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Weekly Reflections

6th SUNDAY of EASTER

posted 21 May 2017, 12:39 by Our Lady of Fatima Church - White City London   [ updated 21 May 2017, 12:39 ]

A Time for Mission

In today’s Gospel Jesus, speaking to the disciples at the Last Supper, continues to prepare them for his departure from them. Looking beyond his crucifixion and death, he speaks of how when he finally leaves them in his bodily form, God the Father will send his “Spirit of Truth” to guide them in a new way. Jesus promises them “I will not leave you orphans”, explaining that he will be sharing with them his own relationship with his Father.

So this is a time of transition, change and new beginnings for the disciples. They must let go of their familiar way of being with Jesus in a physical way and embrace their new contact with him through faith. They will no longer be following a man they admire and love but will be invited to become his living members, charged with his spirit and mission. And the power behind this change is the Holy Spirit. The word ‘Spirit’ in Hebrew means ‘breath’. The air that we breathe is unseen but absolutely essential to life. In the same way it is through the gift of the Spirit that we come alive spiritually. Through this breath of God within us we are called to be no longer merely human but to let God live in us, work in us and love through us!

This week is a very special week in our parish – a time of mission, a time when we humbly and expectantly ask the Holy Spirit to bring us alive in our faith in new ways. It is a time when we hope and pray that many people, young and old who have perhaps been luke-warm or cool in their faith will be inspired by the Spirit to come back and receive the healing that they may need. Please do everything you can to come to as much as you can this week – Monday to Friday, 7-8pm, beginning on Monday evening with the inspiring testimony of John Pridmore, an ex-gangster brought back to life by the power of the Spirit. Please come yourself, and please be brave and invite anyone else you know who may need to hear this powerful message. Let the Spirit guide you!

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

5th SUNDAY of EASTER

posted 16 May 2017, 14:36 by Our Lady of Fatima Church - White City London   [ updated 16 May 2017, 14:38 ]

St Jacinta! St Francisco!

What a time of grace and blessing! I am writing these words shortly after Pope Francis has concluded the Mass of Canonisation for St Francisco and St Jacinta of Fatima, as we should now call them. A HUGE “thank you” (or ‘obrigado’ as they say in Portugal) to everyone who has been a part of the last 48 hours of celebration here in our little Fatima of White City. We began so beautifully with a special Mass with all the children and staff from St John XXIII school on Friday morning, which included three of our Portuguese children dressed as Lucia, Francisco and Jacinta, finishing with a beautiful procession with a statue of Our Lady of Fatima from the church into the school. Then we began our “24 Hours before the Lord” with 24 hours of continuous adoration before the Blessed Sacrament in the church. Thank you to all of you who came during the day and also at night – see the photos on our parish Facebook page to see just how beautiful it was. Adoration is such a gift for those who come and for the parish – we will be doing more!

Finally we gathered together in the church this Saturday morning to celebrate our parish Our Lady of Fatima feast day Mass – but this year with a difference as we joined together via satellite link-up with Pope Francis’ own celebration of Mass. It was SO moving to see the huge crowds (including four of our parishioners) gathered together with Pope Francis to proclaim the two youngest shepherd children, Jacinta and Francisco, as saints of the Church – the two youngest saints ever. We have so much to learn from these two amazing children – their love of Jesus and the Eucharist, their contemplative and compassionate hearts, their self-giving and self-sacrificing to save others, their love of Our Lady/the Rosary. What an incredible blessing for our parish – we now have 3 heavenly patrons watching over us (and “St Lucia”, God willing, still to join them!). What a grace! We are truly “most blessed” among parishes!

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

4th SUNDAY of EASTER

posted 7 May 2017, 00:05 by Our Lady of Fatima Church - White City London

Following the Good Shepherd

Today’s Gospel presents us with the powerful image of Jesus as the Good Shepherd – the one who guides, feeds and protects his flock and who is even ready to give his life for them. Every year on this fourth Sunday of Easter we are reminded of our need to pray for a new generation of “good shepherds” for the Church of our own day. For over 50 years this day has been celebrated by the Church as the International Day of Prayer for Vocations to the Priesthood and Consecrated Life – a day to storm heaven with our requests for new priests and religious who will offer their lives fully and faithfully to God.

If you listen carefully to today’s Gospel – you will hear that Jesus actually describes himself more as the gate for the sheepfold rather than the shepherd. This might sound like a strange thing to say about yourself – “I am the gate”. But we need to understand that in Jesus’ day flocks of sheep were protected from the wild animals of the night by a sound wall or by a thick fence of branches and thorns – but there was no actual gate. When all the sheep had passed into the fold, the shepherd himself lay across the entrance to become the protecting gate which shut out all prowling predators. He risked his life for them every night. Shepherding is about caring for those who are weak, lost, in need. It is about self-sacrifice. Good shepherds are needed as much today as they were in the time of Jesus – servant leaders willing to dedicate their lives to caring for others and leading them to greater life and maturity.

Jesus also shows us that to be real shepherds who lead others, we firstly have to learn to be good followers. Jesus is proclaimed as the “Lamb of God” before he reveals that he is the Good Shepherd. He listens to the Father and obeys the Father before teaching us what we are to do. In the same way, if we are to be good parents, teachers, politicians, priests, carers – we need firstly to learn from Jesus what it really means to give our lives for others like the Good Shepherd.

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

3rd SUNDAY of EASTER

posted 1 May 2017, 08:01 by Our Lady of Fatima Church - White City London

Be living signs of the Resurrection!

In today’s Gospel we hear how the Risen Christ literally turns round the life of the two disciples on their way to Emmaus. The two men were so shocked by their experience of Jesus’s brutal death that they are walking away broken, dejected and in despair from Jerusalem. They obviously believed that Jesus could be the promised Messiah but how could that be possible when it seems that all has ended so tragically… It is in their despair that the risen Jesus joins them as they walk along the road to Emmaus – a spa town about seven miles away from Jerusalem – although they do not recognise him at first. 
    
Jesus firstly simply listens to them, with all of their grumbling and faithless talk of defeat and hope lost and buried. Then he begins his patient healing by explaining to them how all that they had experienced in Jerusalem had been predicted in Scripture and how Jesus is indeed the fulfilment of the Old Testament prophecies of the coming Messiah, including in his rejection and execution at the hands of his own people. Finally, when the disciples ask him to stay with them for a meal when they reach Emmaus they finally recognise him when he breaks the bread – a distinctive gesture of his which they would have seen so many times during their travels with him. Now, renewed in their hope and their eyes & heart opened, they rush back to Jerusalem to share their joy with the disciples. Filled with the joy of Easter, they run to tell the Good News!

Their journey is a powerful picture of how we are all meant to be brought alive in a new way by the joy of the resurrection. Like them, we firstly need simply to spend time with the Lord, opening up our hearts and letting go of all of our anxieties, wounds and doubts, then we need to let ourselves be nourished by God’s living Word, before being fed by Christ in our breaking of the bread – the Eucharist. Then we share with others what we ourselves have received and lead them to Christ. This is the Christian journey. Let’s live it this Easter!

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

2nd SUNDAY of EASTER

posted 22 Apr 2017, 14:34 by Our Lady of Fatima Church - White City London   [ updated 22 Apr 2017, 14:40 ]

Jesus, I Trust in You!

Today’s Gospel begins: “In the evening of that same day, the first day of the week…” telling us that we are still in the day of Christ’s resurrection, the day which changed humanity and history for ever. Today is the last day of the “Easter Octave” – eight days in which we are held in this one awesome day – this day which for ever afterwards would become the “first day” of the week for Christians – Sunday, the day of the resurrection. Last Sunday we heard about the dawn of this first Easter day – when Mary of Magdala discovered the empty tomb and ran to tell the disciples. Today we reach the evening of that same day when the risen Christ appears to the disciples still hiding in fear behind locked doors in the upper room where just a few days earlier he had celebrated the Last Supper with them. Imagine all the different emotions which the disciples must have experienced when he appeared among them – guilt, fear, amazement, relief, joy…

Guilt? Yes, because these closest friends of Jesus had betrayed and even denied knowing him in his hour of need. Now Jesus shows them the wounds in his hands, feet and side, which are signs of how we have all in different ways betrayed him. But the first word he speaks to them, and to us, is “Shalom – Peace be with you!” So he doesn’t respond to our unfaithfulness with anger or resentment (as we probably would have done!) but with mercy. With this one word, “Peace”, he heals their spiritual and emotional wounds and shows that his love is greater than any of our sins. It is this great mercy of God which we celebrate on this Divine Mercy Sunday. This relatively new devotion is one of St John Paul II’s many gifts to the Church. Join us this afternoon at 3pm for the Divine Mercy Chaplet. Gaze at this beautiful image of the risen Christ, perhaps as he appeared to the disciples on the evening of the Resurrection. Let Christ enter the locked room of your heart and let his mercy transform your own life.

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

EASTER SUNDAY

posted 17 Apr 2017, 01:49 by Our Lady of Fatima Church - White City London   [ updated 17 Apr 2017, 01:58 ]

The Lord is Risen! Alleluia!

“Filled with awe and great joy the women came quickly away from the tomb and ran to tell the disciples”. These words from the Easter Vigil Gospel capture the essence of Easter. Mary of Magdala and her companions go down to the tomb in darkness before dawn intending somehow (“What shall we do about the heavy stone?) to pay their respects to Jesus’ body which had been so hastily buried before the Passover feast. The light in their lives seems to have been totally extinguished by Jesus’ harrowing and brutal death – they don’t know what to do or where to go. Even just to care for the body will perhaps bring some comfort. But then, the earthquake, the stone rolled away and the dazzling appearance of the angel of the Lord, glorified in brilliant light. He asks the women to look briefly into the empty tomb to “see the place where he lay” and then run in great haste and urgency to spread the extraordinary news. This is the greatest dawn which the world has ever known – the glory of the Resurrection, the triumph of God’s saving love over sin and death.

After our Lenten time in the desert, Jesus wants us to come now to the Easter garden and celebrate with him. We were not created for the desert but for the garden! The forty days of Lent prepare us for the fifty days of Eastertide, culminating in the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. We need, like the women, to really see and believe in the empty tomb, to rejoice in the historical fact of the Resurrection and then, renewed with this light and joy, to share the good news with others. In what can often seem like a very dark and broken world, the Resurrection shows that in the end good always triumphs over evil, life triumphs over death. The Resurrection is the single most important event in human history – everything is different after this moment. It is like an eternal Spring-time, the dawn of a new era. We are an Easter people and, like the women on that first morning, let us share the Easter joy with others. Alleluia!

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

PALM SUNDAY

posted 9 Apr 2017, 09:04 by Our Lady of Fatima Church - White City London   [ updated 9 Apr 2017, 09:04 ]

Entering the Holiest Week of the Year

As we enter Holy Week, we are invited to experience once again the events which are at the core of our faith. We begin today on Palm Sunday (also known as Passion Sunday) with our Lord’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem, seated on the colt of a donkey - an even humbler method of transport than that which bore his mother to Bethlehem! The crowd is going wild – waving branches and acclaiming Jesus as the long-awaited Messiah. By the end of the week, on Good Friday, we will witness a very different scene, as the crowd bays for his blood. So much noise, so much fury and yet, at the centre of it all Jesus is increasingly silent, absorbing it all, bringing everything to the Father.

We call this time of the year, “Passiontide”, just as today, after the euphoria of the Palm Sunday reading, we listen in stark contrast to the Passion of Christ. Perhaps we think of the word ‘passion’ as describing some kind of intense emotion. But this is not the meaning of ‘passion’ here – it comes from the same Latin word as ‘passive’, ‘passivity’ and so points to the sudden non-activity of Jesus. This is what lies at the heart of these sacred days – after all the activity and busyness of his years of public ministry – the calling, teaching, preaching, healing, even bringing people back to life from the dead – Jesus now lets go of all of that and allows himself to become the one to whom things are done. From the moment he allows himself to be arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane all the activity stops. He is bound and taken from one trial to the next, he is beaten, humiliated, stripped of his clothes, and eventually nailed to the cross on which he dies. Throughout all of this, just like a lamb to the slaughter, he is virtually silent, except for the final words of reconciliation and prayer which he struggles to speak from the cross. What is so remarkable about this is that our faith teaches us that it is this passion of Christ which saves us, not all of his activity. This Holy Week Christ invites each one of us to enter deeply into the mystery of his Passion and death, by which we are healed, set free and redeemed. 

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

5th SUNDAY OF LENT

posted 1 Apr 2017, 11:45 by Our Lady of Fatima Church - White City London   [ updated 1 Apr 2017, 11:46 ]

God wants to raise us from the dead

On our Lenten journey with Jesus we witness one of the most spectacular miracles he ever performed – the raising of Lazarus from the dead. The name ‘Lazarus’ means ‘God helps’ and we read that he lives in a small town just a few miles away from Jerusalem called Bethany, which means “the house of the afflicted”. These names highlight that this is a story about all who are in any way afflicted and seeking the help of God, which means every one of us!

Lazarus, we hear, is the brother of Martha and Mary and John tells us that “Jesus loved all of them” – so they are the friends of God, his beloved – so once again that means all of us! But hearing that Lazarus is sick Jesus oddly does not rush to his aid but waits for 2 days. One of the reasons why Jesus delays is so that there could be no doubt that Lazarus really was dead. The Jewish belief was that the soul hovered near the body for three days, and so, with Lazarus already in the tomb for four days there can be no hope of resuscitation. Jesus waited so as to reveal his divine power through what can only be a miraculous raising form the dead. The death of Lazarus, then, is a necessary part of this sign, just as Jesus’s own death within a few days of this miracle will be a necessary part of God’s plan of salvation. 

“I mean to raise you from your grave” – these words from the prophet Ezekiel in our first reading are spoken to each one of us. What we see in Lazarus is a sign of what Jesus desires for us all – that we will be set free from the bonds of death. But we also need to desire this - which means that we constantly need to be dying to sin and selfishness and coming to new life in Jesus. In the coming two weeks we will follow Jesus to the cross and beyond to the joy of the Resurrection. This is the only way – there is no shortcut to salvation. We can’t parachute by ourselves into heaven – we’ve got to walk in the footsteps of Jesus. If we are faithful to him, then Jesus’s promise is that we too will one day hear his words to Lazarus spoken directly to us: “Unbind him, let him go free!”

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

4th SUNDAY OF LENT

posted 26 Mar 2017, 06:20 by Our Lady of Fatima Church - White City London   [ updated 26 Mar 2017, 07:02 ]

NEW SIGHT TO THE BLIND

On our Lenten journey with Jesus we finally arrive in Jerusalem and just like last week’s encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well, we once again find Jesus transforming someone’s life around a pool of water. This reminds us that at the heart of the journey of Lent is the renewal of the graces of baptism in each one of us at the living waters of the Easter celebrations. The pool of water in this week’s Gospel is the Pool of Siloam (a Hebrew word meaning “sent”) which contained water brought into the city by a special channel which had been cut through 400 metres of rock. This pool was a life-line for the city in times of siege or drought – it was literally “heaven sent” water of salvation and so we can see the link with Jesus himself who is the “heaven sent” living water.

As a sign of the healing and redemption he has come to offer, Jesus meets a man born blind and gives him new sight in the waters of the pool. Of course it is not just physical sight which Jesus gives to this man but more importantly he brings alive in him the light of faith.  Just as in our own journey of faith from the waters of baptism, this light grows gradually within the man who at first refers to “the man called Jesus”. Later, when questioned by the Pharisees, the man says of Jesus, “He is a prophet.” Finally when the man comes before Jesus again, his eyes of faith are fully opened and he worships Jesus as “Lord”. This is the journey of ever deeper understanding of who Jesus is which we can make in our own lives. Perhaps for many Jesus is initially simply one of the figures from human history who most intrigues or inspires. Then, if we listen to his Word, we are drawn into his radical teaching which shows us a way of living and loving which is so counter-cultural. Finally, when we recognise what it is that Jesus has to offer us and that only he can quench our deepest thirst, we fall on our knees in awe and reverence before him as our Lord and Saviour. 

Lord Jesus – free us from the false-hood, pride and sin which blind us, and open our eyes to your glory so that we might live in your light for ever. Amen

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

3rd SUNDAY OF LENT

posted 21 Mar 2017, 11:58 by Our Lady of Fatima Church - White City London   [ updated 21 Mar 2017, 12:19 ]

TO THE WELL OF LIVING WATER

Having begun our Lenten journey with Jesus in the desert and then up to the mountain top for the Transfiguration last week, this week we follow him down to the plain on a hot, dusty day as he walks through the district of Samaria on his way to Jerusalem. Tired by the journey in the midday heat, Jesus sits down by himself at a well while the disciples head off into the nearby town to see if they can find some food. At this moment a local Samaritan woman appears, also by herself, and is surprised to find this Jewish man at the well. The conversation which follows will change her life for ever. 

She has come to the well as a broken and lonely woman, anxious to avoid the other woman of the town who draw their water earlier in the day. She is happy to stay in the shallow water but Jesus leads her out into the deep. “You have no bucket” she jokes – “Yes, and you have no husband” Jesus replies.  Suddenly all her defences crumble, all the masks she has been wearing day after day for so long… “Yes, I have no husband” she replies humbly. Her life is in a mess. She has suffered the pain of the break-up of five marriages. Her present partner is no husband either – just a live-in boyfriend around for who knows how long before he too leaves her. Deeply hurt inside, she has lost faith in others, in herself and in love itself. How many times must she have heard the words, “I love you” only for that love to betray her, to turn around and walk out the door. 

By accepting the truth, by allowing Jesus to restore her dignity & hope, to rekindle her ability to love and be loved, she is transformed. And what’s more, through her Jesus transforms others. She leaves her water jar behind and runs back to her town so as to bring to Jesus the very people who have rejected her. She shows us how God can change our bad news into his Good News! This is the invitation of Lent – to conversion and new life. In what ways do our lives echo the Samaritan woman – what masks do we wear, what are the causes of sadness in our hearts? Heal us, Lord, and give us your living water!

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

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