7th / 8th November 2020

posted 9 Nov 2020, 01:06 by Parish Office   [ updated 16 Nov 2020, 00:57 ]

Homily for the Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A (Remembrance Sunday) – 7 & 8/11/20

On Thursday, England went into lock-down again, and just before 9 am, Cardinal Vincent Nichols spoke on Radio 4 to express his opposition to the cessation of public Masses. The interviewer began by quoting the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, which has described the cessation of public Masses as “a source of deep anguish”. During the interview, which is available on the BBC website, the Cardinal said that this measure was not supported by any scientific evidence, as churches are “very well managed, they are very well cleansed and they are among the safest places that people go to”. He also added, “that’s not true in most places of social gatherings”, making the important point that going to church is not a social gathering; the government’s approach “shows a misunderstanding of the importance of religious faith”. He did, however, say that it was good that churches will be open for private prayer, which was something that wasn’t initially possible under the previous lock-down [see https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/m000nzpc from 2:50.32 onwards]. One consolation, of course, is that it seems that this lock-down has a sell-by date, and should only last for four weeks. But even so, that’s four weeks without public Masses. It leads us to reflect on how important our faith is to us, and how important the Mass is to us.

In the parable we just heard, the bridesmaids were waiting the arrival of the bridegroom, but it says that they all grew drowsy and fell asleep, both the wise ones and the foolish ones. Perhaps if we have grown a bit drowsy, now is the time to arise from sleep. For some, that might be a more literal thing: when Christ the Bridegroom appears at Sunday Mass at the consecration, people need to wake up, get out of bed and get to Mass in the morning – I can remember a student once saying that some of her fellow students take Sunday as a day of rest quite literally, and don’t get up until the afternoon. But there can be other ways in which we can be asleep, sometimes without even realising it.

This year, for my annual retreat, rather than going away to a retreat house, I stayed in the presbytery, and one of the books I read during that time contained the conversion testimony of Fr Steven Scheier.

Fr Steven was involved in a head-on collision with a pickup truck and ended up in intensive care. It was thought that he had only a fifteen percent chance of survival, and that he could be paralysed from the waist down for the rest of his life. But his parishioners prayed the rosary for him every morning and evening, and the Protestants prayed for him too, and he recovered in record time, without any paralysis. But afterwards, something suddenly came to him. Following his accident, He had appeared before the judgement throne of God, and the verdict wasn’t good. Our Lady interceded for him to be given a second chance, and Our Lord granted it.

Why had he been sentenced to hell? His parishioners thought he was a good priest, but that was all a bit of an act. His prayer life was practically nil. He didn’t mind saying Mass, but he didn’t mind missing Mass, either. He liked being popular, which distorted his ministry. He said:

“What brought me to the sentence I received was a string of broken commandments. For twelve years, I pantomimed being a priest. My priesthood, the Lord told me, was only the bitter icing on top of a rotten cake.”

Today, he is quite a different priest. He sees the need to bear witness to the truth, despite ridicule and unpopularity. He is less judgemental, although he recognises the need to recognise right from wrong. He recognises the importance of the role of Our Lady in his life, and the need to pray the Rosary, both in thanksgiving for what happened to him, and also in prayer for others. He says, “I was allowed to come back to tell others, particularly priests, that hell exists, and we are liable to end up there. My mission is also to tell people Divine Mercy exists, and God’s love outweighs his justice.”

Going back to Cardinal Vincent’s interview on Radio 4, he mentioned an initiative that Protestants and Catholics are asked to take part in during this time: to pray every evening at 6 pm that we hold together as a nation, that the best of us comes out, not the worst. We can add to this that our nation comes to recognise Christ once again as the source of “peace on earth”. May this be a time of purification for us all, that we may re-align our focus on the things that really matter.

Our Lady of Walsingham, pray for us.