We are about to embark on our Lenten Journey once again! Ash Wednesday, (14th February) marks the beginning of this Penitential Season. Every year we make this journey with various resolutions and promises. Some may make the personal sacrifices of giving up some luxury or pleasure; others may embrace an additional penance or task, which of course, is always personal to the individual. But the main objective of the Lenten Season is to help to prepare us for the greatest event within the whole history of creation and the world, that at a moment in time, God’s only Son Jesus Christ was raised from death, and through the saving action of the Cross, won salvation for the whole human race!
Hopefully, the desire of every Catholic Christian is to deepen their relationship with the Living Lord Jesus, and anything that can help in this process can only be a good thing! Whether it’s our personal sacrifices or our additional penances, we have these next several weeks to really enter into the spirit of the Season.
On Ash Wednesday, we are starkly reminded of our own mortality; we are signed in ash on our foreheads with the Cross of Christ, reminding us of the Saving Action of Jesus Christ, but also our own mortality, “remember you are dust, and unto dust you shall return” – and we are invited to enter into the Divine Mystery with the Lord; to travel with him through these forty days, ultimately through to his Passion Death and Resurrection. There will be three masses on Ash Wednesday: 9.00am, 12.15pm & 8.00pm. What more fitting way to enter into the Holy Season than to ask the Lord to bless us and our families. Please come and receive your ashes, which will be distributed at all the masses!
“Because of the increase of iniquity, the love of many will grow cold.” (Matthew 24:12).This is the theme of Pope Francis’ Lenten message this year. God in his providence offers us each year the season of Lent as a “sacramental sign of our conversion”. Lent summons us, and enables us, to come back to the Lord wholeheartedly and in every aspect of our life. May God Bless You All
Dear Friends in Christ
We tend to think of leprosy as an ancient disease when, in fact, it is actually sadly very much also a modern one, infecting millions of people even today. Over six hundred people are diagnosed every day, fifty of which are children. Over three million people are living with undiagnosed leprosy and over four million are living with a disability caused by leprosy. Now as then, the disease carried a terrible stigma, with sufferers being cast out and rejected by their families and their communities.
Leprosy is a bacterial infection which affects the skin and nervous system.
The first symptom is usually a patch of discoloured skin and, if left untreated, the disease can cause loss of sensation, resulting in amputation, ulcers and blindness. Leprosy is passed through coughing, sneezing a long-term contact with someone who has the disease. That’s the bad news. The good news is that it is now completely curable through multi-drug therapy.
In Jesus’ day things were even worse for lepers – they were cast out of the community and all contact was forbidden. For Mark, Jesus is the healer of every disease and sickness, both physical and spiritual. Although we are unlikely to be infected with leprosy. We are all afflicted with the leprosy of sin. We all sin against God, ourselves, and against others. Furthermore, sin is infectious: if we are angry, we pass on anger; if we are resentful we pass on resentment; if we are impatient, intolerant and unkind, these vices are passed on, one to another.
Jesus came to make us all clean – clean of sin and free of its debilitating consequences. Jesus wants us to know his healing touch but this can only happen if we recognise, as the leper does into today’s gospel, that we need healing. Lepers of old would cry our ‘Unclean! Unclean!’ We know deep in our hearts that we need to be cleansed, purified and liberated from the sin that prevents us from enjoying life to the full. We seek the healing of Christ in many ways; through prayer and in reading the Scriptures, but supremely through the healing presence of Christ in the Eucharist.
Dear Friends in Christ,
On behalf of our Stewards of the Gospel, I would like to express my sincere gratitude to all of the parishioners who attended the Parish Consultation Group Meeting last Wednesday, there were a good number of parishioners, and to receive your input will be extremely beneficial when we have to make our report to the diocese with regards the proposals and changes that will take place at parish and diocesan levels! One cannot become complacent about our parish structures and provisions, that’s why the diocese is seriously looking at all aspects of parish and diocesan life. In truth, the reality is, that there are far fewer priests than there were 25 years ago. Most priests are on their own in parishes, this also applies to parishes that would have had three and four priests in the past, our own included. Many priests have other functions and ministries in the diocese on top of their parochial duties, and the proposals to link two and three parishes within the next ten years are going to affect every community!
On a positive note, I feel that this is a wonderful opportunity for the gifts and talents of all our parishioners to come to the forefront. The greatest asset to every parish community is the people. Your giftedness, your good will, your kindness and generosity, are the building blocks of a great parish. I have been here 16 years, and have been extremely happy to have worked with so many wonderful people. The future is exciting; it gives us an opportunity to explore new methods of parochial ministry, with the training of Catechists, and other people who can assume various apostolates and ministries throughout the parish. My philosophy as a priest of nearly 37 years has always been to enable and encourage all of our parishioners to assume their rightful place within the life of faith and the Church. And to this end it is incredible to witness wonderful growth and strength within the parish community.
Each one of you has something incredible to offer to God and the Church! If you feel that you would like to be involved, perhaps as a member of our newly constituted Parish Council, please see Leona Foster or myself. There are many other groups in the parish that you can be involved in, there is something for everyone. Also we will be starting some new groups, Bible Study, Apologetics Course, Series of talks, etc. Anything that can help in the mission of Evangelisation – proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ – can only be a good thing! When you know and understand about your faith it helps our commitment! Let us pray daily for our Parish!
May God Bless You All
Dear Friends in Christ Fourth Sunday of the Year 2018
Jesus’ healing ministry included delivering people from oppression and possession of evil spirits. In other words, Jesus bore witness both to the reality and personification of evil. He affirmed the reality of demons, demon possession and the devil. The devil has various names: the Evil One, Satan, Beelzebub and the Father of lies. It is impossible to read the New Testament without encountering this reality.
There is certainly at work and at play nowadays a tendency to pooh-pooh evil and certainly the idea of personified evil in the form of the devil – we like to feel we have grown out of this, deliverance from evil and the demonic realm is considered extreme or unscientific, and those suffering from such torment are directed towards medical intervention or psychiatry. The idea of being prayed over to be liberated from the clutches of demons or evil isn’t embraced or accepted today. This is despite the Scriptures bearing eloquent witness to the reality and power of evil over us, despite the testimony of the saints. St. John Vianney wrestled with ‘the Grappin’ (as he called the devil) so violently that his bed would shake. St Ignatius of Loyola taught that the gift of discernment within the movement of God’s Spirit and without the influence upon us of evil spirits.
Pope Francis himself has invited fierce criticism for his bold and unambiguous teaching about the reality of the devil and demons. In so doing, he is following in the footsteps of Pope Paul VI, who famously said that ‘the smoke of Satan’ had entered the temple of God and that one of the major needs of the Church was to ‘defend ourselves from that evil that we call the devil.’
Every time we pray the ‘Our Father’ we humbly ask that we be delivered from evil. The Catechism of the Catholic Church reinforces this teaching: ‘In this petition, evil is not an abstraction, but refers to a person, Satan, the Evil One, the angel who opposed God. The devil (dia-bolis) is the one who ‘”throws himself across” God’s plan and his work of salvation accomplished in Christ’. (para 2851)