The conduct of the scholars of the law is often described in the words of the Gospel: they represent the principal opposition to Jesus; they challenge him in the name of doctrine. This approach is repeated throughout the long history of the Church. Once, during a council of Italian bishops, a fellow bishop cited an expression from De Abraham by Saint Ambrose: “When it comes to bestowing grace, Christ is present; when it comes to exercising rigour, only the ministers of the Church are present, but Christ is absent” I always think back to the excerpt from the Gospel of Mark (1:40-45)and the description of how Jesus healed the lepers. Once again as in many other pages of the Gospel Jesus does not remain indifferent, he feels compassion, he lets himself be involved & wounded by pain, by illness, by the poverty he encounters. He does not back away. The Law of Moses stated that lepers had to be excluded from the city & from the encampments (Leviticus (13:45-46), in places that were deserted, cast out, & declared impure. In addition to suffering from the illness, they faced exclusion, marginalization & loneliness. Let us try & imagine the heavy burden of suffering & shame that a leper had to bear; he was not just a victim of illness, but also felt guilty, as if he were being punished for his sins. The intention of the law that pitilessly cast out the leper was to avoid contamination: the healthy needed to be protected. Jesus moved according to a different kind of logic. At his own risk & danger he goes up to the leper & he restores him, he heals him. In doing so, he shows us a new horizon, of a God who is love, a God who desires the salvation of all men. Jesus touched the leper & brought him back into the community. He didn’t sit down at a desk & study the situation, he didn’t consult the experts for advice. What really mattered to him was reaching stranded people & saving them, like the Good Shepherd who leaves the flock to save one lost sheep. Then, as today, this kind of logic & conduct can be shocking; it provokes angry mutterings from those who are only ever used to having things fit into their preconceived notions of ritual purity instead of letting themselves be surprised by reality, by a greater love or a higher standard. Jesus goes & heals & restores the outcasts, the ones outside the encampment. In doing so he shows us the way. (The Name of God is Mercy; Pope Francis)
You may be aware that the Monastery is in urgent need of major refurbishment, & in order to carry out the extensive works, our Community will have to vacate the building for up to 2 years. Bolton House is currently being remodelled to house the Community for this period, after which it will revert to use by the College for student accommodation. The Community will move into Bolton House in late October. The Monastic Office (the vital prayer life of the Community) will necessarily centre on Bolton House rather than in the Monastic Choir. Sadly there will be no room for guests or visitors to join us in Bolton House, so consequently our Conventual Mass will remain in the Abbey Church but will move from 8.45am to 12.45pm Monday to Saturday. Vespers will be in the Abbey Church on Saturdays at 6pm, & our Sunday timetable will remain as it is except for Compline which will be in Bolton House. I am sorry for the inconvenience this will cause to those of you who attend weekday Mass at the Abbey. It may be of help to know that our Office & Mass are available daily through live streaming on our website. The amended Mass times will begin on Monday 28th Aug 2017.
Please keep Margaret Firth & Andrew Daly in your prayers, as they remain gravely ill in hospital. Margaret is now in St Monica’s in Easingwold receiving palliative care, & Andrew remains in a High Dependency Ward in James Cook Hospital. I am grateful to Fr Ambrose for celebrating our Vigil Mass this Saturday evening, when I am away in Leeds leading a Study Day for 120 members of the Leeds Council of the SVP. Please remember their ministry & prayer, alongside that of our own SVP group. With my love & prayers. Fr Bede.