Living the Word this Week 16th Sunday of Ordinary Time

All these parables! And still more to come.

I wonder what it is I need to know about the Kingdom? What is it about these …is likes that challenge me?
I love the way that they speak to all of us, at work, at home, women, men and children.
Praying with Gospel I read that these particular similes do different things.
Jesus telling us to wait, that only the farmer is to judge invites us to discernment.
Discernment of spirits as Ignatius teaches is to ask ourselves where God is in any particular choice or decision. Through prayer we can learn to detach ourselves from the outcome therefore allowing us to decide in freedom.
This is what the Kingdom is like, choosing God and God’s will for us which we know is always for our best.
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The mustard seed challenges us to come to a full mature faith that is fully grown.
when I work with parents, they often worry about the faith of their children. Yet it is natural for the next generation to question and more likely than not, to move away from their parents beliefs and values. Not only is that a natural stage of development it also enables our young people to enter into their own relationship with the Lord Who loves them beyond measure, Who calls them Beloved. Not a mediated love of one step removed but on God’s own terms for them. We are God’s children, not God’s grandchildren.
Unfortunately for any of us to really mature in our faith, as laity we have to walk the path on our own, seeking out ways to study, books to read, asking questions and having courageous conversations. The Priority of Adult Formation as set out by the Bishops’ Conference is in name only as very little formation is on offer. Thank the Lord for Faith Friends and Soul Sisters!
This is what the Kingdom is like, living with a mature and adult faith aware of our dependence on the One who loves us, knowing we are saved and greatly loved.
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The yeast calls us to transform our lives . We can only do this of course when we lean in to the Holy Spirit, by surrendering our will to the Triune God and that takes courage and trust.
This in what the Kingdom is like, living fully transformed by love.
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For us to answer the call to bring about the Kingdom we must have an idea of what the Kingdom is. I hope that the questions below might help us all to reflect a little and may these parables come alive in us and all those we encounter today.
Living the Word this week…
The Kingdom is like…a field of good seed; a mustard seed; and yeast.
Which one speaks most to you, and how does it help you in your faith?
What does it mean to you when you pray ‘Our Father…Thy Kingdom come, on earth as it is in heaven’?

Children
Have you ever seen a mustard seed and the plant it grows in to? If not see if you can find some pictures.
Why do you think Jesus uses this to try to explain the Kingdom of God?
What does yeast do? How does this help you to know the Kingdom of God?
Family
Planting seeds and making bread are everyday, unexceptional things. Yet Jesus uses them to describe the Kingdom of God.
How do you reflect the Kingdom in the ordinariness of being a family?
Prayer
Lord Jesus,
Thank You for the many varied ways that You use to help us understand Your message. The Kingdom is like…a field of good seed, which calls us not to judge but to discernment.
A mustard seed which calls us to grow to our fullest potential in You.
And yeast which calls us to transform ourselves and all whom we encounter.
May we, each in our own way, answer Your call to build Your Kingdom ‘on earth as it is in Heaven.’
Amen

Living the Word 15th Week of Ordinary Time

Oh! How many times have we heard this story? And not only at Mass; for it is used to prepare children for Sacraments; in schools, prayer services; liturgies as well as one I had to learn by heart for my RS O’Level. Preparing for Mass I was immediately transported to my 15 year old self mixing up the types of ground with their meanings, destined to get it perpetually wrong. It was a painful memory which for a while stopped me from engaging with the Gospel.

Yet I know that every time we pray with Scripture God speaks to us, giving us what we need when we need it. There was something in this Gospel that we –or maybe I – need to hear today.

I remembered the General Directory of Catechesis (GDC) uses this parable as a spring board.

As disciples we are called to sow the seed, to be actively engaged in evangelisation.

God is the sower, Jesus, the Logos is the Seed. To evangelise effectively we must have a personal relationship with the Living Lord, we must nurture the seed within us, allowing it to effect all we do.

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“Instead of seeming to impose new obligations, they should appear as people who wish to share their joy, who point to a horizon of beauty and who invite others to a delicious banquet. It is not by proselytizing that the Church grows, but “by attraction”.

But we have to be aware of the banquet and recognise it’s deliciousness before we can invite others. So today I hope that these reflective questions help to refresh your taste-buds…so that in your work you can invite others.

Living the Word this week…
When you leave your home how do you respond to those who wait to hear God’s Word?
Where are you aware of the Word being eaten up, or of the shallow soil, or thorns in your life?
How does God’s Word take hold and grow in your life?
Children
Find out why Jesus spoke in parables. Which is your favourite one?
How would it feel to see seeds you had planted be treated in this way?
How can it help you to listen more fully to the Readings at Mass?
Family
What do you need to attend to so that your family is rich soil for the Word?
Prayer ~ Christine Longhurst (adapted)
O God,
We gather together in Your presence with expectation,
hungry for an encounter with You,
eager to hear Your Word.
Open our eyes and ears to the presence of Your Holy Spirit.
May the seeds of Your Word scattered among us
fall on fertile soil.
May they take root in our hearts and lives,
and produce an abundant harvest
of good words and deeds.
Amen.

Living the Word: 13th Sunday of Ordinary Time (really!)

Sorry for the confusion, here are the reflective questions for Sunday 2nd July!

The joy of working a week ahead!

Sometimes, even with the best will in the world, it can be difficult to recall the Gospel from Sunday.
But if we can’t remember it it can not feed us, and nourishment is exactly what the Good News is to be for us.
Here are some reflective questions to enable you to chew over the message held in the Gospel.
After all we need the Gospel to sustain us daily not just on Sunday, for the Good News and Eucharist are both food for the journey.
Living the Word this week
The words of Jesus seek to expand our idea of love, it is to be more than our experience of love.
What limits the way you love the Triune God?
What are the crosses you are being asked to take up in your life?
How might you express your love for God?
Children
How do you show your family you love them?
How can you show that love to those who are not in your family?
Family
Familial love is not the limit but an expression of how we are to love God, for God is more than created thing.
In what ways does the love for your family lead you to love God and therefore serve others?
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Prayer by Anne Osdieck  

For the homeless it is a shelter.
For the lonely it’s just a visit.
For the hungry it’s a meal
For one who stumbles it is helping hands.
For the thirsty, just a drop water.

O God,
you ask little of us.
You bless us, when we give
and also when we receive.
Please let us have a cup of cold water.

And let us not ignore
those souls that thirst for you. Amen.

Living the Word part 2, 12 Sunday of Ordinary Time

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.

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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.

 

 

 

 

When there are no words…

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How do we respond when our vocabulary runs dry? Words such as awful, atrocious, terrible, horrific, needless, senseless have littered our media, both public and social since March. And yes I am aware of the irony that insists on using words to express myself.

I have posted ‘There are no words’ on face book after Westminster, Manchester, London Bridge and on the wall of a friend whose niece is still missing after the fire in Grenfell Tower. This morning I awoke once more to the attack on a Mosque in Finsbury Park.

What began slowly has escalated to the point where I wonder just how many more mornings I can awake to another tragedy, to another senseless death or injury of innocent people going about with the intention of living another day.

My thoughts move on to those who live in Syria, Iraq, Palestine, Turkey, South Sudan, the Yemen, Afghanistan, Venezuela, the Philippines to name but a few, for whom this is a daily reality, and I am reminded to be thankful once more.

We are an Easter people – I am called to be a sign of the Resurrection in the world today. Resurrection is to be fully alive, to share in the love of the Triune God.

In the weeks leading up to today I could have been forgiven for beginning to doubt the reality of this. I have never felt less like an Easter people in my life. I know God is here with us, and yet I want to shout long side Thomas ‘Show me’.

Yet The Joy of the Gospel  of the Gospel tells us that “However dark things are, goodness always re-emerges and spreads … beauty is born anew, it rises transformed through the storms of history … Such is the power of the resurrection, and all who evangelize are instruments of that power.” 276

Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation, talks of our relationship with the Living Lord making a difference in the world today.

It is because of our relationship, this invitation to share in God’s love that we are able to respond to the Spirit when she says ‘I tell you get up’.

 

This good news that fills us with joy is not something that is simply talked about, it is a way of living. If we are to live as Easter people, people who believe in the Resurrection, then sharing the love of God is not an option. We are called to bring the about the Kingdom on earth. We are to share the glimpses of heaven with those we meet.

In Paul Valelly’s book ‘Untying the Knots ‘ Pope Francis says:

“Dialogue is born from a respectful attitude toward the other person, from a conviction that the other person has something good to say.

It supposes that we can make room in our heart for their point of view, their opinion and their proposals.

Dialogue entails a warm reception and not a pre-emptive condemnation.

To dialogue, one must know how to lower the defences, to open the doors of one’s home and to offer warmth.”

We do not need plans drawn up by a few for the few, or an enlightened or outspoken minority which claims to speak for everyone. It is about agreeing to live together, a social and cultural pact. (p.239)

And so when there are no words I turn to the Gospels and prayer. As a woman of faith I know that the Spirit prays in me when I do not know how.

I pray for those affected, that they may know that God is with them in their suffering, their loss, their fear, their anger.

I pray for those who see violence and greed as a legitimate way to live may have their hearts changed.

I pray for those who hear and respond to the Holy Spirit’s urging ‘I tell you get up’ and be the Good News that their actions may inspire others, especially me.

I pray for those who who are paralysed by grief that they may see glimpses of heaven and find God is there with them.

I pray for those who, day after day, work to keep us safe, that they may know our gratitude.

I pray for those who make future decisions that whatever their faith, they may be guided by a common concern for the dignity of all.

I pray for those building bridges in the face of opposition and cynicism may never lose heart.

I pray for those who when words run dry may take comfort…

In the same way the Spirit also comes to help us, weak as we are. For we do not know how we ought to pray; the Spirit pleads with God for us in groans that words cannot express.  And God, who sees into our hearts, knows what the thought of the Spirit is; because the Spirit pleads with God on behalf of his people and in accordance with his will.’ (Romans 8 26-27)

 

The shifting shape of family traditions.

All of us have many traditions for Christmas, some we carry on from our family, some we grow ourselves and some have to be negotiated with others.

Ever since my children were little we went shopping so they could each chose a tree decoration to add to the family collection. It was interesting to see how their choice often reflected parts of their developing personalities and interests.

Each decoration was carefully described and added to the list, first hand written then moving to a Word Document in recent years.

You see the point was not simply to add to that year’s decorations but also for when they had left home to provide decorations for their own tree.

The first year I decorated my own tree I had only just started work and after buying presents and an artificial tree (wow they’re expensive) there was little money left to decorate it. I remember buying one bag of mini red baubles and one of mini gold parcels!

As our family grew we loved making tree decorations to grace our tree. Each year they were put away as carefully as those they chose to buy of glass and porcelain.

And this year those home made decorations take on even more significance as there will be space on the tree.

Last week I gave my eldest two children a box, each containing their chosen ornaments. For this year they have their very own tree.

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I removed each ornament from the family boxes, tins and paper tattered from years of use and carefully re-wrapped each one slowly, lovingly with memories and new tissue paper. Each decoration made me smile as I remembered why it was bought, often simply they likedthe colour or shape, and just as often it had a story, food, animals, musical instruments, favourite books or characters.

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I knew this day would come of course, but not how bitter sweet it would be. My darling children are ready to fly, to be independent, to begin their own traditions, to celebrate Christmas the way they choose. All of which make me profoundly grateful and immensely proud. Yet, I am sad too, I grieve those long ago Christmases: the wonder, the excitement, the making.

On reflection I realise that Christmas and its’ traditions was never static. It grew and developed as did my family: the artificial tree gave way to a real one; reading the Night before Christmas with hot chocolate after the Vigil Mass became putting out presents together with mulled wine after midnight Mass; opening presents as soon as it was physically possible on Christmas morning now happens after a late lunch; Oh and the Kings, that’s another post in itself!

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And the tree? Well it transpires that putting it up and decorating it with on my own rather than being a three line whip of a family affair listening to carols with the arguments and stress that inevitably ensued…(why do the lights never work the following year? And why don’t I buy a new stand rather than making do? and just how much does a ‘son’ have to saw off the bottom of the tree so it fits?) is a new tradition in waiting.

While we will be together for Christmas only 2 will wake up here at home, the older ones will arrive Christmas morning after waking up in their own place.

I hope they’ve remembered to tell Father Christmas their new address!

A happy and holy Christmas to you all.

Advent: a time of joyful waiting and Holy longing.

Talitha Kum

A year on, but the truth remains…

Advent: a time of joyful waiting, of Holy longing.

So far, this season of Advent has brought into sharp focus those for whom the waiting is not joyful…

…for those waiting for the bombs to drop

…for those waiting to fly over combat zones

…for those waiting for asylum

…for those waiting for a border to open

…for those waiting for their next fix

…for those waiting for to be evicted

…for those waiting to be made redundant

…for those waiting to die

…for those waiting to hear from an estranged child

…for those waiting for a spouse to come home

…for those waiting, waiting.

Or for the longing that seems far from Holy…

…for those longing for someone to love

…for those longing to be loved

…for those longing for a lover’s touch

…for those longing to be a priority

…for those longing for the grief to pass

…for…

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