Published in the December issue of The Furrow, appears with the kind permission of the editor.

“You are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God” (Ephesians 2:19).  This means that we belong, that we have a part to play, and that we have rights in the church.  However, the belonging that is part of citizenship (in the church and more broadly) must be distinguished from group-think or tribalism.  These distortions of belonging turn boundaries into barriers; they focus more on being against than being for; they slip into idolatry with regard to our positions, confusing signposts with destinations.  It is when people are caught up in a crowd of the righteous that they sometimes find themselves crucifying outsiders. 

icon Being a citizen in the Church

This homily was given On the Feast of St Peter & St Paul at St Mary’s Church in Harborne, Birmingham. A local ACTA member forwarded it to us, thinking that many other members would be as delighted to read it as she was, since it reminded her of what one hears at ACTA meetings in Birmingham. Father Bernard kindly gave permission for its publication.

Pope Francis seeks blessingThere can’t have been much time on that wet March evening in Rome between the white smoke and the appearance of Papa Francesco before the crowds waiting in St Peter’s Square. Not much time to plan a response to their welcome or to write fine words. But what we got was significant in its simplicity, a smiling “Good evening” and then before any blessing by the new Bishop of Rome, a request that the people, through their prayer, bless him.

He bowed his head to receive it and the silence of the crowd was palpable.

Miriam and Elisheva, is in the grounds of the Church of the Visitation at Ein KaremThis representation of the meeting of two pregnant Jewish women, Miriam and Elisheva, is in the grounds of the Church of the Visitation at Ein Karem, near to Jeruslaem. We know them better as Mary, the mother of Jesus and Elizabeth, her cousin, mother of John the Baptist. We celebrated that occasion liturgically at the end of May.

What a fine image it is, of two women celebrating the joy of pregnancy yet aware of the risks of childbirth. Both seem to be aware from the Gospel account that theirs is no ordinary conception. Indeed we are told that Elizabeth’s child leapt in her womb as she greeted Mary with the words “What have I done to be visited by the Mother of my Lord?”

PorchThe house opposite my home has been vandalised; why, I do not know. When I first came to live in these parts, some years ago, the then owner of that house was in the process of building a porch to protect the front entrance from the elements. He was a big, strong, muscular man, who seemed to enjoy “seeing to things". He looked after his garden too in a care-taking kind of way. His wife, a neat little woman, had a face that betrayed long hours on the sun bed. There were no children, or if there were they had long since fled the nest and showed no desire to return. There came a parting of the ways. He left without so much as a wave; she crossed over to tell me it was all his fault. I might have believed her too were it not for the cheery smile on her face as she spoke to me and the spring in her step as she sat in beside the gloomy looking stranger in his BMW.