November 28, 2014

We should hear no mention of Christmas in church this weekend. We are beginning Advent, and although in the shops the festivities are in full swing, the readings all point to the second coming of Christ as our focus. This is not confusion on the part of the Church. Far from it. We open our new year by thinking – and longing – for the return of Christ. We are a people who are always waiting until the full Kingdom of God is established at the end of time.

We can miss the wonderful message of hope that this season brings us if we concentrate too narrowly on its latter part which speaks about the birth of Christ. We need to remind ourselves that the birth of this child is only significant because he will come again.

Listen carefully to the readings this weekend and learn from them. They set the tone for Advent. We are called to pause and wait and ponder. All this runs so counter to our modern world that is so greedily impatient that it misses the point and purpose of so much, so often.

Waiting is an important part of the Christian life. However, we don’t wait idly. Rather we ‘wait in joyful hope for the coming of our saviour Jesus Christ’. Maranatha!

Christ the King – Sunday 23 November

November 24, 2014

This weekend we celebrate the beautiful feast of Christ the King. In celebrating this feast we assert and affirm that Christ is the one to whom we owe our absolute loyalty, our absolute trust, and our absolute commitment. Obviously we are good citizens of whichever state we are part of, but out lasting homeland and our lasting identity is to be Christian.

If you look down through the ages, say to the Reformation or the French Revolution, and across the world today, to say China or North Korea, many states have resented that fact and tried to make themselves the absolute sovereign in their peoples’ lives. Faithful Christians have lost their lives and continue to do so because they cannot accept that God’s kingdom is not their ultimate focus.

Our feast this weekend celebrates the fact that we are part of a kingdom that is open to all peoples of all ages, colours, races, and languages. It is not confined by territory or by birth. God’s kingdom is not constrained as are the kingdoms of this world. And God’s kingdom, unlike the kingdoms of this world, is not destined to wither and grow weaker as others grow stronger. It is a kingdom that lasts for ever, and its chief and most important law is the law of love.

St. Rose Philippine Duchesne – 18 November

November 17, 2014

On Tuesday we celebrate the feast of St. Rose Philippine Duchesne. Although we may never have yet heard of her in Britain she is an important saint in the United States. She was born in Grenoble in France in 1769. As a child she suffered small pox. This influenced her greatly. She was initially educated in a local monastery but her father was concerned about her attraction to the religious life. He lost and she won – in 1788 she entered a religious order, leaving her aunt to break the news to her father.

The revolution closed all convents and for a while she had to return home. After Napoleon allowed religious freedom once more Rose helped found a new order of nuns who would be dedicated especially to the education of young women, the Society of the Sacred Heart.

Eventually she responded to the request of one of the Bishops in the United States for educators to help in the evangelisation of children and headed for Missouri where she built a school, and helped the order grow. She spent her life then in service of the children and young people of what was still the wild frontier. She died on November 18, 1852.

We have a lot to learn from her life: service, the importance of education. But what stands out is her freedom of spirit. In an age when women had few rights, she was convinced of her calling and her task. May her prayers help us to be similarly free today.

Remembrance Day – Sunday 9th November

November 10, 2014

Many parishes will celebrate a Requiem Mass on Sunday for the dead of the world wars and other conflicts. It gives us time to reflect on the evil of war and the futility of conflict but also to give thanks for those, often, young men and women who were prepared to give their lives to save us from even greater evils and tyranny. It also gives us an opportunity to re-affirm our belief in the resurrection.

All Requiems do this. They are sombre but not sorrowful affairs. We don’t not pretend that we are not suffering the pain of loss, but we do affirm that this is not the end of the story. Rather by offering the Mass we gather up all pain and sorrow and deaths into the redeeming sacrifice of Christ made present on our altars.

Our present society shuns death- it has become almost the new obscene. Yet it is inevitable, and always present. We cannot avoid it. It is important that we celebrate a Requiem for those we love, and it is important that we celebrate one for those who have died in battle.

Rest eternal grant unto them, O Lord. And let light perpetual shine upon them. May they rest in peace.