. Paul in his reading today talks along similar lines to the people of Rome, of how they should prepare for this Kingdom, that they should all follow the example of Jesus, they should all be tolerant of each other, that they should be united in mind and voice, and treat each other as Christ would, in other words, selflessly, being good servants of one another. All these images and teaching should help us understand what John meant when he said to repent. Because repentance isn’t just about saying sorry for sin, it means conversion, changing, living a new kind of life, changing our priorities, turning away from things or a lifestyle that hurts or destroys us and others, true repentance is really radical, not just stopping doing certain sins, but doing good, serving others as Paul talked about, serving God in the good we do, not just in avoiding evil.  As John said to those Pharisees and others who  approached him, anyone can say sorry, but you have also to prove it, produce the appropriate fruit, meaning change the way you live, stop doing evil and do good, serve God and serve others. John was setting a real challenge for the people of his time, get ready of the Son of David, for the saviour by totally changing the way you live your lives, so that you will be found fit for a place in the Kingdom of Heaven.


        Every year in Advent we hear this call of John, to help us prepare for Xmas, to help us remember well our saviours birth and more importantly to look forward to his return on the last day. That is the day we need to be well prepared for, so let us listen well to John, let us turn away from any sin and evil in our lives, let us show love and service to one another and let us truly give glory and honour to God this coming Xmas time. Amen.


 




SERMON – CHRIST THE KING, 20thNOVEMBER.

On this the last Sunday of the Church’s year, next Sunday Advent marking the beginning of the new churches year, we have the Gospel of our lord on the cross on good Friday, the end of his earthly life. Today also marks another end, the end of the year of mercy, of this holy year, when Pope Francis has reminded us of how god is so merciful to us, and that we must be as merciful as him; all of the many holy doors around the world are being closed. The account of the cross is therefore the perfect Gospel to hear today, it is where the forgiveness of our sins comes from, where God shows how merciful he is to us, in the life our lord gave for us so that our sins might be forgiven-and we heard those words to the repentant thief-today you will be with me in paradise. But we won’t be forgetting about the mercy of God, now the year of mercy is ending, because Advent itself always has the theme of mercy and of reconciliation.

The title though of today, is Christ the King, we remember his glory as Gods son, the King of the universe, we remember that one day he is going to return, on the last day, the day of judgement, to judge the living and the dead, we look forward in hope to that day, and this is another theme of advent, not just looking backwards to when our lord was born as a child, but to his return sometime in the future. Our first reading today reminded us that Jesus was a human descendant of King David, the greatest of the Jewish kings, we heard in that reading how David was anointed king at the shrine at Hebron in succession to the 1st king-Saul. Jesus fulfilled the promise made to David, that one day he would have a descendant who would sit on his throne forever and ever. And off course on the cross, there was that sign placed there, this is the King of the Jews. It does seem an amazing thing to think about Jesus, as King, as King of the Universe, as we listen to the account of his suffering and earth on the cross, how was that a kingly thing, how was that a glorious thing. Well off course, the glory of Jesus, his greatness, his kingliness is shown in the way he offers himself up for us, the way he serves us, by suffering for us, by offering his life as a sacrifice for us. God the fathers will was that he should make of himself an offering for us, so that all our sins might be forgiven, and the obedience and humility Jesus showed to his fathers will, is he greatness, his kingliness. The cross, our lords suffering and death was a terrible thing for him, but it was his glory, and something that is so good for us. That glory of Jesus will be much more visible and clear on the day we are waiting for, the last day, when Jesus will return in glory as universal king, on that judgement day when he will judge the living and the dead.

  St. Paul talks of this today in our 2nd reading from his letter to the Colossians, he talks about who Jesus is, and what he has done for us. That Jesus wasn’t just a man, not just another prophet or human king but, “The image of the unseen God and the first born of all creation, and in him all things were created in heaven and on earth”, and “before anything else was created he existed and he holds all things in unity.” And that by his death on the cross, all things had been reconciled to God and that he had made peace. Appropriate words for this the last day of the year of mercy, for all mercy, forgiveness and peace flows from Jesus, God become man, the king of the universe. This is what we should be thinking about when we look at any cross or crucifix, such as the one behind me on the wall of the church, a cross is something we are all so familiar with, we can be very blasé about it, but lets remember it speaks of the length God goes to, and what Jesus endured, so that we could be reconciled to him, so that we could be at peace with him and with one another. The same promise that Christ crucified made to the repentant thief is offered to us, to be with him in paradise, in faith let us accept this offer. Let us make use of the coming season of Advent in this regard, let us endeavour to make a spiritual preparation for Xmas, by continuing to seek forgiveness of our sins, by prayer and works of mercy and perhaps making use of the books at the back of church which have reflections in them for each day of the advent season, they are all free, for adults and kids.

 

A final reminder about our 20th anniversary celebrations, now only one away. Don’t forget the only morning mass is at 10.30am that day, that day, car parking will also be available in the school car park. If you want to come to the meal after mass please tick on the sign up sheet at the back of church, also if you want to come to the high tea on the Saturday afternoon. We are in need of items for the exhibition, so any photos of any event in Church would be appreciated, just write your name on the back so that we can return them to you. Tickets for the caley are available after mass, and also don’t forget about the talk on the Herefordshire martyrs on Friday evening.

 



SERMON 33rdSUNDAY OF THE YEAR - 13th NOVEMBER.


  My friends, as we know in the month of November we especially pray for  the Holy Souls, for the souls of all our departed loved ones and friends, we pray that they will rest in peace and we also remind ourselves of the hope we have for them, that we believe in a real life after death, we believe in the resurrection from the dead. And so we pray that all those have died will be granted  a share in this new life, and in our sadness and grief at the death of others, we find comfort in this wonderful living hope our faith gives to us; symbolised in the lovely tradition of the November lists of the dead, many of which are placed upon our altar.  Today is also Remembrance Sunday, when we in particular remember and pray for all those who have given their lives in the conflicts of this and the last century, and  for those who still grieve for them, as a sign and symbol of our prayers today, we have our memorial wreathe before the altar and our memorial cross.


  Also as we approach the great season of Advent, now only two weeks away, the Sunday mass readings also focus our minds in the same direction, for in these last Sundays of the churches year, our readings begin to talk about the last days, the day of judgement and the next life. This is because the season of advent has this theme, advent isn’t just about remembering the first coming of Jesus when he was born as a human child, but also his promise that one day he would return in glory, what we call his2nd coming, when he will judge the living and the dead, and when all creation will be made new, a new heaven and a new earth. The readings we have just heard guide our thoughts in this direction. The readings though can be rather hard to listen to, because they can be very dramatic and in scripture the descriptions of the last days are very violent and can be very frightening. We heard from the prophet Malachi in our 1st reading of this last day, when the evil doers would be punished, or burnt up as he says and the righteous will be rewarded. And then in our Gospel reading Jesus himself speaking, as recorded in St. Luke’s gospel. Jesus speaks of the last days, of his return in glory, and how it will be accompanied by all kinds of dramatic and violent events-earthquakes and floods etc. He tells them that those days will involve terrible persecutions of the faithful, of how there faith will be put to the test, and how must persevere and show endurance. He also tells then that many will come saying they know hen that day is, or that they are Jesus returned, but he tells them not to listen to them, many false prophets and teachers in other words. He als though mixes in with all this some very direct prophecies, he talks about the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem, of how one day, despite its majesty and beauty it would be destroyed; an event which did take place about 40 years later, when after a Jewish revolt, the temple and the whole city and whole nation was destroyed. Perhaps these events were in St. Lukes mind when he recorded these words of Jesus, he would have written his gospel after those events took place.


   But for us the important thing is this belief that one day Jesus will return, the last day, the day of judgement, and even if that can be a frightening thought, it is also a great comfort to know that the fate of this worlds hands is not in the hands of sinful and violent men, but in Gods hands. One day all the suffering that men and women have imposed on others will come to an end, there will be a new kingdom, a kingdom of peace and justice. What we must do is persevere and show endurance in the midst of all the pain and horrors of this world, and not to despair or loose hope. We remind ourselves that death is not the end of us, or the end of our loved ones, we find hope in the churches teaching of the resurrection of the dead, that what happened to Jesus, his bodily resurrection will also happen to us and our loved ones on that last day, the day of judgement. As a priest this teaching is very important to me as I minister to those who are dying or whose lives are in danger and to their families, especially in my ministry as a hospital chaplain when I give the last rites to those whose lives are coming to an end. In all that I do, the prayers said, the sacraments celebrated I remind those who receive them and those who are watching that death is not the end of us, we do have this wonderful hope, a hope that should transform our lives, should inspire us in the way we lead our lives, that we should never despair or give up or loose hope in the face of illness or tragedy.  In recent pronouncements the church has reminded us of this, the reminder that a persons ashes should be buried and not scattered, is all about having respect for what remains of the body of a person, that we do believe our bodies will rise from their graves. And also in just the last week the church in England and Wales has launched a new web-site, called the Art of dying well, you might have seen the prayer cards that go with this, at the back of Church. It is a web-site designed to support those who are dealing with the issues of suffering, dying and death, of how to deal with that journey through death to eternal life. It includes real life stories about dealing with these matters and offers to sue the rich resources the church has from the saints and fathers of the church, which are all to do with the hope our faith gives us, that we do believe death is not the end of us. Take a prayer card home today, and maybe have a look at the web-site.


 



SERMON 32C – 2016.

     Talking about death is not the most cheerful of things, it can be a topic we avoid, and do not like to talk about and yet perhaps we can all at some time or other ask the question “What happens when we die, what comes next.” It is that question that lies behind the debate in the Gospel reading today, an appropriate question for this month of the Holy Souls, when we pray especially for those who have died.                        

   Death is a big part of my ministry, since as you might guess, I celebrate lots of funerals, only last Saturday we had All Souls day when we especially remembered all the parishioners who had died in the past year, and that lovely tradition of the November lists of the dead, with the lists now placed upon the altar, but whenever I am asked to celebrate a Requiem mass or a funeral service here at Our Lady’s, I have to be very careful, careful to make sure that what happens here in Church does not just become a remembrance service, when we just remember the life of the person who has died, and read out a long biography of their life. I have to make sure that the service speaks of the living hope we have as a Christian people, of a hope in a life after this one, most especially that faith, which we heard mentioned in our readings today, of a faith in the resurrection from the dead.

                       In that very grizzly first reading, we heard of a persecution of the Jewish people about 150 years before Jesus, how there was an attempt to wipe out the Jewish faith, and anyone who tried to uphold the law and customs was persecuted and killed, hence those seven sons being persecuted. We heard described how it was the faith in a resurrection from the dead which inspired those men to suffer and die for their faith. Now this belief in a resurrection, meaning our bodies rising from the grave and being re-united with their souls was still a fairly new belief, not held by all the chosen people, the Jewish people. It was fairly controversial, as we heard in the Gospel, with a party called the Sadduccess, who didn’t believe in the resurrection asking Jesus about it, perhaps trying to trap him and to make him look silly-hence this question about the woman who had been married seven times and which would be her husband in the next life. As always happened though Jesus avoids the trap and tells them that the next life is going to be so very different from this one, lived in a very different way. He says that in the next life we will be the same as the angels, and also sons of God and we can no longer die. He doesn’t give us much details about it though, and in fact nowhere in the Gospels does he explain exactly what the after-life will be like. But what we do know is what happened to Jesus after his death on the cross, in that his body rose from the tomb, he had a bodily existence, he could be seen, he could be touched, he could talk and eat, but also a glorious body no longer subject to suffering, pain and death. So this is the great hope we have, a hope that should console us in the grief we feel over the death of a loved one, and it is the hope I preach at every funeral and requiem mass.

                        What Jesus does do though is spend a lot of time talking about what we need to do in order to share in this new life in heaven, that in order to be judged worthy of it we need to love God and to love our neighbour, we need to show selflessness and service to others, we need to come to the aid of those in need and not to be blind to them, we need to show mercy and forgiveness to others if we wish to receive the same mercy and forgiveness. Perhaps the greatest teaching on this is the Parable of the last Judgement, with those on the right hand of Jesus being found worthy because they had come to the aid of the sick, the hungry the naked, those in hospital and prison.

                        It is very apt that we have this talk of the resurrection today, for in this month of November we pray for the dead, for the Holy Souls, we pray that all of our departed loved ones, will in the words of Jesus be found worthy of a place in the next bodily resurrected life.. So as we remember our loved ones, and naturally feel sad at their absence from us, let us also remind ourselves of that great hope we have in a life after death, in the resurrection from the dead-that same resurrection which inspired those 7 brothers to suffer for their faith and which Jesus defended so strongly to his opponents. We are a fortunate people to have such a hope, may it also sustain us and strengthen us in our lives of faith. Amen.

 Finally we continue to look forward to our 20thanniversary celebration weekend, now just 3 weeks away. Please don’t forget that on that Sunday the morning mass is at 10.30am, replacing both the normal mass times.

 Please give your support to all the events taking place that weekend, the Ceildeh tickets are on sale at the back of Church, and also the talk on the saints of Herefordshire on the Friday evening and do come and look at the exhibition of parish history as well, open all weekend, and if you want to come to the high tea on the Saturday afternoon or the meal after the Sunday mass, please just put a tick on the list at the back of Church, no charge for these.

 

 

 


SERMON FOR 31st SUNDAY OF THE YEAR - 30th OCTOBER.




We've just heard one of the most famous encounters in the Gospel, of Jesus and the Tax collector Zacchaeus. This story should remind us of the Gospel that we had last week, when we heard the parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector and their contrasting prayers in the Temple, and the week before the parable of the widow and the corrupt judge, both powerful parables teaching us about the prayer acceptable to God. Today we have a similiar kind of theme that a sinner, a tax collector was put at rights with God, whereas those who thought they were holy, were not, one prayer one lifestyle was acceptable, another kind was not. In other words, as the Gospel ends today, Christ has come to seek out and save what was lost, today’s story illustrates this very well of what behaviour of what kind of prayers and attitudes are acceptable to God, but today it is a lesson not told with a parable, but in a real encounter, involving real people and real feelings..


                                              Jesus was entering the town of Jericho, which was a rich and beautiful town, famous for its palm groves and rose gardens. The town lay in the Jordan valley and controlled the approach to Jerusalem and the river crossings over the Jordan, it was thus a place for trade and exchange. Now because of its wealth it was also an important place for taxation, with the Roman occupiers appointing native men to collect the taxes for them. Now the Romans expected a certain amount to be collected form each area, but the collectors once they had handed that amount over, could collect a lot more if they wanted to. Then there were all kinds of duties, on the use of the roads, markets and harbours, taxes on imported and exported goods, taxes on carts, horses, even on the wheels of the cart. So a tax collector could collect almost anything he liked really, and he had the force of Rome to back him up. Such men were hated and despised, they were banned from the synagogues, they were seen as being collaborators with the occupying Roman army, they were traitors. Presumably only the threat of savage Roman reprisals kept many of the Tax collectors from being killed.


                                               Yet as we are told today this one tax collector went out to see Jesus who he had heard was coming this way. Now that must have taken a lot of courage, there was a crowd of people waiting for Jesus, and they would have been very hostile to him. They would have pushed him around, accidentally kicked and knocked, and taken a viscious delight in obstructing his view- after all this man had robbed them of their money, and grown fat and wealthy on their poverty. What gave Zacchaeus the courage to do this?, and also the ridicule he no doubt endured when he in desperation climbed the tree to get a view of Jesus. What enabled him to do it, was the loneliness he felt and the friendship that Jesus offered. perhaps he had heard that Jesus often went into the homes of notorious sinners, that he didn't condemn out of hand as so many of the religious Jews did. Zacchaeus must have been a very lonely man, seperated of from society, and he sought help from Jesus.


                                              And look at what an effect the acceptance of Jesus had on him, he was immediately transformed, he became amazingly generous, he promised to put right any harm he had caused, to make restitution, even to the extent of giving back four times the amount of anything he had stolen. What a transformation in his character, and all because of the acceptance and friendship of Christ, Christ didn't condemn him, he offered him the chance of forgiveness. Unlike the crowd, who wanted to see the blood of Zacchaeus spilt on the floor, or at least see him humiliated, Jesus proclaimed that he was still son of Abraham, something the crowd would not have agreed with, he was still a member of the chosen people; and he went on, salvation has come to this house.


                                              So in this story we should find both encouragement and a warning. We should be encouraged that no matter how sinful we are or feel we are, God will forgive us, that Christ came to seek out the lost, no matter how badly lost they were. But we should also be warned that we also need to transform ourselves as, we may not meet Christ as Zaccheaus did, but we can meet him in the eucharist and in the other sacraments. We must let the grace we receive in them transform us, to help us repent of our sins, to repent of our pride an our selfishness and our lack of faith. To make sure we offer that prayer which is acceptable to God, a prayer that is honest and humble and not a prayer based on our pride and condemnation of others. Let us not be like the crowds who rejoiced in tormenting Zacchaeus and wanted Jesus to condemn him, who judged him and found him guilty and who would not forgive.


                                                    Like Jesus we must rejoice in the conversion of a sinner, we must seek seek out and save the lost for one good reason. Zaccheaus went through a sort of conversion experience, his encounter with Jesus gave him a whole new set of priorities, Jesus’s acceptance of his conversion, rather than ridiculing him confirmed it. Jesus rejoiced in it, he rejpoiced in the this odd little man, who changed everything about his life, and prooved it in his actions, so often we woule be threatened and afraid of someone we knew doing this. But wisdom is proved right by her actions, and Zaccheaus has gone down in history, a name never to be fogoten, while those who jeered at him have been forgotten. His prayer, his life was acceptable To God, may ours be as well.  


          





SERMON – 30th SUNDAY OF THE YEAR - 23rd OCTOBER.


               There are many Gospel stories or parables that Jesus told that remain with us from the very first moment we heard them, the parables of the prodigal son or the Good Samaritan especially, and also, at least for me, the one we have just heard ,that of the Pharisee and the Publican. It is very easy to visualise the story Jesus tells, of one man standing so proudly and confidently before God in the temple, and the other skulking in nervous and shameful. It is off course all to do with prayer, just like last weeks Gospel of the parable of the unjust judge and the widow, with the widow persevering in her demands, telling us in our turn to be constant in our prayers. But this parable today takes the message a bit deeper, telling us how to pray, what we should be doing in our prayers and also reminds us what exactly prayer is, what it is about.


               The story Jesus uses to instruct us on prayer is very visual and dramatic, the two men are directly opposite to one another, one a Pharisee, dressed in the holiest of clothing, a man noted for his holiness and religious observance, the other an accursed publican or tax –collector, a collobarotor with the occupying Roman Army, they couldn’t have been more different. It would have surprised the people who first heard it, after all the Pharisees were supposed to be the holy ones, and tax collectors certainly were not the holy ones, and yet it is the tax collectors prayer which is acceptable to God. So why was the Pharisees prayer not accepted by God, well the Pharisees were often criticised by Jesus, often accused of hypocrisy, often accused of only being concerned with the outward practice of religion, only concerned with appearances. This is clear in the prayer the Pharisee uses in the parable, in that actually it is not a prayer, he just congratulates himself, tells himself how wonderful he is, and how much better he is than the tax-collector and everybody else. His prayer is just a sham, it is just about pride and self congratulation, about how good he thinks he is, because of all the good things he has done, because of all the laws he has obeyed, and how he is so much better than everyone else.


            The tax collectors prayer on the other hand is at least honest, yes he is a terrible sinner, perhaps stolen a great deal of money from people, led a life dominated by greed, and the desire for wealth, but he is humble before God, not proud, he doesn’t condemn anyone else in his prayer, he doesn’t think about anyone else in his prayer, he is solely concerned with God, he just asks for forgiveness, he is honest and humble before God. So his prayer is accepted because it is about God, aimed at God, humble before God, the Pharisees prayer was not accepted because it wasn’t about God, it was just about the Pharisee congratulating himself. This is clear in the introduction to the parable, that Jesus directed this parable at those who rejoiced in their own holiness and despised everyone else


               In listening to the parable we might be tempted to be a little bit smug, and join in the condemnation of the Pharisee, so say that we would never be like that, we would never be so proud and judgmental in our prayers. But, the parable is teaching us to be honest, and of course, we, I, are so often like that, so often we are far more concerned with what others are doing rather than what we should be doing- we look to the sins others commit, far more easily that looking at what sins we commit - every one of us here including me is very capable of being the hypocrite, even in prayer we can be hypocrites. The tax –collector was a terrible sinner, but he was honest and humble before God, he hide nothing from God, he was straightforward and humble before his God. Praying like this is not easy, being so honest and brutal with ourselves, admitting what sinners we are, and yet there is that tremendous consolation, that if we are God looks past our sins, even terrible sinners and we are set right again with him.


               Many people tell me that they find prayer difficult, I find it difficult, but today’s parable reminds us that if prayer is about being honest and humble before God then it is bound to be hard-but in prayer that is all we have to do, not to try to earn God’s favour, not to try to do lots of things like the Pharisee did, not even to say lots of prayers, just to be honest and to join with the tax-collector in saying, Lord be merciful to me a sinner- and then we will be at rights with God. Amen.



SERMON FOR 29th SUNDAY - 16th OCTOBER 2016.



Our Lord told many parables, many stories in his ministry, we are familiar with many of them, perhaps most famously the prodigal son and the Good Samaritan. Often though Our Lord would be rather vague in their meaning, he wouldn’t explain straight away what they meant, his listener had to ponder and reflect upon them. But with the parable we have just heard, the widow and the corrupt judge it is made very clear what the meaning is-to pray continually and not to loose heart-in a way dealing with that same issue as the readings of recent Sundays-last week of the 10 lepers and the theme of giving thanks in prayer.


                      As we listen to that parable I can’t help but think that Jesus preached it with a smile on his face-the image of that corrupt judge being hounded by the determined widow has a trace of humour to it, that the widow finally gets what she wants even from a corrupt judge because she simply refuses to give up-she persevered and never lost heart. The point Jesus makes is, surely God will be quick to give us what we want and need, surely he will act better than the often corrupt judges of his time. He hints though that God might take his time to respond to the prayers offered to him but act he will, and that we should persevere in our prayer, to not give up if our prayer is not answered quickly, to show our faith by persevering, by almost bashing down the doors of heaven. Perhaps we have to demonstrate a real strength of faith in our prayers, that we are not just people who turn to God when we want something and as soon as get it forget all about him-a bit like the lepers in last weeks Gospel who as soon as they were healed forgot all about Jesus, apart from one the Samaritan leper. This does seem to be on the mind of Jesus, because the Gospel ends with the rather enigmatic phrase - “but will the Son of Man find any faith on earth.” In other words will any prayers of men deserve to be answered, will there be any truly faithful people whose prayers God will want to answer. A rather depressing thought to end that Gospel on in a way, but also a stroke of reality, of how many people then and now only turn to god when they want something, not because they are a people of faith.


                         In our first reading we did have an example of someone of great faith whose prayer was answered. We heard of Moses, who during the exodus guided the Hebrews through the desert, in a battle against the Amalekites as long as his hands were raised in prayer the Hebrews would overcome their enemy. Moses was a man whose faith was lauded, the man who had seen God face to face, he was also known as a man of great humility, being described as the most humble man who lived-his prayers were therefore heard by God. So Moses is an example for us to follow, a man of real humble faith whose prayer was heard, maybe the reason our prayers are not heard sometimes is because our faith is weak, maybe we don’t really believe, maybe we give up when we don’t immediately get what we want, maybe we loose heart too easily, and maybe when we do get what we want we forget all about God until the next time of need-hardly a sign of great faith.


                        Also there is the example of someone else to follow in our prayers, Jesus off course, but not just his teaching on prayer but the way he actually prayed, in particular his prayer in the garden of Gethsemne just before he was arrested, just before his passion began. He prayed desperately that he would not have to suffer, but then said not mine but thy, Gods, will be done. Perhaps our prayers have to end in the same way, if we are truly faithful like Jesus they will end in that way, wanting Gods will to be done, even when it might be very hard for us. So let us try to be a people of prayer, who pray both in times of plenty and in time of need, who give thanks for blessings received, and in faith accept God’s will even when it is painful for us. Let us believe that God will grant us what we need and if we don’t get exactly what we want he will give us the strength to carry the burdens he asks to carry, and that when his son returns on the last day he will find faith on earth, that he will find our faith. Amen.





28TH SUNDAY OF THE YEAR - GIVE THANKS.

Last week in the Gospel we heard the Apostles ask Jesus, for their faith to be increased, they seemed to be aware of how weak they sometimes were, and today we have a similar kind of theme with the curing of the 10 lepers, and with Jesus telling the one thankful one, that his faith had saved him. The theme we have today, is of faith being expressed in giving thanks to God, of thanking him when our prayers are answered. In other words expressing our faith, by constantly thanking God for all the good things he has given us.

               But before we talk about the need to give thanks to God lets look at the background to the Gospel. We are told that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem, on his way to his death, he was travelling along the border with Samaria, which was the territory where the so called heretic Jews lived, the Samaritans, these people were held in open contempt by the people in Judea. Then our Lord comes across a group of lepers, ten of them, and they seemed to be a mixture of Jews and Samaritans. So men who would normally have hated each other, because of their terrible affliction, were brought together. Now Lepers were complete outcasts from society, they had to live outside the towns and villages, because they had such a terrible affliction they were considered to be great sinners-the leprosy being a punishment from God. They were not even allowed to come near people, but had to stay at a distance, presumably downwind as well-so what a fate these poor unfortunates were condemned to-and in desperation they turned to Jesus.

                                            And all of a sudden they were cured, that long hoped for recovery actually happened, instantaneously. They were ecstatic, and in their joy they forgot all about the person who cured them. Isn't this so human, we are often desperate for someone’s help, and once we get it we forget all about them-we've probably all done this with our parents, relatives and friends. But one man did turn back, and he was the Samaritan, a man who should have hated Jesus, but instead he threw himself at his feet and thanked him. At one time or another we are all ungrateful, we don't appreciate how many of the comforts we have are down to other peoples hard work. But you gathered here today, in the congregation are not like that, I know that you are grateful for the things that you have received of God. How do I know this? Because you've all come to Church today, you have come to give thanks to God, and to give thanks in a special way on our harvest Sunday. You have come to thank him for the salvation he has offered us, to thank him for his sons death on Calvary. This is why you have come to Church today, to thank God. But the question needs to be asked why have so many people stopped thanking God, why don't they come to Church, to thank him, as the leper thanked Jesus. So many of our catholic brethren are missing, so many do not give thanks, or at least not within a community like this, in a house of God. Hopefully our open, honest and visible thanksgiving will be one thing that will bring them back to Church- after all the very nature of our celebration is a thanksgiving, it is what the word Eucharist means, giving thanks most of all for the salvation God worked through Jesus Christ. It is this thanking that prompts Jesus to work another miracle for the thankful leper, perhaps one you missed while listening to the Gospel being read, we are told, that because of this thanksgiving, because of the faith that the Leper showed, especially faith shown by the only Samaritan among the group, Jesus tells him he is saved, implying he is saved from his sins, saved from death and given the prospect of eternal life. Which was the greater miracle, the first may have been dramatic, but the second truly life-giving.

             All of us here today have shared in that gift given to the Samaritan leper, the gift of salvation, received by us in Baptism, has our response been an honest and heartfelt thankyou, a thankyou inspired by a real living faith. And despite our baptism all of us have been like the 9 ungrateful ex-lepers, often giving little thought to our loving God, and seeking satisfaction in other things, often forgetting that simple phrase of thanking our God. To rejoice in the gifts he has given us, maybe for some gifts of healing like with the 10 lepers, but for all he has given that promise of salvation through the forgiveness of our sins.                                              

 

 

 



SERMON 27C - 2nd OCTOBER.


                    The readings that we have just heard have the theme of staying faithful, of persevering in faith, often in the face of the peer pressure of society to doubt and turn away from our faith, and also in the face of the evil we often see around us, which can  tempt us to doubt our faith. That was the case with the Prophet Habakkuk in the 1st reading, where he talks of the oppression that is around him, of injustice, of outrage and violence, contention and discord, all this evil is tempting him to doubt his faith in God-how can there be a good God if all this evil flourishes, the prophet asks. I presume that you must have asked yourself the same question, when we hear of some terrible act of violence, in this country or abroad, when we hear of massacres taking place in some far off place of violence, when we are left stunned by the evil of men-why doesn't God act we ask, or perhaps in our own lives, when we or a loved one suffer in some way and we ask, why does God let this happen. Our faith is put to the test, we are tempted to doubt, to despair, to think that there isn't a God or perhaps he just doesn't care. I have met people who have come to this conclusion and they have abandoned their faith. What answer is given to Habakkuk, what does God say to him? – be patient, still trust in me –  for the upright man will live by his faithfulness, in other words by persevering in faith.


                        Our faithfulness to God will guide us through the evil we often experience, our faith will help us to stand upright. This was also the message of Paul to his own disciple Timothy in the 2nd reading. Paul writes to him because he had heard Timothy was flagging a bit, he had been through some difficult times, and maybe his faith had weakened a bit, and so Paul writes to him to encourage him to persevere.  He tells him to never be ashamed of his faith, and to bear the hardships for the sake of the Gospel – in other words once again to stand upright and to live by his faithfulness. In the Gospel reading the Disciples find themselves in the same place as Habakkuk and Timothy, they say to Jesus, “Lord increase our faith.” Perhaps they felt like that because they had heard so much of Our Lords preaching, that they felt utterly inadequate, they felt the discipleship he called them to was beyond them, perhaps they also sensed the opposition growing against Jesus and doubted there own courage in being able to stay with Jesus; so they ask him to strengthen their faith. The answer Jesus gives about the mustard seed is I think not a criticism of them but Jesus telling them that they did have faith, that even if their faith felt small and inadequate they would be able to do amazing things-even to command a tree to grow and plant itself in the sea.


                                     But then after consoling them and encouraging them he talks about the nature of faith and what is means to be a person of faith, of how faith is all about being a servant of God and being content with that, as a good servant is content to serve his master, so must we be content to serve God our Father. This can seem a bit harsh perhaps and yet this is exactly the example set us by Jesus, he was content, despite being God's son  to become a man, to take on our weak human condition and to suffer and die for us out of obedience to his father. Jesus despite being God's son was content to serve his father and us, in our lives of faith we need to do the same. We often talk about Jesus as the suffering servant, who suffered so that our sins would be forgiven, might we be asked to do the same, to suffer as he did, maybe to suffer by standing upright in faith in the midst of a world that is so often evil and rejects faith in God. Perhaps it is a triumph and a sign of a strong faith simply to be faithful in this world, to be upright in faith, maybe when we question our faith like the disciples did, maybe when we ask God to strengthen our faith, when we sense that our faith is weak, then our faith is actually much stronger than we think.


                                               So let us follow the example of the Prophet Habakkuk, of Timothy and of the disciples and pray that our faith will be strengthened. Let us be upright in faith, that we will live by our faithfulness, that even in the midst of all the suffering and evil that can surround us, in the midst of the doubt we often feel we will persevere in faith. Amen.


 And just to remind you that this coming Friday is the CAFOD Harvest fast day, when we are asked to show our faith and our care for those in need today by fasting from a meal, lunch or supper or perhaps our favourite food and to donate the money saved to cafod in next Sundays retiring collection. There is a cafod envelope attached to the bulletin for that purpose. And also linked to that next week we will be having our harvest Sunday and I am asking parishioners to bring to Church donations for the food bank, there is a sheet in the Bulletin with a list of suggested items; in these two ways therefore we show our care for others, both those near at hand who need help from the food bank and those in other countries who are being helped by Cafod. I commend both to your generosity.









the dead, only a son of God could do this, and the spirit acted as God as well-in the power of God that he brought to peoples lives-by sanctifying, teaching and healing, the feast of Pentecost that we celebrated last week is evidence of that. Although there is no explicit talk about trinity in the Gospels, Jesus constantly talks about how close he is to the Father, as we heard today – “Everything the Father has is mine.” Everything Jesus said and did showed how close he is to God, and it is by the power of the holy spirit that we can come to know Jesus and the Father, it is by the Spirit that we can grown in faith, can grow in this personal knowledge of and love for God.

          Finally, this talk of trinity tells us something very simple, that God is very close to us, he has revealed himself to us as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, he has revealed himself to us as God of love, and who desp-y wants us to love him, for as the Father he created us, as the son he saved us, and as the Holy Spirit he heals us, teaches us and invites us to know and love him. Amen.

 

 



   



 


 






 


 






SERMON FOR 6th SUNDAY OF EASTER.



SERMON FOR 5th SUNDAY OF EASTER - 24th APRIL.



SERMON FOR 4th SUNDAY OF EASTER - 17th APRIL.



SERMON FOR 3rd SUNDAY OF EASTER - 10th April.




SERMON FOR EASTER SUNDAY MORNING - 27th MARCH.




SERMON FOR EASTER VIGIL SERVICE - 26th MARCH.




SERMON FOR GOOD FRIDAY - 25th MARCH.






SERMON FOR HOLY THURSDAY- 24th MARCH.





SERMON FOR PALM SUNDAY - 20th MARCH.



SERMON FOR 5th SUNDAY OF LENT - 13th MARCH.


SERMON FOR 4th SUNDAY OF LENT - 6th MARCH.