24th/ 25th July 2021

posted 6 Aug 2021, 05:39 by Parish Office
Homily for the Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B (24 & 25/7/21)
 What was it like to be with Our Lord during those three years of His public ministry? I’m not just thinking in terms of someone who turned up, listened, watched and then went home. I’m thinking more in terms of the disciples who travelled around with Him, got to know Him and speak to Him personally. Did He show at times a certain sense of humour, or pull people’s legs? In the Gospel today, literally thousands of people had turned up to see Him. And now it’s time to eat something. But they couldn’t go down to the supermarket – and besides, even if they could, the average supermarket couldn’t cope with the sudden arrival of five thousand families on its doorstep. What to do? Jesus asks the apostles. It seems as if they almost panic. “Two hundred denarii would only buy enough to give them a small piece each” … “There is a small boy here with five barley loaves and two fish; but what is that between so many?” Did Jesus have a twinkle in His eye as He asked them what they should do? Or did He keep His thoughts more hidden? When I was in my second parish of Corpus Christi, Stechford, one evening I was in the sacristy getting ready for the Saturday evening Mass. The sacristan said to me something like, “Make the Mass short, Father”. I can’t remember exactly what I said to him, but I remember that I kept a completely serious face, whilst inside I laughed. 
The Mass had to be long that evening. The Dean was celebrating the Saturday evening Mass at St Wilfrid’s in Castle Bromwich, and then was coming to speak to the parish about the two parishes being asked to work together. It would be no good if when he arrived, the Mass had finished and most people had decided to go home. So clearly Our Lord has something of the teacher about Him. Class, here’s a problem. How do we solve it? No idea? Let me show you how. Get the people to sit down and I’ll do the rest. But if He managed to teach the apostles, at the time, the people are slow to leave old ideas behind. They think of the Messiah in terms of an earthly king who will beat up the Romans and re-establish the Jewish kingdom. “Jesus, who could see they were about to come and take him by force and make him king, escaped to the hills by himself.” These people need to be handled with care. Going back to the two parishes in Birmingham, things worked out well in the end. 
The Dean had arrived by the time we got to the Our Father, so he was able to have a captive audience for what he had to say after the distribution of Holy Communion. The two parishes would be sharing priests, but it wouldn’t be a simple joining of two parishes together, but rather the forming of a cluster of parishes in the area, with different priests helping out with different things to share the load. I would be what I call almost-but-not-quite-parish-priest of St Wilfrid’s, another priest would help me with the pastoral work, and another would deal with the finances, whilst a fourth would be there for moral support. New times, new approaches. 
You’ve heard a bit so far about the diocesan vision, but it’s probably going to catch a lot more people’s attention once it starts talking about the nitty gritty of what might actually happen in parish life. Of course, at the moment, this is part of the discernment process. But as priests retire, what will the mission of the Church in this diocese look like? Which parishes will amalgamate? How can the load be shared across the deanery to make things more efficient? Where will we have to cut our losses? What will be the new approaches that will bring new life? We can be a bit like the apostles, when Our Lord said, “Where can we buy some bread for these people to eat?” It’s a question that might make some people break into a cold sweat. “Two hundred denarii would only buy enough to give them a small piece each.” But Our Lord knows what He is going to do. We don’t have the plan. He does. It’s for us to discern what His plan is – and it might surprise us. Our job is to follow the Lord, and we leave the rest to Him