Newsletter for Sunday 26 September 2021

24 Sep

The Battle in which we are all engaged

Whether we know it or not, there is a battle going on in each of our lives between good and evil. Archbishop Fulton Sheen (1895-1979) used to say that at the end of this battle, meaning the end of our earthy lives, we will hear one of two voices say to us, “You are mine”. And it will either be the voice of Our Lord or the voice of the Devil. We hope it will be the former! By His Passion, Death and Resurrection Our Lord has already won the battle and won all the graces we need to be saved. But we have to choose Christ and the salvation He offers by fighting against sin and temptation. This is an ongoing battle and one which we will be engaged in until the day we die.

It is important to say that although the topic of Hell and its punishments is very unpopular today and is often just dismissed, it is a revealed doctrine, and JESUS speaks of it many times in the New Testament. It is a sobering reality and He clearly wants us to know about it. JESUS loves us all very much and doesn’t want anyone to spend eternity separated from Him (which is what Hell is), but at the same time He respects our free will. Hence the many warnings He gives us including the one in today’s Gospel. If a priest were never to mention this topic it would be a serious omission however much the thought of it might repel us.

When Our Lord says today, “If your hand should cause you to sin, cut it off; it is better for you to enter into life crippled, than to have two hands and go to hell, into the fire that cannot be put out…” (Mark 9:43), He means that if anything impedes your entry into the Kingdom of Heaven, or if there’s some obstacle to you being united with God forever in eternal joy and happiness, you need to repent now, root out the sin and avoid the occasions and circumstances that can lead you to this sin. Our Lady of Fatima came with the same message in 1917. So this is something we need to take seriously. The Catechism of the Catholic Church says:

“The teaching of the Church affirms the existence of hell and its eternity. Immediately after death the souls of those who die in a state of mortal sin descend into hell, where they suffer the punishments of hell, ‘eternal fire’.”The chief punishment of hell is eternal separation from God, in whom alone man can possess the life and happiness for which he was created and for which he longs.” (CCC #1034-1035).

So knowing about the judgement every human being faces at death, and knowing we have to give an account to God of all our actions – of every thought, word, deed and omission should spur us on. Now is the time of repentance and amendment of life while we have the opportunity. If we have sought God’s mercy and forgiveness in this life and tried our best to be faithful to Him, our sins will be cast aside. So do make regular use of the Sacrament of Confession. But let us not allow presumption of salvation to lull us to sleep. As St Augustine (354-430) put it, “Do not despair – one of the thieves was saved. Do not presume – one of the thieves was damned.”

Let us each reflect then on our own lives to see if anything is leading us in the wrong direction and away from God, and if so to take steps to remedy the situation and live in the grace of Christ, particularly through confession of our sins, so that when we are called from this life we may hear the voice of JESUS say to us, “You are mine”.

Fr Paul Gillham, IC

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Newsletter for Sunday 19th September

17 Sep

The Fast Track to True Success

The lesson Jesus has been teaching by His example since the day of His birth, He now teaches with words, as we hear in our Gospel Reading this week. And this lesson is a big one: The Nature of True Success.

When Jesus and His apostles sit down to relax in Capernaum after a day of walking the hot, dusty roads of Galilee, He knows exactly what they have been talking about – success, glory, greatness. But the apostles are too embarrassed to admit it. But our Lord’s response is surprising. He doesn’t tell them that they shouldn’t desire to excel, to achieve, to do great things. He doesn’t condemn that very normal impulse – because He knows that achieving things, making a difference in the world, is a basic need felt by every human heart. This is one of the purposes of our lives: being a sign of God’s goodness by making a positive difference in the world. So, Jesus doesn’t scold them for wanting to do something great. Instead, He tells them what true greatness really is.

The great task for every Christian isn’t to achieve fame and fortune, popularity, power, and worldly success. Rather, it’s the same task that Christ himself undertook: to serve others, to make others happy, to reach out to those who are weak and in need. Greatness in Christ’s Kingdom is equated with humility, an attitude of the heart that puts the good of others ahead of one’s own preferences: it’s self-giving, NOT self-getting. 

He doesn’t say to His apostles, “Don’t strive to achieve great things,” but He does point out where true, lasting, fulfilling greatness lies – in loving one’s neighbour as He has loved them. Jesus is the Servant-Lord; we, His faithful disciples, are called to follow in those demanding footsteps, learners following Our Lord’s example.

Most of us are able to see the beauty of humility and humble service to others; we can understand intuitively why this is the mark of True Success. But putting this idea into practice is not so easy. We are willing to commit “random acts of kindness” now and then, because they make us feel good. But real progress requires a deeper commitment.

The best place to implement this plan for True Success is at home. It is in our closest relationships, those of our family, that our natural selfishness tends to come out most easily. And so, to transform those tendencies, to purify them and grow in the virtue of humility, we need to attack them there. Humbly serving our spouse, our siblings, our parents – this is true Christ-like virtue, this is where we forge a Christ-like heart.

Our family members know us well; they are familiar with our tantrums and egocentric habits. As a result, they aren’t usually impressed by an extra act of kindness, service, or self-control, by an extra effort to be patient or to hold our tongue. That’s why the home is the best place to grow in humility and pursue True Success. Serving others when there is no reward or recognition involved is the best way to follow Christ’s example and purify our hearts – after all, His service to others got Him crucified!

If we gradually learn to think about others before ourselves inside the four walls of our home, it will become second nature to do so outside. And when that happens, we will be on the ‘Fast Track to True Christ Like Success.’ True disciples of our Lord, reflecting Him.

Fr David Jones OLW

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Newsletter for Sunday 12 September 2021

10 Sep

The Transforming Power of the Cross

JESUS today predicts His Passion, Death and Resurrection and foretells that the Son of Man is destined to suffer grievously, to be rejected, be put to death and then after three days rise again (Mark 8:27-35). Through these historical events which happened two thousand years ago, Christ has redeemed us. JESUS suffered and died so that all those who belong to Him could live for ever. By our sins we deserve only eternal death, but by His becoming man and dying on the Cross, JESUS Who is true God and true man expiated all of our sins and merited redemption and eternal life for us. These events happened only once in the history of mankind, but Our Lord having acquired these merits for us, needed them to be applied throughout history and to us now in 2021. So how does He do this?

The merits Christ won on Calvary to save us or to redeem us are applied to us principally through the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Remember that the Mass is the making present on the altar here and now, in our day and in our time, that same sacrifice which Christ offered once to the Father on Mount Calvary two thousand years ago. As we have said the merits of Christ have to be applied to all human beings in all times and in all places – men, women and children of all nationalities and races, rich and poor alike. So when we participate in Mass devoutly, those merits are applied to our souls to heal us of the wounds of sin. 

Our Lord also tells us in today’s Gospel that, “If anyone wishes to be a follower of Mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross and follow Me.” We can do this by uniting our trials and sufferings, our pains, annoyances and inconveniences with His sufferings. Although suffering was not part of God’s original plan for humanity, it is the reality we live in due to Original Sin. But our sufferings, whether they be big or small, through Christ’s Passion, Death and Resurrection can be transformed into something of great value. He has given suffering new meaning, and because we are baptised, by uniting our sufferings with His sufferings we acquire merit which in the next life will be transformed into glory. This is the great revolution of Christianity, that our sufferings and pains can be transformed into something great by uniting them to the sufferings of Christ. And we can offer all these things to God particularly at the Offertory of the Mass. As the priest offers the host to God the Father on the paten, at the same time offer your own crosses and trials. Then at the Consecration, as the bread and wine are changed into the Body and Blood of JESUS, He will offer them all in union with His own sufferings to the Father in atonement for our sins, and they will be transformed into something beyond price.

Our Lady was the greatest exemplar of this. On Wednesday we celebrate the memoria of Our Lady of Sorrows. As she stood at the foot of the Cross she shared in His sufferings and united them with her own and presented them to the Father. Let us ask her to teach us to do the same. 

Fr Paul Gillham, IC

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Newsletter for Sunday 5 September 2021

3 Sep

Our Lady in September

September is the month devoted to the Seven Sorrows of Mary, Mary who always leads us to her Son, and we can make it a prayerful reparation to our Blessed Mother’s Sorrowful Heart.
This month is filled with beautiful feast days dedicated to Our Lady and to great saints who shaped their own lives after her example. There is nothing like a birthday party to bring some happiness and fun into a week though! How much more should we get from the birthday of our Heavenly Mother, whose “yes” brought us the birth of our Saviour?

Just as school and work are getting back into routine after the summer hols, this birthday celebration is exactly what we need to keep a spirit of joy, as we are called to work with renewed vigour, continuing to support, and take care of each other as the Pandemic hang around us. I remember a Mum who used to have a birthday cake for Mary on 8th September, and we’d sing happy birthday or perhaps a Marian song like ‘Immaculate Mary’ to celebrate. Without God’s wonderful providence in the birth of Mary, the mother of our Saviour, we would be a people of no hope, no forgiveness, and no heaven. Let’s give thanks and celebrate her birthday! Rosary, Mass and, yes, birthday cake and song!

Come 15th September, the day after the Exaltation of the Holy Cross (14th) when the Church marks the finding of the true cross by St Helena and the dedication of churches on the sites of Christ’s death and burial, we prayerfully honour the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows. It’s a day for us to journey with Mary who so lovingly and sorrowfully journeyed the Way of the Cross with her Son. Remembering Mary’s seven sorrows means remembering how deeply Our Blessed Mother can understand and assist us during our sorrows and troubles too. It’s also an important day for each of us to seek to console her. One way to do that is to pray the Seven Sorrows devotion on our rosaries.

Not sure how to do that? Two choices: Come to Rosary in church on Wednesday 15th at 6 pm and join with others or just google and pray the beads, sharing and praying with Our Blessed Lady.

Prayer for us Holy Mother of God that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Fr David Jones, OLW

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Newsletter for Sunday 29 August 2021

27 Aug

Our Lady, Destroyer of All Heresies

To conclude the month of August, the month of the Assumption of Our Lady, I would like to meditate briefly on one her titles: ‘Destroyer of all Heresies’. Heresy is a false belief and it’s a title of Our Lady we don’t hear much these days, but it is very relevant as there are many challenges to the Faith and there is much confusion about what we believe, even within the Church.

The Church has always given Our Lady the title ‘Destroyer of all Heresies’ because we know from the very beginning when Satan deceived our first parents and they committed the first sin, he would wait for Our Lady’s heel to crush him and his seed (Genesis 3:15). Among those seeds are the lies of heresy as he is the Father of Lies.

There were many heresies in the early centuries of the Church and many a battle was fought to preserve the true doctrine of Christ and of the Catholic Church which He founded. One example over which there was much controversy we say every Sunday in the Nicene Creed which dates from 325 AD: “Begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father”. This means JESUS is eternal and of the same substance as God the Father and is equal to God the Father. In the fourth century this truth was under attack when many people were saying JESUS is inferior to the Father, that He is not eternal, that He is not consubstantial with the Father and therefore not fully God. This teaching about Who Christ is is very important because it affects the way we relate to God, how we relate to others and even the way society is, as it did for centuries in Christendom in which Christ truly reigned as King. Doctrine has an impact. St Paul in his letter to the Galatians put it like this: “But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach a gospel to you besides that which we have preached to you, let him be anathema” (1:8).

But how does Our Lady destroy heresies? After all, she never preached a sermon and she never excommunicated anyone! Our Lady is Destroyer of Heresies primarily because of who she is. Who Mary is guards the truth about God and humanity. For example, at the Council of Ephesus in 431 Mary was solemnly declared to be the Mother of God or ‘Theotokos’, again defending the divinity of Christ which was under attack by the Arian heretics. Then in the seventh century there was a decree issued to destroy all images and icons because the Scriptures say we must not make any graven images. But St John Damascene (675-749) looked to the example of Our Lady and that the Word had become flesh in her “and we saw His glory” (John 1:14). With God having taken on human flesh and become man, matter was now holy and so we could depict the divine in sacred art.

Mary still teaches us truths today. When the family is under attack she teaches us with Our Lord and St Joseph the importance of the natural family. Seeing the crib at Christmas reminds us that our world is founded on the family. Then in the area of human life, Mary carried Our Lord in her womb to her cousin St Elizabeth where St John the Baptist ‘leapt for joy’ and was filled with the Holy Spirit in the womb of his mother – an embryo sanctified by an embryo. Surely this teaches us the dignity of every unborn child. Mary destroys heresies!

On the front page of this newsletter Mary is depicted beating down a demon with a club and protecting a little child from his poisonous lies. Satan is trying to damn us all through the heresies he spews forth into the world. Mary our mother and immaculate Queen will protect us her children from his evil attacks and she will crush his head. Let us invoke her now: “O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.”

Fr Paul Gillham, IC

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