Openness To close ourselves off from the wisdom of the world around us in the name of God is a kind of spiritual arrogance exceeded by little else in the human lexicon of errors. It makes of life a kind of prison where, in the name of holiness, thought is changed & vision is condemned. It makes us our own gods. It is a sorry excuse for spirituality. The sin of religion is to pronounce every other religion empty & unknowing, deficient & unblessed. It is to ignore the call of God to us through the life, wisdom & spiritual vision of the other. The implications of that kind of closing out the multiple revelations of the mind of God are weighty; once we shut our hearts to the other, we have shut our hearts to God. It is a matter of great spiritual import, of deep spiritual summons. Openness to the presence of God, the Word of God in others, is the essence of contemplation. Learning to open the heart requires first that we open our lives. The home of whites that has never had a person of colour at the supper table is a home that has missed the opportunity to grow. People of colour who have never trusted a white have missed an opportunity to confirm the humanity of the human race. The man who has never worked with a woman as his peer, better yet as an executive, had deprived himself of the revelation of the other half of the world. The comfortable contemplative who has never served soup at a soup kitchen, or eaten lunch in the kitchen with a cook or worked in a thrift shop, or spent time in inner-city programmes lives in an insulated bubble. The world they know cannot possibly give them the answers they seek. The adult who has never asked a child a question about life & really listened to the answer is doomed to go through life out of touch & essentially unlearned. “Illuminated Life” by Sr Joan Chittister OSB.
As we begin this Holy Week let us be open in Christ to all other religions, particularly to the Jews who crucified Jesus, & to some of us, fickle Gentiles, who so loudly cry “Hosanna” & then 5 days later join the mob to shout “Crucify Him!”. A week to acknowledge & pray for each & all who seek God at this liminal moment. A week to meet the crucified Christ in our fellow disciples, especially in the disowning Peter, the betraying Judas, & the beloved servant Mary Magdalen, with whom Jesus worked, prayed & loved as a peer. A week to remember those who wash feet & serve soup on Teesside, who work & serve in the Food Bank, & those who clothe the naked & the cold with the garments we send to the Methodist Asylum Project. A week for us comfortable contemplatives to be thankful of those, like Simon of Cyrene, who notice the fallen Christ in need, & risk the practical response beyond “the insulated bubble”. A week to ask our children & grandchildren perhaps the most important question about life in Holy Week, & risk hearing the answer.
We have incorporated the family prayer for the forthcoming World Meeting of Families to be held in Dublin in Aug 2018 at the end of each weekend Mass for some weeks. For those of you who have taken a copy home, it includes a short litany of Saints which includes St Louis & St Zelie Martin. Last weekend one of you thoughtfully enquired about the identity of these two little known Saints. They are the parents of St Therese of Lisieux; they were canonised on Mission Sunday 19th Oct 2015, the first married couple ever to be canonised together. A fine couple of Patron Saints for those of you blessed & privileged to live, pray & grow within the Sacrament of Marriage , & in this Holy Week when tragedy & failure are acknowledged & celebrated as integral to our Catholicism & Christianity, to walk the journey to Calvary with those whose relationships have broken down through disownment, betrayal or misunderstanding.
We are blessed this Holy Week to have St Benedict’s Primary School at work & play up to Maundy Thursday. As many of our children & their parents don’t join us here at weekend Mass nor at our Holy Week services, we have arranged two special celebrations, with a Palm Sunday Liturgy in School on Monday, & on Maundy Thursday, a School Mass in Church during which we will wash the feet of our mini-vinnies, in recognition of their service within the School, soon to be extended, in partnership with our SVP group, into the Parish & locality. It is best practise that the Catholic Church celebrates only one Mass on this day, in recognition of Our Lord’s Last Supper. Exceptionally, our School will celebrate at 9.30am in Church, & the Parish at 7.30pm in the Church. Please respect the morning Mass as a School Mass for children, parents & grandparents. With love & prayers, Fr Bede.