“Only when we encounter another human being in whose companionship we discover our own true nature do we find God. This is what we learned in the company of Jesus, with whom we could believe in God as his & our Father. Only in the company of a person in whom we can trust, unshaken by doubt & fear, are all the other answers of the religions valid for us. Without such an experience, the things of the world around us would remain empty & strange; they would absorb the alienated parts of our souls as separate & chaotic elements. Only in the company of love does the world acquire its unique poetry & allow itself to be penetrated by an endless song. Without such an experience our own hearts would be like restless, turbulent seas, constantly in motion above an impenetrable abyss. Only in love does our heart achieve rest & clarity, becoming a mirror for God’s face. Without the experience of a human being at our side whom we can trust completely, God & heaven would be infinitely far from us, & heaven’s silent spaces would offer more terror that consolation. But whenever a human being is close to us in love, heaven comes down to earth & is so close we can touch it. Only love teaches us to trust other people without limit & to take the road with them to our common goal, without separation or enmity. Christ showed us this possibility in the image of the Good Shepherd:What he had begun in us could go forward, & we could be shepherds to one another, companions on the way. It involves the wonderful capacity that Christ described as his way of shepherding: the ability to call each member of the herd by name. For he knows each one, & so it hears his voice & knows him as the leader & companion of its life. We can say nothing more beautiful about the relationships of human beings with one another than that they succeed in calling other by the word that is eternally alive within them. Not one of us would exist in this world if God had not first whispered something unutterable over the dust with the breath of eternity. By the power of love, our ears are able to hear this quiet word. Our eyes, opened by love, are able to see the mysterious figure that the world called into existence, & our lips are able to utter it with the utmost tenderness. Whenever this happens, everything in our hearts answers, & the whole world becomes one, & our whole being is open to God.When your sister or brother asks you to go a mile with her or him, go two instead. Christ certainly meant that our shyness & shame will not let us trust ourselves to say how much we need & what we lack, & yet we are in a position to understand more deeply & even to sense & to fulfil the unexpressed longings behind those we are capable of uttering. We can be companions for one another without limit. Our call is endless, & the breadth of the world is boundless. Its horizon is eternity.” (The Open Tomb; Eugene Drewermann)
Last weekend we celebrated Good Shepherd Sunday, traditionally a day of Special Prayer for vocations to the priesthood & religious life. Thankfully in recent years, the intention has widened to include the other specific vocations into which we are each called, with one of the most notable being the vocation of marriage, from which all our vocations emerge. As a Parish, we are blessed to have so many threads of vocation presently being woven into the spiritual tapestry from which the divine image gradually emerges. Last weekend we celebrated Susan & John Sargent’s 50th Wedding Anniversary, understandably delayed from Good Friday. We have recently celebrated Rosalie & Christopher Wilding’s 50th, & Kit & Caroline Dollard’s 40th Anniversary. On Easter Tuesday Hannah & Ashley Boyle were married in Longhorsley in Northumberland. Bishop Terence Patrick Confirmed at the Abbey last weekend Charlotte Owen & Mary Lawford Davies, & I am just back from leading the Clergy Retreat in Newcastle for 55 priests. This weekend our 11 young disciples celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation for the first time, & still we pray for the repose of the soul of Anthony Shepherd, whose Requiem Mass we celebrated here recently, & the sick elderly & housebound of the Parish & locality. All this provides a fine & typical insight into the deepening growth in various vocations within our faith family. Please continue to pray for them as they indeed pray for us. Given such a fertile moment in the life of the Parish, I suggested we celebrate Good Shepherd Sunday throughout this last week, completing its prayer “octave” this weekend with special prayers for those living the Vocation to Marriage, as their love fruits family & community life.
I have just returned from leading the Clergy Retreat for 55 priests of the Hexham & Newcastle Diocese & their new Bishop, Robert Byrne. It was an inspiring week among a close & impressive family of ordinary priests, happy humble & hungry for simple spirituality, & grateful for affirmation & encouragement. Please pray for them, as they yeast our Catholicism in the North-East with passion & unstinting generosity. With my love & prayers, Fr Bede.