Home‎ > ‎

Weekly Reflections

TWENTIETH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

posted 20 Aug 2017, 06:50 by G OLOFC   [ updated 20 Aug 2017, 06:50 ]

NO ONE IS A FOREIGNER IN GOD’S KINGDOM!

In all of today’s readings we see how the Lord had integrated foreigners and pagans in His Kingdom and how He regards them when they fulfil His divine will. It is not where one comes from that matters but what they do in regards to His commandments.

In our first reading from the prophet Isaiah we hear God’s most consoling promise to the Gentiles. Even if they are foreigners, as far as they observe God’s ordinances and cling to His covenant, He promises them that He will make them joyful in His house of prayer!

In our second reading from St Paul’s letter to the Romans, Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles says, “let me tell you pagans this: I have been sent to the pagans as their apostle, and I am proud of being sent.” (Rm 11:13) He, a Jew, was proud of being sent to the pagans and foreigners as the Kingdom of God belongs to them too!

In today’s Gospel, we hear Jesus using seemingly hurtful words in testing the depth of the faith of that poor Canaanite woman who came to plead on behalf of her tormented daughter. First, He seemed to ignore her cry for help. Then He said that He was sent only to the House of Israel not to pagan lands. Third, He used the most difficult words to comprehend by comparing her to house-dogs. But she was not deterred from her pursuit even by those seemingly insulting remarks towards her and her race. She had great faith in Jesus that He could set her daughter free from those diabolic shackles! And her faith paid off. She might have thought, “no matter where I am placed in the pecking order of God’s Kingdom, I still do believe that I can get my fair share!” Yes, she did get what she prayed for! She was even commended by the Lord for her great faith! She was tested but she had great faith and trust in the Lord. She too was Abraham’s daughter for no one is a foreigner in God’s Kingdom!

With prayers and summer blessings,

Fr. Ephrem, Fr. Richard and the parish team.

The Transfiguration of the Lord

posted 8 Aug 2017, 10:53 by G OLOFC   [ updated 8 Aug 2017, 10:55 ]

A Mirror to the Crucifixion

The Feast of the Transfiguration falls today on August 6th and so it takes precedence over the normal Sunday readings. The traditional site of the trans-figuration is Mount Tabor – a large, round hill which offers a stunning view of Galilee. But Peter, James and John were not looking at the view that day – instead they were dazzled by the radiant figures of Jesus, Moses and Elijah illuminated in glory on the mountain top. This sight reminds us of Jesus’ words earlier in Matthew’s Gospel that “the virtuous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father” (Mat. 13:43). Jesus has just warned his disciples that they must now make their final journey to Jerusalem where he will be put to death before rising to new life. So on one level the transfiguration is a sign and a promise to the disciples of this glory which lies beyond the cross.

 There are so many striking parallels/contrasts between the transfiguration and crucifixion – they are like a photographic negative of each other. Here, on a mountain, Jesus is revealed in glory; there, on a hill outside Jerusalem, in shame. Here his clothes are shining white; there they are stripped from him. Here he is flanked by Moses and Elijah, two of Israel’s greatest heroes, representing the law and the prophets; there his is flanked by two criminals, representing the depths to which Israel had sunk in rebellion against God. Here a bright cloud overshadows the scene; there darkness covers the land. Here Peter cries out how wonderful it all is; there he is hiding in shame after denying he even knows Jesus. Here the voice of God the Father declares that this is his wonderful Son; there we have the silence of God. The mountain top points to the hill top and vice versa. What are we to understand by this? Perhaps we are invited, like Peter, James & John, to learn the lesson that the same power and glory of God is at work in both our celebration and suffering, our joy and agony. There is glory in the cross. The Transfiguration is also a promise to us all that we too are called one day to “shine like the sun” reflecting God’s glory.

With blessings & prayers from Fr Richard, Fr Ephrem & the parish team

17th Sunday in Ordinary Time

posted 30 Jul 2017, 12:29 by Our Lady of Fatima Church - White City London   [ updated 30 Jul 2017, 12:30 ]

Seek everlasting treasure!

In today’s first reading God appears to Solomon in a dream and says to him: “Ask what you would like me to give you.” I wonder what you would ask for if God made such a request to you… What is it that you most long for? What would you perhaps want for those whom you most love? Solomon gives an answer which is very pleasing to God – he recognises that he is very young to be the king of his people and so he asks for the wisdom to be able to discern between good and evil so that he will be able to rule his people well. 

In the Gospel Jesus continues to present parables to the crowds to help them understand what is most important in life as well – what he calls “the Kingdom of Heaven”, which means living according to God’s will and so making present his love to the world. The parable of the treasure which lay hidden in the field might sound almost like a kind of fairy tale to us today, but for people in Jesus’ day it would have been something very real. In the ancient world there were banks but not banks which ordinary people could use. So ordinary people often used the ground as the safest place to keep their most cherished belongings. This happened even more in a country like Palestine which was one of the most fought over countries in the world in its day. When it looked like their land might once again be attacked and the people forced to flee for their lives it was common practice for people to hide their valuables in the ground before they took to flight, in the hope that the day would come when they could return and retrieve them. So discovering buried treasure was a very real possibility!

Jesus is inviting us to discern like Solomon what is most important in life. What would you sacrifice everything for? Not earthly things which will wither and fade but eternal treasure which will last for all time such as the gift of a living faith and trust in God, an understanding that there is no value to things which take us away from God. We need to focus our lives on treasure that lasts.

With blessings & prayers from Fr Richard, Fr Ephrem & the parish team

16th Sunday in Ordinary Time

posted 23 Jul 2017, 01:00 by Our Lady of Fatima Church - White City London   [ updated 23 Jul 2017, 01:01 ]

The Patience of God

In today’s Gospel Jesus continues to use the image of the sower and the seed to teach the crowds about the mystery of God & his relationship with us. When we see horrific things happening in our world – from the devastating wars in countries like Iraq and Syria, to tragedies on our own doorstep like the Grenfell Tower fire, we can often be tempted to ask “Why doesn’t God do something about this?” The three parables which Jesus offers us today are in part an answer to this question and can help us understand better the ways of God.

Let us look at one of these parables – the darnel and the wheat. The good seed of the sower is contaminated by the darnel seed sown by the enemy. Should the darnel not be pulled up straight away and destroyed? This would have been a very real-life dilemma for Jesus’ original audience – darnel was one of the curses against which a farmer had to struggle. This is a weed which in its early stages so closely resembles the wheat that it is impossible to tell them apart. It is only when it produces its seed head that darnel can be distinguished from the wheat but by then its roots are so intertwined that the darnel cannot be weeded out without tearing up the wheat with it. In Jesus’ day the farmer had to wait until harvest time to separate them by hand.

This is a parable about God’s patient waiting until the fullness of time – and waiting is something we find difficult. God waits because he loves us and so he delays harvest time (final judgement) so that as many of us as possible can receive his mercy and salvation and so enter his kingdom. God alone is the final judge – not us! And before we start judging others, branding them as ‘darnel’, we need to recognise that in our own lives there have been/maybe still are times when the darnel has outnumbered the wheat! This should make us grateful that God doesn’t impose instant judgement and punishment on us but gives us time to change. So God is not inactive or uncaring - Jesus’ life and death reveal God’s passionate love for us - rather he is compassionate & patient!

With blessings & prayers from Fr Richard, Fr Ephrem & the parish team

15th Sunday in Ordinary Time

posted 16 Jul 2017, 00:49 by Our Lady of Fatima Church - White City London   [ updated 16 Jul 2017, 00:49 ]

Rich soil/poor soil?

In today’s Gospel Jesus tells the crowds the parable of the seed and the sower – we know it so well: the sower comes out to sow and as he sows some seeds fall on the path, some on rocky ground, some among thorns and some finally on good soil. It is only these seeds on the good soil which bear fruit which lasts. The context for this parable is the rising opposition to Jesus’ mission. We might naturally ask ourselves: why did his mission of such obvious goodness run up against so much hostility? In spite of all Jesus’ miracles & why did so many people harden their hearts to his teaching and then reject him? A parable is a story for all times, so we should also ask: why, given that the teachings/ideals of Christianity offer so much good to society, do they seem to have so little influence on our increasingly secular and materialistic culture? The image of so much wasted seed is an answer to these questions. It is the hardness, the apathy, the sinfulness of our hearts which continue to reject God’s transforming love.

A parable is also a story which asks us to look at ourselves – what parallels do we find when we take the risk of reflecting on the fruitfulness of the “soil” of our own lives? That trampled path could represent a life which has become hardened by well-trodden, lifeless routine. All freshness and vitality have been drained out of the soil – perhaps this is a picture of how I am living my faith! Do I “attend Mass” out of a sense of duty or do I really come to church to “celebrate the Eucharist” with a grateful heart? The patches of rock with little soil where the seeds quickly die because there is no depth of earth – is my faith also rather shallow? Perhaps I make resolutions and begin well but as soon as any real commitment or sacrifice is called for, my enthusiasm quickly fades! The soil covered in thorns which choke any growth – is this because I don’t make any meaningful space/time in my life for God/prayer/the parish? Instead my heart is full of things which actually lead me away from God… Or is my life really open to God and hungry for him? Is the soil of my soul rich or poor?

With blessings & prayers from Fr Richard, Fr Ephrem & the parish team

14th Sunday in Ordinary Time

posted 11 Jul 2017, 11:37 by Our Lady of Fatima Church - White City London   [ updated 11 Jul 2017, 11:38 ]

Working alongside Jesus

In today’s Gospel we are privileged to enter into Jesus’ own heart as he prays to the Father and then opens his heart wide for all those “who labour and are overburdened. This is a time, still early in his ministry, when Jesus has begun to experience opposition. Two of the small towns around the Sea of Galilee – Chorazin and Bethsaida - have rejected him and the religious authorities are beginning to coordinate their attacks against him. We might expect Jesus to become discouraged and frustrated but instead he praises God! When we are doing God’s work, we don’t usually receive prizes and public awards – quite the opposite! Jesus knows that the resistance means that change is happening.

Jesus also shows deep empathy for the great crowds he is meeting. He sees how overworked, overburdened and exhausted they are! And sadly he sees that part of the burden they carry is placed on them by their own religious leaders. As Jesus himself said: “They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on the shoulders of others.” For too many people religious faith had become focused on endless rules – people lived in a forest of “do’s” and “don’ts” which they struggled to fulfil. It had all become too heavy! To all of this, Jesus speaks these words of liberation: “Come to me, all of you who are overburdened and I will give you rest.” Then he adds “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble of heart, and you will find rest for your souls; for my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” As a carpenter, Jesus knew exactly how much the wooden yoke helped the two oxen to share the burden as they pulled the plough through the heavy soil. This is what Jesus is doing – sowing the seeds of a whole new harvest for the world and in his humility he asks us to take our place at his side and help him. And in working beside him he will support us & help us to know his Father, who is the absolute centre of his life. This is the heart of faith – not regulations but God’s profound & personal love for each and every one of us. May you find rest and strength in Jesus this week.

With blessings & prayers from Fr Richard, Fr Ephrem & the parish team

13th Sunday in Ordinary Time

posted 2 Jul 2017, 01:32 by Our Lady of Fatima Church - White City London   [ updated 2 Jul 2017, 01:33 ]

Disturb us Lord

Today’s Gospel is the final part of the instructions of Jesus to the disciples (we heard the first part last Sunday) before he sends them out for the first time to preach, teach and heal in his name. These must have been challenging words for the disciples and they should be challenging words for us still today. Jesus speaks clearly about the cost of being his disciple and how his call to change and conversion will inevitably cause division, even amongst families.
 
Jesus’s words warn us to be on our guard against any version of Christianity which is comfortable and easy, and which does not disturb or challenge us. An “easy faith” will offer us the comforting warmth of God’s love but will never tell us that the same fire of love must burn out and purge all sin and selfishness within us. Purgatory and penance, here on earth and after death, (not to mention the reality of hell!) is not mentioned in this easy faith which promises heaven to all but demands almost nothing of us in return. Too many people today “pick and choose” the parts of faith which suit them best and ignore the bits which would really challenge them to change and grow. Self-denial, sacrifice and selfless service of others are not fashionable words on the modern life-style list. It takes some terrible event such as the Grenfell Tower fire tragedy to wake us up to the need for real, fundamental change to our attitudes and behaviour – but again we find it easier to point the finger at others than admit that we also need to play our part in the rebuilding.
 
Jesus gives the example of something precious – our family relationships - to show that not even the closest ties in our lives should be allowed to lead us away from God. In fact it is only when our lives are rooted in God that we can really live truly healthy, honest and life-giving relationships with others. The call to follow Christ and to model our lives on his example is a wonderful free gift of grace but receiving and living this gift must be very costly to our self-centredness. “Easy Christianity” is not following Christ – it is a fake Gospel!
 
With blessings & prayers from Fr Richard, Fr Ephrem & the parish team

12th Sunday in Ordinary Time

posted 25 Jun 2017, 01:04 by Our Lady of Fatima Church - White City London   [ updated 25 Jun 2017, 01:05 ]

Do not be afraid

Which command do you think is most repeated in the Bible? You might think it is something stern like “Repent” or “Pray more!” but no, it’s the command which we hear Jesus say three times to the disciples in today’s Gospel – “Do not be afraid”. This phrase apparently occurs 365 times in the whole Bible – one time for every day of the year!
 
Why does Jesus say this to the disciples? Because this is a very significant moment for them in their journey of formation. They have witnessed many of Jesus’ spectacular miracles and listened to his inspiring/challenging teaching and so now it is time for them to go out on mission in Jesus’ name. He makes it clear that they will experience opposition even persecution for the message which they will preach. And yet, they should not be afraid… Why not? Jesus’ explanation is not what we might expect –  he doesn’t say “My Father will protect you” or something like that. No, Jesus makes it clear that they will not be protected from suffering but that in the end the truth will be revealed – “everything will be uncovered”. So their faithfulness, courage and perseverance will emerge into the light even if in the short term they suffer for these things. Jesus however does reveal that there is something to be afraid of  - the powers of darkness which seek to destroy us in our body and our soul. 
 
But at the same time, to balance that fear – indeed to outweigh it completely – Jesus speaks about the personal and detailed love of God. He uses the striking image that just as God notices every sparrow in the sky so he is aware of every hair on our heads! Jesus is saying that just as there is nothing too great which God cannot do so there is nothing too small in our lives for him to care about. God knows and cares about the details of our lives. Yes, we will face trials and temptations, especially when we take the risk to stand up for the truth. But we should always remember that the One we are serving is always stronger than the strongest opponent we might ever meet. So – do not be afraid!
 
With blessings & prayers from Fr Richard, Fr Ephrem & the parish team

CORPUS CHRISTI

posted 18 Jun 2017, 01:33 by Our Lady of Fatima Church - White City London   [ updated 18 Jun 2017, 01:33 ]

FINDING SHELTER IN CHRIST

I am sure that we have all been shocked by the horrific scenes and stories from the Grenfell Tower tragedy this week. The heartache of families divided by the smoke and fire, of trapped parents driven to such desperation as to throw their babies out of the window in the last hope that they may be caught and brought to safety by those helping below... And then to see the pain and grief turn in many to a raging anger that this is a tragedy which could have been prevented. So many frustrations and resentments which have been simmering below the surface seem to have been brought to the surface by the fire. We pray that somehow out of this terrible suffering there will come a real shared commitment to do everything possible to make sure this never happens again.
 
It is against this tragic backdrop that we celebrate today the feast of Corpus Christi – our great thanksgiving for the gift of Jesus’ Body and Blood in the Holy Eucharist. How does this connect with the tragedy of Grenfell Tower? Before the fire, Cardinal Vincent had prepared a pastoral letter for all parishes to hear/read this weekend. In a very providential way his words I believe speak very powerfully to this moment of our city’s and country’s deepest needs. He writes to begin preparing us for the National Eucharistic Congress which will take place in Liverpool in September 2018. This is an initiative of the Bishops of England and Wales, which I believe is a real inspiration of the Holy Spirit. The Bishops want Eucharistic adoration to be rejuvenated in our parishes “as the source of strength for our lives and for our mission, that of making present the love and compassion of Jesus in our society.” They continue: “We come into the presence of our Blessed Lord with our anxieties and troubles…There we can speak freely, telling our tale of sorrow and distress, whispering as it were into his ear. This is a Sacrament of shelter and a shoreline of safety.” Love shelter, safety, strength – these are our deepest needs, as the Grenfell tragedy has made so clear. Come, let us adore the Lord and in Him find shelter & peace
 
With blessings & prayers from Fr Richard, Fr Ephrem & the parish team

TRINITY SUNDAY

posted 11 Jun 2017, 07:03 by Our Lady of Fatima Church - White City London   [ updated 11 Jun 2017, 07:03 ]

God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit

Today we give thanks to God for the revelation through Jesus Christ that the one true God is also a communion of three persons – Father, Son & Holy Spirit. This great understanding of the reality of God is hinted at in the Old Testament but it is only with the coming of Jesus that this fullness of God’s identity is shared with the human family. The Most Holy Trinity is a relationship of love – a generous, self-giving love from which we all draw our own lives and to which we are all invited to return. The dynamic love of the Trinity is like the power of the oceans in our world, their love like the waves which come towards us on the shore and then draw us back out into the depths of God’s mystery. 
 
This is what Jesus reveals to us - that this dynamic Trinity is always in movement towards us and always drawing us towards itself. The first movement comes from the mind and heart of God, fathering all creation, bringing us into existence through his love. However, human freedom/sin led to our rebellion against God – our movement away from Him and into slavery. And so the second movement of God towards us was in sending His Son as our Saviour, as we read in today’s Gospel: “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not be lost but may have eternal life.” (John 3:16). Jesus entered fully into our human existence in all ways except sin so that he could then lead us back to the Father. This return from slavery into freedom is finally made possible by the third movement of God towards us – the sending of the Holy Spirit, which we of course celebrated last weekend at Pentecost. It is the Spirit, sent by Christ, who leads us into the fullness of God’s truth, uniting us as a people of God, purifying and preparing us to take our place within the love of the Trinity in eternal life.
 
The Trinity can seem very complicated but it is also beautifully simple – it is the God of love reaching out to us and inviting us to move ever closer to Him.
 
With blessings & prayers from Fr Richard, Fr Ephrem & the parish team
 

1-10 of 136