Newsletter for Sunday 14 April 2024

12 Apr

We believe in the Resurrection of the body

In our Gospel reading this week the risen Jesus doesn’t just meet odd individuals but the whole group of disciples in their refuge, the Upper Room. The stress is on their meeting a REAL PERSON, not a disembodied ghost or phantom, not ‘a spiritual experience’ but one to touch and who eats a piece of fish in front of them.

The important lesson of this is that in our resurrection to true life, it is the whole person that is raised, not just the soul. Our bodies will be so real that we will be able to eat! We work out our salvation with fingers and toes and other bodily members, and all will be raised to life. It is not just a matter of thoughts and intentions! The whole body is baptised into Christ and is the instrument of our salvation. Our body, like Christ’s, will be changed and we shall be raised as whole persons, body and soul. That is the promise. That is our faith!

A very common misunderstanding is that your body is a shell and only your soul will live on forever. So, it can be tempting to view our body as only a vehicle for our soul, something that is a “necessary evil.” This false belief can be found throughout history and is still prevalent today.

Unfortunately, it can have a negative impact on the way we live our lives and is a philosophy, a false teaching, a heresy, that runs directly counter to the Catholic Church’s revealed truth. The Catechism of the Catholic Church clearly states that both body and soul have great dignity and are meant to be united. It says:-

‘For this reason, man may not despise his bodily life. Rather he is obliged to regard his body as good and to hold it in honour since God has created it and will raise it up on the last day.’ CCC 364

It is important to note that Catholics believe in the resurrection of the body, we state it each week in the creed. This means that after our death, we will eventually be reunited with our body for all eternity.

In death, the separation of the soul from the body, the human body decays and the soul goes to meet God, while awaiting its reunion with its glorified body. God, in his almighty power, will definitively grant incorruptible life to our bodies by reuniting them with our souls, through the power of Jesus’ Resurrection. CCC 997

Death is something unnatural, as it separates what should be united. This is one of the reasons why Jesus’ resurrection was called “good news,” Gospel. It meant that no longer would our souls be isolated from our bodies, but that at the end of time they will be reunited for all eternity. If we think of our body as only a shell, then we can do whatever we want with it! Our health does not matter, nor does it matter if we sin with our body. However, Catholics believe that our body has great dignity, and that what we do with our bodies also affects our soul. As St Paul teaches, our bodies our Temples of the Holy Spirit. We are not mere animals, who are not bound by any moral laws. We are children of God, destined for eternal bliss with our Heavenly Father. We are to treasure our bodies and use them well.

May we live as children of a loving Father, treating our body with care, knowing that it will be with us (in a glorified state) for all eternity.

Fr David Jones OLW

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Newsletter for Sunday 31 March 2024

29 Mar

The Greatest Day

Today, Easter Sunday is the greatest day in the Christian calendar – the Resurrection of JESUS Christ, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, from the dead. It is the fifth Article of the Creed. Our Lord had on a number occasions, foretold His Resurrection, and had He not risen, it would have been proof that He was not the awaited Messiah. So the Resurrection gives the seal of authenticity to all of Our Lord’s teachings and to all of the miracles He worked during His earthly life. It confirms that He is indeed the God man foretold by the prophets and awaited by Israel. And by His Resurrection, He has broken the power of death, and suffers and dies no more.

It is a formal teaching of the Catholic Church that Our Lord, after having been put to death on the Cross, three days later rose in the same Body. When He appeared to Mary Magdalene and the Apostles, He was not a ghost (Luke 24:39). On the contrary, He proved to them that He was true flesh and blood and He even ate food in front of them (Luke 24:39-43). Although He still bore the five wounds of the crucifixion in His hands, feet and side, His Body was now glorified and qualitatively changed. He could pass through walls and could arrive at different places instantaneously (John 20:19). Our bodies will one day share in these same qualities. In addition they will no longer be capable of suffering and death. We will be freed from any deformities and be filled with beauty and radiance.

The Apostles, who were at first the greatest sceptics, once they were convinced, preached the Resurrection of JESUS everywhere as the most important truth of the Faith. St Paul rightly said, “If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:14). The Apostles were “witnesses of the Resurrection” (Acts 1:22), and went to their deaths for it. In next Sunday’s Gospel (John 20:19-31), we will hear how Thomas, who was not present when JESUS first appeared, refused to believe He had risen. Then eight days later, JESUS appeared to the Apostles again, this time with Thomas present, and bid him to put his hand into His side, and not be unbelieving but believing. Thomas replied, “My Lord and my God” (John 20:28). So the Resurrection of JESUS is a profound teaching of hope for us.

May I wish you all a very happy and blessed Easter from Fr David and myself. And don’t forget – Easter has an Octave, which means that every day this week is Easter Sunday and time for celebrating this great truth. “This is the day which the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it!” (Psalm 117:24).

Fr Paul Gillham, IC

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Newsletter for Sunday 24 March 2024

22 Mar

Palm Sunday

Today is Palm Sunday and the beginning of Holy Week, and our procession today with blessed palms recalls Our Lord’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem, when the crowds cried out “Hosanna” and spread their garments and palm branches in His way.

The palm is a sacramental of the Church, and carrying them in procession goes back to the Old Testament. God commanded the Israelites on the feast of Tabernacles to take the branches of the palm tree and rejoice with them before the Lord (Leviticus 23:40). We also read of palms in the second book of Maccabees where they were used in the victory procession over Israel’s enemies (13:51), and in the book of the Apocalypse the martyrs are represented carrying palms (7:9).

The custom of carrying palms in procession on Palm Sunday originated in the East probably around the eighth century, and most likely the idea of a procession preceded that of the blessing. It was later on that the principle of whatever is used in God’s service should first of all be sanctified by the blessing of the Church. However, the name “Palm Sunday” is mentioned at least as far back as the fifth century. And in the ‘Sacramentary’ of Pope St Gregory the Great at the end of the sixth century, mention is made of the faithful being present at Mass with leaves and palm branches in their hands. And in our own country, St Bede mentions their use in the seventh century.

The palms are blessed before the Solemn Mass on Palm Sunday. The priest reads the Gospel account of Christ’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem, and we pray that we may in the end go forth to meet Christ, bearing the palm of victory, and that laden with good works, we may enter with Him into the eternal Jerusalem. The procession then follows outside the church.

The palm, as mentioned above, is a symbol of victory. It should be a continual reminder of the victory won by Our Lord by humbling Himself and dying on the Cross for our salvation, and also that all true victories in our own spiritual lives are won by triumphing over ourselves and our wayward passions and sinful inclinations. We should treat the palm we receive with respect and put it in a prominent place at home. People often place it with a crucifix or a holy picture. I think it is well known that the remaining palms are later on burned and then used as ashes on Ash Wednesday the following year. This brings out the connection between suffering and victory.

Later in the week we will be with Our Lord as He institutes the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and the Priesthood on Maundy Thursday. This will be followed by the Solemn Procession of the Blessed Sacrament to the Altar of Repose where there will be Watching until 11.15pm. “Could you not watch with Me one hour?” (Matthew 26:40). We will also be with Him as He sweats blood during His agony in the Garden of Gethsemane, His arrest and trial. On Good Friday we will be with Him in the scourging and crowning with thorns, and the terrible journey on the Via Dolorosa which will culminate in His suffering and dying on the cross. Then on Saturday evening we celebrate the Easter Vigil beginning with the blessing of the Easter Fire and the Procession of the Paschal Candle into the dark church symbolising the Risen Christ Himself, Who is “the light of the world” (John 9:5).The Sacred Liturgy makes all these events present to us. I strongly recommend you do your best to be present at these beautiful and solemn ceremonies of Holy Week.

Fr Paul Gillham, IC

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Newsletter for Sunday 17 March 2024

15 Mar

Passiontide

On Ash Wednesday we marked our foreheads with ashes as a sign of penance, but also to recall that we are sinners and that we deserve to return to the dust from which we were made. On Palm Sunday we will carry palms in procession commemorating Our Lord’s triumphant entrance into Jerusalem which would lead to His victory as the King of Martyrs on Good Friday. But why do we have the custom, in some churches at least, of veiling images during these last two weeks of Lent?

Certainly, this veiling of images jumps out at anyone who comes to church on this Fifth Sunday of Lent, and immediately we know something is different. Up to this point in Lent we have been focusing on Our Lord’s forty days and forty nights in the desert, on prayer, fasting and almsgiving. But now we enter a period called Passiontide, when our focus is on the Passion, suffering and death of Our Lord. The church seems stark and empty, and soon Christ will be taken from us, sentenced to death and crucified. The Church will become a widow with the death of the Bridegroom, and so She puts on a veil of mourning.

The custom of veiling crosses and statues actually comes from the Gospel read on this Sunday in the traditional Latin Mass. “The Jews took up stones to cast at Him, but JESUS hid Himself, and went out of the Temple (John 8:59). So Our Lord’s enemies wanted to kill Him, but in order to escape, He hid or veiled Himself. So the conflict between the light of Christ and the forces of darkness were really heating up, but no one laid a finger on Our Lord until He permitted it. He would hand Himself over freely to His enemies at the time appointed. The exact time of His Passion and death had been fixed from all eternity.

It was after the Last Supper when Our Lord went into the Garden of Gethsemane to pray that He handed Himself over. Most of the apostles were asleep, and Judas the traitor betrayed Our Lord with a kiss, at which point the soldiers moved forward to take Our Lord and arrest Him. The Gospel tells us that all the soldiers at that point were literally physically thrown back onto the ground (John 18:6), emphasising that the soldiers were powerless to arrest Christ until He allowed it. He would no longer hide or avoid His enemies because His hour had now come. The time had come for the confrontation with sin and death. And in this fight, He would use the most powerful weapon – the wood of the Cross in which Satan would be totally conquered.

Fr Paul Gillham, IC

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Newsletter for Sunday 10 March 2024

8 Mar

The Sign of the Cross

Pope Benedict XVI once wrote, “The most basic Christian gesture in prayer is and always will be the sign of the cross.” The cross is the instrument of our salvation. And Our Lord says to Nicodemus in today’s Gospel, “The Son of Man must be lifted up as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so that everyone who believes may have eternal life in Him” (John 3: 14-15). It is the cross Our Lord is referring to here. Everyone who looks upon the crucified One with faith and love will be saved.

The sign of the cross is a very powerful sacramental, and also a prayer which was used from the earliest days of the Church. It was most commonly made with the thumb of the right hand on the forehead. They also traced the cross on food, oil and water. There is also the triple Cross which we make at the beginning of the Gospel at Mass with the thumb on the forehead, the lips and the breast. But the sign of the cross we most commonly make is putting an open right hand to the forehead, the breast, the left and then the right shoulder. The five fingers symbolise the five wounds in Our Lord’s hands, feet and side.

The early Christians found great power in the sign of the cross. Martyrs signed themselves with it as they went to their death. St John Chrysostom said, “Never cross the threshold of your houses without saying, ‘I renounce Satan and devote myself to JESUS Christ’ accompanying these words with the sign of the cross.” And St Ambrose said, “We should make the sign of the cross at each action of the day.”

The Emperor Constantine, despite the fact of being a pagan, and seeking to overthrow his enemies, called upon the true God for a sign of victory. God answered his prayer and gave him a sign of a flaming cross in the sky along with words written underneath: “In hoc signo vinces”. “In this sign you will conquer.” Immediately, he had all his soldiers make a cross and made it the banner of his huge army. Then the following night he had a similar vision in a dream – again, a flaming cross. The next morning he woke up and asked all the soldiers to paint red crosses on their shields. Then he went off to battle, which turned out to be the most important battle in the history of the world, and he won. It was the Battle of Milvian Bridge in October 312 AD. And when Constantine entered Rome as victor, he made Christianity legal, he ended the official persecution, and eventually he would make Catholicism the official religion of the Roman Empire.

The sign of the cross is also a shield against temptations and dangers to the soul. The powers of darkness flee at the sign of the cross which is why a cross is always used in exorcisms. St Gregory of Tours said, “Whatever may be the temptations that oppress us, me must repulse them. For this end, we should make, not carelessly, but carefully, the sign of the cross, either on our forehead or on our breast.” Our Lady of Lourdes taught St Bernadette how to make the sign of the cross well. At the first apparition on 11th February 1858, Bernadette took out her Rosary, but she wrote, “My arm fell back until I was taught how to make it well.” Some years later she told another nun, when making the sign of the cross, to think of what you are doing, because it is so important to make the sign of the cross fervently.

So in these dark times in which we live where evil is spreading like wild fire, let us make the sign of the cross often, and as the saints have taught us, let us make it fervently and well.

Fr Paul Gillham, IC

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