Thursday, April 13, 2017

A Maundy Thursday word to parishioners and friends

Dear parishioners and friends:

The church has been described as: “that body of disciples who believe in Jesus as their Saviour and who have come to know through him the triune God, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit . . . The first disciples gradually came to know how much they needed Jesus. He was the water and bread, the light and life that human beings long for in the depths of their hearts and souls . . .” 
(William Henn OFM CAP in The People of God, p.18)

We tend to use the word “church” to describe buildings like St Lukes. But the "church" is not the building; it is the community of faith and love that gathers regularly to worship God IN the building. Since the very beginning, Christians have believed that by doing this we are joined, not just with each other, but with the WHOLE community of the Lord's people in heaven and on earth - not to mention the choirs of angels and archangels in glory around the heavenly throne. Merging our praise with theirs, we sing, we pray, and we listen to sermons encouraging us from the Bible to find God’s love in the ups and downs of everyday life. Furthermore, coming to Mass and acknowledging Jesus as our Lord, we gain strength that enables us not to be limited to our own resources in facing the challenges of daily living. And we we share with our brothers and sisters in Christ as we grow together.

At least some who read these words will be going through a time of inner restlessness and perhaps deep dissatisfaction with life. You find it hard to work out what is missing. You might be able to look back to a time when you were very aware of God’s loving presence, but the cares of life and all the things that have happened since those days have caused you to drift. Or maybe you've never really been aware of his love.

What better time than Holy Week to dip your toe in the water and reach out to God. You will find a real welcome in our church’s Holy Week services.

There are different ways of looking at what happened on that first Good Friday when Jesus died on the Cross. All Christians see the Cross as the greatest demonstration there could ever be of God’s love. Some concentrate on Jesus dying to be the sacrifice of love that makes up for our sins and takes takes them away. Others see the death of Jesus as a cosmic battle in which darkness and evil are conquered. Each of these ideas of what God did on the Cross come from the Bible.

I find it really helpful to see the Cross as God’s way of sharing with us in the anguish and pain we know only too well, not just “helping us through it”, but somehow, mysteriously, pouring his love and strength into our lives. from WITHIN what it means to be human. Bishop Kallistos Ware puts it so beautifully:

“ . . . there was a Cross in the heart of God before there was one planted outside Jerusalem; and though the Cross of wood has been taken down, the cross in God’s heart still remains.  It is the Cross of pain and triumph - both together.  And those who can believe this will find that joy is mingled with their cup of bitterness.  They will share on a human level in the divine experience of victorious suffering.”

The Cross is God’s way of “loving the world back to himself.” 

The traditional services of HOLY WEEK are ​life-changing. They are ​the focus of the Christian year. By means of Scripture,​ ​prayer, music, ancient symbols and hallowed rituals, they draw us into the saving events at​ ​the heart of the Gospel, enabling us to know the Lord more deeply, as we share the​ ​“fellowship of his sufferings” (Philippians 3:10).

Last Sunday (“Palm Sunday”) we joined with the people in Jerusalem 2000 years ago in welcoming Jesus into Jerusalem. Tonight (“Maundy Thursday”) we are with him in the Upper Room where he gives us the Mass and washes the feet of the apostles. We follow him to the Garden of Gethsemane where he struggles in agonising prayer. Tomorrow (“Good Friday”) we tread with him the way of sorrows to the hill of Calvary, where we stand with Mary and the others, witnessing - and sharing in -the pain and the victory of the Cross. Then at the Easter Masses we celebrate - with greater joy than ever - the rising of Jesus from the dead and the new life he gives to us.

It is a great privilege for me to be leading you through Holy Week this year. I encourage you to use these next few days as a pilgrimage into the heart of God. You may have been through 70 or 80 Holy Weeks. Or you may be treading the way of the Cross for the very first time. If you do so - however falteringly - with sincerity of heart and openness to God, you will reach the Empty Tomb and experience the power of the Lord’s resurrection.

And if you’ve been away for a while, getting back to church for these special services will help you put the world’s problems and tragedies in perspective, and make a little more sense out of your own life. We look forward to welcoming you. God bless.

- Fr David


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