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