Monday, 18 March 2013

St Joseph

Our observance of the feast of St Joseph begins at Evening Prayer today. Mass will be celebrated at St Matthias at 10am tomorrow.

God our Father,
who from the family of your servant David
raised up Joseph the carpenter
to be the guardian of your incarnate Son
and husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary:
give us grace to follow him
in faithful obedience to your commands;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever

Reflection for Lent 5 (Passion Sunday)

John's account of Mary of Bethany anointing Jesus' feet presents us with a profound contrast. On the one hand we have Mary - lavish, extravagent, out of control for the sake of love. On the other we have Judas who, whatever his motivations (on which the evangelist has a particular spin), is the voice of restrained, sensible, pragmatism - think of the consequences, we can imagine him saying, the resources used to anoint Jesus could have been put to better use, for lasting effect. The Judas whose voice we hear in this gospel reading is a familiar figure in our society, in our churches, and in our selves - he is present whenever love, which by its very nature always wants to exceed itself, is held back in a supposedly higher cause.

Mary, says Jesus chillingly, has anointed him for his burial.Today's gospel looks forward to the Cross, the point at which love comes into ultimate opposition with its opponents, what the evangelist calls 'the World'. The outcome of the ensuing struggle is made clear on Easter morning. As we participate sacramentally in Jesus' passion and resurrection in the next fortnight a question is addressed to us: which side are you on?

The demand of the gospel is clear. We have to side with love.

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Pray with Archbishop Justin

Bishop Richard has sent a message to our diocese about a visit from our new archbishop:

As part of the preparation for his enthronement on 21st March, the Archbishop will be visiting five cities and six cathedrals in the Southern Province to meet with their bishops and to pray with all who wish to join him in their Cathedrals.

You will find the complete itinerary for this on the Archbishop's Journey in Prayer page. 

On Saturday 16th March the Archbishop will continue his journey through London and I very much hope that some of you will join him for as little or as much of the day as you are able. There will be various aids to prayer set up in both St Paul's and Southwark Cathedral.
  • 10.30am - Gather by the blue plaque marking the birthplace of St Thomas À Becket (Archbishop of Canterbury 1161-1170) on the corner of 90 Cheapside and Ironmonger Lane.
  • Journey to St. Paul's Cathedral.
  • 10:45 to 12:15 - Prayer in the Cathedral. Please enter by the door in the North Transept of the Cathedral which takes you straight into the chapel of St Erkenwald and St Ethelburga with Holman Hunt's painting of the Light of the World.
  • 12.30pm - Gather by the south end of the Millennium Bridge.
  • Journey along the South Bank and through Borough Market to Southwark Cathedral.
  • 13:15 to 17:30 - Prayer in Southwark Cathedral concluding with a short liturgy.
Whether you are able to share with him on this day or not, Archbishop Justin will be very grateful for our continuing prayers. His responsibilities are onerous and it is only by God's grace and supported by the prayers of all the faithful that he will be able fulfil his calling.

God our Father, Lord of all the world,
through your Son you have called us into the fellowship
of your universal Church:
hear our prayer for your faithful people
that in their vocation and ministry
each may be an instrument of your love,
and give to your servant Justin
the needful gifts of grace;
through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

As we are part of God's universal Church, so on this eve of the Conclave to elect a new pope let us continue to pray also for our Roman Catholic brothers and sisters as they invoke the guidance of God's Holy Spirit.

Sunday, 10 March 2013

Lent 4 - Mothering Sunday

Today is also known as Mothering Sunday or refreshment Sunday, a brief respite from the rigours of lent are afforded us and so I hope many of you will be spoilt a little today, and indeed at the end of our service all of us will be given some flowers by the church as a reminder in the days ahead of the task that lies before us in our daily Christian living – to receive and give to those around us the love of Christ.

It may seem strange that on this day our gospel reading is not about Mothers and Children, but Fathers and sons! The parable that we have just heard read as our gospel reading is only found in Luke’s gospel but is one whose faint echo can still be heard, whose picture language is still cherished by a world that seems to have forgotten so much of the Christian scriptures.

But what do we call this parable – the parable of the lost son or the forgiving father?

I wonder which title finds greater resonance with you this morning?
Which of these two, in fact its three, characters do you emphasise with most – the Father or the Sons?

The parable of the lost son.
The youngest, foolish and selfish son who wishes his father dead so as to inherit his share of the family fortune.
The child, to be inclusive for a moment, who is given what they ask for, what they dream of, what they strive for only then to loose it through reckless and self centred living.
Is this the story of a man who has crashed to lowest point in life, not just their life, but LIFE, without a single person around them who notices them for anything other than slave, a pitiful individual doing a pitiful job – a job for which there are sadly too many others just as qualified.
A son who comes to his senses and seeks forgiveness, who dares to return, to turn again, to admit that they got is so terribly wrong, to put aside self pity and recrimination and simply ask for forgiveness. Except of course it is rarely simple and it is always costly.

Or is it a story of the Forgiving Father -  of a long suffering father who demonstrates the cost of that love which welled up in his chest as his son drew his first breath and yelled to the world that he had arrived. A forgiving parent, to be inclusive for a moment, who takes on the insults of their child who out of love makes the mistake of indulging that child, yes maybe spoiling the youngest to compensate for perceived strictness with the first born. A Parent, a Father, who nevertheless is prepared to watch, not just wait, but to actively wait and watch, who is prepared to reject the sound advice of fellow dads who say good riddance to their offspring when they become too much to handle, a Father who actively runs out, under the full and mocking gaze of the world to meet the dirty and disgraced figure who no one but HE can recognise as his son.

I guess the answer is probably tied up with what is preoccupying you and me on this particular day –this Mothering Sunday– what it is we need most in our lives right now so that we can go forward rather then remain in the rut that has become the familiar and frustrating in equal measure.
Our decision will probably be shaped by what it is that we seek most right now in our lives:

Is this a story about Repentance or Absolution?
Is it a story about the cost of admitting our need to repent/ change our lives and seek to restore/heal/reconcile all that is broken?

What ever your answer, and it can be either or and both! This parable is a story about costly living – the cost of asking for forgiveness and the cost of forgiving, of reaching out to the one who has hurt us like no other can and forgiving/loving in spite or and because of what they have done and who they are.

Monday, 4 March 2013

Fr Prebendary John Hawkins

A very big thank you for all the well wishers and members of St John and St Matthias who came to see my installation at St Paul's yesterday. I hope to add more pictures as they arrive. Thanks to my colleagues for my new hat - we shall start to make a collection of coloured pom poms between us all.

St Joseph - a saint for March

This is the editorial for the March edition of our parish magazines
If you would like to subscribe to one of these, please get in touch!

At this time of year our thoughts in church are inevitably focused on the end of Lent and our preparations for the Triduum – the great three days when we celebrate Jesus’ passing over from death to life. But tucked away in the Church’s calendar at the end of March is another significant celebration.

I feel sorry for poor old St Joseph. His feast day on the 19th March always falls in Lent, and often falls in or near Holy Week. Because of this, we tend to forget him. We’re busy enough already at this time of the year, we’re not going to do anything special to mark his day! This reflects a tendency to ignore the role of Joseph in the story of Jesus’ life more generally. But there are important things we can learn from Joseph.

In the life of St Joseph we see God working in unexpected ways, upsetting Joseph’s view of his relationship with Mary, and bringing about a family situation which was far from ordinary. Yet through the unusual, through the scandalous, God’s Son lived a human life. Do we recognise in our day that God defies convention and refuses to be tied to the expected and respectable?

3rd Sunday in Lent

The prophets of the Old Testament responded to disasters in the life of God's people by issuing stern warnings: the people had turned away from a proper relationship with God and with one another, the relationship sealed in the Covenant with Moses, and had chosen instead the ways of death and injustice. Again and again the prophets called people to repentance.

In today's gospel reading, Luke places Jesus squarely in this prophetic tradition. Jesus talks about some "Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifice". The description of this event is unique to Luke's gospel, but we know that Pilate was a violent ruler. Death was always near - something that is brought home by the fact that Jesus utters these words on the way to Jerusalem, where he will himself be killed. In response to this proximity of death, Jesus calls people to repentance in stark words - "if you do not repent, you will all perish in the same way".

Those are stark words indeed, but they are followed up by words of mercy. The parable of the fig tree stresses that there is still time for repentance. This message echoes our Old Testament reading, "Seek the Lord while he may be found, call upon him while he is near." Those are words we should apply to ourselves this Lent. What do we as individuals and as the Church need to repent of? In which areas of our lives do we need to seek the Lord anew?