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Year of Mercy – “I will never forget you” Part I


by Fr Duncan McVicar on 18/03/2016

The mercy of God was the original experience of Israel throughout the hundreds of years of adventure and drama in its history. Their main experience, in a very special way, was the mercy and love of God. Their entire history is determined by God who, with the love of a father, draws close to people, enters their personal lives, and ultimately sets them free. This merciful God always sees their needs and is determined, out of love, to liberate them. The liberation and the Exodus of the people of Israel from the land of Egypt was, for the Chosen People, the most important experience and their deepest encounter with God. Very close to the story of Exodus is also the story of the Exile of Israel in Babylonia, and how God, without their merit, brought his people home after many many years of imprisonment, suffering and humiliation. The people of Israel always understood these events – even to the present day – as the greatest expression of the forgiving love and the absolute faithfulness of God. Through this merciful love, God reveals again and again his deepest desire and aim to be united with his people in an unbreakable covenant of love – a covenant, that is so unbreakable that even the greatest sin and the greatest unfaithfulness towards him cannot destroy it. In the Old Testament, we notice how God shows his love as the power and faithfulness of a spouse or bridegroom who is united for the ever to his bride. His love is so great and so faithful, that he is always willing to forgive her “adultery” and the ever recurring betrayal of his Chosen People. The prophets, throughout the Old Testament, proclaimed to the people the faithful mercy of God. Mercy, for them, is that special power of love – his fatherly gaze towards us – a power that is stronger than any sin or any unfaithfulness. For the coming Sundays, we will look at three examples of the witness of God’s mercy in the Old Testament: Firstly, the Prophet Hosea, secondly, the Prophet Isaiah, and then thirdly, Psalm 103.

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Year of Mercy – Why does God allow Sin to happen?


by Fr Duncan McVicar on 12/03/2016

There has always been a question why does God allow sin to happen? St Paul, in his Letter to the Romans, gives a beautiful answer when he says: “So that God can show us even more mercy” (Romans 11:32). St Paul even boasts about his weaknesses and his limitations because, in his experience, the power of Christ and the love of Christ can be even more powerfully felt and experienced. That’s why we have to encourage each other that we don’t suppress our weaknesses and our sins, but that we acknowledge them and we allow them to draw us closer to God and to nudge us gently into the arms of the merciful Father. The temptations we experience and the sins that we all commit, in the eyes of God, should draw us closer to him, and should even be a means to be close to God. That’s why he allows sin to happen in our lives, that’s why he allows us to experience our own weaknesses and limitations. When this happens to us, we have no reason, therefore, to wonder why, or to be confused, or to be discouraged in any way. The opposite should be true in our lives: when we sin and when we experience temptation and when we experience how fragile we all are then something should happen in our souls that pushes us upwards towards God. That is how we can explain how St Paul comes to this remarkable conclusion: “I boast about my weaknesses with joy, because through them the power of Christ can be even more manifest in me” (2 Corinthians 12:9). When we are tempted and when we sin then, naturally, we should be aware of our inner poverty and how fragile we are – and for that reason, we should become more humble in the healthy and true sense of the word. True humility, actually, pushes us closer to God and also helps us to trust God more, and to trust in his limitless mercy in our lives. When we experience our own weaknesses and sinfulness, then we can have a lot more patience, not only with ourselves, but with the mistakes and the weaknesses of the people around us. Through the experience of our own weaknesses and sinfulness, we can learn to understand and deal with the weaknesses and sinfulness of others in a much better and in a much healthier way. God knows how to use everything in our lives to turn that into something good. That’s why St Augustine wrote about and used a quote from St Paul so often: “God will make sure that everything turns out for the best for those who love him”. He quoted this so often in his writings but then he always added: “And he also uses our sins so that everything will work out for the best!” It is so significant for us, in our spiritual lives, to rediscover how Jesus revealed to us how much of a Father God is. God doesn’t just act like a father or has the attitudes or approach of a father, but he is truly our merciful Father. In his love and in his care for each one of us, he is interested in the smallest and most insignificant details of our lives. And that’s why, in this Jubilee Year of Mercy, it is so important to see the biggest attribute of God’s love for us, God’s fatherhood, and his boundless mercy for each one of us.

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Year of Mercy – Accepting our Sins and Weaknesses


by Fr Duncan McVicar on 06/03/2016

These are the realities of faith, which we can base our lives and our personal spirituality on. And this Jubilee Year of Mercy, is the opportunity to allow these realities to take hold of our lives perhaps more than they have in the past: The first reality is to really believe in God’s endless mercy for each one of us; and the second reality is to understand – in a healthy way – our own misery and sinfulness. We should not go through life, thinking that we have to earn or merit God’s love or mercy, but we should build our life on the foundation of the merciful love of God and that our own misery and our own inner poverty – if we except them, understand them correctly, and say “yes” to them – will be the way that we can draw closer to God in our lives. If we recognise our own sinfulness and weakness, and if we are able to see our “yes” to our own sinfulness and weakness, then we actually put God in the position that he “cannot do anything” else but pour out his love and his mercy into our lives. When a child comes before the loving Father, and simply says I am weak, I am sinful, I am helpless, I can’t do on my own – then God, our merciful Father, can do nothing else but give us his mercy and his healing love in abundance. It is as if, the child becomes in effect “all-powerful” and God has simply “no resistance”. He can only respond to our acknowledged weaknesses with love. He can’t do anything else. He doesn’t want to to do anything else. It is so important for us, over and over again, to rediscover what it means that we are all children of one merciful Father. And this Father – who is “an eternal exchange of love” – wishes to draw us into the most intimate communion with him, and share his Divine life with us, so that each one of us can truly say that we are children of God. How little do we really know about this great truths of our faith! How little do the people of today take in this truth, that could change everything in people’s lives! We are all sons and daughters of God. This is our core identity! Does a child not go immediately to its father or mother when it has a hurt, or a need, or a worry and fear? And when the child comes and asks for help from the parents, does not the love of the parents find a new awakening at the request of their own children? It is even more so with our merciful Father in heaven – he wants to give himself completely to us in love, because he is love itself. Because he is love in his essence he wants to share himself and give himself completely. God is an eternal “exchange of love”. True love always goes beyond itself and wishes to grow and extend its borders. God wants to love us and he wants to unite himself to those who try and love others in the way that he loves. That’s why we can speak about this unusual and original “weakness” of God: he cannot withstand the moment when you and I recognise our own weaknesses and our own sinfulness and acknowledge them wholeheartedly. In the moment that we do this, he can do nothing else but pour his love and his boundless mercy into our hearts.

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Taste and See Family Mass in March


by Fr. Bryan Cunningham on 05/03/2016

Welcome to our Taste and See Family Mass on Sunday 13th March starting with Mass at 3.30pm, followed by an input from Brian Stocks for the adults and there will be a programme for children. We will conclude with a shared meal. In this Year of Mercy we are considering the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy. This month we look at what it can mean for families to visit the sick and those in prison. Both of these works of mercy are attractive to families because they allow families to show there solidarity, practice there hospitality and generosity in caring for those in need. Please invite a friend, remember to bring a contribution of food or warm cloths for our food bank  and bring something to share for our meal afterwards. Look forward to seeing you there.

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Year of Mercy – The Universal Law of Love


by Fr Duncan McVicar on 26/02/2016

How do we imagine God? If someone asked us to describe God, or describe God’s most basic characteristics, what would we say? Would we, for example, immediately declare that God for each one of us is a Father of love, a Father of mercy. Would we say, for example, that God’s greatest motivation for everything that he does in the world and in our lives has always been, and will always be his unconditional and boundless love for us. The universal law of love is the endless love of God. This is the reason for all reasons. At the end of the day, everything that God does and everything he intends for our lives is based on the power of love. Everything that comes from him, comes because of love, through love and for love.  If this is true, if love is the ultimate motivation for God, then we have to see it as our special mission and our special task to also make this universal law of love into our ultimate motivation – not only in our personal lives, but in our spiritual growth and development. The Church has always believed that God is a merciful Father; the Church has always proclaimed that mercy and the love of God, in one way and another, is God’s most essential attribute. What perhaps is “new” in this Year of Mercy – or better said, what perhaps is revealing itself in a more powerful way – is how unconditional this merciful love is, and how boundless and all-embracing this mercy of God for each one of us is. Perhaps we have believed in God’s love for us up till now, but we’ve also combined it very strongly with the reality of justice. This often brings about the feeling and the personal experience, that if we wish to experience and share the love of God in our own lives, then we have to earn or merit that love. We cannot earn God’s mercy – it is freely given to us even when we don’t deserve it and, if we are honest, we don’t deserve it most of the time. Of course, every day we have to get up and start again and try to realise the will of God for us and try our best to connect ourselves to God for that day. But we have to be careful that we don’t over-emphasise our human contribution in our relationship to God – in other words, if anything is going to happen, it all depends on me. This Year of Mercy, is trying to emphasise how God, our merciful Father, and his merciful love, is active and present in our lives – he makes the biggest contribution. God does not love us because we have been good or because we have got everything right with not one, single mistake; he loves simply because he is our Father – he has always loved us and he will always love us, no matter what. He wants his merciful love to flow unhindered through our lives and our actions; he wants us to accept and say confidently our “yes” to our limitations, our sinfulness and our weaknesses, and to really believe that our inner poverty is not just an obstacle to getting close to God, but our weaknesses and our sinfulness can actually be the “open door” to sharing God’s merciful love more, and being able to receive his merciful love more. It is so important, in our own spirituality and in our daily lives to recognise and to remember and also to rediscover the universal law of love. What is the universal law of love? Everything that God does, everything that he says, everything that he allows to happen in our lives has a motivation and a reason. And if we search for this reason, if we look for this reason – for example, why did he create the world, why is the world a place where he wants to be present, why does he guide us, why does he want to save us? Why did he send Jesus Christ to be your Saviour and die to set us free? All these questions, and many more, all go back to the ultimate reason – the reason for all reasons – and that is because of love. That is God’s ultimate motivation, and that is why he allows certain things to happen in the way that they happen, he does it all out of love. That is, in essence, the universal law of love. It is the answer to the question what is the ultimate motivation of God – what is the reason for God’s actions and activity and presence in this world. And the answer is because he loves us – he’s only motivated by love, and his love inspires everything else that is in God – for example, his mercy, his justice, his wisdom, etc. This applies, not only in the great events  or in the great questions of creation and the world around us. The universal law of love also applies to us personally. Why do we experience what we experience? Why does God allow this to happen in our lives? Why is our family going through this? At the end of the day, God’s motivation in our own personal lives is also the universal law of love. The universal law of love includes God’s endless love to each one of us, but also includes our response of love to God. These are the two essential sides of the universal law of love. It includes God’s Divine love and also includes our human love. God says to each one of us: “Everything because of love, everything through love, and everything for love”. And each one of us should also say in response to God: “I will try every day to do everything because of love, everything through love, and everything for love”. This has deep consequences would each one of us. This has implications for our spiritual life and our daily living. It basically means, that we too should try every day to do everything out of love. We are also called, through our Baptism and through the fact that we are sons and daughters of God, that we apply the universal law of love in our own lives. And when we do this the powerful stream of love that comes from God originally and flows through the hearts of every single human person and our world, will flow even more and will flow unhindered. That’s why we can speak about the massive stream of life and love that comes from God and then flows through every human heart, uniting as altogether and bringing us all in communion with each other – and then ultimately returning to its source, to God, our merciful Father.

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Taste and See Family Mass in February


by Fr. Bryan Cunningham on 09/02/2016

You are invited at the beginning of the Lenten Season to join us for the Family Mass at the Shrine on Sunday 14th February at 3.30pm. Our theme for this Mass is two of the Corporal works of Mercy: Clothe the Naked & Shelter the Homeless. We will start at 3.30pm with holy Mass and afterward share supper with one another. Please also remember to bring donations for our foodbank. Look forward to seeing you. On the one hand it is Valentine’s Day and we hope that you have the chance to share signs of love for one and other in your family. It is the First Sunday in Lent and each of us is invited to join in the Lenten Pilgrimage to Easter.  “God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ.” (Eph 2:4f)

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The Empty Egg


by Fr Duncan McVicar on 31/03/2015

Jeremy was born with a twisted body and a slow mind. At the age of 12 he was still in Year 2, seemingly unable to learn. His teacher, Doris Miller, often became exasperated with him. One day she called his parents and asked them to come in for a consultation. As the Forresters entered the empty classroom, Doris said to them, “Jeremy really belongs in a special school. It isn’t fair to him to be with younger children who don’t have learning problems. Why, there is a five year gap between his age and that of the other students.” Mrs. Forrester cried softly into a tissue, while her husband spoke. “Miss Miller,” he said, “there is no school of that kind nearby. It would be a terrible shock for Jeremy if we had to take him out of this school. We know he really likes it here.” Doris sat for a long time after they had left, staring at the snow outside the window. Its coldness seemed to seep into her soul. She wanted to sympathize with the Forresters. After all, their only child had a terminal illness. But it wasn’t fair to keep him in her class. She had 18 other youngsters to teach, and Jeremy was a distraction. Furthermore, he would never learn to read and write. Why waste any more time trying? As she pondered the situation, guilt washed over her. Here I am complaining when my problems are nothing compared to that poor family, she thought. Then one day, he limped to her desk, dragging his bad leg behind him. “I love you, Miss Miller,” he exclaimed, loud enough for the whole class to hear. The other students snickered, and Doris’ face burned red. She stammered, “Wh-why that’s very nice, Jeremy. N-now please take your seat.” Spring came, and the children talked excitedly about the coming of Easter. Doris told them the story of Jesus, and then to emphasize the idea of new life springing forth, she gave each of the children a large plastic egg. “Now,” she said to them, “I want you to take this home and bring it back tomorrow with something inside that shows new life. Do you understand?” “Yes, Miss Miller,” the children responded enthusiastically-all except for Jeremy. He listened intently. His eyes never left her face. The next morning, 19 children came to school, laughing and talking as they placed their eggs in the large wicker basket on Miss Miller’s desk.  In the first egg, Doris found a flower. “Oh yes, a flower is certainly a sign of new life,” she said. “When plants peek through the ground, we know that spring is here.” A small girl in the first row waved her arm. “That’s my egg, Miss Miller,” she called out. The next egg contained a plastic butterfly, which looked very real. Doris held it up. “We all know that a caterpillar changes and grows into a beautiful butterfly. Yes, that’s new life, too.” Little Judy smiled proudly and said, “Miss Miller, that one is mine.” Next, Doris found a rock with moss on it. She explained that moss, too, showed life. Billy spoke up from the back of the classroom, “My daddy helped me,” he beamed. Then Doris opened the fourth egg. She gasped. The egg was empty. Surely it must be Jeremy’s she thought, and of course, he did not understand her instructions. Because she did not want to embarrass him, she quietly set the egg aside and reached for another. Suddenly, Jeremy spoke up. “Miss Miller, aren’t you going to talk about my egg?” Flustered, Doris replied, “But Jeremy, your egg is empty.” He looked into her eyes and said softly, “Yes, but Jesus’ tomb was empty, too.” Time stopped. When she could speak again, Doris asked him, “Do you know why the tomb was empty?” “Oh, yes,” Jeremy said, “Jesus was killed and put in there. Then His Father raised Him up.” The recess bell rang. While the children excitedly ran out to the schoolyard, Doris cried. The cold inside her melted completely away. Three months later, Jeremy died. Those who paid their respects at the cemetery were surprised to see 19 eggs on top of his coffin… all of them empty.

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