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Parish News Archive

The Ancension of The Lord - 9/6/08

Dear Friends,

Build your house on rock not on sand. When Jesus tells us this He is saying something obvious, but which we are prone to forget—the most important thing in life is to live well. Right living should be the pillars on which our house is built. Jesus has just finished the Sermon on the Mount and now He invites His listeners to make their choice. They can carry on behaving according to what the world considers advantageous, or they can choose to live according to the Beatitudes.

So building our house on rock means three things. Firstly it means recognising our true worth. Each of us has an inestimable value because we are created by God in His own image and likeness. We have a wonderful capacity for goodness; we do not have to join the ‘dog eat dog’ culture. We have the powerful ability to love, since we were made by Love Itself. We do not have to put ourselves first all the time, since it is by giving ourselves away to others that we find our deepest fulfilment.

Secondly, we are not left to wander along in the dark, in some sort of ‘hit and miss’ approach to life. We have God’s word to light up the way. Jesus promised that we would not be abandoned like orphans. In fact, He gave His word that He would be at our side until the end of the world. Our faith allows us to make judgements aimed at getting the best out of life. To be a Christian is not to cut ourselves off from enjoyment, but to live life as intended—to the full!

And thirdly, we have much to look forward to. The life of the Beatitudes is one which has already begun. Eternal life started for us the moment that Jesus shattered the grave and rose from the dead. Although we do not make light of our problems and troubles, we are confident that our well being lies in God’s hands and God will never let us suffer more than we can bear and has prepared great things for us if we remain constant to the end.

God Bless you all,

Fr Bernard

Ninth Sunday of the Year - 2/6/08

Dear Friends,

Build your house on rock not on sand. When Jesus tells us this He is saying something obvious, but which we are prone to forget—the most important thing in life is to live well. Right living should be the pillars on which our house is built. Jesus has just finished the Sermon on the Mount and now He invites His listeners to make their choice. They can carry on behaving according to what the world considers advantageous, or they can choose to live according to the Beatitudes.

So building our house on rock means three things. Firstly it means recognising our true worth. Each of us has an inestimable value because we are created by God in His own image and likeness. We have a wonderful capacity for goodness; we do not have to join the ‘dog eat dog’ culture. We have the powerful ability to love, since we were made by Love Itself. We do not have to put ourselves first all the time, since it is by giving ourselves away to others that we find our deepest fulfilment.

Secondly, we are not left to wander along in the dark, in some sort of ‘hit and miss’ approach to life. We have God’s word to light up the way. Jesus promised that we would not be abandoned like orphans. In fact, He gave His word that He would be at our side until the end of the world. Our faith allows us to make judgements aimed at getting the best out of life. To be a Christian is not to cut ourselves off from enjoyment, but to live life as intended—to the full!

And thirdly, we have much to look forward to. The life of the Beatitudes is one which has already begun. Eternal life started for us the moment that Jesus shattered the grave and rose from the dead. Although we do not make light of our problems and troubles, we are confident that our well being lies in God’s hands and God will never let us suffer more than we can bear and has prepared great things for us if we remain constant to the end.

God Bless you all. Fr Bernard

Trinity Sunday - 18/5/08

Dear Friends,
Don’t be scared of the Trinity. It does not have to be complicated, though in our heart of hearts we know we can never fully grasp what it is all about. The Trinity means that, although there is only one God, that same Godhead comprises three persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Together they form a family. When St Paul used the name of the Trinity to bless people, he spoke of three broad activities that each one was responsible for. Of course, the Trinity is much more than these three things and each person has a share in all of them. There are no demarcation disputes where the Trinity is concerned.
The thing that sprang to Paul’s mind for the Father was ‘love’. This may seem old hat to us, but in a pagan world, where the gods controlled peoples’ lives and demanded all sorts of sacrifices to ward off their wrath, the idea that God really loves us seemed quite novel. God the Father not only loves us, He is love itself. And love cannot be kept to itself. It needs some sort of expression. The Father expressed His love by creating men and women and giving them a wonderful place in which to live. When we show love to anyone else, it is really God’s love that we are passing on, since we can only love because we have God’s everpresent love within us.
‘Grace’ was the catch-all word that Paul used to describe Jesus. Grace is not a thing, though our minds sometimes think of it in that way. Grace is the freely given state of favour that rests with us. God is on our side and provides us with the means to be fulfilled, if only we ask for this favour. The ultimate sign of this was when Jesus set us right with God by atoning for our sinfulness through His death on the cross.
And Paul speaks of the Holy Spirit in terms of ‘fellowship’. The Holy Spirit is the bond of closeness and communion that completes the family of the Trinity. If we experience God’s grace and love, it is through the Holy Spirit and this same Spirit unites us with all those who are also sustained and comforted by God. To live a life in the Trinity means to experience God’s love, to enjoy God’s favour, and to be held together in a family of fellowship with God and each other.

God Bless you all,

Fr Bernard

 

The Ascension of the Lord - 4/5/08

Dear Friends,

Ascension Day is the day of Christ’s victorious homecoming. It is the day when the Son returns, having achieved all that the Father had asked of him. But is also a day for the Church, for it was the infant Church that had gathered on that hillside in Galilee, summoned there by the Risen Lord. It is interesting to note that in Eastern icons depicting the Ascension, Mary is placed among the Apostles. She is put there, not primarily as the Mother of Christ, but as the image of the Church. On that hillside, Christ’s followers gathered to hear the words of the one on whom God the Father had bestowed divine authority. His words cannot be but momentous, and they are words of commission and of promise. The Church is to bring the gospel and the saving waters of baptism to every nation on earth. To emphasise that very point, the Eastern artist also placed Paul, the great missionary, in his Ascension icon. Nor must the Church forget that the last words that Christ spoke on earth were words of promise: “And know that I am with you always; yes to the end of time.” (Matt.28:20).
May is traditionally Mary’s month. Over the centuries many words have been spoken about the Virgin of Nazareth. All Christians can rejoice that one of our own race was chosen to co-operate with God in the Incarnation of His Son. The following hymn seeks to praise Mary for her many roles. It was written about the fifth century, but we do not know who the author was:
“What shall I call you, O full of grace?
I shall call you heaven:
For you have caused the Son of Justice to rise,
I shall call you paradise:
For in you has bloomed the flower of immortality.
I shall call you Virgin:
For you have remained inviolate”

God Bless you all,

Fr Bernard

 

Pentecost Sunday

Dear Friends,

Thank God the Church is bigger than you or me. Thank God that the Church is no mere human institution. Thank God that it does not stand or fall by my efforts and yours. If it were all down to us, then every scientific or medical advance that ran the risk of debasing human nature would see us running for cover. If it were all down to us, then any scandal that hit the Church would find us dumb and unable to respond. If it were all down to us, then our worship would quickly become a dry and arid performance of rubrics. But it is not all down to us. Pentecost celebrates the wonderful gift of the Holy Spirit who is ever present to the Church, guiding and sustaining, emboldening and inspiring us in the myriad circumstances of our modern world. To celebrate Pentecost is to remember that Jesus is still alive and active in His Church through the Holy Spirit. We call Whit Sunday the birthday of the Church, because on that day the first proclamation of the Church took place after Christ’s death and resurrection. The apostles were just as daunted at the prospect as we sometimes are. They feared for their lives. Yet the tongues of fire, which is the Spirit, gave them the courage to proclaim boldly the Good News of Jesus. For the Church is the living Body of Christ and anything we do as the Church will produce results only if it is grounded in the Spirit. We cannot boast of our own efforts. It is the Spirit of God working through us that is effective. So if we are reticent about bearing witness to our faith, if we want our prayer to be more heartfelt and our worship to come alive, if we feel that we need to recapture the joy and first commitment of our faith, then Pentecost is for us. Our prayer is that of the Church throughout the ages, “Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful! Enkindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and you shall be created, and you shall renew the face of the earth”.

This weekend and next weekend we pray for the children who are making their First Holy Communion as they begin a new stage in their Christian lives.

God Bless you all,

Fr Bernard

Sixth Sunday of Easter, 27th April 2008

Dear Friends,

It is quite common these days to see on the TV news that someone is starting an appeal against the justice system. They believe that all the evidence did not come out, that their confession was made under duress, or that they were wrongly convicted due to a miscarriage of justice. Usually, they do not understand the law well enough, so they employ an expensive, high-profile lawyer to put their case. These lawyers are paid to do two things for their clients. They act as an advocate and they appeal. An advocate is someone we call to be by our side when we are in need. (Paraclete is the same word in Greek). Having an advocate simply means that by ourselves we cannot cope. The situation is too complex for us to deal with it alone. When a lawyer appeals, he or she acts on behalf of the client to ensure that the court sees the individual not in a biased light, but in a sympathetic way. An appeal commends the person to the court, asks that any negative decision be removed, and that the client be treated in a favourable way.

This is how Jesus describes the Holy Spirit. He asks the Father to send us an advocate or Paraclete and He says that the advocate will be with us forever. There are many situations in life that we feel we are not up to. We are daunted by the prospect of committing ourselves to a partner, of bringing up our children, of educating our family in faith, of feeding and clothing them, and so on. At the same time, at a crossroads in life, when our decisions are going to have long term implications for our future, this is when we need an advocate. Jesus tells us that the Spirit will be by our side if we call upon Him. He will defend us and direct us towards the truth; He will sustain us when things prove difficult; and He will put words into our mouths when we do not know how to express ourselves. But, unlike other advocates, He will not charge a fee.

God Bless you all,

Fr Bernard

Second Sunday of Easter, 30th March 2008

Dear Friends,

The readings today are not simply descriptions of past events, of what happened to Thomas and that early Christian community. They are paradigms, models of what god can co to us in our individual lives and in our parish and religious communities. He takes away our fear and replaces it with his peace. He fills us with his Spirit so that we too can form a community which is faithful to the teaching of apostles, centred on the breaking of bread and prayer, and where all members care for each other's needs. He sends us out, with a mission, his mission, and he promises to work with us - through "miracles and signs" - to confirm the message he gives. We simply need to make that leap of faith, as Thomas did.

This is no fairy story or wishful thinking, this is the common experience of Christians throughout the centuries. The community Peter wrote to didn't live in some romantic Christian idyll. They knew real danger, real pain, even death for the sake of their faith in Christ. But he reminds them - and us - that no matter what the trials we face, real faith is possible: "You did not see him yet you love him." Or as Jesus tells Thomas: "Happy are those who have not seen and yet believe." We each face the trials of life and of faith in our own particular ways - perhaps we face rejection or hostility because of our faith; perhaps our faith has cost us in terms of career or friends; perhaps our cross is that of physical illness, mental anguish, grief, poverty or loneliness. Whatever our trials, Peter encourages us to take heart, to keep our faith alive, to remember the hope we now have, and to look forward to that glorious "after" which awaits all those who remain faithful.

God Bless you all,

Fr Bernard

Easter Sunday, 23rd March 2008

Dear Friends

We cannot begin to imagine what it must have been life for Christ’s followers. They were faced with the fact that, although He had been crucified and died, He was now alive! The Resurrection is a mind-boggling event. It means that the ultimate threat to humanity, death itself, no longer has power over us. That is because the Resurrection is not something that just happened to Jesus. It reaches us too. For we Christians are now alive with a life that goes beyond mere human existence. We are alive in God through Jesus Christ. To live resurrection life means that we can believe. Life ceased to be futile. We have the faith to recognise that all creation comes from God and is redeemed by Christ’s victory over death. We profess with our tongues and our lives that God is so concerned about us that He sent Jesus to show us how to live and how to usher in the kingdom of God. To be alive with the life of the risen Jesus means that we are able to trust. Life ceases to be hopeless. We know that God did not abandon Jesus in His hour of need and will not abandon us either. The Resurrection gives us a confident expectation that, wherever we turn, we will find God at our side. Whatever our problem, God promises to be with us until the end of time. Our lives will not end in the grave. Sharing the risen life of Jesus means that we can care. Life ceases to be noxious. God cared about us to the point of giving His all. We, too, can learn to care about others with a superhuman strength that is made possible only by God’s grace. We can give our all, nothing held back, until it hurts. Believing, trusting, caring—faith, hope and love. When we live these, then we are fully alive.
At the Easter Vigil we welcome Simone Chimeura into full communion with the Church. We share her joy and pray for her and her family as she opens her faith and love of God.
I would like to wish everyone a very happy and blessed Easter. May the Risen Lord always light up your lives. A word of thanks to all involved with the Holy Week / Easter celebrations—the Music Group, Choir, Organists, Eucharistic Ministers, Readers, Altar Servers, Flower Arrangers, Ushers, Church Cleaners and Tea Ladies.

God Bless you all,

Fr Bernard

Passion of The Lord (Palm Sunday), 16th March 2008

Dear Friends,

Palm Sunday is the beginning of Holy Week and today we begin a week’s journey with Christ through His suffering and death and to the glory of His Resurrection. Holy Week is the most sacred and profound time of the Church’s year and highlights Christ’s love for each of us. It reminds us the price Jesus paid for our sins. Today we gather with our palms when Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, the people shouting ‘Hosanna!’ and acclaiming Him as a King. And yet, a few days later, the palm branches were to become a cross and the hosannas turn to jeers as the mob called for His death, “Let Him be crucified!”

How will we spend this week? Will it be business as usual or will we reach out to deepen our faith and commitment to Jesus? Try to make a special effort to attend the curch ceremonies that dramatise the last agonising moments of the Saviour’s life. Listen to the Passion story in a spirit of prayer and repentance and embrace its message, so that, when Easter Day arrives, we may share more deeply the joy of the Resurrection.

God Bless you all,

Fr Bernard

Fifth Sunday of Lent, 9th March 2008

Dear Friends,

When the teacher asked her if she was looking forward to heaven, Molly replied that she was not sure. “The problem is Miss, if it goes on forever, it might get boring.” We cannot quite get our minds around the idea of everlasting life. We automatically think about years, months, days, hours, minutes and seconds. Well, the life after death is certainly eternal and will go on forever. But when Jesus offers us everlasting life, he is as much concerned with the quality of life as with its duration. From a human point of view, we can feel sorry for Lazarus who was called back from the grave to face more years of humdrum domestic life with Martha and Mary.

No matter how happy we are with our family and friends, with what we do at work, or in leisure time, most of us feel a deep down yearning for something else. We are content up to a point, but there is always something out there calling us to a better quality of life. This richer form of life is life with God and what we yearn for, if only we knew it, is union with God. The bible is littered with people who, in various ways, have become hidebound in their own little circles, people who God is able to release and unbind so that they can have life to the full. So when Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead, it is to point out that God can unbind us from the shrouds that we choose to wear daily. It is to show us that there is a more fulfilling and exciting life than we are sometimes led to believe. Lent reminds us that to be raised in Christ is to enjoy the really good things of life, to taste the very sweetness of existence. It reminds us that money, sex, power and applause can have a deadening effect on life. There is more to life than all of these and Christians measure success in different terms. For them, eternal life has already started. If you want to live life now at a deeper level, an enduring or eternal life, then live the life that Christ offers. It sets you free from the shroud of competition, anxiety and outward appearance. And it is so devoid of deadening influences that it lasts forever.

God Bless you all,

Fr Bernard

Fourth Sunday of Lent, 2nd March 2008

Dear Friends,
The internet is a fascinating thing. Just connect to it, type in a word or phrase, and suddenly you have access to hundreds and thousands of sites all vying for your attention and offering the solutions to your questions. Of course, it is not quite as simple as that is it? You want to find out about the queen who ruled 19th Century Britain and so you type in ‘Victoria’. However, all you get is page after page of tourist guides to Canada or Australia Chamber of Commerce web sites and many more. Information is a wonderful thing, but it needs a certain ability to see through it and sift the evidence before it becomes really useful. Too much information simply blinds us and we don’t know which avenue to go down to find our answers.
Today’s long gospel passage from St John presents us with the man who has been blind since birth. He has always had to rely on others to describe the physical world to him, always had to ask directions from strangers, and always lived off second hand accounts of what people and places were like. Today he would carry a white stick. When Jesus gives him his sight back, it transforms his world. Not only do his eyes work correctly, but his vision of reality is transformed. So sure is he of the power of Jesus that he begins to argue and taunt the religious leaders. These same leaders had previously blamed him and his parents for his blindness.
As we move towards Easter and the renewal of our baptismal promises, the Church gives us this gospel passage to remind us that our faith in Christ has opened our eyes to see clearly what we must do to live the life of Christ that God wants of us. We are no longer blindly searching for meaning and fulfilment. We need feel no fear when faced with so many shallow and pale imitations of what life is about, so many people who pretend to have the secret of happiness, so much junk information that promises us the world.
When Jesus calls us out of darkness into light, He offers us the gift of faith, the ability to discern to see clearly, to journey without stumbling. Throw away your white stick He says and see how wonderful the world can be.

God Bless you all,

Fr Bernard

Third Sunday of Lent, 24th February 2008

Dear Friends,

Water does three things. The most obvious thing it does is to wet. Whatever water comes into contact with, it changes it. The sound of children squealing with delight at the end of a hosepipe is a familiar one. So is the groan of someone caught in the rain without an umbrella. If water gets on you, then you are no longer the same—for better or worse! Water also cleans. We use it to wish in since it is one of the best agents we know for taking away stains and dirt. Perhaps, it is not surprising that when Christians think of water they often associate it with the role of Baptism in cleansing us from original sin. The psalms, too, speak frequently about being washed from sin and made whiter than snow.

Yet, it is not this aspect of water that Jesus emphasises in today’s gospel. Rather, it is the third function of water. Water refreshes and brings life. All over the world today there are men and women standing in our churches who are asking to be admitted to the Church Community and to be baptised, to become Christians. And the gospel addressed to them this day is about the gift that Jesus promises - water to take away your thirst and lead you on to eternal life. If you are to be a Christian, then it’s because you find the message of Jesus so attractive that no other drink will satisfy you. The promise of Jesus reaches the parts that no other drink can reach. And what a promise this is! Jesus tells us that our deepest yearnings and longings will be satisfied. In Him, life begins to make sense, priorities begin to change, and the will of God becomes our only goal. So as thousands of would-be Christians stand before altars today and ask to be given this living water, we use the opportunity to count our own blessings and thank God for the gift of faith. We often take it for granted, but we know that it is a well from which we can draw water in times of drought, a spring that offers us eternal life.

God Bless you all,

Fr Bernard

Fourth Sunday of The Year, 3rd February 2008

Dear Friends,

The 1980’s were known as the ‘me’ years. We were encouraged to take care of ourselves by sharing in an economy that was supposed to make us all richer and give us a greater share in the wealth of our nation. A booming financial market, wider ownership of shares due to privatisation, champagne in the city and a ‘loads of money’ culture ensured. For some. Yet we were all enticed by the philosophy of getting out there and grabbing what was ours. The pundits of the 80’s would have found it hard to make any sense of Jesus’ words in today’s gospel. The are counter-cultural. They fly in the face of the accepted standards of society. In fact, they say that to be a Christian is to put yourself not in the front line when it comes to receiving, but to stand in second place and allow those more needy than you to come forward. What lies behind the teaching from the Sermon on the Mount is the fact that none of us is a self-made man or woman. The world belongs to God, not to the rich, and whatever skills and talents we might have are not the result of our own greatness, but of God’s generosity. Success is not measured by bank balances or public adulation, by civic honours and titles, or by column inches in the national newspapers. Success is measured by our ability to espouse the values of God’s kingdom, values that do not draw attention to ourselves, but point us in the direction of God. People who are selfish or self-absorbed lack integrity. They lack integrity because humility is missing from their make-up. And humility does not mean that they pretend to be less than they are; it means that they acknowledge where their strengths come from. Jesus urges us to go beyond the world’s definition of strength, success and happiness, for seen through the lens of eternity they are shallow. Instead, He invites us to rejoice in true poverty of spirit and boast of the values of the Kingdom, which are our wisdom, our strength, our ‘holiness’ and our freedom.

God Bless you all,

Fr Bernard

Third Sunday of The Year, 27th January 2008

Dear Friends,
We all have our own prejudices. Some of us would not touch a German white wine even if it were on prescription. Others would always go for a week’s bed and breakfast at Mrs Higginbottom’s boarding house in Eastbourne, rather than a luxury holiday abroad in the sun. A new fashion design business would have an uphill struggle if it opened in Scunthorpe and a gourmet restaurant would have to prove itself to survive in Smethwick.
The same was true in Jesus’ day. Of all the chic places to be found, the land of Zebulun and Naphtali in northern Palestine was not exactly at the top of the list. It has been attached by the Syrians and many people had been deported. So, it is with a sense of irony that Mathew remembers Isaiah’s prophecy about how God would make these places great. And now the eyes of the world look to Zebulun and Naphtali as the place from which God’s promised Messiah came.
We have to fight against letting our prejudices get the better of us. For our God is a God of surprises. Just when we think we have got it all sewn up and know what to expect, God pops us in the most unusual of circumstances and makes nonsense of our best predictions. The pages of religious history are littered with the underdog proving victorious. That’s because God does not march to the same beat as we do. God is bigger than we can ever imagine and He chooses to work things out in His way and not in ours. It’s only our puny expectations that prevent us from doing great things. We have learned not to expect much, even of God. And though God tells us to pray for the Holy Spirit in our lives so that we will accomplish wonders and marvels, we sometimes need convincing.
As this year of Matthew’s Gospel unfolds, we will be invited to set no limits on what God can do in our lives, to expect the unhoped for, and to await more than we can ever dream of. Alternatively, we could put our faith on hold and try another week at Mrs Higginbottom’s. There are no surprises there.

God Bless you all,

Fr Bernard

Second Sunday of The Year, 20th January 2008

Dear Friends,

When a man and woman fall in love, strange things happen. Each becomes absorbed in the other. They constantly think about each other. They want to know all about their partner and they find each other fascinating. There is nothing ordinary about your girl or boy friend because they seem so special to you. So special in fact, that you cannot understand why everyone else doesn’t see it. And you would do anything for them. You really love them.
Is it possible, or even decent, that God should have this sort of love for us? So often when we say that God loves us, we mean it in a distant sense. It’s like saying that we love French people. What we really mean is that we find them pleasant and we would do nothing to harm them. But there is a very different type of love between the French and us than that which exists between lovers.
Today, Isaiah reminds us of how exactly God loves us. Not in some remote and general way, but in an intimate and deep sense. God has loved each one of us since the moment when he allowed us to start forming in the womb. And God is fascinated with us, not just as members of the human race, but as individual persons. That’s because God created us and wants us to be happy and prosper. Each of us is special to God because God is not some sort of principle, but a person. As a person, He craves a personal relationship with us. Not a hair on our head is lost without God noticing it and being concerned for us. For He loves everything that He has made. Part of the greatness of God is His ability to stoop down to our level and our petty concerns and worries. As a lover, He is bothered about what bothers us. He loves and knows us so much that there is something that He has entrusted to us that is unique. And if we are responsive to God’s amorous overtures ourselves, then we have to be prepared to use that uniqueness in His service. When God proposes, our response can only be that of the psalmist, “Here I am Lord, I come to do your will”.

God Bless you all,

Fr Bernard

The Baptism of The Lord, 13th January 2008

Dear Friends,

Jesus was baptised in the River Jordan by His cousin, John, and a voice from heaven pointed him out as the Son of God. “Listen to Him!”, it said. There’s a river Jordan that runs past each of our doors. We know it’s there and we can choose whether to step into it whenever we go out, or else side step round it. For to step into the river means to immerse ourselves in the business of Baptism. That’s not babies and christening shawls, but the nuts and bolts of what makes us tick, how we relate to each other. Baptism commits us to a way of living and breathing. Jesus’ Baptism marked Him out in three ways. He was shown to be a priest, a prophet and a king. And each time we baptise a new Christian, we tell them that they, too, are to live as priests, prophets and kings. To be baptised as priests, as we all are, means to offer God a life that is pleasing. It means to present God with a sacrifice of praise. We are called to make the most of all we do, to use our skills to bring our needs and those of others to God in prayer, to make our lives acceptable to God. Some deep water here. Perhaps we would not normally think of ourselves as prophets, but that’s that the baptismal rite tells us we are. It’s easy to see how Jesus was a prophet, for prophets tell people what God wishes them to know and act on. By Baptism, we have become prophets of the Good News whose job it is to proclaim our faith to the world, to say what God has told, whether it’s welcome or not. The temptation, of course, is to stay out of the wet and leave it to those who seem keener than us. To be thought of as kings (or queens) sounds strange these days. In the days of Christ a king had a kingdom and was responsible for the citizens of that kingdom. As members of the Kingdom of God, we are called to rule by protecting the weak and vulnerable, serving the cause of right, and creating an environment where all can prosper and grow. It means getting involved in the deep end. To be a priest, prophet and king means to get into that river Jordan every day. Next time you go out, ask yourself how wet your feet are.

God Bless you all,

Fr Bernard

Christ The King, 25th November 2007

Dear Friends,

There are two ways of looking at today’s feast. The first can sound rather dry. It means we are celebrating the fact of God the Father making it possible for us to enter a Kingdom where the saints live. He sent his Son to show the way to this Kingdom. By conquering death on the Cross, Jesus claims dominion over creation and has opened up the way for us to eternal life. Jesus becomes our role model, our guide, our ruler, our universal King.

The second is more exciting. It means that we can live lives that are free from fear, free from the hold of evil, free from meaninglessness. In our day-to-day existence, as we do our best to get the most from life, as we strive to lead lives that are fulfilling, rich, diverse and creative, we can move forward in the knowledge that Christ now rules our universe as king and that we can be citizens of a kingdom that has a purpose, has a future, and is life enhancing. Christ has conquered, death, evil, negativity, prejudice, cynicism, and all that would keep us from becoming what we are really capable of being. And we share this Kingdom with Jesus Christ, the Universal King. Christ is not some sort of ancient worthy, some dead idealist. He is alive and well today and rules the world through you and me, His followers. When we lead lives of truth, it is Christ’s kingdom of truth we are sharing in; when we thirst for human rights, for basic human development and an end to violence, it is Christ’s Kingdom of justice, love and peace that we are promoting. So, today’s feast comes at the climax of the Church’s year. It is the final shout of triumph to a God who has broken the power of evil. Christ rules as King of the Universe through the minds and hearts of His followers. We have been freed to rejoice in His peace, to glory in His justice, and to live in His love.

God Bless you all,

Fr Bernard

Thirty Second Sunday of The Year, 11th November 2007

Dear Friends,

Throughout November we remind ourselves that death is not the end as we pray for the well-being of our loved ones. Today, Remembrance Sunday, we remember especially all those brave people, young and old, who gave their lives in the World Wars, and in other wars since, that we may live our lives in freedom and peace. With every passing year there are fewer and fewer people who can claim direct contact with the two World Wars of the twentieth century. Yet millions are touched by the devastation they caused. Today we recall the sacrifices made by the men and women of our nation who sacrificed their lives so that we might live in freedom. We also call to mind the many thousands of people who die every year in conflicts around the world in our own day, especially in Afghanistan and Iraq.
No one can fail to be moved by the human tragedy of these terrible attacks. Solidarity and support are the only responses for the friends and families of those who are killed. But even in the face of such horrors, Christians do not believe that the victims’ lives have come to nothing. Our faith proclaims that we are creatures of a God who intends us to have life and who has created us for a life that is everlasting. Our life this side of the grave has a meaning and we are going to live forever. The Sadducees did not believe in a resurrection and tried to trick Jesus into making nonsense of the after life. Whose wife would she be in heaven when she had been widowed seven times? Jesus responded by stressing that the afterlife is bigger than any of our puny attempts to pinhole it. Such was the belief of the seven brothers in Maccabees that they were happy to go to their deaths rather than disown their faith in God, for God would raise them up forever. And so with us. None of us yearns to die, because most of us live life so much. But we do know, that since Christ conquered death on the Cross, our life is one continuum both sides of the grave. We are here for a purpose and one of our lives can every come to nothing.

God Bless you all,

Fr Bernard

Twenty Ninth Sunday of The Year, 21st October 2007

Dear Friends,

Today is World Mission Sunday. In this Jubilee Year of Salvation, we commemorate the ‘birth of mission’ when Christ our Saviour was born. Christ is the first and greatest missionary of the Father and continues through the proclamation and witness of the Church. Each and every one of us shares in the responsibility for that mission to tell the world the Good News of God’s love for all His people. The Jubilee Year was a year of forgiveness and reconciliation, a special time when we worked to heal divisions between God and each other. These divisions impair the Church’s witness to the Gospel.

For this reason, we should strive at every level to dialogue with all people, even those who do not accept the Gospel. The aim of mission is to make all one in Christ. Prayer is vitally important, especially in praying for vocations. The vocations are there. Fewer respond in the west, but, elsewhere, missionary vocations are on the increase. Two-thirds of all religious vocations are in Asia.

Today we are asked to join all the Catholic communities and parishes around the world by offering our prayers and material help to our brothers and sisters in countries where the Church is new, young or poor. They, in turn, will care for others, sharing God’s love and compassion. Your support on World Mission Sunday will help them grow strong and share the Good News of Jesus with all peoples. Your support today will help every mission diocese in the whole world! Please support the second collection today; the money will go directly to those most in need.

God Bless you all,

Fr Bernard

Twenty Eighth Sunday of The Year, 14th October 2007

Dear Friends,

You cannot help feeling sorry for the nine lepers who forgot to come back and thank Jesus for curing them. They were overcome by the emotion of the moment. And you cannot help smiling that it was a Samaritan, an outcast, who was the one to return and say thank you. We generally say thank you for something that has already taken place. If you send me a gift, I thank you after I have received it. I write you a letter to express my thanks for the party or the meal to which you invited me. It seems obvious that something has to happen first before we say thank you. But there is a type of thanksgiving that Christians have that is not about the past, but the present. It is one of the greatest graces that a person can receive, to be able to thank God for the present moment. It is not so much about words, as about an attitude of mind in which we recognise all that God is doing for us at this moment and are able to reply with gratitude and thanksgiving. The Samaritan leper gave thanks to God right where the grace of God had found him and it was this that transformed his life. Jesus said that such faith was what had saved him.

To be able to stand on the ground of the present, not ignoring the past, but concentrating on the present moment, and to be able to turn to God and be grateful for being alive and loved by God, is a grace indeed. In fact, that is what ‘Eucharist’ is about. Each Sunday in the Eucharistic Prayer we make our great act of thanksgiving to God for all that He has done for us in creating and redeeming us in Christ and we give thanks for this moment when we are held in the palm of God’s hand and called to worship. It means realising that the ‘good old days’ are not in the past. They are today. St Paul said that they could put him in chains but they could not chain up God’s news. The Good News is all around us. Let us thank God for it - today!

God Bless you all,

Fr Bernard

Twenty Seventh Sunday of The Year, 7th October 2007

Dear Friends,

When people say they wish they had more faith, they can mean a variety of things. The apostles asked Jesus to increase their faith after He had told them of their need to forgive constantly. Maybe they though this was too difficult a thing to do and so wanted help. Sometimes people ask for an increase in faith when faced with some teaching of the Church that they find hard to come to terms with. Perhaps it is something as basic as believing that in the Eucharist we received Christ’s body and blood; or else that there really is life after death. We all find some things hard to swallow at difficult points in our lives. A third reason for asking for an increase in faith, and a very common one, is when we are shaken to our roots and begin to wonder whether it is really worth believing or not. Are we living a life in God, or are we just fooling ourselves and taking part in a big charade? This is how Habukkuk must have felt in today’s reading. He’d done all the prophesying that God had asked of him and yet nothing seemed to have come of it. He’d denounced all sorts of oppression and yet God seemed to do nothing to save those who trusted in Him. Outrage and violence was the order of the day. So what was the point of believing in and trusting God? God’s answer is that whatever wealth the wicked amass, it will all come to nothing. Ultimately, it is a person’s faithful living out of their life of faith that will assure them of happiness. The ill-gotten trappings of wealth and luxury are transient; they will be over in a flash, while eternity will last forever. If we’d sometimes wondered whether we’d drawn the short straw, then we would not be human. To question our motives for faith is normal and healthy. Blind faith is simply blind. So, today, God bids us to fan into a flame that strong sense of faith we had when we first believed and He promises us that even when people deride us from every side, it will be our faithfulness that will win through in the end. And God’s promises will not fail. He is not made like that.

God Bless you all,

Fr Bernard

Twenty Fifth Sunday of The Year, 23rd September 2007

Dear Friends,

Money makes money, they say. We all need to use money in order to exist in modern society, but we need to remember that there is a quality of life that no amount of money can purchase. And Jesus warns that if we become fixated with money, then this deeper quality of life with God is denied us. Jesus was very aware of the corrupting power that a love of money can exercise over a person. His story of the dishonest servant shows how people can succumb to thinking that wealth is the same as a fat bank balance. And in an ironic way He cajoles His hearers to use their money to buy friends. They’ll be the only ones who will get you into the tents of eternity, He says, because your greed will certainly keep you out. This week and next Amos and Luke invite us to examine the way we treat money. We cannot serve God and money. Does this mean that the richer we become, the more distant from God we become. Clearly not. A millionaire who gives away £900,000 every year to charity is closer to God than someone with only £1,000 who hoards away every penny for themselves. It’s not simply about the amount we have. It’s about how attached we are to money and its trappings. Since most of us will never have a fortune, there are other ways of telling how attached we are to money and possessions. Do we pore over magazines offering the latest in wall to wall internet stereo? Do we want a superstar lifestyle and be seen in the tabloids? Are we quick to give to charitable appeals? Is the neighbour’s new car and boat a reason to admire them? Do we spend so much time earning at work that we have begun to neglect our family? And tonight, before going to bed, given the option of reading a few verses from the Bible or checking your bank statement, which would you choose?

Next weekend an appeal will be made by Aid to the Church in Need. They are a charity supporting Christians around the world who are persecuted, oppressed or in pastoral need.

God Bless you all,

Fr Bernard

Twenty Fourth Sunday of The Year, 16th September 2007

Dear Friends,

Today we keep Home Mission Day as a day of prayer for the evangelisation of England and Wales. Evangelisation in our pluralistic society is the great challenge for the church as we enter this new era. Jesus puts this question to us, “Who do people say that I am?” They will only be able to make that confession of faith, “You are the Christ” if they know who we are and experience faith through our living and vibrant communities and parishes. Sometimes we want to pass Christian Mission over to somebody else. We think of Mission as something done by somebody else. Missionaries go thousands of miles away from us, or if we have a mission in our parish, we think of asking someone from outside to parachute in to do it for us. There is nothing wrong with specialised missionaries. But, all the Church is, in fact, missionary.

Every baptised Christian has been commissioned in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit to take part in God’s great adventure of love, Jesus was sent to reconcile people to God. Jesus was sent to proclaim Good News to the poor and liberty to the captive. Jesus came to bring fullness of life to all people, the Holy Spirit to the Church to give us the power to carry out this plan of God. The Spirit is in us so that we can do the will of God. The Spirit makes each of us missionaries. Every Christian must contribute to the great work for which Jesus established the Church. Everyone of us must do our bit for the Kingdom of love, justice and peace. This may involve suffering - it certainly involves sacrifice. Yet we are not asked to do anything that God in Christ has not done for us already. We are not asked to do anything that the Holy Spirit will not give us the grace to achieve. We are asked to follow Jesus. This demands everything of us and yet, much more marvellously, gives us everything.

God Bless you all,

Fr Bernard

Twenty Third Sunday of The Year, 9th September 2007

Dear Friends,

With the summer holidays almost over and the new school year beginning, it is good to take stock and thank God for the summer break. We all need a change from the routine to relax and enjoy the gifts of God’s creation.

This Sunday we focus our attention on Racial Justice and the issues involved. The barriers of ethnicity, gender, class, power and wealth were broken down by Jesus. The Good News He proclaimed has real liberating power to bring about true spiritual and social change. Christian campaigning for racial justice is part of our spiritual pilgrimage and discipline. It is motivated by the biblical and gospel values of equality, justice, freedom and dignity. Christians hold the biblical view that all human beings are created by God in His image and likeness. Our mission is set in a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural community. The ‘rainbow’ mix of peoples is a gift from God and can be seen as a foretaste of life in the Heavenly Kingdom.

Sadly, the reality in many of our churches, as in society at large, fall short of this biblical vision. Racism is a sin; and God is against it. What is needed is a repentance that leads to an active reconciliation.

As Christians, our commitment to strive for racial justice must be more than an observance just on this one Sunday. It must be a commitment to work and pray for a process of change. In all our magnificent diversity, we are united by our humanity.

God Bless you all,

Fr Bernard

Twenty Second Sunday of The Year, 2nd September 2007

Dear Friends,
Everyone has a story about meeting someone famous in the street, on a train, or in a restaurant and finding out that, although they were indeed famous, they turned out to be very ordinary and unassuming in real life. Instead of insisting on their own importance, they stood in the queue just like everyone else and wanted no special treatment. The fact that we tell these stories goes to show that we value and prize people who are just like us. It’s not that we want to deny their special acting or sporting talents, but that we admire people whose egos are not so inflated that they think they are better than we are. At a meal, Jesus noticed that some people were full of themselves and so He told a parable designed to warn them about the dangers of self-satisfaction and arrogance. Make yourself humble, He said, so that if you really are important, your status will be rewarded by your being promoted by your host. He was teasing them even as He encouraged them to be humble. Act as if you are not important, then everyone will find out that you really are. Of course, Jesus did not want them to have false modesty. This is what happens when a famous brain surgeon pretends he’s only a glorified butcher, or a great composer protests he only writes ditties. It’s good to be realistic about our strengths. It’s good to admit that we have gifts and talents that are useful to others of which give others pleasure to watch or to listen to. Humility is not denial. What humility does is to give the credit where it is due. Yes we may have trained at the crease to become a great batsman or spent years practising scales on the piano, but all that we have comes from God. If we are good at something, then it simply means that we have applied ourselves to develop what God has planted within us. Christian humility is actually about thanks. It’s the recognition that God has gifted us in so many ways and it demands our grateful response to the source of all good things.
I would like to thank Fr Clement for his time with us over the summer. He thanks you for the kindness and hospitality you have shown him, and he will take back many happy memories when he flied back to the Ivory Coast next week.

God Bless you all,

Fr Bernard

Seventeenth Sunday of The Year, 29th July 2007

Dear Friends,

St Luke’s community was composed largely of Gentile Christians who had none of the Jewish familiarity with prayer, which other early Christian communities had. It is only in Luke’s Gospel that the disciples ask Jesus to teach them to pray. This reflects Luke’s concern simply to encourage his people to do it.

It is a timely message for us today. So much is written and spoken about prayer, but there is no substitute for the actual practice of it. And Jesus’ teaching is not complicated. The basis of all prayer is a relationship of trust and intimacy with God. We need to develop a child-like dependence on him which quite simply expects God to act in answer to our prayers and to give us what we need.

Jesus tells us to persevere in prayer and to count on God’s kindness. The ultimate proof of God’s overflowing generosity is the gift of his Holy Spirit. This is the answer to our deepest longing and our most heartfelt prayer. It is a gift worth asking for.

We welcome Fr Clement Abiodun from the Ivory Coast, who will be with us for the next five weeks whilst I take a break in August.

Wishing you all an enjoyable and restful summer.

 

God Bless you all,

Fr Bernard

Fifteenth Sunday of The Year, 15th July 2007

Dear Friends,

Why do we like some people and not others? Why are we naturally trusting of certain individuals and yet suspicious of others? Sometimes we have good reasons to be suspicious of certain characters. The man in the street at midnight, wearing a mask over his face, carrying a baseball bat and a sack full of silverware, is probably not the local vicar on his way home! But, often we are suspicious of people for no good reason. Maybe it is because they look like someone we once knew who turned out to be unpleasant or, maybe, even worse, it is because they are different from us. Perhaps they do not speak our language, do not have the same colour skin, are from a foreign country, or practice a religion or lifestyle we do not properly understand. When the map of human genes was finally cracked recently, one of the more interesting consequences was that the idea of race was shown to be rather shallow and man-made. We are all the same at our deepest roots. No nation or individual is superior to any other. It is just that some have had things easier than others. It is easy to acknowledge someone to be our neighbour. They just have to live near us. But what is now even more apparent, is that we are all brothers and sisters. We all share a common dignity. For us to denigrate one type of person just because they are that type is to denigrate all of us in one lot. Being suspicious of whole groups of people is the result of ignorance and fear. And it is called prejudice. Jesus annoyed His listeners with the story of the Good Samaritan. They did not mind that someone helped the man who had been mugged. What they objected to was Jesus making a hero of the type of person that it was not fashionable to like—the Samaritan. So, next time the Mohican-haired teenager helps you across the road, or that woman with eight kids offers to give you a lift to the post-office, don’t look so surprised. They have always been nice people. The problem has been with you, but you have never realised it.

 

God Bless you all,

Fr Bernard

Thirteenth Sunday of The Year, 1st July 2007

Dear Friends,

Headhunting has become a common feature of modern business. When a company sees someone who could be useful to them, they set out to attract the person and offer them favourable conditions to come and work for them. When God told Elijah to go and appoint Elisha to be his successor as prophet, Elijah had a very primitive way of headhunting. He threw his cloak over Elisha! But Elisha got the message. He liquidated his assets (oxen) and paid off his employees with a feast.

We see a similar approach with Jesus in the Gospel. Jesus resolutely took the one way road to Jerusalem, convinced that He had to travel this road as the culmination of His mission here on earth. There could be no turning back. He set out to preach and to confront those in Jerusalem with the power of the gospel message. As He went along His way, He invited those He met to follow Him and join in His saving work. Some people could not face the challenge, others wanted a bit of time to prepare themselves for the task. But Jesus demanded that they leave everything and join Him immediately on the one-way road. Jesus realised the urgency of the gospel message. It was not a ‘take it or leave it’ message. It was the only message that made sense of life itself and it had to be embraced wholeheartedly, or not at all. If religion is about the decisions we make for God that affect our life in eternity, then we cannot reduce it to a part-time activity.

Each of us has been headhunted by God to be prophets of His Good News. We keep our baptism alive day-by-day as we bear witness to the fact that only Jesus can enable us to be the fully-alive people we are destined to be. In return for the rewards that are promised us, God asks that we make our faith a full-time occupation. There is no time for looking back, for a coffee morning mentality, for ‘donating a few hours of our time’, or being Sunday morning Christians. In a world where millions have never even heard of the name of Jesus, let along His message, there is urgency about being a Christian. As He set out on His journey to Jerusalem, Jesus knew this. And He asks the same resolute commitment of those who would follow Him on the streets of our town.

God Bless you all,

Fr Bernard

Birthday of John The Baptist, 24th June 2007

Dear Friends,
A popular misconception about prophets is that they are supposed to foretell the future. That’s not actually true. Sometimes it does happen that when a prophet predicts something or other will happen, it does actually take place. But, the prophet’s job is not to predict. Rather, it is to proclaim. The modern word that most closely corresponds to prophet is spokesperson. A prophet is someone who speaks the words that God would speak if He chose to use His voice here on earth. A prophet would be named by the T.V. and press as “a source close to God”.
John the Baptist is the prophet who spans the gap between the Old and New Testament. God leaves him in no doubt as to what his task is. He is to prepare people through repentance for the coming of God’s anointed one, the long-expected Christ. This mission entrusted to him consumes his whole life. His preaching is not to take it or leave it. It’s charged with a sense of urgency. And the message is not his own; it comes from God. God speaks about putting His words into the mouths of prophets. He imbues them with a fiery dedication to preaching a message, whether it’s welcome or unwelcome. We can all think of prophets who have lived during our lifetime, people who have been so fired up by the message of Christ that their whole lives have been a pointer to Jesus. Some of these are international figures, but others are ordinary people like you and me whose very lifestyle is a sign that there is more to life than meets the eye.
When we celebrate the birth of John the Baptist, we remind ourselves that at our own baptism we were anointed with the oil of chrism and dedicated as prophets of the Good News. We are the prophets of the 21st Century, to whom God gives His word, so that we may be signs to the world. Whatever our circumstances, our lives can be witnesses to the values of the Gospel. We can be spokespersons for God’s vision of the world. And, hopefully, when we speak, it will be as “a source close to God”.

God Bless you all,

Fr Bernard

Eleventh Sunday of The Year, 17th June 2007

Dear Friends,

The tabloid newspapers love nothing more than a story about politicians who have made public speeches on moral issues and then failed to live up to their high standards. There’s a certain glee involved when the gory details of sleaze are revealed and the person is exposed. But, we don’t have to read very many pages of the paper to find adverts for the same kind of unethical opportunity on offer in the classified sections. There seems to be two standards : cry ‘shock, horror’ at the discovery, but defend it as valid commercial copy if it helps to sell the paper. And, of course, it is a fair bet that whatever the politician has done is small fry compared to what some of the newspaper staff may have been involved in.

When the woman entered the house of Simon the Pharisee and washed the feet of Jesus with her tears, the natural reaction was to point out that she had something of a reputation. But Jesus remarks that it is precisely because she has such a past that she is so loveable. It is because she knows how much love has been shown her that she can be so loving to others. Only people who have been forgiven much can know what it is to show real compassion to others. If we really recognise our own sin and try to repent, then we know we can expect the forgiveness of God. And this is something that makes us so grateful, that we can never withhold forgiveness from others who need it. If, on the other hand, we pretend that our faults are really quite trivial, or we even deny that we have any, then we are not capable of any depth of love, since we need to experience the profundity of God’s love and forgiveness before we can pass it on to others. Forgiveness is a grace from God that cannot be given to others unless it has first been received by us.

God Bless you all,

Fr Bernard

The Ascension of The Lord, 20th May 2007

Dear Friends,

Strange, isn't, how we look upwards to find heaven and downwards to describe hell? Yet we have to have some way of making sense of realities that otherwise are too complex for our finite minds. Because we think of Jesus going to up at the Ascension (the very word indicates upward movement), it's natural that we should think of Him coming back down when He returns. But we could not be more wrong. A very well kept secret is that He has not gone at all. He's still here. Of course He does not look like he used to. Things are bound to have changed over two thousand years, so that now He looks just like you and me. When Jesus knew he was about to undergo his suffering and death, He prayed for future generations of His followers and told His Father that He would continue to make God's name known through future generations. He promised that God's love would be with them and that He would be present in them. So the best place to look for Jesus is not with a telescope into the sky, but down here on earth. He has given his word that He would be with us always, right until the end of time. And He is to be found in the hearts and souls of those who sincerely follow Him today. This is not to say that He did not ascend to heaven. He ascended into a new dimension of life and existence. So where do we look if we want to find Jesus? We'll find him in the nitty-gritty of loneliness of the window, in the extraordinary bravery of men and women, in the anonymous service of people who ask for no reward.

God Bless you all,

Fr Bernard

5th Sunday of The Year, 4th February 2007

Dear Friends,

Because the Church is human as well as divine, it has its ups and downs. There are periods when all seems doom and gloom and the only press that the Church gets a bad one. Scandals, declining numbers and general secularism from some quarters tends to affect us all. This is nothing new. The passage of the years has seen periods of great boom followed by seeming decline. The early centuries saw a flourishing Church in Africa that almost disappeared from view until its recent re-birth and tremendous regrowth. Zealous pastoral care and individual holiness have been followed by sheer complacency. But the church has always remained. It must have felt like that to the disciples who were juggling their following of Jesus with their jobs as fishermen. And just as they were about to throw in the towel, Jesus asks one more effort of them to cast their nets. We all know the results. So many fish that they needed more boats to contain them all. Christ’s promise to the Church is that is will never be alone, never abandoned. He will be with us until the end of time. What matters is that we keep faithful to preaching the Gospel message.

Paul puts it in a nutshell today when he reminds us that Jesus died for our sins and rose to give us the chance of everlasting life. If we keep this good news to ourselves and turn it into a threatened community or religious clique, then we are saying that we have nothing to offer. We are refusing to cast our nets and draw others to Christ. The job of a Christian is to challenge the world with the glory of the Gospel. We are called to gird ourselves, to proclaim the goodness and joy of God’s love, to show the world that faith in Jesus makes sense and makes a difference to our lives. Today’s Gospel makes it clear that faith is not for the fainthearted or the cynical. We are charged with casting our nets on all sides. Forget the fish. From now on it’s people we must catch.

God Bless you all,

Fr Bernard

4th Sunday of The Year, 28th January 2007

Dear Friends,

It’s a sobering thought for any preacher that the very first sermon Jesus ever preached (according to Luke) ended in uproar and His being chased out of town by a blood thirsty mob. Good preaching always encourages, while at the same time pointing out just how far we still have to go to reach our goal. The story is told of a new priest who preached the same sermon four times in a row when he came to a parish. A deputation arrived to complain about this and he simply said, “I’ll start to preach a new sermon when I see some evidence that the first one has taken some root in your lives”. Each of us is a living sermon. Before God formed us in the womb, He knew that each of us would be unique. Our uniqueness means that there is a sermon that only we can preach by our lives. There are aspects of God’s love and concern for our world that only we can reflect. It is proclaimed differently by other people and their lives. But our lives count. We are more than a number. Our relationship with God, the experiences we have had that others have not undergone, make us uniquely qualified to be witnesses to the gospel. Naturally, if they had wanted to shoot the first messenger of the gospel, then we ought not to be surprised if we encounter cold shoulders when we talk about our faith. That’s because, although the gospel is good news, something which enriches people’s lives, making them better people, it also challenges attitudes and perceptions which much of society takes for granted. In a world, and a society that churchmen have labelled “tacitly atheist”, the path of someone who is broadcasting the counter values of the gospel, is bound to be strewn with difficulties. You may be thought of as a bit odd, you may be shunned by those who you thought were friends, you may even suffer in your job. That’s what happed to Christ. But God’s promise through Jeremiah will still hold good for you. “They will fight against you, for I am with you to deliver you.” Let your every breath be a sermon

God Bless you all,

Fr Bernard

3rd Sunday of The Year, 21st January 2007

Dear Friends,
When a general election looms, we all look to the party manifestos to find out what the plan of action is that each political party is promising us. One will collect more taxes, another will cut down on public spending, and another will give us free ice creams! If Jesus had a manifesto, then it is the text we hear today from St. Luke. Jesus had been baptised and then had gone off for forty days to get Himself ready for His mission. Having successfully resisted the temptations of the devil, He returns to His homeland to announce His intended plan of action. And all eyes are on Him. He searches through the writings of Isaiah until He comes to the section where God speaks of giving sight to the blind and setting prisoners free. And then He says that this is being fulfilled at that moment, even as His listeners are hearing the words spoken. The difference between politicians and Jesus is that politicians always promise things in the future, but Jesus promises that the time of God’s favour is now. This is one of the most difficult things for many people to grasp. It is easy to slip into the notion that our lives are no different from any one else’s here on earth, that we have to put up with all sorts of oppression and misery, be held captive to forces greater than ourselves in the hope of eventual happiness in heaven. If you are blinded by greed, money crunching and success in the eyes of the world, Jesus today promises to open your eyes. Just listen to Him and act. It’s your choice. If you are oppressed by nay-sayers, despair and anxiety, Jesus today promises to set you free. Just listen to Him and act. It’s your choice. And our liturgy today does not simply recall the past events of Jesus preaching in His hometown synagogue. It offers us the chance to be part of God’s time of favour. It makes Christ as present as He was to His original listeners. To us, as to them, He reveals the manifesto that would be His message for three years of preaching. If you want to be released from all that makes your life less than it should be, then listen to what God would have you do, for today is His day of favour.

God Bless you all,

Fr Bernard

2nd Sunday of The Year, 14th January 2007

Dear Friends,

In the time of Jesus, the people’s longing for the coming of the Messiah was often expressed in terms of a Wedding. A time of great rejoicing with an abundance of wine and celebration. Today’s Gospel tells us that the days of the Messiah have arrived. God’s blessings are once again being poured out on his people, because the real groom, Jesus, has arrived to marry his bride, Israel. Some 180 gallons of wine were produced by Jesus’ first miracle indicative of the inexhaustible riches God pours out on those who believe in the Son he has sent. Just as a wedding is a sign of who we are and what we hope for in life—love, security, abundance of good things—so Cana is a sign of what God offers us, the very fullness of life and love. What he asks of us is that we believe, as the disciples did, in Jesus’ power to change our lives and to lead us to God. It is through faith in God that the water of our daily life can be transformed into something far superior, our lives gain a new depth and meaning, a new quality if we enter into this covenant, this marriage with God, which Jesus makes possible. Mary, as the first disciple, shows us how to do this, by doing whatever he tells us. And in John’s Gospel, that simply boils down to believing in Jesus and loving as he has loved us. Faith and love are all this is needed for a good marriage and all that God requires of us to have the fullness of life.

God Bless you all,

Fr Bernard

The Epiphany of The Lord, 7th January 2007

Dear Friends,

Children singing “Twinkle, Twinkle little star, How I wonder what you are”, is a reminder of the innocence of childhood and the way in which a child captures the wonder and mystery of the world in which we live. For children, the stars have a magical, mysterious character. For an adult, a starlit night in a dark sky can still evoke a sense of wonder. The thought of radio-telescopes penetrating the furthermost points of the galaxy looking for dust, and the presence of black holes sweeping up matter in the universe, deepens the idea of the mystery in which we live. No wonder for ancient people the star pointed towards God’s activity in creation. For the Wise Men, the sight of a mysterious new star led them to go on a pilgrimage to the Christ Child. The three gifts point to the meaning of the person of Christ. Gold is a sign of Kingship. Christ reigns over all peoples as Christ the King who comes and tends His flock. Frankincense indicates that Jesus is the Son of God, the promise of God fulfilled, living among people, healing the sick and forgiving sin. Myrrh points to the fact that Christ will die and be buried and will be anointed at burial. The Feast of the Epiphany looks forward to the great celebration of Easter, Jesus triumphant over death. For us Christians, this feast gives us great hope and joy. It reminds us that we are all pilgrims in the family of the Church, called to see Christ’s face in our neighbour and to give thanks and praise to God.

I would like to thank you all for your very generous Christmas offerings and wish you and your families a peaceful, happy and healthy New Year.

God bless you all.

Fr Bernard

Christmas

Dear Friends,

Christmas is almost upon us and on this Fourth Sunday of Advent our thoughts turn to Mary, our Mother, who is the model of listening and waiting for the Lord to come. Today’s Gospel gives us a simple, yet moving account of the greatest message that was ever delivered. The moment she said ‘Yes’ to the angel, Gabriel, Salvation dawned for humanity and she brought that Salvation to birth at Bethlehem on the First Christmas Day.

There is so much to ponder during this season of grace, so many wonderful dimensions of the mystery of God’s love for us. Yet the wonder of the incarnation comes to us in the midst of busy preparations: travelling, shopping, wrapping, cooking. We need to take the time to quiet ourselves before God as Mary did. Mary brought Christ to birth in the stable and she wants to bring Him to birth in our hearts.

I wish you and your families the peace and blessings of Christmas.

God bless you all.

Fr Bernard

2nd and 3rd Sundays of Advent

Dear Friends,
Advent is a time of waiting in joyful hope. We are looking forward to celebrating the fulfilment of God’s promise. It’s a time of thankfulness for God’s generous love, made real for us in Jesus. John the Baptist knew that this love was a free and undeserved gift. He was not even worthy enough to bend low and undo Christ’s sandals. We do not have to be worthy to welcome Jesus, but we do have to be willing to let his presence change our attitudes and behaviour. The Gospel shows us what this means in practice. In whatever shape it takes, genuine Christian generosity and kindness will always be expressed with happiness and joy. We rejoice in God’s gifts to us, let us also be joyful in happily sharing them with others.
God bless you,
Fr Bernard

Advent Penitential Service

An Advent Penitential Service, (with individual confessions) will be held on Monday 11th December at 8.00 pm, at Holy Cross Church.

Mass Times Over Christmas

Christmas Eve - Sun 24th December - Children’s Mass 5.30 pm (HX)
Carols 7.30 pm - Vigil Mass 8.00 pm (JL)
Carols 10.30 pm - Midnight Mass 11.00 pm (HX)

Christmas Day - Mon 25th December - Mass 11.00 am (HX)

 

34nd Sunday of the Year

Dear Friends,
Today the church year draws to a close on a sombre note with a gospel scene from Good Friday. Jesus stands on trial before Pilate accused of being a King. He admits to being a King, but not in a worldly manner of Kingship, as his horizons are not limited to earthly life. Christ is a spiritual leader who rules by truth and love. He is out to touch the hearts and minds of all people and claim their souls for God. His mission on earth is to unfold, a vision of this new world, to announce the Good News that God counts us as family, regards us as his children and in return seeks our allegience.

The Feast of Christ the King provides an excellent opportunity to review the quality of our Christian commitment. What effort have we been making to allow Christ's Kingdom to come alive in our hearts and in our community? Jesus is calling us to rise above the basic instincts of selfishness, bitterness and pride. Because Christ came into the world, as a baby in Bethlehem, and because he rose from death at the first Easter, that Kingdom is a reality in our world, and elements are present here an now as truth, love and compassion. And so, we have quite a standard to live up to, but nothing that should be beyond the capacity of each and every one of us who aspires to wear the heavenly crown.

God bless you,
Fr Bernard

31th Sunday of the Year

Dear Friends,

In today’s good news (Gospel) Jesus is asked by a scribe, ‘Which Commandment is the greatest?’ How does Jesus respond? ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength’. He then says that the second great Commandment is to ‘Love your neighbour as yourself’. But how do we do this? It is easy to put other things in it’s place such as money, personal property and celebrity worship. It is easy for our faith to wither amidst selfishness and materialism. This is why the first reading from Deuteronomy, asks us to hold tight to loving God. What do our bank balances and diaries reveal? Do we spend our time and money on life-giving things for ourselves or for others? Do we worship the living God with living works such as reaching out to the homeless or lobbying for justice, or do we support dead works, things that are merely material or even destructive. These are just a few of the barometers by which our false gods are revealed. Clearly the temptation to idolatry is just as strong now as it was at the time of Jesus. We will only be able to love as Jesus loves if we are free from idols.

God bless you,
Fr Bernard

Youth Mass

The Mass on Sat 11th Nov at 5.30pm will be a ‘Youth Mass’. All young people will be very welcome.

 

29th Sunday of the Year

Dear Friends,
Today (29th Sunday) is World Mission Sunday. The Holy Father writes: 'God's love for every person is the very core of the Gospel. All who accept it become, in turn, witnesses to the love of God. Every Christian Community is called to make God, who is love, known to the world. God permeates the whole of creation and the history of humanity with his love. Adam and Eve, man and woman, came forth from God’s hands as the fruit of this love. This love was never withdrawn even in the face of their sin. He promised salvation to them and to their descendents. He foretold the coming of his only Son, Jesus Christ, who would reveal in the fullness of time his Father’s love. The witness of love, the soul of mission, concerns everyone. Missionaries serve on the ‘front line’ of evangelisation but they are accompanied and assisted by the prayers and sacrifices of many, young and old, in the spread of the kingdom on earth. May these be truly blessed’.
In today’s good news (30th Sunday), Jesus gives the blind Bartimaeus his sight back and then he immediately follows Jesus. We may not be physically blind, but we all suffer some degree of spiritual blindness and only Jesus can cure this. There are so many ways in which we lack spiritual vision; hatred, pride and jealousy can prevent us from seeing the good in our neighbour. Never being satisfied with what we have and always wanting more material goods is an indication that we are blinded by greed. We need to have the scales removed from our eyes. Only prayer and trust in Jesus, who is the light of the world, can dispel such darkness and restore our true spiritual vision. The closer we are to Jesus, the more light there is in our lives. The cry of the blind man, ‘Lord, that I may see’, is a prayer that should be constantly on our lips

God bless you,

Fr Bernard

28th Sunday of the Year

Dear Friends,

In today' good news (Gospel) Jesus teaches us about wealth and riches. It is important to understand that Jesus wasn't condemning wealth. Faith and wealth can coexist. Indeed, the young man was probably a good example to others; his desire to keep the commandments suggest that he was socially responsible. But he suffered from one defect, which can afflict anyone whatever their level of personal possessions. He couldn't let go of what gave him a sense of security in this life.

Jesus lived what many might regard as a reckless life style. He possessed nothing, and was dependent on his Father for all things, often prvided through the generousity of people who also loved God. He taught hi disciples to sit loose to material things, to regard treasure in heaven as of far greater value than gold on earth. If anything got in the way of 100 per cent commitment to God, then it was to be cut off. Emotionally, that's hard. Letting go is never easy. Sometimes, the rug is pulled from under our feet and we lose something precious, and through the experience we discover that God is more precious still. But mostly, there's that still small voice whispering, "Do you love me more than these?" Let's not feel smug about that poor young rich man who wasn't ready for Jesus' call. It could have been us. Rather, let's come to God afresh, in humality, and with the added determination to let nothing come between us.

God bless you,

Fr Bernard

24th September 2006

Farewell and Thank you

Dear Friends,

On an occasion such as this it is difficult to know exactly what to say and how to say it. However I will try. I came to this parish nine years ago from Brentwood Cathedral where I had spent four happy, though not healthy years. As many of you know I had recently had heart surgery when I arrived in Harlow, and so it was a kind of new start, where I was unsure as to how things would be and how much I would be able to do.
I gradually met and got to know you as I settled in.
Over the last nine years I have shared with you in so many occasions and celebrations: our regular daily and weekly celebrations, the special times of great joy as we have celebrated the great feasts of the church’s year, marriages, baptisms, receptions, and special events, and also many sad occasions as we have said farewell to so many friends over this time.
There have been special events and gatherings which have provided many great memories. It has always been a great privilege to share in these with you and your families, and I thank you for that.
Above all I thank you all for your gift of friendship, your kindness to me, the support you have given me during this time. A significant event in the history of our parish was the linking of Holy Cross and St Luke’s. This was a time of change and uncertainty and a challenge to all of us. There is, I’m sure, further to go in developing this linking, but I would like to thank you for your support and openness that have made these changes possible.
I would particularly like to thank those I have worked closely with in our two churches, our three schools, and hospice. It has been a most rewarding and enriching experience to share with you in the challenges, the joys, the successes, and indeed sometimes the disappointments that we all have to face.
I would also like to thank those who have helped me in the presbytery in various ways over this time. I am indebted to you for your kindness.
I thank you for the way you have welcomed members of my family, and particularly my Father, who always enjoyed his visits here. He would often ask me how people were in the parish and what we were doing. He particularly enjoyed joining our pilgrimage to Lourdes where he got to know a number of you well. At the time of his death I will always remember and appreciate your kind support and love.

To my ecumenical friends, at the shared church, in our Fraternal, and at St Clare Hospice, from whom I have learned so much: thank you, I will miss you.

I remember well a priest of many years saying to me that your first appointment as a parish priest is not only a most important one, but one which will always remain special to you. I now understand his words and what he meant.

And so it is with much sadness that I leave Harlow to pastures new. I hope to embark on some (light) study, have an extended retreat, and also have a bit of a rest. I’m sure the twelve months will fly by. I will certainly miss you all, and ask that you will remember me in your prayers, as I will you, in mine.
Finally I ask you to give the same fantastic support you given to me, to your new priest Fr Bernard who will be arriving shortly. He will be missing his parish and people in Maldon and Burnham, and will need your prayers and support, which I know you will give him. Dear Friends, farewell and thank you.

God bless you all.
Fr Paul.

May I please request that you do not contact me for any kind of parish business or references etc. Since I have left the Parish and am on sabittical, Fr Bernard will deal with these matters.
My forwarding address is: 11, Merdle Square Chelmsford Essex CM1 4WG.

 

Father Paul takes to the open road as he escapes from Harlow!!

1959 (already cutting grass). Bernie Ryan please note!

1997 arrival in Harlow. Full head of hair!

2006 Departing Harlow. Going thin, but only on top! Someone buy him a new shirt!

Goodbye from Albert! (Fr Paul’s cat)

 

WELCOME

Holy Cross and St Luke’s Parish welcomes Father Bernard Soley, as new Parish Priest. Fr Bernard has spent the last 10 years in Maldon Parish, which in recent times linked with Burnham on Crouch. He hopes to arrive in the Parish on Friday 29th September, ready for the Masses of the weekend of 30th/1st Oct.
We pray for him asking God’s blessing upon his ministry among us.

17th September, 24rd Sunday

Greetings and good wishes to you all as we celebrate the 24th Sunday of the Year.

May I take this opportunity to thank everyone involved in our African Mass last weekend and the farewell which we gave to Father Joe. He certainly enjoyed himself and, as you know, was able to say thank you and good bye to everyone at all the Masses. Please do continue to keep Father Joe in your prayers. Also, may I ask your prayers for Father Bernard who will be arriving in our Parish in a couple of weeks time. May I also remind you that next Sunday, the 24th, I will be celebrating a mass in thanksgiving for my time here in St Luke’s and Holy Cross. This will be followed by a party in Holy Cross Hall. Everyone is most welcome to attend.

We learnt recently that the Reverend Jenny Ragan of St Mary’s, Great Parndon, is to retire this coming January. She has been a great friend to us here at St Luke’s and Holy Cross and I am sure that I speak for all of us, when I say, that we shall certainly miss her, and at the same time we wish her every happiness and blessings for her well deserved retirement. On the subject of retirement you will notice elsewhere in the newsletter, that the Parish Secretary, Kathy, will be finishing in her present role. May I take this opportunity to express my deep gratitude for all that she has done for our Parish in the last four and a half years.

With every blessing, Fr Paul

10th September, 23rd Sunday

Greetings and good wishes to you all as we celebrate the 23rd Sunday of the Year. In our readings this weekend the identity of Jesus is explored as the one foretold by the prophets of whom St Mark reveals as the Christ, “he has done all things well he makes the deaf hear and the dumb speak”.

This weekend we offer a special welcome to all our visitors who are attending our African Mass during which we make our farewell to Father Joe. Next Saturday evening, 16th September, our young people who were confirmed last July are organising and leading our liturgy. This is an initiative that has come from their ongoing meetings, which we hope to repeat from time to time. We thank our young people for their enthusiasm and their willingness to help with the planning of our liturgy.

Best wishes, Father Paul

Father Paul’s Farewell

There will be a Mass of Thanksgiving on Sunday 24th September at 11.00 am, at Holy Cross Church. This will be followed by a reception in Holy Cross Hall from 12 noon. There are lists at the backs of both our Churches for you to sign up for food items for the buffet lunch. All are very welcome to attend.

August 2006, Father Paul's Farewell

As you know I shall be leaving the Parish at the end of September. In order to be able to say “Goodbye and Thank You”, I invite you to join with me for a Mass of Thanksgiving on my last Sunday in the Parish, 24th September at 11.00 am, at Holy Cross Church. This will be followed by a party/reception in Holy Cross Hall from 12 noon.

I can supply the drink and ask you to bring some food. We’ll put a list at the back of both our Churches for you to sign up for food items. Please feel free to come to the Mass or the Party - but hopefully both.

Best wishes, Father Paul

Havirov Concert

The School Orchestra from Havirov, Czech Republic visited Harlow on 21st June till 25th June, staying with families in our Parish. The centrepiece of their visit was a Classical Concert in aid of the Holy Cross Building Fund on Friday 23rd June 2006 at Holy Cross Church at 7.30 pm. There was also a Grand Raffle.

Click here to view the pictures

16th July 2006, 15th Sunday of the Year

Greetings and good wishes to you all as we celebrate the Fifteenth Sunday of the Year. In the Gospel this weekend Jesus sends out the twelve disciples giving them instructions for the work they are to undertake, they are to be reliant on God’s power working in their lives.

We offer congratulations to all our young people who were confirmed by Bishop Thomas on Wednesday evening. The day of Visitation went very well, with visits to St Luke’s Primary School where the Bishop held an assembly for the children. He spoke about his role as a shepherd, and took many interesting questions from the children. He used his crozier, mitre, and ring as visual aids. Afterwards he spent some time chatting with staff. The Bishop visited St Clare Hospice, and then back to meet Pastoral Assistants and the Parish Council prior to our evening Mass. May I take this opportunity to thank everyone who helped prior to the Visit and also during the Mass and reception which helped to make the occasion a great success.

With every blessing, Father Paul

9th July 2006, 14th Sunday of the Year

Greetings and good wishes to you all as we celebrate the Fourteenth Sunday of the Year. This week we welcome our Bishop Thomas to our parish for his Visitation. He will be arriving at lunchtime and will visit St Luke’s Primary School, St Clare Hospice, he will meet with the Pastoral Assistants and Parish Council, and will preside at our Parish Mass at 7.30 pm during which eight of our young people will be confirmed. Please do join us for this special occasion in the life of our parish, and afterwards for light refreshments.

Our weekend Masses were to be the start of our Parish Retreat. However, our visiting priest is now unable to come due to illness and therefore I have had to cancel the Retreat events for Sunday evening, due to the fact that I am involved all Sunday afternoon with our Confirmation Group in their retreat in preparation for their Confirmation. So the plan is to have a Retreat Day on Monday which will consist of Morning Mass at 6.30 am at Holy Cross Church, there will also be Mass on Holy Cross School field, at 10.00 am which is a leavers/end of year Mass to which you are most warmly invited, the Holy Cross School Spiritual Garden will be open from 1.30-3.30 pm, visitors are asked to go to the main entrance of the school and check-in at the school office where you will be taken to the garden, and are welcome to stay for as long as you wish. The evening events remain unchanged with our Talk, Holy Hour, and Evening/Night Prayer.

Father Bernard Soley, our new Parish Priest visited the parish last Monday. I showed him round both of our Churches, and chatted with him about the life of the parish. He is very enthusiastic and looking forward to taking up his appointment in October. He will return on 18th July to visit our three schools, and to meet with our Pastoral Assistants. Please keep Fr Bernard in your prayers.

With every blessing, Father Paul

2nd July 2006, 13th Sunday of the Year

Greetings and good wishes to you all as we celebrate the Thirteen Sunday in Ordinary Time. A warm welcome to all our parishioners and visitors including Father Peter Fitch who is joining us for our Family Mass this weekend. Our readings confront us with the one certainty in life…. death. We see how Jesus confronts this reality and leads people to a new understanding through faith.

May I take this opportunity to offer grateful thanks to everyone who supported our Classical Concert last weekend. So far the proceeds have amounted to £1,079 for our Building Fund, which is a tremendous result. Thank you to everyone involved.

With every blessing, Father Paul

11th June 2006 Trinity Sunday

Greetings and good wishes to you all, as we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Trinity. This Thursday we celebrate the holyday of Corpus Christi, please see below for the Mass times. Please remember to pray for our young people who have commenced their Confirmation preparation and for the team who will be leading them.

4th June 2006 Pentecost Sunday

Greetings and good wishes to you all, as we celebrate Pentecost Sunday. This Sunday at 4.00 pm, we are hosting a UNITY SERVICE at Holy Cross Church folloed by a 'bring and share finger buffet' in Holy Cross Hall. Please do join us for this special service. Just a reminder: the Holy Cross School SUMMER FAIR takes place on Saturday 10th June from 10.30 am to 2.30 pm during which the Draw will take place. We have plenty of tickets for the GRAND SUMMER DRAW available for you to sell to your friends, neighbours, and workmates. As always we rely on your great support for this Draw, which together with the Christmas Draw is the main source of fundraising income for the parish.

Father Joe Gatamu, who has been a regular visitor and helper to our parish in the last few years, will be returning to his homeland of Kenya now that his studies are complete. We have arranged a farewell for Father Joe, it would be nice if we could make a presentation to him from the parish. I am aware that he is trying to support his elderly parents, who are at this present time trying to build their own home, and feel that perhaps we could help him with his helping them. There will be a retiring collection on 1st and 2nd July, should you wish to be associated with this presentation.

Please remember to pray for our young people who commence their Confirmation preparation this Tuesday evening. Please also pray for the team who will be leading them. The First Communion programme will begin in September and children who will be going into Year 3 will be eligible from families who are regular worshippers at St Luke's and Holy Cross Church or another Catholic Church.