Daily Reflections for the 25th Week of Ordinary Time (Year A)
Monday 21st September – Feast of St Matthew (Apostle)
Today we celebrate the feast day of St Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist. Born in Capernaum who before he was called by Jesus was a hated tax collector. However the call of Jesus changed his life when he gave his life to the Gospel.
We gather on this feast day and begin by asking for God’s loving mercy and forgiveness.
Matthew, as a tax collector, had the experience of being an outsider, of being excluded. The problem was self-inflicted, because he had become a collaborator with the Romans against his own people. As a tax collector, he had sold his soul for a shekel and lost any place or privilege he might have had among his own people. His only society was the company of other tax collectors. It was a limited existence with no prospects, until the day, when Jesus saw him, and made him an offer he could not refuse. “Come, follow me.” Matthew did not need asking twice. Here was the road back to life, the road to human community.
The company of Jesus, Matthew discovered, does not have boundaries or no-go areas. It makes no distinctions, it holds no grudges. No matter who we are, no matter what we have done, there is a place for us in the company of the Jesus, if we wish to take it.
Speaking about this all-embracing love, Jesus teaches his followers not to save their greetings simply for their own kind. “Even the tax collectors do that much” Jesus says. That remark was not lost on Matthew! He remembers the days of narrow-mindedness and narrow living. Now, the life of Jesus teaches us to be merciful towards human failings, and more, to love our enemies. That is the way of Jesus, that is the way Matthew teaches us in His Gospel.
Sunday 20th September – Home Mission Sunday
Today we celebrate Home Mission Sunday when we are invited to pray for the Church’s work of evangelisation in England and Wales. The work of evangelisation always begins with our families, in our homes and the wider family of the parish.
We pause for a few moments and reflect upon how we can respond to the call of Jesus to bring his Good News to those who long to hear God’s message of love and forgiveness
I have now been a priest for 21 years and in that time I have served in 9 parishes in Leeds, Huddersfield, Dewsbury, Selby, Howden and Carlton, Bradford and now Batley and Birstall.
I must say, I find both Batley and Birstall very friendly parishes, I feel very much at home in both places. I find both churches to be warm and welcoming. That is a wonderful thing to be able to say about our parishes – long may it continue.
Sadly that is not the case in all parishes. I will always remember an incident that happened in one of my old parishes many years ago – I won’t say which one, but it showed how the parish was anything but a welcoming place.
A lady was telling me how for a long time, she had a longing to go back to church along with her young children. Finally she plucked up the courage to go. She got her two children ready and off she went. She arrived at the church in good time and nervously went in and sat down on a pew quietly. Whilst waiting for Mass to begin she closed her eyes and tried to say a little prayer. All of a sudden, she got a tap on her shoulder and was told in a very nice way, “Excuse me, you are sat in our place, could you please move!” The woman apologised and moved her and her children to another pew.
She had only just settled the children again when again, another person this time quite rudely said, “This is my seat, I’ve always sat here.” So now feeling very embarrassed and most unwelcome lady apologised again and got up and went and sat in a corner where hopefully it wasn’t a seat which belonged to anybody else. What a sad endictment on that parish and what an attitude for so called church-goers.
Today is Home Mission Sunday when we pray for the many people who for various reasons no longer come to church. A recent survey discovered that a staggering 80% of Catholics in England and Wales rarely if ever go to Mass any more. But they still regard themselves as Catholic. Pope Francis has called upon us to do all we can to try and reach out to them.
The Church does not belong to me, the church does not belong to you, the Church belongs to Jesus and Jesus will be reaching out to all his brothers and sisters. But He needs us to play our part in reaching out to the so called lapsed and at least be friendly.
The faith is still there. I see it in the people who never come to church but still want to get married in Church. I see it in people who never come to church but still want to have their children Baptised. I see it when parents want their children to make their First Holy Communions but are never taken to church and their First Holy Communion very quickly becomes their last.
I will be honest, as a parish priest, it can be difficult, when people come to church only when they want something. But then I have to remind myself, as Jesus would call them, may be they are the lost sheep.
The Pope has called for a New Evangelisation of the Church and it begins at the grass roots in the Parish.
One important witness of our faith is the fact that we come to church on a Sunday. It is your presence which keeps our church open. Not just for us, but also, for the countless people who again, for whatever reason, are no longer coming to church. So I sincerely thank you, who witness to your faith and the practice of your faith every Sunday.
But also as a Parish, let us reflect and consider, how we can reach out in practical ways to try and connect and make welcome all those people who no longer practice their faith.
People do lapse from church, that is very obvious, but people also come back to the Church. It is often the witness and welcome of a fellow Catholic who has enabled them to find their way back to church.
May we as a Parish, as families and as individuals, be ready to reach out and make welcome anybody who is searching for God in their lives, anybody who is looking for a way back to the Church.