..the stewards at wedding feast were congratulated for keeping the best wine until last.. ..this is the Feast of Christ the King, the last Sunday of the Church Year, when we too keep our best until last..Day of Special Prayer for our young people..those in special relationship with the Good Shepherd, Servant King, who came to inspire them..who came in John’s gospel, not to celebrate a Eucharist the Last Supper, but to wash feet.. “I shall look for the lost one, bring back the stray, bandage the wounded, & make the weak strong” whose feet, Sisters, will you wash in these last few days of an extraordinary Year? ..designated the Year of the Word yes, & discovered as a year of the virus.. ..a cruel disease, for which hopefully prayerfully the world has found a vaccine..& pray what vaccine will you & I discover in Community with a week to go to Advent & it’s hope & expectation?..whose feet in Community will you wash, kiss & bandage?
use Bill Heubschs’ poem “rethinking the Sacraments “ for our examination of conscience “it was when he washed their feet that he founded his Church” ; Lord have mercy “the moment where the Body of Christ is embraced, shared & broken” ; Christ have mercy “the intimate love-making among them..the Body of Christ in love & service” ; Lord have mercy May Almighty God have mercy on us, forgive us our sins & bring us to everlasting life. Amen.
..instead of our usual Mass of Welcome in St Benedict’s PS for the new academic year, covid means we had to have Mass in bubbles; four classes, four bubbles, four Masses..& we chose, to foster & to celebrate the gift of togetherness, todays gospel of sheep & goats..we had Class 4 on two front pews in Church..as I read gospel & spoke of sheep, I paused to point at those on my right; beams of delight..& as I read of goats, I pointed to those on my left; they looked a bit “sheepish” until I had read full gospel & asked goats how they felt..one lad spoke his truth “guilty” ..a very Matthean gospel portraying a Jesus who separates the compliant from rogue, the indifferent from the different, judgementally dismissive of goat, the silly billy goat, who wanders off even in a monastic community; still physically within field/enclosure, but is lost..waiting for someone to notice, to gently listen “with the ear of your heart” to draw out, almost poultice-like, the ailment/disorder.. gradually to encourage the emergence of truth..very essence, the “yes” in faith, in spite of the non-answer..the mystery..to bandage wound & carry them home again, back into the intimacy of relationship..a Good Shepherd, in persona Christi, of sheep & of goat, who carries goats home as well as sheep..why is this suddenly news to us, from a God, a very Good Shepherd of sheep & goats, & of surprises?..a wound, a healing experienced, & in time, its effects eventually enjoyed by each & all as, having seen & smelled the special treatment for the stray, we feel sufficiently affirmed to bring into safe sacred space our own wounds, our own limp of emotional disability, the times we virtually head-butt the others we deeply love yet struggle with in Community..& then, only then, the least, the good-for-nothing, the one talented of last Sundays gospel, the difficult the disillusioned the rebel the marginalised, humbly hearing the gentle divine invitation in conscience, make for home..“Lord, when did we see you a stranger & make you welcome, naked & clothe you?” stripped of self-worth years ago by a sister or fellow monk, who dismissed you, wrote you off in a moment of naked hostility & venom; a virus, a dis-ease & still, years later, you hope & pray daily for a vaccine..some years ago a young practising Catholic in Ireland wrote to her Parish Priest & copied it to a Catholic monthly journal; “the Mass, the Eucharist, Jesus giving his life for us in self-sacrifice, this is as good as it gets..but there is one thing missing..not all of the time, but some of the time” she asks her priest..”where is your passion? where is the energy you gave your life for all those years
ago” & then in faith & self-honesty, she asks herself & other young people “where is our passion, our energy?”..for 20yrs I have been leading retreats for young sheep & goats in ARH; one a Confirmation group of 35 Yr 9 students from a parish in Leeds for weekend; ..clear 30 of 35 wanted to be there..other 5 “goats” wanted to be anywhere else..a battle to keep them together..Sat teatime opportunity for Reconciliation; four other monks helping ..a steady stream of them to see me..until suddenly in doorway was one of goats..my heart sank; “why couldn’t he have gone to another monk?” he came in with attitude..asked him to sit down..I was angry..a moment or two of silence..then all could think to say to him was “how do you feel about being here?” & waited for the worst..instead he said “I’m glad I came” & at that I melted..I had judged him on his body language, slogan on his t shirt, his apparent dismissiveness aloofness in front of the eager sheep in group..bless him, perhaps labelled misjudged for so long & made a scapegoat, a good-for-nothing..& yet when he came in to what he felt was possibly safe space, his truth emerged..he washed bandaged my wounds & I was healed by him..last weekend Pope Francis on Day of Special Prayer for the poor said “time devoted to God can never become an alibi for neglecting our neighbour in need”..& the boy gave me the lesson of a lifetime..a group of vith form students came from Leicester for a 48hr retreat..on first evg they came to Choir for Compline with us..I took them back to the House & could sense they had been deeply moved by experience..gave each of them piece of paper & asked them to write a sentence on how they felt about it..one girl wrote this “the silence..the way even though the monks were singing, & you were surrounded by people, you felt you were the only one there, the only one God was listening to..it felt like you didn’t need to say anything, God just knew”..a sheep or a goat?..could you hope for a better more authentic description of our life together, in Community & in prayer?..someone like you & I taking a lifetime to learn how to fall in love with God..or to learn how to fall in love again with God..sheep & stray ..goat & scapegoat..the essence of our life in Community in monastic life, or in parish or school life, is that we are together..three aspects of community life in the classroom, in friendships & in home family life I put to our young disciples as indicators of the safe space, holy ground, in which they discover & then foster their real selves..it is where I am listened to..where I am valued for who I am now..& where I feel I belong..in his address “to young people & to the entire people of God” Christus Vivit, Pope Francis said to each & every one of us, particularly to the eager & the passionate, the grumpy sheep & the scapegoat.. “May the Holy Spirit urge you on as you run this race. The Church needs your momentum, your intuitions, your faith. We need them! & when you arrive where we have not yet reached, have the patience to wait for us.”
..& how do you feel about being here this morning Fr Bede?..”I’m very glad I came”..