..one of most beautiful passages in whole of scripture in 1st reading, as Elijah came to search for God; a God far too holy to be seen in person.. ..he spent night in a cave on the mountain of God a voice called him “go out & stand on the mountain” & “the Lord himself went by” in disguise in elements of his creation; “a mighty wind, but he was not in the wind; an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; a fire, but God was not in the fire..” “..& then then came the sound of a gentle breeze” as I read & pondered on this reading at 9pm last Saturday night, what came in through my office window, after a hot sticky day? …a gentle breeze..
..after Covid-19 & our search for God in it.. ;Lord have mercy ..after 18wks of lockdown in our own caves.. ;Christ have mercy ..after realising the Lord is in disguise in person next to me now.. ;Lord have mercy May Almighty God have mercy on us, forgive us our sins & bring us to everlasting life. Amen.
“.he came to God by doing it wrong” fitting title of a chapter on Peter, & how we have continued in his footsteps & heartbeat to get it wrong. Jesus gave us Peter to affirm our obvious fallibility, our human ability to get it wrong, & vitally to learn from those errors of judgement we call mistakes, & which the Church used to label mortal sins, for the next time; a lifelong journey into an age of wisdom; when tragically our Roman Catholicism turned our familiarly human Peter into the first Bishop of Rome, as his successors took on, not a humanity of failure but a mantle of infallibility; where the Pope, as shepherd & teacher of all Christians, could did & still does in matters of doctrine, speak infallibly ex cathedra; from his chair, the seat of authority, the chair of Peter, faultlessly.. some years ago St Anne’s Cathedral in Leeds was refurbished, a wonderful architectural success.. however, as you enter, what strikes pilgrim & visitor alike isn’t the tabernacle or the altar but the Bishop’s chair.. ex cathedra.. the cathedral chair from where Bishop speaks with authority..he moved onwards & upwards to Rome, where now Archbishop Arthur Roche is “Secretary of the Congregation of Worship & the Discipline of the Sacraments”.. thankfully we too belong in a Catholicism which reflects the life & teachings of Our Lord Jesus Christ, who came not to congratulate perfection or instil infallibility but to redeem failure; as Kathy Galloway shared recently “we need teachers to be learners also, not people who had all the answers, who doled out enlightenment like commodity brokers, but people who were aware of their own need to seek truth, who would continue to question until the day they died.” Fishing, searching, exploring, risking, ever asking the challenging question “Lord, if it is you, tell me to come to you” “if if if it is you in the midst of this world pandemic with its headwind/storm heavy seas, where every aspect of life & faith are being challenged/questioned by a virus size of a pinhead “if it is you, tell me to come to you across the water” a call back into a one to one relationship with Christ he called us into a lifetime ago when, in a divine partnership with our parents, he & they brought us life, & then in baptism called us into faith; my parish priest 71yrs ago “Francis John Leach, the Christian community welcomes you with great joy. I claim you for Christ”” come” said Jesus.. holiness, then & now, not given from a chair of authority but from a heartfelt love & devotion, he to us, a crew of nave dwellers not cave dwellers.. the nave of Church “navus”; crew space from where you, our navy, inspire grace-fully the Body of Christ to live out & now live in its mission.. holidays now staycations, a holiday in UK; our mission during last 19wks has been looking in for & caring for our own crew, as well as those we share the 12 baskets full with; the food-poor on Teeside & now in our own village; food poverty, & real spiritual food poverty; his call grace & faithfulness towards us & the thin faithfulness of our poor response; the gospels go out of their way to show Peter’s response & mine as almost always wrong, & then our second response, like prodigal son, inspired in us by raw goodness grace & patience of Christ, as he waits & watches.. the road from Yearsley as much as across the choppy waters of Sea of Galilee.. ..some years ago Hamish, our man of road, came to Mass sat at very back on chair on his own; at sign of peace got up, exchanged handshake with others, then came through some choppy waters & black looks, all way to altar to give me sign of peace; a sacramental moment never to be forgotten “Lord I am not worthy but only say the word & I shall be healed”.. ”we were made for these times” “why let him in Fr Bede? why allow him to take a seat? who will clear up once he has gone?” “me!” empty lager can & a candle lit at Our Lady’s statue, that’s how we know Christ has visited us..& where is Hamish now? “we were made for these times” some of you may remember words of Clarissa Pinkola Estes I shared with you first Sunday of Advent late Nov last year, when little did we know what times we were soon to face “there will always be times when you feel discouraged. I too have felt despair many times in my life, but I do not keep a chair for it. I will not entertain it. It is not allowed to eat from my plate.” a chair kept by some for despair.. until the cock crows, we don’t get it, until we take our eyes off Jesus & off Hamish, believing like them from the heart that everything is possible, until we look down at our feet & think from the head about our walking on water, & thereby begin to sink, we don’t get it. God doesn’t love Peter because he is good, he loves Peter because God himself is good, & that is what Peter & some of us, some of us, finally see, & is what makes Peter & some of us fall in love with Jesus in person in return.. it is what brought most of us here to this Mass, into a loving life-long relationship in marriage, monastic life, family life & now in Covid life, that we were loved first; we were taught how to love, not from a chair but from a warm relationship of mercy, when our beloved called to us across the waters of a potentially difficult life & faith relationship, a gulf/divide, as we feel ourselves taking fright & beginning to sink, & He says “come”..”& He puts out his hand at once & holds us..& by time we have listened for moment or two in silence at end of this homily to sound of the waves, Jesus & you will have stepped into this boat, this crew space, together, & into an everlasting future together; “the wind dropped” a calm & the sound of a gentle breeze.. “man woman monk of little faith, why did you doubt?” Covid best practice rightly insists on 2m social distancing, & now face masks, whereas Jesus insists now on an everlasting end to the spiritual distancing you & I have, so far, always been led to believe in, & not just since lockdown.. so now.. now.. with no mask no chair no pretence, he looks steadily at you with smile to die for & says “welcome home..” [19th Sun YrA Mt 14; 22-33 ]