Sunday, 30 October 2016

Joy of Meeting Jesus, 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C



Lk 19:1-10
Today I’d like us to consider the most striking effect of meeting the Lord Jesus.
It may be that you’ve never directly considered what is the most noticeable CHANGE that can be seen in people who have met the Lord, but we just heard a clear example in that Gospel passage, and it is a theme that Pope Francis writes and speaks about frequently:
“JOY … fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus”(Evangelii Gaudium n.1).

Zacchaeus, as we just heard, welcomed the Lord “joyfully” (Lk 19:6) into his house.
We might also note Zaccaheus’s behavior before and after meeting the Lord Jesus:
Before, we can sense his eagerness:
He was “anxious”(19:3) to see Him, he “ran ahead”(19:4), and “climbed a tree”, and he disregarded the manner in which other people sought to out him off.
After, we can sense the change that meeting the Lord caused in him:
He changed his life, dramatically: he gave half his money to the poor and repaid fourfold all those he had cheated (19:8).
And the Lord declared, “today salvation has come to this house”(Lk 19:9).

Joy and Salvation -Pope Francis writes about how these two things go together.
In the Old Testament, when salvation was promised, when a Messiah was promised who would bring salvation, it was repeatedly said He would bring “joy” (Evangelii Gaudium n.4).
In the Gospels, as we heard one example today, this is exactly what happened. People met the Lord, and it brought joy to them.

Of course, this joy is not automatic:
Some people rejected or ignored the Lord. We might note that the Pharisees and Sadducees who rejected the Lord are never described as joyful.
We night note also the classic example of the rich young man: he went away “sad”(Mk 10:22) because he refused to change his life to follow the Lord.

But, for those who will choose to accept Him and follow Him and, unlike the rich young man, do what is required of those are to follow Him,
What is it about the Lord that brings joy? Let me note two things:
First, love.
We all want to be loved, and we rejoice when we experience that we are loved. The Lord Jesus was full of joy Himself because He always rejoiced in being loved by the Father, being His “Son, the Beloved”(Mk 1:11; 9:7). (c.f. Paul VI, Gaudete in Domino n.iii, my Pentecost sermon 2015). And those who met the Lord met One who loved them more fully than anyone else they had known before -so it is hardly to be wondered at that they experienced joy.
Second, salvation for the “lost”.
We just heard the Lord say that He had come to “save what was lost”(Lk 19:10).
The primary sense of this concerns being lost in sin. And the outcast sinners rejoiced because they experienced salvation for them, the “lost”, salvation in repentence and forgiveness.
There is secondary, more modern sense of “lost” and being saved, and it concerns finding meaning and purpose in life. We live in an age when many have no sense of purpose or direction or meaning, and to experience purpose when you have no purpose is to experience a reason to rejoice. And to encounter someone who sees the potential in you and gives you that purpose is as much a reason to rejoice today as it was for Zacchaeus 2000 years ago.

In summary, meeting the Lord brought “joy” to Zacchaeus as he experienced being sought out, being loved, being saved.
If we would have that same experience then we must constantly renew in ourselves what was visible in Zacchaeus: He knew Jesus offered something more, he sought Him out with energy, he repented of his sin, and “salvation came to this house”(Lk 19:9).

Sunday, 23 October 2016

30th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C


Lk 18:9-14
I want to say a few words to help us grasp the surprise that the Lord Jesus’s listeners got in that parable.
When you and I just heard that parable in the gospel, we didn't hear it in the way that the people in ancient Palestine heard it. When they heard it, they heard the beginning without knowing the end, whereas, when WE heard it we knew the ending already, we knew that the sinner was declared righteous by Jesus because he confessed his sinfulness. That, however, would have been an ending that would have come as a total SURPRISE to the people listening to Jesus.

Picture how the telling of the parable would have gone:
The Lord's listeners would have heard the description of the Pharisee, and would have listened to everything he referred to himself as doing, and they would have been impressed:
here was a man doing all the right things. He fasted on the right days, he tithed the right amounts. Here was a man doing things right. And when he said he was not “like the rest of mankind”(Lk 18:11), he was simply stating a fact.
In contrast, there was the man he was being compared to, a tax collector
-such men are not popular today, but they were utterly despised in ancient Israel, despised as collaborators with the Roman oppressors, despised as men opposing God's Chosen People (by collected taxes from them for the Romans).
So, when the Lord says at the end of the parable that it was the tax collector who went home "at rights with God"(Lk 18:14), this would have been an ending that really SURPRISED His listeners.

Jesus was pointing out what it is that TRULY puts a person "at rights with God".
For us to try and grasp the point, try and get that 'surprise' that I said the original listeners got, let us think of the different ways that we each, habitually, tend to define what makes a 'good' person.
I have no doubt that each of us here have different criteria, different things that we look at in other people, the things that lead us to say, "Now, that's a GOOD person".
Some of us might look at someone who gives money to charity on a regular direct debit from the bank,
Or some of us might look at someone who spends a lot of time with his/her family,
Or some of us might look at someone who is hardworking and not lazy.
In each case, some of us here would define 'good' predominately in such terms.
and we would tend to think that such 'good' people are the ones who are "at rights with God".

Each of those things are good things, good deeds.
Yet, if we listen to that parable, the Lord seems to largely cast such things aside.
He is not saying, I think it’s obvious to point out, He's not saying that it's not good to give to the poor, spend time with your family, and be hard working etc.

The point is something else:
'Doing good' isn't what justifies us before God.
Rather, being HUMBLE is what justifies us before God, because it's being humble that accurately acknowledges our status before Him.
I am small, and weak, and a sinner.
And any good I 'do', I only do by His power working within me.

So, to return to where I began: the SURPRISE that the Lord's listeners got.
Of course, some may not have been surprised, they may have already remembered the Old Testament teaching about the humble being precious in the sight of God.
But it would seem that SOME had forgotten.
And if we too have forgotten, then let us take the Lord's words to heart, let us not “pride ourselves on being virtuous” (Lk 18:9) but rather let us seek to make the tax collector's prayer our own:
"God, be merciful to me, a sinner"(Lk 18:13).

Sunday, 16 October 2016

Why Pray? 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C



Lk 18:1-18; Ex 17:8-13
We just heard Jesus talk about the importance of asking for things in prayer, in particular, we heard Him talk about the importance of PERSISTENTLY asking for things in prayer. People often ask the question, "Why do we need to ask God for something when Him already knows?" And people sometimes push the point further by asking, "Why must I persevere? I asked for it once, why must I ask for it again?" These are good questions, and I want to give a brief summary of some answers that have been given to those questions.

The first, and most important reason why we should ask for things even though God already knows what we need, is that He tells us to: Time and again in the Gospels, not just in the parable we heard, Jesus says "ask”(Mt 7:7). So, even if we do not understand WHY, we should do so because He has told us to -and He is wiser than we are.

In addition, we should ask for things in prayer because it is GOOD FOR US to ask for things in prayer, and it is good for us in two ways:
• it reminds us of the fact that we need Him, i.e. that we are not all-powerful ourselves, that we are small weak and fragile, and that nonetheless there is One who is not small weak and fragile and can help us in our need.
• But, prayer is good for us not only because it reminds us of our need of Him, but because prayer CHANGES US. St Augustine is probably the writer who has written most beautifully on this point, and he notes how when we pray, "thy kingdom come" our very making of the prayer begins to form that Kingdom within us. The more persistently, over the greater period of time, that we are engaged in prayer in petition, the more that prayer will change us. And, the more prayer changes us, the more prayer MAKES US READY to receive the gifts that the Divine Giver wishes to give us.

Finally, I would point out the simple truth that we should pray because God DOES answer prayer:
Our first reading from the book of Exodus records how the prayer of Moses for the people had an effect: as long as he prayed the Israelites were victorious over the Amalekites who were attacking them, when he gave up praying they began to be defeated, yet with his perseverance in prayer they crushed those who would have crushed them.
That pattern that we read again and again in the Old Testament was repeated also in the New Testament. For example, when St Peter was in prison the early Church prayed for him, and it was then that the angel was sent to rescue St Peter from the prison (Acts 12:15).
God does answer prayer:
He promised he would do so, Scripture records His frequent occasions of doing so, the experience of the Church down the centuries is that He does so, and many of us here can testify to this in our own lives too.

God tells us to pray. He tells us that He will answer our prayer. Of course, as wiser men than myself have noted that sometimes that answer is “no”, but He does answer prayer, and answer it for our good.
He is a merciful God yet He tells us to ask for mercy.
He is giving God yet He tells us to ask for gifts.
He is a supportive God yet He tells us to CALL when we need His grace.

So, why should we ask for things when God already knows what we need?
Because (1) He tells us to do so; because (2) doing so reminds us of our need of Him; because (3) praying changes us and makes us ready to receive the gifts He wishes to give us; and (4) last but not least, because He does answer prayer.

Sunday, 9 October 2016

Prayer of Consecration of Parish to Our Lady

Consecration of our Parish of St Anthony of Padua, West Moors,
to the Immaculate Heart of Mary
on 8-9th October 2016 (the nearest Sunday to the feast of Our Lady of Fatima)


Shortly after being elected, Pope Francis consecrated first himself (13th May 2013) and then the Church entrusted to his care (13th Oct 2013), to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. These two dates marked the anniversary of the apparitions of Our Lady at Fatima in 1917. In making this consecration he was responding to Our Lady’s request at Fatima and repeating consecrations made by every pope since Pius XII.
Following a similar pattern, Fr Dylan consecrated his parish appointment to Our Lady on the night of his Induction as Parish Priest and is now leading the parish itself in consecrating it to her Immaculate Heart.


The Parish Priest, alone, will pray:
O Immaculate Heart of Mary,
Queen of Heaven and Earth,
and our tender Mother,
in accordance with your ardent wish made known at Fatima,
and in union with Pope Francis’s consecration to you
of himself, his papacy, and the Church,
I consecrate to your Immaculate Heart:
myself,
and this parish entrusted to my care,
I consecrate and commit to you all the members of this parish,
beginning with the weakest ones,
the unborn, the sick, the disabled, and the elderly.
I commit to you our families, our children, our young people,
the single and the widowed.
I pray especially for dysfunctional, hurt and broken families,
for those seeking meaning in life but failing to find it.
Help the unemployed, the lonely and the desperate.
I pray for those who are away from the parish,
and are distant from the Church.
Holy Mother, by your powerful intercession,
obtain for us all the graces we need,
And call down the Holy Spirit, your spouse,
to heal and sustain us,
To lead and conform us to the image of Christ your Son.


Please join the Parish Priest in saying together:
We, the parishioners of St Anthony’s,
renew and ratify today in your hands,
O Immaculate Mother,
the vows of our Baptism.
We renounce forever Satan,
all his works,
and all his empty promises.
We give ourselves entirely to Jesus Christ,
to be more faithful to Him
than we have ever been before.
In the presence of all the heavenly hosts
we choose you this day,
for our Mother.
We deliver and consecrate to you,
our bodies and souls,
our goods, both interior and exterior,
and even the value of all our good actions,
past, present and future;
that you will dispose of them as you know best,
for the greater glory of God,
in time and in eternity.
Amen.

Consecration of West Moors Parish to Our Lady



Today I'm going to lead the parish in doing something that more perfectly roots us in our baptism.
In our first reading (2Kgs 5:14-17) we heard how Naaman the leper was purified by washing in the water –that act, in the light of the New Covenant, is a type of the purification that was made of each of us in our own baptism.
In our second reading (2 Tim 2:8-13) we heard how we must die with Christ if we are to live with Him. Baptism was the definitive act by which we died to our old fallen self that we might love in the resurrected Christ.
Baptism, however, isn't a one-off piece of magic that involves no effort on our part. Rather, if it is to be effective, it is something we must re-immerse ourselves in repeatedly. One of the ways of doing this is by an act of ‘consecration’, and, in particular, by doing this to Our Lady.

So, today, I'm going to consecrate the parish to the Blessed Virgin Mary. I'm doing this today for a number of reasons: first, because it’s October, which is her month; second, because it’s a natural thing for me to be doing as your new parish priest (even though I'm sure other parish priests have done this before me, it should be done and re-done, renewed); and, third, I'm doing this following the pattern of Pope Francis who consecrated first his papacy and then re-consecrated the whole Church to Our Lady -on the feast of Our Lady of Fatima, which is this week (13th October)(see here).
I’m sure many of us can recall the image of him, the very first day of his papacy, directly going to the Church of St Mary Major to lay flowers at her shrine (see here).

But what is a Marian consecration? And, How does it benefit us?

A consecration is when something is DEDICATED TO something. In a Marian consecration we dedicate ourselves to her. We offer her our lives, and all that is part of them: our hopes and fears, joys and sufferings, our good deeds, the crosses we carry –everything, we consecrate it all to her. The practice of doing this, of giving ourselves to Our Lady, is both ancient and new.
It’s new because it regained a new impetus after the call for this in the apparitions of Our Lady at Fatima in 1917, and the fact that Pope Francis had this consecration made for him in Fatima on that feast day is a reminder of that. We might also think of the motto of Pope St John Paul II, “Totus Tuus” (‘All Yours’) –which meant “All Mary’s”.
But it’s also ancient. The phrase of John Paul II was a quote from Saint Louis Marie de Montfort who is particularly known for articulating of the meaning of consecrations and Marian consecrations. And we’ll be using a text adapted from him in a few minutes in our consecration.

The consecration prayer of St Louis de Montfort refers us back to an original consecration, the consecration that was made of us in our baptism. In that consecration God consecrated us to Himself. In that consecration, by the action of the Holy Spirit, we were conformed to the image of the Son, and became adopted children of the Father.
When we, ourselves, make a prayer of consecration what this does is re-new and deepen that original consecration, it expresses our choice and desire to live out that consecration.

But who is the one who can best help us be consecrated to God? Surely, the one who was herself most perfectly consecrated to God, namely, Our Lady. She was chosen before all time to be the Immaculate Mother of the Divine Son. She was chosen and consecrated in this role not just for her sake, or for God’s sake alone, but for OUR sake, that God might enter our world through her, that we might become united to Him through the union of the human and Divine that occurred within her consecrated womb.

She is the one who was given to us as OUR mother too, “behold your mother” (Jn 19:27), said Jesus as He hung on the Cross for us, and saw His loving mother there at His feet. And now, she is the loving and powerful mother who looks out for us from heaven. And when we give ourselves into her hands we give ourselves into the hands of one who loves us more than we love ourselves; one who, as the Mother of Divine Wisdom, knows best what to do with what we offer her –our deeds, our prayers, our merits; one who will most effectively direct all things to the Lord to whom she herself was so beautifully consecrated.
So, who helps us grow in our consecration to God? Well, as Pope Francis shortly before making his consecration, “Our Lady is the mother who helps Christians grow

So, in a few moments, in the conclusion of the bidding prayers, I will pray as your parish priest, consecrating the parish to her, that she will be our mother and lead us to God. And at the conclusion of that prayer I’ll invite you to join in the consecration words: renewing your baptismal consecration, making it your own, all through the hands of the one who was consecrated to God for our sake.


Consecration of our Parish of St Anthony of Padua, West Moors,
to the Immaculate Heart of Mary
on 8-9th October 2016 (the nearest Sunday to the feast of Our Lady of Fatima)


Shortly after being elected, Pope Francis consecrated first himself (13th May 2013) and then the Church entrusted to his care (13th Oct 2013), to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. These two dates marked the anniversary of the apparitions of Our Lady at Fatima in 1917. In making this consecration he was responding to Our Lady’s request at Fatima and repeating consecrations made by every pope since Pius XII.
Following a similar pattern, Fr Dylan consecrated his parish appointment to Our Lady on the night of his Induction as Parish Priest and is now leading the parish itself in consecrating it to her Immaculate Heart.


Fr Dylan, alone, will pray:
O Immaculate Heart of Mary,
Queen of Heaven and Earth,
and our tender Mother,
in accordance with your ardent wish made known at Fatima,
and in union with Pope Francis’s consecration to you
of himself, his papacy, and the Church,
I consecrate to your Immaculate Heart:
myself,
and this parish entrusted to my care,
I consecrate and commit to you all the members of this parish,
beginning with the weakest ones,
the unborn, the sick, the disabled, and the elderly.
I commit to you our families, our children, our young people,
the single and the widowed.
I pray especially for dysfunctional, hurt and broken families,
for those seeking meaning in life but failing to find it.
Help the unemployed, the lonely and the desperate.
I pray for those who are away from the parish,
and are distant from the Church.
Holy Mother, by your powerful intercession,
obtain for us all the graces we need,
And call down the Holy Spirit, your spouse,
to heal and sustain us,
To lead and conform us to the image of Christ your Son.


Please join Fr Dylan in saying together:
We, the parishioners of St Anthony’s,
renew and ratify today in your hands,
O Immaculate Mother,
the vows of our Baptism.
We renounce forever Satan,
all his works,
and all his empty promises.
We give ourselves entirely to Jesus Christ,
to be more faithful to Him
than we have ever been before.
In the presence of all the heavenly hosts
we choose you this day,
for our Mother.
We deliver and consecrate to you,
our bodies and souls,
our goods, both interior and exterior,
and even the value of all our good actions,
past, present and future;
that you will dispose of them as you know best,
for the greater glory of God,
in time and in eternity.
Amen.

Thursday, 6 October 2016

New Evangelisation Talk Series: 'Transforming Everything'

Audio and Powerpoint slides are available below


In the Autumn of 2016 Father Dylan gave giving us his first talk series as parish priest of West Moors. He outlined the vision that he wants to animate and transform all our parish activities. The series of sessions will look at what Pope Francis chose to make the topic of his first ‘apostolic exhortation’ to the Church, namely, ‘The New Evangelisation’. The Pope has said that it must “transform everything” in the Church: “our customs, ways of doing things, times and schedules, language and structures”(EG 27). Bishop Mark O’Toole likewise chose to make this the topic of his first pastoral letter to us.

This series of evenings had a twofold aim:

(1) To look at what Pope Francis and others have said on this topic;

(2) To discuss what we need to do ourselves in order to:

(a) Change our parish to serve this goal;

(b) Make ourselves into joyous “spirit-filled evangelisers”(EV 259)

Each evening had a 30 minute presentation followed by 30 minutes for discussion

The talk series prepared for the launch of the Forming Intentional Disciples groups that met on Thursday evenings and/or Friday mornings between 10th November and 15th December.


You can see some photos here


(1) What is ‘The New Evangelisation’?, Thursday 6th Oct 7-8pm
Slides can be viewed here and audio is available here
Our first evening will look at what makes the New Evangelisation different, i.e. ‘new’. Pope John Paul II said it needs to be “new in its ardour, new in its methods and new in its expression” but what does this mean?



(2) Encountering Christ: How do people come to Faith?, Thursday 13th Oct 7-8pm
Slides can be viewed here and audio here
Pope Francis writes about how “joy… fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus”(EG 1). But how do people encounter Him? And, What are the stages people move through in coming to Faith in Him? This session will draw on Sherry Weddell's book, "Forming Intentional Disciples”.



(3) How to start the Conversation?, Thursday 20th Oct 7-8pm
Slides can be viewed here and the audio here
We often refer to our need to tell other people about our Faith and about the person of Christ in particular, but how can we go about this? Tonight we’ll look at some useful indicators from Pope Francis and others.



(4) Welcoming back the Lapsed, Thursday 3rd Nov 7-8pm
Slides can be viewed here and the audio is available here
One of the primary aims of ‘the New Evangelisation’ is to rekindle the faith of the many who have left. This evening we’ll draw on Rigney & Lanave’s book, “When They Come Home”, and look at the reasons people lapse, the reasons people return, and what we need to do ourselves to make people welcome when they do.




Four Book Recommendations, each of which were drawn from in this series of talks:

Pope Francis, "Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel)”

Sherry Weddell, "Forming Intentional Disciples"

Cardinal Arinze, “The Layperson’s Distinctive Role”

Melanie Rigney and Anna Lanave, "When They Come Home"

All these books are easily available on the internet.







If a future date presents itself we will also have this talk:

What is “The Lay Apostolate?

Pope Francis, following recent popes and Vatican II, has spoken of “the responsibility of the laity”(EG 102). Tonight’s session will draw on Cardinal Arinze’s recent book, “The Layperson’s Distinctive Role” and will note how the New Evangelisation goes to the very heart of the lay Christian’s vocation.

Sunday, 2 October 2016

Casting Mulberry Bushes, 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C, West Moors



Lk 17:5-19
There are many things I don’t know about you, this congregation, but there is one thing I am certain about: none of you has ever said to a mulberry tree: “Be uprooted and planted in the sea”(Lk 17:6) and had it obey you.
Now, in case that discourages you, let me point out an interesting fact that I read in St Thomas Aquinas’s commentary (the Catena Aurea, vol3, p.581) on this text, namely, that St Chrysostom notes that actually none of the 12 Apostles achieved this feat either: Even after their faith was strengthened by Christ rising from the dead, even after they worked many miracles of healing, even after their faith was strong enough to endure martyrdom –none of them cast mulberry bushes into the sea.

So why didn’t they? After all, casting mulberry bushing into the sea would be a rather nice party trick –a good way to entertain our parishioners on a boring cold rainy winter day.
And here, I think, is the very reason why: Having faith and working miracles is not about party tricks. When Jesus worked miracles they were always for some purpose, for example, He fed the 5000 when they needed food, He cured those in need of healing of body and soul, etc. The closest we have to Him doing a party trick was when His disciples saw Him walk on the stormy water –but even this seems to have had the clear purpose of manifesting Himself to them by showing that He is the Lord God with dominion over creation and calming the storm that would have sunk them.
God is not about party tricks and His 12 Apostles were not about party tricks. The reason they didn’t tell trees to cast themselves into the sea wasn’t because of a lack of faith but rather, BECAUSE they had faith, they realised that there were other works God would have them do –greater works.

So, what are the greater works that God would have US do? We have an indication of at least part of this in the words that Jesus said after the above verse. He spoke not about spectacular things but about simple service. And He noted that simple service is the kind of thing we should be willing to do and then realise that “we have done no more than our duty”(Lk 17:19).

Living a life of simple service, to my neighbour, to my family, and to God, is not an easy thing. In fact, it is something that needs me to have not only great love but great faith.
Many people make the mistake of thinking that God is not interested in the details of our lives. But, actually, God is more interested in many of the unexciting unspectacular parts of our lives than He is in some of the things that WE might find more visible. God is love (1 Jn 4:16), and, what interests Him most is those things that we do in a manner that is full of love.
And, my point is this: It takes great faith to see this. It takes great faith to realise that God is ALWAYS present, always involved, always interested in the detail.

When I am in a hurry and I push past someone else in the supermarket –God sees this.
When I have a chance to return a phone call but just get on with my own busy-ness instead –God sees this.
God sees every opportunity for me to do small loving things.
And, in the eyes of the God who is love, what makes a thing big or small is how much love or how little love it is done with.
But, to repeat myself, it takes great faith to be continually aware of this truth, to be continually be in “the presence of God”,
it takes great faith to see things as God sees them.

If we have such faith, we shall do great things, greater than casting mulberry bushes into the sea.