Sunday, 24 June 2012

Bishop's Visitation

This weekend the Bishop preached at our Masses during his Visitation of the parish. There is no text available.

Sunday, 17 June 2012

11th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B, Shaftesbury

Mk 4:26-34; Ezek 17:22-24

Most of us have times when it seems as if God is not present. Perhaps some difficulty or crisis in our life comes and we feel not merely alone but as if God isn’t doing anything.
It is in such moments, or especially in such moments, that it can be important to recall the words we just heard the Lord Jesus use to describe HOW the Kingdom of God works:

We just heard two parables that the Lord gave us to describe “what the Kingdom of God is like” (Mk 4:26). And we might expect that God’s Kingdom would be one of dramatic visible works of power, and it’s true that in other parts of the Scriptures there are plenty of occasions when we read of God working is exactly such a public and visible manner, but here the Lord points out another way He works, in fact the more common and usual way: invisibly.
He compares His working to that of the seed growing underground:
“night and day, while [the farmer] sleeps, when he is awake, the seed is sprouting and growing; how, he does not know”(Mk 4:27).
But, and this is the point, the seed DOES grow, even underground when the farmer does not see it, even though the farmer may not understand the ‘how’ of what makes the seed grow.

This, the Lord Jesus tells us, is how God works in other ways too.
Like the seed underground we frequently cannot SEE that God is working,
And we cannot know WHAT He is working at any more than the growth of the seed is known until it breaks forth and comes ready for the harvesting.
But the Lord is at work, “His wonders to perform”, as the hymn puts it.

But to turn to the other parable we heard the Lord Jesus give us, of how the little seed grows to become a mighty bush that the birds can shelter in. This was an Old Testament image of might too. Thus the prophet Daniel (4:9-27) describes the powerful King Nebuchadnezzar in order to describe His power and ability to shelter his subjects. And as we heard also in our first reading from Ezekiel. In Ezekiel it is Israel, the chosen nation, that is described as the mighty tree of shelter, indicating that this dwelling place of God is a dwelling to which all can turn in order to find shelter. In a fuller sense, this applies to the New Testament ‘Kingdom of God’, and the Church Christ founded:

It is in this ‘dwelling’ that we can come to God, that we can rest in Him, be fed by His sacraments, strengthened by His grace. And surely, obviously, this is one of the reasons we come here to Mass now, to shelter in the Lord, to be strengthened by Him.

So, when we feel that God is not present, let us not be surprised, let us remember that we are not the first to fear so, but let us remember even more the promise of the Lord:
That He works even when unseen, as surely as the seed grows unseen underground;
That He works as a mighty shelter to which we can turn in our need.

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Corpus Christi (transfered from the previous Thursday)

We keep today a feast that has existed in the Church for many centuries, but one that is probably more relevant and important for us today than it has been in previous eras.
And I want to make a very brief but important point about why it is relevant:

We live in a world today when few people believe in God, at least in any systematic way, and that means that few people expect to encounter Him,
to have Him close to them,
to have Him among them.
While the feast of Corpus Christi is not a feast that is likely to convert those who do not share our belief in God, nonetheless it is an important feast for us to recall ourselves as believers. Because we can be easily influenced by the opinions and attitudes of our atheistic society, and forget that God is near to us.

What Corpus Christi focuses our attention on is the fact that Jesus Christ is here with us in the Eucharist.
He is here with us now in our tabernacle, calling us to prayer and worship.
In a few moments He will be here with us on the altar. When the priest repeats the words of Jesus Christ, "This is my body... This is the cup of my Blood", then the bread and the wine cease to be bread and wine and become what Jesus said they were and are: Himself.
The Eucharist is Jesus Christ, present in His body and blood, soul and divinity, whole and entire in every host.

This afternoon we’ll be having our annual Blessed Sacrament Procession, and a procession like this very clearly focuses us on this truth:
that Jesus is with us,
that He call us to recognise Him and adore Him,
that He is not just present in some vague way but in His “physical reality” (Pope Paul VI).
Processing with Him,
being blessed by Him in a Benediction,
these are images of what the Eucharist means:
He journeys with us in life, just as we process with Him in the procession,
He blesses us when we come to Adore Him, as He does in Benediction.

This is the great truth of our Catholic faith that we recall today, our clearest belief that God is very near and close to us.
Others may have forgotten that God exists, and forgotten that He is close, but today’s feast reminds us that He dwells among us still.

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, 3rd 2012, Shaftesbury

1 Kgs 3:11–14
This coming week will mark the celebration of the Queen’s Jubilee, and our Catholic bishops in England have given us a special prayer at the end of Mass and a special Scripture reading (1 Kgs 3:11–14) for the celebration.
Now, it MIGHT be said that it’s a rather odd thing for us Catholics to be doing. After all, she holds one of the few jobs that are still legally barred from Catholics; she’s the head of an ‘opposing’ church; and, I’m sure there are at least one or two of you here that are republicans - that don’t think we should have a queen at all.
So, why should we, as a Catholic Church, mark the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee? Why celebrate? I’d offer you two reasons:

First, St. Paul taught us (especially in 1 Timothy 2:1-7) the need to PRAY for EVERYONE, especially for those in authority. Those in the public eye affect all of us, so we all have a duty to pray for them, that their effect might be a good one.
But, in addition to praying FOR those in authority, St Paul also taught us to give thanksgiving. And I imagine that only someone rather mean-spirited would suggest that there’s NOTHING to give thanks for about our Queen. We live in a time when it’s easy to be cynical about public figures, but in the midst of this time the Queen has nonetheless embodied many of the virtues that might be sought for in a queen. As a head of government, she has helped be a part of stability during half a century that has been far from stable in much of the rest of the world. And as an individual, she has been a model of gracefulness, hard-work and duty, in a time when such virtues are rarely even aspired to let alone seen lived.

And that personal example she has shown brings me to my second reason, and the appropriateness of that the first reading our bishops chose. That reading spoke of some of the virtues that a king of old should have aspired to, as shown in the King Solomon who did not ask for wealth or power for himself, but simply wisdom to able to govern his people well. And as a consequence God blessed him with much more, “such riches and glory as no other king ever had” and “a long life” too (1 Kgs 3:13-14).
And our own queen has most certainly been blessed with a long life, and she has sought to exemplify what a modern Christian monarch should be, and it is reasonable to see these as a blessing for her faithfulness.

We know, of course, that the true blessing for anyone’s faithfulness is in the next world, but the blessings we are granted now can be a sign of what is to come. And the comparison between King Solomon and our Queen is given to make that point.

For ourselves, I’d suggest that this is a point worth pondering during the Jubilee celebrations in the days ahead:
Let us recall how King Solomon was blessed for his GOOD stewardship as king;
Let us recall the good example our own Queen has shown us, even amidst the difficulties in her family over the decades;
And let us see these as a sign of God’s goodness, and give thanks to God for them.