June 26, 2015
This weekend we celebrate the feast of Saints Peter and Paul. It is a time when we recall both the Church’s steadfastness and her missionary zeal. Both Apostles were concerned that they handed on the truth about Jesus. In many ways that sums up our Catholic understanding of the word ‘tradition’ – it is a handing on of what we ourselves have been given. Or as someone once put it – ‘tradition is the living faith of the dead, not the dead faith of the living’.
The Christian message is not our own. Our communion with Peter’s successor the Pope means that we cannot change or alter the fundamental message. But the faith is also not our own in the sense that we are called – commanded even – to share it. The other great Apostle martyred in Rome, Paul, shows us what are called to be as Christians.
Both the conserving power of Peter and the dynamic power of Paul are necessary for the Church. We find new ways of proclaiming the same old message. We are not allowed to change what Christ himself has taught but we are called to find new ways and new language to proclaim that message. So it is fitting that we celebrate these two Apostles together. Let us pray for Francis, our Pope, Bishop of Rome and Peter’s successor, and also for all the baptised who in their daily lives proclaim the faith that it both ever old and ever new.
June 19, 2015
We are now entering what is called rather blandly ‘Ordinary Time’ in the Church’s year. This is the period when green vestments are worn and is not marked by the celebration of any extended mysteries such as Easter and Christmas, or penitential periods such as Advent and Lent. But it is a bit of a misleading name as what we are celebrating is always far from dull or ordinary.
Almost each day we will have a saint to celebrate. We’ve looked at quite a few of them over the years in this newsletter but there are thousands upon thousands more. That should give us great hope – men and women like ourselves have become saints. Some have been martyrs, others have been hermits, some have been Popes others have been family men and women. Some have been high born other have been drawn from the lowest levels of their societies. They come from every race and tongue and age and place. They are a great crowd of witnesses to the truth of the resurrection, and they also are passionate in their desire that we join them.
They had no other helps than the ones we have – the Church, the Mass and the sacraments. They used these to the full. May they pray for us to do the same.
June 9, 2015
If you wanted to sum the Christian message in a three word slogan you could do no better than to use the phrase ‘God is love’. The whole of the Bible story is about that fact. But this love is far more than a fact, it is also personalised. We gain our best understanding of this love not through a systematic philosophy but through looking at a person, Jesus.
Today we are celebrating the love made known in Jesus as we contemplate his Sacred Heart. In most of our churches and many of our homes we will find a statue or picture of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. As we look at that image we are reminded of his boundless love for the whole of humanity. The love of God made known in Jesus is not limited or selective it wants to draw all peoples to an ever deeper sharing in that love.
Today’s feast originated at a time when some in the church wanted to emphasise judgment and damnation. It stresses the reverse side of the coin – love and salvation. The Sacred Heart is a wonderful feast for our age too. When so many see religion as a series of rules and regulations the feast reminds us of the primary importance of God’s love.
June 2, 2015
On Monday we celebrate one of the first saints to give his life for Christ. Justin is even often known as Justin Martyr because of his pre -eminence in that regard. He seems to have been born in Palestine, though he was not a Jew. He was murdered for his Christian faith around the year 165 AD. We know much about him from his writings which can still be read and still have much to teach us.
Justin was determined to bring others to know Christ. He himself had become a Christian when he was in his early thirties after a life devoted to studying the various philosophies and religions on offer. He used his knowledge and skill to convince his readers that Jesus was ‘The Way’.
His writings also tell us about the practices of the earliest Christians. When he describes the Sunday gathering we can instantly recognise the outline of the Mass we celebrate ourselves. He speaks of readings from the Scriptures, and the sharing of Bread and Wine, as a celebration of the life of the risen Christ present among his people. By giving his life Justin showed the power of Christ’s resurrection, by living ours we show our faith in that mystery. The eucharist stands at the apex of all we do. As Justin realised, ‘When we eat this bread and drink this cup, we proclaim your death Lord Jesus, until you come in glory!’