St Annes Buxton & John Fisher & Thomas More Chapel
Tel Buxton 23777, Chapel 813491

Third Lockdown Homilies

Our Lady

FATHER GERRY’S THIRD LOCKDOWN HOMILY (3-12) 

“MARY OF MAGDALA, MARY THE MOTHER OF JAMES AND SALOME” 

Women have been really in the news recently.  "Reclaim the Streets", "Everyone's Invited" is just the latest women’s protest movement.  “Me Too” really hit the headlines a few years ago.  

We meet three women in tonight’s Gospel who are also seeking and looking, - they’re disciples of Jesus – and they think they know where he is.  Mary of Magdala, Mary mother of James, Salome haven’t run away like the 12 apostles and all the men.  They’ve watched the crucifixion and death from a distance, watched where Jesus has been buried and want to do him a final act of tenderness.  They take spices to anoint his dead body. 

The was sun rising, it’s the first day of the week, a new creation is dawning but they didn’t know it.  They just thought Jesus was dead.  They thought they’d find him in the tomb.  They were practical and wondered about the very big stone blocking the entrance.  They would need help.  Someone might turn up.  
Going into the tomb, they were alarmed.  Maybe they were terrified.  Jesus wasn’t there.  There was no body.  They hadn’t found him after all.  He wasn’t where they expected him to be.

They meet a young man in white robes seated on the right.  They meet someone in the know.  Someone ahead of them.  He’s sitting on the right . Wearing a white robe.  He’s a real disciple, a baptised disciple.  He’s someone who understands Jesus has done more than died.  He’s someone who understands he has risen too.  No wonder they are amazed.  No wonder they are alarmed.  They thought they knew where Jesus was – among the dead – but he isn’t – the crucified one is risen.  “He is not here”.  “He is going before you”, they are told, “go to Galilee, you will see him there”.  They haven’t found Jesus yet.  They’re still on the way, They’re still learning more about him.  We’re still amazed by him. Today to we’re still alarmed by his promises and invitations.  

The liturgy tonight speaks a lot about us being “Baptised into his death”.  “We’ve been buried with him.  We’ve gone into the tomb with him”.  St Paul tells us He promises that if we do “we will be raised with him, we’ll walk in newness of life with him”.  Did you catch a glimpse of this holding your Easter candles?  What were you feeling and thinking?    We’re given light.  We’re given guidance and a companion in the dark.  We feel our hearts being touched, while holding the candles.  

In a moment we will bless the water, sprinkle it and renew our baptismal promises.  
We’re still going into the tomb with him in these Covid times.
We’re still being buried with him, letting go of our control, our independence, imagining we know where he is. 
We’re still being raised with him so that he will go ahead of us with Mary Magdala – Mary Mother of James and Salome,  
We’ll go to Galilee, to the people, the situations, the uncertainties of the months ahead.  
We’ll find Jesus taking long strides and find ourselves always stretching to keep up with him. 

Fr Gerry
April 3rd , 2021

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Good Friday

FATHER GERRY’S THIRD LOCKDOWN HOMILY (3-11) 

“THE NIGHT BEFORE HE DIED” 

“The Night before he died” is how the story of the Eucharist begins.  What do any of us do the night before we die?  What did your parents do?  We all hope to be with our families and friends, our loved ones.  Jesus gathers his family, his disciples, all of them, even Judas who would betray him.  What do we say to them?  What do we do with them? Well, something very similar to Jesus – we tell them we love them – we tell them we’ve always loved them -  we ask forgiveness – we tell them we’ll always love them; forever.  We kiss, we hold hands, we stroke.  But Jesus does more than say the words.  He acts.  He washes our feet and dries them.  He breaks the bread and shares it and tells us “Do this in memory of me”.

We normally wash feet tonight.  We can’t this year because of Covid.  It’s not a job that anyone really fancies!  Our feet are probably some of the most neglected parts of our bodies.  Look where they’ve carried us though, in the past year.  They need a footbath; we need refreshing.  Actually, we’re all tired and we all need refreshing.  We might be wondering if we can keep going until June 21st.  Peter thinks he can.  And on his own.  No need for anyone else and especially no need for a God who is humble enough to wash his feet.  “Jesus”, he says, “You’ll see and touch too much of me.  Maybe you’ll find out more about me than I want you to know”.  It looks as though Peter’s conversion was fairly superficial – he still didn’t really understand.  He’ll deny ever knowing Jesus 3 times later on that same night.  So this invitation to let the Lord wash our feet takes a lifetime opening up.  Keep going!  Keep trusting your whole self to him!

The other characteristic action of Jesus is what he does with the bread.  “He takes it, gives thanks, breaks it and shares it” He’s fully committing himself the night before he dies.  There’s no pulling back, no second thoughts.  Instead, he plunges more deeply into what he’s always been doing.  He takes the fearful, calculating, compromising world we’re all part of.  He gives thanks for it.  Despite all the letdowns and betrayals God’s love and goodness burns at its centre.  Jesus breaks the bread as his body will be most broken on the cross.  There he will entrust himself totally into God’s hands.  Even when he’s in the dark and can’t see the way forward.  Finally, he shares the bread.  “Here – this is the whole of me for the whole of you.  Eat it.  Let it change you.  Let it give you my life and strength.”

So tonight, the night before Jesus died, we do what he did.  We do what everyone does before they die.  But we add Jesus’ distinctive touch, his two special actions, we let him wash our weary feet and misshapen toes.  We ask that this bread, his body, will give us the strength to wash all tired feet of our world.

Fr Gerry
April 1st, 2021

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daffs

FATHER GERRY’S THIRD LOCKDOWN HOMILY (3-10) 

“WE’VE GOT TO DIE BEFORE OUR DEATH” 

Next Tuesday will mark the first anniversary of our country’s going into the First Lockdown at the end of March last year.  “What a strange year it’s been,” we tell each other.  Some people say it’s been a “lost” year.  “Everything about it has been bad,” they say.  “Has it?” I wonder.  Look at what we have each learnt, I say to myself.  I haven’t shared a meal with anyone since Christmas Day.  I haven’t hugged or kissed anyone for even longer! Absence has made the heart grow fonder.  I’m really looking forward to playing golf with my friends in a week’s time.  
All of our restrictions have been a form of dying.  We have to keep 2 metres apart from each other.     We can’t visit each other.  We can’t touch each other.  Families, friends, neighbours have been forced to keep their distance.  We can only meet each other at arm’s length.  Has it opened your eyes?  Has it opened your heart?  Has it made you realise you’d been worrying about the wrong things – things that didn’t really matter?  Who have you been taking for granted?  What’s most obvious is that we all now realise that “we’re in it together”.  No man or woman is an island.  You can’t pick and choose who you need. N.H.S. and care staff are just the most obvious tip of the iceberg which is our whole society.  Supermarket workers, lorry and bus drivers, cleaners and any number of other “key workers” have now become a part of our horizon.  People we have previously looked down on have now gained our respect.  We need them all.  They need us too.  As St Paul said last week “We are all God’s work of art”.

Jesus gives us the password today about how to become part of this great work of art.  Once again he’s meeting people with questions – good questions.  Last week he told Nicodemus we needed to be “born again”.  This week he tells the Jews who lived in Greece “If you die if you surrender yourself, you will yield a rich harvest”  It might sound like madness at first hearing.  Is it a riddle or just a contradiction?  “Anyone who loves their life, loses it” he continues “Anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life”.  Hear it like poetry.  This is the secret of Jesus’ life.  This is what makes him tick, what makes him get up in the morning, what colours all his relationships, especially those with hurting people.   “You’ve got to die before your death,” He tells us.  Got to die each day to have eternal life.  Surrender yourself!  Trust yourself to the invitation to love and care and heal.  Don’t get hooked on always trying to get what you want, let go of your scheming to get ahead.  Listen to your neighbour and receive from them.  After sharing this secret with the Greeks, St John tells us that Jesus feels “troubled”.  He knows that arrest, passion and death are just around the corner.  No wonder he’s agitated!  He’s tempted to take it all back and try to wiggle his way out.  He realises he would be betraying himself, deserting the love which he calls “Father”.  Surrendering himself to Pilate and Herod will be his hardest, his most scary act of self-surrender, but he knows too that he will be lifted up so as to draw all people into his “new work of art”.  But to be part of this work of art we each have to die.  Die to ourselves.  Then we will yield a rich harvest. 

Fr Gerry
March 20th, 2021

 

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desert

FATHER GERRY’S THIRD LOCKDOWN HOMILY (3-9) 

“THE REPAIR SHOP” 

What’s your favourite TV programme at the moment?  Someone was telling me recently they’re addicted to “The Repair Shop”.  Have you seen it?  Currently, it’s on its 6th series and on BBC1 on Mondays at 4.30 p.m.  Furniture Restorer, Jay Blades, is the foreman and he enlists the help of other expert craftspeople to repair old treasures.  Recently they’ve made new a card table, a guitar and a Bookies money bag.  Old treasures which are damaged, faded, worn out and are ready to be thrown away, are brought back to life.  They restore them, cover them, invite owners back and unveil them to looks, aahs and tears.  They remind me of what St Paul tells us today that “we are God’s work of art, created in the likeness of Jesus to live the good life”

Have you ever thought of yourself or your family, or your parish community as “God’s work of art”?  Maybe we’re more inclined to think of a painting, do we make our own works of arts?   
 our own self-portraits?  We imagine it’s all up to us “down to me” we say and we forget that we’re God’s idea, and it’s him making the world, and men and women, in his own image and likeness.  Imagine God as an artist, as a craftsman or woman dreaming us all into existence.
But what about the wear and tear I hear you saying.  What about the fading colours, the breakages, the accidents, the damage to the artwork that is ourselves and our world?  This is probably the question that Nicodemus is wrestling with when he comes to question Jesus at night.  Jesus tells him he needs to be “born again” and Nicodemus wonders out loud how “a grown man or woman can be born again?”  Jesus then tells him “the Spirit blows where it pleases; you cannot hear its sound, you cannot tell where it comes from or goes to.  So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit”.  We all need a visit to the Repair Shop where we’ll be surprised.  We all need to be remade in God’s original image and likeness.


Pope Francis says “the Church is a Repair Shop, a Field Hospital”.  It’s like going back to the painters or craft persons studio or workshop.  What do we find here?  Who do we find here?  Not the condemnation and the judgement we fear!  Instead, we find the acceptance, love and restoration we crave.  Not darkness but light.  Not criticism but mercy and tenderness.  Not a short-term wonder but eternal life. 

Today is Mothering Sunday and I think it throws much light on our Scripture stories.  Which mother doesn’t think their child is “God’s work of art”?  “You’re beautiful” are some of the first words we ever say to our children.  We continue to say them for the rest of their lives, although we do indeed have our moments.  But they pass; we soften; we forgive and reconcile and start again. We refuse to be trapped or paralysed by condemnation and are constantly struggling to be “born again” to let the “spirit blow in us”.  We repeatedly ask God to find us when we are lost so that we can live “eternal life” with him, with each other, and with our world. 

Can I finish again this week with Pope Francis?  He gives us the tools, the music, the words of the repair shop.

He says – 
“Speak kind words not hurting ones
Be filled with gratitude, not sadness
Be patient not angry
Be hopeful and not cynical
Trust in God, don’t fret
Be tolerant, not judgemental
Be compassionate, not hard-hearted
Be reconciled not at odds
Be joyful, not bitter
Be silent and listen.”


Listen to the mothering love of God.  Mother each other.  Remember you are all God’s work of art. 

Fr Gerry
March 13th, 2021

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FATHER GERRY’S THIRD LOCKDOWN HOMILY (3-8) 

“WORSHIPPING GOLDEN CALVES?” 

The headline in the Sun last weekend ran “Massive Golden Statue of Donald Trump delights the crowds in Orlando, Florida”.  Did you see it?  It was show-stopping.  The Donald was about to make his first appearance since leaving the White House 6 weeks ago.  Normally ex-Presidents don’t appear in public for at least a year!  He looked really young.  The whole statue was a Bobby Dazzler!  He was wearing a pair of stars and stripes shorts, a suit jacket, a white shirt with the top button undone, a red tie and holding a magic wand in his hand.  His head was made of gold.  If it wasn’t for the golden hair I thought it could have been Elvis.  Lots of people took selfies beside it.  Lots of other people said afterwards it reminded them of the ‘Golden Calf’ in the story of Israel.  Remember Moses came down the mountain after speaking with God only to find the people worshipping the golden calf?  Moses was so angry that he threw the Stones with the 10 Commandments written on them on the ground and broke them. 

We see Jesus doing a similar thing in today’s Gospel. He is so angry at finding the temple turned into a market that he makes a whip out of cord and drove all the traders out of the temple, cattle and sheep as well.  He scattered the money changers coins, knocked their tables over and gave the pigeon sellers a rollicking.  What drama!  This was a story to set the whole city talking.  Who did he think he was?  People thought they were coming with sincere hearts to worship God and Jesus protests that even the Temple had become just another money-making exercise.  Weren’t they doing what God had commanded them to do?  They conveniently ignored the price tags written on the animals.  Who could afford a cow or a bull?  Who could afford a sheep or a lamb?  Who could afford a humble pigeon?  Without realising it they had created a system which assumed that rich people could buy their way into heaven.  Even when you prayed to God your prayers had a price tag on them! 

Jesus “is devoured with zeal” for God.  He knows the first commandment is the most important.   “You shall have no gods except me”.  He knows that we are all tempted to worship golden calves especially the idols of money, status and comfort.  So he promises to destroy not just the merchants, the money changers and the sacrifices but the whole temple.  His enemies tease him.  “What, they say, it took 46 years to build this temple and you will destroy it and raise it up in 3 days?”  Come off it!  St John tells us Jesus was speaking of the temple which was his body.  This whole event is a prelude for his crucifixion and resurrection.  Jesus alerts us to an absolutely dramatic change in Gods relationship with us.  God moves house!  He no longer lives in a physical building but in Jesus, a human person.  God has a new address!  Not in a building but in Jesus of Nazareth.  St Paul will tell us that in baptism we each become part of the Body of Christ and so become temples of the Holy Spirit.  The Church becomes the people of God, his pilgrim people, continuing the life of Jesus in history.

Watch our leader, Pope Francis, this weekend.  Who goes to Iraq on holidays or even on business?  And especially during a pandemic?  We see in Pope Francis the same zeal for God and his people that drove Jesus.  He has a passion for hurting, wounded, sad sorrowful people.  He has a passion to heal, to unite and bring hope to those same grieving people.  Ask God today for a dollop of that courage and clear-sightedness that burned in Jesus and in Pope Francis, so that it burns in us too. 

Fr Gerry
March 6th, 2021

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Old Roman road

FATHER GERRY’S THIRD LOCKDOWN HOMILY (3-7) 

“MEETING WILD BEASTS AND ANGELS” 

I’m, delighted for all the residents in our nursing homes and their families that visits are soon going to be possible.  They’re even going to be able to hold hands!  Touch is so important to us and I’m always very struck by last week’s Gospel story of Jesus actually touching the leper.  Touch makes us close to each other at a level deeper than words.  I suppose we’re all waiting and wondering what else is going to be on Boris’s Road Map when he reveals it on Monday.  He’s been meeting with the G7 leaders this week and has been out-boasted by the French President, Emmanuel Macron.  I find it shocking, but predictable, that the richest countries in the world have already bought up the entire market in Corona Vaccines.  I suppose that’s the way it always was?  Apparently, we have almost 7 times the number of doses of vaccine we need to immunise our whole population twice.  It reminds me of “Crumbs from the Master’s table” Mark 7,28  and I find it very uncomfortable to discover that you and I are sitting up there at the top table. 

Maybe this is one of the reasons we need the season of Lent.  It can remind us of uncomfortable truths about ourselves both individually and as groups and nations.  Things that make us squirm and feel embarrassed.  Things we hide from ourselves.  Our blindspots, and our unconscious prejudices.  Those bits of ourselves we manage to avoid even though our families often point them out!  I wonder if this is what St Mark means in today’s Gospel when he says “The Spirit drove Jesus into the desert”. Jesus has just been baptised and he would naturally want to prolong the party of God’s love resting on him.  Instead, we’re told he’s “driven” into the desert.  He didn’t want to go there.  Who would?  The desert is both a scary place but also a state of mind.  It’s where you face yourself as you really are, warts and all, and drop the pretence of your strength and control.  Mark says Jesus was with the “wild animals”.  You imagine the lions and bears about to pounce!  I suspect that Jesus was actually tested by all the shorts cuts and instant solutions his mind could so easily think of.  Stop and think how he must have been tempted to become the popular miracle worker giving people just what they wanted – a superman rather than a servant who suffers.  I imagine him getting carried away with his gifts and thinking he could do it all on his own.  He heard about his friend John the Baptist’s arrest and must have wondered if he himself had the courage to face such suffering and loneliness.  Maybe he should keep his head down a bit more and toe the party line?  This personal agonising must have been a real desert, a time when he doubted whether God’s favour would rest on him for the rest of his life.  Rather comfortingly we’re told “the angels looked after him” while the beasts attacked.  They reminded him of God’s goodness both in times of joy and sorrow. 

Our story finishes with Jesus coming out of the desert and hitting the road.  He’s strengthened, encouraged, determined and confident about what he has to do.  “The time has come”, he says, “the Kingdom of God is close at hand.  Repent and believe the Good News”.  This is what the season of lent is for.  It’s the moment for each of us and our communities to discover the “the time has come”.  We discover a God who is healing and purifying us; helping us face our self-deceptions and our blind spots.  We discover a God wanting us to grow as his sons and daughters right now.  There’s a twist at the end too.  We discover this by “Repenting”, by changing our minds and our ways of seeing and living.  We start to believe the "Good News” about God, about ourselves and about each other.  We let go of the "bad news” of what the wild animals might do to us and instead allow the angels to look after us. 

Fr Gerry
February 20th, 2021

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Corbar Cross

FATHER GERRY’S THIRD LOCKDOWN HOMILY (3-6) 

“WHO HAS SUFFERED MOST?” 
Who do you think is suffering the most during our pandemic?  Seeing the figures of more than 1,000 deaths a day in recent weeks has been really chilling.  Watching the number of infections rocket has been shocking.  People in nursing homes have dropped out of the headlines but I suspect they are among the ones who have most suffered in the past year. 
I especially remember being asked to go and pray with someone dying in a nursing home.  His wife had been a daily visitor spending a good portion of the day visiting, talking, feeding and taking her sick husband out for a walk.  All of this was suddenly stopped and when her husband became very poorly she couldn’t visit him at all.  She phoned me when he was put on end of life care and when they were still waiting for the results of a Covid test.  I found myself praying with her and a very sensitive member of staff OUTSIDE her husband’s window.  It was so painful.  Heartbreaking.  Unreal.  We wondered if he could see us. I watched her reaching out her arms to him, unable to touch him.  I went home feeling distressed and very upset thinking we must find a way round it. 

We see Jesus continually finding a way round things for people who the rest of us have given up on.  Lepers were dangerous people.  If you touched them you risked contagion and slow death.  They lived outside the town or village, where we used to make “mad” people live.  This leper had obviously heard about Jesus healing people and it sounds as though he’s giving it one last chance.  He sounds really quite depressed. “If you want to, you can heal me” he says to Jesus.  He doubts that anyone wants to have anything to do with him anymore.  Maybe even God has given up on him?  “Of course, I want to” is an answer that’s meant to jolt him out of his despair.  Jesus’ touching him probably clinched the deal.  Jesus doesn’t just say it, he does it.  He crosses the great chasm between the leper and everybody else, even God.  We’re told that the leper couldn’t stop talking about Jesus afterwards.  I wonder what he said to people.  Maybe “he touched me” were the most amazing, most shocking, 3 words.  Jesus took the risk.  He put himself in danger.  He became intimate, really close to both the lepers’ skin but his heart too.

We’re told at the beginning of the encounter that Jesus “felt sorry” for the leper.  Who are you feeling sorry for at the moment?  I’ve talked about people in nursing homes and care homes and their families but there are lots of people that we’re all feeling for at the moment.  It’s another thing doing something about it.  Contacting then, phoning them, texting them can be something we keep putting off.  Why?  I suspect we know it will take something out of us.  Because we know that they’ll ask us to share their pain, their worry and even their fears.  We suspect contacting them might take it out of us.  The story ends in a curious but hopeful way.  St Mark tells us that Jesus could no longer go openly into any town.  He took the place of the leper.  He became an outsider and felt what it’s like to be excluded.  Mark finishes by telling us that “even so people from all around would still come to him”.  It means that needy, hurting, sick people kept giving Jesus hope when he felt burdened.

That phone call might not be a pain after all.  It might just save us too.

Fr Gerry
February 14th, 2021

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walk

FATHER GERRY’S THIRD LOCKDOWN HOMILY (3-5) 

“LOOKING FOR JESUS?” 

Getting the vaccine in Buxton is really convenient.  It’s just around the corner on Temple Road.  All the town medical centres have joined together and it’s a slick operation.  Yesterday I found myself queuing in the car park with about 15 other people.  When I looked around me I thought “do I really look as old as all of these folk?”  There was someone obviously young there too and I wondered if they had sneaked in!  Our physical health has been totally dominating our minds for the past 10 months so it’s striking in today’s Gospel story to be told: “the whole town came crowding round the door and Jesus cured those who were suffering from diseases of one kind or another”.  It’s as though they were queuing up to receive the vaccine!  The longer it’s gone on the more we’ve realised that Covid is more than a physical disease.  Lockdowns and restrictions affect the heart and mind too.  We’re talking so much about our “mental health” now.  I wonder if it’s a way of disguising that we’re lonely, anxious and fed up.  We miss our families, our friends and the variety of life.  It can all feel a bit heavy and colourless.

Today’s Gospel tells us Simon and Andrew take Jesus to their house before work.  They’re opening up to him, introducing him to the family, but worryingly Simon’s mother-in-law is in bed with malaria.  It’s not just a headache!  Jesus’ reaction is revealing.  He doesn’t put her on the long finger but immediately goes to her and takes her by the hand.  He shouldn’t have touched her.  You could only physically touch your own wife and family.  He gets both physically and emotionally close to her.  He breaks through the barriers between them and our translation tells us he “helps” her “up”.  It’s the same word as “raises her up”, and it’s the word used of Jesus’ own resurrection from the dead.  The woman who had been laid low with malaria is raised to life again.  It’s that picture of being down and then Jesus picking her up and restoring her to the fullness of life again.  We’re told the fever left her and she began to “wait” on them.  It doesn’t mean that she made the dinner!  “Waiting on someone” is our translation of “diakonia” – what deacons do – serve people.  When people are healed by Jesus they don’t just go back to life as it was before – they begin a deeper service of others. 

In the midst of all this activity, Jesus gets up early in the morning and goes to pray.  Why?  He needs more than sleep to keep him going – He goes alone – without the support of friends Simon and the companions don’t go to pray with him.  Why not?  They’re very impressed by all the healing miracles but haven’t learnt yet where his power comes from.  They have to go and look for Jesus.  They find him and then the whole party moves on to more healing activity.  It sounds as though busyness is taking them over – they don’t understand that personal prayer is the centre of Jesus’ life.  They’re taken in by all the excitement but overlook an essential part of Jesus’ life.  You will remember that even at the end of Jesus’ life he prays alone – his disciple’s fall asleep in the garden before his crucifixion.  

I suspect that we’re all quite like them. We put so much of our energies into helping people that we can easily forget where our energy, our love comes from.  Daily morning and evening prayer is part of the Catholic tradition and routine.  I think going to Mass is a bit empty without it.  Isn’t this one of the things that Covid is teaching us?  That in the midst of all our busyness we need to pray.  Bishop Patrick has sent us a booklet to remind us to do it in Lent.  In fact, we’re discovering it’s essential for us every day as it was for Jesus.  It’s about reminding our selves of who is our centre.  It’s meeting “the God who heals the brokenhearted.”

Fr Gerry
February 6, 2021

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St Anne

FATHER GERRY’S THIRD LOCKDOWN HOMILY (3-4) 

“WHO’S IMPRESSING YOU AT THE MOMENT?” 

This week I discovered there are some privileges of being 70 after all. I got the invitation from the doctors to have the vaccine.  I feel relieved.  I feel privileged being near the front of the queue.  I must admit, though, I find it hard to admit I’m in the vulnerable group – I’m much more likely to catch the virus and die than younger people.  I don’t like being reminded that I’m much nearer the end of my life than many people.  Almost all of us are deeply grateful for the vaccine.  I tell myself that God has been secretly working with our scientists to help them discover these new medicines.  

When Jesus met the man possessed by the unclean spirit it sounds like it was a terrifying occasion.  The man is shouting; he’s thrown into convulsions and shrieking.  All the people in the synagogue must have felt themselves instinctively backing away, wanting to be out of there.  Not Jesus! Instead of running away like Jonah, he engages the very sick man.  Maybe he then felt smacked in the face by the man’s sharp words.  There’s a battle between good and evil that takes place there and then.  The spirit of evil senses it is on the back foot and in retreat and asks Jesus “Have you come to destroy us?”  Jesus claims the victory over this shouting and chaos and orders the spirit “Be quiet and come out of the man”.  The Spirit, the Holy Spirit, which had descended on Jesus at his Baptism, and which had been his strength when he was tested in the desert, defeats and conquers this unclean spirit which possesses the man. 

People watching really sit up.  They’re “astonished” and puzzled and yet hopeful.  “Here is a new teaching”, they say, “and with authority behind it”.  Jesus speaks and it happens.  He says the word and good overcomes evil and a new world begins.  Here in St Marks Gospel Jesus teaches us much by his actions as by his words.  He comes across as a warrior on the side of all that’s good, overcoming all that’s evil, degrading and disheartening. 

Even when Jesus teaches with words earlier on in the story we’re told he made a “deep impression” on his listeners because he taught “with authority”.  We give much more weight to actions than words don’t we?  Stop and think – Who’s making a deep impression on you at the moment.  Who’s teaching you with authority?  Maybe by their actions more than their words?  I was very impressed by the nurse who knelt down by the bedside and said the Our Father with me yesterday as we both prayed with a woman who was dying. 

I was impressed by the wife sitting beside her chronically ill husband patiently feeding him his dinner and talking to him despite rarely getting an answer.  I was impressed by the parents adjusting yet again to homeschooling, altering their work timetables, making sure their children are on the computer ready to start home learning at 9 am on a Monday morning. 

I’m very impressed by all these people who keep reminding us that “Black Lives Matter” even when we think it’s no longer necessary.  
Let’s look around us this week and watch out for all those situations where the Spirit of God is defeating the evil spirits.

It’s all still happening today right under our noses but it’s very ordinarily and normally hidden.  It’s not noisy, but quiet.  Notice all those people getting on with life, loving and caring in difficult circumstances, even when they’re tired, weary, feel like giving up.

What’s impressive is that the Spirit of God helps us all to keep going even when everything around is noisy and chaotic.  Ask this Spirit to bring you quietness and hope. 

Fr Gerry
January 30, 2021

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Corbar Cross

FATHER GERRY’S THIRD LOCKDOWN HOMILY (3-3) 

“MORE LIKE JONAH THAN SIMON AND ANDREW?” 

Did you watch any of the Inauguration of the new American President last Wednesday and Thursday?  What caught your attention about it?  Can’t Lady Gaga sing?  What about the young black poet, Amanda Gorman?  Her recitation of her poem “The Hill we climb” stole the show.  What about Joe Biden, oldest President ever, 3rd time lucky, and a practicing Catholic – measured, smiling, determined.  Of course, the Donald wasn’t there – he’s still sulking, angry, protesting they had stolen the election from him.  What a contrast between the new one and the old one!  How could they be so different? 

Reading today’s Gospel you could be forgiven for thinking that those first followers of Jesus were the perfect disciples.  When Jesus called them we’re told: “they left their nets and followed him”.  James and his brother John left their father too and they all did it straight away – “at once” is one of St Mark’s favourite words.  What a contrast these followers of Jesus are to the prophet Jonah!  Jonah is probably the nearest thing to Donald Trump in the whole of the Bible.  He’s a nightmare prophet of God.  He always wants his own way.  He’s always right.  When things turn our differently he spits the dummy out.  Let me explain.

Look at today’s First Reading again.  It starts halfway through the book of Jonah.  The one thing we all know about him was that he was swallowed by the whale.  How come? Well, God called him to go East to Nineveh and he fled West to Tarshish.  Why?  Because he thought God was crazy thinking the people of Nineveh could change their ways.  They were bad, evil, unredeemable people for Jonah.  God was wasting his time thinking he could convert them so Jonah thought he could run away from God.  Now Tarshish was in Spain.  Jonah was setting out on a years’ journey by boat – putting as much space as possible between him and God.  Eventually, of course, God found him in the belly of the whale.  Jonah “sort of” repented.  He “kind of” gave in to God.  He said the right words but didn’t really mean them.  He went through the motions and that’s where today’s story starts.  This second time Jonah got the same message and goes East to Nineveh as God tells him.  He gives the message to the Ninevites thinking God was making a terrible mistake.  He still thought these people were undeserving of God’s love and mercy and gets the shock of his life.    They repent!  They change their ways! We’re told, “God relented and didn’t inflict the disaster he had threatened”.  Jonah is furious.  He’s hopping mad.  Complains bitterly to God that he’s done the wrong thing and shown his mercy to these undeserving people. 

The book of Jonah ends up with everybody – the sailors, the pagan Ninevites, their king, all repenting but Jonah himself is left in mid-air – still grumbling against God’s strange ways of showing mercy to these foreigners.  How will he end up? The whole book is only 5 chapters – read it to discover the ending – He reminds me of Donald Trump promising “I’ll be back!”

Simon and Andrew, James and John are a magnificent contrast to Jonah.  They leave their nets, their jobs, their families everything that they’d planned and put their trust in the new thing they saw God doing in the life of Jesus of Nazareth.  But the honeymoon will soon be over and we will see in future weeks they crash.  Just like Jonah.  What about us?  Aren’t we in the middle of another 40 days of God calling us to change our ways?  

“Repenting” is much, much more demanding than what the Government is asking us to do!  What does the story of Jonah remind you of in yourself?  How you trick yourself?  How do you keep thinking you can tell God who to love?  How you can make promises and not really mean them?  The first disciples make us more hopeful about ourselves.  They really did follow Jesus.  They actually left their boats ad their nets and even their families.  They, like us, began to live in the company of Jesus.  Did they put their trust in him because they were fishermen?  Was it because they know there is a world beneath the surface of the water?  A world you can’t see but depend on not just for your living but for all living.  

Here they are beginning to catch not fish but people, beginning to catch not just other people but to catch themselves. 
 
Fr Gerry
January 23, 2021

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Fairfield

FATHER GERRY’S THIRD LOCKDOWN HOMILY (3-2) 

“WHO WILL BE YOUR GUIDE AND TEACHER?” 

It’s late Autumn and the native Americans on a remote reservation in South Dakota ask their new Chief if the coming winter is going to be cold or mild.  Sadly the new leader has never been taught the old secrets of how to read the sky so when he looks up he can find no answer.  But he thinks it wise to be prepared just in case so he tells his tribe it will indeed be a cold winter and they should start collecting firewood immediately.   A few days later he decides to check the weather forecast and it tells him “Yes, it’s gonna be a pretty cold winter.”  So he goes back to his people and tells them “Collect even more firewood”.  A week later he makes another phone call.  This time he’s told it’s going to be a VERY COLD WINTER.  The Chief goes back to his people yet again and orders them to collect every scrap of firewood they can find.  By now the winter is almost upon South Dakota so the chief makes one last phone call. “Are you absolutely sure this winter is going to be really cold?” “Absolutely”, the Weatherman replies.  It’s looking like it’s gonna be one of the coldest winters we’ve ever seen ” How can you be so sure the Chief asks." The Weatherman replies “All the Indians are collecting loads and loads of firewood”.  

We’re going round and round in circles!  It’s the blind leading the blind.  Nobody really knows although they say they do. Remember that slogan we’ve been hearing for the past 10 months “We’re following the science”.  We’ve discovered the science isn’t enough on its own, we also need to know how to read the human heart!  Changing our everyday behaviour and routines is really difficult!  As a result of our confusion we have lots of people saying at the moment “I don’t know who to believe”.

Chris Whittey, the National Chief Medical Officer, stepped up last week to tell us the worst was still to come and that stopping at home is the only solution.  The problem is that it’s something not everyone can afford to do, and it’s not something everyone wants to do. Actually, we all really need to change and that’s a very bumpy journey.

If you read today’s Gospel too literally you can get the impression it’s all straightforward and easy peasy for the first Disciples to follow Jesus.  It wasn’t!  It was demanding!  It required that they turn their lives upside down.  It forced them to ask themselves questions they had been partly avoiding all their lives.  What do you want?  Jesus asks them.  It stops us in our tracks!  It makes us dig deeper and go beneath the surface.  He asks us to search our hearts.  We’re invited to sort our priorities out, to be more clear about what really matters, to put these choices first and not let ourselves get sidetracked by what doesn’t really matter.  Jesus is a reader of the human heart, a spiritual leader and more – “The Lamb of God”. 
In St John’s Gospel, we shall watch him meeting troubled people who are seeking someone to help them read their own divided hearts.  He’ll meet Nicodemis the Pharisee who comes to him at night.  Jesus will tell him he needs to be “born again”
He’ll ask the woman at the well, the one who’s had five husbands, for a drink and promises her living water.  He’ll ask the paralysed man who has been ill for 38 years “Do you want to be well again?”
Everyone he meets will get more than a run for their money.  Of course, it’s all worth it because with Jesus they and we find our own hearts’ desire.  We discover where he lives.  We decide to stay with him not just the rest of the day but the rest of our lives.  We come home to God and home to ourselves.  There’s no need to phone the weather forecast.  We’ve learnt to read the sky by listening to the one who shows us how to read our own hearts.
  
Fr Gerry
January 15, 2021

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Lightwood top pond

FATHER GERRY’S THIRD LOCKDOWN HOMILY (3-1) 

“JESUS TAKES THE PLUNGE” 

Schools and exams are in the news again.  They went back to school last Monday, then closed on Tuesday.  It’s online learning now and parents and children are adapting.  The Government decided there will be no GCSEs and A levels once again this year.  This affects the career decisions of many young people.  What am I going to do with my life?  What do I feel drawn to?  You all might be hearing the nervousness and disappointment of your children or Grandchildren wondering about universities or apprenticeships or just a job at the moment.

We are gloriously in the dark about Jesus growing up.  St Mark completely skips it.  There are no birth stories in his gospel, he dives straight into the adult life of Jesus.  He starts his gospel with this story of Jesus making the 3-day journey south to meet John the Baptist to be baptised by him.  I’m struck by Jesus deciding not to stay at home.  The security of the family business obviously didn’t really appeal and he decides to leave home to check out John the Baptist.  I imagine he could have spent 6 months with him, watching him at work, listening to his preaching, asking his advice and that this climaxed in his asking John to Baptise him.  Jesus admired John.  John believed in Jesus.  John told Jesus “Yes you can!”  Jesus took the plunge literally because John said: “You can do it”.  We can all be so hesitant about committing ourselves.  We can put it off for so long and never get round to it.  It makes all the difference having someone behind you, telling you to take the risk, to commit yourself, that you’re ready.  John did this for Jesus.   Some of these will I? won’t I? Questions and struggles are highlighted in the symbolism of Jesus’ baptism. 

I said earlier that Jesus takes the plunge.  He goes into the deep.  John holds his head down in the water long enough for him to experience his own smallness and powerlessness but also when he picks him up Jesus knows the goodness of God rescuing him with the breath of new life. “The heavens are torn apart” “The spirit is given to him”.  Instead of endlessly trying to find his own way the light of God’s love makes its home in him and becomes a permanent compass for him.  He’s no longer lost in doubting himself because he discovers a reliable centre – he’s “the Son, the Beloved, God’s favour rests on him”.

Guess what comes after this story in the Gospels of Mark and Matthew?  You would imagine a story of homecoming where they rolled out the red carpet, wouldn’t you?  No, in both Mark and Matthew this same Spirit, who descended like a dove when the heavens opened, this Spirit drove Jesus into the desert where he was tested for 40 days – about the length of our present lockdown. 

The same is happening to all of us now.  After the comforting, joyful, careful celebrations of Christmas, we’re plonked back into the desert.  Mark says Jesus was with the wild animals – he was in danger of all his commitment collapsing – but the angels looked after him.  Remember your baptism today, remember you experienced the personal affirmation and confirmation that Jesus did.  When we feel attacked by the wild animals call on the angels to minister to you.  

Fr Gerry
January 10th, 2021

 

Christmas Initiatives
Christmas 1

A Helping Hand @ The Source cafe has been created to offer help to those who are suffering from financial uncertainty this Christmas for whatever reason. This could include furlough, financial insecurity, unemployment etc. We’re offering excellent quality new and used toys, clothes, books and more for all ages.
We have a range of new and good quality second hand toys, clothes and gifts donated from the wonderful community in Buxton. These are available to purchase, with many items at just £1, offering families the ability to choose their own gifts for their children or relatives without judgement. 

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Christmas 2

This service is available without appointment to any family who falls into the above categories, or, who has been handed a flyer and referred through a local support agency such as the food bank, social services, or school. 

Helping Hands is open 9:30-3pm Tuesdays, Wednesday and Thursdays in December (Starting this Thursday 3rd Dec). 
We can take both cash and card payments.