From 10.00am every Tuesday throughout the year.
Thur 19th Sept 9.30am Said Mass.
Sun 22nd Sept 9.30am Parish Mass.
Memorial Service for the Departed: Sun 27th Oct 3.00pm.
Patronal Festival: Thu 28th Nov 10.00am.
Next Parochial Church Council Wednesday 9th September.
Christmas Fayre 9th Nov St Andrews Community Centre.
Christmas Meal 9th Dec Rockingham Arms.
Christmas Brass 12th Dec in Church..
Next Parochial Church Council Monday 13th November 2019..
When was the last time you lost something that matters to you? Only the other day I thought I had lost a wallet and was stomping around in a very grumpy state of mind. Susan reminded me to look again in the first place I had thought it might be and you know what? There it was. The grumpiness took a few moments moments to subside, but then afterwards I was filled with relief.
If that is how it feels when we find an object, then how much more are we relieved and filled with joy when it is a person who is found. In the news and on social media I see images of young people and sometimes older people who are missing and the pleas that go out to the public to look out for them. A few years ago I spoke with a man whose son had gone missing a couple of years earlier in his early teens. He had last been seen on a CCTV image, boarding a train to London. I can only begin to imagine the distress and desperation that this must bring. Even today he has still not given up hope of someday finding his son. I pray that if and when he does, he will be found alive. I’m quite sure that if he is, his father’s response will not be anger and recrimination but relief and joy.
In the gospel Jesus tells two short parables. One is about a woman who found a lost coin. We might find that her happiness was a bit excessive in throwing a house party, but we can understand the delight in finding what she thought had been lost or stolen. Then he tells of a shepherd who defies all logic by leaving behind 99 sheep in order to look for one that was lost. This would probably have been an exceptional shepherd, but a very devoted one nonetheless.
The context of those two parables was the judgemental attitudes which Jesus encountered among the Pharisees and scribes when he was spending time among the sinners who were seeking him out. Jesus did not reject these people or give them a stern lecture, but he radiated the loving presence of the Father who welcomes the lost son or daughter. Unlike many of the scribes and Pharisees, Jesus did not wait to see perfection in other people before he reached out to them and welcomed them back home.
Jesus then moves on to tell a longer story, whose message has entered into our cultural memory as that of the Prodigal Son. The one who left behind his father and his home and who blew his inheritance on earthly pleasures now returns home. He is met first of all by his father, not with condemnation but with unconditional love. His brother reserves a frostier kind of welcome. In fact he doesn’t welcome his brother home at all but launches into a tirade against his father, ridiculing him for his lavish generosity.
To those who heard the story, the message was very clear. The father in the parable is an image of God. The lost son is a symbol of all those human beings who have wandered away from God and who have experienced a sense of emptiness and confusion. The older brother, in contrast, represents those who believe themselves to be beyond reproach and who reserve for themselves the right to judge others, but whose hearts have grown hard and who have lost light of the living God. Both these sons are lost, but just in different ways.
I don’t think that Jesus is saying that there are two different categories of people. Probably at different times of life most people can experience being lost in both those ways. If we look hard enough we can perhaps identify, even if it is only in a diluted way, with both sons. Human beings can be wilful and selfish, but they can also be self-righteous and judgemental.
What this parable tells us is that God never gives up waiting for our return and is ready to welcome us back home. St Paul speaks of his own overwhelming experience of conversion and of the mercy of God in his first letter to Timothy. His message is that if he, a persecutor of the followers of Christ, could be forgiven, then this would be a powerful testimony to generations to come. No one is outside the scope of God’s mercy. We need to experience for ourselves the way in which God has been merciful in our own lives. Then, as Christians, we are called to show that same attitude of mercy and compassion to the people who cross our path.
One hymn which seems to sum up the message we are called to share is: “There’s a wideness in God’s mercy.”
There is no place where earth’s sorrows
Are more felt than up in Heaven;
There is no place where earth’s failings
Have such kindly judgment given.
This is a much better message for the world than the cold and judgemental attitude of the scribes and Pharisees. It was Jean Vanier who said:
“The person in misery does not need a look that judges and criticises, but a comforting presence that brings peace, hope and life”
How often have we heard of some misfortune or passed someone on the street and thought: “Well, they’ve obviously brought it on themselves”?
It is so much easier to judge than to display unconditional love. That great spiritual writer Dietrich Bonhoeffer said: “Judging others makes us blind, whereas love is illuminating. By judging others we blind ourselves to our own evil and to the grace which others are just as entitled to as we are.”
Let us pray for that same grace, that we may seek out the lost, and if we feel lost ourselves to remember that we believe in a God who actively seeks us out. The Lord is reaching out to us now… Let us also pray for grace not to judge but rather, that we might find it in ourselves to love as God loves us. Amen.