Homily - Thought for the day

Pope Francis Thought for the day
Wednesday 8th July
In the #GospelOfTheDay (Mt 11:25-30), Jesus praises the Father, because He has hidden the secrets of His Kingdom “from the wise and the learned” and revealed them to the “little ones”, who long for Him and expect everything from Him.
Tuesday 7th July
Faith makes us walk with Jesus on the roads of this world, in the certainty that the power of His Spirit will bend the forces of evil, subjecting them to the power of God’s love.

Homily – 5th July 2020 – 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time

So, my dear friends as I write this the relaxations of the restrictions that were placed on us have eased again, what the media seem to be calling ‘Super Saturday’.  It is a time to look out at our world and observe some of the changes that have taken place, many of which have had to be done because of the Coronavirus.  I wonder how we are feeling at this moment.

A few days ago, I was approached by the Diocese to see if I would be willing to do a radio interview for Radio Wiltshire.  I agreed.  The interview was recorded yesterday and goes out tomorrow (5th July).  Now usually when I am asked to do these interviews, I always wonder what they are going to ask me, I have a rough idea but you never know when they might throw a curve ball in.  For this interview I was given an advance copy of what they were going to ask me.  A huge relief.  The interview focused mainly on what my experiences were of lockdown as a priest and some of the things that I had seen and witnessed and my own personal experiences as well.  I will let you tune in to hear my responses.  After the interview I reflected on the last 13 weeks or so, over 100 days and what I had felt and some of the challenges that I had faced personally and in my vocation as a priest during this unprecedented time. 

On the 20th March when it looked like we were heading into some sort of lockdown I like many of us thought how is this going to work, how long will it last, what happens if I get ill or someone I know and love gets the illness.  So many questions and yet then very few answers.  During the period of lockdown as priests we are classed as key workers so it meant that whilst we had to stay in a much as possible there were certain things that the Government and Bishops Conference would allow us to do.  The obvious one sadly was that funerals could still take place at the graveside or crematoria.  In total I presided at nineteen funerals (including my own Grans), some were Covid deaths, others were not.  Each one was just as unique as it was heart-breaking.  To see limited numbers of family members standing socially distanced near you as they remember and pray for their loved one was hard but as our faith says death is not the end it is the beginning of another journey.  To not be able to comfort each other at that time was incredibly hard to witness.

The other thing as priests we could do was to try and keep in touch with our parishioners, after all that is why we are priests, to bring and share the faith with our communities.  I would try and ring people and have a chat with them and see how they are doing, I would write and update the parish website so people could see what was happening and be enriched in their faith at this difficult time.  I had to speak to families about postponing family events such as baptisms and weddings.  Our First Communion Programme was just about to get under way, and I know that has been frustrating for so many of our young people.  Not being able to receive the Eucharist for the first time is a joyous event for so many and yet it could not be celebrated.

On a personal level lockdown gave me the opportunity find time for myself, to pray, to have some downtime. I must admit I did watch a couple of boxsets on my TV.  Talking to parishioners and friends and family made me realise again how lucky I am, I have a family and group of friends who support me and watch out for me, they keep me grounded and I can use them to bounce ideas off.  They give me guidance when I need it and they are there when I need to sound off.  So many things that I took for granted now I wish I still could do them.  I have seen so much pain and distress during the crisis that I am so incredibly grateful that I have my faith, family, and friends.

Today’s Gospel from the evangelist Matthew is a huge reminder to all of us that no matter what happens in our life God is always with us and watching out for us.  Jesus walks with us on every journey that we take, maybe more than ever for many of us through Coronavirus.   Our journey through life is different for everyone but the goal that we all aim for is eternal life granted to us through the death and resurrection of Jesus on the cross. 

Whatever our experiences throughout lockdown whether it be anxiety, distress, gratitude or exhaustion, peace, or disruption we pray those words that Jesus says in today’s Gospel.   May those words give us strength and courage to face each day as we move forward from Coronavirus to the ‘New Norm’.

‘Come to me all you who labour and are overburdened, and I will give you rest.  Shoulder my yoke and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls. Yes, my yoke is easy and my burden light’. 

Over the next couple of weeks, I hope to get public Masses up and running at St Teresa’s.  There are many restrictions and safety measures that need to be in place so please keep an eye on the website for further information.  I will write again with a much more detailed explanation of what will happen shortly.  Thank you for your patience.