First Sunday of Lent
St Peters' Chair - Feast Day: 1 Peter 5:1-4;Psalm 22(23); Matthew 16:13-19 Clearly we do not have a feast day to celebrate a chair: the Chair of St Peter is representing the unity of the church founded upon the Apostles - otherwise known as the Apostolic Succession. St Peter was picked out by Jesus as the stone upon which his church - which is to be understood as the body of Christ - or, all the faithful - would be built. Some scholars suggest this took place at Petros - one of the places in the ancient world where people carved out villages inside cliff faces - so there is a situational pun involved. But leaving that thought aside - the image is clear enough, Peter would be the sure foundation stone for our faith. It is therefore important to recall Peter's words. In today's first reading we hear how leaders are expected to behave. Most of us have either experience of being led, or of leading - in families, in work, in social clubs or whatever. What do we look for in a leader? This extract from 1Peter on leadership is a very good role model and is used by some business training manuals these days. St Benedict amplifies Peter's ideas in his Rule, and it is an exercise to be commended to study the Rule of St Benedict to see how it might apply in our lives. A good starting place is 'Work And Prayer: The Rule of Saint Benedict for Lay People:' by Columba Carey-Elwis OSB.
Tuesday in Week Per Annum 6 (16th February): Genesis 6.5-8; 7.1-5,10; Ps 28; Mark 8.14-21 This is the day the French call Mardi Gras—“fat Tuesday.” The more sober English mind calls it carnival—the day of farewell (vale) to meat (carnem). In either case there is an urgency about this day, a sense that a substantial upheaval in our lives impends. For Noah and his family, likewise, an awareness of looming disaster necessitated urgent preparation. The Creator of all things, the One who had once wrought cosmos out of primal chaos [cf Genesis 1.2], had uttered the Bible’s most terrifying sentence: “I am sorry I ever made them.” Few people understood what they should do [Matthew 24.37-41] but all creation discerned that the world they had known was passing away. [I Corinthians 7.31] Yet catastrophe isn’t God’s last word, but only the next-last. Human sin brings ruin that reverberates beyond the guilty, but God proclaims his uninfringeable intention to bring good out of human sin [cf Genesis 50.20]. Upheaval and turmoil in our lives is inevitably distressing for us, but by God’s grace our travail is a great act of giving birth [Romans 8.18-25] and the outcome of it will be joy that a new Adam, a new creation [II Corinthians 5.17] has come to life. [John 16.21]
Ash Wednesday (17th Feb): Joel 2.12-18; Ps 50; II Corinthians 5.20—6.2; Matthew 6.1-6,16-18 “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you will return.” [Genesis 3.19] God’s chilling declaration to our primal parents correlates sin, our sundered relationship to God, with death. [Romans 5.12; I Corinthians 15.22] Jesus offers three tools for the revitalisation, the renewal of life worthy of the name. [John 10.10] These tools aren’t punishments so much as they are avenues for coming to our senses, returning to the embrace of a loving Father. [Luke 15.17-20] These three tools are almsgiving, prayer, and fasting. We arm ourselves with these weapons of self-restraint so that the Lord himself can show his pity on us, can receive us as his sons and daughters. [Hebrews 12.5-13]
Thursday of the 1st week of Lent: Esther 4:17;Psalm 137(138); Matthew 7:7-12 Ask and you shall receive, seek and you shall find... There are problems with petitionary prayer. We do not, for example, simply give our children everything they ask for - this would 'spoil' them. We ask God to release us from pain - the pain does not go away. And in any case, if God knows everything - why do I need to ask as God can know my thoughts 'even before they are formed'? We need to remember the sub text: they will be done as it is done in heaven. We can not know what God's will for us is, but we should trust in it. We should pray for God's will to be done, as that prayer always will be answered.
Friday after Ash Weds (19th February): Isaiah 58.1-9; Psalm 50; Matthew 9.14-15 Lent calls us to fast not so much from harmful addictions and preoccupations but from things benign or even salutary in themselves that may be obscuring our vision of God. Israel in the wilderness hungered and endured privations not because the natural human desire for food and clothing is a bad thing [cf Matthew 6.25-33] but so that they could learn in their heart of hearts to trust in God alone. [Deuteronomy 8.1-6] But our fasting can give us fresh opportunities for sharing our abundance with others, for healing not only the separation betwixt us and God but also the consequent disorderly relationship between us and our fellow human beings. [cf Luke 10.29-37] As we pray in this season for new, revitalised hearts [Psalm 50(51).10], it is fitting for us to contemplate the ways that our choices and lifestyles enslave others and deprive them of what we all desire. By our voluntary abstinence and by turning away from preferences that harm others we may all in this Lent discover afresh the “one thing necessary” which neither sin nor Satan nor death can take from us. [Luke 10.41-42]
Saturday after Ash Weds (20th February): Isaiah 58.9-14; Psalm 85; Luke 5.27-32 Someone once reproved the journalist and novelist Evelyn Waugh (1903-66), whose waspish temper, infidelities and indiscretions were infamous, of being a bad Catholic. “All that you say is true,” he replied, “but imagine what kind of man I would be if I weren’t a Catholic!” God doesn’t call us when we are cleaned up, dressed and presentable, like the parody of a Victorian father. Instead, his interest in us is at its height when we are most in need. And when we think ourselves righteous his eye hones in on the secret sins within us that are sapping our strength and making us more vulnerable to the wiles and deceits of the devil. All the sacraments have as their goal restoring us to right relationship with God, with our neighbours, and with ourselves. Sins unacknowledged eat away at us, but sins confessed become the royal road for God to enter our lives and make us whole. We dwell in him because we first allow him to dwell in us. [John 14.23] His presence within us gives us the strength (the virtue) to resist and repel evil.
Attending Church: Guidance for Parishioners
- Entrance to the church will be through the St James Square doors.
- When arriving and leaving the church please use the hand sanitising gel provided.
- You will have the opportunity to light a votive candle which is located in front of the font. Please use existing candle as the source of ignition.
- There is no holy water within the stoups.
- 1 metre plus social distancing floor markers will be in situ.
- Please only use pews with a green tick symbol on them. Stewards will advise you as appropriate: please follow their advice. The reason for this is primarily so that the stewards do not have to clean the whole church after each Mass.
- The direction of entrance into the church will be up the nave, as you depart, you are requested to leave via the side aisles, then in towards the crossing and out of the Clarence Street exit (Sundays) or the side doors (weekday Mass). Stewards will assist as required.
- Face coverings are mandatory other than for children under 11 years of age and for some with particular medical conditions. Signage advising seating limitations will be posted on pew ends.
- Those needing to make use of '2 meter social distancing' (including all those who have exemptions from wearing face masks) should use the individual chairs near to the lady chapel.
- The physical veneration of statues and crucifixes is not permitted.
- The seating areas will be cleaned following Mass. If however, you are able to assist by wiping your personal space with a disinfection wipe this would help considerably: please ask the stewards if they would like some help.