Friday, 29 August 2008

Yorkshire Wanderings.

For those of you who will not be in the above blessed place tomorrow, here is a copy of my sermon for the High Mass.

We rejoice in this beautiful "house of the Lord," the Priory Church of this ancient place, touched by God and men. It is good for us to be here, gathered with Mary, the Mother of Jesus and our Mother.

You have come to this blessed place to "give visibility" to your faith, your heritage, and your commitment to the Catholicity of the Church of England, today, yesterday and in the future. Tomorrow you will peacefully petition almighty God for the salvation of the Church and fight for it, with your hearts and souls. But first, today! We have come here to worship God and honour His Blessed Mother of Divine Hope.

My dear friends, like the young Saint Agnes and like Our Lady in the Gospel, you have received the gift of faith. You have been offered the Kingdom of heaven, the pearl of great price, the treasure worth many sacrifices. How is He calling you to thank, love and serve Him? Today, away from our Parishes in this special place, together in prayer, you must ask Him to make His will known to you, and to give you the courage to follow it once His voice is clear to you, His voice has echoed through the centuries carried over the waters of creation through Bethlehem and Calvary and the empty tomb seen by Mary in wonder and joy to this place, to your hearts and, in offering us salvation, it has given us the catholic faith and the catholic Church of which we are a constituent part to work for us according to His divine plan.. He will give you all the grace you need.

When the Son of God took on our human flesh, He gave us the full example of compassion and humility. Even though as God He was all-powerful and all-knowing, He let Himself become powerless and completely dependent on others. From the beginning of His life to the end, He knew what it was like to grow and learn, to know joy and sorrow, and all the limitations of our human condition. Nothing in the human experience was foreign to Him, except sin. With perfect compassion, as Emmanuel, God-with-us, He suffered with us, he suffers with us now as we stand here, firm in faith, ready to keep the faith of the Church intact.

When we are strong and able-bodied, feeling in complete control, do we value and protect those who are weak, as Scripture calls them: the "lowly and despised of the world, who count for nothing," or do they make us feel uncomfortable, uneasy? And when we become weak, will we allow others to care for us in sickness or old age? When frustrated or embarrassed by our incapacity in our own lives or in the life of the Church which seems so bent on running after damaging novelties, the helpless Christ Child helps us resist the temptation to despair. Our value does not come from being so-called "productive" members of society, from not upsetting people and conforming, but from Emmanuel, God always with us, our value lies in being signifiers pointing to God and salvation. As the psalm, so beautifully assures us, "even though I walk through the valley of darkness, I fear no evil for you are at my side."

At the Wedding Feast of Cana, Mary plays an active role in her Son’s ministry to the world. As a turn of the century Jewish woman, she is deeply attuned to the needs of others, in this case, the bridal party and their guests. In His love for her, Jesus honours her request that He "do something" about the wine that has run out. In her faith in Him, Mary trusted that He would provide, while not knowing exactly how.

At times it may seem as if our "wine" is also running out, that we just do not have what we need to continue in this struggle, or that our efforts are not making much of a difference. Like Mary, we must learn to trust that God will provide abundantly, in His way, in His time. We possess, or will be given, enough time and resources to build a culture of life together. Our role is to have expectant faith and to follow the counsel of Mary, who said: "Do whatever he tells you." And what he tells you to do is to confess the faith of the Church, unchanged and undivided.

Tomorrow as you labour on in your homes and Parishes, you will be surrounded by many courageous witnesses to the faith. All the children of God are different from one another, and yet unified in one common goal: bringing an end to division and all attacks on the Church of God, undivided and indissoluble, and building a culture that always welcomes the Faith, not a faith which welcomes changing culture!

Then there may be some who will taunt you from the sidelines in angry, accusatory ways. Try not to judge them or to define them by their anger and bitterness. They are fellow human beings in need of reconciliation and healing. They too are invited to a change of heart and to join in the "great campaign" for the life of the world. Many like them have already bent before the gentle power of God’s grace.

All of us have an important place in conversations about the future of the Church, and all of us can make a significant contribution in the political process. It is your right and duty as catholic Anglicans, whether or not you are able to vote in synod you are old enough to pray, to help shape society by offering to everyone the profound convictions of your faith in Jesus Christ, the Lord of life. In His name you are also called to pray for an end to the deceit which is dividing the Church. It is not of God. It cannot stand. It will not stand.

Be filled with certitude. The eternal Son of God who took flesh from the Virgin Mary, was born and lived and died for our salvation has uplifted all humanity to a further dignity and destiny: to share in His divine life forever—in the communion of the Most Blessed Trinity. For this reason we know that the Church indeed will be victorious. And so, with Saint Paul, we say: "For this we toil and struggle, because we have set our hope on the living God…." who is Father, Son and Holy Ghost, and who is blessed forever.

Battle is joined, Hell's armies shall flee and we will hear the shout of victory.