33rd Sunday (A) 15 November 2020 – St George’s Cathedral, Southwark

Dear friends 

I want to share with you four messages on this particular Sunday of the Church’s year.

This is the first Sunday since the publication, last Tuesday, of the IICSA Report into Child Sexual Abuse in the Catholic Church in England and Wales. It makes for sombre and shameful reading. I, we, apologise. We must change. We need to do everything we can to make that sure such terrible sins and crimes and mistakes are not repeated.

This is the Sunday designated by Pope Francis as the fourth World Day of the Poor. Our Cathedral houses the shrine of St Oscar Romero, the Archbishop of San Salvador, assassinated in 1980 for his opposition to poverty and injustice. He was asked to explain the phrase ‘option for the poor.’ He replied saying imagine a building is on fire and, watching it burn, you stand wondering if everyone is safe. Then imagine someone tells you that members of your family are inside. Your attitude changes completely. You become frantic. You’d do everything thing to rescue them, even at the cost of getting burned. That’s what it means, said St Oscar Romero, to be truly committed to the poor. We can look at poverty from the outside, as if we are looking on at a fire. But that’s not to opt for the poor, no matter how concerned we might be. We need to look at poverty from the inside, as if it involves the family we love. This has direct applications: to those facing poverty and injustice; and to those who have suffered abuse.

This is the Sunday when we hear the Lord Jesus speak about talents in the Gospel. He describes those servants who make the most of their talents, so much so that they multiply. It has obvious implications. We should use our talents, our gifts, in the service of God, of the Kingdom, of the weakest, the poorest and the most vulnerable.

But there’s a servant who finds it difficult to make the most of their talents. Fear holds him or her back, just as fear can hold us back. Here’s a truth we need to hear and hear again: the God who loved us into being, who will love us for all eternity, commands us not to be people of fear. The gifts we have each received can become greater than we dare to ask or imagine when we put them in God’s service, God who loves us and calls us into freedom.

This is the second Sunday of lockdown when we are prohibited from gathering for public worship. I share with you a story I shared with the clergy this week.

Last Monday I went for a walk and ended up sat in St James’ Park praying the Breviary and watching the ducks. I wasn’t in clerical dress, but a man came up to me pulling a shopping trolley. He was slightly older, well-dressed, and very polite. ‘Please,’ he said, ‘please tell me what’s happening?’ ‘What do you mean,’ I asked, ‘what’s wrong?’ He said ‘I’ve been to all the places I normally go and everything is closed.’ ‘Nothing is right,’ he said, ‘and I am so frightened.’

He was genuinely distressed and I really felt sorry for him. ‘Well’ I said, ’I don’t think you need to be frightened. This is a really strange time for everyone; but you don’t need to be afraid.’ ‘Thank you,’ he said, ‘but what should I do?’ I said, ‘If I were you, I would just try and take each day as it comes.’ ‘That’s brilliant advice,’ he said, as if it were the most original and impressive thing he’d ever heard. He went off happier, pulling his trolley behind him.

We all need to hear the words ‘do not be frightened.’ In our challenges, fears and worries, the present moment is what matters. It’s all we have for certain. This ‘now’ is real. And so, each day, we set out to do the very best we can, desiring to put our talents in the service of love.

The Lord Jesus says ‘Courage, do not be afraid.’ (Mt 14:27) He says that to each of us. This doesn’t change what we have to face; but it does change how we can face it. It never means we can ignore what is wrong and do nothing. It never means that. It can never mean that. Instead, it gives us strength to face whatever we have to face and act for justice and right with compassion.

We face everything with faith, believing that Christ who is our Truth, and our Way, and our Life, is with us, in this present moment, helping us to face this day, and every day, with hope.

In Christ, and through Christ, and with Christ, we are, and we are called evermore to be, beloved sons and daughters of the light – sons and daughters of Christ’s light.