Our Bishop Emeritus John Crowley installed as Bishop of Middlesbrough in Jan 1991; he, like all new Bishops, chose a short phrase from scripture as his motto ; “choose life” it fits well to 1st rdg prophet Ezekiel.. when life went sour for the chosen people then, & even now for us in midst of the second spike in the pandemic, they cried foul “what the Lord does is unjust.” & we cry “if there is a God, why doesn’t he intervene & kill off the virus?” God’s answer is clear & definitive, life giving “choose life” choose integrity, be law abiding, even if our government find it difficult, & be honest.. ..the cure for our sourness, our diseases, even our coronavirus, is in our hands..as is world poverty, global warming, & the atrocities of migrancy & refugees ; today is a Day of Special Prayer for Migrants & Refugees.. in relation to them, & all our crisis issues, we choose, at our peril & theirs, to renounce our personal, communal & spiritual integrity & responsibility..difficult to hear, too close to home & to heart..
“..is it not what you do [ or fail to do ] that is unjust?” ; Lord have mercy “..in so far as you failed to do it for one of the least of these brothers & sisters of mine, you failed to do it for me..” ; Christ have mercy “..Lord Lord, open for us!..I tell you, I do not know you” as you failed to open & to get to know them.. ; Lord have mercy May Almighty God have mercy on us, forgive us our sins & bring us to everlasting life. Amen.
“..a man had two sons” a mother & father in our Parish who have a son & daughter said to son “John, please clean your room today; it has been 3wks since you last did it” John answered in word sulk or absence “I will not do it!..but thought better of it” in a fine & lively conscience that weighed up implications of either a good life-giving decision or a selfish sour refusal..again..& his doing it was to his parents as if their Christmas Easter & birthdays had all come at once, as Mum whispers to Dad “he’s done it, & a grand job of it too, bless him!” whereas same invitation to Catherine “yes Mum, I will..” & 3days later it still hasn’t been done..”which of the two did their parents will?” not rocket science..the chief priests & elders knew right answer but, like Catherine, they too often chose not to put it into practice..to personify & to incarnate love..love gifted & needed....a possible solution is simple profound & invitational..why not as a family foursome put aside 2hrs a week of 168hrs in a week..to clean my room & yours; our toilet our shower our kitchen our car? a smile perhaps from behind your face mask, a life changing choice to try to sell back home & put into practice? or smile of pity for Fr Bede who hasn’t a clue of what it is like to live in real world in a family home..what is it like to come in from a hectic day in parish, school, trustees meetings & 35 emails & find a hot meal on the table in our refectory with a fellow monk reading to us gently from a book, & monk next to me staying behind to do the washing up for all of us?..& then have the love & emotional warmth to gently ask me “Bede how is the Parish?” love gifted & needed..what is it like for 3 Masses out of 5 here each week, having spent perhaps 8hrs preparing a Sunday homily worthy of a special family, set up for Mass, celebrated the meal of a lifetime for you & with you, taken everything back to the Sacristy afterwards washed sterilised chalice & paten, washed altar linen, locked Church, then set to in a pinnie with sanitiser to wipe down each bench which has been used with a prayer for those who sat in it few minutes ago..”you go into my vineyard Bede, & I will give you a fair wage”.. remember last week’s gospel?..& it is great work believe me..love gifted & needed..”for John came to you, but you did not believe him” nor Bede “yet the tax collectors & prostitutes did”..the outsiders, the distant & the distanced..they did believe..the migrants & refugees in this weekend of special prayer for them..& will you pray for them?..will you?..do you?..your first thought perhaps like John “I will not do it!” but thought better of it..a year this weekend Pope Francis blessed sculpture of migrants huddled together in overcrowded boat crossing Mediterranean; called “Angels Unaware” & Pope quoted Hebrews Ch13v2 “remember always to welcome strangers, for by doing this, some people have entertained angels without knowing it” we can perhaps take it one step deeper “some people, some of us perhaps, have entertained strangers, & in them Christ, without knowing it”..a poster of sculpture has been up on notice board back of Church & on notice board by gate for a year, as if Fr Bede had forgotten to take it down; the hard bit of servant discipleship is to leave it up & be disturbed by it each week each day you choose to see it..a Brexit issue; which festers on..”Lord Lord open for us!..I tell you, I do not know them..” ..if I told you for some years source of tents for migrants/refugees in Calais has been the Leeds Festival is it news to you? end of August 4days when your sons/daughters would go, & as it ended on Bank Holiday Monday & they all left for home, 105,000 last year, many would leave behind their tents, many of them new; a charity would come with 3 large lorries, load up discarded tents & deliver them to Calais..a home to live in for 4days or 4yrs?..you decide because it is a decision you & I are party to, be sure..you decide you choose..your decision to ignore them or put £5 in an envelope, or now, at end of holiday season, to donate your tent “my brother or sister, will you donate your tent to help house a migrant in Calais?” “I will not Fr Bede, or certainly, take it”..& if we were to collect your tents, we as a parish could hire a van for 4days & take the tents to Calais..& would you drive the van?..or would you go as a helper/passenger?..150 homes receive our Outreach each week; how many read some of it? 20/25?..if those 25 mentioned the tent initiative to 5 others, & we gained 50 tents, & I asked Fr George, Fr James, Fr Edgar to spread the word, we’d be seriously looking for three of you to work in the vineyard for a 4day work of mercy for migrants/refugees..in psalm you have just voiced you said “ the Lord guides the humble in the right path, he teaches his way to the poor” & by gum, if we read it fullheartedly it says “he teaches his way to the poor” his way his satnav our choice.
In 2015, the Year of the Migrant, Fergal Keane, whose work for BBC visiting places of atrocity & tragedy after world has moved on thirsting for next crisis, we have spoken of in our Outreach since lockdown, met Noujain Mustafa 16yr old girl from Aleppo in Syria; suffers from celebral palsy..met her first on beach carried out of dinghy you would be reluctant to use in Helmsley pool..in her wheelchair covered with blanket, her crutches leaning against chair, waves at 2m distance..”I’m not a number” she said “I want to be an astronaut..I want to meet the Queen yes!” she learned English by watching soap opera’s on British tv..he met her again having been pushed 3500 miles in her wheelchair through Europe across Balkans to a detention camp in Slovenia..her lowest ebb “I’m lost here”.. he met her again 2wks ago in Cologne, after Germany thankfully saw Christ in her & welcomed her in..as they do now, another 1500 migrants, whose tents were burned down in Moria on Lesbos earlier this month..as UK concentrates on R numbers, on Brexit & breaking international trade agreements..& with a smile to die for towards Fergal, she explained she is now enrolled at school, wants to become a psychologist, but is hopeless at maths, so may have to resort to a plan B..she has spoken at UN on refugees with disabilities; her parents still wait in Turkey “I am going back” she says “no matter how long it takes”..Christ in a wheelchair & we gripe at being asked to clean a room or cooker “but you did not believe him, & yet tax collectors prostitutes [& Fergal Keane ] did..even after seeing that [hearing all this] you refused to think better of it & believe in him” [26thSunYrA Mt21;28-32]