Mass for the Fifth Sunday of Lent
HOW ARE YOU COPING?
I feel privileged to be able to share some thoughts with you this weekend, and I am particularly looking forward to being able to offer Mass for you all, a celebration, which, because of the wonders of modern technology, can hopefully reach into most of your homes.
The first duty of a parish priest is to offer the Eucharist for the people of the parish, which is why every weekend, in both Bishop Eton and St Mary’s, that has always been the first intention on the list of Masses.
Like so many things in this present crisis, during the past week the significance of this privilege has come home to me and captured my imagination. The bonds that are being forged through our efforts to be united in prayer at 7.00pm each evening and through my message from our Redemptorist oratory about the plan to celebrate a broadcast Mass each weekend have touched my heart.
I am constantly wondering how you are coping with all the constraints that have been placed on you. I realise how challenging all this must be, particularly for those of you with young children and, of course, those of you isolated and living alone.
Indeed, I am conscious of how blessed I am to live in a relatively large community, enjoying the friendship and support of my confrères, all of whom are equally concerned for you, as we are for our own families and the world at large.
Alongside all this, we are bound to be anxious. The prospect of this virus invading our elderly and frail community is almost unthinkable, but it leads us back to reflecting on the power of God’s word in the scriptures.
I will share some thoughts with you during the Mass, but for now I suggest that the question posed to Martha in the Gospel this Sunday will concentrate our minds: “I am the resurrection and the life… do you believe this?”
Archbishop Malcolm sent a gentle message to his priests, inviting us to contact him or those he has delegated to care for the clergy, if any of us feel in need. May I, in my turn, assure you that if you feel that we can be of help, you do not hesitate to call us? Because we are all over seventy, we are not at liberty to go out visiting, but I will be happy to chat on the phone, and the younger priests in the Pastoral Area, have promised to help out in any way they can. Meanwhile, let us pray for one another that this whole experience will help to deepen our faith in the Lord and in the power of his Spirit, strengthening and uniting us in his love.
The youtube video of the Mass will be emdedded on the website as soon as it is available. If you subscribe to the Parish youtube channel (anyone with a google account can subscribe) you should be informed once the video has been uploaded.
“Why is God allowing this to happen?”
This week even some of the younger children have asked me the question:
“Why is God allowing this to happen?”
Down through the centuries human beings have asked the same question in the face of suffering and turmoil. As I pray the psalms day by day in the Divine Office I hear over and over again echoes of the same question.
So how did I answer the children?
All I could do was to ask them a question in return:
“Are you loving people?” With some coaxing they agreed that they are, so I then asked them: “Can anyone force you to love?” Without hesitation they said: “No.”
And therein lays the problem: we are free to love and we are free not to love. The story of The Fall in Genesis reminds us of the temptation to eat of a fruit that will make us gods. Human beings continue to be tempted to live and act as gods, selfishly convinced that they are in charge. The emptying of the shelves in the shops is a classic example of how selfish we can become. By contrast there are so many people seeking to reach out and support others during the crisis.
Let’s all be among this latter group and if you are in need or can offer help, then you are free to use our parish office as a kind of hub. With local authority and other ‘ad hoc’ groups there is a lot going on and we want to be part of it.
AN INVITATION TO PRAYER
Those of you with children in the Primary School will know that I have put forward the proposal that in our all homes we set aside a sacred space where the family can pray, if possible at 7pm every evening during these uncertain days. The idea seems to have caught the imagination of many and I would like to extend the invitation to everyone. At the heart of the prayer will be an Act of Spiritual Communion, so dear to the heart of our Founder, Saint Alphonsus. In the leaflet prepared for the children, which is available on our website, (click here for a copy)I have converted the prayer so that it is easily understood by the younger ones, but here is the original:
My Jesus, I believe that you are present in the most Holy Sacrament. I love you above all things and I desire to possess you within my soul. Since I cannot now receive you sacramentally, come at least spiritually into my heart. I embrace you as being already there and unite myself wholly to you. Never permit me to be separated from you.
Our Redemptorist Community is adjusting the daily timetable so that we will be united in prayer with you all at that time. Also, each day we will celebrate Mass and hold all your intentions before the Lord.
THE GREAT CHALLENGE OF OUR TIME:
There is no doubt that the threat of the unfolding pandemic is causing immense concern. I think we need to be prepared for the possibility that not only will it be necessary for our schools to be closed in due course but probably our churches as well.
Challenges such as these can bring out both the worst and best in human nature. I guess the panic buying is an example of the former: the temptation selfishly to protect our own corner. At the same time I sense a real desire among so many people to ensure that we look after one another in every possible way. To begin with we can all follow the advice we are receiving and accordingly we have shared with you the directives that have come from the Bishops of England and Wales.
The full list is on the board in the church porch and a summary list in this bulletin. (You can access the full guidance at http://www.liverpoolcatholic.org.uk/coronavirus)
May I just draw your attention to the gentle addition to the faithful being encouraged to receive Holy Communion in the hand: “Their doing this represents an act of loving charity to their community.” In different ways we are all going to have to make a number of sacrifices during the coming months.
Since we are not now able to have our Healing Masses with the anointing of the sick, may I suggest that we will do all we can to come to those who wish to receive this sacrament in their homes before Easter.
Please contact the parish office if you know someone who would appreciate a visit. For those of you who are able to come to church, you may like to make an arrangement with us to be anointed at a mutually convenient time.
Whatever the future holds, let us remember our Lord will be faithful to his promise “to be with us” and let us be consoled with that famous quotation from Mother Julian of Norwich: “All shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well.” And finally, remember that St Paul assures us that “all things work together for good, for those who love God.” Romans 8.28)
CORONAVIRUS GUIDANCE SUMMARY
Guidance update 10 March 2020:
The Bishop’s Conference has requested the following measures to be implemented with immediate effect.
1. The Sign of Peace is to be suspended at Mass.
2. Holy Communion from the chalice is suspended.
3. The faithful should be encouraged to receive the sacred host in the hand. Their doing this represents an act of loving charity to their community.
4. Holy water stoups are to be emptied.
5. Shared hymn books and Mass books should cease to be used. Single-use Mass sheets may be used, but disposed of after use.
6. If you have cold or flu symptoms please DO NOT attend Mass at all (even on a Sunday). Likewise, do not go to confession or attend any parish functions.
7. If you are particularly vulnerable avoid all large parish gatherings.
8. At parish functions suspend all catering tea/coffee etc).
ST CLEMENT HOFBAUER, CSSR:
Today we celebrate the 200th anniversary of the death of this remarkable man, who was responsible for the spread of the Redemptorist Congregation beyond Italy and therefore ultimately across the world.
Fr Michael Brehl, our General, has asked us to share this special occasion with you.
Unfortunately, Coronavirus has spoilt the planned celebrations in Vienna this weekend, and Fr Richard Reid and Fr Jim Casey have not been able to travel and represent us all.
Nevertheless, we will share some of the story with you at the Masses this weekend and then celebrate his Feast at the Masses the following day.
ST CLEMENT HOFBAUER
Next Sunday (15th March) marks the 200th anniversary of the death of the one whom we Redemptorists regard as our second founder. Our Father General has asked that we mark the occasion, so we will celebrate his feast on Monday 16 March with as much solemnity as possible!
To learn more about St Clement visit http://www.redemptorists.co.uk/who-we-are/redemptorist-saints/9-clement-hofbauer.html
TAKING IT DAY BY DAY:
I found Ash Wednesday quite inspiring. There were good congregations at all the Masses and our Primary Schools had arranged for the children to receive the ashes. The children always impress me with their understanding of what we are doing and why we are doing it. And this in turn reminds me of what a huge impression all these special occasions made on me when I was a child.
As we look forward to Easter, this Sunday afternoon I will join our Catechumens (those preparing for Baptism) and our Candidates (those preparing to be received into full communion) as they are presented to Archbishop Malcolm in the Cathedral. My thanks to them and to Rosemary P and Elisabeth N for the wonderful way they have guided this year’s ‘Journey in Faith’ group.
As indicated last week, I will be taking the coming week off. I hope to catch up with my sister and nephew, both of whom have been poorly, as well as enjoying some quiet time and finalising the text of the Freddie Freckles Altar Serving Book. Accordingly, I plan to stay at our Publications House in Chawton, a beautiful corner of the Hampshire countryside, where Jane Austen was inspired to do much of her writing. Here’s hoping the rain may stop for an hour or two!
With this depressing spell of weather, not to mention all the other problems that may weigh heavily on us, I think we need something to lift the spirits. So, as we prepare for Ash Wednesday and the 40 Days of Lent, maybe a word of good cheer is in order.
The origin of the word ‘Lent’ is to be found in the old English word, lencten, which was used for the season of spring, reminding us of that time of the year when the days begin to lengthen and nature comes alive again. Hopefully, this will help you and me to approach this special season in a spirit of hope and expectation.
Spiritual discipline is a good thing: we know that everything that is worthwhile requires effort and commitment. Just think of the great athlete or the great musician and the amount of time they have to spend training and practising. So, for us, as we prepare for Easter, we renew our commitment to live as Easter People, faithful to the Gospel. When you receive ‘the ashes’ on Ash Wednesday, take to heart the invitation: “Repent and believe the Gospel.”
I hope that half-term will provide many of you with an opportunity to take a breather. For all my efforts to live in the present, I still find myself listening to Our Lord speaking to Martha: “You worry and fret about so many things…”
It has been a difficult week for two of our confrères, who continue to struggle with multiple health problems. Apart from a short break at the end of last week, Fr Gabby Maguire has now been in hospital for almost five weeks. Hopefully, he will soon be able to have some respite care in Christopher Grange and there regain some strength. Fr Martin Gay has also been in hospital with his serious respiratory condition. Please keep both of them in your prayers.
Likewise, Fr Andrew has had a challenging time in Vienna because the husband of the family he works with on the European Council of Marriage Encounter has been taken ill and is in hospital. Fr Andrew returns on Monday and I may be able to grab a couple of days away in the middle of the week
. However, if all goes well, I have my sights set on the first full week of Lent to have a complete rest.
A QUIET WEEK?
I had been planning to get away for a few days this week, but events have transpired to make that impossible. Nevertheless, I am hoping to have some quiet time to reflect and see how best we can manage all the issues which are clamouring for attention.
I think this must be why the Church has Ordinary Time: a time when we just keep things ticking over. The following week will be half-term and then we are into Lent. Deep breaths all round!
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