Low Sunday 2021

My dear friends in Jesus Christ,

Welcome to this week’s Bishop’s Blog!

Glorious late Spring sunsets. The light lingers longer. A grieving Monarch who has so much to be grateful for, but must feel it a mixed blessing once the love of your life, your rock is no longer within reach. Her faith will keep her gaze fixed on the life to come, promised by a Saviour who understands the human heart from the inside.And this Sunday we listen to the story of dear doubting Thomas who wasn’t there at first, but then came back. Where had he been? How was he coping? How was he not coping? Even the strong have their breaking point, the point at which they say, ‘Enough  . . . . ‘. Thomas had reached that point, and gone beyond it. And Jesus came back for him because He’d not forgotten why He’d chosen him, why He wanted him to be counted among the Twelve. Thomas mattered, so Jesus came back for him, and picked him out for some special words and some special attention, and what a difference it has made for us all! I can’t imagine St.John’s Gospel without this story.An individual’s struggling faith can make them something of a liability for the Church, but Jesus turns it round, and the one struggling becomes an asset. There’s a big lesson for us all. Jesus showed dear Thomas His wounds. That’s something important right away. Jesus rose from the dead not as a pristine figure, as if the Passion had not happened. He carried the wounds. It would have been so easy for Him to say, ‘Look at these and remember how much you hurt me’. That would have served to make the disciples ashamed, driving home the guilt. Instead, He showed His wounds and seemed to say to Thomas, ‘Look at these wounds, and know how much I love you’.Wounds are a fact in our lives. If we live, we will be wounded; if we love we will be wounded more. But a miracle occurs, and they are changed from evidence of violence and betrayal into something perhaps even beautiful. At the Easter Vigil, as the great candle is prepared and marked before being lit, the following words are used, ‘By His Holy and Glorious Wounds, may Christ the Lord guard us, and protect us. Amen’. Thank-you Thomas, for your honesty in admitting your doubt, and for accepting this miracle of love.My blessing goes out to each of you struggling with the wounds of doubt and with all the other wounds inflicted on those who try to live and love. May you too share the miracle Christ worked for Thomas.

+Paul Swarbrick.

Bishop of Lancaster.

Good Friday 2021

My dear  brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus,

Welcome to the Bishop’s Blog!It simply refuses to go away, even in a secular culture. If it was just an idea, an ideology, it could be dismissed as something that has served its purpose for a time. It might have made its contribution to the evolution of thought, to society’s shifting values and perspectives on life, and then inevitably it would have given way to something more acceptable, more in keeping with contemporary sensibilities. But it hasn’t, and it won’t.It is rooted in history more deeply than an ideology. It is something that happened. It involved people not by the exercise of intellectual thought but through the inseparable association with what happened to a known individual.Its greatest failing might be found in the degree to which it is caught up in the lives of its so -called adherents. It becomes tarnished by so many lives gone astray, promises broken, power abused. But then there are lives lived with outstanding selflessness, personal tragedies unexpectedly turned round, real light from real darkness bringing real healing. Some spend their lives trying to get away from it, asking for their names and details to be removed from parish registers, or keeping secret their faith-roots. Others turn to it, discover it as their ultimate lifeline and never look back. These extremes could cancel each other out, leaving a jury undecided.Each year we go back to the source, the life of one person, and the moment that life was completed rather than ended. We are at a particular historic moment on a specific day in a precise location with an identified individual; the afternoon of the first Good Friday, close by the walls of ancient Jerusalem, where Jesus of Nazareth hangs on a Roman cross. There is a small group of witnesses. They note details such as His few short words, His final breath, the reaction of one of the guards, what is done with the body.Normally, when someone dies, there is a period of grief. Those who knew him or her struggle to various degrees to come to terms with their loss. They try to ‘get over it’. Gradually the memory and even the legend fades as facts become more remote. In this case there appears to be something else at work. We live this event not as something remote but as something immediate, relevant to life now. What makes this difference? The difference is ‘hearted’ in who we believe this person to be, Son of God and son of Mary.My thoughts and prayers go out to the whole Diocese in these days of the Sacred Triduum. I am especially mindful of those of you who are experiencing difficulties that seem too much for you to bear. I also thank God for those who are an inspiration and strength and comfort for others.

+Paul

Paul Swarbrick

Bishop of Lancaster