Each week I prepare a set of reflective questions for the parish based on the Gospel. Beginning on the Monday, I pray, read and reflect on God’s Word for the coming Sunday.
Sometimes the questions are obvious and are formed with little effort, sometimes they take longer, resulting in me sending them to the parish secretary later than either of us would like!
Last week, in the light of recent events in London the Gospel was tough reading.
At Mass on Sunday we were joined by Jessica’s family and on hearing the priest reading the Gospel, I realised that I was writing not only for those in the parish but particularly for her family. Jessica has been missing since the Grenfell Tower fire on 14th June. Her aunt is a member of our faith community at Corpus Christi, Brixton, and Mass was being offered for their intentions.
I was asked to proclaim the first Reading…Jessica’s mother sat in front of me and I found myself reading to her ‘But the LORD is with me, like a mighty champion’ willing her to to take them to heart.
We can not help but wonder where is God when terrible things happen and while we know that God is right there with us, in our pain, our grief, our bewilderment, we also don’t know that too. We need to be reminded, by those who hold us in our grief, those who love us, those who pray with and for us.
Only then can we hear the opening words of the Gospel with any hope of understanding how to…’Fear no one’.
And there is hope too in the words that follow ‘Nothing is concealed that will not be revealed, nor secret that will not be known.’ Those responsible for the fire will be found out, they will be found wanting and justice will prevail, and hopefully not only at the end of time!
Yet for Jessica’s family I can only imagine how hollow the next part of the Gospel must have sounded: ‘ do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul;’.
Though missing we hold the hope that Jessica will be found because we know nothing is impossible to God. We also know that death is not the end, but it sure feels like it at the time.
When I have grieved over the death of a loved one I was broken and I was afraid, afraid that I would not be whole again. In my grief, sometimes the promise of heaven was not enough. Others held that reality for me until my grief allowed me to hold it for myself.
I hope that Jessica’s family know that we hold that reality for them and will continue to do so for Jessica is ‘worth more than many sparrows.’
The Gospel holds no magic formulae for Jessica’s family, but it does offer hope.
I don’t know why this happened and the Gospel offers no answers. It does not make sense, it is not fair, it is not right.
The only thing I can say with certainty is that God is there in the midst of it, Emmanuel lifts His voice with ours when we rail and shout at the unfairness, the utter unfairness of what has happened.
Had I been preparing Sunday’s homily that is what I would have said. I hope that all of you find some solace and comfort from these reflections. It was a privilege to worship and pray with you on Sunday.