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“My Peace I give you.”

NCC Belfast | St Malachy's

Christ’s Peace Is Lasting

This morning we find ourselves back at the night of the Last Supper, taking our places with the twelve Apostles around the table with our Blessed Lord. We listen to his words, both mysterious and glorious. This is the last meal of the Lord with his closest companions and followers, where He instituted the celebration of the Mass, but He wants to leave the disciples another, parting gift. What is it? It is quite simply, Peace.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.

This Peace that our Lord gives is not the usual peace like what we mean in everyday use. No. The Peace of the Lord is lasting. It is interior peace of heart which overdlows into peace in families, in communities, in entire nations.

This Peace of the Lord comes from knowing without any doubt: that we are loved…

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V is for Victory

Homily by Mgr Michael Carchrie Campbell FSDM at the Easter Vigil, 2013.

St Ambrose of Milan, Photo by Fr Lawrence Lew OP.

St Ambrose of Milan, Photo (2009) by Fr Lawrence Lew OP.

I suspect that few people would reckon that tonight is the climax of the Christian year. But in the early Church it was unthinkable that any Christian would not attend the Easter Vigil. In fact, the test for the Christian was whether he or she attended the vigil or not. If you stayed away, did you really believe that our Lord had risen? St Augustine—himself baptised at an Easter Vigil by St Ambrose on 25 April 387—described Holy Saturday as ‘the mother of all vigils’. It is the highpoint of the Christian year because it is a great big victory celebration. V is not just for Vigil: it’s for Victory too, Christ’s victory over the discouraging darkness of sin and the bewildering darkness of death.

Our experience this evening is quite extraordinary. In our experience, Death makes no concessions whatsoever to life. Our cemeteries and graveyards are full of monuments to its unrelenting dominance. So what is all this talk of resurrection? One potential explanation is that Jesus was not dead at all, only sleeping. Well, the trouble with that is that the New Testament accounts insist that he was definitely dead. He was crucified between two thieves (St Matthew 15.27); that he said, ‘It is accomplished’, and gave up his spirit (St John 19.30). The soldiers had no need to break his legs as he was already dead, and that when they pierced his side with a lance instead, ‘out flowed blood and water’ (St John 19.3–34). We read that Pilate would not hand over the body to St Joseph of Arimathæa until he had been assured by the centurion that Christ was really dead (St Mark 15.45). As well as all of that, we are told that the body was wrapped in a shroud and laid in a tomb (St Luke 23.31) and that the tomb was sealed with a stone (St Mark 15.46). To cap it all, if you like, we are assured that the two Marys were watching all this as it happened and taking very careful note of where Jesus was laid (St Matthew 15.49).

empty_tomb_104

The empty tomb: the Lord is risen.

Accepting the fact that Jesus was dead, perhaps his resurrection only happened because his followers wanted it to? Perhaps, because they wanted it to, they persuaded themselves that it had? Well, that doesn’t stand up to scrutiny either. The disciples did not expect Jesus to rise at all. A scattered remnant now — shattered and demoralised, their immediate concern had been with their own survival. The women in tonight’s story didn’t expect a resurrection either: they went prepared with spices to anoint the body (St Luke 14.1). Finding the tomb empty, and hearing of the Lord’s resurrection, they hurried back to find the others and tell them, only to be told that they were talking nonsense (St Luke 24.11). St Peter, ran to the tomb himself, and found some evidence of the resurrection in the absence of the Lord’s body and the presence of the binding cloths (St Luke 24.12), his reaction was complete and utter amazement. This amazement was the general one that the disciples had. Death in their experience, as in ours, didn’t give in quite so easily. But tonight, it had. Mountains had moved. The laws of nature were reversed. Death had died itself. An Easter morning was immortalised. The disciples were completely astonished. ‘Death hath no more dominion over him’ (Romans 6.9), says St Paul. Death has been put in its place. It is sulking behind a stone.

But it still retains its power in this life, and each one of us will have died a little since this time last year. Not one of us will not have experienced disappointment or discouragement during the year. These things are a form of dying as well. Despite the good we have done, not one of us has not sinned, and sin is a form of death too. It reminds us of our frailty, and weakens our friendship with Christ. So tonight—as on every other night—we are all a bit broken. No matter ho confident or cheerful we may seem there is a need for healing, for consolation within. We all need to feel that we are forgiven, that we are worthwhile, that life has meaning, that in the final analysis we are not obliterated by death, destined for oblivion. It is Christ who heals us, Christ who loves us, Christ who redeems us, Christ who conquers for us and Christ who lets us share in his victory. ‘If in union with Christ, we have imitated his death, we shall also imitate him in his Resurrection (Romans 6.5). So we rejoice tonight as believing Christians in the resurrection of our Saviour. We hear the Easter greeting again, ‘Christ is Risen’. ‘He is risen indeed, alleluia!’.

Once again with thanks to Bishop Joseph Cassidy’s book These Might Help Too: Homilies for Cycle C.

For us or With us?

Homily by Fr Charles FSDM at the Fraternity’s celebration of the Solemn Liturgy of the Lord’s Passion on Good Friday, 29 March 2013.

Julian of Norwich.

Julian of Norwich.

Around Good Friday in 1373, an Englishwoman was stricken by the plague, and facing what she thought would be her own death.  Much of her life is a mystery.  We do not know if she was single or married, but if she had been married before that fateful season, the illness that sickened her took her husband and children.  We know she did not die, but recovered by early May.  Her baptismal name is not recorded, but we know her better by her adopted name. She is remembered as one of the greatest of all English mystics. We know her as Julian of Norwich

In her long-ago fevered haze, Julian received a series of visions of Jesus, which she wrote down in a book entitled Sixteen Revelations of Divine Love, the first English-language book to be written by a woman.  She became known throughout the land as a spiritual authority, and many made pilgrimage to Norwich seeking her spiritual insight and counsel.

The Eighth Revelation, the heart of the book, concerns the Passion and the Cross, focusing on Jesus’ pain and suffering. “Is any pain like this?” she wondered, “…Of all pains that lead to salvation this is the most pain, to see thy Love suffer.  How might any pain be more to me than to see Him that is all my life, all my bliss, and all my joy, suffer?”

Recounting the vision, she ruminated on Jesus’ mother Mary’s suffering, the one who suffered more than any other in his death; then expanding the circle to include “all His disciples and all His true lovers suffer pain” at this death.  In this community of pain, forged by the suffering of Jesus, Julian articulated one of her great theological insights: “Here saw I a great ONEING betwixt Christ and us: for when He was in pain, we were in pain.”  To Julian, the Cross was about ONEING—the complete unity of God with us and us with God; and not only us as humans, but as she relates from the vision, the ONEING of “all creatures that suffer pain, suffer with Him…and the firmament, the earth, failed in sorrow” and the planets, all the elements, and even the stars despaired at Christ’s dying.  The cosmic circle of grief, emanating from Jesus’ Passion, reveals that Jesus not only suffered for us; but he suffered with us—his death occurred for the sake of “Kinship and Love” with all this was, is, and will be.

Did Our Lord suffer for us or with us?

Did Our Lord suffer for us or with us?

On many a Good Friday, I have sat in a darkened church, listening to readings and music, all focused on the first preposition of the Passion’s equation: Jesus suffered for us, for sinners, for the world, for me.  But only rarely have I heard spiritual reflection on the second preposition: Jesus suffered with us, with sinners, with the world, with me.

Some of us here are writers. They choose prepositions carefully. There is a huge difference between for and with.  For is a preposition of distance, a word that indicates exchange or favour, it implies function or purpose.  I do something for you; you do something for me.  Notice: someone does something on behalf of or in another’s place. For is a contract.  Jesus suffered for us—means that Jesus did something on our behalf; he acted on behalf of a purpose, in place of someone else.  “For” always separates the actor and recipient, distancing a sacrificial Jesus from those for whom he died.  At the Cross, Jesus is the subject; we are objects.

By way of contrast, with is a preposition of relationship, implying accompaniment, or moving in the same direction.  Rather than something done for you, with makes you a participant in the action or transaction.  With is the preposition of empathy, of sympathy, of being on the same side, of close association.  “No, you needn’t go for me; I’ll go with you.”  With is about joining in, being together.

For or with? Contract or relationship?  Exchange or participation? Quid pro quo or friendship?

We live in a world that glories in the for: you work for a political party or a policy or a cause, you write or sign legal contracts, you exchange votes, you trade favours; if you aren’t for something, well, then, you are against it.  We inhabit the land of quid pro quo.

If we are honest, with is a hard preposition in the world of today.  Are you only with those who share your party or cause?  Can the spoken word be trusted as much as the signed contract?  Do you expect something in exchange for your name, time, or expertise?  Is everything a matter of political compromise, of cutting deals?  We willingly betray others for our side, for our story, for our advantage.  Want a friend?  Get a dog.  We hide parts of ourselves from our neighbours, withhold the sorts of secrets that weave regular relationships for fear someone will use something against us.  We judge others on what they can do for us.  Indeed, we are for many things.  But we are sceptical of with—indeed, much of what we do in the world makes us ridicule, doubt, and even fear with. It is often safer to remain at a distance, to stay away from with.

When we come to the Cross on Good Friday, we see the for. We understand the exchange, that God died for me, so I get baptized or confirmed or serve the church.  Jesus sacrificed his life so that I might exchange Hell for Heaven.  People sacrifice and die for something nearly every day, and it is particularly sobering–as in the case of soldiers—when someone sacrifices or dies for my freedom or safety.  Indeed, thinking that Jesus died for salvation may give pause, cause us to raise a prayer of thanks, feel sadness or relief; but ultimately, the idea that someone dies for something is theologically and spiritually uncomplicated.

But with is complicated, even frightening.  Good Friday plunges us into with. Have you sacrificed with others?  Have you walked the way of death with someone?  Felt the power of the suffering love?  Do you know, in every fibre of your being, the ONEING of God in Julian’s visions?  Do you feel Jesus dying with his Mother, his friends, with us, with all creatures, with the firmament, with the planets and the elements?  Can you embrace the truth that, at Calvary, Jesus’ Mother, friends, US, all creatures, the firmament, the planets and all elements died there with him, too?

The Cross isn’t a contract between God and sinners; the Cross is God’s definitive expression of kinship and love—that everything, everywhere, through all time, is connected in and through pain and suffering.  We are with Jesus on the Cross, not at a distance from it, standing by, watching safely from afar; those are our hands and feet nailed, our blood dripping, our voices crying out “We thirst.” And Jesus on the Cross, naked and mocked, is with us all on every broken-heartened, betrayal-laden, blood-soaked day of human history.  That is God’s Passion; that is Jesus’ Cross.  And, in the tortured Christ, we find the hope to endure, a love for others and creation, the power to enact God’s dream of love and justice for the whole world.  We are with God.  God is with us.  This is why the Cross should cause us to tremble, tremble.  We tremble at the fearsome with of God.

Amen.

The Passover Lamb

Homily for Mass of the Lord’s Supper, Holy Thursday, 28 March 2013.

In the time of our Blessed Lord, have you any idea how many people would have been in the city of Jerusalem for the Passover feast? A hundred to a hundred and fifty thousand! With a population of about thirty-thousand, at least one hundred more would arrive from all parts of Palestine before the Passover and during the festival itself. Most of the pilgrims hadn’t a hope of getting lodgings, so they’d have to find place for a tent. A bit like most adults in Scouting going to Gilwell Reunion each year: there’s only limited indoor accommodation—but there’s plenty of outdoor space for tents. The highlight of the festival was the Passover meal of lamb, unleavened bread, and bitter herbs. Because of the overflowing city, the lambs would be slaughtered in the temple area and the meals would take place in houses or tents. For those without house or tent, it would be in alleyways, courtyards, and even on the roof of a house!

Why did the Jewish people make quite so much of the Passover? Well it is their remembrance of the time when the God ‘passed over’ the people of Israel in their captivity in Egypt as described for us in the first reading tonight (Exodus 12.1–8, 11–14). The Passover is the eternal remembering, the eternal reliving of that night before the plague, before the departure from Egypt. That is why they were to eat it hastily, with a staff in their hand, sandals on their feet, and a girdle round their waist.

On the night of the Last Supper, in one of the thousands of supper rooms in Jerusalem, our Blessed Lord met with his disciples to celebrate a new feast. As St Paul tells us in the second reading, (1 Corinthians 11.23–26) ‘The Lord Jesus took some bread, and thanked God for it’ and said, ‘This is my body which is for you.’ ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood’. St John gives us the same message in the Gospel (St John 13.1–15): ‘Jesus knew,’ he tells us, ‘that the hour had come for him to pass from this world to the Father’. What we are being told, in its essence is that Jesus is the Passover Lamb. He is offering himself up in voluntary self-sacrifice for the salvation of the whole world. Just as the plague against the first-born in Egypt passed over the heads of the Israelites, so the plague of sin and death will pass over our hears. We will be freed from a slavery far worse than that of Egypt. We will be fed with the Eucharist on our desert journey through life. We will be expected to wash each other’s feet in the course of that journey.

If we are faithful to the new Covenant that our Blessed Lord sealed with his blood, we can hope—with some confidence—to make it to our Promised Land. Some things need to be proclaimed from the rooftops. What we proclaim and give thanks for on this Passover evening is the salvation won for us by the Passover Lamb!

 

with thanks to Bishop Joseph Cassidy’s book, These Might Help Too: Homilies for Cycle C.

Surrexit Christus Vere! Alleluia!

The Fraternity wishes a happy and blessed Easter to all, may the peace and joy of the risen Christ be with you and remain with you always.

We were fortunate and humbled to be able to gather as a Fraternity to celebrate the Sacred Triduum together and we thank Fr Joachim FSDM for his kind hospitality.

Over the course of the weekend, we celebrated the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, during which we renewed the promises we each made to God at the time of our ordination, the Mass being celebrated by our Ordinary, Mgr Alban. On Good Friday, Fr Charles presided at the Solemn Liturgy of the Passion of Our Lord and the Mass of the Presanctified.

The highlight of the weekend was the Easter Vigil, where Mgr Alban presided as Principal Celebrant, with the First Mass of Easter being concelebrated by all the Priestly Members of the Fraternity together. Following the Vigil, the Fraternity’s Statue of Our Lady of Walsingham was blessed and the light from the Paschal Candle was passed to the Candles to be taken away by the Priests of the Fraternity so that their own Parishes would have a Paschal Candle to burn during the Easter Season – representing the light of Christ going out into the world.

On the morning of Easter Sunday, Fr Joachim celebrated Holy Mass for the Fraternity.

Copies of the booklets of each Celebration and of the homilies preached will be uploaded in the next few days.

SURREXIT CHRISTUS VERE, ALLELUIA, ALLELUIA!

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