A Lent reading group will be starting on Wednesday 12 March, following Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, and the series will run through to finish on the Wednesday of Holy Week. Each meeting will start promptly at 8:00pm — get there in good time! Check the calendar on the right for the location. You can download the document from the Vatican website.
Published on Sunday 2 March 2014 | Posted by Andrew Leach
Published on Thursday 27 February 2014 | Posted by Julianne Chatfield
One of the pages I follow on Facebook is the one linked to the Ignatian Spirituality website. It is incredibly useful, with a wide range of really good resources. However a few days ago, on my news feed an article popped up that made me sigh.
Entitled “A faith that disturbs,” I expected something that maybe dealt with what happens when we find our faith unsettling. What I got was, in my opinion, a tired reiterating of liberal, individualistic excuses. It was very disappointing, more so because it is written by someone who has written genuinely interesting and helpful blogs before. Maybe I have misunderstood.
The blogger begins by describing how Church structure and roles have changed over the centuries. Then he throws in the fact that the two natures of Christ weren’t finally set down until 451 at the Council of Chalcedon. These are both there to set up the idea that change just happens all the time in the Church. However the nature of a Bishop’s job and the articles of faith are two very different things. Many Church councils arose out of a need to settle issues when difficulties arose. It does not mean that the conclusions reached are new or display a divergence or a complete re-interpretation of what went before. They are a sign of the Church setting out what has been revealed.
Having set out this case for change, the blogger then brings out that old liberal chestnut “The Jesus of History’ versus “The Jesus of Faith.” The idea is this. There was a man named Jesus who walk around the Holy Land in the first Century, teaching people. Then, later on the apostles and later writers added bits and took bits away, creating a Jesus who sums up their ideas about faith. The argument can lead to a sort of existentialism. We can’t know the full truth about Jesus but as the article puts it “The Jesus of our faith and our tradition offers us much in the way of truth.”
The problem with this argument is that our faith stands or falls on the person of Christ. If he wasn’t who he said he was in the Gospels then everything comes tumbling down. Doctrines of Salvation and the Trinity become inventions. Even the words of Jesus lose validity. The core of our faith dies.
Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI) in his first Jesus of Nazareth book opens with explaining the problem. He says, that in certain types of theological study, since the 1950s
“[t]he gap between the “historical Jesus” and the “Christ of Faith” grew wider and the two visibly fell apart. But what can faith in Jesus as the Christ possibly mean, in Jesus as the Son of the living God, if the man Jesus was so completely different from the picture that the Evangelists painted of him and that the Church, on the evidence of the gospels, takes as the basis of her preaching?”
Pope Benedict goes on to say that various versions of Jesus were offered vary widely:
“…at one end of the spectrum, Jesus was the anti-Roman revolutionary working- though finally failing- to overthrow the ruling powers; at the other end, he was a meek moral teacher who approves everything and unaccountably comes to grief. If you read a number of these reconstructions one after the other, you see at once that far from uncovering an icon that has been obscured over time, they are much more like photographs of their authors and the ideals they hold. Since then there has been growing skepticism about these portrayals of Jesus, but the figure of Jesus himself has for that very reason receded even further into the distance.”
By splitting the historical figure from what we believe about Jesus it is easy to paint him in our own image, to make him what we want him to be.
Undoubtedly there was editing that went on in relation to the Gospels. Three years of ministry gives too much material to include it all. Dei Verbum, the document on Scripture from Vatican II explains the process
“The sacred authors wrote the four Gospels, selecting some things from the many which had been handed on by word of mouth or in writing, reducing some of them to a synthesis, explaining some things in view of the situation of their churches and preserving the form of proclamation but always in such fashion that they told us the honest truth about Jesus. For their intention in writing was that either from their own memory and recollections, or from the witness of those who “themselves from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the Word” we might know “the truth” concerning those matters about which we have been instructed (see Luke 1:2-4).”
Of course there is a connection between what we find in the Gospels and the tradition and teaching of the Church. What tradition is not, is something that offers us a certain amount of ‘Truth’ (for any given definition of truth). It is far more dynamic than that. Dei Verbum again:
” Hence there exists a close connection and communication between sacred tradition and Sacred Scripture. For both of them, flowing from the same divine wellspring, in a certain way merge into a unity and tend toward the same end. For Sacred Scripture is the word of God inasmuch as it is consigned to writing under the inspiration of the divine Spirit, while sacred tradition takes the word of God entrusted by Christ the Lord and the Holy Spirit to the Apostles, and hands it on to their successors in its full purity, so that led by the light of the Spirit of truth, they may in proclaiming it preserve this word of God faithfully, explain it, and make it more widely known.”
There are times when something in Scripture or in the teachings of the Church is challenging to us as individuals. It might disturb or upset us. In fact, the Gospels are full of the challenge that Jesus issued to people he met: The rich young man, Zaccheus, all of the disciples and the Samaritan woman at the well are just a few of them. What is key is what those individuals did with that challenge. If we choose to manipulate scripture or the history of the Church so that we can find our own, personal version of the “Truth” we paint Jesus in our own image. However if we chose to encounter the Truth and tackle what it reveals about ourselves then it has the power to transform us. The transformation comes because, rather than expecting God to dance to our tune, we might begin to learn his steps. This process is always uncomfortable and disturbing at times because it is a struggle with ourselves. It is not a disturbance I like but it is better than any version of the Truth I might come up with.
Published on Sunday 23 February 2014 | Posted by Fr Neil Chatfield
Sunday 6th in Ordinary Time year A
I’d like to begin this meeting by introducing myself. I am Fr Neil Chatfield, I’ve been a sinner for 48 years. For 41 of those years i’ve been personally responsible for my actions. I have to confess that many times over those years I’ve aligned my will with fire rather than water, with death rather than life.
Having once acknowledged that I am sinner, that I have a problem, I became aware that I am no longer in control – I never really was. The one choice I had I chose the wrong thing to say ‘yes’ to when I should have said ‘no’. I have realised that this is bigger than I am and I need something bigger than I am to save me.
I was made aware that there was a real problem because of the law of God. By his good grace the Lord gave the law to his people to make them aware of the fault lines between good and evil, right and wrong, and life and death. The absolute honesty of the Law of God makes me face myself with the truth about myself, worts and all! We were made for glory and yet we sold our birth right and threw our crowns into the dust.
The Law highlights the truth and I could like the Pharisees and scribes try to obey the commandments by trying not to steal, rob, lie, cheat, be unfaithful or kill. This maybe to my credit but it changes nothing in my heart where I may do all those things many times in a single day!
The Law can tell me what’s wrong but it cannot change what is in my heart. Yet it is only in the transformation of the heart that our righteousness, our standing right before God, can exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees – who can save a wretch like me?!
The Old Testament temple cult of sacrifice taught God’s people that it is only through sacrifice that someone or something can be made holy – in the Exodus the blood of the unblemished lamb that protects the people from the angel of death. How much more then will the true Passover Lamb, Christ the Lord, in his self sacrifice on the cross be able to begin the process of purifying my heart?
Jesus the one who is holy, the one who is pure, pours out his life in an act of love so that we might not die but live. The Law reveals the symptoms of sin but it is the sacrifice of Christ the Lord that deals with the root cause of the waywardness of our hearts.
The one who is life and love in his death and resurrection has overcome that which has bound me fast to Satan’s kingdom of sin and death. This is the mystery that no one could foresee, a mystery that we are invited to enter – the mystery of divine love. Once again I have the opportunity to aline my will with that of the Father – which is love and thus life itself.
In the spirit of Mary at the Annunciation each day I now have the opportunity to say ‘yes’ to the Word of God being received in me, the life of Christ being manifest in me. I can now freely learn how to say ‘no’ to the ever present temptation to go my own way. It is Christ within, something bigger than myself, who alone by the presence of his life and love makes it possible for me to stand right once again before God.
It is the true Passover Lamb re-presented in the sacrifice of the mass here today that will give us, in the sacrament of his body and blood, a holiness that is not our own. Here before you is fire or water, death or life. May we learn to say ‘yes’ after the manner of Mary to the offer of the life of God within us!
Published on Saturday 22 February 2014 | Posted by Andrew Leach
Some of the community have been in Lyndhurst in the New Forest for a few days to recharge the batteries. And eat. And laugh. We did do other things too, saying Offices together — including road-testing a Liturgy of the Word which might be used when Mass cannot be celebrated — and celebrating Mass. And we were fortunate that Msgr Edwin Barnes accepted our invitation to visit and speak. He’s written about that on his own blog.
More photos and comments are available on the community Facebook page.
Published on Wednesday 19 February 2014 | Posted by Julianne Chatfield
The Reading from the Saints, this Sunday, was a reflection on Scripture. I found it reminded me about the dynamic in life, where God draws us closer to his heart. Sometimes we return to the same point but find new depths, sometimes something that was unfathomable before become clearer. This reading by Saint Ephrem, reminds us to appreciate where we are now and to allow God to do the work needed at that moment, when we encounter Scripture.
From a commentary on the Diatessaron by Saint Ephrem, deacon: God’s word is an inexhaustible spring of life.
Lord, who can comprehend even one of your words? We lose more of it than we grasp, like those who drink from a living spring. For God’s word offers different facets according to the capacity of the listener, and the Lord has portrayed his message in many colours, so that whoever gazes upon it can see in it what suits him. Within it he has buried manifold treasures, so that each of us might grow rich in seeking them out.
The word of God is a tree of life that offers us blessed fruit from each of its branches. It is like that rock which was struck open in the wilderness, from which all were offered spiritual drink. As the Apostle says: They ate spiritual food and they drank spiritual drink.
And so whenever anyone discovers some part of the treasure, he should not think that he has exhausted God’s word. Instead he should feel that this is all that he was able to find of the wealth contained in it. Nor should he say that the word is weak and sterile or look down on it simply because this portion was all that he happened to find. But precisely because he could not capture it all he should give thanks for its riches.
Be glad then that you are overwhelmed, and do not be saddened because he has overcome you. A thirsty man is happy when he is drinking, and he is not depressed because he cannot exhaust the spring. So let this spring quench your thirst, and not your thirst the spring. For if you can satisfy your thirst without exhausting the spring, then when you thirst again you can drink from it once more; but if when your thirst is sated the spring is also dried up, then your victory would turn to harm.
Be thankful then for what you have received, and do not be saddened at all that such an abundance still remains. What you have received and attained is your present share, while what is left will be your heritage. For what you could not take at one time because of your weakness, you will be able to grasp at another if you only persevere. So do not foolishly try to drain in one draught what cannot be consumed all at once, and do not cease out of faintheartedness from what you will be able to absorb as time goes on.
Published on Monday 17 February 2014 | Posted by Julianne Chatfield
Here is a summary of Fr Neil’s homily for 9th February:
Jesus calls those who follow him ‘salt and light.’ Salt preserves and purifies, light scatters darkness, brings understanding and reveals the way. Salt and light are the characteristics of all Christians. Therefore we should not hide or neglect to use those gifts or follow the way set before us. Otherwise we are in danger of being Christian in name only; a sham and a shadow of what we are meant to be.
How are we to be light or salt though? Isaiah reminds the people of Israel of their vocation to be a light to all the nations revealing the ways of God and his glory. Jerusalem was built on a hilltop, a bit like a lamp put on its lamp stand. The light of its glory- the presence of God is its heart- the temple was to draw all nations to it, to him.
This vocation to light bearing witness to God is at its clearest when the hungry are fed, the homeless find shelter, the naked are clothed and relief is given to the oppressed.
As Isaiah says “Then your integrity will go before you and your light, like the dawn will rise in the darkness.” St Paul states that the only knowledge (light?) he claims is about Jesus as the Crucified Christ. He reminds us that the supreme act of liberating love was that of Christ- God seeking out the lost and those who reside in the shadows of death. In his letter to the Galatians he says, “The Lord Jesus Christ, who in order to rescue us from this present wicked world sacrificed himself for our sins…” It is Christ who sets us free by his death and resurrection into life, light and hope.
St Paul also goes on to say “far from relying on any power of my own, I came among you in great fear and trembling…” Our vocation to be salt and light is not by our own effort to draw people into our own light but by the power of the Holy Spirit to draw people to the true light, the real temple of God’s presence- Christ the Lord.
Published on Friday 14 February 2014 | Posted by Julianne Chatfield
Many years ago, I was a member of a Baptist Church. On the wall at the front, behind the enormous pulpit, which dominated everything, was a wooden plaque. On it was written “Worship the Lord in the beauty of Holiness.” I often read it with the feeling that I didn’t really know what it meant.
These last couple of weeks I have had to do a bit of digging for some catechesis I am leading. I needed to explain clearly and simple what sacrifice meant. In our catechists’ meeting, Fr Raglan had talked about sacrifice being something that made something else holy. The only problem then was explaining holiness! I ran to YOUCAT. The explanation for the call to holiness in there states this; “The purpose of life is to be united with God in love and to correspond entirely to God’s wishes. We should allow God “to live his life in us” (Mother Teresa.) That is what it means to be holy”
It carries on, “Only in holiness does a man find harmony between himself and his Creator. Holiness, however, is not some sort of self-made perfection; rather, it is union with the incarnate love that is Christ.”
Those moments when we are open enough to God, when we are aware of his presence that we find we are loved and can give a response of love in return, those are moments of holiness. Those times when we let go of our ego or our fear or our resistance enough to let God’s love flow through us, those are times when we experience the harmony of holiness. When we find ourselves ‘blow away’ by glimpsing who God is, then we glimpse holiness and it is beautiful.
So at mass on Sunday, when our opening hymn began “O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness” I finally knew what it meant.
Published on Wednesday 12 February 2014 | Posted by Julianne Chatfield
Here is Fr Neil’s Candlemas Homily:
The gospel tells of an ordinary, every day event in the life of the People of God and in the ministry of the Temple. The law required the presenting of a first-born male, who belongs to the Lord. The child was to be redeemed at the cost of 5 shekels. At the same time the mother would make offering for her purification after childbirth.
What makes this, otherwise everyday story extraordinary are the characters involved. What we see is great humility. Out of obedience to the Law of Moses, the Redeemer is redeemed and she who is pure offers the sacrifice for purification. Mary and Joseph’s bringing of Jesus to the Temple develops the motif of Christ’s identification with the Temple. This relationship begins with Zachariah’s vision, while ministering there, promising him a son who will prepare the way for the Saviour.
The temple- the sign of God among his people and the place of encounter between God and humanity is fulfilled in Jesus, who is Emmanuel- God-with-us. “Tear down this temple and, in three days, I will rebuild it.”
Our reading from Hebrews tells us that Jesus shares the same flesh and blood so that by his death he could take away all the power of Satan. In Jesus is, not only the temple but also the sacrifice. This is attested to by John the Baptist when he cried “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the World.”
Both the Malachi and Hebrews readings also indicate that Jesus- the one promised- will purify and restore the true, priestly function to make right offering to the Lord. In fact Jesus is the priesthood. There is no other than Jesus’. His is the Compassionate High Priest.
The whole temple cult is fulfilled in Jesus. He is the true temple, the true sacrifice and the true High Priest, that brings salvation to the nations, a light to the Gentiles and glory to God’s People. It is through a life of faith, prayer and the grace of the Holy Spirit that Simeon and Anna were able to glimpse something of the mystery of our salvation in the daily ordinary events of the temple.
By Faith and grace we are able to see that the Church is not bricks and mortar but the people. The People realise that although they are the Church, the Church is not theirs to do with as they please because we are the Body of Christ and he is our Head.
By faith we realise that it’s not Fr Neil or Fr Raglan or Fr David but the priesthood of Jesus- persona Christi- Our High Priest, who offers the sacrifice of the Mass. And it is by faith and the gift of the Holy Spirit that we receive what was ordinary bread and wine as the Body and Blood of Christ himself. We then, in a movement of faith, hope and love will receive the grace to see Christ Jesus, the salvation of the Nations, the light to the Gentiles and the glory of the People of God in the Ordinary events of our everyday life and fulfil our vocation to reflect, echo and witness to him, who is my Lord and my God.
Published on Saturday 1 February 2014 | Posted by Julianne Chatfield
Sometimes, when washing up gets boring, I listen to something. This week I listened to an audio of a talk given by the philosopher Peter Kreeft, entitled “Ecumenism without compromise.” (For those who take in information better when it is read, here is the transcript.)
It is very thought provoking and while I was listening, much of what Prof. Kreeft said shed light on our journey to the Ordinariate, on the part of our calling that is about unity and also about deepening our faith. It also shed light on the drive behind the New Evangelisation and what makes it so crucial. It is a very useful talk and well worth doing the washing up for.
Published on Friday 31 January 2014 | Posted by Julianne Chatfield
Last Sunday’s readings continue the theme of revealing Christ and of our vocation. The Gospel has the fulfilling of Isaiah’s prophecy and Jesus proclaiming the Kingdom of Heaven. He then calls the first disciples, who leave everything and follow him. Here is a summary of Fr Neil’s homily:
Important to our self-understanding and us are the communities that we belong to. These communities allow us to understand who we are and where we have come from. This identification can, of course also be the cause of conflict as St Paul highlights in his letter to the Corinthians (New Testament reading) We can also see the brutality of a self-identity that seeks to obliterate anyone who is different. Syria is a typical case.
Zebulum and Naphtali are identified communities that made up part of the Kingdom of Israel. They are the first to see their communities destroyed and go into exile at the hands of the Assyrians. This slow destruction of a nation concludes a number of years later with the destruction of Jerusalem and its people also going into exile. It is no wonder that the prophet’s talk of those who live in darkness – the darkness of loss and sorrow.
Yet into this darkness, light dawns with the coming of Jesus. Those who were first into exile are those first to have the light of the kingdom of heaven dawn on them. “Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand,” cries Jesus.
The kingdom of heaven, as opposed to any nation state Kingdom, is proclaimed. Jesus calls us into a kingdom where an everlasting and deeper sense of our origin and identity is discovered. In this kingdom, we become aware that our origin is from God and our Vocation and destiny is in our return to God.
St Paul reminds the Corinthians and us that our identity as the children of God overcomes all other distinctions we might imagine there are between us. Although our human cultural differences can be a rich source of joy and understanding it is as children of God that we discover our real dignity.
Jesus continues to invite us, as he first invited Peter, Andrew, James and John, into a greater discovery of ourselves as citizens of heaven. To respond to this invitation requires repentance: a turning around and changing direction and a change of heart and mind. It requires us to stop living for ourselves and start living for God.
This change of life is dramatically illustrated with Peter, Andrew, James and John literally leaving everything behind to begin new lives as disciples and later as Apostles of Christ. We ourselves are aware of the call for a dramatic ‘leaving behind.’ No less important however, is the leaving behind of the less obvious, unseen, internal changes that following Christ requires.
Are we prepared to hear this call, “O that today you would listen to his voice!”, made new every morning? Are we ready to leave those things we need to, when Jesus says “Come, follow me, leave the shadows behind and walk in my light.”