SOMETHING COMPLETELY NEW

Often the closer we are to something, the less clearly we see it. We might go on holiday to a beautiful island paradise only to find that the locals take the sunshine, the palm trees and the gentle pace for granted. It’s not uncommon for Parisian or Roman taxi drivers to consider the Arc de Triomphe or the Colosseum as mere traffic islands to be negotiated with difficulty at rush hour.
We tend not to appreciate the wonders around us when we see them every day.

The same can be true for Christians who live cheek by jowl with their faith. We can end up downsizing the importance of what we believe because we package it into sound-bites such as “God is love” or “Love your neighbour as yourself”. And if our faith and religion is reduced to maxims then it has to compete with all other political, commercial and recreational claims on our time and talent.
And thus it becomes relativised.

So Christianity is in danger of being seen as just one way of spending our spare time, along with party politics, sport, caravanning, bird-watching or knitting. And we get sucked into thinking that tolerance demands of us that we make no greater claim for our faith than we do about our hobbies and our interests. After all, it would be indecent to make a lot of noise about our faith, wouldn’t it?
Especially if faith is a private thing.

But Christians don’t think like that. We don’t consider our belief in Jesus Christ to be a take-it-or-leave-it affair. It’s not merely like being a member of a wine club or a social networking group. For Christians, faith in Jesus is massive; it is the single most important factor in our lives because it determines who we are and how we behave. To be a Christian is not simply a “nice” thing; it’s totally consuming.
Because it informs every aspect of our living and breathing.

In today’s scripture God says, “Now I am making the whole of creation new”. The resurrection of Jesus changes everything. The old order is wiped away, death and evil have lost their power to keep us held captive, and we are offered a radically new and eternal life that has already begun now and that will come to fulfilment the other side of the grave. There is nothing “same-old” about our Christian faith.
It’s something that can transform the whole of creation.

HIS MASTER’S VOICE

People don’t like being called sheep. When the public is sometimes accused of following this or that fashion just like a bunch of sheep we instinctively want to stand out ourselves and protest that we are not like the rest; we’ve got a mind of our own.

Maybe this is because the sheep or lamb is seen as a cute but rather hapless animal. It simply  follows. Would today’s gospel seem easier to swallow if it talked about a faithful dog that listened out for its owner’s voice and followed the owner everywhere?

The scripture readings for the Sundays of Easter were originally targeted at those people who had been baptised at the Easter Vigil and were undergoing their first period of “aftercare” as Christians. They also served as an annual “refresher course” for those who were already members of the believing community. So each of the Sundays celebrates one or more of the key aspects of being a Christian.

Today we hear the word of God reminding us that we are not alone in our faith. It is not something we subscribe to and then are left abandoned in the wilderness. Christ is our shepherd and we belong to his flock which is the Church.

Yet if we are to be the sheep of his flock and enjoy greener pastures and fresh water then we have to listen to his voice. New converts to Christianity have no problem with this since they need no second invitation to discuss and savour their new-found faith. On the other hand, those of us who have been Christians for a longer time are less likely to be aware of the shepherd’s voice calling us in the ordinariness of daily life. Is this because we have lost the spark?

The new Christians are being shown that the authentic voice of the shepherd is to be found in God’s word and in the assembly of believers: in scripture and in the Church community. If they listen out for that voice then Jesus promises that they will never be lost.

But, of course, what applies to new Christians also applies to us too. So where do the rest of us look and listen out for the voice of the Good Shepherd today?

The Joy of Love – Amoris Laetitiae

Pope Francis latest document, known as an apostolic exhortation, was published recently. It is available online (vatican.va will take you to the document) and also can  be purchased from St Paul’s bookshop in Bold St.

World Day of Prayer for Vocations

The fourth Sunday of Easter, traditionally known as Good Shepherd Sunday, is also the world day of prayer for Vocations to the priesthood and religious life.

It is also the beginning of the collection for the Priest’s Training Fund. A retiring collection will take place at all Masses, envelopes are available at the back of church. If people wish to make a donation the fund will be open until the feast of Pentecost.

HEROIC FAILURES?

Someone once said that in a world where success is the benchmark, the Church is the only place where failure is not only tolerated but allowed.

 Certainly this was true of Peter. Just a few weeks before today’s gospel he had denied three times that he knew Jesus. And now, in what seems like a mirror image of his betrayal, Jesus asks him  three times if he loves him.

No doubt this probing made Peter feel uncomfortable but it ended with Jesus entrusting the future of his mission to the man who had let him down when it counted.

If we’re honest we have to admit to feeling a little uncomfortable ourselves when others point out our good points. For although we may well be good we are also aware that we have many failings that we don’t like to admit to and wouldn’t want others to know about. We’re a mixture of good and bad, capable of heroism and yet skilled in failure.

 Consequently we often find it hard to forgive ourselves and this can lead to our taking a back-seat when it comes to using our talents and proclaiming the gospel. In a nutshell, we feel unworthy and retire into the background.

Today we see Jesus in a practical act of forgiveness. Because he forgave Peter, Peter himself was able to feel loved and valued and was able to forgive himself. Since no one can call themselves  praiseworthy in God’s sight it is pointless to absent ourselves from God’s presence under the pretence of unworthiness.

 God knows our inmost thoughts and desires. There is nothing we can hide. And yet God never gives up on us even when we are guilty of the most blatant betrayal. No matter how far we wander from God, God never abandons us but calls us back to the table of his love.

Today we see Jesus inviting the man who had denied him to come and have a breakfast of bread and grilled fish. We too have received the same invitation as Peter. For though we are sinners we are invited to the table of the Lord and each time we eat and drink his body and blood our faults and failures are washed away and we are nourished by the very life of God.

 

Request from Pope Francis – Crisis in Ukraine

The United Nations has estimated that the two-year conflict between the pro-Russian separatists and the Ukrainian government has left 1.5 million hungry, 300,000 of which are in desperate need of food. During the first half of 2016, the organization aims to provide monthly food assistance to approximately 270,000 people, primarily the most vulnerable and in most need. 1.3 million are lacking in drinking water. Moreover, around a million people are in need medical assistance. Medicines are hard to come by, and surgeries are reportedly conducted without anaesthesia.

Pope Francis, launched a humanitarian initiative in favour of the people of the Ukraine, in the form of a SPECIAL COLLECTION to be taken in all of the Catholic Churches in Europe on Sunday 24th April 2016.  The Holy Father expressed his faith in the Churches of Europe who would unite generously to this, his initiative.