Sunday, 28 February 2016

"24 Hours for the Lord", 3rd Sunday of Lent, Year C



Ex 3:1-8.13-15
What would you say if someone asked you whether you had met God?
As a priest, this is question I sometimes get put me by random strangers, sometimes on a train station platform, or in a pub. Quite how I start my reply depends on the questioner, whether he is hostile or curious, whether he looks ready for a long conversation or just a one-liner.

The answer, of course, is that I met God every day, and that I meet Him in many different forms. I meet Him in the love of neighbour, I meet Him in prayer, I meet Him in sacraments. I meet Him in unexpected acts of goodness I receive, that remind me that there is a source to all goodness. And, almost in reverse, I meet Him unexpected events that bring me low, sometimes in sickness, when my weakness and smallness reminds me that there is One Who is great and strong.

But when people ask, “Have you met God?”, what they usually are thinking of is something like the drama of what we heard in our first reading, of how God spoke to Moses in the burning bush. And my reply to that line of query would be twofold.
First, ordinary people having mystical experiences is more common than people are often willing to publically talk about. (Cardinal Newman once said, much is lost by people keeping their personal experiences of the divine to themselves.)
Second, this said, it is not in the strange and unusual that we should look for God. The Bible records many such occurrences. But even in the Bible the texts repeatedly make clear that although God only very occasionally makes dramatic appearances, He is with them ALL the time, even in the undramatic parts of our lives.
One of the messages of the scriptures is that God is active, God is near, it is HIS world, and He is with us all the time -the tragedy is that so often we are not aware of Him.

How then are we to become more aware of Him in the everyday?
It is, above all else, in moments of PRAYER that we can encounter Him, and carry that encounter into the rest of our lives, so that we then recognise Him in the other moments of our lives.
Pope Francis speaks often about the need to “encounter” the Lord; about how the apostles experience great “joy” when they encountered the Lord (Evangelii Gaudium n.13).
There is one place, in particular, that the Lord has chosen to make Himself present to us, and that is in the Eucharist, the Blessed Sacrament upon our altars.
This week, between Friday evening and Saturday evening, Pope Francis has called for many churches across the world to be open all through the night, for there to be, “24 Hours for the Lord”. Our church will be one of those churches. We’ll start with 7pm Stations of the Cross Friday night and close just before the Saturday evening vigil Mass. In between there will be continual Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament: the consecrated host (that was once bread and has been changed by His very words into His Body, His very self) will be raised for display on the altar that we might gaze upon Him and Adore Him.

Pope Francis is offering this opportunity to the Church as a specific gift for the Year of Mercy.
The Pope wants us to encounter the Lord here, the merciful Saviour.
This is a special opportunity, so can I ask you to please come. We need people to cover all the hours of the night. After Mass Louisa Preston will be taking the names of volunteers to cover each of the hour slots from 8pm Friday to the following Saturday 5pm.
Pope Francis, as is his pattern, is also asking us to look outside and invite others to this encounter. So we also need other volunteers to stand outside and offer a prayer card and leaflet to shoppers walking by inviting them to come in, say a prayer, and light a candle. If you can cover an hour slot during Saturday, then please tell Louisa.

To return to where I began, “Have you met God?” Many us of have had mystical experiences of meeting the Lord, but this, really, isn’t the point. The point is that we can ALL meet Him, in prayer, especially in the Eucharist, and that meeting Him here enables us to see Him everywhere else.

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