..the feast of Christ the King..last Sunday of the Church’s year.. & as within every family we all like to keep the best until last..the last rolo for the one we love most..the part of the Church family we specially acknowledge as our rolo & give thanks for today, are our young people..this is Youth Sunday.. DSP for the presence of the young among us..the jewel in our crown..
Christ the King comes to us this morning not in disguise but as His real self as servant king..to serve protect guide affirm & to love us.. He leaves none of his flock untended nor at risk except the one he has special relationship with..the stray.. we’ve all been there, so in that moment when we lost it & thereby the Good Shepherd found us again..again & again..let us hear his voice as he carries us back..singing & skipping for joy..a special relationship our young people know from the heart out..
“I shall look for the lost one & bring back the stray..” ; Lord have mercy “..bandage the wounded & make the weak strong..” ; Christ have mercy “I shall be a true shepherd to them..” ; Lord have mercy May Almighty God have mercy on us, forgive us our sins & bring us to everlasting life. Amen.
..a very divisory separatist gospel, understandably appropriate for the last Sunday of the Church year, & her teachings relating to a day of judgement; defined definitive, warmly reassuring for sheep, & eternally terrifying for goats..our young people, on this their Sunday, merit much more, as they & their Christ the King welcome all-comers, sheep & goats..as a Yorkshirman my preferred breed of sheep has to be the Swaledale, & yet my favourite by short nose is the Herdwick..breed of Lake District; they live high up on fells, exposed to elements, grazing on sparse grassland & heather, fenceless & defenceless.. learn from an early age skill of hefting; an awareness gained from parent & flock of how far to wander before realising experience becomes a few feet too far, & they turn back on familiar safe territory..they grow a tough fleece almost like bristle of a doormat, thick impenetrable to unrelenting rains & winter snow, as they hunker down to see the blizzard through..they are survivors, quiet occupants of what some would label hostile land, which they feel, with their inbuilt instinct for home & their beloved flock, is home ground..they see feel think care & love differently from us Swaledales & our safer softer grazing with the comfort warmth protection & shelter of this collection of buildings we call home..our young are our Herdwicks..our favourites..part of my retreat work with the young is to be available to meet them individually on second night of 48hr retreat, when students have had some time to acclimatise & experience safety & trust here..it begins 830pm & can last until after midnight..one such sheep we’ll call Catherine..Yr 12 tall charismatic & outgoing, a born leader striving for 3 A* grades to get into medical school..& in safe space the façade melts & her experience of hefting in life so far emerges..of her parents constantly bitterly rowing..elder brother on drugs..one younger sister awaiting second major heart operation in 3yrs, other sister on verge of exclusion from school..her beloved grandfather struggling with cancer..& the tears flow not of self pity but of sacrificial love, she loves each of them so deeply & hopes/prays she will be able to help each & all of them..5days week she puts on her uniform her smile dignity generosity of spirit, of care for others, & immerses herself in the life & faith of her School where she finds respite 7 hope, as well as others in need of her..& after 30mins of sharing her story & her tears, & with a few grains of yeast from me to take home to season into daily life, she leaves with a smile of relief & expectancy which would outsmile man in moon, leaving me to shed tear of humility & profound joy to have met such an outstanding Herdwick.. with the glow satisfaction & consolation of knowing Catherine, now our Catherine, is out there on the fells, a beloved servant disciple, well schooled & hefted by a family at home & a year group at school who’d never believe what they & their difficulties are helping her to become..& what is inspiring & encouraging for us to know is that there are flocks of Catherines out there, who never see the inside of our Church, or for all sorts of reasons are not able to join us here regularly, who are not just surviving but living life & faith at depth & impressively..our young in our flock are our nourishment & our future, food for our journey..”Lord, when did we see you hungry & feed you, thirsty & give you drink, a stranger & make you welcome, naked & clothe you, sick or in prison & go to see you?”.. Catherine “in so far as you did this to one of the least of these brothers & sisters of mine, you did it to me.”..understandably our Matthew, an ex-tax collector, thrives on numeracy ..lets play him at his own game..our parish statistics show we’ve 120 practising Catholics out of perhaps 220 registered as flock belonging to us..120 Swaledales & 100 Herdwicks ..however, there are far more Catherines out there on the fells than we know..know yet.. so for every Swaledale there are perhaps 8 Herdwicks..or if we think & pray passionately 16 Herdwicks..imagine size quality & age profile of the full flock..& notice no mention of a goat..no goats no scapegoats..no final definitive day of judgement..only ongoing loving continual & watchful care..hefting at its best & spiritual good grazing for life..our Church & our young have a brilliant future..together.. [Christ the King YrA; Mt25;31-46]