... to the website for the parish of Our Lady of Mount Carmel and St Patrick, Liverpool.
Over the past 12 months a considerable amount of work has been done on one of our churches, Our Lady of Mount Carmel. The church was built in 1878. It is a Grade II listed building and essential repair work has been carried out.
Thank you to all have made donations and to those who have contributed in so many ways to the fund raising - still a long way to go!
FAITH IN FOCUS: A TALE OF THREE KINGDOMS
We use the word kingdom quite a lot in our liturgy. At every Mass we pray the Lord’s Prayer asking, “Thy kingdom come”. We acclaim God by saying, “For the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours now and for ever”. And we ask for “the peace and unity of your kingdom where you live for ever and ever”.
The first words Jesus speaks in St Mark’s gospel are “The time has come and the kingdom of God is close at hand”. On one level the kingdom is past. Christ came to establish the kingdom of God and so it already exists. What sort of kingdom did he set up?
Some people thought it might be a political kingdom to overthrow the Roman occupiers, but Jesus said the citizens of the kingdom would be the poor, the gentle and the persecuted. Do we really want “Thy kingdom come” if this is what it means?So if the kingdom has already been set up, then it must also be present somewhere today. If we live in it, then how should we behave? When we pray “Thy kingdom come” we are telling God that we want to live under the reign of Christ the King. Do we let Christ into our lives or is he someone we have heard about but who doesn’t impinge on our daily existence. St Paul says that today is the day of salvation.
Do we try to make our todays conform with the kingdom or do we separate our daily lives from our religious beliefs? Do the values of God’s kingdom feature in my life, my family, my job? Who’s in charge of my life, who’s the king?
“Thy kingdom come”? Christ the King is not someone dead and buried. He is the Risen Lord and he leads us on to discover even more of the joys of the kingdom that he has established here on earth. He promises never to abandon us and to be with us always. Christ is king of our tomorrows and shows us the way to fullness of life, on both sides of the grave. So his kingdom is also a future reality and that’s why we pray for the peace and unity of the kingdom where God now lives.
The Father showed his great love for us by sending his Son. Christ himself now walks by our side. God waits for us in all our tomorrows. Past, present and future: a tale of three kingdoms that are really one.
FAITH IN FOCUS: THE BOOK OF LIFE
The idea of a book with the names of those to be admitted to heaven rings strangely in our modern ears. Rather than a leather-bound ledger we would probably have a data base of names, addresses and personal details kept on computer disk or CD.
But when Daniel speaks of this book he is echoing in ancient terms the same situation that still applies today. Men and women still seek a meaning to life, to their actions, their choices, their ultimate hopes and dreams. And, just like us today, Daniel points out that God gives us the freedom to behave in any way we choose in this world, as long as we know that our conduct affects our eternal future.
It’s easy for Christians to get caught up in the here and now values of our world. Although society values great acts of personal heroism and admires people who make sacrifices for the benefit and development of others, it still is firmly fixated on the transient, on a passing view of life. Just look at the TV adverts to see what you are supposed to be aiming for. Most are about comfort, luxury and image. You’ve really made it when you have a beautiful person on your arm, can wear the latest designer products and drive the fastest of cars. You are judged by what passes for success.
Yet the gospel tells us that we are judged by how we treat others and how close we try to come to knowing and loving God. As the Church’s year draws to a close we remember once more that the values we seek are kingdom values which turn the world’s standards on their head.
If our names are to appear in the Book of Life then it will be because we allowed ourselves to respond to the inner promptings of God’s Spirit, because we took Christ’s teaching and his promises seriously enough to act on them.
And just in case we get sucked into thinking that God is so kind that everything will turn out fine whatever sort of lives we lead, we are reminded that God values our free will so much that he lets us choose to opt out of his plan of salvation.
God is the last one who would force us to behave in a way that we did not want to. His final judgement is real, and we are helping him to make it day by day.
FAITH IN FOCUS: GIVING
At Sunday lunch the family were moaning about what had happened at church. The priest’s sermon was rubbish, the choir out of tune and the church cold. Then the youngest child silenced everyone by saying, “Still, it wasn’t bad for only £1.”
The episode about the widow’s mite teaches us a lot about giving. First of all there’s the question of what we give. Obviously the amount is not the most important aspect of giving because it’s relative. The widow put two coins worth a penny into the collection whereas the richer people dwarfed her contribution by the size of their donations. But presumably we should expect richer people to provide more revenue.
Clearly, the amount given may bear no relationship to the wealth of the person. And Jesus pointed out to his disciples that in fact the widow had given much more than all the others.
Secondly, there’s the business of how we give. When we see some sort of appeal for helping children or providing food and drink to people struck by famine, how do we react? Do we begrudgingly put our hands in our pockets and cough up as little as we can without seeming miserly? When envelopes drop through our doors asking for money for charity, what do we feel like?
God loves a cheerful giver, according to St Paul, but sometimes we give begrudgingly. The widow could have kept one of her two coins but she gave willingly. And she gave everything she had.
Thirdly, there’s the issue of why we give. Some people give things to churches and then have a plaque made to let everyone know that they are the donor. Such recognition has already been rewarded. But there’s another sort of recognition: reverse recognition. We can give out of recognition of what we ourselves have been given. We give because we are conscious of being blessed by God in so many ways and our giving-back is just a token of our gratitude. God gave his only Son and his only Son gave his life for us.
So giving implies a what, a how and a why. And by willing giving her all, the widow got all three of them right.
FAITH IN FOCUS:HEART – SOUL – MIND – STRENGTH
The Jews had 613 laws and regulations which Jesus summarised into one two-part commandment: If you want to be in the kingdom of God then love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength; and love your neighbour as you love yourself.
Love God with all your heart. The heart is called the seat of emotion. Are you ‘emotional’ about God or is God just a cosmic idea, a celestial force that controls the universe? Do you feel passionate about God? Do you have ‘feelings’ for God?
Love God with all your soul. Your soul is the real you. It’s the deep down psyche that makes you what and who you are. Is your whole existence oriented towards God or is God simply a facet of your life that you turn to from time to time, on Sundays or in times of trouble?
Love God with your whole mind. Your mind accounts for the intellectual side of your activity. Do you make decisions about life and your future with God in mind? Do you use your brainpower to try to learn as much as you can about your faith or are you content to hobble along with the same understanding that you had when you were still a young child?
Love God with all your strength. Strength refers to the vigour with which we devote ourselves to God. Do you proclaim your faith with all the force and might at your disposal? Or is the practice of your faith heartless, soulless and mindless? Do you use all the faculties that God has endowed you with (heart, soul, and mind)?
Love your neighbour as yourself. Everyone is our neighbour no matter how far away they are. We can only love God if we love our neighbour. Do you give any practical help to the needy? Are you another Christ to the people you live and work with? If you want to be part of the kingdom of God, says Jesus, then just keep this two-pronged commandment.
Alternatively, you can apply for a copy of the original 613…
FAITH IN FOCUS: THROWING OFF HIS CLOAK
The odds were stacked against Bartimaeus. He was blind. He was a beggar. He lived in Jericho, a town meaning “cursed”. (Joshua cursed it when he captured it.) His name means “son of Timaeus” and the word “Timaeus” means a “nasty or corrupt man”. The blind beggar, son of a good-for-nothing, living in the cursed city.
On the day when Jesus came to town Bartimaeus probably wasn’t expecting anything special to happen. But he capitalised on his assets. He might have been blind but he wasn’t deaf and he had a strong voice. When he heard it was Jesus of Nazareth he began shouting out to catch his attention.
Bartimaeus wasn’t bothered about public opinion. They all told him to shut up but he shouted out all the more. He knew that this man Jesus could make things better for him. So he shouted all the louder. Being helped was more important than being thought respectable.
Beggars wore a special coat or cloak of camel hair that got them noticed more easily. When Jesus told the people to bring him over Bartimaeus threw the cloak off. He was going to be seen for what he really was, not just a beggar. He jumped up and went over to Jesus to beg his mercy and favour. The story ends with his sight being restored and him following Jesus along the road…without his cloak.
What’s your handicap in life? Is it some physical illness? Are you held back by your environment? Is it perhaps some spiritual blindness or habit that you’re desperate to overcome? Do you let yourself be put down by what others think of you? Do you feel sometimes like you’ve got a cloak? Do you want to be helped and if so what do you do to make it a reality? How do you capitalise on what you do have; you might be blind but you’ve got ears and a tongue.
Sometimes we have to take the plunge and throw off the cloak that drags us down. Because until we shout out to Jesus, there’s little chance of our blindness being cured.
FAITH IN FOCUS: TRIVIAL PUSUIT?
It’s easy to become so familiar with our religion that we forget what an enormous challenge is thrown down to anyone who really want to be a follower of Christ. We can wear the practice of our faith like an old pair of slippers and never notice bow battered they have become.
Being a Christin is not the obvious choice. Ask the audience. Only a small percentage would think it’s a sensible lifestyle. Phone a friend, but make sure he or she really has heard what Christ is asking. There’s more than a fifty-fifty chance that it will look stupid.
Choosing to be a disciple means sharing the daily shame of the cross. It’s not about living the cushy existence. It’s about rejoicing at being the bottom of the pile. In a world that prizes success the Christian glories in what looks like failure. A Christian is a permanent number two; a Christian is always last rather than first.
Trying to be a Christian is no trivial pursuit for it deals with life and death questions. Can you hack it? asks Jesus. Can you really cope with taking on the ills of the world and serving others to the point of exhaustion? Can you deal with being thoughta follower for his sake?
Is your religion more about bells and smells, stained glass and nice music? Or is it about being prepared to suffer shame, to be laughed at, to do without, to serve and not to count the cost or seek any reward apart from the satisfaction that you are trying to follow Jesus?
Christ tells us hat to follow him we must die first. To follow him we must put ourselves at others’ disposal till it hurts and expect nothing in return. Can you do this? That’s what he asked James and John. Clearly he had his doubts about them.
Christianity is not a hobby. It’s not a pastime on a par with volunteering for the local hospital’s League of Friends or joining a club. It’s a life and death series of decisions. Let’s not fall into the trap of think that it’s normal!
FAITH IN FOCUS: HOW TO BE REALLY HAPPY
If we take a close look at the man in today’s gospel, who asks Jesus how to get eternal life and happiness, then we can glean quite a lot.
He was humble; he actually ran up and knelt at Jesus’ feet before speaking to him. He clearly had good motives because he wanted to know how to inherit eternal life. And he had good sense; enough to know that from what he heard of him Jesus was the right person to help him with this.
So he was nobody’s fool. What we usually remember about him is that he was rich. But it’s clear that his riches couldn’t satisfy his deep down needs. That’s why he came to Jesus looking for something that went beyond the grave. His wealth couldn’t give meaning to his life. He was restless and seeking something more than the trappings that money can bring.
And of course it’s not as if he were some sort of villain who would find it hard to accept religion. He already was a religious person and a morally upright character. He said that he had kept all the commandments from his earliest days, so he had probably also fasted from food and tithed some of his wealth.
When the other gospel writers recall this episode they tell us that the man was young and that he came from one of the leading families. So by anybody’s reckoning he’s got a lot going for him: young, rich, reputable, religious, moral, thoughtful, common-sensed and humble.
Yet he went away sad because the demands that Jesus made of him were more than he was prepared to accept. The incredible happened: God in Jesus told him exactly what to do in order to have eternal life. He had to give up all his wealth and give it to the poor. But this would affect his status, his reputation and his lifestyle.
What gives meaning to your life? What do you consider the point of living is? Where do you look for what makes real sense of your days? Where have you put your treasure? Is it invested in the here and now or have you got your sights on something that will outlast this mortal existence?
Being young, rich and even religious cannot get you into heaven. And when Jesus tells you how to inherit eternal life do you go away sad or do you start rejoicing?
Go and sell everything you own