The Ordinary writes on the Assisted Dying Bill

The Ordinary, the Rt Revd Msgr Keith Newton PA

The Ordinary, the Rt Revd Msgr Keith Newton PA

The Assisted Dying Bill has its Second Reading in the House of Lords on Friday 18 July. If it became law it would make incitement to suicide routine in our society, thereby putting pressure on the most vulnerable to see themselves as a burden to society. The Church’s teaching is clear: that human life, from conception to natural death, is a gift from God. Christ calls us to offer those facing serious illness care and hope, not despair and killing. The emergence of the hospice movement, which has enabled great progress in palliative care, is one of the fruits of this Christian calling common to Catholics, Anglicans and other Christians. The Assisted Dying Bill is a rejection of this Christian inheritance, and instead promotes what Pope St John Paul II called a ‘culture of death’.

Information on lobbying Peers can be found here:

This conflict against the culture of death is first of all a spiritual one, and therefore I invite members of the Ordinariate and others to dedicate some time today (Thursday 17 July) or tomorrow (Friday 18 July) to pray — if possible before Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament — for the upholding of the sanctity of human life.

Homily for Easter 4: Encountering Christ, preaching the Gospel.

We encounter the preaching of the Apostle Peter following his incredible encounter with the Risen Lord, the breathing of Jesus upon them with the words “Receive the Holy Spirit” and the manifestation of that Holy Spirit at Pentecost. This series of events transform the fearful disciples into Apostles, the denying Peter into the Rock on which the Church is built. As Peter preached, so the Church is called to preach the same Gospel, echoing down the centuries. The good news that God in Christ Jesus has overcome sin and death and opened the gates to Paradise. The way to that place of paradise in via the leading of the Good Shepherd through the Valley of the shadow of death as Psalm 23 says. The Valley of the Shadow of death is none other than the way of the cross- the gate to the new pastures of Paradise.

This way of conversion by repentance is no stroll in the park but often a narrow and difficult path. It comes with trials and often suffering as we seek to throw off the old Adam by dying to self and living to God. It is our own journey of the cross. The Gospel of Christ then is something that we not only in apostolic obedience, need to preach to what has become this, our own pervese generation. But it of course is a gospel by which we ourselves need to live our lives in a process of continual conversion of heart.

Then we will be able to fulfil our baptismal vocation by backing up what we preach by what we seek to do and how we seek to live our lives. Preaching in word and deed to the glory of Christ.

Homily from Easter 3: Seeing the Risen Christ at the breaking of bread.

In the Gospel we encounter the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. Their journey was taking them away from Jerusalem and the temple which was a vivid sign of God’s presence in the midst of this people. Why they were travelling this road is not clear. However, there is a powerful symbolic gesture in their journeying away from God’s presence. The two are obviously still muddled with sadness about the events they witnessed around Jesus’ arrest and execution. With these events some of their own hopes and dreams had died too. This despite the rumours from the women about a vision of angels and an empty tomb. They could not get beyond Jesus’ death.

We also have hope and dreams and, at a certain points in our life, we often wake up to the realisation that we have wondered far away from where we had hoped to be- and wondered “How on earth did I end up here?” One of the great comforts in this gospel is the knowledge that no matter how far we wander away from where we’d hoped and God wants us to be, God in Christ Jesus never leaves us and is always seeking to open our eyes of understanding.

In the resurrection, the mercy seat is no longer left behind in the temple but draws along side us. Even if, like the two on the road, we don’t recognise that Jesus is with us in many different guises. Not knowing Jesus, the disciples enter into the Bible study of all Christendom! What they learn is that only in Jesus can we understand the past, make sense of the present and have true hope for the future. Jesus is the Alpha and Omega- the beginning and end of everything.

The very moment, for whatever reason, we decide to come to mass, we begin a journey, on which we will encounter the scriptures. If our desire is to know Jesus then those scriptures can start to unfold for us, our spirit quickens, as we allow the word of God to take root in our hearts. It is engagement with the unfolding of scripture, viewing the world through the lens of Jesus, that prepares and makes it possible for the two disciples to have their eyes opened to see Jesus in the actions of the priest and the sacrament of his body and blood.

The response of the disciples, to this encounter with the living Lord Jesus at the breaking of bread, was their need to go and tell someone, anyone that the Lord is risen. We, in our turn, after receiving Jesus-the one who has triumphed over sin and death and opened the gates of heaven to us- are also sent out to proclaim bear witness to someone, anyone, about Jesus our Saviour in what we say and do. The moment we leave this building the moment our mission as witnesses of Christ begins. Christ has risen! He has risen indeed.

Week of Guided Prayer 6–13 July

A week of guided prayer — a sort of “retreat at home” — is being offered to members of all the communities at St Agnes in July. We have a page of details and a form to sign up. Because arrangements have to be made with prayer guides from outside the parish, there’s a deadline of Sunday 11 May.

We need no wings to go in search of God, but have only to find a place where we can be alone and look upon Him present within us.
— S Teresa of Avila

Two new Saints of the Church

The enrolment of new saints happens at the start of the Canonisation Mass, so that the newly-recognised saints are included in the Canon of the Mass and acknowledged throughout the celebration. At the Mass, the reading from 1 Peter 1:3–9 was read in Polish. The Order of Service has been published by the Vatican, and the whole celebration is available via YouTube video. This is the text of the Homily of His Holiness Pope Francis.

At the heart of this Sunday, which concludes the Octave of Easter and which John Paul II wished to dedicate to Divine Mercy, are the glorious wounds of the risen Jesus.

Duccio, Maestà altarpiece, Siena: The Incredulity of St Thomas

He had already shown those wounds when he first appeared to the Apostles on the very evening of that day following the Sabbath, the day of the resurrection. But, as we heard, Thomas was not there that evening, and when the others told him that they had seen the Lord, he replied that unless he himself saw and touched those wounds, he would not believe. A week later, Jesus appeared once more to the disciples gathered in the Upper Room, and Thomas was present; Jesus turned to him and told him to touch his wounds. Whereupon that man, so straightforward and accustomed to testing everything personally, knelt before Jesus with the words: “My Lord and my God!” (Jn 20:28).

The wounds of Jesus are a scandal, a stumbling block for faith, yet they are also the test of faith. That is why on the body of the risen Christ the wounds never pass away: they remain, for those wounds are the enduring sign of God’s love for us. They are essential for believing in God. Not for believing that God exists, but for believing that God is love, mercy and faithfulness. Saint Peter, quoting Isaiah, writes to Christians: “by his wounds you have been healed” (1 Pet 2:24, cf. Is 53:5).

Saint John XXIII and Saint John Paul II were not afraid to look upon the wounds of Jesus, to touch his torn hands and his pierced side. They were not ashamed of the flesh of Christ, they were not scandalized by him, by his cross; they did not despise the flesh of their brother (cf. Is 58:7), because they saw Jesus in every person who suffers and struggles. These were two men of courage, filled with the parrhesia* of the Holy Spirit, and they bore witness before the Church and the world to God’s goodness and mercy.

They were priests, bishops and popes of the twentieth century. They lived through the tragic events of that century, but they were not overwhelmed by them. For them, God was more powerful; faith was more powerful – faith in Jesus Christ the Redeemer of man and the Lord of history; the mercy of God, shown by those five wounds, was more powerful; and more powerful too was the closeness of Mary our Mother.

In these two men, who looked upon the wounds of Christ and bore witness to his mercy, there dwelt a living hope and an indescribable and glorious joy (1 Pet 1:3,8). The hope and the joy which the risen Christ bestows on his disciples, the hope and the joy which nothing and no one can take from them. The hope and joy of Easter, forged in the crucible of self-denial, self-emptying, utter identification with sinners, even to the point of disgust at the bitterness of that chalice. Such were the hope and the joy which these two holy popes had received as a gift from the risen Lord and which they in turn bestowed in abundance upon the People of God, meriting our eternal gratitude.

This hope and this joy were palpable in the earliest community of believers, in Jerusalem, as we read in the Acts of the Apostles (cf. 2:42-47), as we heard in the second reading. It was a community which lived the heart of the Gospel, love and mercy, in simplicity and fraternity.

This is also the image of the Church which the Second Vatican Council set before us. John XXIII and John Paul II cooperated with the Holy Spirit in renewing and updating the Church in keeping with her pristine features, those features which the saints have given her throughout the centuries. Let us not forget that it is the saints who give direction and growth to the Church. In convening the Council, John XXIII showed an exquisite openness to the Holy Spirit. He let himself be led and he was for the Church a pastor, a servant-leader, led by the Spirit. This was his great service to the Church; he was the pope of openness to the Spirit.

In his own service to the People of God, John Paul II was the pope of the family. He himself once said that he wanted to be remembered as the pope of the family. I am particularly happy to point this out as we are in the process of journeying with families towards the Synod on the family. It is surely a journey which, from his place in heaven, he guides and sustains.

May these two new saints and shepherds of God’s people intercede for the Church, so that during this two-year journey toward the Synod she may be open to the Holy Spirit in pastoral service to the family. May both of them teach us not to be scandalized by the wounds of Christ and to enter ever more deeply into the mystery of divine mercy, which always hopes and always forgives, because it always loves.

Text from Vatican Radio website | Order of Service | Video of Service
* outspokenness

Holy Saturday: In the eye of the storm.

Neil and I were talking about the feeling of Holy Saturday, after praying the Office of Readings this morning. The reading from the Saints (below) uses beautiful imagery and it had made me think how we experience a hollowness, an emptiness on this part of Holy Week. At the same time, theologically speaking Christ has work to do, bringing salvation to the depths of hell. Neil used an image of his own. Holy Saturday is like being in the eye of a storm. All is still and silent where we are and yet we are aware that powerful forces are moving around us.

Here is the reading from an ancient homily for Holy Saturday:

The Lord’s descent into the underworld

Something strange is happening – there is a great silence on earth today, a great silence and stillness. The whole earth keeps silence because the King is asleep. The earth trembled and is still because God has fallen asleep in the flesh and he has raised up all who have slept ever since the world began. God has died in the flesh and hell trembles with fear.

He has gone to search for our first parent, as for a lost sheep. Greatly desiring to visit those who live in darkness and in the shadow of death, he has gone to free from sorrow the captives Adam and Eve, he who is both God and the son of Eve. The Lord approached them bearing the cross, the weapon that had won him the victory. At the sight of him Adam, the first man he had created, struck his breast in terror and cried out to everyone: “My Lord be with you all.” Christ answered him: “And with your spirit.” He took him by the hand and raised him up, saying: “Awake, O sleeper, and rise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.”

I am your God, who for your sake have become your son. Out of love for you and for your descendants I now by my own authority command all who are held in bondage to come forth, all who are in darkness to be enlightened, all who are sleeping to arise. I order you, O sleeper, to awake. I did not create you to be held a prisoner in hell. Rise from the dead, for I am the life of the dead. Rise up, work of my hands, you who were created in my image. Rise, let us leave this place, for you are in me and I am in you; together we form only one person and we cannot be separated. For your sake I, your God, became your son; I, the Lord, took the form of a slave; I, whose home is above the heavens, descended to the earth and beneath the earth. For your sake, for the sake of man, I became like a man without help, free among the dead. For the sake of you, who left a garden, I was betrayed to the Jews in a garden, and I was crucified in a garden.
See on my face the spittle I received in order to restore to you the life I once breathed into you. See there the marks of the blows I received in order to refashion your warped nature in my image. On my back see the marks of the scourging I endured to remove the burden of sin that weighs upon your back. See my hands, nailed firmly to a tree, for you who once wickedly stretched out your hand to a tree.

I slept on the cross and a sword pierced my side for you who slept in paradise and brought forth Eve from your side. My side has healed the pain in yours. My sleep will rouse you from your sleep in hell. The sword that pierced me has sheathed the sword that was turned against you.

Rise, let us leave this place. The enemy led you out of the earthly paradise. I will not restore you to that paradise, but I will enthrone you in heaven. I forbade you the tree that was only a symbol of life, but see, I who am life itself am now one with you. I appointed cherubim to guard you as slaves are guarded, but now I make them worship you as God. The throne formed by cherubim awaits you, its bearers swift and eager. The bridal chamber is adorned, the banquet is ready, the eternal dwelling places are prepared, the treasure houses of all good things lie open. The kingdom of heaven has been prepared for you from all eternity.