St Annes Catholic Church BUXTON
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FR GERRYS HOMILY

Eygpt

“BRINGING OUT FROM YOUR STOREROOM THINGS BOTH NEW AND OLD” 

Almost every couple I meet these days seems to have met on the internet.  They are like the merchant looking for fine pearls, knowing what they are seeking and then hitting the jackpot.  It’s different when love takes you by surprise.  You’re just going about your business, following your daily routines when someone knocks you off your feet and you bump into hidden treasure. It takes you off guard.  It’s not obvious.  Maybe you don’t know you’re looking for it.  It just taps you on the shoulder and says ‘you’re the one for me!’  I suppose it’s the same with having children and grandchildren.  I’m amazed how in our technological age when we tend to think we can control everything how many babies are an accident. They’re mostly received with great joy and become much loved and wanted children.

Remember the joy you felt when you first met your partner?  Remember the joy you still feel when the treasure they are appears from behind the curtain and reminds you of the bigger love you both share?  Parents purr over their children from birth all the way through school into adulthood.  You keep glimpsing the wonder of the treasure in them that you have helped create and develop.

The hardest part of the experience is the need to sell everything.  Really?  Can’t we do a deal?  Can’t we come to an arrangement?  It’s a real letting go of all our old ways, all our old routines.  It’s allowing them to be transformed by the new love that we’ve found;  by the new love that has found us.  We buy-in.  We commit. “Freely and without reservation”.  We’re transformed by wearing this new pearl, by possessing this new treasure.
Jesus asks his disciples if they understand these parables. “Yes”, they naively say “Sort of” I imagine myself saying.  What about our discovering the hidden treasure of ‘FAITH’ during lockdown?  What became clearer for you that was previously hidden?  Did you find yourself searching for the pearl of great price when you were faced with isolation and fear and separation?  What did you find yourself selling?  What priorities have you let go of to find a new focus?  Are you happier, more peaceful? 

St Matthew is the only evangelist where Jesus tells us we must be like householders who bring out of our storeroom things BOTH OLD AND NEW.  We keep finding new treasure and fine pearls.  They bring great happiness.  Ask God for the courage to let go of some of the old in order to buy it and really make it your own.  

Fr Gerry, July 25th 2020. (No 17. the last)

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grass

WHO SHALL WE WEED OUT? 

Weeding can become a full-time job in our gardens and allotments at this time of the year.  The slugs, the snails, the pigeons, the birds, the squirrels and the greenfly all attack and threaten.  Imagine what it’s like when the enemy is so much harder to identify, impossible to spot at first sight.

The farmer in today’s Gospel is presented with such a problem.  You can barely tell the difference between the wheat and darnel by looking at them.  They’re almost identical twins.  You can only tell one from the other when they fruit.  The ear of wheat droops whereas the ear of darnel looks up high!  So the workers come to the farmer and want him to weed the darnel out.  Some people have the compulsion to tidy everything up right away. “Leave the weeds alone”, the farmer says, “if you touch them now I’ll have no crop at all”.  “Wait, let them grow together ‘til the harvest.  Then we can separate them”.  Teachers, Headteachers, parents and grandparents are just like the farmer.  They’re growing people. Selection isn’t possible.  They have to work with who they’re given.  Of course, all communities are a mixture of good and bad people.  The problem is we think we can tell instantly one from the other.  Jesus himself mixed with both the wheat and the darnel – the fishermen, their families, the priests, the tax collectors and sinners.  He said he came to seek out and save the lost.  His biggest enemies were the Pharisees – the word means ‘separated ones’, ‘holier than thou’.  In the end, they weeded Jesus out.  They got him to put on the cross and crucified him.  That’s where the demand for instant judgement can lead “Get rid of them! Kick them out!”.

We know they were terribly wrong about Jesus and we all know too, we can be terribly wrong about each other. “Hang on”, Jesus says, “Let’s wait and see”.  Maybe change can come.  Maybe the good can bring God’s leniency and mercy to the bad?  Maybe they can begin to experience a sense of acceptance they’ve never previously felt?  The one sure thing is that none of us can have the last word on anyone else.  Instead, we all have to wrestle with the scandal of God’s patience and mercy with us all. “Let the wheat and the darnel grow intertwined until the harvest,” he says, “THEN, I will separate them” 

Fr Gerry, July 18th 2020.  (16)

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sower

SEEDS FOR THE FIELDS OF OUR HEARTS 

The weather is normally a sure bet to talk about with British people.  I suppose if you live in Spain you have to find other conversation openers but here it’s a safe starter.  Imagine what it’s like for us Buxton people!  Rain, wind, snow and cold, make us a hardy lot!  We know how to defend ourselves when to put the thermals on, and the snow tyres for the winter.

Farmers everywhere are always scanning the sky, they’re on the lookout for what’s coming next, whether it’s a heatwave, a deluge or the snow.  Gardeners are the same.  Defending my fragile plants against the snails and the slugs becomes a full-time job.  Today’s stories are all about God growing us and our world.   God is pictured as a farmer, a gardener sowing the seeds, nurturing the bedding plants.  The stories highlight the obstacles too.  In the Gospel, the birds eat the seed that falls at the edge of the path.  The rocks prevent the plant from taking root.  The thorns choke whatever grows.  But despite all this, Jesus highlights how the rich soil yields a great harvest. 

Jesus is trying to provoke us. “Open your eyes that are half shut”, he says, “your ears that have grown deaf and your hearts which have given up”. He’s trying to get underneath our defences and all the ways we’ve settled for the ways things are. For the ways we are.Where are the edges of your life”? he asks.  Who are you keeping out there at arm’s length?  Can you give them some time and interest and let them in; Bring them close? What about the rocks that stop your love and concern taking greater root?  What do you keep starting, get distracted, and don’t finish?  Is this the time to plant these whispers more deeply in the soil of our hearts? And finally, the thorns.  Isn’t it a scary picture of them actually choking the growing plants?  Jesus talks about “the worries of the world and the lure of riches choking the word within us”.  All that glitters isn’t gold after all!  

The real miracle in the story is that some seed fell on rich soil and produced 100 fold crop.   As we gather together once again today as his people, as we celebrate Mass together in the flesh, as we listen to his Word and offer ourselves with Jesus to the Father he is going out to sow in us.  We have all been preparing the soil, enriching it, for the past 3 months of lockdown.  Today we receive the Lord personally once again in Holy Communion.  He becomes our food and drink.  He feeds us, strengthens us, reassures us, promises that he is remembering his word to transform us into a rich harvest.  We open ourselves to him once again knowing that his promise will not return empty, the seed of love keeps growing in the gardens of our hearts. 

Fr Gerry, July 11th 2020.  (15)

First Public Mass Service since Lockdown.    

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hands

THE DAY THE HAIRDRESSERS OPENED AT MIDNIGHT! 

Did anyone go to the hairdressers at midnight on Friday night?  Or maybe the barbers?  Perhaps it was a day out yesterday or even a night out last night? We’re beginning a new phase of going back to normal although all the experts are telling us it isn’t over and we must stay vigilant.  I suspect we are all delighted and thrilled by all the reunions with family and friends we’re having.  It will be easy to forget what we’ve learnt about ourselves in the past 3 months. 

Jesus in today’s Gospel reminds us of something absolutely essential.  “God Hides the Kingdom from the learned and the clever and reveals it to mere children.”  He tells us we can learn from him because he “is gentle and humble in heart”.  Coronavirus has pricked our sense of being clever and learned, we know we are all still in danger.  There is no vaccine yet.  We have all had that sense of being at risk. It could happen to me even though I’m taking all the safety precautions.  We’ve all had that sense of being vulnerable, of being weak, of being exposed.  It’s a precious experience because it’s a keyhole that opens up a new spiritual world.  We have all felt our neediness very acutely.  It’s not something we feel very often.  Normally we think we’re in charge, in control, the masters and mistresses of our world.  Instead of being “learned and clever” we have become like “children”.  Instead of being full and proud, we have felt empty and humble.

This experience is often pictured in our spiritual tradition and learning to come to God with empty hands.  Instead of coming to God full of our good deeds, full of our achievements, we come knowing our neediness, asking God to fill us rather than thinking we can do it for ourselves. 

Look at our hands in front of the altar.  They’re big, they remind me of my uncle Johnny’s hands.  They’re empty.  The fingers are bent so that nothing slips through them.  They’re the hands of people who want to receive, who know that everything they are and have and achieve has been given.  These aren’t the hands of people who are full of themselves.  They’re hands of people who know themselves, who have discovered God’s graciousness and love for them, who know that “every hair on their head has been counted,” who come to God asking Him to fill them with the gifts and graces they need. 

Take this picture, this experience of being empty-handed into the new normal.  This is the foundation stone of all the love and care we’ve each discovered in our families, in our friends and neighbours, in the NHS and in our whole society.  Our self-sufficiency and sense of being in charge have been shaken.  We have been awakened to discovering that if we come with empty hands to God he will fill them.  We “labour” and feel “overburdened” because we think we have to do it all on our own.  We find “rest” and “our burdens are lightened” when we open our hands to God and ask him to fill them. 

Fr Gerry, July 4th 2020.    (14)

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NHS

POPE FRANCIS ON “THE NEW NORMAL”

All the pundits are pronouncing on the new normal.  Will life be really any different?  Will we just go back to our old ways?  Have we learnt anything during the past 3 months?  Do we want to take it forward into a different future?  BBC Radio has been running 3-minute interviews all week called “Rethink”.  They’ve interviewed some of the famous thinkers of our times.

On this feast of St Peter and St Paul, the feast of the beginnings of the Church, the feast of God’s promise to guide his people through history, I want to read to you Pope Francis’s 3-minute Rethink.  Sometimes I’m massively embarrassed by the history of the Papacy.  Other times I’m very proud.  At the moment we have Pope Francis.  People call him the world’s parish priest.  It’s really worth listening to him.
This is exactly what he said:-

“This crisis has affected everyone, rich and poor alike.  It has shone a spotlight on hypocrisy.  Too many politicians have spoken about facing up to the crisis, of the problem of hunger in the world, but still, they continue to manufacture weapons.  I was surprised to discover that some of the rubber bullets and tear gas used against the demonstrators in the US had been made in Europe.  This is the time to be converted from hypocrisy.  It is the time for integrity.  We need to practice what we preach; to be coherent in our beliefs.  Our words and our actions need to fit together.

Every crisis contains both danger and opportunity.  Today I believe we have to slow down our rate of production and consumption (Laudato Si, 191)  We have to learn to appreciate and understand the natural world as holy.  We need to reconnect with our real surroundings – human, animal and mineral.  This is a chance for conversion. This is the time to take the decisive step, to move from using and misusing nature to appreciating it.  We have forgotten the gift of nature – its holiness – we have to get it back now.

This is also the moment to see the poor.  Jesus says we will have the poor with us always and it’s true.  But the poor are hidden because poverty is shy.  We don’t see them because poverty only whispers.  St Teresa of Calcutta saw them and set out on a journey of conversion.  To “see” the poor means to restore their humanity.  They are not things, not throwaway objects; they are people.  We can’t settle for a welfare policy like one for animal rescue.  It’s not an optional extra!  We are in danger of treating the poor like abandoned dogs and cats.  Many of them live on drugs and alcohol.  We need to see them and remind them of the love their mother once had for them. 

Who will do this? I’m thinking of the saints who live next door to each of us.  They are the heroes of this crisis.  Doctors, Nurses, Volunteers, Shop Workers, Carers, Bus and Lorry Drivers, all performing their duty so that society can keep functioning.  They are all serving us.  We must become aware of this miracle of the next door saints.  If we follow in their tracks, the miracle will end well, for the good of all.  God doesn’t leave things half done, we are the ones who do that.
So finish the miracle you have half begun.  Let’s not let it slip from us now.  Let’s move ahead”.


Isn’t it inspiring to hear these very challenging words spoken to us by the successor of Peter today? 

Fr Gerry, June 27th 2020.    

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butterfly

STICK OR TWIST?

Did you see that wonderful photo in the media last week?  It was of the Black Lives Matter Protester called Patrick Hutchinson.  Patrick is a personal trainer living in London and was involved in the demonstrations last week.  He looks seriously fit and big.  The two rival groups clashed and some protestors were injured, lying on the road.  Patrick, who is black, saw his rival who was white at risk and scooped him up, slung him over his back and took him to safety.  Patrick said “It’s not white versus black.  It’s everyone against the racists.”  

A modern-day example of the Good Samaritan story in action? 

I’ve also been inspired this week by the actions of two footballers.  A United player and a City idol.  They both earn shed loads of money.  But they both stuck their necks out and went very public about their own upbringing and vulnerabilities.  I suppose Marcus Rashford, the United player, got more headlines.  He plays No 10 for United and made No 10 Downing Street change their policy on free meals for children during the summer holidays.  What especially caught me about Rashford was him telling his personal story about growing up poor in a one-parent family in Manchester.  He’s 22, his mum had 5 children and they qualified for free school meals.  This is often seen as an embarrassing admission but Rashford went public about it and when No 10 said “no” he tweeted “The game’s not over yet!”  Gutsy.  A wealthy footballer sticking up for the poor when he didn’t have to.  He knew “every hair on his head had been counted” and wanted poor children to know that too. 

Raheme Sterling is the goal machine for City.  He’s a London boy, had an unsettled childhood, has made it big in football.  I liked the T-shirt he’s been wearing in public it reads “Black till I die”.  Again he’s discovered that he’s “worth more than hundreds of sparrows”.

Jesus tells the 12 apostles “Do not be afraid” 3 times within 6 verses in today’s Gospel.  Why does he repeat himself?  What does he know about us all and the way we continually doubt ourselves?  We continually worry about failing, about not being able to cope, about not being good enough.  So he tells them and us 3 times!

I especially like what he says about what we hear “in whispers”.  It’s not God shouting at us.  It’s not God banging down the door of our hearts.  It’s God “whispering” so we have to really pay attention to hear it.  Jesus is telling us to listen to our hearts.  To make time, to pay attention to our feelings.  Our God is not screaming at us but whispering.
What’s he whispering? This is the big personal, individual discovery for each one of us.  “Every hair on my head has been counted!”  Maybe not such good news for those who are bald!  What a delightful way of saying God knows me better than I know myself.  God loves me more than I love myself.  He sets me free!  We escape from the prison of fear.  We can be more brave, more bold in how we live and love.

 

The end of today’s story is about how we declare ourselves for Jesus in the presence of others.  Normally it’s not like Donald Trump holding a copy of the Bible for the photographers.  Maybe Patrick Hutchinson can teach us how to love those people who are very different from us.  Maybe Marcus Rashford can teach us how to tell our personal story in public and stick up for the little people.  Maybe Raheme Sterling can teach us how to delight in being who we are right till we die. 

Fr Gerry, June 21st 2020.    

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Chick

MISSING GOD’S HUGS AND KISSES?

What have you missed most in the past 3 months of lockdown?  I haven’t been playing golf so there are no speeding fines!  What have you missed most?  Is it your family?  Is it your friends?  Is it your children going to school?  Maybe it’s your job and the sense of achievement it brings?  Maybe you’re missing the sense of being in control and the predictability of life?  We can’t plan anymore!

I was talking to Rose Gould last week and she’s promised to invite us all to her Big Birthday Party in November.  She confessed, “I love meeting my children and grandchildren in the garden but it’s terrible not being able to touch them or hug them”.  Touching and hugging make all the difference.  She’s right.  A hug gets through to us in a way that words or even looks can just bounce off us.  We’re “flesh and blood” people.  We’re physical, bodily people.   That’s the way God has made us, to give and receive through our bodies.

St John keeps reminding us in his Gospel that the Word became Flesh.  He says “Jesus, God’s only Son, pitched his tent in our back garden”  John is having a massive argument with two sets of people.  The Jewish tradition which has thrown the Christians out of the Synagogue and called them heretics because they believe Jesus is the Messiah.  And the Gnostics who are Greek philosophers who think that it’s only the mind that matters and the body just gets in the way and they think that knowledge opens the door to God rather than love.  St John wants to treasure the body as part of the image and likeness of God living within us.  Instead of writing it off as unspiritual, he does the exact opposite.  He raises the body to new heights especially in his understanding of the Eucharist, of the Mass.

What do I mean?  If I asked you what you are most missing about church now what would you say?   The people?  Receiving Holy Communion?  Look what Jesus says in today’s Gospel “I am the living bread which has come down from heaven.  Anyone who eats this bread will live forever”.
You might think, “even if it’s only half true I want to eat some of this bread”.  Then he makes an even bigger claim “If you do not eat the flesh of the son of man and drink his blood you will not have life in you”.
If you understand this literally it’s shocking and even disgusting.  It could sound like cannibalism.  If you understand it Spiritually you realise that Jesus is offering us his whole self, “flesh and blood” as we say, he’s offering to become part of us, to get inside us, to touch our hearts, to be our “flesh and blood”.

St John uses a special Greek word for EATING.  It literally means CHEWING.  Remember your parents telling you to chew your food?  “Don’t just gobble it down” is what my mum used to say to me.  So Jesus is inviting us to TAKE OUR TIME eating this bread and drinking this cup.  Five years ago I met a man in Nottingham City Hospital who hadn’t been to Mass for 30 years.  I’d like you to give me Holy Communion he told me.  After he received Holy Communion I sat wondering how long I should let the silence last.  I decided to give him control.  I waited for him.  After a good 15 minutes, he asked me to continue with a blessing.  He had really eaten, chewed, the bread.  He made me realise I often receive Holy Communion routinely, automatically, without much thought.
So we’re “flesh and blood” people.  Our love grows through hugs and kisses.  Our faith grows through a flesh and blood personal meeting with Jesus at Mass.  Holy Communion is really receiving the hug and kiss of our God.  

I think Rose Gould was right about missing the hugs and kisses of her family most.  I suspect that what most Catholics are missing most about Church is Holy Communion, the hug and kiss of God.  

Livestreaming Mass is good but it lacks the “flesh and blood” people and the personal meeting of our Lord in Holy Communion.  We’re all longing for this flesh and blood of Mass.  Let’s hope one step leads to another and next month we’ll all be able to gather around the Lord’s table. 

Fr Gerry, June 14th 2020.   

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Love

THE ALWAYS GOD

I tried and tried to contact this elderly woman without any success.  I knew she lived in a block of sheltered housing with warden assistance but didn’t know the number of her flat.  So I phoned and phoned to no avail.
I went to see someone else in her block who knew her and that cracked it.  She introduced me.  We phoned her, she answered.  Yes, I was welcome to ring her doorbell today.  I felt a bit anxious and at sea because we’d never met and I knew she had the beginnings of dementia.  I shouldn’t have worried.  She was delightful and pleased to see me.  Before I left I asked her for her phone number and she couldn’t remember.  Instead, she gave me her address book and out slipped a photo of a man.  I held it up to her “My husband” She said.  “He left me for another woman”.  I was puzzled, to say the least, normally these are the photos that get ripped up, thrown out in a fury.  “I always loved him”, she said, “Even when he left me”.  “He was a weak man and I forgave him”. 

Wow, I thought to myself I’ve never met anyone like you, people who love and even when rejected continue to love. 

She reminded me of the story of Moses and the people of Israel in today’s First Reading.  God made a covenant of love with Abraham and Sarah.  It was like a marriage between God and humankind.  They promised each other love and faithfulness.  Israel kept breaking her promises, like an unfaithful sexual partner.  God set her free from the slavery of Egypt, promised her the land of milk and honey and still, she worshipped the golden calf.  Moses has been speaking with God, he’s brought 10 commandments down the mountain and smashed them in anger when he found people worshipping false gods in the Golden Calf, try again, he says to God because you are a God of tenderness and compassion, slow to anger, rich in mercy.”

“They are a headstrong people”, he told God by way of excusing them.  “Please keep trying with them, keep promising them, keep loving them.”

The story of Jesus is essentially a continuation of this.  Of course, there is a massive twist that God sends his only son, and doesn’t work through intermediaries, to show us his tenderness, his compassion,  his mercy. 
We meet Jesus in conversation with Nicodemus.  He’s an influential Pharisee who’s curious and comes at night to find out more.  “You’ve got to be born again”.  Jesus says to him “How can grown men and women be born again?” he asks. “From above, you need to find a new centre outside yourself.  
The wind blows where it pleases, 
Hear its sound, 
Don’t know where it comes from 
Where it goes to. 
“You’ve got to be born of the Spirit”.  How can that be? He asks.  Jesus seems fed up and exasperated by Nicodemus resisting.  “You’re a teacher in Israel and you don’t know! He replies to him.
Then Jesus opens his heart to him “God loved the world so much he gave his only son so that whoever believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life”.

Catholic Theology, at its best, proposes God as a lover.  It’s the most important part of God’s character.  God is the artist who creates a world in all its beauty and majesty and who keeps falling in love with it despite its unfaithfulness and its own ways.  God keeps reaching out in hope through this Spirit of love that refuses to give up.  

For the feast of Trinity this year I’ve discovered God not so much a judge but a saviour and lover. God as the lover who never gives up, who keeps reaching out, who keeps our photographs and treasures them, even when other people would tear them up and throw them out.   

Fr Gerry, June 7th 2020.   

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baby bird

I love Spring Watch, Autumn Watch and Winter Watch on BBC TV.  It opens my eyes to the variety, interdependence and mystery of the world.  I’m still horrified when I watch Pine Martin’s and Woodpeckers raiding bird’s nests and eating the chicks.  Nature isn’t as kind as I like to imagine.  Last week was the fifth anniversary of Pope Francis’ letter on “Caring for Our Common Home” – Laudato Si. 

I came across this poem by the Jesuit Priest, Scientist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955).  It suggests the Holy Spirit entered far more than the Apostles and “the people from every nation under heaven and living in Jerusalem” Acts 2,5.

FIRE IN THE EARTH 

It is done.
Once again the Fire has penetrated the earth.
Not with the sudden crash of thunderbolt,
Riving the mountain tops:
Does the Master break down doors to enter his own home?
Without earthquake, or thunderclap:
The flame has lit up the whole world from within.
All things individually and collectively
Are penetrated and flooded by it,
From the inmost core of the tiniest atom
To the mighty sweep of the most universal laws of being:
So naturally, has it flooded every element, every energy,
Every connecting link in the unity of our cosmos,
That one might suppose the cosmos to have burst
Spontaneously into flame.

Fr Gerry, May 29th 2020.

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clouds

“A FAREWELL PRAYER” 

A couple of you have been asking me about how I’m progressing with the police and my speeding fines.  Well, I’ve paid £100, got 3 points on my licence and am doing a speed awareness course this Thursday.  That costs £90 too!  I’m hoping I’ll be able to mend my ways and drive more safely.

Last Sunday I was talking about Jesus promising to send us “another Advocate”, the Holy Spirit.  That Advocate is normally understood as someone who stands beside you and pleads your case.  Today we meet Jesus himself praying for his original disciples and for all of us who follow them.  What do people traditionally say in their Farewell Speech? 

Imagine yourself talking to your family before you die.  What would you say?  My guess is that you would tell them to stick together, to be united, to remain true. 

This is essentially what Jesus does in this highly poetic, massively intimate prayer to the Father that we have heard today.  He raises his eyes to heaven and opens his heart to God whom he calls Father.  He knows he has an audience and he tries to impress upon them, the night before he dies, what really matters.  He speaks about being given and sharing with them eternal life.  He tells the Father he has glorified him on earth and asks that he himself will be glorified in his passion and death.  He gives an account of his ministry and his shepherding of his disciples.  He prays for them.  That they might be light in a dark world.  That they might be united in a world of division and injustice.  Jesus continues to make this prayer for us the people of the church today.  That we might be one and not divided.  That we might be salt and light in how we live.
We see the early Christians beginning to live this out in today’s First Reading.  After the Ascension, the 11 Apostles go back to the Upper Room.  There they meet with two more groups of disciples, the women from Galilee and also Mary, the Mother of Jesus and his brothers.  These 3 groups of disciples gather into one Community to wait for the coming of the Holy Spirit.  Look at all of us gathering today, virtually, from our many homes in Buxton, in Nottingham, wherever we are.  We’re doing what they first did.  We’re overhearing once again the prayer Jesus made to the Father for us.  May we be one. May we be true.  This is what really matters. 

Fr Gerry, May 23rd 2020.    

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water

“A BRIDGE OVER TROUBLED WATER!” 

Well, I am in trouble at the moment.  Not just with my knees but with the Police.  About two months ago I received a speeding fine from the Motorway Safeguarding Unit.  I was half expecting it but had conveniently forgotten!  I was doing 50 miles an hour in a 40 limit.  Hurrying home from golf, trying to miss the forecast snow.  I was still pondering whether to pay the fine and take three points on my driving licence when I received another fine.  A new one!  Speeding on the way to golf this time – by the Waterloo Pub on the A6.  I needed help!  I took advice from a solicitor friend. 

Jesus calls the Holy Spirit “the Advocate” in today’s Gospel Story.  It’s a technical word which describes the one who pleads your case in court.  This is the first of four references to the Holy Spirit in John 14,26: 15,26; 16,7.  He’s also called “The Paraclete” and “counsellor” or “intercessor” in 1Jn 2,1.  I love these pictures of the Holy Spirit – God really pleads my cause even when I make a mess of things.  God is really on my side even when I feel weak or lost or all at sea.  Jesus tells his worrying disciples once again that “I will not leave you, orphans, I shall come to you” verse 18.  He comes not as a fair-minded, objective judge but as ‘the advocate’, the one who is biased towards us and will always find and highlight our redeeming features.  He comes as a parent figure, as a mother and father, for us who often feel let down, all on our own, stood up by our loved ones.  Instead of being orphans, the Holy Spirit invites us to discover ourselves as ‘daughters’ and ‘sons’ of our heavenly Father. 
I’m intrigued by Jesus talking about “I am in my Father and you in me and I in you”.  What do you make of it?  It reminds me of my experience of family, of my experience of a love that makes me who I am.  Jesus has the experience of God (the Father) falling in love with him.  He accepts and responds to that love and lives it out with the tax collectors and sinners.  Don’t we each catch a glimpse of this in our own relationships?  Don’t we experience it in the faithfulness and humour and care of our husbands, wives, partners and close friends?  Could it be that the Holy Spirit, the Advocate, is even pleading our cause with them, especially when we’re in trouble and don’t totally deserve it?

I’m so thankful that people keep “turning up” in my life especially when I’m in trouble.  I have that mysterious sense of “never walking alone”, of not being an orphan of being adopted by the Holy Spirit who lives in me and invites me to live in him and share it with the world. 

Fr Gerry, May 17th 2020.    

 

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road

“EVEN SAT-NAVS FAIL?” 

Boris Johnson has promised to give us a Road Map into the future this Sunday night.  The whole country has been asking for some guidance about the future for the past few weeks.  If we are over the peak of the epidemic what comes next is the natural question.

This is exactly the question the disciples of Jesus are asking in today’s Gospel.  Jesus has just eaten the Last Supper with them, washed their feet, despite Peter’s protests, and told them to do to each other as he has done to them.  He then tells them he is going to suffer and die and they feel orphaned.  He’s leaving them high and dry.  They can’t manage alone.  They think it’s all been in vain.  That’s why he speaks to their “troubled hearts”. The cure is to trust in God and to trust in him more deeply.  He then goes on to explain his death, resurrection, ascension, and the gift of the Holy Spirit.  He does this poetically.  “I am going to prepare a place for you.  I shall return to take you with me.  Where I am you may be too.”  These are deceptively simple ways of describing the Easter Mystery!

Fortunately, his disciples don’t understand and so we have both Thomas and Philip telling him so and trying to draw him out.  Thomas does not know where Jesus is going, and so doesn’t know the way.  Philip doesn’t understand the mutual “indwelling” of Jesus and the Father and thinks the Father is another God in the sky.  Jesus tells them “I am the way, the Truth and the Life”.  Like the disciples, we might feel none the wiser but stop and think.  They have just had their feet washed by him, their Lord and Master.  They have accompanied him to Lazarus’ funeral and seen him cry before raising Lazarus from the dead.  They had asked him about whether it was the blind man’s fault or his parents that he had been born blind.  They had witnessed Jesus spitting and making a paste and putting it on his eyes and then step by step the blind man coming not just to sight but to faith.  This is the Way of Jesus that they had been walking with him every day.  The way of compassion, the way of service, the way of having not just sight but INSIGHT about life and who Jesus is.  In the face of death, they forgot all this and so we now hear Jesus reminding them of his WAY, which is both the truth (the unveiling of God) and the life.

We tend to imagine that Jesus should have given them and us a detailed Ordnance Survey Map of the future, of the way ahead.  That’s what some people are hoping of Boris tonight and I fear they will be disappointed!  Jesus gives them no map with specific routes clearly arrowed.  Instead, he gives us a compass with himself as the way.  “Remember my ways”.  “Realise to have seen me is to have seen the Father”.  “Receive my Spirit”.  We think we need more detail but actually we don’t.  Instead, we are invited to learn to trust that he has shown us the way and that he will accompany and guide us on ours. 

Fr Gerry, May 8th. 

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gate

“Some Questions About The Good Shepherd”
John 10, 1-10

What part of the story most strikes you?  Why?

This shepherd goes ahead of the sheep rather than driving them from behind.  How did Jesus do that?  How does Pope Francis?  Which of his actions or words most inspire you?

Jesus repeats several times that he is “the gate”.  Passing through a gateway is much easier than climbing a wall or fence.  How is the life, death and resurrection of Jesus “the gateway to the fullness of life?”
Presumably, the Scribes and Pharisees are “the thieves and brigands”.  Have you ever experienced Catholic clergy or lay people behaving like them?

Who are the people in our Parish who most inspire you?  How are they like the Good Shepherd?

Who are the good shepherds in our society?  Start with those working for the N.H.S., Nursing Homes and Care Services.

The reputation of Catholic Shepherds has been seriously damaged, if not wiped out, by clergy sexual abuse and cover-up by the Bishops.  We have been personally wounded at St Anne’s. Is there anything you think we should do as a parish community to say sorry and make amends?  

Fr Gerry, May 3rd, 2020.

 

Yellow wood

THE ROAD NOT TAKEN 

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,  

And sorry I could not travel both 

And be one traveller, long I stood 

And looked down one as far as I could 

To where it bent in the undergrowth;

 

Then took the other, as just as fair

And having perhaps the better claim,

Because it was grassy and wanted wear;

Though as for that the passing there

Had worn them really about the same;

 

And both that morning equally lay

In leaves, no step had trodden black.

Oh, I kept the first for another day!

Yet knowing how way leads on to way,

I doubted if I should ever come back.

 

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence;

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I –

I took the one less travelled by,

And that has made all the difference. 

Robert Frost 1874-1963


Some Questions

  • Could the disciples who decided to come back to Jerusalem from Emmaus have written this poem?

  • What did they see when they “looked down one road as far as they could to where it bent in the undergrowth?”

  • The second road was grassy and wanted wear.  What was attracting them?  What made their hearts burn?

  • Is the religious road “the road less travelled by” today?

  • Does the “breaking of bread” make “all the difference”?


Fr Gerry April 24th 2020. 
 

 

Easter garden

“IS SEEING BELIEVING?” 

The phone is saving me at the moment.  I’ve never spoken to so many old friends.  Never done so much catching up. I got caught out badly by one particular phone call last week.  “Hello,” the woman said, “Happy Easter!” and then she waited. I hesitated and waited for a moment before I said: “Hello Teresa, how are you?” “It’s not Teresa”, she said,It’s Pauline”.  I got the wrong person! I mistook her for someone else. I didn’t recognise her. This is exactly what happened to the followers of Jesus after his Resurrection. Nobody recognised him. Nobody knew who he was.  They all thought he was somebody else. Mary of Magdala thought he was the gardener. Peter thought someone had stolen his body. The other disciples were so unimpressed by Mary and Peter’s stories that they locked their doors and put the bolts on.  Why did the Risen Jesus appear so hidden and so disguised?

In today’s story, Jesus shows the frightened disciples his hands and side.  Then they knew him and are filled with peace and joy when he breathed on them and calmed their fears.  What’s happening? It’s still the evening of the first day of the week, and the new creation is still breaking out.  Jesus breathes on them first as God breathed life into Adam in the book of Genesis. They look at his side and it’s a reminder of birth and especially the birth of Eve from the side of Adam.  They look at the wounds in his hands and they know he has laid down his life for them. They breathe in his new life and along with Mary of Magdala walk with Jesus in the new Garden of Eden. But, but, Thomas wasn’t there.  “Unless I see the holes, I refuse to believe”, he says. There’s something wonderfully modern about Thomas. He wants to think for himself. He really wants to understand. He doesn’t want to believe second hand. Today we would call him “authentic”.  The problem is that he’s naive. He’s one dimensional. He’s imprisoned by the physical. He thinks he can come to a belief by physically seeing Jesus. Then he suddenly discovers his heart, his soul, his imagination and knows the hands and side of Jesus no longer need to be fingered.  The penny drops. He recognises that Jesus continues to give life even beyond death. He confesses Jesus as ‘My Lord and my God’ maybe the most personal act of faith in the New Testament.

What about us? What about us in this time of Corona Virus? Like Thomas, we’re tempted to settle for the physical dimension of life.  The daily record of so many new deaths and so many new cases. How many more weeks or months, we’re starting to ask ourselves? We’re invited to discover the Risen Jesus showing us his hands and side in the middle of all of these fears and troubles.  He’s telling us to learn to look not just with our physical eyes and ears but with the eyes and ears of our hearts. Discover the love and care and sacrifice that is real. It’s often hidden and unnoticed. It can’t be easily measured or counted. Tune into the spiritual dimension of life like Thomas.  Learn to trust each other more and depend less on yourself. Learn to listen to God speaking to us at this Mass through the people, in the Scriptures, in yourself. Don’t get caught out and simply think the one who’s talking to you is just the gardener. 

Fr Gerry - 19th April 2020

 

Mary of Magdala

"MARY OF MAGDALA"

I want to invite you to come on a journey to the back of the church. Imagine we’re going to the tomb with Mary, Peter and John.

We’ve experienced Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday and Good Friday with Jesus. The men had run away but the women had watched it all from a distance. They’ve seen the lifeless corpse of Jesus being placed in the tomb. Mary had gone home late. She probably couldn’t sleep so she came back before daybreak, when it was still dark, preoccupied by her loss.
Here is Mary in the garden, her hands on her chest.
Is she carrying the spices? Look at her eyes. Is she holding back tears?
What is she looking at?
Our story says at the start that she sees the tomb empty. She thinks they’ve stolen the body of Jesus. She tells Peter and John that, and they look inside the tomb themselves.
Today’s gospel leaves out half of the story. Mary stays at the tomb weeping when they leave. She meets the gardener.
‘Woman, why are you weeping?’ he asks. ‘Who are you looking for?’ She repeats her theory. ‘Mary’ the gardener says. Mary answers ‘Rabbuni’.
She knew then that the gardener was Jesus, raised to new life. Look at her face. I don’t think she’s crying, but she might be talking to the gardener. The penny might be about to drop!
Look at her clothes. The rich orange, yellow and gold robe over a purple dress. The fringes of the robe, all embroidered, dance with hope. 

Look at the garden. Start with the green grass at the bottom. 
Notice the trees: dark and light greens, red berries on the left.
Work your way up. See the purple mountain. Dark and light trees stand even higher. This is a really beautiful garden. Why?
It’s a new Garden of Eden. Mary is walking in it with Jesus, replacing God, Adam and Eve. It’s a new creation. The old one has crucified Jesus, the new one will save the world. The story begins by saying “it was very early, still dark, the first day of the week”

We’re now three weeks into lockdown, into self-isolating, into shielding those with serious conditions.
It’s still EARLY, it’s still DARK, but it’s the beginning of the first day of the week. The risen Jesus is meeting us in our gardens, in our homes, at our work: promising hope where there’s despair, smiles where there’s tears,life where there’s death.
Pope John Paul famously said: ‘We are an Easter people; Alleluia is our song’ We return now to the sanctuary to renew the promises of our Baptism, to walk with Mary and all the church, to water and the light of new hope.
“When the lonely find friendship, when the fearful find strength, when the worried find peace, the stone has been rolled away”.

Fr Gerry’s homily: 
12th April 2020, Easter Sunday

 

Blossom 3

“JUMPING THE GUN?” 

Boris Johnson talked about “green shoots” at the beginning of this week.  It’s hard to believe when almost 700 people in the UK died of the virus yesterday.  Maybe his “it’s going to get worse before it gets better” is much nearer the mark and much harder to swallow?  It’s strange that Holy Week begins with the green shoots but then is totally derailed by Good Friday when things get a lot worse.

There seems to be a party atmosphere about Palm Sunday. The crowds throwing their hats in the air, laying their cloaks on the road.  There’s cheering, noise, jubilation.  They cut branches from the trees to wave-like scarves and shouted “Hosanna to the Son of David, Hosanna in the highest heavens” Hosanna is the Aramaic word meaning “Save us”, “Rescue us”.  When people asked who is he the crowds’ answer “This is the prophet, Jesus, from Nazareth, in Galilee”.  These really were green shoots.  Even if Jesus came from the wrong part of the country, even though he was a northerner, surely there were the beginnings of faith here?  So what went wrong?  How come it turned out so horribly different? 

Before suggesting some answers perhaps we could linger a little on Jesus’ decision to enter the Holy City like this.  Why does he insist on going there?  Why not pull his horns in now and compromise?  He knows, just like we do that prophets are killed there.  Why does he “have” to go there?  The Spirit seems to drive him there just as it once drove him into the desert.  He sticks to his guns!  He knows his anger with the religious authorities is justified and that their greatest talent is inventing new burdens, new regulations.  He chooses to ride a donkey!  How disarming is that?  Pilate could well have passed by the day before, riding his white horse, flanked by an army of soldiers, their armour all glistening in the sun.  Donkeys were a very different sign – a beast of burden; always put upon; the property of the poor.  These were the very people Jesus had set his heart upon from the beginning of his public ministry.  Was he going to pull out now?  No, he had to go to Jerusalem to be true to them, and true to himself.

So where did it all go wrong?  Holy Week is the story of two processions.  One into the City of Jerusalem.  One out of the City, to Golgotha, the place of the Skull.  In the first Jesus is feted by the crowds and his disciples.  But in the procession to Golgotha, he will be on his own, with just soldiers and spectators.  Crowds will dissolve. His disciples will run away.  Judas will betray him with a kiss.  Peter will deny him 3 times.  He will be left alone with his God.  Look at today’s other scripture stories.  Paul tells us that Jesus “did not cling to his equality with God.”  Instead “he emptied himself, and became a slave”. We see this emptying of himself on the cross when Jesus cries out “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” He let go of everything, even his certainty in God was tested. He had become a “slave”, especially a slave of the poor who were longing for a different God and a new world. 

Does this give us some hints about why the crowds changed their minds and later preferred Barabas to Jesus?  Do we begin to guess why the disciples ran away, betrayed and denied him?  Jesus is a very hard man to follow!

It’s common to call these crowds of his followers “fickle”.  It’s easy to forget that we too are fickle!  We want to follow Jesus, but the easy way without the challenge of the cross.  We have the chance today and this week to follow the story in a new way, at a time when we’re all suffering.  We’re all missing each other; we’re all wanting to hold and touch our grandchildren; we’re all fearful about the future.  This is the time for us to go inside ourselves. Meet yourself deeper down.  Admit you compromise, you hold yourself back, you don’t give all of yourself.  This is the time to meet the “Peter” inside ourselves;  We’re tempted to play safe and avoid risk and danger.  This is the time to admit that yes, we do know him, that he is our strength in this time of threat from the virus. 

Fr Gerry
Friday, 3rd April 2020. 

flowers

“SOME OF OUR LOVED ONES WILL DIE” 

These words of Boris Johnson have been haunting me this past two weeks.  How timely to find that this is the content of today’s Gospel – 5th Sunday of Lent, Year A.  We read and listen once again to the story of the greatest “sign” of Jesus – the raising of his close friend Lazarus (John, Chapter 11).

Sickness and death are often times of regret and self-reproach – “if only I had done this, said that”.  We tell ourselves off.  We want to bring our loved ones back.  We imagine we could have done something to prevent their passing.  We think we are in charge!  Dying can also be a time of deepening and healing. 

Those conversations we keep putting off can actually happen.  We express our love and gratitude to each other and ask forgiveness for the wrongs and misunderstandings.  We can even dare to broach that very delicate subject of terminal care and funeral arrangements.

Rereading this story of Lazarus I discover how similar I am to Martha and Mary.  Perhaps, more surprisingly, I realise that I am more like Jesus than I thought!  These two women sound like “family” to Jesus.  They’re all really dependent on each other. He “has” to be told that Lazarus is very ill. He is “expected” to come immediately.  He “has” to be there. 

Jesus then arrives four days late and has to listen to their blaming him; realising his own loss of Lazarus, Jesus weeps. 

It’s the shortest and most extraordinary sentence in the whole bible.  Jesus was “distressed”, “sighed straight from the heart” and “wept tears”. 

St John repeats the fact of his being so upset twice, presumably because it’s so important and makes such a difference to us the readers.  He really wants us to know that Jesus is “like us in all things but sin”, and that he grieves, and cries, and feels in his body the loss of his dear friend Lazarus. 

This story nudges me to prepare to face the prospect of personal and parish grief in the coming weeks.  We each ask ourselves “is there anything specifically I need to do to get my family ready?”

The story begins by telling us it is about “a man named Lazarus who lived in the village of Bethany with his two sisters, Mary and Martha”.  Lazarus means “God helps” and Bethany means “the house of the afflicted.”  So this is a story of how God helps all those in the house of the afflicted.  Not just Lazarus and his sisters but as it turns out, gentle reader, you and I too, in this present time of crisis and pandemic.

Fr Gerry
29th March 2020. 

St Annes Parish Priests

From 1837 Mass was celebrated in Buxton by visiting priests each week. A Father O'Farrell was named from 1848, but it was only in 1850 that the first resident priest was appointed.

Father Edward McGreevy 1850 - 1863 (ob. 22 June 1863)
Father William Margison 1863 - 1871
Father Michael O'Driscoll 1871 - 1873
Vacant 1873 - 1875
Father Joseph Reddington 1875
Father John Power 1875 - 1885
Canon John Theodore Hoeben 1885 - 1899 (ob. 11 Aug 1900)
Father Frederick Kind 1900 - 1927 (ob. 31 Mar 1927)
Father Luke A Prendergast 1928 - 1937 (ob. 29 Sept 1937)
Canon Arthur J Bird 1937 - 1941
Father John Toomey 1941 - 1942 (ob. 1 Feb 1942)
Canon Alfred Baldwin 1942 - 1956
Father Philip Morris 1956 - 1957
Father J Paul Klee 1957 - 1959
Father William McEnery 1959 - 1960
Canon David Ryan 1960 - 1967
Father Bernard Doran 1967 (probably only priest in charge)
Father Gerald Collins 1967 - 1971
Father Joseph Duggan 1971 - 1977
Father Andrew Murdoch 1977 - 1978
Father Paul Cullen 1978 - 1987
Father Dennis Higgins 1987 - 2017 
(ob. 20 Jan 2017)
Father Gerry Murphy 2017 - present

History of St Annes (61kb)
Privacy Notice for the Diocese of Nottingham (175kb)