There will be no service again this Thursday due to holidays but the will be the normal Parish Mass on Sunday 18th July. Due to the easing of restrictions it is hoped church services will be back to normal the following week.
This Weeks Offering
A couple of weeks ago I paid one of my four yearly visits to the Community of the Resurrection, Mirfield, where I trained to be a priest up to 1995. The community church has changed since those days and although people often complain about change, I do think it looks lovely. Not everyone agreed with the works at the time. Evidently one objector was a relative by marriage of Charles Gore, the founder and first superior of the Community. She said she felt that monks should not expect comfortable seating and efficient heating, because their vocation ought to mean that they accept a state of discomfort. The objection was not upheld and the works went ahead. Apparently Charles Gore himself felt that it was best not to take the most comfortable seat, but it seemed that his distant relative was taking that approach a bit far - not for herself though!
It is true that the Christian calling is not to a life where everything is already comfortable and familiar. Jesus surely gave his disciples a sense of comfort and reassurance, and yet he did not allow them to become too settled. He was always calling them on. So in the Gospel passage today we find him telling his disciples to take no bread or haversack or spare tunic. They were just to go out with the most basic things. In this way there would be none of the cosy distractions which are so easy to cling to. They were not to stand still but were to find their role in the Christian mission, which is all about going out into the world to share the message and to carry out the works of Jesus. This would make them vulnerable at times and they would not always be welcomed with open arms, but they were not to worry about this or about what they were to say.
Faith is something that could be described as comforting, but not always comfortable. Its reassurance and inspiration is something which is a joy to receive. But like the disciples we find that faith has two aspects. One is the experience of comfort and reassurance. The other is the way in which faith disturbs us when we become too settled and does not allow us to become too cosy. If all we seek is our own comfort then we end up becoming stale and losing that sense of God’s living presence among us. To have that lively relationship with God we have to respond to his call and go wherever he leads us. It isn’t always easy, because it is quite normal to want a sense of security and familiarity. We just have to be careful that this doesn’t keep us from growth and above all that it is not allowed to come between us and the God who has called us into his Church.
In the reading from the Prophet Amos, we hear how the priest of Bethel tells Amos to go away from the national temple and to take his prophecy with him. Clearly he and his colleagues did not want the comfortable and settled state of their sanctuary to be disturbed by the words of Amos. After all, Amos was giving voice to what God was really asking of the people. They had their own culture and customs. In effect what the priest was saying was that he did not want to allow anything, not even the living God, to spoil any of these things. This was shocking indeed, but it was just a taster of the hostility and misunderstanding which Jesus himself was to face. The temple of those days and the Church of our own day is not a man-made institution; it is divinely inspired and built up on the cornerstone that is our Lord Jesus Christ.
St Paul, in his writings to the Ephesians, reminds us that we are “claimed as God’s own, chosen from the beginning, under the predetermined plan of the one who guides all things as he decides by his own will.” So it is not for us alone to decide the terms on which we worship and work for God. It is always God’s plan to which we respond and this is revealed to us in Jesus, through the working of the Holy Spirit. Faith can be a refuge in time of need, but it is also a way of life rather than just an escape from the troubles of the world. We do not only receive from God, but also share with others the things we have ourselves been so freely given. This is the Christian understanding of mission and it is what we find in the sending out of the disciples in the Gospel.
Christianity is marked by that understanding of mission. It might sound daunting, but we do not do it alone. Jesus sent his followers out in pairs as a sign that faith is something we hold in common with others, not just something we possess as individuals. We are also to know that wherever we go or whatever we do in his name, Jesus is still with us and will remain with us to the end of time. As we walk with him in the shadow of the Cross we find comfort even in times of trial and we find life in the way of the Cross. This is not a manufactured experience, but one which comes to us from God. Like those monks at Mirfield, we are not to go looking for discomfort and hardship, but we are to remember on the other hand not to give up when things do get harder or less comfortable. Through our struggles as Christians we find consolation, new hope and above all new life.