In the gospel today Mark
describes a real climax in the earthly ministry of Jesus. Peter, on behalf of
the disciples, those who’ve been with him for a good long time, is able to
express his (and presumably their) faith that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, the one whom the whole Jewish nation had been
waiting for. It was a fantastic moment. And I think we all realise how
important that faith is to our lives and yet how mysterious it is too – and how
vulnerable we feel when we speak up about it, as Peter did.
It was interesting this last
week. As you know, 50 of us were on pilgrimage to Lourdes, a place where many
believe that Mary has called upon pilgrims to gather since 1858. Once pilgrims are
gathered there she seems to stand back as if in enjoyment of the Faithful
deepening their friendship with her Son. During the week we reflected on how
good it was to make the journey together, and how much more confident we could
be in expressing and celebrating our personal quests to reach the heart of God.
Moreover we were in the wonderful company of thousands of others. It was
estimated that there was between 20 and 25,000 of us at the International Mass
last Sunday. We are used to rowing against the tide in the worlds we live in,
pushing against closed doors, but for a change we were in the flow, rejoicing
freely in our Faith with so many others of all ages, races and ability from
every continent of the world.
Faith is a precious gift
indeed but we need to always be refining it. “Who do people say I am?” Jesus
asked. Well that demands a considered
response. There is a story of a man coming out of a bank, meeting an elderly
blind lady with her hand outstretched who said: “Can you help me?” The man
paused and put a few coins in her hand. “Thank you”, she said, “but what I want
is for someone to help me up the step and into the bank”! We can get it wrong
about people and Jesus was very keen that the disciples didn’t get it wrong
about him. He was pleased that they had understood him well enough to come to believe
that he was the Christ, but straight away he launched into this description of
himself as the Suffering Servant, the innocent lamb picked out with the words
of Isaiah 7 or 800 years before, the words we heard in our first reading. He
was not the sort of Messiah the Jews expected, one who would lead an army
against the Romans and the rest of the world. He was one who would suffer, be
rejected and put to death. So identifying him in Faith was just the start.
Getting to know him more deeply would have to follow for Peter and the others, and
it has to follow for us too.
St. James picks up on this in
our second reading. If good deeds don’t go with faith in Jesus then you’ve the
wrong Jesus. It’s not him at all. If you have faith in true person of Christ
then good works will follow. So what about us as a Faith Community, the parish
of Holy Cross? Well I think people do see that the life of the parish reflects
a true faith in Christ – that we have developed an accurate and true vision of
who God is. It’s never good enough but it’s still good. I remain very proud of
the international stewardship award you were given this time last year in
recognition of the spirituality that you express in action here in Catford. The
more open to everyone the parish activity is, the more the people of Catford
will look to Holy Cross to find God. That is our Mission.
I am happy and proud to have
played a role in this over these past years. I have described the experience to
many people as being like jockeying a race horse. Holy Cross is a very fast and
very able thorough-bred. I am proud to hand over the reins to a new younger
jockey, Fr Antony, just as I was proud to mount up after Fr John Mulligan. The
church mourns his tragic loss. (Not to forget Fr Britto who was caretaker in
between). As it happens there will be a little gap now as Fr Antony had a car
accident in India and isn’t able to travel for a few weeks. A retired priest, Canon Collins will be here
over the next few weekends.
Anyhow I am very pleased that
we have been able to renew the church building that is our worship centre and meeting
point. It’s had new lights, new sound, new roofs, new electrics, new plumbing, new
insulation, new glazing, new guttering and drainage and more than a lick of
paint. (Still a bit to do) Fr Antony can oversee some new carpeting!
I shall miss you all. I will
cherish many happy memories. I am sorry to all those I have offended in any
way. I wish I could have offered more, but the great thing is that so many of
you do so much and you do it so well!