22nd Sunday of Ordinary Time (C)

Gospel  (Luke 14: 1, 7-14)

On a sabbath day Jesus had gone for a meal to the house of one of the leading Pharisees; and they watched him closely. He then told the guests a parable, because he had noticed how they picked the places of honour. He said this, ‘When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take your seat in the place of honour. A more distinguished person than you may have been invited, and the person who invited you both may come and say, “Give up your place to this man.” And then, to your embarrassment, you would have to go and take the lowest place. No; when you are a guest, make your way to the lowest place and sit there, so that, when your host comes, he may say, “My friend, move up higher.” In that way, everyone with you at the table will see you honoured. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the man who humbles himself will be exalted.’

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Then he said to his host, ‘When you give a lunch or a dinner, do not ask your friends, brothers, relations or rich neighbours, for fear they repay your courtesy by inviting you in return. No; when you have a party, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind; that they cannot pay you back means that you are fortunate, because repayment will be made to you when the virtuous rise again.’

Reflection

With all the alarming news of violence across the world and in our country, together with the complex issues of Brexit, people often ask me:  “How do you remain hopeful?”  I look at all the goodness I see in the parish.  I see people welcoming strangers who’ve come to church for the first time, I see parishioners asking after others – especially those in hospital and those they may not have seen for a few weeks, I see lots of people coming to church for Mass and during the week to pray when the church is open despite all the appalling scandals of abuse and poor leadership in the Church, I see people offering to help others – especially those in our community who are in need or who are living in poverty, and so on.  There is so much goodness going on in our parishes.  It may never make the news, but it’s going on.  That gives me great hope.

If everyone in our world took to heart today’s Gospel, we would all live in peace and hope.  But for this to happen, it has to begin with me, with us.  We make a difference in our own little corners of the world.  Never forget that!

Fr Dave

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Prayer

Not for a place of honour
did your Son come among us, O God,
but to invite the poor,
the disadvantaged and the sinful.
Let such humility grace our table,
and lead us to renounce the quest for power and privilege.
Through Christ our Lord.

SYNOD REFLECTION

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The Church as a field hospital – a place of healing and mercy

There was a lawyer who, to disconcert Jesus, stood up and said to him, ‘Master, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ He said to him, ‘What is written in the Law? What do you read there?’ He replied, ‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbour as yourself’. ‘You have answered right,’ said Jesus ‘do this and life is yours.’ But the man was anxious to justify himself and said to Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbour?’ Jesus replied, ‘A man was once on his way down from Jerusalem to Jericho and fell into the hands of brigands; they took all he had, beat him and then made off, leaving him half dead. Now a priest happened to be travelling down the same road, but when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. In the same way a Levite who came to the place saw him, and passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan traveller who came upon him was moved with compassion when he saw him. He went up and bandaged his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them. He then lifted him on to his own mount, carried him to the inn and looked after him. Next day, he took out two denarii and handed them to the innkeeper. “Look after him,” he said “and on my way back I will make good any extra expense you have.” Which of these three, do you think, proved himself a neighbour to the man who fell into the brigands’ hands?’ ‘The one who took pity on him’ he replied. Jesus said to him, ‘Go and do the same yourself’ (cf. Luke 10: 25-37).

Reflection

“The thing the Church needs most today is the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful; it needs nearness, proximity. I see the Church as a field hospital after battle. It is useless to ask a seriously injured person if he has high cholesterol and about the level of his blood sugars! You have to heal his wounds. Then we can talk about everything else. Heal the wounds, heal the wounds … And you have to start from the ground up.”  (Pope Francis, Interview with Antonio Spadaro SJ, August 2013)

Question to Ponder

Pope Francis dreams of a Church that is like a field hospital after battle.  What kind of Church do you dream of?

Concluding Prayer

God of mercy and compassion,
you draw near to us in Jesus, your Son,
lifting us out of death,
binding up our wounds,
and nursing our spirits back to health.
May your tenderness compel us to go and do likewise.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.
Amen.

 


21st Sunday of Ordinary Time (C)

GOSPEL  (Luke 13: 22-30)

Through towns and villages Jesus went teaching, making his way to Jerusalem. Someone said to him, ‘Sir, will there be only a few saved?’ He said to them, ‘Try your best to enter by the narrow door, because, I tell you, many will try to enter and will not succeed.

‘Once the master of the house has got up and locked the door, you may find yourself knocking on the door, saying, “Lord, open to us” but he will answer, “I do not know where you come from.” Then you will find yourself saying, “We once ate and drank in your company; you taught in our streets” but he will reply, “I do not know where you come from. Away from me, all you wicked men!”

‘Then there will be weeping and grinding of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and yourselves turned outside. And men from east and west, from north and south, will come to take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God.

‘Yes, there are those now last who will be first, and those now first who will be last.’

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Reflection

Fr Anthony Kadavil notes that most cities of the ancient world were surrounded by walls that had large gates in them.  Jerusalem had about twelve gates.   People moved through these gates to do their business, to shop and to visit their friends.   However, the gates were closed at night in case the city came under attack by an invader.   There were also smaller gates through which individual citizens could be allowed into the city by the guards without exposing the city to danger.  These smaller, or narrower gates were what Jesus was talking about.  They were like turnstiles – only one person at a time could enter through them.

It’s not good enough to simply say we’re Christians, we have to be Christians in the way we live and love each day.

How do we do this?

Pope Francis tells us that we need to ‘encounter’ Jesus.  In other words, we need to get to know Jesus.  We can do this through prayer, by reading the Scriptures, and by ‘encountering’ other Christians who are trying to follow him.

As we ‘encounter’ Jesus, we learn about his way of living and loving.  We try to put his way into practice in our daily lives – with our families, our friends, at school or work, and so on.  We soon find that Christ’s way is not always easy – it can go against our natural reactions, other people’s expectations, our own desires and wants – in short, it can cost us!  This is part of the learning to be a follower of Jesus, a disciple, a Christian.

Fortunately, Jesus is infinitely patient.  He never gives up on us.  When we mess up, he comes to us with mercy and healing.  When we feel like giving up, he comes to encourage us and build us up.

I think this is entering by the ‘narrow door’ which Jesus talks about in today’s Gospel.  It’s messy!  In the words of the great author and psychiatrist, Michael Scott Peck, it is ‘The Road Less Travelled’.

Fr Dave

SYNOD 2020 REFLECTION

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Our God comes close to us

Jesus went to his hometown and his disciples followed him. On the Sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue and many who heard him were astounded. They said, “Where did this man get all this? What is this wisdom that has been given to him? What deeds of power are being done by his hands! Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary…” And they took offence at him (cf. Mark 6: 1-3).

Reflection

It can be hard to believe that God comes close to us.  Those in the synagogue could not believe it.

Questions to Ponder

How can God be speaking to me through someone I have known in my local community?
Do I have a fixed view about where God is to be found in my life?
How can I be more open to his presence?

(From Sacred Space © 2010 Irish Province of the Society of Jesus)

Concluding Prayer

Forgive me, Lord, for the times I have not listened
to people who speak words I do not wish to hear.
Forgive me, Lord, for the times I have judged others
by their outward appearance.
Help me, Lord, to let go of my fixed views
and to find you in the presence of those
who walk along beside me, today and every day.
Amen.

ST BENEDICT’S CATHOLIC PRIMARY SCHOOL

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Following a Religious Education Inspection last term, we learnt that “St Benedict’s Catholic Primary School is an outstanding school in providing Catholic Education”.  The full report can be found at the back of St Benedict’s Church.  Below are some more excerpts from the report.

“The school is a bright, inviting and colourful environment which reflects its mission throughout. The world view display celebrates the commitment the school has to culture and diversity. There are dedicated prayer spaces throughout the school.  An aesthetically pleasing hall with coloured glass and Stations of the Cross is an inviting environment for worship. Classroom displays reflect the worth given to children’s work and are used well.”

“The school is a supportive and joyful community. A staff member expressed, ‘Our ethos is special and permeates all elements of school life. I am proud to be part of the St. Benedict’s family and very grateful that this is where I get to work every day’.”

“Staff promote high standards of behaviour and are outstanding role models of mutual respect and forgiveness for pupils. There is a commitment to Catholic Social Teaching, caring for their common home and the dignity of every human person.”

“The headteacher, senior leaders and governors are deeply committed to the Church’s mission in education. They are role models of Catholic leadership. They are energised by the task and are a source of inspiration for the whole community.”

“The quality of teaching, learning and assessment in Religious Education is outstanding.”

More next week


20th Sunday of Ordinary Time (C)

Gospel  (Luke 12: 49-53)

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘I have come to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were blazing already! There is a baptism I must still receive, and how great is my distress till it is over!

‘Do you suppose that I am here to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. For from now on a household of five will be divided: three against two and two against three; the father divided against the son, son against father, mother against daughter, daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law, daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.’

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Thought

In today’s Gospel, Jesus warns us that following him can bring us into conflict with others, even with our families and friends.

The First Reading gives us an example.  People didn’t want to hear what God was saying to them through the prophet Jeremiah, so they threw Jeremiah into a well to shut him up.

We might be ridiculed at work if we refuse to go along with something (e.g. a policy, a social situation or office banter) because we know it is not the Christian way to behave.  Young people can be bullied or ridiculed by their Catholic peers for going to Mass on Sunday!

The Second Reading encourages to keep our eyes on Jesus and reminds us that the angels and saints are all around us, encouraging us, protecting us and cheering us on.

Fr Dave

SYNOD 2020 – PARISH LISTENING

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During May and June, there were about twenty listening sessions in the parish – either in parish groups, school or after Masses.  Below is some feedback from the listening sessions.  The feedback is based on a selection of responses and divided into three categories based on the number of times issues were raised.

CATEGORY A  

In every session, three issues came up time and time again:

1)  The need for the Church to seriously consider ordaining women to the priesthood (a few responses mentioned women deacons as well).
2)  The need for the Church to allow married priests (not just those who’ve come from the Church of England).
3)  The need to engage young people, particularly those in the 18-40 age group.

These three issues came up more than any other.

CATEGORY B

In second place, as it were, parishioners raised the following issues:

1)  The need for the Church to reach out and be more accepting of all people, especially those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or questioning.
2)  The need for the Church to take ecumenism seriously.
3)  The role of women in the Church.

CATEGORY C

In third place, the following issues were raised:

1) Same-sex marriage.
2) Climate change.
3) Transparency and accountability over allegations of child abuse.
4) Valuing our Catholic Schools.

There were plenty of other issues too, including the role of lay people in the Church, reaching out to those who are divorced, mental health, evangelisation, becoming a poor Church for the poor, the need for more priests, supporting family life, and so on.

Thank you to everyone who contributed to the listening sessions.  All this data has been received by the Synod Working Party together with a further 20,000 responses from across the Archdiocese.  In the autumn, the key themes that have emerged from all this listening will be presented to us on Synod Sunday in October for the next stage of our Synod journey.

Fr Dave

ST BENEDICT’S CATHOLIC PRIMARY SCHOOL

On 19 June, St Benedict’s Catholic Primary School underwent a Religious Education Inspection under Section 48 of the Education Acts 2005 and 2011.  At the end of term, we learnt that “St Benedict’s Catholic Primary School is an outstanding school in providing Catholic Education”.  The full report can be found at the back of St Benedict’s Church.  Below are some excerpts from the report.

“Children are polite and courteous; their behaviour is exemplary. In proportion to their years they show an ability to listen, to give thanks, to forgive and be forgiven. They are also quick to congratulate and celebrate each other’s achievements.”

“Pupils value and respect the Catholic tradition of the school, its links with the parish community and the Archdiocese… The parish priest expressed on the day of inspection, ‘Children at St. Benedict’s live and breathe the Catholic faith, they know it and celebrate it’.”

“Pupils understand what it means to have a vocation and joyfully offer their gifts in the service of others. Children actively seek ways to fundraise for many national charities but also know the needs of their own community.”

“Pupils enjoy learning about other faiths and religions. They are encouraged to promote acceptance and tolerance within their school community.”

More next week


19th Sunday of Ordinary Time (C)

Gospel  (Luke 12: 32-48)

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘There is no need to be afraid, little flock, for it has pleased your Father to give you the kingdom.

‘Sell your possessions and give alms. Get yourselves purses that do not wear out, treasure that will not fail you, in heaven where no thief can reach it and no moth destroy it. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

‘See that you are dressed for action and have your lamps lit. Be like men waiting for their master to return from the wedding feast, ready to open the door as soon as he comes and knocks. Happy those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes. I tell you solemnly, he will put on an apron, sit them down at table and wait on them. It may be in the second watch he comes, or in the third, but happy those servants if he finds them ready. You may be quite sure of this, that if the householder had known at what hour the burglar would come, he would not have let anyone break through the wall of his house. You too must stand ready, because the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.’

Peter said, ‘Lord, do you mean this parable for us, or for everyone?’ The Lord replied, ‘What sort of steward, then, is faithful and wise enough for the master to place him over his household to give them their allowance of food at the proper time? Happy that servant if his master’s arrival finds him at this employment. I tell you truly, he will place him over everything he owns. But as for the servant who says to himself, “My master is taking his time coming,” and sets about beating the menservants and the maids, and eating and drinking and getting drunk, his master will come on a day he does not expect and at an hour he does not know. The master will cut him off and send him to the same fate as the unfaithful.

The servant who knows what his master wants, but has not even started to carry out those wishes, will receive very many strokes of the lash. The one who did not know, but deserves to be beaten for what he has done, will receive fewer strokes. When a man has had a great deal given him, a great deal will be demanded of him; when a man has had a great deal given him on trust, even more will be expected of him.’

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Reflection

What sort of a day have I had … or what is my day going to be like?
I spend time focusing on this,
and ask the Lord to be with me as I remember or look forward.
I try to leave all preoccupations behind,
focusing only on this time spent with the Lord.

When I have reached some inner quiet, I read the text above.
I stop when a phrase strikes me.
What does it mean to me? Why would someone do that?
It may help if I can imagine myself as one of the disciples Jesus is addressing,
or as one of the characters: the servants, the master, the householder.
I might move from one to another. What new perspectives come to the fore?

Jesus is encouraging his disciples to be ready
and vigilant for the coming of the Son of Man.
I look to my own life. In what ways does this apply to me?
How will I respond when the Master knocks at my door?
Am I so protective of my own property that I forget to trust,
and see the good in other people’s actions?

I turn to the Lord and tell him how I feel at the end of my prayer.
I ask him for the help and support I need just now.

In gratitude, I say: Glory be to the Father…

(Adapted from ‘Prego’, St Beuno’s Outreach, Diocese of Wrexham)

SYNOD 2020 – NEXT STEPS

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On 30 June, the online Synod Survey closed. Up to that point, 1,300 people had filled in the Synod questions online.

On 16 July, the parish listening sheets all had to be sent to the Synod Office.  It is difficult to say how many people the response represented, but a cautious estimate is that over 20,000 people have taken part.  In addition, the youth survey added another 570 responses.

What happens with all this listening?

Hope University (under the guidance of Father Peter McGrail, director of the Hope Institute of Pastoral Theology) has been analysing all the data so that it can be taken to the Synod Working Party to discern the next steps on our Synod Journey.

Who are the Synod Working Party?

The Synod moderators (Father Philip Inch, Father Matthew Nunes), Mrs Maureen Knight (Pastoral Formation), Mrs Debbie Reynolds (Pastoral Worker), Sr Rachel Duffy FCJ, Miss Kate Wilkinson (School Chaplain), Fr Mark Beattie, Fr Stephen Pritchard and Fr Dominic Curran.

What will they do?

From 15–17 August, the Synod Working Party will gather under the guidance of Fr Eamonn Fitzgibbon and Dr Jessie Rogers (from Limerick Diocese).  They will lead a three-day process of discernment and prayer.  Fr Peter McGrail will present all the data from the listening that has taken place and, after a time of discernment, we hope that a number of themes will emerge which indicate the way forward for us on our Synod journey.

Then what?

The themes will be presented to Synod members at the September Synod gatherings in Wigan (21 & 25 September).  They will also be presented to the Archdiocese on Synod Sunday in October, and then each theme will be explored, discussed, examined and prayed about.  Synod members will then be invited to listen to the people of the Archdiocese and with them discern which proposals should be put forward based on each theme.

What can I do?

Pope Francis continually reminds us that the work of synodality is the work of the Holy Spirit and, that if we listen and discern, then the voice of God will be heard.  At the opening of Synod 2020 in February 2019, Archbishop Malcolm said:  ‘In October 2018 we celebrated the first Synod Sunday. In my Pastoral Letter that day I focused on the need to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit speaking to us through the life and experience of all the priests, deacons, religious and people of our Archdiocese.  It is our duty to discern carefully together what the Spirit is saying to the Church in the Archdiocese and agree on common directions and actions for the future.’

So prayer is vitally important at this time in our Synod journey, especially on 15, 16 and 17 August.  Archbishop Malcolm’s words last February can be at the heart of our praying:  ‘In convoking the Synod I am calling us to be bold and creative in the task of rethinking the goals, structures, style and methods of evangelisation in our Archdiocesan community with its various parish and ecclesial, religious and social communities.’

Thank you for all that has taken place, and please pray as we move to the next steps of Synod 2020.

Synod Prayer

Father, we thank you
for the love you have shown us
in the gift of Jesus, your Son.
We thank you for the gift of the Church,
through which you show us
that you are always with us
and are always at work in our lives.

As we journey together to Synod 2020,
help us to become the Church that you are calling us to be.
May your Holy Spirit be powerfully
at work among us.
Strengthen each of us and guide Francis, our Pope
and Malcolm, our Archbishop.

Help us to respond
to the challenges of our times in new ways
to bring your love to all our sisters and brothers.
We make this prayer
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen.


18th Sunday of Ordinary Time (C)

Gospel  (Luke 12: 13-21)

A man in the crowd said to Jesus, ‘Master, tell my brother to give me a share of our inheritance.’ ‘My friend,’ he replied, ‘who appointed me your judge, or the arbitrator of your claims?’ Then he said to them, ‘Watch, and be on your guard against avarice of any kind, for a man’s life is not made secure by what he owns, even when he has more than he needs.’

Then he told them a parable: ‘There was once a rich man who, having had a good harvest from his land, thought to himself, “What am I to do? I have not enough room to store my crops.” Then he said, “This is what I will do: I will pull down my barns and build bigger ones, and store all my grain and my goods in them, and I will say to my soul: My soul, you have plenty of good things laid by for many years to come; take things easy, eat, drink, have a good time.” But God said to him, “Fool! This very night the demand will be made for your soul; and this hoard of yours, whose will it be then?” So it is when a man stores up treasure for himself in place of making himself rich in the sight of God.’

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Reflection

Today’s readings are about material things and our attitude towards them. Are they at the centre of our lives? The texts also suggest that what we are is more important than what we have.

Qoheleth, ‘the Preacher’, who wrote the Book of Ecclesiastes 300 years before Christ, gives a pessimistic view of the world in today’s First Reading. Is it worth working hard and worrying about our wealth, since we have to leave it to others after our death?

The Gospel develops the same theme. The main problem with wealth is that it risks taking centre stage in our life.  What really matters is making ourselves rich in the sight of God.

St Paul tells us that Christ ‘is everything’ (Second Reading).

In short, “Set your hearts on God’s kingdom first, and on his saving justice, and all these other things will be given you as well” (Matthew 6: 33).

(Adapted from ‘Prego’, St Beuno’s Outreach, Wrexham)

SYNOD REFLECTIONS

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Following on from last week’s reflection on the Washing of the Feet…

The Call to Service

Washing feet is a very menial task, a sign of the host welcoming a guest; a sign of the recognition that you are important to me. You are important because of who you are, not because of what you have done for me; not because you are a sinner or a saint, but because in you there is the unique presence of God. Service is at the heart of the Christian Gospel. “My service”, Jesus was saying, “is to die and to rise and to give new life. Your service is to go forward and wash people’s feet to show that it is love that really counts.” My feet are my way to God, I walk the path to God; my feet are that part of my anatomy which enables me to move. They are the way to love. We are all pilgrims on the way. But which feet are we to wash?

—The feet that have never walked; the feet of people who have never had the opportunity of experiencing the walk in any other way than “being walked by someone else”?

—The feet that never wore shoes; that are so poor that they haven’t got shoes?

—The feet that are always shackled; the feet that have been put in prison?

—The feet of those who are so talented; who use those feet in a magical way?

—The feet that give pain as we get older?

—The feet crushed in accidents; feet that are lost through no fault of our own?

—The feet that spend hours training to run a marathon for charity?

—The feet that are blown off by landmines?

—The feet of those who have walked and have never found; the ones who doubt?

—The feet that have always taken the wrong turnings?

—The feet of strangers who have come to our churches?

—The feet that long to walk to Heaven?

 (Extract from a reflection by a Benedictine monk)

Questions to ponder

Who are the people who ‘wash my feet’?
Where does our community already serve by ‘washing feet’?
How can we wash feet for those who never make it to the ‘Upper Room’?
What can I/we do practically to wash feet in the here and now?

Prayer

Loving Lord, you call us and challenge us to service.
Give us humble hearts that care, gentle hands that reach out
and open eyes and ears that recognise opportunities to serve your people.
We make this prayer through Christ our Lord.