..a quite extraordinary 1st reading for our last weekend in lockdown ..where God moves on, from what was, towards what is now to be..a vision statement written 2600yrs ago as if for this weekend.. “I myself will gather them from all the countries where I have dispersed them, [ where covid has dispersed them ] & I will bring them back to their pastures” [ to this our home ground ]
“..they shall be fruitful & increase in numbers..” ; Lord have mercy “..I will raise up shepherds to look after them..” ; Christ have mercy “.no fear no terror for them anymore..” ; Lord have mercy May Almighty God have mercy on us, forgive us our sins & bring us to everlasting life. Amen.
“you must come away to some lonely place all by yourselves & rest for a while” the week before last, we welcomed whole of Yr 9 from St Bede’s & St Joseph’s College Bradford on retreat; 5 days 60 of them each day; a coach journey from Bradford to Helmsley, then a walk to Rievaulx, to look over wall at a ruined monastery, once one of most wealthy & influential in Europe; 600 monks up to the Reformation & dissolution of monasteries. Coach here, packed lunch, some time for fun & games, & an hour with me to hear about a living thriving monastery; 40 monks in process of change & reformation, & certainly not dissolution; & I listened to their many questions on life & faith; “which football team do you support? can you get married? can you adopt children?” & then, after the early starter questions, & as they gained in confidence & trust.. “If you could change one thing in world that would make a real difference, what would it be?” thought for some time for a real answer not a right one “I would lower the threshold of hardness of heart among people..too many of us [us] are hard hearted, too hurt by life or by other people to risk again being our real true selves, so we put on a mask, the self defence of emotional self-protectedness “& he could work no miracles there; he was amazed at their lack of faith” lack of faith in themselves/ourselves & consequently a hardness of heart..if only they/we could begin to trust again in each other..our world our parish their school & ourselves would be transformed..an organic process of reformation, grounded on an understanding of loving mutual service of our neighbour, each & every neighbour..& where pray does this journey onwards in reformation begin?..in that lonely place all by yourselves, where the disciples then, & you now, can be your real selves..at home..do remember wisdom of Mother Teresa, now St Teresa of Calcutta, as she received the Nobel Prize for Peace in front of all the world’s leaders..one asked this frail elderly nun if she had any wise advice for the world as it sought to find peace..she thought, smiled & said “go home & love your family”..the ground zero place & moment where, when you feel at your lowest or highest, you can feel listened to, valued for who you are, not racially abused on social media for missing a crucial penalty last weekend..home, holy ground, where you are reminded how much you belong “loved, needed & not to be lived without, & greatly” remember from last weekend’s homily?..it is a call to live with a balanced spiritual diet..some time out there, on front line, meeting serving Christ in your ministry, no longer as sheep, now as shepherds, in your homes workplaces, among those you meet in Village shop, as you notice & care enough to listen value & help the lost sheep, the stray,the abandoned & the wounded, to sense feel & smell again the aroma of the spirit of belonging..”love your family” “..who is my family, who is my neighbour?” they asked of Jesus..& he told them story of Good Samaritan..the real shepherd, when the priest-shepherd passed by on the other side..your calling your call to take up the baton..in my favourite book of recent years “the boy the mole the fox & the horse” one sketch by Charlie Mackesy shows the other aspect of the balance in your spiritual diet..time in your lonely place, where you & your loved ones can be by yourselves..the horse is lying down, & on his back with their backs to us, snuggled together contentedly, are the fox the boy & the fox, looking at a darkened sky & rays of moonlight coming from behind the clouds..it reads “Home isn’t always a place is it?”..it weaves well to another well known phrase “home is where the heart is” & it takes us back to the Yr 9 enquirer “if you could change one thing in world that would make a real difference, what would it be?” to lower the threshold of hardness of heart..now “go & do likewise”..”go home & love your family” ..did you notice the disciples crossed in the boat from business to aloneness “together” a lovely Pope Francis word & mantra..”together” & the skill of a safe crossing in a boat is that you sit carefully, caringly, physically distanced but spiritually bonded, joined not at the hip but at the heart, ever in balance, in equilibrium, as the boat & the parish prepare to leave harbour for our next assignment of reform & regeneration..& we meet with Fr Abbot next weekend.. “if you could change one thing in the world, in the parish, in your family, & in your heart, that would make a real difference, what would it be?” [16thSunYrB Mk 6;30-34]