... 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 DISTURBING MESSAGE?
He’s a shadowy figure, impressive but slightly perplexing. Everybody knows that John the Baptist was a cousin of Jesus, the son of Elizabeth and Zechariah. But some people think that he joined a type of separatist monastic community, the Essenes, who lived in the desert close to where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found.
They were a zealot group that was looking forward to the imminent coming of the Messiah who would once more set up the kingdom of Israel according to the promises that were made to their ancestors in the bible. Only those who adhered strictly to the Law would be part of this kingdom. If nothing else they were fundamentalists.
Certainly we do come across John in the desert, a strange character aged about 27, wearing a leather belt and camel hair tunic and living off locust and wild honey, and we know that he was preaching a message of repentance, getting people to be immersed in the waters of the River Jordan. Whether he was part of the exclusive Essene desert community we cannot say, but he converted many people and prepared the way for Jesus’ preaching. He told his own disciples to follow Jesus and he was beheaded in prison by Herod.
Many people refer to John the Baptist as the hinge between the Old Testament and New Testament prophets. The job of a prophet is to be a spokesperson for God. We may baulk at the thought of wearing a sandwich board and walking up and down the high street with Gospel messages. But because of our baptism we have each been called to be prophets, pointers, signposts and spokespeople for God and the Gospel.
Maybe John the Baptist stands as a reminder of how necessary this is in a world that seems to be looking for compass points.
FAITH IN FOCUS: THE INVISIBLE FORCE
Christians sometimes focus so much on the Church that they lose sight of the kingdom. They tend to think that the Church is the be-all and end-all of religious activity and they can become blind to the kingdom of God.
Yet the kingdom and the Church are not the same things. The Church is the bearer of the kingdom but not the exclusive owner. The kingdom, which Jesus today speaks about in his parables, is wider than the Church and is not so visible and tangible.
Jesus taught his disciples that the kingdom is already with us, though it can seem to be hidden. It has already been inaugurated, though it is yet to reach its fulfilment. Day after day it is unfurled, little by little in an almost unnoticeable way.
The ideals of the kingdom clash with the values of the world. That’s because the kingdom is eternal and universal whereas the world is about fads and fashion, about exclusivity and partiality. The kingdom is about truth and life, whereas the world happily lies and trades in destruction of all types.
The kingdom espouses holiness and grace, concepts which the secular world considers laudable but outmoded. And the kingdom’s principles of justice, love and peace are more likely to be echoed in the world’s pop songs than in its strategies. Does this mean that we’ve nothing to hope for? That injustice, violence, corruption and oppression will always be with us? Is it just par for the course?
Jesus says not. With his arrival on earth the kingdom of God has begun to embed itself in all aspects of our world. There are invincible forces already at work as the world matures and the kingdom silently grows. Like a seed planted in a field it grows unobtrusively, by day and by night. Like a mustard seed it starts off tiny but becomes a force to be reckoned with. And even now we sometimes catch a glimpse of the power of the kingdom when world events are confounded and when men and women, even just for a moment, unite in a shared vision that reflects the will of God.
The kingdom is here now. The way we behave will help or hinder it. But it’s bigger than all of us put together. That’s why we pray: Thy kingdom come.
FAITH IN FOCUS: FORBIDDEN FRUIT?
The story of Adam and Eve is widely known. Eve eats the forbidden fruit; Eve persuades Adam also to eat it; and God finds out . Their excuses: ‘the woman made me do it’, says Adam; ‘it was the serpent’ says Eve. But they have disobeyed God so they get thrown out of Paradise into a harsh world. The Original sin.
But is it just a sin of disobedience? No, rather, the sin is more profound. The devil has tempted Eve by telling her the real reason that God has forbidden them from eating the fruit is that if they do they will be ‘like gods’.
To be like gods, to be in control, to have no need of God; this is the original sin which affects humanity. The growing child wants their own way; for the adult the temptation can be only to do it ‘my way’.
But society, businesses, organisations, need people who can lead, who can exercise authority and who can make things happen. However they must always do so for the common good and as servants, not as masters.
The opposite is the dictator who wants to take over the world. The quest for power, influence, control, is the great temptation of humanity and seen all over the world today where the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. ‘I did it my way’ is a recipe for a sad life and a poorer world.
But life tells us that we are not in charge. ‘No man is an island’ is a reminder that we are all cogs in the wheel of our great and wonderful world and working together is a recipe for a better world.
And the Gospel tells us that we are not in charge: love your enemies, pray for those who persecute you. Jesus constantly challenges us not do it our way or the ways of the world but God’s way.
And if we do it God’s way we become sisters and brothers of Jesus, today’s Gospel tells us. Do we want to be sisters and brothers of Jesus? Or do we still want to do it ‘my way’? Is that forbidden fruit still a temptation?
FAITH IN FOCUS: ON MEDICINE FOR LIFE
There can be nothing sadder than listening to someone who believes that they are not good enough to go to communion. They feel that they are unworthy and they simply stay put in their seat when the rest of the congregation gets up to eat and drink the body and blood of Christ during the celebration of Mass.
Of course none of us is good enough. That’s why we say, ‘Lord, I am not worthy… ‘ just before we approach the altar. We realise that we mere human beings cannot presume to receive such a gift without acknowledging our unworthiness. But beneath this idea of unworthiness there lies a fatal error.
Communion is not for good people. It’s not for saints. It’s for people who are not very good, who are sinners but who want to get better. Our feast of the Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus et Sanguis Christi) teaches us that communion is not a reward but a medicine.
When we eat and drink (both!) Christ’s body and blood we are signing up to be better. Some of the Church’s early hymn-writers used a lovely phrase to describe the Eucharist: they called it food for the journey. An ancient hymn (O, Esca Viatorum: O, Food of Travellers) makes it clear that the Eucharist is not some celebratory picnic on the journey but is the survival rations, the staff of life.
At the Last Supper when Jesus instituted the Eucharist he commanded us to eat and drink and to do this in memory of his death and resurrection. God has made an agreement (a covenant) with us through the death and resurrection of Jesus. He will be our God and we will be his people by ratifying the covenant: by eating and drinking in memory of Jesus.The Eucharist is our way of signing-up again
and again to the promises of God, showing our renewed commitment and gratefully receiving God’s gift. Saint Ignatius of Antioch called the Eucharist ‘the medicine of immortality, the antidote which prevents us from dying so we can live forever in Jesus Christ.’ On the feast of the Body and Blood of Christ we share in communion here on earth, and we pray that one day we may be found rejoicing together at the everlasting meal of heaven.
FAITH IN FOCUS: ETERNAL TRIANGLE
Theology students have nightmares about the Trinity. That’s because the books on theology try to explain the Trinity in complicated philosophical and theological terms that are based not so much on scripture as on the works of Greek philosophy and Latin scholars.
So we have to throw away the books and ask ourselves what our faith, based on God’s revelation and the constant teaching of the Church, tells us about the type of God we have. And our faith generally has nothing to do with concepts of person, nature, divine processions, economic or immanent relations etc. Thank God!
Scripture invites us to see God as Father (and if we look closely, even as Mother). This is because God is the parent principle of life, the author of creation. And society has attributed a protective and loving role to parents. Parents look after their children and want the best for them. So does God.
Jesus, the Son, was sent by the Father. He is the great communicator whose role is to tell us about the type of God we have and what God expects of us. He shows us a pattern, a way of living that will bring us happiness and let us live life to the full, while respecting everyone else’s right to live. And because we found it hard to respond to this way of life he showed us how to overcome sin, death, evil and all that would drag us down.
The Holy Spirit is the supreme enabler. It is he who animates us, who inspires us to go beyond our own limitations and who supports us constantly in all our endeavours. It is the Spirit who disposes our hearts to listen to the prompting of God’s grace and to bring hope, harmony, justice and reconciliation to all the areas of our lives.
Each one of the three is God. The fact that we attribute different aspects to each of them does not imply that one is greater than the other.
When we adopt a parental role or are seen as people who bring life and light to any situation, then we are living the life of the Father. When we follow the way that Jesus set out for us, then we are living the life of the Son. When we bring hope and encouragement, wisdom and support to those around us, we are living the life of the Spirit.
When we do all three, we are living the life of the Trinity.
FAITH IN FOCUS: HIDDEN HELPER
“Footprints in the Sand” is a poem about God’s invisible presence. Sometimes seen on greeting cards, it’s about someone complaining that God was nowhere to be found at crucial moments. Then God replies pointing out that he was there all the time. Although he couldn’t be seen, there were two sets of footprints in the sand.
At Pentecost, Whit Sunday, we celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit, the advocate promised by Jesus. The Holy Spirit is with us at every moment of our lives, and many of the things we do are only possible with the help of the Spirit. We may not always sense his presence, but there are always two sets of footprints wherever we go. For the Holy Spirit is the power behind all our attempts at doing good.
God’s Spirit makes people bold. The disciples were timidly huddled in a room before the Spirit released them to be fearless in their preaching. And when we need the courage to speak up for what is right or to take a difficult course of action it is the Spirit who emboldens us.
Life does not always go the way we hope it will. We suffer loss, we become downhearted, and we sometimes feel defeated. It is the Spirit within us that is able to console and comfort and who allows us to offer solace to others in their need. And when our world is riven with strife and discord it is the Spirit who urges us on to bring peace, reconciliation and unity.
But of course life is not all doom and gloom. We are capable of achieving great happiness, of being enormously creative, of sharing loving relationships with God and each other. This too is the work of the Spirit. For the Spirit animates us, encourages us and inspires us to go beyond our own human limitations to act in a God-like way.
Christians possess the Spirit through their baptism and confirmation. And today when we step forward to eat and drink at our Whitsun Eucharist we ask that his gifts may continue to blossom within the Church so that we may continue to proclaim to the world that God is alive and active, working through the hearts of men and women. Even if we can’t always see his footprints.
FAITH IN FOCUS: NEITHER HERE NOR THERE
Today, the seventh Sunday of Easter, is one of the strangest of the Church’s entire year. There’s an air of anticipation and unfulfilment about it. Jesus has already ascended to heaven and yet we’re still here waiting for the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. We’re in the in-between time. It gives us chance to pause and breath a little, to take stock of the thrust of what Jesus said and did during his life and teaching on earth before he went back to the Father.
And when we listen to Jesus’ last message today, a prayer to God for his disciples, we find something of a paradox. Jesus wants us to be in the world but not part of it.Does this mean that we should become like monks in a monastery, shut off from the world and having nothing to do with it? Should we keep our distance from those who are God’s children but who are not Christians? Should we shun science and technology, culture, sport, music and enjoyment? Should we stack our bookshelves with nothing except bibles and prayer books? Should we pepper our conversations with scripture quotes and hope thereby to convert people?
The word “world” has a special meaning when Jesus uses it. It doesn’t mean the earth or the mass of people who inhabit it. It means all those values which do not reflect God’s vision for his creation. And so we live in the world but do not have “worldly” values. The world thinks it’s stupid to put yourself last rather than first, to put yourself out for those in need, to die to yourself in order that you can really live. Blessed are the poor in spirit, those who mourn, those who are meek. It makes no sense says the “world”. For the world puts a premium on comfort and affluence.
So today Jesus reminds us that if we are true to his word, if we allow ourselves to be consecrated in the truth, then our thought-patterns will be different from those who do not know him or believe in his message. And his final prayer is not that we should be removed from the world but that we should be protected from the tempter who will try and entice us to worship fame, success, wealth or what the world might call “progress”.
Are we sufficiently tuned in to God’s word that we can be in the world but not of it?