Demonstration at the Nicaraguan Embassy, London, 1.9.2018

Demonstation in front of Nicaraguan Embassy, London

Wednesday 5th September

A friend of mine, Bishop Silvio Baez, from Nicaragua, a member of the Discalced Carmelites Order, was recently set upon by government thugs, who stabbed, beat him and took off his ring, and all in front of the Papal Nuncio and his Archbishop. He was singled out for this treatment because he dares to defy the government of Daniel Ortega, through his constant messages on social media; alerting the world to what is happening in his beloved country.

I first met Bishop Baez when he came to visit Preston, Lancashire in the 1980’s. He was then a student in Rome. I was struck by his politeness and manners. He was quiet and shy but could be fun to be with. He told me a lot about his home country Nicaragua. I think he was surprised that I knew so much, as I had been involved in some kind of Central American rights group, and much of our time was spent supporting Daniel Ortega in his efforts to overthrow the unjust Somoza regime. How ironic that he should now turn against his own people. After Silvio’s ordination he was asked to lecture in Rome at our Discalced Carmelite Pontifical College. It was there in 2003 that I renewed my friendship with him. He was subsequently made auxiliar Bishop of Managua.

Bishop Baez has refused to be cowed by the attack and the constant threats. I know the experience frightened him, which is why I admire his courage. The people of Nicaragua cannot demonstrate their disapproval, or when the do, the government violently suppresses them. Even the Church has come under attack. The people deserve our support

Yesterday the UN condemned the Nicaraguan government for what it is doing. It is time the rest of the world took note and did something. On Wednesday 5th September we shall be demonstrating outside the Nicaraguan Embassy from 12.00 to 13.00. All the various Nicaraguan rights groups have been contacted. Judging by the response there could be a lot of people there. I hope to take a group from the Church: the Embassy is just up the road from us in Kensington Church Street (Vicarage House, W8 4DB). The idea is to show solidarity with the people of Nicaragua, and put pressure on the government to cease the killings, arrests, torture and rapes. We can be a voice for the voiceless.

My homily for 21st Sunday

Not everyone could believe in Jesus

“It’s the spirit that gives life, the flesh has nothing to offer”. Such statements confused some of Jesus followers. They understood all about “flesh” but they had little or no idea about “spirit”. They understood when Jesus gave them bread to eat; they were hungry and he filled their stomachs. And so they followed him, in the hope that they would never be hungry again.

Jesus knew this; he knew people won’t listen if their stomachs are empty. So he gave them bread to eat. However, when he started talking about spiritual food some perhaps many didn’t understand. “I’ll give you my body to eat”, he taught, “If you eat this bread you will live forever”. You can almost hear the people whispering: “what’s he talking about”? Or, as they say in ‘Eastenders’: “Whot’s e on about?”

It’s interesting to note that Jesus knew some wouldn’t understand him, when he said, “but there are some of you who do not believe”. Then he asks the twelve if they believe, “what about you do you want to go away too”? As always Peter is the first to speak. He doesn’t answer Jesus question with a “yes”, instead he answers with a question: “Lord, to whom shall we go”? Peter and the other disiples put their trust in him. They didn’t fully understand everything he was saying and for them too it was easier to understand Jesus when he talked about “flesh” rather than the “spirit”. They were fishermen for the most part, not monks, but men who earned their living by the sweat of their brow, whose main concern was to put food on the table for their families. That kind of food they understood only too well.

Peter doesn’t really understand the world of the spirit but he trusts in Jesus, indeed he loves Jesus. And so he and the other eleven don’t walk away; rather they walk behind him. Sometimes we too don’t understand the world of the spirit. When Jesus says, “it’s the spirit that gives life, the flesh has nothing to offer”; do we fully understand what he is saying?

We say don’t we, “God’s ways are not our ways”; in other words, we don’t always understand. Our faith in him can be tested at times but so be it. When someone we love dies, especially if they are not so old, that can test our faith in him. It’s as such times that we do reflect more about the spirit. Do not expect to understand everything, but put your trust in Him. Listen to Him. And you will not go wrong. After all, he has the message of eternal life, not just of this life.

Homily for 20th Sunday

It is easy to be a fool. A Good Christian will be wise.

I like the first reading as it speaks of preparing a feast; feasting is a lovely thought, especially when you’re hungry, and we’re coming up to lunchtime. The theme of Wisdom is introduced in that reading, as if Wisdom were the host: ‘She has slaughtered her beasts, [‘she’ being Wisdom], prepared her wine, she has laid the table. And then all are invited to the feast and especially the ignorant and foolish . ‘Come and eat my bread’ says Wisdom, and drink my wine, leave your folly and you will live’. Do you notice how the ignorant and foolish are specially invited?

This mention of foolishness jumped out at me. I don’t know why exactly, but that happens sometimes. I am reading a familiar passage from Scripture and a particular passage will jumpout at me, so to speak. I think many of us can identify with foolishness. When I look at my life I began by doing and now that I am older and wiser, I still do foolish things. I hear people saying in their old age that if they had their life back again they wouldn’t change a thing. Well, I would; given the chance I would love to omit all the foolish things I did in my youth and even after that. I went to Rome and left my credit card in a cash-machine; I went to Scotland and lost my wallet. Last week I went to the wrong carmelite convent; I went to Ware in Hertfordshire instead of Preston, Lancashire. I could go on and on. I have gone to the airport without my passport. Said hello to someone at a railway station who looked like a friend but wasn’t! I’ll stop there.

However, I don’t think I’m the only one who does foolish things. In fact, I know I’m not. The point Christ is making is that unless you eat his body and blood, then we would be even more foolish. There is a moral side to being foolish, or rather, an immoral side. It is so easy to go astray and do foolish things. Alcohol, too much of it, can lead people to do foolish things. Then there are temptations. It was Oscar Wilde who said, “I can overcome everything, except temptation”. He was a great poet but foolish at time. The wonder is that we are not more foolish more of the time. Is it any wonder that Christ compared us to sheep without a shepherd.

One doesn’t normally link holy communion with wisdom, and yet that is what we are to take away from our readings today. The person who receives Christ’s body and blood will be someone who avoids foolishness. Not automatically of course; we all have to struggle. But Christ gives us wisdom. He also gives us strength to overcome temptation. His body and blood are really food and drink. Well, food strengthens a person. Someone who goes without food becomes weak and vulnerable. But the person who feeds themselves with the body and blood of Christ will be strong. God will make them strong. God will protect them. God will help them to avoid doing stupid things.

Sometimes I meet catholics who have been foolish, and sometimes really foolish. And they say they can’t go to communion because they are not worthy. But that really is foolish. It is the body and blood of Christ that will help them overcome their foolishness, and stop them becoming even worse. We should never deny ourselves the remedy for our souls out of some false sense of humility. God knows our foolishness and yet He loves us. He wants to feed us and keep up strong and happy. I suspect, that if you are like me, you will continue to do foolish things; hopefully not too foolish. But God says to us: come to me and I will help you, I will keep you on the right path. Why wouldn’t we want to do that. Only a fool would turn away.

My homily for 19th Sunday of the Year

Life can sometimes be boring, monotonous or just difficult

This time of the year the vast majority of people are on holiday. And holidays are wonderful. But great as they are, generally we want to get back from them; get back to normality. We know that life can’t be one long holiday, so it is good to get back to all that is familiar. But sometimes holidays can be so good that we don’t want them to end; we just want to stay where we are for ever. Maybe, sometimes, this isn’t so much because of the holiday rather that we don’t want to go back to reality.

Life can be boring; it can be dull; monotonous, routine; and sometimes it can be a lot lot worse. I’m sure that more than one person can identify with Elijah in the first reading:he sat under a bush and says to God: “I’ve had enough”. Have you ever felt like saying that? Maybe you’ve actually said it: you wouldn’t be alone. What does Elijah do? He lays down, he can’t go on, and he goes to sleep; no doubt hoping that when he awoke all would be changed; that life would be different, easier; or, perhaps, he hoped he never would awake again. Elijah may be an ancient profit, but there are many people today who know exactly how he felt.

In Elijah’s case an angel touches him and tells him to ‘get up and eat, or the journey will be too long for you’. And so he does. We don’t usually have Angels waking us up and telling us to eat, but we do have Christ. He sees us when we’re tired and he feels compassion. He knows when we just want to lie down; to be left alone; when all we want to do is sleep. He encourages us. Every Sunday he feeds us with his own body and blood. In this way he touches our lives; he lifts us up; he supports us when we’re feeling down. This is why we need to come to Church. We need to be strengthened for our journey in life.

Every Sunday the lord touches our lives in a special way. He does this because he loves us. He knows our problems, our worries and our cares. He knows that these can get on top of us at times. But he insists that we come together on a Sunday so that we may receive the sustenance we need to carry on. Life is not one long holiday. If only it was. But it isn’t. No, life can be hard and difficult. Holidays help us to keep going. But more significantly and importantly, the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ help us in ways that a holiday never could. As the psalmist says: “This poor man called; the Lord heard him and rescued him from all his distress”.

My homily for 18th Sunday 2018

18th Sunday of the Year (B) 2018

Those who heal people will always have a large following. We recently had a priest in this church, who has a gift for healing, our Church was packed. Jesus was a healer a miracle worker. We see in this Gospel a large number of people following him. They have seen the miracles he worked and especially the miracles of the loaves and fish. However, Jesus is no fool, he knows that their reasons are mixed. He tells them straight: “You are not looking for me because you have seen the signs but because you have had all the bread you wanted to eat”. We saw last week how he gave them as much bread as they wanted and more. He didn’t turn them away. He didn’t accuse them of hypocrisy. But now they have a full stomach he talks about that other level of hunger: the hunger for God and truth, something much deeper but much less obvious.

Jesus tells them: “Do not work for food that cannot last, but work for food that endures to eternal life, the kind of food the Son of Man is offering you”. I’m not sure they understood what he was saying, but, they knew that you don’t get something for nothing. So they ask him; “What are we to do if we are to do the works that God wants”. They understood that they would have to do something. Jesus response must have confused them, because he doesn’t tell them to do anything, instead he asks them to believe in him; or, as he put it: “This is working for God: you must believe in the one He has sent”. That’s a very different concept from doing something, its seemed so easy, too easy, and it didn’t make sense to many of them; it wasn’t the way they had been brought up, which was your earn you bread, as they say in Yorkshire, “you get aught for naught”.

Jesus is offering them the gift of faith but so many can’t see this; they can see bread, and can and are willing to do something for this. But the idea that you can get something for nothing they don’t understand. But Jesus says yes, faith is free, you can’t earn it, or work for it, it is given, it’s a gift.

Is Jesus fighting a losing battle? No, not really, but it is clearly difficult for some to understand. Jesus is speaking on a different level. He is not so much concerned about bread that is consumed and then a few hours later one wants more, no, Jesus’ concern is about things eternal; things you can’t see, or feel, or smell. He wants them to hunger for the food that lasts forever. Indeed, Jesus says, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never be hungry; he who believes in me will never thirst”. Notice those two “nevers”: never be hungry, never thirst. Those who did understand him were blessed indeed. They still needed bread but now they understood that Jesus was talking about something much more important than bread; eternal bread; his own body.

Jesus isn’t asking them nor us to understand how exactly he becomes this bread. All he is asking them is to believe in him. In other words, if they believe him then he will help them to understand. It is a question of faith. Not doing things, but having faith in the son of God, who loved us and gave himself for us, in the form of bread. All we need say is, “Amen, I believe”.