Lent 4  (Year B)

Mothering Sunday

It is always important to say 'Thank you.' According to Meister Eckhardt, the German medieval mystic, 'Thank you' is the only prayer you ever need to say! Today is a wonderful opportunity to say 'Thank You' for and to our mothers. Let us think for a second what mothers do:  mums bring us into the world, they nourish us, teach us 'right from wrong', forgive us when we make mistakes and above all love us (among a million and one other things!).  Today is a great day to treat our mums!

However, traditionally Mothering Sunday is actually more about the Church. Let's look at today's Gospel reading: When Jesus was dying on the cross, he felt  moved to speak to his Mother Mary and his beloved disciple John. He said, “Woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” (John 19:26-27). When Jesus said these words, he was inaugurating  a new family  -  that of the Church. Like a mother, the Church gives us new life (through baptism), nourishes us (through the Word of God and Holy Communion), forgives us (by absolving us of our sins) and teaches us. Above all, the Church is a conduit of Christ's love in the World. 

Now, I appreciate that for some, Mother's Day is a difficult time of year: perhaps our mothers have passed away,  perhaps some are less than ideal in how they parent us and in addition, some women may feel a tragic sense of loss about not being able to be a mother themselves. No matter how painful these things might be, always remember that you have a loving mother in the Church and plenty of brothers and sisters in Christ too! Amen.

Fr Vince


Lent 2 (Year B)

The central paradox of the spiritual life

'For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it.' Mark 8:35

Jesus must have been such a remarkable and charismatic teacher. Not only did he share wonderful parables and extended discourses teaching us of what the Kingdom of God is and what it shall be; but he sometimes also employed paradoxes. What is a paradox? A paradox is a statement which seems to contradict itself, but nevertheless makes you think. In other words, paradoxes mess with your head! There are many examples of paradoxes in the Bible: you might think of St. Paul when he says, 'For when I am weak, then I am strong.' (2 Cor 12:10) 

In this teaching (see above), Jesus seems to be saying that you gain everything when you are prepared to give everything away. On paper this sounds ludicrous - but it is actually a spiritual truth of central importance. I was trying to explain this to my class this week. I asked them to imagine receiving a gold pen, which has the power to make their handwriting look beautiful and to inspire the very best written work out of them. Also, this gold pen is extremely beautiful and a sight to marvel at. It is the best pen one could possibly receive. However, one day,  you see somebody who has no pen and is therefore unable to express their thoughts on the written page. If you give that gold pen away, it is a huge sacrifice and it will cost you. However, the joy you could receive from acting in such a generous way could fill you with a heavenly, priceless joy - not to mention the recipient of this gift! Jesus gets to the heart of this truth in this verse - and not only that: he also acted out this paradox through his life, death and resurrection. He lost everything on the cross - but gained everything for our sake.

Fr Vince 

Lent 1 (Year B)
Jesus is tempted in the wilderness

'And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.' (Mark 1:12-13)

Have you ever been into a desert? I have. I remember going on pilgrimage to the Holy Land when I was in secondary school and spending a day or two in the Negev desert with some Bedouin tribes-people.  I remember it being a very special experience. It was very hot during the day and very cold at night. The landscape was bare and barren, with rocks littered over the sandy ground. I remember getting up early to drink some incredibly strong coffee and to watch the sunrise. I recall the wilderness as being austerely beautiful, but inhospitable - you would not want to be left there alone! 

In today's Gospel reading Jesus is led into the wilderness by the Spirit, tempted by Satan and then protected from wild animals by angels. He is there for 40 days and nights. Jesus went into an inhospitable and barren land. He went into the wilderness - a place of hunger, loneliness and trial. We may not have visited an actual desert, but we do sometimes go through times of wilderness in our hearts. In some respects, Christianity is not an easy faith and we are not guaranteed an easy ride. We are followers of Christ; and as he went into the place of fear and abandonment, so do we go sometimes: maybe in the wake of illness, emotional trauma, grief or injustice. But we are not left there: Jesus lived, suffered and died - but then rose again. This is the good news! Yes, life can be tough and cause us to travel through the wilderness, but we know that even death itself can't separate us from the love of God and that we have the promise of eternal life - a place of perfect love, peace and joy to look forward to. Amen.

Fr Vince


Sunday before Lent (Year B)
The Transfiguration
'...Jesus took Peter, James and John with him and led them up a high mountain, where they were all alone. There he was transfigured before them.' (Mark 9:2)

What do you think of when you see the word 'transform'? You might think of one of those daytime TV shows, whereby somebody's living room or garden is transformed into something much better (hopefully!). Or you may even think of a caterpillar turning into a beautiful butterfly. Sometimes the change might be even more profound, such as the change you see in a person. For example, recently at school I organised a school music performance and one of the boys I teach was playing the glockenspiel. This boy is autistic and finds it difficult to communicate verbally - but when playing the glockenspiel? Well that's a different matter! His face lights up and he beams with joy. It is like he is transformed into another person - or more accurately,  more like his true self - through the joy of music. You might say that a change like this goes beyond a transformation; it is a transfiguration. A change of profound spiritual significance.

In today's Gospel reading, Jesus is transfigured: whilst on a mountain, his clothes are turned a 'dazzling white',  he is joined by two of the greatest Old Testament heroes Moses and Elijah and the voice of the Father resounds from the heavens commanding us: 'This is my Son whom I love, listen to him!' It seems that all of a sudden, Jesus' divinity is revealed in the most extraordinary way as he is transfigured before his disciples. 

Why does this matter to us? Well this episode in the Gospels shows us, that as He is transfigured, we also shall be transfigured - being changed into the glorious sons and daughters of God we have been created to be. This transfiguration of ourselves is through the saving and sanctifying work of Christ. The Transfiguration seems to be a foretaste of Christ's resurrection and indeed all our resurrections - as we follow Christ through our  journeys of life (with all of their joys and tribulations) and then live again - even after our earthly deaths. In the words of St Athanasius, 'For the Son of Man became man, so that we might become God.' Jesus came that we might follow him, be transfigured and live in eternity in the perfect peace, love and joy of Heaven. Now that is something to hold on to - especially when times are tough.

God bless, 
Fr Vince

The Second Sunday Before Lent (Year B)
The Mystery of the Incarnation 

'And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us' (John 1:14)

 Can something or somebody be two things at the same time? As many of you know, I am a school teacher as well as a priest, and this week I had to speak to the children about the Incarnation. This is no easy task - but I drew on a visual image to help me. This was an optical illusion I had found, whereby there was a picture of an animal's head. On closer inspection you could see that it was a duck, with its bill looking upwards. However, it suddenly dawned on the children (and some members of staff!), that if you looked at it the other way around, the image looked like a rabbit. This activity showed that one image could be seen in two very different ways - yet you would be hard pressed to disentangle the duck from the rabbit!

In an infinitely greater and more mysterious way, the person of Jesus Christ, 'The Word made flesh',  can be seen in  similar ways. Yes, he was a person who was born, grew up, lived, suffered and died like we all do - in other words, he was perfectly human. Yet we also believe that incredibly, Jesus is also divine - the very Word of God ('Logos' , in Greek), who spoke the Creation into being - who with the Father and the Holy Spirit is God. Although it can be hard to grasp the nature of Christ intellectually, we must always remember Christ's humanity and divinity - that although he lived, suffered and died like we do - we can also follow him through the gates of death into eternal life; 'life and life in all its fullness.' (Jn 10:10). This is great news: when we follow Christ, our destination is to raised up with him into the loving embrace of the Father. Praise be to God!

Fr Vince

Second Sunday before Lent