“..an attentive ear is the sage’s dream” ..in Fr Gabriel’s announcement last weekend on the future of our local parish apostolate, he began by quoting first word of the Rule of St Benedict “listen..” the attentive ear in 1st rdg this evening/morning.. ..much of wisdom of it is lifted from it & used by St Benedict in his rule for life for monks, in his rule for life for parishioners in a Benedictine parish ..this “School of the Lord’s Service” as St Benedict calls his monastery.. ..fitting as our two monastic schools, Ampleforth College & St Benedict’s PS begin again, alongside you & I here in school this evening/morning..
“..my son/ my daughter be gentle in carrying out your business..” ; Lord have mercy “..there is no cure for a proud persons malady; an evil growth has taken root in them..”in us.. ; Christ have mercy “..an attentive ear is the sage’s dream..” ; Lord have mercy May Almighty God have mercy on us, forgive us our sins & bring us to everlasting life. Amen.
“daughter divided from mother; father from son” remember a recent gospel?..today it is prospective daughter in law against mother in law”..more damaging than any Brexit backstop is the seating plan for a wedding reception..guests scan table plans to see who is on what table & who I have to make polite conversation with for next 3hrs & probably will never meet again..”how indeed they picked the places of honour” best seat for me is on bottom table; one next to the door to kitchen where you find little people, the bride’s mothers next door neighbour or nephew twice removed who surprised some/disappointed others by saying yes to invitation..next to kitchen you see real people, the “servants”, coming & going; overworked underpaid & cheerful; who have great sensitivity to wait for slowest to finish before clearing plates..”make your way to the lowest place & sit there”..for me it is like being in best seat on a bus..top deck front & you see everything especially situations others miss as they look out sideways or spend whole journey on iphone..30yrs ago when I taught part time at Gilling Castle I would stay for lunch..outside Great Chamber, where school ate, was huge wall painting with fine oak table beneath it..now & again, as you went in for meal, you would find a knife fork spoon glass of water & chair at this table outside..inside atmosphere was subdued as refectory filled up & all looked to identify empty place & thereby boy excluded..ultimate punishment as in RSB is to be excluded from family meal..it might go on for 2/3 days until suddenly place setting had disappeared & miscreant back in his place; meal tasted twice as good like Christmas.. “in that way, everyone with you at table will see you exalted”..if you were to host a celebratory meal of some note in your lifetime, & you could invite 20 people [only20 ] I wonder who you would choose?..it speaks volumes about them & about you, & would one of them be last person in world your friends/loved ones would have expected?..surprising or shocking them..like shock/mutterings of some of leading Pharisees’ family friends, his fellow Pharisees, & our fellow worthies, when Jesus walked in & sat down.. ”& they watched him closely” clearly not on bottom table among serfs & plebs..or maybe he was?..maybe that was their issue..he sat with “them” & not with “us”..& then he began to preach at them..a loaded pointed story/ homily pointed in particular direction & with an agenda to die for..”it’s only a story” said comfortable peacekeepers, the custodians of status quo..”no it isn’t..it is real life..you & I..our real life is it not ? many years ago hearing confessions in an enclosed Convent of Sisters in south..the big issue for one sister drove her to distraction, bad & destructive thoughts..draining her religious life, bringing sleepless nights & foul tempered days..sister next to her in refectory, as they all came in, in total silence for grace before meal, would bang her napkin ring down on dining table..3 times day 7days week 1095 times a year & for the rest of her life..”not I Lord surely?” are we not derailed by similar foibles at family meals?..would the noisy neighbour be one of first of the 20 to be invited to the special meal I wonder?..in such moments we entertain not only angels but Christ himself..in the surprise guest, least expected, even the great & good on top table, we meet Christ, who waits/serves at table & washes feet..last week card from a retired Headteacher on holiday on Lindisfarne assuring me & Community of her prayers in our current difficulties..3yrs ago I was at her farewell Mass, celebrated by Bishop Seamus Cunningham of Hexham & Newcastle Diocese..at start he asked for 3 chairs one for Head, one for her husband, one for himself; he held a close conversation with them with hundreds of us listening in..”everyone with you at the table honoured”..at end of Mass we processed out to classroom, a makeshift sacristy; Bishop five priests two pupil servers..as we took vestments off he got into conversation with boy server..”I know you don’t I?” boy smiled..Bishop said “I came to your grandma’s parish 3yrs ago for Confirmations & you served for me didn’t you?” “yes” said lad..”your hair has changed colour since then” said Bishop..in view of all we see & enjoy in table fellowship at meals at home, in social gatherings, & here at Mass each week, for this family meal of humble loving quality & belonging, contrary to end of gospel where Luke puts loaded words onto lips of Jesus “because repayment will be made to you when the virtuous rise again”.. being here in presence of Our Lord in the weakest among us is the real gift..free gift, the length of a dining table away from any search for repayment or virtue..this is a meal for sinners; bottom table, back of the Church sitters..which is why you & I are so at home in it..in our Catholicism, & in it in here..”welcome home..” [22nd SunYrC Lk14;1.7-14]