... 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: JUST A BIT OF PAPER?
People who live together as partners, without getting married, often say that marriage is just a bit of paper. What difference does it make if you are married or not?
Well, Christian marriage is much more than a consenting adult relationship, more than a convenient arrangement. Christian Churches hold it in high regard as a “holy mystery”. And Catholics call it a sacrament.
Christians believe that the love of husband and wife is like a mirror: it reflects God’s love for the world and in particular Christ’s love for the Church. So their married life is a privileged way in which they can make Christ present to today’s world.
Christian marriage has no room for pre-nuptial agreements. That’s because it’s unconditional. For better for worse, in sickness and in health means that the couple agree to stay together come what may and to face whatever life’s challenges may prove to be.
To begin married life with certain pre-conditions, or with the idea that if things don’t work out then there’s always another option on the horizon, runs contrary to the idea of Christian marriage.
And linked with this is the concept of indissolubility. Sadly, there are cases when everyone agrees it is better for a man and woman to live apart. But if all the circumstances were right at the time of the marriage, then a second marriage is not an option. (Annulments are granted when things were clearly wrong from the start.).
It goes without saying that Christian marriage is between one man and one woman. That’s because the love shared, and particularly its sexual expression, demands a total giving, a complete sharing of lives together. Each partner gives themselves to the other in a gesture of absolute trust and unreserved love. That’s what the older language about worshipping with the body actually meant. They are no longer two but become one body.
It’s easy just to live together. But to be united in Christian marriage is a vocation to something much deeper.
FAITH IN FOCUS: ONE OF US?
Martha Lewis was distressed when her house was burgled. It wasn’t so much that she had lost her pension money and some jewellery that her late husband had given her.
It was more a sense of outrage that someone had invaded her privacy, gone through her things and interfered where they had no right to be. She was only grateful that she had been out at bingo at the time. It could have been worse. So when the local police phoned to say that some of the items had been recovered, she walked to the police station with a spring in her step. She’d only been inside the place on a couple of occasions and laughed to herself what people would think if they saw her coming out!
It was a hive of activity inside. The desk sergeant was processing a group of people who had had too much to drink and started a fight. There was a woman sitting with car documents who had been called to produce them after some minor traffic infringement. And there was a shabbily dressed youth who was clearly on drugs.
As she looked at the young man Martha sniffed. Those dreadlocks couldn’t possibly be healthy and he probably hadn’t washed them in a month. Why he needed to have so many rings piercing every possible extremity was a mystery to her. She was annoyed by the swishing bass sound that came from the earphones of his personal stereo and wondered why he hadn’t even bothered to tie the laces of his trainers. Anyway, thank God her grandchildren had steered clear of drugs. She’d been very strict with Violet, her daughter, and it had paid dividends with the way she was now bringing up her own children.
The policewoman took her to a room where Martha confirmed that the recovered property was indeed hers. She thanked the officer but the officer told her not to thank her but Mr Williams who had found them. “There he is,” she said, “with the dreadlocks and the stereo.”
Jesus said, “Anyone who is not against us is for us.”
FAITH IN FOCUS: PROOF OF THE PUDDING
A TV personality was interviewed recently and the first question he was asked to clarify was whether or not he had “gone all religious”. The implication was that religious people are a bit strange and it would be a pity if he too had gone off the rails and become like those Christians. Incidentally, this was on the same programme that dangled crystals over people to try and find them a partner, and invited people to phone in and say whether Madrid, Manchester or Motherwell was the capital of Spain, in order to get a chance to win thousands.
People have always had it in for those who are “religious”. The godless in today’s reading from Wisdom decide to make a man’s life a misery in order to see either if he will crack or if God will intervene to save him. And in our culture that puts all its eggs in the basket of earning, getting and having, even the most dedicated religious person (whether Christian, Jew, Muslim or whatever) comes under severe pressure to live for the moment with no thought of what lies beyond.
So do the wicked prosper while the good go wanting? In a certain sense they do. They appear to have a good time at others’ expense. But those who do evil begin to experience death. There is a physical and psychological wearing down brought on by wrongdoing. And there is an even greater deterioration of enthusiasm, happiness and trust. To cast decency to the wind means that we have to look for increasingly more exotic ways of “getting our kicks”.
Christians don’t believe in Karma, in what goes around comes around. Instead we trust that God has our best interests at heart and that the way of life that Jesus invites us to follow will not leave us ultimately lacking. Our faith is not about having, but about being. It places us in a relationship with God that is all satisfying. Christianity is not a thing, it’s a communal way of living in which we believe in a God of love who made us for life, living and loving, and who has promised to be with us to the end of time. Since God upholds our life, this is enough for us. We leave the fate of others in God’s hands.
FAITH IN FOCUS: TELL US WHO HE IS
‘Christ’ is not Jesus’ surname. It’s not Mr and Mrs Christ and their son Jesus. Insofar as Jesus had a name like ours, then it was Joshua Josephson. Christ means anointed, and in the case of Jesus it means that he is the one sent by God to reveal the true purpose of life and how to achieve it for ever. So when Jesus asked who people thought he was, it was Peter who came up with the answer: ‘You are the Christ’.
But if Jesus is the Christ, the anointed Son of God, then we can’t simply take it or leave it. We have to accept him as Lord or ruler of our lives. We have to accept that he offers us a different quality of life. And strangely he tells us that to keep our life we must give it up, we must carry our cross and die to self.
This is not a very popular teaching. Our world laughs at the idea and prefers a ‘get what you can’ way of life: if I want it why shouldn’t I have it… if I think it’s OK then it is… I’m entitled to my share of the cake… charity begins at home.
So when the world asks us who this Christ is, what do our lives reply? When they ask what importance he has in our world, what do our lives show? Why do so many people live today without seeming to need to know about him? Is it because we don’t need him?
Is there anything about our lives that gives the impression that it’s someone else who makes us live? Do we appear to be living resurrected lives, on a level that is deeper than simple human existence? Do we live a comfortable Christian existence or do we take risks to live for Christ?
Do our ways of looking at problems and difficulties come from Christ? Are we living a risen life? Or are we just the same as everyone else?
Taking up our cross and denying ourselves means more than not complaining about our toothache or giving up chocolate. It’s about identifying ourselves with Christ’s rejection, shame, suffering and death in order to live his new and risen existence.
Jesus asked, who do people say I am? The only way they are going to find out today is through the way we Christians live. Do we go for the easy option or do we follow the Christ of God to the point of denying ourselves for the sake of others?
FAITH IN FOCUS: LOOKING AT LOVE
“Once, while preaching in a parish, I suddenly caught sight of a young mother with her child and you could see the love between them. I was terribly tempted to say to the congregation: Forget what I am saying and look over there, and you will see what we mean to God.”
Those words were spoken by the late Cardinal Basil Hume. In a simple way he shows that God’s way of communicating with us is not through lofty pronouncements, but in and through the ordinariness of human life.
What more lovely or simple thing could we wish to see than a mother and baby enjoying each other’s company? We see it every day all around us but it’s not that often that we stop to think and go beyond the obvious. The love between a mother and baby is a sign, a pointer to the love that God has for us in his Son Jesus Christ. Since God is true love itself, every act of love we witness and experience is a manifestation of divine love.
When we love, it is God in action. And when we see love in others we can catch a glimpse of God’s favour to our world for we are looking at love itself.
In today’s gospel Jesus cured a deaf man with a speech impediment. In fact, the deaf hearing and the dumb speaking were signs that the Jewish people waited for as an indication that the new age of God’s reign was about to begin. So Jesus’s miracle was a messianic sign, a sign associated with the coming of the long-expected saviour whom God had promised through the prophets.
In this new age of the kingdom of God people are set free to see things that lay hidden, to hear of the wonders that God is working day by day, and to tell others about God’s goodness.
And, of course, that time is now. God never gives up on us, any more than the mother would give up on the baby. And we Christians exist to discern that loving presence of God in our world and to point it out to others. That’s why God has opened our eyes, unblocked our ears and loosened our tongues.
Life is full of choices. If you’d like to speak to a customer service adviser press *1. If you’d like to listen to some awful music while you wait press *2. If you’ve dialled the wrong number then this call is costing you an arm and a leg per minute. We’ve all experienced it!
Our Old and New Testament readings today confront us with more choices. Joshua gathers all the people together for a ceremony to renewor ratify the agreement (the covenant) they had made with God when they agreed to be his people. From time to time it is useful to be reminded of just what you have signed up for.
And Jesus, too, offers the disciples and us a choice. You’ve heard what I’ve had to say about eating and drinking my flesh and blood; so are you going to follow me or are you going to look for someone else?
Following Jesus, making the decision to model your life on his teaching, is not a maintenance-free choice. It’s not as if we make it and then fly on automatic pilot for the rest of our journey in faith. It’s something that needs to be renewed constantly. It’s not a static decision; it’s a dynamic choice.
We’re constantly renewing this choice for Jesus. We’re tempted and have to make conscious decisions. We’re faced with doubt and have to summon up the vestiges of faith. Under mockery from family or friends we choose to keep our Christian heads held high. When we struggle with prayer we try to keep on going.
But the greatest sign we can give that we are persevering in our choice to opt for Jesus’ promises is when we gather together each Sunday to share communion with God and each other. For the liturgy is our way of ratifying the new covenant which Jesus offers through his death and resurrection.
Just as Joshua and the Israelites renewed their covenant in today’s scripture reading, so too we take part in a weekly renewal of our agreement with God. Our “Amen” makes it clear that there is no one other than Jesus to whom we would wish to go.
Dame Wisdom and Dame Folly are two characters in the book of Proverbs. Dame Wisdom offers good advice on how to get on in life, while Dame Folly’s suggestions are not only disastrous but they lead to complete ruin.In today’s scripture readings we see the result of this alongside Jesus’ teaching about the bread of life.
So it’s not surprising that Dame Wisdom is inviting people to enjoy a banquet of bread and fine wines that she has prepared. Come and eat, she says, and you will gain insight into what really matters.
Meanwhile Dame Folly (in a passage that follows today’s scriptures) invites people to drink stolen water and to eat their bread in secret. Not exactly the recipe for a festive social gathering!
These two Dames are the backdrop for what Jesus is telling the crowd. He has fed the 5000 with bread and fishes. He has told them that in future they will be able to eat a bread that will never leave them hungry. And now he comes straight out with it and says that he himself is that bread. Whoever eats his flesh and drinks his blood will live for ever.
For the crowd the choice is stark. Eating the flesh and drinking the blood of Jesus: is this wisdom or is it folly? What are they to make of it? If they go along with it, they will be considered fools in the eyes of the world, but if it turns out to be true then they will have cashed in on the most incredible promise: to live for ever!
In a sense each one of us today is part of that 5000-strong crowd. What Christians believe about the eucharist is considered foolishness by others. We too are asked by Jesus whether we are prepared to accept his teaching, to follow in his steps, to eat and drink his flesh and blood. Like the crowd, we are faced with the stark choice. Do we go for Dame Wisdom’s sumptuous spread or do we settle for Dame Folly’s fast food?