Hope in Uncertain Times

Wednesday 17th April 2019

Today the cathedral was filled with clergy and faithful as our diocesan family gathered together for the Mass of the Sacred Chrism.

The Chrism Mass is the the occasion on which the bishop blesses the holy oils, and when the priests renew their promises of ordination to serve God and his people.

There are three oils that are blessed at the Chrism Mass: that of the sick, that of chrism, and that of catechumens. These are used wherever there is a sacramental anointing, such as the anointing of the sick, the anointing of those about to be or newly baptised, and the anointing of priests.

 

 

 

 

 

 

In his homily Bishop John spoke of the uncertain times we are facing as a country, as a world and as a Church.

Speaking directly to the Clergy in his homily Bishop John addressed the abuse scandal in the Church saying:

“I am sure that all of us have been affected in one way or the other by the abuse scandals in the Church. We mustn’t turn away from them and the great chain that we have. But we must recognise that our relationships with other people, or perhaps their relationship with us are being changed and we need to forge again that sense of trust of service of our communion.”

He then went on to remind us that in uncertain times we need to be reminded of God’s plan for us. He said:

“The disciples knew what uncertainty was, so do we, so let’s ensure that we are united in understanding that God’s plan is being worked out. Despite the difficulties and uncertainties that apparently surround us in so many ways we have the advocate that is with us, who will remind us of everything that Jesus taught us and will lead us in all truth. Therefore we can renew our trust and we can celebrate at Easter the Hope that is ours without a doubt. It is that Cardinal Newman mediation isn’t it, that final paragraph:

Therefore, I will trust Him, whatever I am, I can never be thrown away. If I am in sickness, my sickness may serve Him, in perplexity, my perplexity may serve Him. If I am in sorrow, my sorrow may serve Him. He does nothing in vain. He knows what He is about. He may take away my friends. He may throw me among strangers. He may make me feel desolate, make my spirits sink, hide my future from me. Still, He knows what He is about.”

You can read the full homily below or listen to the homily here. 

Chrism Mass Homily 2019

Since this is something of a Feast Day for priests of the diocese, I hope you won’t mind if I go and speak to them. Don’t go away and do listen in.

Fathers, first of all thank you very much for being here on your Feast Day and a very happy Feast Day. I want to thank you first of all for all that you do, for your ministry, for your generosity, for your kindness to all those people who are placed in your pastoral care. I don’t under estimate for one minute the amount of work that you do, I appreciate it greatly and thank you too for accepted all the changes in the last year. They have been quite radical in some cases, but we are faced with a need for change because uncertainty is all around us, wherever we look. Heaven only knows what we are doing in our national politics, do even the politicians know what we mean by Brexit, its consequences or its decisions. If you look further afield we have got any number of conflicts, 65 million refugees, we’ve got 3 or 4 governments that have toppled in the last few of months, there is uncertainty everywhere. And over all that we have the uncertainty of the crisis of climate change about which we must learn a great deal more.

And there is uncertainty too within our Church. I am sure that all of us have been affected in one way or the other by the abuse scandals in the Church. We mustn’t turn away from them and the great chain that we have. But we must recognise that our relationships with other people, or perhaps their relationship with us are being changed and we need to forge again that sense of trust of service of our communion.

But there is a lot of uncertainty, uncertainty still too within our diocese and I want to give you a few statistics as that may help us understand the direction we are going in. We have 111 serving priests in this diocese. Since I came here to serve you as Bishop 4 years ago, there have been 29 retirements, 7 priests have died in active ministry and those 36 have been replaced by just 6 new priests.  Of the 111 serving diocesan priests, nearly half of us are 65 and over. And without drawing attention to anyone there are 12 over 75 still in active ministry. So we need to think carefully about what we do in our service as priests that’s not going to cause us burnout or mental and physical breakdown. It means we have to look at the way we have leadership in our parishes. It is not as if we are coming out of nowhere, the Vatican Council spoke very carefully about the leadership that must be shared amongst all of Christ’s faithful. We are getting there, we are understanding what it is to allow people to work with us and to avoid any sense of that clericalism which Pope Francis is so definite must not develop in our Church. Our priesthood much be about service, something he has taught the seminarians quire recently. He said : when you are ordained you are not stepping up to anything, no – you are stepping down into the service of the people.

So we have to remind ourselves of where we are and the uncertainty that we have, but let’s now give ourselves a little bit if a boost. It is in Holy Week particularly that I enjoy standing with the disciples because of the uncertainty that they knew all about. Remember when they enter Jerusalem on that Palm Sunday, what sense of triumph, we are here at last! 3 years we have been with Jesus, we have heard what he has been talking about, we have heard his teachings, seen his wonderful miracles, there are still all these sceptics that say he is not the Christ but here are people welcoming us in to Jerusalem, recognising that he is the Messiah. It is only going to take one serious miracle in the temple of the most sceptical of those Pharisees will have to say – Yes, surely Jesus is the Messiah. We will be his close companions and everything will come to fruition. It will be wonderful.

Then we go through the events of Holy Week and we see that increasing uncertainty. What’s Jesus doing washing our feet as the first gesture at the Passover meal. What does he mean by, ‘eat my body and drink my blood in remembrance of me’, where is he going, he is a young man, he is going to be proclaimed the Messiah. We have every reason to know he is with us and he will stay with us and then there are the awful events of Good Friday. When the uncertainty turns to the certainty that actually it is all over. Everything we thought was going to happen can’t happen now he’s dead. But we know through all that uncertainty that Jesus had a plan, his Fathers plan and after the resurrection things begin to build again and Jesus is able to come back to reassure them and to give them the mission, to go out to the whole world and proclaim the good news and to reassure them that they are not on their own. I will give the advocate who will remind you of everything I said to you and lead you in all truth. The disciples knew what uncertainty was, so do we, so let’s ensure that we are united in understanding that God’s plan is being worked out. Despite the difficulties and uncertainties that apparently surround us in so many ways we have the advocate that is with us, who will remind us of everything that Jesus taught us and will lead us in all truth. Therefore we can renew our trust and we can celebrate at Easter the Hope that is ours without a doubt. It is that Cardinal Newman mediation isn’t it, that final paragraph:

Therefore, I will trust Him, whatever I am, I can never be thrown away. If I am in sickness, my sickness may serve Him, in perplexity, my perplexity may serve Him. If I am in sorrow, my sorrow may serve Him. He does nothing in vain. He knows what He is about. He may take away my friends. He may throw me among strangers. He may make me feel desolate, make my spirits sink, hide my future from me. Still, He knows what He is about.

Fathers, I thank you for your ministry, I thank you for your faithfulness to serving people in your care. Let’s see what the Lord is asking of us now as we look into the future, step by step serving people, building the Church in our diocese. There are so many good things going on around us, let’s appreciate them all, encourage all the people in our care to live the Gospel, so that we may all be ambassadors for Christ.

Facebook Twitter


In other news