Thursday, 5 March 2015

The gulf that divides


The Parable of the rich man and Lazarus (Lk 16:19) deals with the gap between the rich and the inhumanly poor. The economics of the world can be deadly and it makes the rich live separately: in their housing, by transportation, recreation, and medical care. In the parable the wall the rich man willingly builds in this life, becomes after his death an abyss that no one will be able to bridge. We who live today in the richest parts of the world should be disturbed by this parable, for the one who is content with such a divide in this life may well find himself on the wrong side of the abyss in the life to come.
In the parable, the poor man is named Lazarus, but the rich man is not named, thus the world order is reversed. In the world today, the well to do man is treated with dignity; the anonymous poor man is not. This de-humanisation is at the root of the problem. We also see that on dying the man Lazarus finds many friends (angels, father Abraham) whereas the rich man finds neither friends nor lawyers to relieve his situation – hell is isolation.
We must remember that the table of the rich man is in fact God’s table not his. And God invites all to eat at His table. In Lent traditionally we are exhorted to practice almsgiving to remind us that we are to be detached from our wealth; not so much seeing it as our own wealth, but that which God wants us to use for His glory.
Perhaps most of all, this parable reminds us that we must not shut off our hearts from the needs of the poorest in the world. In the parable one of the most chilling aspects is that the rich man didn’t even notice Lazarus in his misery.
Fr Ian

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Plotters and schemers


Jeremiah 18:18-20 ; Matthew 20:17-28

The prophet Jeremiah was not only a faithful and great prophet of the Lord, but he was also a sensitive soul. He took to heart the wicked machinations of his enemies conspiring to do away with him. The verses today (Jer 18:18-20) contrast the words of the plotters (v18),

“Come let us make plots against Jeremiah…”

with the prayer of the prophet which expresses his anguish knowing the plotters want to do away with him.
The Church Fathers saw in the scheming of these plotters a type of the plotting and scheming that Jesus faced. Many of the Jewish authorities wanted to do away with Jesus. They tried to trap Him in His own words just as Jeremiah’s adversaries had done.

The Jewish leaders had forgotten what it meant to be a leader of God’s people. It was not a ticket for personal advantage. Alas they seemed to be more concerned with holding on to their power and status, especially in the fragile situation of Roman occupation. They feared that it all could be lost so did not hesitate to do away with this man from Nazareth who threatened to destabilise everything.

Sadly, even today, there are those in the Church that fear the loss of their status or power. And I have to hold my hands up and confess that I also feared such a loss when I contemplated leaving my position in the Church of England to become a Catholic. Status for religious leaders can become far too important and can lead them to become corrupt and be tempted to do some very evil things. So our Lord’s answer to the mother of James and John who asks that her sons be given status in the Kingdom, is to be kept in mind by all who are called to leadership especially in the Church, but also in the world. Jesus said,

…whoever would be great among you must be your servant…even as the Son of man came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.

Please pray for those called to Holy Orders in the Church. It is so very easy to be trapped by our perception of our “status” as if it belongs to us. Of course it doesn’t! For while the priest is to be respected because he acts in persona Christi capitas, the priest is ordained to be able to act in the person of Christ the Head primarily for service to the people of God, and not for personal kudos!

Remember too those who are called to lead in all walks of life, that they too will see it as a service and not be concerned with their status. And if you are called to lead always remember leadership is a service for others and not a ticket for personal advantage.

Fr Ian


Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Hierarchy and Equality



Jesus was not from the tribe of Levi, to which the priests and those in charge of religious activities belonged. Nor was Jesus part of any religious party or association – he was not a Pharisee nor a Sadducee. He was on the side of the common man and He saw how the leaders of God’s people acted.

However even from the perspective of seeing how poor the leaders were (not practicing what they preached and not being merciful) our Lord does not suggest doing away with them. Our Lord wants leaders who are not so much concerned about what they look like nor what others think about them, but men of integrity and who are humble. No religious leader should stand in the way of a person and their God. Jesus makes this point by saying “Call no one Rabbi”, “Call no one Father” and “Call no one Teacher”. Jesus is not banning the normal use of these words, because the words would then just drop from usage and lose their meaning. Jesus is making His point through hyperbole and it is not to be taken literally.*

We are being reminded today of the profound equality of all children of God. No member of the Church should think themselves better than others. No one should be seeking titles and honours. We all share an equal dignity given us by God through our creation, and new creation in Christ by baptism. However our Lord does not suggest bringing down the hierarchy! The Church has a hierarchy but no member of the hierarchy should consider themselves better than anyone else. Each member of the Church is called to grow in holiness and draw closer to God, and each of us must strive to do that through the grace given us through the Holy Spirit – this is true of priests, bishops and popes, as well as the Religious and the Laity. We are all in the same boat struggling against sin and seeking grace to grow in Christ and bear the fruit of the Spirit. Yes we should honour those that sit in the seat of the Apostles because through them we honour the Apostolic and therefore Christ, but the man who sits in the seat is not better than anyone else. We are all where we are through the grace of God alone.

Each member of the Church has their vocation and their work to be doing. We must all pay one another the respect due to our dignity in Christ, and we all must pray for one another that we will resist temptation and grow in the life of grace.

Amen.

Fr Ian

NOTE

* “father” is used in the New Testament referring to human fathers (Heb 12:7-11) and spiritual fathers (1 Cor 4:15 ; Philem 10), and this emphasises Jesus was not intending His words be taken literally.

Friday, 27 February 2015

Pope Francis sends blessing to the Ordinariate


Our Ordinary, Mgr Newton, received a message today (27 February 2015) from the Holy Father as follows:

The Holy Father encourages you to continue to fulfil, in faith and truth, the mission of the Ordinariate. Commending you and all who belong to, and cooperate with, the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham to the intercession of Mary, Mother of the Church, the Holy Father willingly imparts his Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of peace and joy in the Lord.

It is with great joy that we receive the Successor of Peter's Apostolic Blessing, not least because we know what it is like not to be in full communion with him. We also are grateful that he has commended us to Our Lady, Mother of the Church. May the prayers of Our Holy Mother assist us to fulfil our mission in faith and truth.

Thank you Holy Father.

I also find it interesting that the Holy Father not only commends the members of the Ordinariate but also all those who cooperate with us. That is of course very proper as the Ordinariate is meant to foster bonds of charity with all our Catholic brothers and sisters even those who do not understand us and maybe are even suspicious of us.

Under the patronage of Blessed John Henry Newman and with the powerful intercession of Our Lady of Walsingham may the Ordinariates grow in faith, hope and charity to fulfil its God-given mission with the New Evangelisation in faith and truth.

Fr Ian Hellyer


Renewing the heart



In today’s gospel reading (Mt 5:20-26) taken from the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus reminds us that His Way is not an easy way. It is tempting to think that it would be better if our religion were less demanding and easier to practice – and sometimes we even try to make it so.

Although our Lord demands much, He also shows us the Way to fulfil those demands. In the Sermon on the Mount, He points us to where the key to this fulfilment is located: the heart. It is from the heart that our motivation, ideas, and thoughts emanate. So renewing the heart is a key part of the gospel message, hence why He calls us to repentance and belief.

So we must consistently examine our hearts. From this examination we must give thanks to God for His grace in the good virtues we show, and we must confess and ask for forgiveness for the sins we have committed; not only that, but our relationships with others must come from the heart. If we even harbour anger against a brother or sister we must be reconciled. If we are filled with lust towards a brother or sister, then we must confess the sin - it is adultery in our Lord’s eyes. If we harbour anger we must deal with that even if we haven’t expressed it.

It is at the level of the heart that we must work, and perhaps the most important part of that work is confession and thanksgiving. This Lent why not attend confession more often than you would usually and also make a point of regularly thanking God for His goodness and His grace at work in your life?

Fr Ian



Thursday, 26 February 2015

Again and again



When you visit someone and they do not know you are coming, how many times do you ring the bell, or, knock on the door, before turning away? Is it once? Or do you keep on ringing for a minute? Five minutes? How often do you return to try again? Perhaps it depends on how urgent it is you see the person?
In our Lord’s teaching about prayer one thing is very clear. It is not that we need to attain a certain psychological state. It is not that we need to have a type of feeling. One thing is clear, we need to persevere. We need to have the drive to pray and to continue in prayer.

In the gospel today our Lord assures us that if we ask, we shall receive. We should note here that He does not say “we shall receive it straight away.” But He asks us to trust our Heavenly Father to give us what we need. If a child asks his father for an egg, would the father give the child a scorpion? Of course not! So much more, our Lord tells us, will our Heavenly Father give us what we need. So in prayer we need to have buckets full of perseverance born of trust in the Goodness of our Heavenly Father.

So then if God does not seem to answer our prayer straight away, what is happening? Well first we must trust there is a reason. We need to persevere in trust. We do not need to have a reason. The Father does not need to explain Himself to us! But we need to continue trusting that our Father hears us and will, when the time is right, answer our prayer.

For us, of course, we want instant answers: if google will answer our queries within seconds why not God? Of course we do not entrust to google what we bring to God in prayer! And we also need to keep reminding ourselves that God sees the overall picture so knows precisely when an answer to prayer is needed. We need to trust that.

I think one very helpful understanding of prayer is from St Paul, that it is a “groaning”, for he tells us that if we cannot pray as we ought, the Holy Spirit will pray for us with groans too deep for words. In prayer we may need to get to that stage where we can only groan! Our Father may want us to persist in prayer until all we can do is sigh, or groan. (Romans 8, esp. v26)


So let us ask today for the gift of perseverance in prayer – and let us pray that the Holy Spirit will indeed pray for us in sighs too deep for words. And let us be filled with confidence in our Heavenly Father who will indeed answer our prayer when it is best to do so. Amen.