Fr Dave's Blog

24th Sunday of Ordinary Time (C)

Gospel  (Luke 15: 1-10)

The tax collectors and the sinners were all seeking the company of Jesus to hear what he had to say, and the Pharisees and the scribes complained. ‘This man’ they said ‘welcomes sinners and eats with them.’ So he spoke this parable to them:

‘What man among you with a hundred sheep, losing one, would not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the missing one till he found it? And when he found it, would he not joyfully take it on his shoulders and then, when he got home, call together his friends and neighbours? “Rejoice with me,” he would say “I have found my sheep that was lost.” In the same way, I tell you, there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one repentant sinner than over ninety-nine virtuous men who have no need of repentance.

‘Or again, what woman with ten drachmas would not, if she lost one, light a lamp and sweep out the house and search thoroughly till she found it? And then, when she had found it, call together her friends and neighbours? “Rejoice with me,” she would say “I have found the drachma I lost.” In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing among the angels of God over one repentant sinner.’

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Reflection

Cardinal Basil Hume, who died in 1999, once spoke about prayer using today’s parable of the lost sheep.  He said:  “Quite often we simply do not know how to pray, and feel that deep sense of being lost.  I think it is good at such times to see oneself rather like the lost sheep in the parable, caught in the briars, surrounded by fog, and the more you try to escape from the brambles the more you get entangled.  The more you try to rush through the fog the more likely you are to get lost.  When you are in that mood, wait and in your prayer imagine that sheep entangled in the briars with the fog all around. Just wait for him, Christ the shepherd, to come through the fog and disentangle you” (cf. ‘Light in the Lord’,  p 121).

Prayer

Have mercy on me, God, in your kindness.
In your compassion blot out my offence.
O wash me more and more from my guilt
and cleanse me from my sin.

A pure heart create for me, O God,
put a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me away from your presence,
nor deprive me of your holy spirit.

O Lord, open my lips
and my mouth shall declare your praise.
My sacrifice is a contrite spirit.
A humbled, contrite heart you will not spurn.

(Psalm 50)

SYNOD 2020 TALKS

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As we move to the next phase of our Synod Journey, there will be a series of talks to help us to better understand some of the pressing concerns of the Church and society.  The talks will take place in Liverpool Hope University Chapel.  Tea and coffee from 7.00 pm, talk at 7.30 pm concluding at 8.45 pm.  Optional Night Prayer at 9.00 pm.

The first talk will take place on Monday 7 October.  Fr Gerry O’Hanlon SJ will speak on The Quiet Revolution of Pope Francis: A Synodal Catholic Church.  The talk will address:

Our context: the signs of the times in Church and Society.
Synod as renewal of faith, reform of Church, missionary focus.
Biblical, historical and ecumenical roots of Synodality.
Pope Francis and Synodality – from an ‘era of change’ to a ‘change of era’.
How this might translate on the ground in parishes/dioceses.

All welcome!


23rd Sunday of Ordinary Time (C)

Gospel  (Luke 14: 25-33)

Great crowds accompanied Jesus on his way and he turned and spoke to them. ‘If any man comes to me without hating his father, mother, wife, children, brothers, sisters, yes and his own life too, he cannot be my disciple. Anyone who does not carry his cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.

‘And indeed, which of you here, intending to build a tower, would not first sit down and work out the cost to see if he had enough to complete it? Otherwise, if he laid the foundation and then found himself unable to finish the work, the onlookers would all start making fun of him and saying, “Here is a man who started to build and was unable to finish.” Or again, what king marching to war against another king would not first sit down and consider whether with ten thousand men he could stand up to the other who advanced against him with twenty thousand? If not, then while the other king was still a long way off, he would send envoys to sue for peace. So in the same way, none of you can be my disciple unless he gives up all his possessions.’

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Reflection

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GiXnbOORTAU

Will you come and follow me if I but call your name?
Will you go where you don’t know and never be the same?
Will you let my love be shown, will you let my name be known,
will you let my life be grown in you and you in me?

Will you leave yourself behind if I but call your name?
Will you care for cruel and kind and never be the same?
Will you risk the hostile stare should your life attract or scare,
will you let me answer prayer in you and you in me?

Will you let the blinded see if I but call your name?
Will you set the pris’ners free and never be the same?
Will you kiss the leper clean and do such as this unseen,
and admit to what I mean in you and you in me?

Will you love the ‘you’ you hide if I but call your name?
Will you quell the fear inside and never be the same?
Will you use the faith you’ve found to reshape the world around,
through my sight and touch and sound in you and you in me?

Lord, your summons echoes true when you but call my name.
Let me turn and follow you and never be the same.
In your company I’ll go where your love and footsteps show.
Thus I’ll move and live and grow in you and you in me.

John L Bell & Graham Maude (c) 1987 WGRG, Iona Community.
Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved. One License #A-632722.

SYNOD REFLECTIONS

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Last Monday, 2 September, Pope Francis spoke some wise words to the Bishops of the Synod of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church:

“But you underscored something we must not lose: Synod and Synodality, and Holy Spirit. It’s not to advertise but, in the last issue of the “Osservatore Romano,” dated Sunday, but which came out on Saturday, there is a beautiful article on the presence of the Holy Spirit in the synodal journey. Because there is a danger: to believe, today, that to undertake a synodal journey or to have an attitude of synodality, means to carry out a survey of opinions, what does this one think, that one, that other one… and then hold a meeting, and come to an agreement… No, the Synod isn’t a Parliament! Things must be said, discussed as is normally done, but it isn’t a Parliament. Synod is not a coming to an agreement as in politics: I give you this and you give me that. No. Synod is not to undertake a sociological survey, as some believe: Let’s see, let’s ask a group of laypeople to do a survey, to see if we should change this or that or the other… You must certainly know what your laypeople think, but it’s not a survey; it’s something else.

“If the Holy Spirit isn’t there, there is no Synod. If the Holy Spirit isn’t present, there is no Synodality. In fact, if the Church isn’t there, the identity of the Church… And, what is the identity of the Church? Saint Paul VI said it clearly: the vocation of the Church is to evangelize; in fact, her identity is to evangelize.

“Enter this Synod of yours with this spirit, with the Holy Spirit. Pray to the Spirit. Argue among yourselves, as much as you want… Think of Ephesus, how they argued! But they were good… And, in the end, it was the Spirit that made them say: Mary, Mother of God. This is in fact the way. It’s the Spirit, because we don’t want to become a congregational Church but, rather, a Synodal Church. And go on this way.”

Translation by Zenit


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.


17th Sunday of Ordinary Time (C)

Gospel  (Luke 11: 1-13)

Once Jesus was in a certain place praying, and when he had finished one of his disciples said, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.’  He said to them, ‘Say this when you pray:

‘“Father, may your name be held holy,
your kingdom come;
give us each day our daily bread,
and forgive us our sins,
for we ourselves forgive each one who is in debt to us.
And do not put us to the test.”’

He also said to them: ‘Suppose one of you has a friend and goes to him in the middle of the night to say, “My friend, lend me three loaves, because a friend of mine on his travels has just arrived at my house and I have nothing to offer him”; and the man answers from inside the house, “Do not bother me. The door is bolted now, and my children and I are in bed; I cannot get up to give it you.” I tell you, if the man does not get up and give it him for friendship’s sake, persistence will be enough to make him get up and give his friend all he wants.

‘So I say to you: Ask, and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened to you. For the one who asks always receives; the one who searches always finds; the one who knocks will always have the door opened to him. What father among you would hand his son a stone when he asked for bread? Or hand him a snake instead of a fish? Or hand him a scorpion if he asked for an egg? If you then, who are evil, know how to give your children what is good, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!’

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Thought

Today, why not take a few minutes to pray the Lord’s Prayer, but pray it slowly – pausing at the end of each line for a moment to think about the words you’ve just said.

Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come,
thy will be done
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us;
and lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.

 

SYNOD REFLECTION

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God in an apron!

Supper was special that night.
There was both a heaviness and a holiness hanging in the air.
We couldn’t explain the mood.
It was sacred, yet sorrowful.
Gathered around that table eating that solemn, holy meal
seemed to us the most important meal
we had ever sat down to eat.

We were dwelling in the heart of MYSTERY.
Though dark the night, hope felt right—
as if something evil was about to be conquered.

And then suddenly
the One-Who-Loved startled us all.
He got up from the table
and put on an apron.
Can you imagine how we felt?
GOD IN AN APRON!

Tenderness encircled us as he bowed before us.
He knelt and said,
“I choose to wash your feet because I love you.”

God in an apron, kneeling.
I couldn’t believe my eyes.
I was embarrassed until his eyes met mine.
I sensed my value then.
He touched my feet.
He held them in his strong, brown hands.
He washed them.
I can still feel the water.
I can still feel the touch of his hands.
I can still see the look in his eyes.

Then he handed me the towel and said,
“As I have done, so you must do.”
Learn to bow. Learn to kneel.
Let your tenderness encircle everyone you meet.
Wash their feet – not because you have to –
but because you want to.

It seems I’ve stood two thousand years
holding that towel in my hands.
“As I have done, so must you do,”
keeps echoing in my heart.

“There are so many feet to wash”, I keep saying.
“No.” I hear God’s voice resounding through the years.
“There are only my feet.
What you do for them, you do for me.”

Macrina Wiederkehr in ‘Seasons of your Heart’ (p 79)


16th Sunday of Ordinary Time (C)

Gospel  (Luke 10: 38-42)
Jesus came to a village, and a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. She had a sister called Mary, who sat down at the Lord’s feet and listened to him speaking. Now Martha who was distracted with all the serving said, ‘Lord, do you not care that my sister is leaving me to do the serving all by myself? Please tell her to help me.’ But the Lord answered: ‘Martha, Martha,’ he said ‘you worry and fret about so many things, and yet few are needed, indeed only one. It is Mary who has chosen the better part; it is not to be taken from her.’
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Reflection

It’s the kind of story everyone loves to hear:  an ordinary person treats a stranger kindly and the stranger turns out to be someone extraordinary.  In today’s 1st Reading, that’s what happens.  Abraham welcomes three strangers during the afternoon heat of the desert.  He and Sarah go above and beyond in serving them.  Only at the end of the story do the strangers reveal themselves – not wandering travellers, but the Lord.

In the Gospel, Martha and Mary make Jesus welcome – each in their own way.  Martha cooks for their guest while Mary attends to Jesus by listening to him.  Don’t we try and do the same when we have guests?

Contrast those two stories with what is going on at the border between America and Mexico.  Children are separated from their parents and held in cages – they have no adequate access to medical care, no basic sanitation, they’re exposed to extreme cold at night and don’t have adequate access to drinking water or food.  For adults, there is dangerous overcrowding in detention centres.  People held up signs with the word ‘help’ written on them as Mike Pence toured the facilities last weekend.  President Trump talks about making America great again.  Is this making America great?

Some Christians have responded by saying migrants should come to America legally, then there would be no problem.  What they fail to realise is that America has raised the bar so high it’s very difficult for an asylum seeker or refugee to get into America legally.

In our own country, we’re not much better.  We take one of the lowest quotas of refugees in Europe.  We keep asylum seekers in detention centres that are worse than any prison.  Contrary to popular rhetoric, our immigration policies are among the strictest in the world.

In his message for this year’s World Day for Migrants and Refugees in September, Pope Francis writes: “The most economically advanced societies are witnessing a growing trend towards extreme individualism which, combined with a utilitarian mentality and reinforced by the media, is producing a “globalization of indifference”. In this scenario, migrants, refugees, displaced persons and victims of trafficking have become emblems of exclusion. In addition to the hardships that their condition entails, they are often looked down upon and considered the source of all society’s ills. That attitude is an alarm bell warning of the moral decline we will face if we continue to give ground to the throw-away culture. In fact, if it continues, anyone who does not fall within the accepted norms of physical, mental and social well-being is at risk of marginalization and exclusion.”

Fr Dave

SYNOD 2020 REFLECTIONS

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On Listening

Teach me to listen, O God, to myself.
Help me to be less afraid to trust the voice inside
in the deepest part of me.
Teach me to listen, Holy Spirit, for your voice
in busyness and in boredom, in certainty and doubt,
in noise and in silence.
Teach me, Lord, to listen.
Teach me to listen, O God, to those nearest me,
my family, my friends, my co-workers.
Help me to be aware that no matter what words I hear,
the message is:
“Accept the person I am. Listen to me”.
Teach me to listen, my caring God, to those far from me
the whisper of the hopeless, the plea of the forgotten,
the cry of the anguished.
Amen.

Fr John Veltri SJ

A People Place

If this is not a place where tears are understood,
Where do I go to cry?
If this is not a place where my spirits can take wing,
Where do I go to fly?
If this is not a place where my questions can be asked,
Where do I go to seek?
If this is not a place where my feelings can be heard,
Where do I go to speak?
If this is not a place where you’ll accept me as I am,
Where can I go to be?
If this is not a place where I can try to learn and grow,
Where can I be just me?

William J. Crocker

Blessing

May we be blessed with companions on the journey,
friends who will listen to us
and encourage us with their presence.
May we learn to live with what is unsolved in our hearts,
daring to face the questions
and holding them until, one day, they find their answers.
May we find the still, quiet place inside each one of us
where we can know and experience
the peace that passes all understanding.
May love flow in us and through us to those who need our care.
May we continue to dream dreams and to reach out into the future
with deeper understanding of God’s way for us.
Amen.

(Source unknown)

 


15th Sunday of Ordinary Time (C)

Gospel  (Luke 10: 25-37)

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.’

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Reflection

“Today’s liturgy presents us with the parable of the “Good Samaritan”, taken from the Gospel of Luke. This passage, this simple and inspiring story, indicates a way of life, which has as its main point not ourselves, but others, with their difficulties, whom we encounter on our journey and who challenge us. Others challenge us. And when others do not challenge us, something is not right; something in the heart is not Christian. Jesus uses this parable in his dialogue with a lawyer when asked about the twofold commandment that allows us to enter into eternal life: to love God with your whole heart and your neighbour as yourself. “Yes”, the lawyer replies, “but, tell me, who is my neighbour?” We too can ask ourselves this question: Who is my neighbour? Who must I love as myself? My parents? My friends? My fellow countrymen? Those who belong to my religion?… Who is my neighbour?

“Jesus responds with this parable. A man, along the road from Jerusalem to Jericho, was attacked, beaten and abandoned by robbers. Along that road, a priest passed by, then a Levite, and upon seeing this wounded man, they did not stop, but walked straight past him. Then a Samaritan came by, that is, a resident of Samaria, a man who was therefore despised by the Jews because he did not practise the true religion; and yet he, upon seeing that poor wretched man, “had compassion. He went to him, bandaged his wounds, brought him to an inn and took care of him”; and the next day he entrusted him to the care of the innkeeper, paid for him and said that he would pay for any further costs.

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“At this point, Jesus turns to the lawyer and asks him: “Which of these three — the priest, the Levite, or the Samaritan — do you think was a neighbour to the man who fell victim to the robbers?”. And the lawyer, of course — because he was intelligent, said in reply: “The one who had compassion on him”. In this way, Jesus completely overturned the lawyer’s initial perspective — as well as our own! I must not categorize others in order to decide who is my neighbour and who is not. It is up to me whether to be a neighbour or not — the decision is mine — it is up to me whether or not to be a neighbour to those whom I encounter who need help, even if they are strangers or perhaps hostile. And Jesus concludes, saying: “Go and do likewise”. What a great lesson! And he repeats it to each of us: “Go and do likewise”, be a neighbour to the brother or sister whom you see in trouble. “Go and do likewise”. Do good works, don’t just say words that are gone with the wind. A song comes to mind: “Words, words, words”. No. Works, works. And through the good works that we carry out with love and joy towards others, our faith emerges and bears fruit.

“Let us ask ourselves — each of us responding in his own heart — let us ask ourselves: Is our faith fruitful? Does our faith produce good works? Or is it sterile instead, and therefore more dead than alive? Do I act as a neighbour or simply pass by? Am I one of those who selects people according to my own liking? It is good to ask ourselves these questions, and to ask them often, because in the end we will be judged on the works of mercy. The Lord will say to us: Do you remember that time on the road from Jerusalem to Jericho? That man who was half dead was me. Do you remember? That hungry child was me. Do you remember? That immigrant who many wanted to drive away, that was me. That grandparent who was alone, abandoned in nursing homes, that was me. That sick man, alone in the hospital, who no one visited, that was me.

“May the Virgin Mary help us to walk along the path of love, love that is generous towards others, the way of the Good Samaritan. My she help us to live the first commandment that Christ left us. This is the way to enter into eternal life.”

Pope Francis, 10 July 2016

SYNOD REFLECTIONS

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A New Serenity Prayer

God, grant me the serenity
to accept the people I cannot change,
which is pretty much everyone,
since I’m clearly not you, God.
At least not the last time I checked.

And while you’re at it, God,
please give me the courage
to change what I need to change about myself,
which is frankly a lot, since, once again,
I’m not you, which means I’m not perfect.
It’s better for me to focus on changing myself
than to worry about changing other people,
who, as you’ll no doubt remember me saying,
I can’t change anyway.

Finally, give me the wisdom to just shut up
whenever I think that I’m clearly smarter
than everyone else in the room,
that no one knows what they’re talking about except me,
or that I alone have all the answers.

Basically, God, grant me the wisdom
to remember that I’m not you.
Amen.

(Fr James Martin SJ)

It’s Christ’s Church – not ours!

“Remember, it’s Christ’s Church, not ours.  Jesus founded the Church, died for the Church, sent his Spirit to the Church, and will someday return for his Church.  As the owner of the Church, he has already established the purposes, and they’re not negotiable.  Our duty is to understand the purposes Christ has for the Church and to implement them.”

(Rick Warren in ‘The Purpose Driven Church’ © 1995 Rick Warren)

In his biography of St Francis of Assisi, St Bonaventure tells the story of Francis entering the little dilapidated chapel of San Damiano.  As he prayed before the crucifix, he heard a voice say: “Francis, rebuild my church, which has fallen into disrepair.”  At first, Francis took this literally, physically restoring the ruined chapel.  Later, he came to understand his mission in a more spiritual sense: to recall the Church to the radical simplicity of the Gospel and to the image of Christ in the poor.


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