Week commencing Sixth Sunday or Eastertide.

My dear friends in Christ,

Welcome to the Bishop’s Blog!This week we will celebrate the Ascension of our Lord to the Father. It is a Holy Day of Obligation under normal circumstances. Currently the obligation of attending Mass is dispensed, but we would be doing ourselves no favours by letting this Mystery of Faith pass without keeping it sacred.As He prepared to return to the Father Jesus knew the disciples would struggle with loss again, and so soon after having lost Him on the Cross. His Resurrection would become the evidence on which all His teachings would find confirmation, that we are called to share the life of the Blessed Trinity.So many of our desires and longings are ‘earth-bound’. For the child happiness is found in the immediate moment; for the older youth and young adult it is found perhaps in dreams of the future; for the old it is found in past memories. Where do our longings lead us? Where do they leave us?Jesus does not give us a description of heaven. Instead, He tells us to trust, to calm our anxieties and know His peace. He knows that the joys of this world do not last. He wants us to know a joy that is complete. What makes us happy or fulfilled? His time with the disciples between His Resurrection and Ascension is a conversation between heaven and earth, and He continues to look for and speak with those left out, those left behind, those lost. He knows the work of our lives is fruit that does not last, even for the winners of Nobel Peace prizes!Our labours are so easily wasted, either by ourselves or others. Our achievements are so often unrewarded, our beauty fades, our strength fails, peace negotiations so carefully managed and conducted are blown apart by betrayals or random events such as a pandemic. The Middle East and Africa constantly fall victim to shifts in politics or poverty. All that hard work for nothing. Two steps forward . . . . .Let me share two stories of short-lived joy. I recall an old woman coming to the mission in distress because her adult daughter who was dying of AIDS had literally gone missing. We set out to find her, making enquiries with neighbours and eventually found her at the village of a traditional healer. The old mother’s immediate fears were eased, but her daughter was still dying of AIDS. On another occasion an old woman came asking me to buy her a blanket on my next trip to town. The blanket was for her orphaned grandchildren. She had saved the money needed but hadn’t enough to cover the trip to town. On the day I bought it I returned after dark, tired. I decided I’d take it to her in the morning. She lived the other side of the hills and there was no road through the bush. But then my conscience got at me; the blanket was needed at night, not in the morning.I set out to deliver it, knowing they would all be settled down for the night. My arrival in the village was announced by the dogs, and I knew the family would be alarmed by the disturbance, expecting it to be bad news. Of course, they were delighted with the arrival of the new blanket just at the right time. Given their joy, I doubt they slept at all. But the children were still orphans. How sad that we have learned to be happy with short-term joys, incomplete joys. We long for something so much better.Let us give our scraps of life, of joy, of love to Jesus. In His hands, and with His blessing they will become so much more. Heaven cannot be the reward for living impossible lives and therefore impossible to gain. Instead, all things are possible to God when we trust Him, and when we recall His desire, that we share with Him the life of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. May our perseverance in good works and our trust in Jesus win us our lives.

With my blessing,

+Paul

Paul Swarbrick

Bishop of Lancaster

Make your home in me as I make mine in you

My dear brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ,

Welcome to the Bishop’s Blog

As a priest working in a parish you can never forget the importance of parishioners needing homes and schools and work for the good of their families. That’s part of what made the issue of the Cumbrian coal mine so emotive; it would be such a boost for the local economy. The Diocese encompasses the stunning scenery of the Lake District, so precious to tens of thousands of visitors who find the area’s beauty does them such good. There is the constant need to consider the well-being of those who live and work there too. I have a concern that our parishes and presence within the Park are difficult to maintain.Last week I spoke with Bill and Peter who both live within the Park. They are doing what they can to provide housing for local people at a time when more properties are being taken as holiday-lets. The problem is real, but not new. I recalled a story I was told by an old priest many years ago about a family he knew struggling for accommodation in Wigton. After several quick moves they finally secured a permanent place. Fr.Wells was chatting with one of the children. He said to the child, ‘You must be so happy to finally have a home’. The child gave a lovely answer; ‘Father, we’ve always had a home; now we have a house to put it in!’.‘Make your home in me as I make mine in you.’ Our Lord chose His words with care, wanting to speak to the heart of those He was addressing, then as now. Home can often mean a particular place, probably where our childhood was spent or where we lived for many years or where the family grew and neighbours were known. But some moves are tough, not always of our making and not always to our liking. We can reflect on the millions displaced by war, violence, poverty. We can also think of those who have to ‘go into care’ because they can no longer manage. The words of Jesus speak to them too.Two other comments Jesus made come to mind in relation to this. Firstly, He said, ‘Foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of man has nowhere to lay His head’. He also said, ‘I go to prepare a place for you, so that where I am you may be too’. House and home are to some extent distinct.As we draw closer to our celebration of His Ascension, we are taught to keep in mind that our time on earth is a journey, a pilgrimage to our ultimate home, to be with the Lord for ever. I remember the homily preached by the late Mgr Michael Tully for my father’s Requiem in 2003. He spoke about how the risen Jesus did not give us any detailed description of what heaven would be like, He simply said, ‘Peace be with you’. We don’t need to worry about the details because it will be right.Meanwhile, let us do all we can to practise hospitality to those in need so that we are more open to the ultimate hospitality we will know, please God, in heaven. Mary’s Rosary in this, her month, is a sure way to calm the troubled mind, and lift the burdens from heavy hearts.With my blessing, especially for those whose needs are greatest at this time,

+Paul

Paul Swarbrick

Bishop of Lancaster