Archives for Eastbourne Ordinariate Mission

We too have a mission

Fr Thomas’s homily at Mass on the Solemnity of Saint Peter & Saint Paul

Video | Order of Mass

Giving of the Keys to S Peter (detail): Pietro Perugino (c.1450–1523), 1481–2; Sistine Chapel

Giving of the Keys to S Peter (detail): Pietro Perugino (c.1450–1523), 1481–2; Sistine Chapel

Flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.

When we celebrate the Saints, whether those two great Apostles whom we mark today, or those far less familiar men and women who crop up across the year, we do not do this to exalt them as humans — what we do is praise God for the work which he has done in and through them. If there is a personal quality in Saints Peter and Paul which we should admire and seek to emulate, it is their openness to the gifts which God gave to them; it is their willingness to co-operate with the grace which he offered to them.

In both cases we find men who would very clearly have gone astray, indeed in the case of Saint Paul somebody who was so far astray that he was trying to martyr early Christians. But far more importantly we find men who tried to serve God, men who were open to his working in their lives, who were ready to be transformed by him. That is why a humble fisherman could be raised up and made into the first Pope — leading the infant Church through the various struggles we read about in Acts, facing very real threats to his life, ultimately journeying to Rome where those threats would become more than just threats. That is why a fanatical opponent of what he saw as a blasphemous sect could be turned in a short time into the greatest evangelist that sect has ever had — proclaiming tirelessly across the Roman world that message he previously denounced as blasphemy: Jesus is Lord.

What these men shared, then, was that openness to God’s working in their lives. But also they shared an encounter with Christ. For one he was summoned to be a disciple — he walked around ancient Palestine hearing his Master’s teaching, seeing the miracles which he performed, being given explanations of some of those parables, and having particular privileges such as seeing the Transfiguration. He would have got to know Christ so well, as a man. No doubt Christ’s accent, his appearance, the way he walked would all have become familiar to him. But there was also a deeper encounter — as we heard in today’s Gospel. It wasn’t through ‘flesh and blood’ that he came to recognise proclaim Christ’s divinity — the Son of the living God — it was by inspiration from God, that is to say, he had an encounter with that veiled reality which was Christ’s being part of the Godhead. His brother apostle, too, was graced by an encounter with Christ. Now there was no question of it being simply a human encounter — Christ was resurrected, and had ascended into heaven. His appearance was surrounded by great drama, knocking the persecutor about to be changed to the ground just by coming near to him.

These two apostles had missions from God — this is why they had such particular graces from God. Before Christ became incarnate he knew how we would train Saint Peter during his ministry and prepare him to be prince and leader of the apostles; he also knew how Saint Paul would be converted from persecutor to preacher. They were prepared through their lives, by the providential working of God in their lives so that when that moment came, when that encounter happened, they were ready to receive the message which Christ had for them. They would let it enter into the heart of their beings, they would let it transform them so that they could fulfil the mission which God had for them.

What was true of these great foundations of the Church can be true for us too. God has prepared us to fulfil a mission for him, he wants us to carry his message out into the world in our own particular ways. Just as these two apostles were very different characters, just as they had different (yet vital) missions; so we have our own distinct mission from God.

What we need to do is to copy these saintly forefathers. We need to have that encounter with Christ, and when it happens we need to be ready to receive his message for us. We need to have hearts which are open to God, which want to follow him, which want to let our lives by transformed by him so that we can fulfil his mission.

As they went out to fulfil their missions they didn’t have an easy time. The vestments at Mass today are red to show that blood which they poured out for him, and their deaths were at the end of a long string of lesser sufferings. But they lived lives which were united with God, and so they could bear those challenges, those sufferings. We too, if we are to fulfil our own missions need to be united with God — receiving not only the direction for that mission from him, but also the strength to fulfil it. We may not be the foundations for the Church, but we share with Saint Peter and Saint Paul a common aim — to be united with Christ, to carry out his mission, and then to join them and the rest of the Saints in heaven. Let us pray for God’s grace to support us in pursuing this journey, and for the openness of heart to follow his invitation to us.

Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom

Fr Neil’s homily at Mass on the Second Sunday after Trinity

Video | Order of Mass

Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.

Fear can so easily plague humanity. It is fear that so often leads to many irrational acts and illogical thinking. This in turn can lead to sin. The fear of the unknown can lead to paralysis and isolation. The fear of shame and humiliation can lead to lies and dishonesty. The fear of those who are different can lead to prejudice and racial stereotypes. The fear of being forgotten can lead to getting into peoples’ faces and being loud, demanding and over bearing. The fear of losing someone or something can lead to jealousy, controlling or smoothing behaviour. The fear of losing control can lead to bullying, domestic violence, unjust trade systems and even international war. This fear in humanity highlights the truth revealed by Paul in his epistle on the state of original sin inherited from Adam. “Sin came into the world through one man and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all men sinned.” (Rom 5:12) Fear is a symptom of the state of the Fall.

In the gospel our Lord is preparing the disciples to be sent out on mission, like lambs among wolves. They have seen how our Lord was rejected and ill treated by those he sought to address and we know where that would eventually lead — Golgotha. Christ makes it clear that those who are his disciples and followers should expect no less than moments of rejection, ridicule and even martyrdom.

Our Lord speaks directly to the natural fear that the disciples were feeling. While it is perfectly normal to fear death of the body at the hands of others — yet the greater thing we must fear, our Lord reminds us, is the one who can kill both body and soul in Hell. Bodily death is terrible and feared because it is not what was originally meant to be. Death is another separation of that which is meant to be united, our body and soul. Yet bodily death is also a temporal event, in time; something to be passed through which, as a result of the fall, we must all face. The real fear is the death of both body and soul — that death in an eternal ongoing reality for those who have wilfully rejected God.

Logically, which should be feared most? How other people think about us and what they can do to us, or our separation from God and all that might mean for our eternal destiny? The sheer immediacy of the threat posed by others somehow feels more real than the spiritual and eternal death at the Last Judgement: “for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known.”

After all we are born into the state of separation from God because of the fall of Adam. Yet what’s at stake could not be higher.

“Il ritorno” Charles Bosseron Chambers (1882–1964)

“Il ritorno” Charles Bosseron Chambers (1882–1964)

It was to address this very condition of humanity that Our Lord came, to free us from the reign of evil, sin and death and make possible our reconciliation with God, the Father. Fear of what the implications might be for our lives or relationships, and the changes it may well require, should not impede our embracing of the way of reconciliation with our Lord. Neither should it stop us proclaiming the truth that we have encountered, to an often hostile world. As we bear witness to Christ in what we say and do, so our Lord bears witness to us before our Heavenly Father.

Is our Lord however, encouraging a sense of terror of God that can lead us to cringe in a dark corner? Absolutely not — it is not consistent with what he has sought to reveal about his Heavenly Father. This fear that he refers to is a redeeming understanding of fear, which the wisdom sayings in scripture repeatedly refer to: “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” (Prov 1:7, 9:10) It carries the notion of a sense of awe and wonder at the majesty of God in all his wonder. It is a fear that recognises that God’s love for us is so profound that he will respect the choices we made and will not violate our free will.

This redeemed fear is a gift of the Holy Spirit that enables us to fear wounding the one who has loved us and whom we seek to love in return. Anyone who truly loves fears doing something that would hurt the object of their love. It is a healthy fear rooted not in terror but love.

Love motivates us to live the life of faith boldly and not fear what others might say or do. It is love that gives a true fear of the Lord and a sense of utter awe at His wonder and love, that love made manifest as St Paul says, “But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift in the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many.”

Christ is the Bread of Life

Fr Thomas’s homily at Mass on the Solemnity of Corpus Christi

Video | Order of Mass

Corpus ChristiUnless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.

When Christ spoke these words they were truly shocking to those around him — at first they thought he was speaking in a metaphor, or in some symbolic sense, but as he repeated himself and emphasised that this is what he was really saying they were shocked and appalled. We even hear that many who had been following him responded by falling away — they abandoned Christ and his message rather than face up to this statement, that we must eat his flesh and drink his blood in order to have life.

These disciples knew the Old Testament, they knew that consuming any blood was strictly forbidden, because the life of every creature is in the blood (as God says in Leviticus). Blood of sacrificial animals was offered on the altar precisely because it held the life of the animal — in doing so it was made sacred.

Whatever else they were doing, they were certainly taking his words seriously. This should prompt us to consider how seriously we take these words. On approaching the Altar do we seriously believe that we are receiving the true Body and Blood of Christ — that his very flesh enters into us as we receive that small wafer which appears to be bread?

As the vast majority of Catholics have been kept away from this great Sacrament for some time now, it is a time to reflect on its importance for us all. How central it is to our lives — our lives of Faith, our relationship with God; but also our lives more generally. Christ, and the Blessed Sacrament, are far too important, far too powerful to be kept in a small box on Sunday mornings. Receiving the Body of Christ is something which should drive us out of Church, it should be the food which gives us the strength to live our entire lives: because the lives which we are called to live are lives which show Christ to the world. If we live by the power of Christ, by the power of the Eucharist, then people around us should look at us and see the way that God works in us.

By eating his flesh and drinking his blood we are inviting Christ into our lives — we are inviting him to become part of us. Truly we are what we eat, and so if we eat of Christ, then we should desire to become like Christ. If we drink of his Blood, we are taking into ourselves his life — we are also taking into ourselves the Blood offered in sacrifice to cleanse us from our sins. As we consider this, we can understand more why those disciples were so disquieted when they heard Christ say to them that they must drink his Blood.

It is to celebrate this offer which Christ makes that this great feast was introduced. The offer of eating and drinking him, that we may be transformed to be like him. The manifestation of his closeness to his people, his abiding presence in every Catholic tabernacle the world over and throughout time. By changing bread and wine into his Body and Blood, Christ continues to come into our world. He entered the material world two thousand years ago when he became incarnate in Our Lady’s womb — and since that time he has been with us the Blessed Sacrament. A great source of consolation to all who approach him in this Sacrament. How many thousands of prayers have been offered before this great presence?

It has been heart-breaking to see people deprived of this opportunity, derived of the chance to kneel and adore Christ’s presence among us, the chance to offer to him prayers, or simply to murmur words of love and affection. Thanks be to God that Catholics can again visit the Lord, can again offer those prayers before the Sacrament. Because this presence among us is the source of such strength to live the Christian life — this is no mere non-essential activity, it is the very heart of what it means to be a Catholic, this Sacrament sits at the heart of our relationship with God because it is his presence with us.

Until all are again able to receive Christ in Holy Communion, offering prayer in his presence is the best means to draw close to him. This is the place to reflect on the deep yearning to receive him in Communion, the place to ask for his strength to continue until (and may it be very soon indeed) we can all gather together for Mass.

This Sacrament is the source of our life as Christians — the words of Christ on that point are very clear. In this Sacrament we are given the chance to receive Christ’s life, the chance to become like him, the chance to live in his power so that we can carry him out to the rest of the world.

Blessed, praised, and hallowed be Jesus Christ on his throne of glory — and in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar.

Churches are opening

Public worship resumed on July 4.

Our clergy are now able to offer ten public Masses per week (two of which will also be streamed) and two streamed private Masses. Pattern of worship Details for this week are shown in the sidebar and the Calendar.

The Sunday obligation remains suspended and you can attend any Mass or make a Spiritual Communion via a streamed Mass. Any Catholic can attend any Mass, but these liturgies are primarily intended for the people of the Ordinariate and the parish of Christ the King with St Joachim, to whom our clergy have particular responsibility.

Our Lady of Ransom is now celebrating six or seven Masses per week and has a much larger capacity including an overflow into the hall for Sunday Masses (and the Saturday vigil). Their Masses are primarily intended for the people of the parish. The “1m+” distancing in operation means face coverings are required at OLR.

Churches are also open for private prayer and devotion.

Do visit to be with the Lord present in his Holy Sacrament of the Altar. The layout in each church and where you might sit or kneel may have changed from usual, and even include separate entrance and exit doors. It will be very different: but it is now possible. St Agnes’ Church is open from around 3:30pm on Sundays, prior to Mass: please consult other churches’ websites for details of their opening times, which may vary from week to week.

The diocese’s stipulations for how its churches may be opened are quite stringent. One requirement is for volunteers to be stewards, whose duties will include marshalling and ensuring hygiene is maintained. If you can help in the churches of Our Lady of Ransom parish, please contact the OLR Parish Office; or if you can help at Christ the King or St Joachim, please contact the CTK Parish Office. Needless to say, you must neither be suffering from, nor particularly susceptible to, the covid-19 coronavirus.

First Holy Communion and Confirmation groups are still deferred and will resume as soon as possible. We have a page of video of our streamed Masses both in church and elsewhere: they were streamed on YouTube and continue to be on Facebook, subject to availability. Do subscribe on YouTube or follow on Facebook, and keep an eye out for updates. We’ll also continue to publish homilies here.

Sunday, 9:30am
Novus Ordo  NO 
from St Joachim’s

Christ the King

Sunday 4:00pm
Divine Worship  DW 
from S Agnes’ Church

Facebook

Monday 10:00am
Divine Worship  DW 
from the presbytery

Facebook

Wednesday, Friday, 10:00am
Novus Ordo  NO 
from St Joachim’s or the presbytery

Christ the King

While things get back to normal, our page entitled Liturgy in a Time of Crisis may still be useful. Please make use of the resources available. In the sidebar here, there are links to Offices from the Liturgy of the Hours through the day: perhaps you can call a friend who is self-isolating and say the service together. WhatsApp will allow calls between up to eight people, and many people are now used to getting together with Zoom. There are other apps too; and there’s always a simple phone call.

In an emergency which requires the sacrament of anointing for the dying, a priest will be available whatever the circumstances. Other pastoral visits can take place outdoors. Sacramental confession is available where appropriate social distancing and safety can be observed. If you’re shielding and this isn’t possible for you, do make use of an Act of Perfect Contrition.

At a time when most of the country is returning to something like normal, it is imperative to continue to think of the most vulnerable — who may now be less noticeable — and continue to have a eye for our neighbours.

If you can help in any way, please do ring the office phone or Fr Neil’s mobile. And if you need help yourself, do not be afraid to call.

God is love: we also ought to love one another

Fr Neil’s homily at Mass on Trinity Sunday

Video | Order of Mass

“The Trinity with Christ Crucified”, unknown Austrian painter, c.1425; National Gallery, London

“The Trinity with Christ Crucified”, unknown Austrian painter, c.1425; Nat Gallery, London

The Lord passed before him, and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in mercy and faithfulness.” And Moses made haste to bow his head toward the earth, and worshipped. (Ex 34:8)

Today we celebrate the greatest mystery of the Christian faith. God has revealed himself as the Holy Trinity — One God in the three Persons of Father, Son and the Holy Spirit. This complex mystery of God shapes the Church’s character, identity and liturgical life.

We are baptised at the beginning of our faith journey, not in our own name but in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Every time we enter a church and use holy water we cross ourselves, marking the manner of our redemption, while saying “In the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit,” in recognition of the work of the Trinity in the means of our salvation.

Pretty well every liturgy begins with invoking the three-fold name, and every true blessing we receive also proclaims the Trinity. This mystery is so important to our faith that the Catechism teaches

The Mystery of the Holy Trinity is the central mystery of Christian faith and life. It is the mystery of God himself. It is therefore the source of all the other mysteries of faith, the light that enlightens them. It is the most fundamental and essential teaching in the ‘hierarchy of the truths of faith’. The whole history of salvation is identical with the history of the way and the means by which the one true God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, reveals himself to men ‘and reconciles and unites with himself those who turn away a from sin’. (Catechism of the Catholic Church §234)

Of course we recognise that this mystery of God is beyond the capacity of finite human minds to fully comprehend, and any attempt to explain and illustrate this mystery runs the danger of inadvertent heresy. What we can say is that God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are consubstantial or of one substance. St Paul puts this well when in Colossians 1:19 he says about Christ, ‘For in him the fullness of God was pleased to dwell.’ That which makes God God is present in the Son and thus the Holy Spirit in its fullness.

Therefore there is only one God in his substance or being. To try and illustrate this I run the risk of error but without intention. I am a human being in substance of species, with flesh and bone and can thus be identified as such. However, this doesn’t reveal a great deal about me as a person. Who I am in substance and who I am in person address different questions. I am one in substance and one in person. God had revealed himself to be one in Substance and three in Persons.

This ‘three Persons but one Substance’ enables us to see that it is God who created and sustains the whole of creation; it is God who has breathed the breath of life into all living things by the Spirit; it is God who after the Fall sought us out and called us to himself; it is God who has revealed himself in the Son, redeemed us and opened the way of salvation; it is through the Christ the Son that the Father-heart of God is revealed; it is God who through the the Holy Spirit regenerates us in baptism, and makes present Christ — body, soul and divinity — in the Eucharistic celebration; it is God who through confession effects forgiveness as the priest announces absolution.

Our knowing about God though is different from knowing God in relational terms. The whole story of God is one of unfolding revelation. Acknowledging the wonder of God’s majesty and abounding glory is vitally important, a sort of first move. Without this we will not understand the greatness of his love in his desire for us also to know him in relational intimacy. The three Persons of Father, Son and Holy Spirit reveal an intimacy and communion at the heart of the Godhead. This is again pointed to at the conclusion of Paul’s epistle today: ‘The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.’ (2 Corinthians 13:14) We have fellowship or communion because we share something in common. It pre-supposes a relationship for those who are in fellowship or communion with one another.

The process of reflecting and entering into the mystery of the Trinity is far from idle speculation on matters beyond ourselves, reserved only for the specialist theologian. It speaks to who we are, what we are called to do and what we will be. This reflective engagement upon the three Persons of the one God allows us to realise that we are not made to be alone but in relationship to another. It is in relationships that we become more complete and self-aware of who we really are.

The revelation of the Trinity is a revelation of God’s singular desire for humanity to once again reconcile and restore the greatest of all relationships, that between creature and Creator. For us to function in our “horizontal” relationships with each other in a manner that is healthy and life giving, we have to first restore the “vertical” relationship with God. This requires repentance, a turning away from sin and turning towards God. Without this relationship with God, or if we have a distorted image of Godhead, we will be unable to function in the manner of our true nature given us by God. To be fully human is to be in relationship with God in whose image we are created. It is truly our heart’s desire, whether we realise it or not, to enter into the gift of the life of the Trinity and its self-giving love one to another. To give ourselves in love and to be embraced in love is the same longing in all human hearts. The revealing of the one God in three Persons, the Holy Trinity, is a revelation of the heart of God, for lost humanity to know His divine embrace.

‘For God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.’ (John 3:16–17)

Come, thou holy Paraclete

Fr Thomas’s homily for Pentecost

Video | Order of Mass

"Pentecost" (detail), Jean Restout the Younger (1692–1768), 1732; Musée du Louvre

“Pentecost” (detail), Jean Restout the Younger (1692–1768), 1732; Musée du Louvre

“What is soiled, make thou pure; what is wounded, work its cure; what is parched, fructify.” (Sequence for Pentecost)

Today we recall and celebrate that historical moment when the power of the Holy Ghost was first poured into the Church. When that gathering of bemused followers of Christ, hiding away in prayer, unsure of what was to come were suddenly transformed into powerful evangelists, when S. Peter went from denying Christ to proclaiming loudly to all who would listen “repent and be baptised every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.”

But we do far more than that — we do not merely recall an historical event, we enter into it. That outpouring of the Holy Ghost wasn’t a single event, rather it was the beginning of the working of the Holy Ghost in the Church. There has not been a single moment since that first Pentecost when the Holy Ghost has not been working within the Church — guiding and building us up, forming us as the Body of Christ. As those Apostles spread out through Jerusalem and its surroundings, up to Damascus and Antioch, to various parts of the Roman Empire — Corinth, Galatia, Ephesus and so forth — they did so receiving strength for their work from the Holy Ghost. When they gathered in solemn council to decide what to do with gentile converts, they did so under the guidance of the Holy Ghost.

What was true for the Apostles has continued to be true. Every generation of Christians has been given the gift of the Holy Ghost; in the Sacrament of Confirmation we have all been sealed with this gift. As missionaries spread the word of Christ across the world, they relied on the Holy Ghost to give them the strength to keep working. As monks and nuns sanctified their lives in quiet solitude, the Holy Ghost guided them into deeper truths and knowledge of God. And as countless thousands of normal Christians sought to grow in Christ, they have done so in the power of that same Spirit.

We heard in that magnificent Sequence what that Spirit can do. Make the soiled pure; cure the wounded; correct the erring; strengthen the weak…in short, to give the Christian the power to do everything which he should do. Without his power working within them, all of those generations were utterly powerless to do anything good. And this isn’t just something in the past — this is the truth of our lives too. We need the strength of the Holy Ghost if we are to live lives which are pleasing to God, are going to grow closer to him, are going to spread his word and build his kingdom.

First, though, we need to ask. Note that the entire text is that hymn is a request. We don’t simply note that the Holy Ghost can purify, can strengthen, can cure — we ask him to do so. We need to invite him into our lives. As with everything, God wants us to come to him, God invites us to come to him…but he does not force us to come to him. So too, the Holy Ghost wants to come into our lives, wants to cure our wounds, strengthen our weaknesses, purify our souls…but he won’t do so unless we ask him to. God will, with deep sadness, respect our choice if we reject him. So we need to ask for that working of the Holy Ghost in our lives. We need to imitate those Apostles who gathered with Our Lady in prayer — turning to God and asking for his strength in our lives, asking for the gift of the Holy Ghost.

When the Apostles received the Holy Ghost they had little idea what would happen — it was the first time after all. But the same is not true of us. We can know that inviting the Holy Ghost into our lives isn’t something which we can do on our own terms — it involves turning our lives over to him. It took those Apostles out of that place of refuge and to the very ends of the world. If we sincerely ask the Holy Ghost into our lives, then we have no idea where we will be led.

But we can be sure of two things. First, it will be to build up the Church, to further Christ’s Kingdom on earth, to seek to draw everyone around us into that same relationship of love with God which we experience. To be a missionary is the vocation of all Christians. We are not given gifts by God simply for our own satisfaction and happiness, rather we are given them to work his good works in the world. Secondly, whilst it will be a struggle (God never promised an easy life to his followers), it will be a struggle which is always undertaken with God working alongside us, God working through is, God holding us up…and if we are faithful to him through that struggle, it will bring us at last to him for eternal happiness.

That is why today we pray ‘Come Holy Ghost’ — come and fill us, come and guide us.