The Glory of Christ’s Power over Evil

My dear Friends in Christ,

Welcome to this week’s Bishop’s Blog!

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When he began his ministry of preaching and teaching Our Blessed Lord had a startling impact. Those who listened to His words and observed His actions had never witnessed anything like it.

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The Evangelist Mark relates in today’s gospel that the Lord’s teaching had a freshness and originality to which they were unaccustomed and which caught their attention and imagination like no other. We might say that they were blown away by it!

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The same Lord Jesus speaks to us in the Scriptures Sunday after Sunday. His words remain always fresh and life-giving, because He Himself is the Word of God, and is truth itself. What is required of us, as Christ says elsewhere, is to have ears to hear.

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In our first reading from the book of Deuteronomy the Lord God promised Moses that another prophet would come who will speak God’s words and to whom the people must listen. That prophet is Christ, sent by God and come to us in the fullness of time, who has words of life for us in the twenty-first century.

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We are inundated each day by countless words, ideas and images of all kinds, but they are transitory and fleeting, whereas the word of Christ remains ever vigorous and energising for His people. Like those people long ago, through carefully listening, will we allow ourselves to be startled and come away deeply impressed, having just listened to the priceless words Christ speak to us?

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The people of Christ’s day, witnessing his actions, realised that with him an unheard of power for good had appeared among them. Demonic possession and the sinister power of evil which can possess and destroy a person was something to be greatly feared – it still is!

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St. Mark recounts how the demons recognised that one more powerful than they had come, and was in fact the Holy One of God.

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Hostile and wicked powers were now confronted by a higher authority, that of the Son of God in the flesh. Throughout his public life the Lord Jesus would demonstrate His divine power in so many ways, and which would culminate in his destruction of the evil of sin and death through His glorious resurrection from the dead. Let us open ourselves to the touch of that divine power each time we come together to pray and worship at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. If we do so, we will have nothing to fear.

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The Fathers of the Church were fond of describing the Church as a ship, a kind of Noah’s ark, which brings those on board across the sea of life, with all its dangers and temptations, safely to the harbour of our final home with God.

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By listening carefully to Christ’s words and allowing him to nourish us with his sacraments, we will ensure for ourselves a safe passage across life’s often turbulent seas. As we hear the story in today’s Mass of Jesus’s words and deeds, may we too discover that here is a teaching that is new, and with authority behind it!”

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Until next week – Let us pray for each other and may Almighty God protect and bless you,

As ever in Christ our Lord,

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+Michael G Campbell OSA
Bishop of Lancaster

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The Lord Still Calling Young Men to be His Priests!

Dear Friends,

Welcome to this week’s Bishop’s Blog!

As we listen and reflect on the readings at today’s Sunday Mass, we see how the Lord requires the help of generous disciples to help Him in his work of bringing the news of His Father’s love and care to the world. And it is a requirement which still stands!

In his Confessions, or spiritual autobiography, St. Augustine of Hippo long ago remarked that if no good men came forward we would be unable to receive the sacraments.  The words of this great saint continue to ring true.

The Evangelist Mark in his very crisp style relates the call of the two sets of brothers and fishermen by the Sea of Galilee. The Lord Jesus was walking by and called them to follow Him. We are told that their reaction was spontaneous and prompt: they left their nets there and then and accept the invitation to become fishermen of an altogether different kind. Along with the other apostles Jesus would call, Peter and his fellow-fishermen would form part of His closest collaborators and friends, the ‘college of the Twelve.’

With the exception of Judas, these disciples would remain faithful and committed to the person and work of the Lord. Are there young men in our parishes today prepared to hear and act on the invitation which the Lord extends?  And are parents, families, and parish communities generous and willing enough to pray for them and encourage them in accepting the Lord’s call?

Put simply, the Church of today, and especially tomorrow, greatly needs the generosity of young men, and those who surround and influence them, if the good news of the Lord Jesus is to be heard and His grace-filled sacraments be made accessible to the people He died on the cross for. God’s mercy and forgiveness came to the people of Nineveh thanks to the preaching of Jonah. His words made a difference, for God spoke through him despite his initial reluctance to go and bring words of healing to the Ninevites.

Where would we be without the inspired writings of the four Evangelists or the letters of St. Paul the apostle? We are the heirs of two–thousand years of witness of saints and martyrs who have ensured that the faith has been faithfully transmitted to us. But remember that each one of these had to make their own definite answer to the call of Christ.

Our pressing need in the Diocese of Lancaster is for young men to listen to Christ and offer themselves as his future priests. Ultimately, of course, it is Christ who first invites – but He uses so many others to facilitate young people in answering His call.

Can each one of us in the Diocese make possible again in our day the response of the young Isaiah to God’s question in the Temple at Jerusalem?  And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “whom shall I send to this people”, and I said, “here am I!  Send me.” (Is. 6:8)

Until next week – let us pray for each other and for priestly vocations,

As ever in Christ our Lord,

+Michael G Campbell OSA
Bishop of Lancaster

We’re in Ordinary Time – not so ordinary!

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

Welcome to this week’s Bishop’s Blog the first in 2018!

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With the Christmas season now behind us, we have entered what the Church’s liturgical calendar calls “Ordinary Time”, that is until the arrival of Lent in just over a month’s time.  Christmas and the days following have offered us worshippers a rich variety of liturgical feasts, what might be called an ‘embarrassment of riches’.

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We began on Christmas Day with the Lord’s birthday, followed immediately by the feast of St. Stephen, then St. John the Evangelist and, finally in December, that of the Holy Innocents. New Year’s Day is a solemn feast, dedicated to ‘Mary, Mother of God’. On the 6th January – twelve days after Christmas – we have the very significant feast of the Epiphany, sometimes called ‘little Christmas.’  Finally, and perhaps slightly overlooked this year, occurs the Baptism of the Lord.

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So the last few weeks have seen quite an array of liturgical feasts and solemnities, and so understandably we are moving into a quieter period, Ordinary time. Yet it would be a mistake and a misunderstanding of the liturgy to imagine that somehow God in Christ, and the power of the Holy Spirit, are only moderately active in Ordinary time. Indeed, in 2018 the Lord promises a year of blessings!

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Christ is ever present in his Church. In a favourite image of the apostle Paul, Christ is the Head of the Church which is his body, and he never ceases to nurture and cherish her. His Incarnation and Resurrection are not events celebrated at Christmas and Easter only; their power and grace-filled effectiveness remain constant and ever accessible to the believer, in season and out of season.

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During the high-points of the Church’s liturgical year we renew in a more intense way our devotion to the great mysteries of our faith: the Lord’s birth among us in Bethlehem, his passion, death and resurrection at Easter, and the coming of the Holy Spirit on the Church at Pentecost.

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We draw on these reserves, as it were, which help to nourish our faith in the season of Ordinary time.  We might permit ourselves the thought that we need a rest from these ‘high octane’ liturgical celebrations of the Christmas season, and the calmer atmosphere of the next few weeks provides us with that respite.

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Yet we need to remember that when we come together for Mass at any time of the year we do so through the power of the Holy Spirit, and Christ is waiting to speak to us through the proclamation of his word in the readings at Mass.

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With the offering of bread and wine and the rite of consecration we and all our many endeavours become part of his sacrifice on the cross for the salvation of the world.  No Mass therefore is ever ordinary. As Christmas and all its wonder recedes into the past, the challenge for the Church and every single believer is to live out the implications of the truths which Christmas has just set before us.

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Through his cross and resurrection Christ has ushered in a new creation. We have become a new creation through our baptism into Christ. St. Paul says that the old order has passed away and everything has been made new. May we all experience something of that newness, Christ’s newness, as we enter Ordinary time!

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Until next week – May God bless you all,

As ever in Christ,

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+Michael G Campbell OSA
Bishop of Lancaster