..green vestments, a return to Ordinary Time..first time green vestments colour of hope since Shove Tuesday 16wks ago.. after Covid there can be no Ordinary Time again..our life & our faith has been transformed & recreated..& a new start in our readings.. “from the highest branch I will take a shoot & plant it myself on a very high mountain” ..a mountain the place of meeting, of encounter, with God.. many years ago when Ampleforth looked after 27 parishes throughout North of England, one of monks on our parish in Leyland, on his day off, drove to Lake District & climbed one of peaks..he stopped half way up to have his lunch..he could see for hundreds of miles with breathtaking views..he looked further down mountain & spotted another tiny figure admiring view..closer he looked, the more familiar figure became..it was another of our monks from another parish having similar climb..a climb & a God of surprises....we meet here, this place of meeting/encounter with God, where there is, thankfully, a familiarity about us..like monks from different parishes, now you from different homes ..we meet to break bread & to pray..& to be surprised..
..as we meet & begin, we bring all that divides us from one another to Our Lord, to ask for his mercy forgiveness & healing..
..for the spiritual differences which, though we meet here now in person, keep us apart.. ; Lord have mercy ..for the relational differences which, though we live at the same postal address, keep us distant & lonely.. ; Christ have mercy ..for the emotional differences which prevent us from sharing our real selves truthfully, for fear of blame or shame.. ; Lord have mercy May Almighty God have mercy on us, forgive us our sins & bring us to everlasting life. Amen.
..as a rookie monk, I taught Religious Studies at Gilling Castle to 9yr old boys; one day gave them half a sentence & asked them to complete it “God’s love is like..” I expected answers like “God’s love is like my Mummys love for me..or my love for my pet rabbit” instead one wrote “God’s love is like a tractor working in a field” another “God’s love is like the ticking of a clock” & in our gospel, Jesus the teachers’ explanation of what “the kingdom of God is like” is honestly hardly engaging or surprising..flat lifeless & boring..hard work to try to squeeze a passionate challenging homily worthy of you out of either story..the joy & optimism in it is to notice he is sharing it with the crowds, not just his disciples, not just practicing Catholics, not just swaledales in this sheepfold once a week, but the crowds, the herdwicks, the sheep who don’t just visit the Lake District Fells on a day off, a day out, but live out there, those fellow sheep of ours who, for all sorts of reasons, rarely come here, yet flourish healthily out there with a spirituality which would surprise us..they know God & God knows them be sure.. “night & day, while he, the shepherd, sleeps, when he is awake, the sheep are eating well & growing..”how, he” [ nor us in our regimented Catholicism ], “does not know”..& when the time for shearing comes, he loses no time in bringing his sheep down off Fells, because some of the finest fleeces in the country are ready to be harvested..the herdwick notice is left to it, trusted lovingly, no sense of control or containment, no track & trace records, no boundary walls, sheepdogs or parish priests to bark directions or censure..& all the while shepherd, in his bothy, thinking caringly, joyfully at times, concernedly at other times, for each one of his beloved flock, herdwick & swaledale.. ..& at present we may be likened to the mustard seed..one of the smallest parishes in the Diocese..with 14months of covid lockdown behind us, & months before that of ordinary religious life & yields, within our dry stone walled parish boundaries, & our outreach far out & beyond, to distant fellow sheep, fed & watered by our financial support, yet hungry for that value added they had excitedly hoped & prayed for from us, that would have singled us out as being different..& as with Jesus & landowner in first parable, they wait & pray, not judging on appearances or past results but waiting still hopefully, expectantly excitedly..how can our small smallholding of a parish bring about a world changing situation?..the world is now talking about vaccine charity through Gordon Brown, a rare authentic politician, & all he speaks of, with refreshing openness challenge & feasibility, is grounded seeded on what we in Catholicism call “the common good” the common good, the value added many of us refused to acknowledge & season into life-changing decisions in the Brexit vote, when the one dominant issue then, & still is for some of us, is migrancy..our care for the common good across the world, our world, once governed by us under a protectorate called the commonwealth..today such a contradiction in terms, within a Church of ordinary religious life & yields, where we are surely being called, post-covid & post-Pentecost 2021, to a reverse form of migrancy we might call spiritual colonialism..where we, self-consciously & self-sacrificially, could/should/might/will take relational responsibility under a new protectorate, shipping millions of doses of vaccine from our self-contained stockpiles to the poorest & weakest of our brothers & sisters.. “this is what the kingdom of God is like”..for the UK population of 68m we hold in stock, just in case of a third wave or a new variant, 517m doses, enough for another 7.7 doses for every one of us.. ..& we would surely rather give the doses away generously rather than by the threat of the risk of censure wouldn’t we?..wouldn’t we?..”God’s love is like the words of Pope Francis in his book “Let us Dream” remember prisoner James’ dream from last weekend of walking across the bridge?..Pope Francis says; “the only time it is right to look down at someone is when we are offering our hand to help them get up. The problem is not feeding the poor, or clothing the naked, or visiting the sick, but rather recognising that the poor, the naked, the sick, prisoners & the homeless have the dignity to sit at our table, to feel at home among us, to feel part of a family. This is the sign that the Kingdom of Heaven is in our midst.” vaccine charity out of love of our weakest brother & sister, rather than from a non-sense of duty or obligation, with failure to comply warranting a harsher penance next time we go to Confession..or is it the Sacrament of Reconciliation?.. “God’s love is like the welcome awaiting you when you decide to come home, to face the music & the truth, & gain the smile & the hug of a lifetime” my definition of God’s love for you 13 June 2021.. ..because, sadly for some of us, there still is, lurking behind settee in your living room, sobering words of St Paul to Corinthians in 2nd reading, to those beloved disciples of the Lord in the regions of Corinth, Wass, Gilling & Ampleforth..”for all the truth about us will be brought out, & each of us will get what we deserve for the things we did in the body, good or bad..” ..to be frightened to death or to be loved into eternal life?..”God’s love is like..” complete the sentence, not a death sentence but a divine invitation to become in His time, & for all time, fully human & fully divine.. [11th Sun YrB Mk4;26-34]