“I can see how headstrong these people are ! ..my wrath shall blaze out against them ; of you however, I will make a great nation..” ..the great divide between them & us..or is it us & them? ..the guilty written off, the chosen few offered a land of milk & honey.. all going to the divine plan until a mediator Moses has courage to face up to God, speaking up for the headstrong & guilty & “the Lord relented” ..an angry God who changes his mind, melts & welcomes them..them & us..home with a hug, best robe & a seat of honour at this family meal table..
“..my anger/wrath will blaze out against them..” ..& us.. ; Lord have mercy “..remember Lord your promises..& the Lord relented..” ; Christ have mercy “..I will leave this place & go to my father; Father I have sinned against you..” ; Lord have mercy May Almighty God have mercy on us, forgive us our sins & bring us to everlasting life. Amen.
..a lost sheep a lost coin & a lost son..how long was he away?..how does the story from 2000yrs ago relate to family life/ my community life Ampleforth/ Gilling Sept 2019?..the elder son classic workaholic, devoted or driven? faithful or addicted? free or dependent on his duties? loyal or imprisoned? jealous of his brother, apple of his fathers eye..thirsty for a relationship of warmth understanding & compassion “but no one offered him anything” trapped into a work ethic & meal table conversation purely business centred.. which field next? price of seed/ yield per acre; countryfile weather forecast..talking the talk..”so begins my parade of masks & my life becomes a front” ..is your younger brother or sister beached in a pig sty? surrounded by food but malnourished through lack of you & me noticing their real predicament & responding appropriately? “but no one offered him anything” hungry for relationship ; to belong for who he was, not for what he could contribute..& is there a soft parent or Abbot who will always allow the skilled cunning young upstart in family to have their own way? afraid of consequences of saying “no” ..a “yes”man taken advantage of time & time again; used, wrapped round the adventurer’s little finger, whose body language tone of voice & dismissive look is enough to threaten father figure with dire consequences of a refusal..harassment bullying blackmail..”& no one offered him anything” either..so not one but three potential prodigals; squanderering leaking goodness & good grace..two were repentant third walled in; stingy tight fisted..in Sieger Koders depiction as father & younger son share hug of lifetime, elder son trapped behind doorless wall, his ear cocked against it, listening; his wrists as if self-handcuffed in his invisible prison..desperate for release “but no one offered him anything” younger brother could have gorged himself on husks in pig sty but he was, like his father & elder brother, hungry for the food you can’t buy..real relationship..someone to notice his/their plight pick up a husk & hand it to him/them..but no one cared..all three dying of hunger.. hunger for one another..”but I’m afraid to tell you this..& so begins my parade of masks.. telling you everything that is nothing, & nothing of what is everything”..20yrs ago Parish Priest in Brownedge I took Communion to sick in local Hospice each Sat evg..Methodist Chaplain met me one Sat; “Bede, a Catholic has just come in, doesn’t want to be known as a Catholic..leave it with you” I went through wards speaking to each patient & noticed man, greeted him warmly & moved on..same on Sun; on Monday “I came to my senses” asked him if he was a Catholic..”I used to be” said gruffly..I said “once a Catholic always a Catholic” & he began to cry..asked if he would like to share some of story behind tears.. born Catholic & baptised; Cath school; first Communion/ Confession/Confirmation..he regularly went to confession but, as his list got longer & longer, he felt he was getting his faith wrong so, as soon as he could without drawing attention to himself, he stopped practising..I told him how our understanding of faith had changed; in old days God was a judge, separating sheep from goats..wheat from dross..now we believe God to be a doctor seeking through priest to listen to our ailments & circumstances, then offering some form of spiritual help/medication, to try, & to come back if it doesn’t seem to be working..man listening intently so I took courage & asked if I could hear his confession “its too late” he said..”it’s never too late” “I can’t remember all my sins over all those years”..”just think of one sin of note; let it be indicative of the rest & they will all be forgiven” he agreed..he began “bless me father for I have sinned; it is 70yrs since my last Confession”..shared his one fault, I gave him some gentle advice & absolution, & he beamed..I said ”would you like Communion?” “when?” “now” I said “I have the Good Lord in my pocket” I got out pyx, we said Lords Prayer together, & his face shone..two days later he died..then & now again today a prodigal son moment for me..”coming to my senses” called home through ministry of a frail old man dying & repentant..he to you, through me & his story, offering in few moments a sign of peace, a hug of real love divinely inspired, as a prelude to feast/ celebratory meal of lifetime..eaten here together..each of us, prodigal sons & daughters, awaiting patiently & lovingly the arrival of another elder son/daughter, someone very close to home, their handcuffs released, led back gently to this meal by the key fourth person in our story who is never mentioned, yet is ever fully present in silent prayerful love..the mother..the mediator, like Moses, who ever pleads for us..& her name is? mercy .. ”while they were still a long way off, their mother saw them; she ran to them clasped them in her arms & kissed them ..& you & me..tenderly”.. [24thSunYrC Lk15;1-32]
“..what man among you with a hundred sheep, losing one, would not leave the ninety nine in the wilderness & go after the missing one till he found it?..”
..for Bishop Terence Patrick & Prior Gabriel, shepherds of this flock..may their care for each of us be enlightened by the presence & inspiration of the Holy Spirit ..that their concern for the weak & the stray will be gentle & realistic.. [you are with me always]..& all I have is yours..
..for the conflict in the Yemen that the worst humanitarian atrocity of our generation may be owned by both sides, particularly by the Saudi Arabian coalition of which we are a part..& for our own contribution in our persistent prayer & concern.
..for those living under corrupt dictatorships in Zimbabwe China & North Korea, & for those working in sweat shop conditions in order to produce food goods & clothing for our purchase & benefit..
..for Helen Beadnell & Simon Wainwright who were married here earlier today/ yesterday..& for their families now united in love & prayer..
..for those who remain practising Catholics but no longer join us here each week; may their contribution to the life faith & growth of our Church be acknowledged with gratitude..may we each learn from the others story..
..for our Parish this weekend as we welcome with great joy our brothers & sisters at Our Lady & the Holy Angels in Gilling into the fullness of our life & faith..in thanksgiving for all they bring to season into our shared journey..
..for those wounded or broken by abuse within the Church & beyond, as we seek reparation for our collective failure to protect the young & the vulnerable in our care..& for the work of Survive in York who walk alongside the victims..
..for ourselves for the courage & faith to be open to a pig sty moment, as we, with good grace, remain alert towards a change of heart & a coming home..
..let us ask Our Lady help of all Christians, & guide of all who search for a way home, to pray with us & for us..Hail Mary..