My dear brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ,
Welcome back to weekly Bishop’s Blog!All the Feasts and Solemnities of the Church’s calendar celebrate truths of Faith. At the heart of each is a particular gift of the Lord, given as a reminder that we are not forgotten. This solemnity of Mary being taken to heaven brings us joy, inviting us to journey with her, in Faith, to the place Jesus said He was going to prepare for us.Beyond the reach of all harm, where joys will not be short-lived, is certainly attractive when we are faced with all sorts going wrong, from international disasters, through examination qualification nightmares, to my own difficulties. In some years we need more encouragement than in others.Less than a fortnight ago we heard of the explosion in Beirut. This weekend, much closer to home, I heard of the sudden death of Damian Bates, Head of RE at Our Lady’s Catholic College, Lancaster. He leaves a wife and four children, and his own parents as well as so many colleagues and friends, stunned by the news. He was a man who lived his Catholic Faith. Some would ask why does this happen.Faith is not a ‘lucky charm’, acting to protect us from the harsher side of this life. It often seems to be the opposite. So why bother?Some years ago, a parishioner and friend fell from a crag in the Lake District and was found dead by the Mountain Search and Rescue Team at the base of a crag. Blaming God is a bit like me blaming the mountains, and turning my back on them, never to walk them again because of what they’ve done to my friend. It’s not enough to say accidents happen; someone must be blamed.Our Lord didn’t come to blame us, He came to put things right by opening the way to eternal life. Here I live constantly in the shadow of catastrophe and death, but that shadow is shortening because Christ is risen. Our Blessed Lady’s final completion of her journey is more than just her own. When I say goodbye to a loved one something of myself goes with them and some little part of them seems to stay with me. In the mess of my emotions the Truth of Faith come as Consoling Truth and Guiding Truth, and Reassuring Truth.May the Assumption of Mary into heaven, to share the life of the Blessed Trinity, find a place in you and draw you further along the way she has gone.
Pray for us, O holy Mother of God, that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.With my blessings,
Bishop of Lancaster.
My dear friends in Christ,
Welcome back to this week’s Bishop’s Blog!The explosion in Beirut has sent shock-waves across the whole world. A ‘failing’ economy already on its knees has effectively been ‘kicked when it’s down’. It’s not difficult to understand that any efforts to cope with the pandemic have been swept to one side by the blast. Our prayers and hearts go out to the people of Lebanon.So many are refugees from other trouble-spots of the Middle East. The degree of suffering is off the scale. It is one more example of how the disadvantaged are the most vulnerable.‘The Lord hears the cry of the poor’ we are told. Sceptics understandably comment, yes, and the Lord appears not to care. It is a severe challenge to faith in a loving God, a challenge waiting for a response. What response can we offer when prayers seem not enough?I turn to Jesus, looking for an answer. Faced with catastrophe we know the sort of god we want; what God has Jesus given us? And what do we do when the God He gives us is not good enough to meet our needs, whether those needs are massive such as those in Lebanon or personal and private and hidden from the world?The answer Jesus gives is the same for all our cries. His answer begins by being with us in the very depths of the problem. We complain that someone drowning gains little comfort in finding a companion in the water with them, drowning alongside them. We need more than this.
Jesus has given us His teaching. When He was told of the terminal sickness of His friend Lazarus He said, ‘This sickness will not end in death. It is intended for God’s honour’.A strange, unsatisfying response because it does not prevent Lazarus’s continued suffering, the distress of Martha and Mary, nor the ultimate death. He leads those listening to see something new, and to hope for something beyond nature. His answer does not remove the distress or suddenly make everything ok. There is something we must go through to get to a better place, and the God Jesus gives us is with us in the ‘going through’.Survivors will find this hard to take in, but the alternatives don’t offer anything better.
Let us be disciples who struggle to understand, but who persevere in following the Lord through the tragedies of this life. Let Divine charity use us for the benefit of victims and survivors.
With my blessing,
Bishop of Lancaster.