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Weekly Reflections

The BAPTISM of the LORD

posted 14 Jan 2019, 00:37 by Our Lady of Fatima Church - White City London   [ updated 14 Jan 2019, 00:38 ]

A New Age Begins

We see a big change in Jesus this week! Last Sunday we joined the Wise Men in adoration before the baby King in the Bethlehem manger while today Jesus comes before us as a grown man 30 years later, joining the huge crowds from all over Israel coming down to the river Jordan for baptism at the hands of John the Baptist. Two very different moments? Yes and no…

In Bethlehem we see the humility of Jesus – Creator of the world become flesh as a tiny baby born into poverty and danger. We see this same humility at his baptism – the Hebrew for “Jordan” is Yarden, which could mean “the very low” (indeed, the Jordan lies below sea level). Baptism, in Jewish custom, was a rite sinners underwent to purify themselves and confirm their conversion and turning away from a sinful life. Jesus, who was without sin, did not need baptism and indeed John the Baptist even tries to stop him, but Jesus insists on being immersed in the waters of the Jordan, just like all the other people, as a sign that he had come down from heaven to raise humanity from the depths to which it had sunk. He humbles himself so that we may be washed clean.

Also, we see how Jesus, in his humanity, needs the help of others – he is not some kind of “divine superman” just pretending to be human. So at his birth he depends on his human mother, his foster father Joseph and the protection of the angels. At his baptism we see how John the Baptist has prepared the way for him (indeed he will continue to act as a shield for Jesus up to his own death), and most importantly the encouragement of God the Father (whose beautiful words of blessing echo from heaven) and the power of the Holy Spirit which descends upon him. So there are some important lessons for us to learn here – firstly, let us not be afraid to make new beginnings or to risk change in our lives. If we rely on the support of others and most importantly of God then we are following in Jesus’ own footsteps. Let us also learn to be humble like Jesus and may we also pray to live in the power of the Spirit & in the love of the Father.  

With best wishes and prayers from Fr Richard, Fr Ephrem and the parish team.

The EPIPHANY of the LORD

posted 5 Jan 2019, 22:09 by Our Lady of Fatima Church - White City London   [ updated 5 Jan 2019, 22:10 ]

An Invitation to Begin a New Journey

Firstly, warmest congratulations to Fr Ephrem and the Eritrean Gheez Rite community who this weekend celebrate Christmas Day, which comes 2 weeks later in their calendar. Just as they begin their Christmas celebration so we are coming towards the end of ours as we celebrate the Epiphany of the Lord.

Into our Bethlehem crib today come the three Wise Men on this feast of the Epiphany. ‘Epiphany’ means ‘revelation’ and our readings today make it clear that an essential part of the Christmas message is that Christ comes to save all the peoples of the world not just the chosen people of Israel. 

Why had God stirred up this desire, this hunger in the hearts of these men from a distant culture to set out on this long, hazardous journey into an alien land and an alien people? I am sure that it was partly for their benefit – clearly, like the shepherds, their lives were transformed for ever by that Bethlehem night. And of course they show that this baby-King is to be saviour for all peoples, including the non-Jewish peoples of the world. But this doesn’t mean that God was forgetting or turning his back on the people he had called first – the people of Israel. The Wise Men with their gifts were themselves a gift from God to his chosen people. Perhaps many of us have had guests to visit/stay over Christmas. Guests can help us to see the familiar world around us in a new way. I know the only time I ever seem to go sight-seeing in London is when I have guests visiting me, perhaps from abroad, and through their eyes I wake up to the beauty, the variety, the strangeness of this city we live in. And so God leads the Wise Men firstly to Jerusalem, because he wants to stir up the hearts of all who live in this centre of Jewish life. The Saviour is here - wake up, God is doing something new! This is the message for each one of us at this Epiphany time – learn from the courage & faith of the Wise Men and dare to leave behind the comfort & safety of the known and set out on a deeper journey of faith into the unknown and so be transformed by Christ, just like the Wise Men.

With New Year blessings from Fr Richard, Fr Ephrem and the parish team.

The FEAST of the HOLY FAMILY

posted 29 Dec 2018, 15:41 by Our Lady of Fatima Church - White City London   [ updated 29 Dec 2018, 15:41 ]

JESUS, MARY and JOSEPH


The birth of Jesus is an event so awesome, so great and glorious that we measure our time from that Bethlehem night (we will celebrate the beginning of the 2019th year since Christ’s birth this week). And this birth of our Saviour is so important that the Church encourages us to celebrate Christmas not just as one single day on 25th December but to celebrate the wonder of that Bethlehem night across 12 days until the Feast of the Epiphany on January 6th (next Sunday), when of course we will welcome the Wise Men to the stable. So please don’t be like the shops and take down all your Christmas decorations and cards straight away but keep them up and let yourself be surrounded by these beautiful colours, images & sparkling lights a little longer.

Today, however, we jump forward to that moment when Jesus, aged 12, is separated from his parents for 3 days until they find him in the Temple, asking questions of the great teachers. Along with the Gospel passages of his birth, this is the only window we are given into the early life of Jesus. In all of these passages we see Jesus at the heart of his earthly family. The “Holy Family” of Jesus, Mary and Joseph are given to us as a model for Christian families everywhere. But today’s Gospel shows us that being the “Holy Family” didn’t mean that they were protected from the trials of ordinary life – quite the opposite as we see how this young family is severely tested from the very beginning – by Mary’s unexpected and scandalous pregnancy, the long dangerous journey to Bethlehem in the final days of her pregnancy, by their flight into Egypt to escape Herod’s bloody persecution, and this terrible experience of being separated for 3 whole days. What makes them “Holy” is how they grow together in their understanding and trust in God, learning from every difficult experience, beginning and ending everything in prayer. May we learn from their example and may God bless our families for the year ahead.

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

The FOURTH SUNDAY of ADVENT

posted 23 Dec 2018, 01:12 by Our Lady of Fatima Church - White City London   [ updated 23 Dec 2018, 01:13 ]

Love in Motion

As we reach the climax of our Advent journey, with Christmas so close, our focus turns to Mary. Her “yes” to God’s invitation, presented to her by the Angel Gabriel, that she become the mother of God’s Son, makes it possible for God to become one of us. In today’s Gospel we see Mary’s excitement as, immediately after meeting the Angel Gabriel, she travels “as quickly as she could” to visit her cousin Elizabeth, who Gabriel has told her is already six months pregnant. Filled with the Holy Spirit, already sensing something of the mystery of God’s own life growing within her, Mary’s life has now become a mission – to bring Christ to others. Despite all the anxieties she must have had about the reaction of her family, neighbours and of course her fiancé Joseph to the news of her pregnancy, this is a young woman filled with joy.

When she arrives at Elizabeth’s house, after what would have been about a 3-day journey from Nazareth, Mary finds her own joy mirrored in her cousin. This is surely one of the most moving and joyful moments in the whole Bible – the affectionate embrace of this older woman, pregnant at last after hope had gone, and her younger cousin, pregnant far sooner than she had expected. Their meeting is something like what happens when a single log smouldering on the fire is put next to another log and suddenly the two catch fire together and the flames leap and roar. In the same way Mary and Elizabeth, in their experience of God’s power at work within them, are on fire with joy and gratitude.

This same joy is also felt by the baby in Elizabeth’s womb – John the Baptist – who leaps for joy at the nearness of Jesus, the Messiah whose coming he is to proclaim. Jesus is the hidden source of all this joy in Elizabeth, Mary and John. In these final moments of Advent may we too open our lives more fully than ever before to receive Jesus this Christmas. He wants to touch and transform our lives, to turn our mourning into dancing, our sorrow into joy. Come Lord!

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

The THIRD SUNDAY of ADVENT

posted 16 Dec 2018, 07:31 by Our Lady of Fatima Church - White City London   [ updated 16 Dec 2018, 07:31 ]

Let Joy fill our hearts: God is near!

The third Sunday of Advent is known as “Gaudete Sunday” from the Latin word meaning “Rejoice!” Indeed joy is the gift we pray for during this third week. Our readings show that through faith we can find joy amongst trials and struggles. So in our first reading the Prophet Zephaniah calls to the people of Israel to celebrate, even though their land is occupied by the Assyrians who have defiled the Jerusalem Temple with their pagan idols. They are to shout and dance for the joy because the Lord is coming to renew them. Then St Paul writes to the Christians in Philippi and tells them to “always be happy in the Lord”. Hard to imagine that Paul wrote these words while in prison in Ephesus, awaiting possible death but still writing letters to cheer up other people! Finally in the Gospel John the Baptist announces the Good News to the people – a voice from the desert, his land once again occupied by a brutal pagan empire. 

So yes on the surface things didn’t seem too great, but Zephaniah, Paul and John the Baptist all shared one belief: that the Lord was very near. This belief gave them a radical joy which no-one could take from them – not even the executioner! Their faith in God’s power and goodness gave them a vision to see beyond apparent disaster and helped them to believe that God was powerfully at work in their day, preparing to bring radiant light out of the darkness. Perhaps we don’t think of John the Baptist as a joyful character – more of a lonesome figure with a weird wardrobe and an even weirder diet, who liked to rant at everyone! But John was a magnetic character – people don’t journey out into the wilderness just to get insulted. In John they could sense God’s power at work and that something extraordinary was coming. That’s why they ask him what they need to do to change their lives and be ready for what lies ahead. May we too be filled with a deep joy that the Lord is close and prepare ourselves for his coming this Christmas. Rejoice, for the Lord is very near!

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

The SECOND SUNDAY of ADVENT

posted 10 Dec 2018, 02:11 by Our Lady of Fatima Church - White City London   [ updated 16 Dec 2018, 07:32 ]

A Time for Building Peace…

Last week we lit the first candle of Advent reminding us of God’s gift of hope. This week we light the second candle reminding us of his gift of peace. There is a peace which only God can give us - remember Jesus’ words at the Last Supper: “Peace I leave you, my peace I give you. A peace which the world cannot give, this is my gift to you.” (John 14:27). Remember also the first word which Jesus spoke to the same disciples in that same upper room after the resurrection was “Shalom” – “Peace be with you.” It is a precious gift.

2018 has been another year when our screens have been filled with images of war from around the world – Syria, Yemen, Sudan, the Ukraine… How can we truly build peace on earth? It is now 5 years since Nelson Mandela died – a man who came to understand Jesus’ path to peace. In his youth Mandela fought the injustice of apartheid in South Africa through violence but during his long years in prison his faith showed him that he would need to walk a different path on his “long road to freedom.” As he famously wrote after his release from prison: “As I walked out the door towards the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew that if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I would still be in prison.” And later: “If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner.”

In today’s Gospel we hear John the Baptist’s cry: “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is close at hand. Prepare a way for the Lord.” Repentance means coming back to God, and like Nelson Mandela, recognising what we need to leave behind if we are to be truly free and once more walk in God’s ways and with his grace be reconciled with others. What do you need to leave behind? Why not come to the Sacrament of Reconciliation this Advent and give to God all your burdens and anxieties? Like Nelson Mandela we learn that forgiveness brings true peace and true forgiveness comes from Christ, the Prince of Peace.

With prayers and blessings, Fr Richard, Fr Ephrem and the parish team

The FIRST SUNDAY of ADVENT

posted 2 Dec 2018, 07:18 by Our Lady of Fatima Church - White City London

A TIME to PREPARE…

Today we begin our Advent journey, preparing to celebrate Christ’s birth into our world at Christmas. Advent is an annual wake-up call, (“Stay awake!” as we hear in the Gospel), inviting us to shake off our routine and weariness and to consider afresh the great hope which our faith gives us and the great love which God has for us. This First Sunday of Advent’s readings invite us to look forward to the time when Christ will come again in glory to fulfil all of God’s promises and to complete God’s plan of salvation which was first revealed when Jesus came into the world as a tiny baby 2000 years ago. We also pray in Advent for the grace to recognise how Christ comes into our lives/world today on so many different ways to comfort, strengthen and guide us.

Great, but if we are honest most of us would admit that we really struggle to make Advent a truly spiritual time of preparation (I think we find Lent much easier). Here in the parish, as in your busy lives, these four weeks before Christmas are packed with things to do and it is very easy for this quiet, reflective Advent journey to be forgotten. So I think we need to really make sure that we make a firm resolution to mark this holy season in some meaningful way, right now from day one. In your families you might simply have a special time every day to pray together as you open the next window on your Advent calendar. Or maybe you will find time to read the Word of God given to us for every day of Advent (we have lots of My Day by Day Advent booklets in the repository – only £1 each!). Or perhaps it will be through the time you give every day in caring for someone you know who is struggling at the moment – a relative or neighbour for whom you can be a living sign of Advent love and hope (you could also open an Advent calendar window with them every day and pray together!). Whatever you decide to do, ask God for the grace to keep going and be faithful right up until Christmas. When we give generously of ourselves – this is the best preparation for the gift of Christmas.

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

OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST

posted 24 Nov 2018, 09:53 by Our Lady of Fatima Church - White City London   [ updated 24 Nov 2018, 09:53 ]

KING OF THE UNIVERSE

The Feast of Christ the King, the last Sunday of the Church’s liturgical year, celebrates Jesus as the King of all creation. At every step of his journey, from the very moment he was conceived in the womb of a young girl from a poor and humble family, Jesus has shown that he came into the world not to dominate us with power but to free us from sin and bring us back to God the Father. He is a king of love shown through service and self-sacrifice – a true king who dedicates himself to the good and the growth of his people. And so in today’s Gospel we see Jesus, not enthroned in power, but humbly standing with his hands tied before Pontius Pilate, ready to suffer/give his life for his people.

What strikes me in this conversation between Jesus and Pilate is how Jesus has no concern for his own safety but instead tries to free Pilate from the world of political compromise and intrigue in which he has become trapped. Pilate was a soldier at heart – a very successful military commander who had been rewarded for his victories with a political office. But we sense that he would much rather return to the “honesty” of the battlefield than be caught up in the conspiracies and plots of the palace. Jesus knows how to touch his conscience and it is only Pilate’s fear of appearing weak which stops him from following his instinct and releasing Jesus. Jesus, the prisoner, is the one who is truly free!

Pilate condemns Jesus to death, but Jesus does not condemn Pilate. Even at this eleventh hour, Jesus offers him a chance to show his true self. Yes, his true self because Jesus explains to Pilate that his is a Kingdom of truth – a kingdom which is concerned not with the acquisition of land but with the freedom of the human heart. Jesus shows us the truth about God our Father, loving & merciful; the truth of who we are as cherished children of God, brothers and sisters to each other; the truth which brings real justice and peace; the truth which sets us free. Tragically Pilate chose not to live in this truth – how about us?

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

33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

posted 18 Nov 2018, 00:57 by Our Lady of Fatima Church - White City London   [ updated 18 Nov 2018, 00:57 ]

Looking Forward to the End Times!

Today’s readings are certainly challenging! In these final days of the Church’s liturgical year (next Sunday is the final Sunday of our Church year – the celebration of Christ the King, after which we begin a new Church year with Advent) we hear words from the Bible which speak of the end of times – times of great conflict and turbulence, with cosmic signs and wonders, such as the sun darkening and stars falling from the heavens. What do these prophecies mean for us and how should they affect our lives?

Firstly, with today’s Gospel, we need to remember that Mark is writing at a time of great persecution of the Christian community in Rome, which is his primary audience. No doubt many of the early Christians are wondering if the end is near. Nobody knows the details of the last pages of history, but to give his readers hope Mark gives them Jesus’ vision of the future. At first reading this doesn’t seem like a very appealing vision! Jesus speaks of a time of trial and terror, when many will be betrayed. There will be wars, earthquakes and famines as well as cosmic fireworks. Jesus says: “These things must happen”. But after this catalogue of disasters there will be good news! Jesus invites us to look beyond the time of distress to the final times when he will come in power and glory to gather the scattered people of God to himself. So Jesus invites us to look beyond present and future sufferings to a future of peace with God. This vision is meant to give comfort and courage to Mark’s persecuted community and also to us today. And also to encourage us to remain firm in our faith.

There is real evil in our world and a real struggle between light and darkness. And Jesus makes it clear that there will be judgement for such evil when he returns in glory. When news story after news story seems to be so dark and depressing, we need to remember this – that it is Christ who will have the final word. And his judgement will be rooted not in vengeance but in mercy.

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

32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

posted 11 Nov 2018, 07:34 by Our Lady of Fatima Church - White City London   [ updated 11 Nov 2018, 07:34 ]

The Riches of the Poor Widow

In today’s Gospel we can imagine the disciples, a group of “country folk” from Galilee, joining the other Passover pilgrims in the packed streets of Jerusalem. Perhaps they feel a bit overawed as they enter the magnificent Temple buildings and see all the religious leaders with their fine clothes and seats of power. But once again Jesus challenges the disciples to look beyond outward appearances and to read the inner heart, as God does. 

Jesus teaches them a profound lesson when they enter the Treasury – the part of the Temple where pilgrims gave donations for the poor or the upkeep of the Temple. Here there were 13 great metal money chests, shaped like upside down trumpets. Pilgrims dropped their offerings through the narrow necks and then the trumpet shape of each chest produced a great resounding echo. This was long before the days of paper money and so perhaps the disciples were suitably impressed as wealthy merchants and pilgrims dropped in heavy, expensive and noisy coins. But then came a poor widow. Her two tiny coins scarcely made any noise – it was almost laughable. But Jesus tells them, “This poor widow gave more to God than all the others. They gave of their surplus. But she gave the last penny she had, all she had to live on.” She has given her all, showing her total trust in God, just as Jesus will give his life for all within just a few days. Let us all learn the lesson of the poor widow: we give little when we give of our unneeded possessions. It is when we give of ourselves that we truly give.

This weekend is of course the 100th anniversary of the Armistice which marked the end of World War One. We think in a special way of all those who, like the widow, gave everything they had, indeed their very lives for others. The heroes of World War One were not the generals but the ordinary soldiers who showed such courage, brotherhood and self-sacrifice in the hellish carnage of the battlefield. Their voices, their letters and poems remind us of the cost and lessons of war. And remember we must - for when we forget, we repeat.

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

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