“why, then, are so many people so terribly afraid to enter the confessional & receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation? Many have gone to Confession since childhood & feel more or less comfortable with it. What I am going to say now will be of little or no use to them. But there are others, a growing majority, who have had problems with Confession since childhood. They gave it up a long time ago & no longer care whether their children stick to it after Primary School or not. It is to them in particular that I would like to address a few words. It seems to me that this discomfort with an important sacrament must contain some element of truth that deserves to be acknowledged & appreciated. Perhaps it embodies some rightful claim that the Church has chosen to evade rather than satisfy. The Church now complains that in times of crisis many would rather see a psychologist in an office than a priest in the confessional. If that is the case for many, if they can spend an hour with a therapist & purchase understanding for a fee, what conclusions are we to draw about Confession? We have three things we as the Church have to learn from psychologists, whether we like it or not. Firstly, there is something we could have learned from Jesus’ own teaching 2020yrs ago. It tells us no one can receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation who has not already been reborn through the grace of Baptism & received a new life through this rebirth in Christ. If we take this seriously, it means we cannot even practice truthfulness or make an honest evaluation of our situation in life unless we have learned to trust that there is forgiveness for us in every circumstance of life & death. On the other hand, we have been thoroughly taught that we can & should feel accepted when we are in harmony with certain laws & norms; but if we deviate from them, we must fear punishment. With these teachings in the back of our mind, we go through life examining & censuring ourselves far into the night. We are riddled with anxiety, & so put on our masks in our dealings with others & even with ourselves. We are careful to keep a veil over the shadowy corners of our lives, & so we never even get in touch with ourselves, though we may have the best intentions in the world. It can take years for a human being to be able to grasp a little more truth about themselves, & that is basically what Jesus wanted. He felt very close to the 100th sheep, to those despised by society as prostitutes thieves & tax collectors; such people could no longer wear any masks, their lives lived on the edge & so splintered that there was no longer any reason for them to indulge in pretence. Beyond a certain point, shame & hypocritical poses have no place., people have no energy left to keep up the lie. Jesus saw that these people knew very well that in the end we are totally dependent on God’s mercy. He felt close to them, comfortable in their presence, more at home with them than with the 99 who he said had no need of conversion. What are we to make of the fact that now 99% of the faithful won’t take a step towards the Sacrament of Reconciliation? Is it that they no longer have any confidence that there is room in the Church for forgiveness without criticism, blame & condemnation? But that is the sort of space Jesus wanted, he wanted the Temple to open its doors to these lost souls; he wanted us to be free of anxiety & full of trust when we speak of God, because only that could truly change our lives.” [part 2 of 3 next week] [the Open Tomb ; Eugen Drewermann]
In spite of the continuing bitter conditions last weekend, 46 of you came to our weekend Masses; 36 at 10am at OL&SB, & 10 at 4pm at OL&HA. At this crisis moment, it is inspiring to celebrate Mass for the full Parish & the wider Church, alongside those of you prepared to take the risk to come; these are very special celebrations believe me.
I am grateful to those who have offered help in researching the possibility of installing a live streaming facility in OL&SB Church in order to include our elderly sick & housebound, & those currently staying at home in self-isolation due to the virus, in our 10am Sunday Mass, & indeed to link into our Church at any time 24x7 to see & to pray before our own tabernacle. Some concerns are the cost of the installation, at a time of financial crisis for the Parish, as well as for our families & wider society; how many would want to, & be able to, link into the streaming, & how many, currently comfortably safe & well pleased with live streaming from elsewhere, be prepared to “come home” to our own Sunday 10am celebration?..
In last weekend’s Outreach. I mentioned bringing a Financial Statement to you, reflecting our current critical financial situation, in the hope of informing & alerting you to the need for some urgent action in addressing an increasing & ongoing deficit. As we enter this Season of Lent, & the call to look individually & collectively as the state of our spiritual wellbeing, through self-examination in prayer, fasting & almsgiving, perhaps the pressing emphasis this week should be on resolutions in prayer, & with fasting on Family Fast Day this coming Friday 26 Feb, with consideration of almsgiving for needs closer to home waiting a little longer.
Our Parish continues to provide food through the Food Initiative at a cost of £200 a month. [£2,400 since the pandemic began]. I hope those in our own Village who may be struggling to provide food for their children in this ongoing & increasing crisis in health & in the economy, will be warmly encouraged to benefit from our Food Initiative, where it is possible to approach Ray & Deb in the Village Shop, & quietly ask for a bag of food essentials which will be delivered to your door. This has been working well since the lockdown began, & it could be more of us in the Village will find themselves in ever deeper need of help, & we would encourage them to ask..it isn’t charity, it is basic good bread & butter Christian discipleship which, at such times of crisis, is asked of us in our plenty. Across the Village there is deep appreciation for the good natured & generous service given by Ray & Deb throughout the crisis, who regularly go the extra mile for us. Food donations to Middlesbrough Food Bank via cash in envelope to Parish House or direct via email@example.com Please remember the sterling work of our own SVP group in the Parish, who are there, willing & able to help anyone in any form of difficulty, or those who would value a phone call now & again in the midst of the lockdown. Do please Contact Mary Borrett firstname.lastname@example.org. We very much missed their traditional Pancake Day lunch which always gets our Lent off to a tasty start! We look forward to next Lent already! With my love & prayers Fr Bede