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Weekly Reflections


posted 17 Mar 2018, 14:48 by Our Lady of Fatima Church - White City London   [ updated 17 Mar 2018, 14:49 ]

Dying to New Life

Our Gospel today is once again from the Gospel of John in which this meeting between Jesus and the Greek pilgrims marks one of the final public moments of Jesus’ public ministry before he celebrates the Last Supper. A final opportunity to teach, to open the hearts of the people to what is about to happen… There are so many mixed emotions in Jesus’ heart – “Now the hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified” – he knows that his Passion and death are just hours away. He has come into the world for this time.
As always, Jesus uses a simple image to show what is happening: “I tell you most solemnly, unless a wheat grain falls on the ground and dies, it remains only a single grain, but if it dies, it yields a rich harvest.” The Jews are a farming people, rooted in the land and so this is an image which would have spoken to their experience. He takes the wheat grain as a simple everyday example of the “expansion of life” which can only occur through death. The one grain which is buried will grow to become many. The life of Jesus which has been restricted within the “husk” of his earthly body will become available to people of different ages and different cultures through his death, resurrection and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. To be participants in this sharing in the life of Jesus, we, his disciples, must imitate the pattern of dying to one-centredness in order to become love-centred and other-centred. One seed can eventually fill the whole field. And the life of Jesus is destined to fill the whole world. But first he must die – first he must be crucified & buried in the ground.

In these final days of our Lenten journey we need to take these final lessons of Jesus to heart. If we want to truly bear rich fruit we need to let all that is not of God “die within us” so that we can be truly rooted in Jesus’ risen joy. This Tuesday evening we have a golden opportunity to do this by coming to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation from 7pm. What is it that needs to die in me so that God’s life may come alive in me in a new way? Let it go…

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


posted 10 Mar 2018, 12:11 by Our Lady of Fatima Church - White City London   [ updated 10 Mar 2018, 12:12 ]


What a contrast this week’s Gospel is to last week’s Gospel. Last Sunday we followed Jesus into the Jerusalem Temple, packed with Passover pilgrims, and watched him turn up the heat by driving out the animal traders and overturning the tables of the money changers. He was enraged that his Father’s house had been turned into a market. Imagine the commotion, the chaos, the screaming and squawking! This week we are still in Jerusalem but now in a place as far from all that noise and anger as can be imagined. We find Jesus late that same night in a secret location, perhaps outside the city walls, resting with the disciples under the night sky. Listen to that stillness & silence, calm & quiet!

Suddenly out of the shadows appears one of the leading Pharisees called Nicodemus who comes to visit Jesus. He does this in secret because he knows that many of the other Jewish leaders want to kill Jesus for what he has done and for the threat he poses to their authority. But Nicodemus is different – he recognises that God’s own power is working in Jesus. He is fascinated by Jesus and wants to find out for himself who he really is. Imagine their hushed conversation – perhaps just the two of them awake while everyone else sleeps, exhausted after all the drama of this unforgettable day. Nicodemus is a seeker – a seeker for the truth and his search leads him to Jesus. 

And in that midnight hour Jesus reveals to Nicodemus the deepest truth – “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son so that everyone who believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” Jesus then invites Nicodemus to “come to the light” – to step out of the shadows and live fully in God’s love. This will not be an easy journey for Nicodemus but we will see beneath the cross how he finally steps out into the light to hold Jesus’s dead body and carry him to the tomb. This is the invitation of Lent for us all – to let go of our fears and ask God for the grace of total trust and faith in Jesus.

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


posted 3 Mar 2018, 12:34 by Our Lady of Fatima Church - White City London   [ updated 3 Mar 2018, 12:34 ]


Anger is perhaps something which we as Christians are not so comfortable with – seeing it as something destructive. But anger can be a constructive act, when it is justified and seeks to change a situation which is wrong. We can think of many justified and passionate campaigns for social justice & freedom over the years, such as the anti-slavery movement. One of the leaders of this movement in the USA was William Lloyd Garrison who wrote these words:

“On this subject, I do not want to think, speak or write with moderation. No, No! Just as you would not tell a man whose house was on fire to give a moderate alarm, or tell a mother to gradually rescue her baby from the fire, so please do not urge me to use moderation in a cause like the present! I will not waver, I will not excuse, I will not retreat a single inch. The apathy of the people in the face of the evil of slavery is enough to make every statue leap from its pedestal!”

If there had been statues in the Temple in today’s Gospel, they would probably have leapt off their pedestals as Jesus cleanses the Temple in Jerusalem. He is openly angry – his words (“Stop turning my Father’s house into a market”) lead to action as he overturns the tables of the money-changers and animal dealers and drives the animals out of the Temple. He is outraged that his Father’s house has been turned into a place of business and dodgy dealing. Jesus reclaims the Temple as a holy place for the worship of God. He uses his righteous anger to assert & build the Kingdom of God – to expose and reject all that is not of God.

How does all of this speak to us today? There is so much in our world today which is a rejection of God and his ways. We are reflecting, for example, in our Lenten faith sharing groups on the real injustice of our current welfare system which too often humiliates and crushes the very people it should be helping. Jesus shows us that it is right to be angry about injustice and to work together to bring about change. Sometimes disturbing the peace is the only Christian option

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


posted 24 Feb 2018, 01:20 by Our Lady of Fatima Church - White City London   [ updated 24 Feb 2018, 01:20 ]


Last week we began our Lenten journey in the desert, a place of purification, spiritual preparation and battle. This week Jesus leads us, together with three of his closest disciples – Peter, James and John, into a very different landscape: the mountain top. The mountain in the Bible is the place of prayer, a place where we can come away from all the noise and chaos of the world below so as to be close to God. You see the world very differently from such a place – you cannot help but feel the power and glory of God, the creator of all that lies at your feet. Most importantly it is a place where we can truly listen to God, which means not simply just to hear his voice/Word but to take his message to heart and to put into practice, to let it be the guiding voice of my life.

It is very significant that on this mountain top Jesus is joined by two heroes from the Old Testament who had experienced this deep listening to God. Moses twice stayed on the top of God’s holy mountain for forty days and nights before he received the Ten Commandments. Elijah, the great prophet, had stayed on Mount Carmel also for forty days and nights praying and listening to God before he could continue his mission. Their experience of course points forward to Jesus’ own forty days and nights in the desert preparing for his mission. So this deep listening is absolutely key to knowing God’s will for our lives. 

On the mountain top, Jesus is transfigured – he literally radiates the glory of God just as Moses’ face had shone with a brilliance which almost blinded people when he came down from the mountain. This is a powerful sign of how we are transformed by intimacy with God. And then the voice of God the Father is heard, saying to the disciples: “This is my Son, the Beloved, on whom my favour rests. LISTEN TO HIM!” This is God’s urgent command for all of us – so we need to ask ourselves honestly, am I really making time and space in my life to listen to God, to be silent and still before Him? If not, how can we find that mountain-top time in our daily life to really listen to God?

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


posted 17 Feb 2018, 10:12 by Our Lady of Fatima Church - White City London   [ updated 17 Feb 2018, 10:12 ]

Into the Desert, into Battle!

Our Gospel reading on the first Sunday of Lent is always about Jesus’ temptation in the desert. This year we hear Mark’s version which is very short! In the Bible the desert is a place where God tests & teaches the people in his ways, as when Moses led the Israelites through the wilderness for 40 years. The desert is also a place of battle, an inhospitable place which seemed to be under the control of the evil one. Filled with the Holy Spirit, Jesus urgently begins his mission by entering this “enemy territory” and so declaring war on Satan.

We read that Jesus was tempted by Satan - tried and tested like a contestant in a boxing or wrestling ring. The result of this first bout was victory to Jesus. We read that “he was with the wild beasts and the angels looked after him.” The angels are a sign of God’s support and care during the struggle. And the most likely meaning of the wild beasts is that they were with Jesus in peace, having lost their distrust and ferocity. This transforming presence of Jesus in the untamed wilderness is the first sign that the peace of paradise is being restored through him. One day the lion will indeed lie down with the lamb!

So we are invited by Jesus to follow him into the desert as the first step of our Lenten pilgrimage. What does the desert mean for us? Where is my desert today? Perhaps we could understand these to be the places where we are often afraid to go – places/experiences we avoid. For some that might mean a particular family relationship or former friendship which has become broken. For others it might mean our relationship with God – we wander around the edge, never allowing ourselves to get in too deep, for fear of what God might ask of us. So the desert here might mean taking the risk simply to sit in silence and stillness before God, or to come back to the Sacrament of Reconciliation after many years away. What is the desert in your life? Who/what are you avoiding? This Lent, let the Spirit guide you there, then follow in the footsteps of Jesus so that through his grace your desert can be brought back to life!

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


posted 10 Feb 2018, 06:14 by Our Lady of Fatima Church - White City London   [ updated 10 Feb 2018, 06:14 ]


Throughout human history leprosy has been one of the most feared diseases – a kind of living death. Often the only solution was for the leper to be segregated from the rest of society – forced to leave their family and friends and live outside of the community in case they transmitted the disease to others. Perhaps the psychological, spiritual and emotional suffering was as bad as the physical suffering. To make matters worse, leprosy was seen as a punishment for sin and so lepers were judged to have brought this on themselves.

As we hear in our first reading from the Book of Leviticus in the time of Moses, a leper had to cry aloud “Unclean, unclean” when they came near to people as a warning. Imagine how totally humiliating that must have been. Not much seems to have changed by the time of Jesus as we hear in today’s Gospel when a leper approaches Jesus. Nevertheless his strong faith in Jesus’ healing power gives him the courage to fall on his knees before Jesus and plead: “if you want to, you can cure me.” Jesus’ response is beautiful: “Of course I want to -be cured!” Perhaps more powerful than his words is the fact that Jesus also reached out and touched the leper physically – something which according to the law of Moses would make him unclean himself. The result of this is that while the cured leper is now free to go wherever he likes, Jesus is condemned to stay outside the community as the one who is now seen as unclean.

This Wednesday is Ash Wednesday, which of course marks the beginning of our Lenten journey. The story of Jesus’ encounter with the leper takes us to the heart of what Lent is all about. Firstly we see how Jesus wants to come into our lives to heal us from all that separates us from God and from each other. He wants to make us clean again. Secondly we see that he does this by taking our sins upon himself – thus taking our place so that we might be free once again. May we, like the leper, come humbly before Jesus and ask him to cure us of our sin and restore us to spiritual health. May Lent be a time of healing for us all.

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


posted 5 Feb 2018, 03:43 by Our Lady of Fatima Church - White City London   [ updated 5 Feb 2018, 03:43 ]

Comfort in Suffering

In today’s first reading we hear a small fragment from the Old Testament Book of Job – a book which asks the very natural human question, “Why do innocent people suffer?” There are no simple, easy answers given by Job to this question which has been asked throughout history. In the Gospel Jesus, continuing his stay in Capernaum, is also faced with different forms of human suffering from the illness of Simon Peter’s mother-in-law to the many people who crowd around Simon’s house afflicted by sickness and possession by evil spirits. It seems that as the news spreads of Jesus’ healing powers all the suffering Jobs of the neighbourhood come out in the hope of a similar healing. Jesus has a real emergency ward on his hands – even more than our NHS is struggling to cope with during these winter days!

Confronted by the reality of suffering, Jesus doesn’t ask, “Why is there all this suffering?” No, he simply sets to works to heal the afflicted and restore them to physical and spiritual health. He knows that when he leaves Capernaum there will be similar crowds waiting for him in all the other towns and villages he will visit. In all of this, Jesus knows that while on earth he can never reach everyone but that the healing he does bring can be a sign of hope to people that God is with them and that their suffering somehow is not without meaning. Indeed in Jesus’ compassion and care we see that God is close to us in a powerful way in our weakness and fragility, in our sickness and suffering.

We see a reflection of God’s care in the dedication of doctors, nurses and many others in the caring professions (as well as relatives and friends) who bring comfort to those who suffer. They are God’s compassion made flesh, God’s care in action amongst us. No doubt they also question, get angry when they see the innocent suffer. But they carry on. That is their powerful testimony to the value of human life no matter how damaged it may be. Jesus calls us all to follow his/their example and in the face of suffering bring care and hope.

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


posted 28 Jan 2018, 01:07 by Our Lady of Fatima Church - White City London   [ updated 28 Jan 2018, 01:08 ]

The Authority of Jesus

In today’s Gospel we hear how Jesus with his fledgling band of disciples begins to tour around the villages and towns surrounding the Sea of Galilee. They come to Capernaum where many are struck by the authority of Jesus’ teaching. This is stressed twice in the Gospel – the authority of his words. What does this mean? Authority is not always a positive word in our modern vocabulary. We talk about “authoritarian regimes” where those in power use force and violence to impose their will on those whom they are meant to serve. We are right to oppose such an abuse of power and authority. But power need not be destructive. We can remember in more recent times how leaders such as Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, Blessed Oscar Romero and St John Paul II used the power of non-violence to oppose repressive political systems. This gave them a moral authority which inspired others to change.

When Mark begins telling his story of the ministry of Jesus, he shows us how Jesus is filled with the power of the Holy Spirit at his baptism and thus acts with authority. The power which Jesus displays, both in his actions and his words, is the authority of God himself. When Jesus begins teaching the people are deeply impressed: they can see for themselves the difference between how Jesus teaches and how other religious leaders teach. When Jesus teaches, something actually happens! It is not a matter of mere words decorating the air. His words bring real healing and change. So we hear today about how Jesus liberates a man who is possessed – one who is not in control of his own life. But at Jesus’ command the man is freed. Jesus continues to use his power to liberate those who are bound up, who in different ways are enslaved to sin. And that means me and you! So we need to really hear this Gospel as a Word spoken to our lives – we can believe in and trust the authority of Jesus and bring to him our struggles and conflicts. Only he can liberate us from sin and from all that oppresses us. Lord Jesus, take away from me all that enslaves me.

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


posted 21 Jan 2018, 09:23 by Our Lady of Fatima Church - White City London   [ updated 21 Jan 2018, 09:24 ]


In today’s Gospel we at last hear the adult Christ speak as he begins his ministry around the shores of the Sea of Galilee. John the Baptist’s voice has been silenced – he has been arrested and imprisoned – so the time has now come for Jesus to speak. His first words - “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is close at hand” - echo the message of John the Baptist. The people need to recognise that the broken and darkened world in which they are living can only begin to change if they themselves are open to change in their own hearts and lives. This message is still true for us today. 

Just like the first disciples we need to learn from Jesus how the world can be changed. Jesus had a dream for our world: he called it “the Kingdom of Heaven”. His vision is that life on earth becomes a mirror of heaven. To make this possible, we have to live as God has always desired we should live - not in self-centred pride but in loving generosity and tenderness. Instead of a people divided and destroyed by the horrors of war, Jesus spoke of us living in mutual respect and peace. Instead of bitterness and retaliation, Jesus spoke of a merciful love which refuses to be poisoned and even prays for the “enemy”. Instead of the tragedy of famine and poverty which will always haunt a greedy, grasping world, he taught us to care for each other, to feed the hungry and clothe the naked. In place of the murky world of secret deals & corruption, Jesus wants us to be people of integrity, truth and charity – people who live together “in the light”. Our shared mission is to build this Kingdom of Heaven.

Pope Francis has been on pilgrimage this week to Chile and Peru – teaching in word & action how to build the Kingdom of God by reminding people of their God-given dignity, and what it means to be a disciple of Jesus today. Search out his beautiful words if you can, but most importantly think about your own life and how you can help to build the Kingdom of God here & now.

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


posted 14 Jan 2018, 01:30 by Our Lady of Fatima Church - White City London   [ updated 14 Jan 2018, 01:30 ]

What do you want?

This is the question which Jesus asks the two disciples in today’s Gospel – a question so direct that they don’t quite seem to know how to answer it. So Jesus simply asks them to “come and see” where he is living and so spend some time with him. This was the invitation which would change their lives for ever. One of these two disciples is John whose own words we read in today’s Gospel – words he wrote perhaps 60 or even 70 years later. But notice how he still remembers the exact time at which this first meeting with Jesus took place – at “about the tenth hour” (4pm in our way of telling time). That moment, that first encounter with Jesus was engraved on his heart for ever.

“What do you want?” is a question which Jesus puts to all of us regularly. It’s an especially good question to ask ourselves at the beginning of a New Year, which is a natural time for taking stock, for seeing what needs changing in our lives, for reflecting on the ways that we would like to deepen and develop ourselves in the year ahead, including in our relationship with God. As your parish priest, it is a question which I am also bringing to God in my prayers at the moment – “Show me Lord how we can grow stronger as a community this year.” and “How can we help more people to really come alive in their faith and become more active members of our parish?” I need your help with this – I need to know from you what would help you to grow spiritually and how we could grow closer to each other as a community. One path I can already see that God is showing me is that I need to make a greater priority of home-visiting – I learn so much when I come to visit you. So please invite me to your homes and families – I can’t come to everyone immediately but perhaps with two or three visits a week, I will slowly start to get there! “Come and See” Jesus says to the disciples – it is through being together that we learn who we are and, when we also invite Jesus to be with us, we understand better why we are here!

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

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