Dear Friends in Christ,
2nd Sunday of Lent 2019
On a number of occasions in his ministry Jesus chose to take only Peter, James and John with him. One of those was the healing of Jairus’ daughter, and another was his last visit to Gethsemane. They were also with him when, as we read in the Gospel today, his human body was transfigured and glowed with divine life of a glorified and resurrected body. The disciples were granted, if you like, a glimpse of heaven. Peter, vividly recalled the event: ‘we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For when he received honour and glory form God the Father and the voice was borne to him by the Messianic Glory “This is my Beloved Son, with who I am well pleased,” we heard this voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain’.
We believe in the resurrection of the body – it is always important to be clear on this point. We believe in the hope that on the last day our bodies will rise and be resplendent and illuminated with the life of God, just as Jesus’ body was at the Transfiguration. What a hope! What a future! What a destiny! What kind of body it will be we don’t know. Our own bodies are subject to death, decay and corruption but we live in hope of resurrection.
Paul poses the question we all ask: ‘How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come? There will always be an element of mystery about this – how can we know for sure what kind of body it will be? The Apostle explains that there are earthly bodies and there are heavenly bodies, and they both have their own beauty and splendour. However, whereas the earthly body dies, the heavenly body is not subject to corruption, and that is our hope. What we do know for sure is that just as we have borne the likeness of Jesus on earth, so in heaven we shall bear the likeness of the heavenly transfigured Jesus.
‘For by the sacrifice of his own body, he(Jesus) did two things. He put an end to the law of death which barred our way; and he made a new beginning of life for us, by giving us hope of resurrection (St. Athanasius).
Dear Friends in Christ
1st Sunday of Lent 2019
The Spirit led Jesus into the desert for forty days to be tempted and tested. During Lent we too are let by the Spirit into the mystery of Jesus’ sojourn in the desert. ‘By the solemn forty days of Lent the Church united herself each year to the mystery of Jesus in the desert.’ We too, during this holy season, can expect to be tempted.
The name Satan means ‘adversary’. In the book of Job we are given a vivid picture of Satan in God’s heavenly court, along with all the other angels, where he has the role of accuser or prosecutor. The Scriptures identify Satan as the serpent in the Garden of Eden who tempted Adam and Eve, and therefore, as the origin of sin and temptation. What the Scriptures and tradition make clear is that humankind has a mortal enemy who, although a finite being created by God, is in a desperate struggle to overthrow God’s reign, usurp his Lordship and lead his creation into darkness and death. On Easter Sunday each of us will recite our Baptismal promises and in doing so renew them. Bear this in mind as we move through Lent, because as you will be aware, a renewal of our baptismal promises involves us actively, freely voluntarily rejecting Satan.
Lent is also a time for us to discover anew and afresh the Gospel, the ‘Good News’, which Jesus began to proclaim immediately after his time of testing. What is the Good News? The Good News is a message of two parts. The first part is to repent and the second part is to believe in the Gospel. We walk together on this road marked out for us by the Church and take up our call to stand firm and resist the devil, and knowing that he will flee, and embrace freely and with love the Gospel, which is Christ with us and in us, the hope of Salvation.
‘In these days, therefore, let us add something beyond the wonted measure of our service, such as private prayers and abstinence in food and drink. Let each one, over and above the measure prescribed for him; offer God something of his own free will in the joy of the Holy Spirit.’ (St. Benedict).
Dear Friends in Christ
8th Sunday of the Year 2019
Today’s gospel from St. Luke follows immediately upon his beautiful explanation of unconditional love whereby we are to love even our enemies. This kind of love is not natural. It can come only with the grace of God and as a result of much work and effort. But this is precisely the challenge of today’s gospel for each one of us. To be so positive of all other people that we can accept them for who and what they are, that we can overcome those occasions when we tend to misjudge others, that we can stress the good in others and hope they can do the same for us.
The blind cannot lead the blind. And a disciple cannot be a good disciple unless he or she has learned from the teacher. Everyone who is fully trained is like the teacher who knows how to cure the blind. Before you can be a good disciple and teach others you must take care of yourself. Do not try to take a speck out of your brother’s eye until you have taken the board out of your own. Finally, only when you have purified yourself can you produce the good works that the teacher requires. Discipleship asks us to produce good deeds. But to produce them requires the integrity and purity of heart found in the teacher. When people see your good deeds they will know that this is because you have a good heart.
It sounds like a kind of Christian utopia, doesn’t it? But Christ came to change the work, to transform the world according to the will of His Father. Today’s gospel is a challenge, a bold challenge for each one of us followers of Jesus.
The final parable, which we do not read today, is about building on the solid foundation of rock and not on sand. This is the only way to face the difficulties a disciple will encounter and survive!
Dear Friends in Christ,
Full Newsletter for 7th Sunday of the Year 2019
Today’s gospel reading is a continuation of the teaching that began in last Sunday’s gospel. We continue to hear Jesus’ Sermon on the Plain. Recall that in Luke’s Gospel, this teaching is addressed to Jesus’ disciples. This is contrast to the parallel found in Matthew’s Gospel, the Sermon on the Mount, in which Jesus’ words are addressed to both the disciples and to the crowds.
These words from Jesus’ teaching are familiar to us. They constitute the crux and the challenge of what it means to be a disciple: Love your enemies, turn the other cheek, give to those who ask, do unto others, lend without expecting repayment, judge not lest you be judged.
There are several similarities between Luke’s and Matthew’s report of Jesus’ great teaching. Both begin with the Beatitudes. Matthew includes nearly all the content that Luke does; the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew’s Gospel is longer than Luke’s Sermon on the Plain. There are, however, differences in language and nuance. For example, Matthew presents this portion of the teaching as a contrast between Jesus’ teaching and the teachings of the law and the prophets. This is in keeping with Matthew’s concern to address his predominantly Jewish audience. It is likely that Luke omits this contrast because it was unnecessary for the Gentile believers for whom Luke is writing.
Another point of contrast between Matthew and Luke’s presentation is the terminology. In Luke, Jesus contrasts the behavior of his followers with the behavior of “sinners.” In Matthew, Jesus contrasts the behavior desired with the behavior of tax collectors and Gentiles. Matthew concludes the teaching about love of enemies with the admonition to be perfect as God is perfect; Luke concludes by emphasizing God’s mercy.
In both Gospels, Jesus’ words challenge those who would follow him to be more like God. God loves us beyond our expectations, beyond anything we can possibly imagine. In response to God’s love, we are to love as God loves, beyond expectations and with a depth beyond imagining.
7th Sunday of the Year
Dear Friends in Christ,
I would like to take this opportunity of sharing some important news with you. Many of our parents already know that our Head teacher of St. John Fisher Primary School, Mrs. Patricia Bryson will be leaving us at the end of April 2019. We will be very sad to see her go, as over the past three years she has contributed so much in leading her staff and the school to once again regain our ‘Good’ rating through Ofsted. Mrs. Bryson’s only daughter was gravely sick over a year ago with cancer, and she has decided to relocate to Ireland where her daughter is now living. We wish her every happiness and success in all of her future endeavours. Family is everything!
In a bid to help the school, which certainly suffered financially during the interregnum of appointing Mrs Bryson as Head back in 2017; in light of the recent sale of the site of St. Thomas More site in Debden, in conjunction with the permissions of the Trustees & Finance Board of the Diocese of Brentwood, our parish has committed to help the school financially over the next five years, by setting up a fund to give additional financial support & aid to the school in the education of our children. Obviously this is a great commitment on behalf of the parish, and I would be grateful if you could keep this in mind when making your Weekly Offertory contribution.
Our Catholic Primary School is a wonderful asset to our Parish, and many generations of children have gone through the school since its establishment by the Chigwell sisters in 1955. For all those who value Catholic Education please be supportive of St. John Fisher School. Please also pray that the Lord will send us a good New Head teacher to replace Mrs Bryson.
May God Bless You All,
Thank you to the many parishioners who came to our meeting in February. A number of people also took the trouble to send their apologies that they were unable to attend this time. We hope to see you next time! There is a lot of goodwill and positive energy to build our parish community and actively welcome new members as well as those who may have lapsed from their faith. We should like to encourage all of you to help and take part in the following initiatives:
Daffodils for Mothering Sunday: We would like to buy some daffodils for our children to give out to parishioners on the weekend of Mother’s Day (Sunday 31st March). Would you be willing to sponsor the daffodils? If so, please let Fr John know. We would also like to encourage our teenagers to help the younger children distribute the daffodils. Teenagers willing to help should speak to Kathryn Poulter firstname.lastname@example.org or Iain McLay.
Parish forest walk on Sunday 28th April: An informal chance to socialise with fellow parishioners. Further details to come nearer the time. Bring family and friends!
Car pool: We are aiming to form a list of volunteers to provide lifts for people to our weekend Masses. Could you help? If you could volunteer or would like more details, please contact Grainne 07402 907594, Emma 07790 767829 or Marjorie 07905 619566.
Bible study/faith sharing group: Open to all who are interested in the Sacred Scriptures and in understanding them. The six-week programme will meet on Wednesdays, beginning on 15th May. Everyone welcome!
Moving forward with our Parish Evangelisation Team!
Following the popular and fruitful Forming Intentional Disciples programme in the autumn, we now have a Parish Evangelisation Team (PET) that meets monthly to:
Reflect on, and to discuss, opportunities to spread the Good News among our own parishioners and the wider community;
Plan and organise a wide range of activities in our parish;
Help each other to develop our faith and our relationship with Jesus Christ through words and actions.
Dear Friends in Christ,
Full Newsletter of 6th Sunday of the Year 2019
Today’s gospel reading is the beginning of what is often called the Sermon on the Plain. We find a parallel to this passage in Matthew 5:1-7,11 that is often called the Sermon on the Mount. As these titles suggest, there are differences and similarities between these gospel readings. As Luke introduces the location of Jesus’ teaching, Jesus teaches on level ground, alongside the disciples and the crowd. Luke presents Jesus’ authority in a different light. He is God among us.
Another distinction found in Luke’s version is the audience. Luke’s Sermon on the Plain is addressed to Jesus’ disciples, although in the presence of the crowd; Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount is addressed to the crowd. In keeping with this style, the Beatitudes in Luke’s Gospel sound more personal than those in Matthew’s Gospel—Luke uses the article “you” whereas Matthew uses “they” or “those.” There is also a difference in number: Matthew describes eight beatitudes; Luke presents just four, each of which has a parallel warning.
The form of the Beatitudes found in Luke’s and Matthew’s Gospel is not unique to Jesus. Beatitudes are found in the Old Testament, such as in the Psalms and in Wisdom literature. They are a way to teach about who will find favour with God. The word blessed in this context might be translated as “happy,” “fortunate,” or “favoured.”
As we listen to this Gospel, the Beatitudes jar our sensibilities. Those who are poor, hungry, weeping, or persecuted are called blessed. This is, indeed, a Gospel of reversals. Those often thought to have been forgotten by God are called blessed. In the list of “woes,” those whom we might ordinarily describe as blessed by God are warned about their peril. Riches, possessions, laughter, reputation . . . these are not things that we can depend upon as sources of eternal happiness. They not only fail to deliver on their promise; our misplaced trust in them will lead to our demise. The ultimate peril is in misidentifying the source of our eternal happiness.
The Beatitudes are often described as a framework for Christian living. Our vocation as Christians is not to be first in this world, but rather to be first in the eyes of God. We are challenged to examine our present situation in the context of our ultimate horizon, the Kingdom of God.