..with just 3 more weeks to go as your Parish Priest, it is perhaps a moment for adventure the feast today of adventure personified in Mary, the mother of Jesus & mother of the Church, as we celebrate her removal from her pastoral ministry here on earth, at her Assumption into Heaven.. first reading in your leaflet from book of Apocalypse is somewhat far fetched, & leaves Mary “our Mary” at a distance; cocooned isolated from danger & encounter she surely experienced.. whereas 1st rdg of Vigil of the feast is much more earthy, as it describes the forerunner of Our Lady in the OT, called the Ark of the Covenant..wooden casket containing 10 stone tablets on which were engraved 10 commandments.. & Our Lady was to become the Ark of the Covenant, her womb space wherein was born God made man..Jesus..the Word himself whose name & presence was to be etched onto each & every heart of the chosen people..you & I..
“this is what God asks of you, only this..” as he did of Our Lady.. “..to act justly..” ; Lord have mercy “..to love tenderly..” ; Christ have mercy “..to walk humbly with your God..” ; Lord have mercy May Almighty God have mercy on us, forgive us our sins & bring us to everlasting life. Amen.
20yrs ago, if we were to have hoisted a parish flag onto the steeple of our Church at St Mary’s in Bamber Bridge, it would have said on it in bold letters “we’ve always done it this way” beloved people, salt of the earth, staunch traditional loyal Catholics albeit Lancastrians, who sadly didn’t want to embrace change..like our Jewish forebears in OT they’d want to keep sacred & holy the Ark of the Covenant the tabernacle, the presence of God reserved prayed in front of..held/confined in a religion of entitlement..we keep the sabbath holy, we work with gritted teeth & determination to keep 10 commandments & fish on Fridays, we pay our levy, our temple tax, gift aided, so we expect God to keep his side of the covenant..good loyal faithful Catholics “they offered holocausts before God & communion sacrifices” “we’ve always done it this way”..our forebears 2700yrs ago the chosen people like us, carried their inheritance in journey of exodus in wooden casket into the promised land of milk & honey, & they settled down in every sense of word, settled comfortable, their faith established into religion & custom, the Ark now kept safe & contained in a temple, becoming the meeting place with God..& once you define it as the place anywhere else is invalid disqualified, the holiness of the sacred space, holy ground, of tent of meeting of field/bridleway was diminished..the real presence of God in the tabernacle of a Catholic Church in Dover but surely not in presence of 42 migrants rescued by the RNLI 3miles off the coast during 10am Mass..”we’ve always done it this way”..our Catholicism still carries weight of that compliance; keeping sabbath holy by being obliged to come here weekly, & the invitation into adventure, for the licence to change, too much for some, except in covid when you could transfer your Sun obligation to a weekday, & now Bishops of England & Wales to reinstate the Sun obligation from 1stSun of Advent in Nov, to get us back into the pew in front of the tabernacle, real presence of Christ under the appearance of bread & wine “do this in memory of me” 2700yrs ago prophet Ezekiel “I will give you a new heart & put a new spirit within you. I will remove your heart of stone, & give you a new heart of flesh” & pray have we yet had open heart surgery?..a new heart which is alive beating grace & love at 60beats a minute into your life & through you into hearts of all those who look to you for a lead, a word on active servant discipleship, like bucking the trend, & instead of cancelling your subscription to the RNLI as thousands are doing in protest at their rescuing migrants, to increase your standin order in support of their humanitarian & spiritual apostolate & adventure..& to suggest to the RNLI a possible name for their next new lifeboat “Ark of the Covenant” & how that would unite both Jew & Christian like nothing before..as Joan Mulcahy would have said with her Irish lilt “if not why not?”..”but we’ve never done it this way”..& 700yrs after Ezekiel when hearts were still as hard & cold God instigated the master plan..”they will listen to my Son” so adventurously & at risk he sent his Son a man like us, the incarnation, the Word became flesh & lived among us..& how was this radical moment of salvation history enabled? Through Mary of Nazareth & her spiritual titles Ark of the Covenant, Our Lady of the Assumption..she carried in her womb the divine presence in her womb for 9months “how can this come about?” for a compliant Jew “we’ve always done it this way” the answer then & now is faith.. “this is what God asks of you, only this..” as he did of Our Lady...to act justly, to love tenderly, & to walk humbly with your God”..she did & will you?..will you?..”let it be done to me according to your word” a huge ask of me in three week’s time “this is what God asks of you, only this”..”let it be done to me according to your word”..story of old man who sat day after day in prayer in parish Church where Cure d’Ars was the shepherd Cure noticed him sitting there hour after hour week after week..one day took courage to approach him “tell me, what do you say to God in prayer day after day?” old man smiled looked up into face of Cure & said “I look at him & he looks at me, & we are happy in each others company” can you really say the same about your relationship with your God?..or is it a rosary twice a day, a prayer group on line weekly, Mass most Sundays, confession once a year, morning & night prayers & a shekel onto collection plate “we’ve always done it this way” 2000yrs ago even God changed & brought in plan B..John Henry Newman, convert to Catholicism said “to live is to change, & to live fully is to change often”..& as you prepare to welcome my successor, & with a flag with a Yorkshire rose in one corner, what would you want to tell him in a sentence of truth & honesty on it, to sit alongside the outstanding inspirational vision statement you [you] brought to birth two years ago?..when your future was seeded, & now awaits the rich fertile soil, the womb space & the divine heartbeat it & you deserve..
“Mary stayed with Elizabeth about three months & then went back home” Bede stayed with his parishioners about three weeks & then went back home.. [Assumption; 15 Aug Lk 1;39-56]