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7 September 2014
Our Lady, Star of the Sea, World Service
I was listening to the BBC World Service where you get a much wider sweep of what’s happening in the world than you do on the national programmes. And I decided that it is about time we, the Parish of OLSS, had a world service of our own.
The world today is in a proper mess. And the mess is made worse by the dilemma it is in.
The Mess: Russia/Ukraine; Syria; Isis; Palestine/Israel; Islamic Jihadists in Africa; millions of refugees; millions of displace people; the Ebola virus; poverty . And so the list could go on.
The Dilemma: What to do about it all. In every case, the powers that could put right these terrible wrongs have their hands tied firmly behind their backs. At this moment everything seems deadlocked. John Simpson, that most trustworthy of foreign correspondents, said in a recent interview, There is nothing we can do.
Is he right? It would certainly seem so from a political point of view. Would that there were some remedy to the ills of today that would suddenly present itself! Would that some secret and non-aggressive weapon could be found that we could deploy!
What about Christ as our secret weapon? The Prince of Peace. The Saviour of Mankind. Surely He qualifies. Why do we think of prayer as a second rate solution to our problems, second to politics, second to military action, second to every other solution that can be thought of? Is it because, in this dechristianised society in which we live, our faith in Christ has grown weak, and equally weak-kneed has become our confidence in prayer. Do we think our prayers are not up to the task? Is anything impossible to God?
Now, as a little practical test, ask yourself when did you last pray for an end to the aggressive behaviour of Russia? For the destruction of Isis and the restoration of peace in Iraq? For peace between Palestine and Israel? For an end of the slaughter going on in Syria? For a cure for the Ebola virus? When did you set about earnestly praying to Christ for any of these? If the answer is Never, then you need to do some serious thinking.
What applies to each one of us obviously applies equally to us as a Christian community, as a Parish Family. Do we, as a Parish, focus our prayers sufficiently on these pressing issues of the day? When we come to think seriously about it, the answer is No, we don’t. We do include one or other of these critical world issues in our Sunday Bidding Prayers, but is that enough, just one sentence a week? Like each one of us individually, so too the Parish has some serious thinking to do.
I have been doing some of that serious thinking and I want you to do some serious thinking with me. The Parish must pray more for the needs of the world. I will tell you where I am up to in my thinking about this. I have been focussing my thoughts on Friday afternoons which we traditionally devote to Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament. We could concentrate on the Holy Hour between 3pm and 4pm, devoting this service each week to prayer for some current world crisis. We could, very naturally, call it our World Service. In order to focus more strongly on the Holy Hour between 3pm and 4pm, maybe we should reduce the period of exposition from all afternoon to this hour alone And, instead of me working out the service all by myself, we could form at team and work together. The World Service would then be different every week while still an hour of prayer before the Blessed Sacrament.
We would certainly need a dedicated team if our World Service is to be attractive enough to draw people to it and to keep them coming. The team would decide each week on the theme of the Service, on which current crisis should be the subject of our prayer. It would need to decide on an appropriate scripture reading and, maybe, on an appropriate reading from some other source. It would need to decide on the hymns to be sung and the meditative music to be played. The team would need to meet regularly to make these arrangements. If you could care to be part of this team, please let me know. If this materialises, we could begin our World Service on the first Friday of October.
I know the time I am suggesting is not an ideal time. No time is an ideal time. But I know for sure there are very many people in our parish who are free between 3pm and 4pm on a Friday afternoon.
Become convinced about the power of your prayer. Christ has promised that it will be heard and answered. The World Service will be conducted before the Blessed Sacrament, in other words in the very presence of Christ Himself. Be convinced of your standing in Christ’s eyes. You are not just a human being, with all the respect and dignity that goes with that. Nor are you only God’s supreme masterpiece of creation. No, you are more. You are truly a child of God; you are Christ’s brother or sister; you are a member of his living Body, united intimately to him through the great Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist. If Christ will not listen to your prayers, he will listen to no-one’s. Ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you - that’s his promise to you.
Asking for things from God, the prayer called the prayer of petition, is not the highest form of prayer, but it has a lot going for it. It reminds us of the goodness and kindness of our God; of how dependent we are on Him for everything. It keeps our feet firmly on the ground, keeping us humble and respectful. It gives outward expression to our trust in God, that quality which the Scriptures emphasise is so essential to the believer. And when this prayer is offered in the presence of Christ in the sacred Eucharist, how it will deepen our faith in this Real Presence and sharpen the joy of our faith. What untold effects it will have! How happy I would be, how far happier the Lord would be, if you take this invitation to heart! Attend weekly this hour in His presence, pray for the needs of the world for which He died on a Cross? This is how much He cares about the world! That is how much He wants us to care about the world.
Moving now to more mundane things. The Car Park scheme is now in operation. One thing I forgot to mention, when I was going on about this before, is to remind you to re-scramble the numbers when you replace the lock on the chain. In the past people have often left it open with the code displayed. Please lock the gate after coming in and going our; please display your permit; please observe the parking restrictions when there is a wedding or a funeral; please do not share the code with anyone else. All this is for your sake; that the scheme may work well and you may enjoy the tremendous advantage of having a free parking space in the very middle of town. It is your church; you have a right to it, for it is your kind contributions which enable to church, let alone the car park, to continue in existence.
Thank you so much for you very kind (as usual) response to the Appeal for the Church in Need. With £108 coming from the sale of articles and £805 from the collection, you contributed a total of £913. As I have said to you before, this is by far my favourite charity. The money goes wherever the Church is in real need, whether she is being persecuted as she is in so many places today, or simply suffering the deprivations of poverty. Remember, the Church is not a building or a collection of buildings: we ourselves are the Church. When we contribute to the needs of the Church at the world’s farthest end, we are actually benefitting ourselves as well. All will become clear when we stop looking though a glass darkly, as St Paul describes our present ability to appreciate the ways of God. Jesus said that God loves a cheerful giver; and you are just that!
God bless you, Fr Antony