Fr Hugh is writing his blog (personal website) and sending photos every day during the Rome pilgrimage. This morning Fr Hugh and some parishioners had an audience with Pope Francis and you can read about the Pope’s teaching and see more photos by clicking on the link below:
Bilbo Baggins, an old hobbit at the start of The Fellowship of the Ring, gazes at the ring and says:’ It’s mine, all mine, my precious.’ His greed for the ring was caught from Gollum, (I won a prize for my drawing of Gollum many years ago, which was nothing like Gollum in the film,), Bilbo’s greed was contagious as sin often is. In the parable today I wonder who first thought up the idea of killing the landlord’s servants, who instigated it, and then persuaded the others, and once they were all involved there seemed to be no way out but to go for the son too. From greed to murder, the greatest of crimes/sins, in easy steps. ‘We want the vineyard for ourselves.’ Jesus of course is talking to the Chief priests and the elders, and in the parable the vineyard is Israel, (and more widely creation), that God has built, provided for and then protected from outside threats too. But the real threat comes from within (in which there is a message for us too.) The cancer of tenants’ greed eats away at the peace of the vineyard. The servants are the prophets, whose then leads to the death of the Son, God’s Son. But where the message changes from an ordinary tale is that it is the weakest of all in the story, the dead Son, who then overturns the greed and murder of the tenants, who becomes the corner-stone……..
“If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you, If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you, but make allowance for their doubting too; If you can wait and not be tired by waiting, or being lied about, don’t deal in lies, or being hated, don’t give way to hating, and yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise: If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;”
Then it ends in good Empire-building Victorian language:
“Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it, and—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!”
He wrote this in 1910 to encourage his son, John, at the end of the Edwardian era. Little did they know it, but the First World War was soon to break out in four years time which would hasten the end of the Empire, and in which his son would die. St. Paul’s piece today is not really for reading. We tend to think of him sitting down and writing convoluted passages that would baffle anyone, and are hard to read in church, and perhaps the letter to the Romans is a bit more like that. But, in fact, he dictated his letters and wrote them as if he was speaking directly to his congregation. So in today’s passage he is speaking to the small church of Philippi on the northern Aegean shore, and trying to encourage them in their new faith and the new experience of knowing the Risen Christ…
Back in the day, many years ago, when there were five priests in a parish, there was a strict order in the diocese of who was to be promoted next to ‘parish priest’. The one who reached the top of the list was called ‘The Head Waiter.’ If, for whatever reason, the Bishop decided not to promote him, then there was a good deal of muttering and questioning as to why he had been ‘passed over.’ After all wasn’t it his ‘right’ to be next. So why had he been by-passed? What was up? And why was the other guy promoted over him? Now, every set of workers has its own ideas about what is fair. What we often fail to think about, when the gossip is flying around, is what decision is right for the good of the firm, which it is in everyone’s interest to make successful. Dioceses too. So it is in our parable. We always concentrate on how unfair the boss seems to be, and know that if we were the first one to be hired then we would be pretty miffed as well. But, as ever, what Jesus is trying to get us to do is not concentrate on ourselves but on the work in hand, and that is spreading the Good News of the gospel. In Graham Greene’s ‘The Power and the Glory’, the whisky priest’s focus is on his own sins, he hates himself for how he is, but in fact he achieves great good, even heroism. This is what God knows we are capable of, sinners or not, that is what God looks at and hopes for from us….
Today’s gospel is a parable on forgiveness and debt. What about one for our own time? “A rich man with lots of money, we could say he was a man who ran a bank, had so much money he just needed to make more. So he looked around for people to lend it to at good interest rates so that he would get wealthier. A found a few dictators of very poor countries who said, ‘Lend me money and you can have all my people’s wealth.’ So he did and all went well until the dictators were thrown out, and had to flee to the South of France with all the money, and the people refused to pay. But a very powerful World Bank demanded they pay, and so the poor country got poorer and the rich richer. Then the rich man found another group of very poor people in his own country who wanted to buy their own houses and it looked such a good source of money that he leant so much money even he could did not have enough, so he borrowed more money to lend even more, and that made him even richer.
I got used to meeting young enthusiastic, very evangelical, members of the Christian Union at University who would have a pleasant chat and then say, “But of course it is a pity you are not going to heaven, Father.” (Had I known this earlier I could have taken up a life of crime or perhaps worse.) They were very keen and I took it with a pinch of salt. But one day one of the other Chaplains, not a Catholic, decided that he would invite the Christian Union to do their Church Search, from the Chaplaincy. It was a way of introducing students to the local churches in Lancaster. The chaplain’s aim was to see if he could integrate the Christian Union with us a bit more. I had my doubts, because, lovely as they all were, they were never going to want to join up with Catholics. So we met one morning and they began to speak about the churches in Lancaster that gave good Bible teaching, none of them Catholic of course, and I listened, and the young man giving the talk said, “We will find you good churches, with good Bible teaching, that will lead you well, and if you fall out of line, will expel you.” It was the last line that struck me. This was all very well-intentioned, and the guy was really sincere, and I think he had this reading in mind……
King George VI steps up to the microphone and the whole of the FA Cup crowd are waiting to hear the new king, and, of course, he can barely get two words out due to his stutter, and people begin to whisper and then talk loudly. In the king’s eyes it is an embarrassing disaster and he knew it was going to be, yet he did it. This is the most used scene as a trailer for ‘The King’s Speech.’ Earlier in the film we see the horror on his face when he realises all his worst fears have come true. He and his family are dragged from their quiet life because the abdication of his brother forces him, out of duty, to become king. He and his wife go on to become famous for their roles during the Second World War. Jeremiah is trying to express the same sentiments in the first reading. The last thing he wants to do is become a prophet. Partly because he has a comfortable life as it is, and partly because he knows that prophets rarely come to a good end. Jesus himself, 500 years later, shouts at the Chief Priests and the scribes for the way in which they have treated prophets in the past. Why are the prophets so unpopular? Because it is their job to challenge the people to follow the way of God, to turn back to God…..
You may have noticed that most parish priests tend to think they are infallible at times, if not always. Of course events have shown otherwise, but the temptation to make what you think are definitive, final, statements about things is attractive. I am sure some parents hope their declarations will be treated as infallible, for example when they are grounding someone. The Church’s answer to grounding was to exclude people. The teachings of the Councils always ended by saying “You must follow these or be declared ‘Anathema sit.’” You were unholy, excluded. Why did it think it could, can say that, exclude people, make infallible statements? In what circumstances? This gospel has a lot to do with it. In today’s gospel Jesus gives Peter amazing powers; so it seems. He calls him his Rock, and that is a big thing as all through the psalms God is referred to as ‘our rock, our refuge and stronghold.’ ‘Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.’ So is Jesus creating some sort of dictator here? You would not expect it and it isn’t so….
The Mass has been pre-recorded for the Livestream and it will be available on the parish YouTube channel from 9.30am on Sunday. To watch the Livestream go toCLICK HERE FOR LIVESTREAM ON YOUTUBE at the top of this website. The parish YouTube channel will appear then click on the Sunday 10am Mass 23rd August 2020 video.
What do you think of the Queen? If you ask people this question you will get some very different answers. It depends where you are and who you ask. Their age, their life, their feeling about society. But why would your feelings about one woman be about society? That’s because she is no ordinary woman. In one sense she is: she is a mother, who has had some fairly traumatic times with her family as we know, she is a wife, she also has a great capacity for doing her job in a way that even those who don’t agree with her position usually respect. And managed that with dignity and impartiality whatever else might be going on…
Apparently Archimedes leapt out of his bath when he discovered his Principle and ran down the street shouting ‘Eureka’, I have found it. For many people discovering Christ truly for the first time it can have the same sort of effect. Over the last few weeks the gospels have been about what sort of ground we might be, dry, thorny, fertile? But there is always the chance that we will have a ‘leap out of the bath’ moment, or like Peter, out of the boat. Peter has been with Jesus for some time already, but today he really ‘sees’ him. In the gospels when it says ‘see’ it usually means something more than just sight. It is about seeing with the eyes of faith. So Peter leaps out of the boat, on Jesus’ assurance that he can, and starts to move across the water. But there is always that moment, however we come to faith and however fervent, and perhaps particularly when our discovery is fervent, that we stop and begin to say to ourselves. Am I really sure Jesus is there? I mean, I cannot see him really. Am I just fooling myself? ……