John sees himself as standing on the threshold between the old world and the new.
In calling for repentance and baptism, he helps others to step over that threshold. He even helps Jesus over it, putting him on the right path from his quiet life in Nazareth to his public ministry in the world, with its associated political and religious tensions.
In “preparing the way for the Lord”, John also crosses the threshold. He will never be able to get back to the quiet of the desert, and neither will Jesus be able to retreat to the privacy of his old life in Nazareth. The same applies to us: once we begin to tread the path that leads of God, there is no turning back.
Our days are those of a waiting game:
we wait to be born, to be nourished, to be loved.
We wait for God.
Now we wait for Christmas. The season of nostalgia and the days of dreams are upon us. It is the time for stored-up memories and carefree remembrances of pastimes.
And this is not how it should be at all!
The journey to Bethlehem goes on to Calvary and together they become an invitation to mankind to rejoice at the banquet of the Messiah in the heavenly Jerusalem.The movement is forward looking, eager, expectant, to be anticipated with joy and laughter. We search among past memories for hope and meaning, not realising that we would not seek Him unless we had not already found Him—He who is the delight of our days.
Today we commemorate the Centenary of the Armistice which brought to an end the First World War. Countless millions died and suffered. Europe was devastated. Soldiers from Africa, Asia, Australia, New Zealand, the Indian sub-continent, Canada and USA gave their lives.
We pray for the repose of the souls of all who died. May they rest in peace. May we too learn from the lessons of our history.
For the Fallen
Poem by Robert Laurence Binyon (1869-1943), published in The Times newspaper on 21 September 1914.
Solemn the drums thrill: Death august and royal
Sings sorrow up into immortal spheres.
There is music in the midst of desolation
And a glory that shines upon our tears.
They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted,
They fell with their faces to the foe.
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.
As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust,
Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain,
As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness,
To the end, to the end, they remain.
Helen Keller, who went blind and deaf at nineteen months, said:
‘One day I asked a friend of mine who had just returned from a long walk in the woods what she had seen. She replied, “Nothing in particular”
‘How was this possible?’ I asked myself, ‘when I, who cannot hear or see, find hundreds of things to interest me through mere touch. I feel the delicate shape and design of a leaf. I pass my hands lovingly over the rough bark of a pine tree. Occasionally, I place my hand quietly on a small tree, and if I’m lucky,
feel the happy quiver of a bird in full song.
‘The greatest calamity that can befall people, is not that they should be born blind, but that they should have eyes, yet fail to see.’
In the tradition of the Old Testament, God appears many times as a great
and all-powerful God able to work unimaginable wonders,
especially when it comes to saving, protecting and providing for his people.However,
the sight of God and of his presence was most of the times - for the People of Israel -
a terrifying experience.
So, what has happened for the author of the letter to the Hebrews to be able to say:
“Let us be confident, then, in approaching the throne of grace, that we shall have mercy from him and find grace when we are in need of help”?
With no doubts: that he has encountered the person of Jesus Christ.
Not that the people of Israel had the wrong perception of God,
or that God had changed in any way.
But that, against all expectations, the great and all-powerful God of the Old Testament has – in the person of Jesus Christ— leaned all the way down to us to the point of becoming one like us sharing even the consequences of our sins.
Very few people have been able to depict such an encounter with God better that Rembrandt. In his oil painting ‘The Prodigal Son’ – of which we have a copy at the west end of our Church – he depicted the father with a left male hand and a right female hand, symbolizing both God’s power as well as his tenderness.
In the painting the father embraces his wretched son with both hands but, unlike in the gospel story, there is no noise of music, no rows, no complaints from the older son. Instead they all remain silent and still,
for they can do nothing other than to contemplate this awe-inspiring sight.
Fr Daniel Herrero
This Sunday the Holy Father will canonise 7 new saints. They are:
Pope Paul VI, Archbishop Oscar Romero, Francis Spinelli,
Vincenzo Roman, Maria Caterina Kasper,
Nazaria Ignazia of Santa Teresa of Jesus and Nuncio Sulprizio.
Each, in their own way, lived a life of heroic virtue or were martyred.
They were all touched by the Love of God and each of them transformed the lives of others.
Archbishop Romero and Pope Paul VI are well known to the world.
Yet each of us can call on the prayers of any of these new friends in heaven.
We can learn from them the true meaning of being a friend of Jesus of Nazareth. Married, single, religious sister or brother, young or old, layperson or clergy.
They call us to wake up to our vocation.
Lord, I believe: I want to believe. O Lord, Make my faith strong, unconditional, that it penetrates my thoughts; my way of judging both human and spiritual matters.
O Lord, make my faith free, that it may be the fruit of personal choice; make me accept the renunciation and the risks that it entails.
Let my faith be the best expression of my personality;
I believe in You, O Lord……
Prayer Of Saint Pope Paul VI (Signore,io credo:io voglio credere in Te)
All Holy Saints of God, pray for us.
During their visit ‘ad Limina Apostolorum’ to the Pope,
the bishops of England and Wales asked Pope Francis for a message that they could bring with them back to their dioceses.
The Pope answered their request very simply:
“that we are to live the gift of our faith with joy”. Joy is the supreme good.
We may experience poverty, discrimination, failure, the loss of property
or people whom we love…
but we can more easily live through all that if only we have joy in our hearts.
Even for Qoheleth – by far the most critical and gloomy character of the whole Bible – life is worth living only because of the joy of family life, of seeing the fruits of one’s work and of sharing your life, time and food with good friends (Eccl 9:9; 3:22; 2:24).
Other biblical witness, however, affirm that there is an even greater joy in praising God in the liturgy. The liturgy is like an open door that allows us to have a glimpse into the infinity the eternal, the divine…heaven.
In the liturgy we experience both the loving presence of God and the fellowship of the brothers and sisters. (Ps 33:1-3; 133).
But there is even a greater joy, the joy of having an encounter with Jesus Christ.
John the Baptist leapt for joy when still in the womb of his mother heard the greeting of Mary who already carried in her womb the child Jesus.
Mary herself was told by the angel Gabriel that she ought to rejoice because she would be the mother of Jesus.
And with them so many other men and women who experienced Jesus’ love and power to forgive and to heal. (Mk 2:1-12; 5:1-20; Lk 5:17-26; Lk 8:1-8).
A joy that comes not so much from being freed of one’s ailments but from realizing that in the person of Jesus Christ God has chosen us from among all the other people and called us to participate of his Kingdom (Col 1:11-14).
This joy does not fade when trials come rather it increases because the result of suffering is a deeper and more meaningful relationship with our loving God and an increase in faith, hope and charity (Rm 5:3-5; Jm 1:2-4).
Let us rejoice then, for having received the greatest gift of all: meeting the person of Jesus Christ in our lives.
Fr Daniel Herrero
As we gather in Rome for our visit ‘ad Limina Apostolorum’, we have spent time together reflecting again on the impact of the recent reports containing stark revelations of child sexual abuse within the Catholic Church, including in England and Wales, and of evident failures of local leadership. We have also reflected on the practical steps we must take. We do so in the light of all that has been achieved since the Report of Lord Nolan in 2001. We have endeavoured to build a culture of safeguarding within the Church’s parishes and religious communities in England and Wales, thereby providing a safe environment for all. In every parish there is a Parish Safeguarding Representative. In every Diocese, there is a Safeguarding Coordinator and Diocesan Safeguarding Commission, composed of experts in the main disciplines needed for effective safeguarding. We have established a National Catholic Safeguarding Commission (the NCSC), with a strong majority membership of experts, independent of the authority structures of the Catholic Church. Much has been achieved. Much is to be learned.
Today, 24 September, 2018, we have decided to ask the NCSC to commission an entirely independent and comprehensive review of the safeguarding structures that currently operate within the Catholic Church in England and Wales. Importantly, we will seek to ensure that the voices of the victims and survivors of abuse, through the Survivors Advisory Panel established by the NCSC, fully inform the review and its recommendation.
Each bishop has decided that he will take steps to set aside time for the purpose of meeting with victims and survivors of clerical abuse who live in his diocese.
May God guide us during this week and in this work, that the voice of Christ, crying out in those who have suffered, may be heard with compassion and discernment.
Copies of the full statement are at the back of the Church.
It is interesting that the stories we have grown up with and we still use to teach our children all have a happy ending. Perhaps we simply like it when they have the end we all expect: “and they lived happily ever after”. Or perhaps we are trying to pass on to the future generation a hope that we all hold. But all too often we see innocent people suffering the consequences of human evil, greed and selfishness and they never see justice done. So, are happy-ending stories only a human fabrication? A form of alienation? Is there a well-founded hope that things will end up well, at least for the person who seeks to do good? And, even if justice is done and things are put right at the end of their lives, will that ever be enough to compensate for years of suffering? In the first reading of this Sunday (Wis 2:12, 17-20), we hear a group of wicked and ungodly people plotting against the virtuous, whom they plan to put through a “shameful death”. The virtuous for their part have nothing to fear because they know that no human action escapes God’s sight and that He will do justice sooner or later. Psalm 56:8 says: “You yourself have counted up all my sorrows, collect my tears in your bottle. Are they not all written in your book?” This image of God collecting our tears has inspired Christian artist from very early times and some have represented it in their icons of the Last Judgement. There, near the book of the Gospels and the signs of Jesus’ passion, there is a little bottle with the tears of all righteous and just people who have suffered in their lives. None of those tears have been shed in vain. When Christ comes again He will wipe all their tears and they will have a blessed life for eternity (Ap7:17; 21,4).
Fr Daniel Herrero Peña
In our Gospel today St Peter makes his profession of faith in Jesus as the Christ.
True God and true man. It’s an act of faith that each of us is invited to every day. It is challenging. In the midst of our doubts, uncertainties and trials it is not always easy to find the words. Yet we need to find words. We all stumble, we all make a mess of our lives and we all need the grace of God to take the small steps along the path of faith.
Our actions often do match our words.
We can be tempted to despair. It is in that moment we really need to open ourselves to the grace of God and allow the loving kindness of God to open us up to the possibilities of faith. We need the encouragement and faith of each other too. We don’t travel alone. We need to remember this when we feel discouraged and downhearted.
A watch may have a gold chain,
but if it doesn’t tell the time it is useless.
A fruit tree may be teeming with blossoms,
but if it doesn’t produce fruit it is useless.
A lamp may be studded with diamonds,
but if it doesn’t give light it is worthless.
And a faith that doesn’t result in good works is dead.
The fruit of prayer is faith.
The fruit of faith is love.
The fruit of love is service.
And the fruit of service is peace.