Mgr Gerard’s Reflection – Pentecost Sunday

Today is the feast of Pentecost, Jesus offers us the help we need to keep trying. He sends us out to proclaim the good news of God’s incredible love, but we do not go alone. “Receive the Holy Spirit,” he says. From this day forward, we will never walk alone. The Christian messenger does not simply bring Christ to others, but identifies the Christ who is already there. Where there is goodness, there is forgiveness, it is his forgiveness. We show people where Christ is already at work in their midst, and in this way, as working with the Holy Spirit, we build up the body of Christ.

In the next weeks newsletter, I will be informing you of the action plan that I am currently working on to open the Cathedral Church in Middlesbrough towards the end of June, as directed by the Government., and the Bishops of England and Wales. There are very strict guidelines that must be followed, like cleaning requirements each time a Church is opened, sanitisers, having very definite signage etc. At the moment, and in agreement with the Bishop, I am looking at opening the Cathedral for private prayer only, and next week I will be explaining how that could work.

Finally, Fr Albert will be leaving us on the 10th June. He is taking up an appointment as the Priest in Charge of Bridlington. The current Parish Priest, Fr John Wood was involved in a serious accident before the New Year, and has now retired. The Parish needs a Priest and the Bishop has asked Fr Albert to move earlier than usual to prepare the Church for possible reopening. We wish him well as he moves back to the coastal area of our diocese, and thank him for his brief time with us since October 2019. God Bless You all, and stay safe.

Mgr Gerard’s Reflection – Seventh Sunday of Easter

During the 9 days between the Ascension and Pentecost the apostles, with Mary in their midst assembled in the upper room to prepare for the coming of the Holy Spirit. Their preparation for receiving the Spirit was prayer. This is the oldest and most important novena in the Church. We too must try to make these days, days of prayer. Each Pentecost renews the gift of the Holy Spirit in the Church.

On a different note, there are now opportunities to have a Mass celebrated by one of the Priest’s please send in your Mass request to me here at the Cathedral (the address is at the top of the newsletter) and we can get your Mass celebrated in the new few weeks.

Also, many people have asked what they are to do regarding the collection and the envelopes. My advice is to hang onto your envelopes or money and when we are back open, then that can be brought to the Church, but not to worry at the moment.

We also must be aware of the bigger picture, we need to consider the local foodbanks, many people in our area are going hungry, there is a reliance on the community’s support to ensure that food is still donated. You can check this site that can give updated information on foodbanks, giving items urgently needed, and you can also give a cash donation:

https://middlesbrough.foodbank.org.uk/location/

Give help by donating money, big or small, every gift helps transform lives.

I am also aware that CAFOD have launched an emergency appeal and again you can check out their website for info: Cafod.org.uk/coronavirusappeal

Mgr Gerard’s Reflection – Sixth Sunday of Easter

The message is very simple this week, if we love Christ we will listen to his words and try to put them into practice in our lives. Often, we think we are good simply because we are not conscious of doing any great evil. But what about the things we fail to do?

At the end of our life, we will be judged not on our fear of hell or hope of heaven, but on active Christian love.

On a different note, there are now opportunities to have a Mass celebrated by one of the Priest’s please send in your Mass request to me here at the Cathedral (the address is at the top of the newsletter) and we can get your Mass celebrated in the new few weeks.

Also, many people have asked what they are to do regarding the collection and the envelopes. My advice is to hang onto your envelopes or money and when we are back open, then that can be brought to the Church, but not to worry at the moment.

We also must be aware of the bigger picture, we need to consider the local foodbanks, many people in our area are going hungry, there is a reliance on the community’s support to ensure that food is still donated. You can check this site that can give updated information on foodbanks, giving items urgently needed, and you can also give a cash donation:

https://middlesbrough.foodbank.org.uk/location/

Give help by donating money, big or small, every gift helps transform lives

I am also aware that CAFOD have launched an emergency appeal and again you can check out their website for info:

Cafod.org.uk/coronavirusappeal

Mgr Gerard’s Reflection – Fifth Sunday of Easter

Trouble and heartache come to everyone in this world, we could be suffering from that today due to lockdown. Sadly in our world, there are issues of injustice, where people do not receive their share; issues of violence, issues of human relationships where dishonesty and trust can drive families apart, issues of bereavement, where people suddenly lose their loved ones. Certainly today, many families are affected by COVID 19 and sadly are having to deal with their loved one’s death, and we send our deepest sympathies to them.

The words of Jesus, spoken first to his disciples at the Last Supper, are repeated to us today: “Do not let your hearts be troubled.” The Lord himself is the reason why we are not to lose hope.

On a different note, many have asked what they are to do regarding the collection and the envelopes. My advice is to hang onto your envelopes or money and when we are back open, then that can be brought to the Church, but not to worry at the moment

We also must be aware of the bigger picture, we need to consider the local foodbanks, many people in our area are going hungry, there is a reliance on the community’s support to ensure that food is still donated. You can check this site that can give updated information on foodbanks, giving items urgently needed, and you can also give a cash donation:

https://middlesbrough.foodbank.org.uk/location/

Give help by donating money, big or small, every gift helps transform lives.

I am also aware that CAFOD have launched an emergency appeal and again you can check out their website for info:

Cafod.org.uk/coronavirusappeal

Mgr Gerard’s Reflection – Fourth Sunday of Easter

Jesus the Good Shepherd is a beautiful Symbol. The reading from John urges us to follow the voice of this Shepherd for our own protection, that we may be nurtured in safe pastures. In the world we live in today, it can be difficult to follow the Good Shepherd’s voice, as there are hundreds of other “shepherds” calling our names, wanting our attention and needing our support. We are offered a happier life through more money, more possessions and we believe that they can solve all our problems… but eventually we know that is not true!

In the midst of the confusing clamour of voices today, the voice of the Good Shepherd beckons us with his vision. He is the “way, truth and the life”. It is especially important during this pandemic to listen to the Good Shepherd, pray to him to keep us all safe.

These are challenging times so we seek God with all our hearts.

We pray for the sick in our communities, for their families, for health care workers, and for leaders who are diligently working to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Together, we are checking on our neighbours, “attending “ Mass on line, and living as disciples of Jesus Christ.

We pray for each other, and I hope you pray for all Priests and our Bishop during these trying times because this is really hard on all of us as we encounter challenges that Priests have not seen since 1918.

God bless you all. We miss you. If you have a computer don’t forget our livestream Mass every day at 10am and rosary on a Mon, Wed & Fri at 3pm. On your computer google in: diocese of Middlesbrough YouTube Keep Safe.

Mgr Gerard’s Reflection – Third Sunday of Easter

The story of the journey to Emmaus is essentially a story about heart. As the two disciples made their way homewards, they were talking about Jesus. He had filled their lives with meaning, hope and joy, but now they felt haunted by his absence since his crucifixion.

It was when Jesus joined them on their journey that he then opened up the word of God to them, showing how it was foretold that the Christ should suffer and so enter into his glory.

The Emmaus story gives us a model of how we can relate to Christ. We bring our everyday experience, our hopes and our disappointments and fears before God in prayer.

We pour out our hearts, holding nothing back, telling God exactly how we feel. Then we ponder God’s word, proclaimed in the liturgy, spoken to us through others, and in scriptures we read them ourselves. Perhaps something stirs within us as we sense the presence of Christ in us.

We then walk with people as they journey, listening to them, helping them, encouraging them and being a witness to our faith. The main thing that comes across to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus is that Jesus loved them. It is that what made their hearts burn. The story shows the goodness of God which is to be shouted out from the rooftops.

God bless you all. We miss you. If you have a computer don’t forget our livestream Mass every day at 10am and rosary on a Mon, Wed & Fri at 3pm. Go to the parish or diocese of Middlesbrough website to see the link. Keep Safe!

Mgr Gerard’s Reflection – Second Sunday of Easter

What matters more than being filled with the occasional fear and doubt is that we can accept how we feel. When we accept our feelings instead of denying them and criticising ourselves for having them, we are able to move on through these feelings.

We’re not paralysed by them and stuck in our tracks. We are alive with our options about how we will proceed. Thomas was afraid and couldn’t believe his eyes and yet he did not let this stop him from taking a step from doubt and fear to faith. Seeing is believing to Thomas.

He reaches out to touch Jesus’ hands and his side as invited by Jesus who no doubt knew Thomas well, and as he does, he is moved to profess My Lord and My God!

Doubting Thomas became a believer. What counts is that we too move through doubt and fear to what we dare to believe. The story of doubting Thomas brings home to us just how fragile the human container in which the gift of faith is carried. At this moment, trying to live with the pandemic, faith is tested and doubt does raise its head in all forms.

We must live in the light of faith rather than in the darkness of doubt. We must be people of courage and of hope, believing that things will be better and life will move forward. Let our prayer today be “O God, I do believe. Help my unbelief.”

Mgr Gerard’s Reflection – Easter Sunday

Easter reminds us that there is hope, that people are good, that faith is still there and that faith is personal and nobody can take our faith away from us, not even Covid-19. It is a reminder that, as Archbishop Tutu said, “Every act of kindness enhances the quality of life”.

Easter says there is hope despite the fear and despair.

Easter says that love is pulling us out of our tombs of despair.

Easter helps us to recognise the love of God in the person who cares for us.

Listen to the prayer in today’s Mass: ”Let our celebration today raise us up and renew our lives by the Spirit.” Look what is told to us in the Exsultet : ”This is the night that dispels all evil…the night that brings mourners joy…the night when heaven is wedded to earth and when we are reconciled with God”.

Easter reminds us to roll away the stones and rocks that seal our hopes and dreams in the tombs of despair and cynicism. We must try to be Easter people, people of faith, people of love, people of hope demonstrating our actions of our belief in Jesus Christ.

This past week, I gathered all the many Eggs that we had at all of our Churches and have donated them to a food bank that will distribute them to many children who would not get an Easter Egg this year. Thank you for so many donations of Eggs, and I know they will be well received. I hope you are ok and safe, isolation is not always an easy situation to be in, and also not being able to come to Church, but I hope you are able to receive the live stream every day at 10am. Happy Easter and God Bless You all.

Mgr Gerard’s Reflection – Palm Sunday

What an interesting Holy Week this is going to be for all of us. We are in some ways in unchartered waters, but through this week’s journey to the Cross familiar territory. It has been a crazy few weeks, our Lent has certainly been interesting, and whether we have given in, given up on Lent, we find ourselves at the beginning of Holy Week, and what a week it will be for you and me and Jesus Christ. Jesus week, gets off to a good start with a hero’s welcome – coats, palm branches spread in his path. Messiah! Several days later, their cheers turn to jeers. Crucify him! Suddenly the crowds turn on him, wanting him dead. Not at all loyal, not really friends. But then look closely at Jesus’ “real friends”. In a matter of hours, Jesus enjoys time with his disciples. He dips his hand in the same bowl with the man who’ll betray him with a kiss. Jesus washes the feet of Peter, James and John, who won’t even stay awake to pray with him. In the courtyard, while Jesus is being mistreated, Peter hears a cock crow and denies knowing his friend. At this time of isolation, dealing with a pandemic, there is no better way than to contemplate the passion of Jesus, as we take up our crosses, the very real burdens of our own lives and walk through these days with Jesus.

What weigh us down at this moment in our lives?

What are my fears?

How can I take up this cross in such a way as to lighten the burden of someone else?

The gospel is about all of us who have followed Jesus this Lent, struggling to draw closer to him. The closer we are to him, the more we will live in his life. But, we are all capable of betraying him, and we all have reasons for repentance.

Mgr Gerard’s Reflection – 5th Sunday of Lent

How are you doing? It is interesting when we are suddenly confined to our homes how difficult it is to surrender ourselves to what is being asked of us. However, it is all for our own good and protection. I hope you are coping and have managed to put some structure into your days. Just to remind you that we are live streaming daily Mass at 10am everyday and this week we will also be praying the rosary on a Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 3pm.If you have a computer you can go to the Diocese of Middlesbrough website and click on the link for live steam Mass. This will be the same link for the rosary too. All our Priests are well and we celebrate Mass daily for the above intentions. You are always in our thoughts and prayers. This week we have three funeral Services, Michael O’Brien, Margaret McGeown and Eileen Anderson, may they rest in peace. There is just one more week before we begin Holy Week. In our Gospel today, Jesus releases Lazarus from his tomb, he tells others to untie him of his linen bandages. We are all called to share in the redemptive work of Jesus. Jesus calls us as he called Lazarus: but the difference between now and then is that the voice of the Lord speaks to us through the voice of others. I am sure this week we have all had a friendly phone call and even a neighbour putting a message through the letterbox encouraging us to call if there is anything we need. Jesus, through the work of others, is always helping and supporting us, particularly through these difficult times. He does not want us to be entombed, trapped, bound together. It is through each other that we will survive this as stronger disciples of Christ, don’t give up! God Bless Mgr. Gerard, Mgr. Dasey and Fr Albert.

Mgr Gerard’s Reflection – 4th Sunday of Lent

I was telling a friend about a woman with lung cancer. He asked, “How long did she smoke?” Actually, the woman has never smoked, but I understood the question. There’s something scary about having an element of random chaos in our lives. Never has there been so much as we face today with COVID-19. We like our world ordered and reliable, a world where virtuous non -smokers don’t have to worry about lung cancer. The Pharisees in today’s gospel like an orderly, reliable world too. They see blindness as the result of sin. So when Jesus gives sight, their worldview is threatened. The blind man, however, seems to be living with random chaos. He is blind, and it’s nobody’s fault. And then Jesus walks by… It’s a powerful contrast. The Pharisees, clinging rigidly to their ideas, move deeper into darkness. But the beggar’s eyes are open, literally and figuratively. He moves through stages towards faith and becomes a sign of the works of God. The same with us. God comes to us in the random chaos of our lives and touches us with grace. But we have to open our hearts and minds to him. This is when we see Jesus at work in our lives and become like him, especially during this difficult time, where people are self -isolating, the elderly are housebound, parents are coping with children at home. We all need to look out for one another, random acts of kindness, even a phone-call to check people are coping. We must be aware of our neighbour, stop panic buying and be kind and thoughtful towards others.

Mgr Gerard’s Reflection – 3rd Sunday of Lent

: Firstly, thank you for all the well wishes. I am improving but I am still suffering from asthmatic problems, so I am still not back at work. This weekend we hear in the gospel of the Samaritan who met Jesus at the well and their meeting changed her life forever. Her life was in a shambles having had five husbands, potentially working on her sixth, and yet Jesus’ eyes don’t criticize or condemn. His gaze invited her to say words that released hurt and loneliness in the woman and those words brought some healing and restoration to her. Most of us have learned to adopt an “I can do it myself” attitude and we often find it difficult to tell others we need their help. In today’s world we hurt inside, we too often put on a plastic smile, one that says we’re at peace but actually we’re not. Caring people are there to get inside our worlds and see beyond our masks. They break down the hiding places we have built brick by brick. We need people like this in our lives who are there to build bridges and share our problems. People who have that attitude help things get better. It’s time to lift our head and see who is waiting to see into our eyes. Today can also be a new healing for us if we open our heart to someone. In this time in which we live with coronavirus and isolation it is even more important that we care and share. Lent challenges us to measure our willingness to care even if it’s a simple phone call to make sure people are ok. That’s the Christian thing to do.

Mgr Gerard’s Reflection – 2nd Sunday of Lent

There are no plans for the Transfigurations that enrich our lives. We just need to let ourselves be caught up in the moment and be lost in the experience. God is hard to capture but we keep trying. In our Gospel Peter represents all of us. He’s saying let’s stay here, let’s make this permanent, let’s make it last forever. In a sense put God in church, in a box, in a tabernacle. That way when we need God we know where to go. But that’s not how it works. Our problem is that as soon as we come down from the mountain and run into the reality of life our faith easily fails us and like Peter, we can start to deny Christ. Prayer is the key. It is only prayer that shows God has not abandoned us. He is present in our every walk of life. At all times, especially in times of difficulty, remember what St. Paul said, “God is on our side” and with God on our side we can face anything.

Fr Albert’s Reflection – 1st Sunday of Lent

The Gospel of the First Sunday of Lent, sets before us the narrative of Jesus’ temptations in the desert. The devil seeks to divert Jesus from the Father’s plan, that is, from the way of sacrifice, the love that offers itself in expiation. He offers him instead an easier path, one of success and power. The duel between Jesus and Satan takes place through strong quotations from Sacred Scripture. The devil, to divert Jesus from the way of the cross, tries to set before him false messianic hopes:

1) Easy economy. A Messiah that provides economic well-being, indicated by the ability to turn stones into bread. This reminds us of the temptation to become rich through no effort at all, instead seizing hold of goods destined for all, to use only for “my own self.” That is, taking “bread” earned by the toil of others, or even at the expense of their very lives. That is the bread that a corrupt family, or society, gives its children.

2) Vanity. To be a “celebrity style” Messiah by pursuing the futile chasing of those fifteen minutes of fame. Satan proposes to Jesus the idea of throwing himself off the highest point of the Temple in Jerusalem, to be saved by angels. This will provide him with Celebrity exposure

3) Power. A quick, easy shortcut to power and dominion in exchange for an act of adoration to Satan. Betraying your own nature, identity and dignity in pursuit of quick power.

As humans, we are continually bombarded with these three temptations. Evil tries to corrode, destroy and extinguish the joy and freshness of doing God’s will within us. These temptations lock us into a cycle of destruction and sin. Jesus decisively rejects all these temptations. He reiterates his firm resolve to follow the path set by the Father, without any kind of compromise with sin or worldly logic. Jesus overcomes temptation by refusing to enter into dialogue with Satan. Instead, Jesus chooses to take refuge in the Word of God and responds with the power of God’s Word. For this reason, it is important for us to know Scripture, because otherwise we do not know how to combat the snares of the Evil One. Lent is the appropriate time for us all to make a journey of conversion. Let us renew the promises of our Baptism. Let us renounce Satan and all his works and seductions, in order to follow the path of God and arrive at Easter in the joy of the Spirit. (based on Pope Francis reflections of the 9/03/2014; 14/02/2016)

Fr Albert’s Reflection – 7th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Teaching about revenge, (An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth) the Old Testament might seem somewhat vindictive. However, we need to keep in mind that this Old Testament law was to prevent people from inflicting undue punishment upon one another. It prevented retribution from being greater than the offence which evoked it. Jesus’ Gospel teaching on forgiveness runs counter to all that we feel in our hearts concerning how to relate to others. Jesus came to fulfil the law and the prophets, and not to abolish them; “Be perfect …as your heavenly Father is perfect”. This perfection has to do with our ability to be like Jesus and to love as he loved. Only in Jesus can the wall of hostility between people be broken down. In all this, how do we fare? Have we hurt dear family members? Do we love and respect those in authority? Do we hold grudges and resentment? Do we make cutting or cynical remarks? Do we love those who are our neighbours and those in the neighbourhood of the world? How about the poor and the helpless? Those who cannot defend themselves? Do we love those of different religions, of racial groups, nationalities or social classes? When we are wronged, our first response must be to say in our hearts that we believe Jesus died on the cross for everyone; that his victory is stronger than our hunger for revenge. We can then ask God for the grace to forgive, to return good for evil. The more we live this out, the stronger will the love of God grow within us.

Fr Albert’s Reflection – 6th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Choosing wisely and living by the values of the Kingdom are the key phrases that help us to focus on this Sunday’s message. The opening verse in the first reading says, “If you choose, you can keep the commandments, they will save you.”

God gives us both freedom and responsibility. The wise choose life, not death. They choose love, peace and forgiveness not hate and revenge. Choice is always before us. We choose to relate with others wisely by respecting boundaries. St. Paul, in the second reading, describes this choice in terms of either opting for human wisdom or God’s wisdom. If we choose God’s wisdom, we become the best version of ourselves; we live by the values of the kingdom. When we choose human wisdom, we end up being foolish and blaming ourselves.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus addresses several moral issues. On the issue of murder, Jesus calls us to choose to be persons of peace and compassion. It means being a person of forgiveness. Unless one forgives, anger continues to build up until it erupts.

Another issue that Jesus addresses is the new law of marital relations. Jesus calls us to make the choice to live married relationships in fidelity. For Jesus, marriage is part of God’s plan, reflecting God’s fidelity to the chosen people. A married relationship is to be a place of safety, nurture and honour, not a place of violence, dishonesty and destructiveness. By forbidding divorce, Jesus calls for a reconciled relationship between husband and wife, instead of living in a situation of submissiveness or warfare.

Fr Albert’s Reflection – 5th Sunday of Ordinary Time

We must be Salt and Light. Salt adds flavour, while light illuminates. Both salt and light should be there for others, not for oneself: salt does not give flavour to itself and light does not illuminate itself. Jesus here is referring to the quality of life, or goodness, that flows from within me. My goodness must never be self-serving. It should never be a put-on thing in which I seek to bring glory to myself. The greatest danger facing us Christians today is that we can totally become absorbed by the world and the crowd around us. We become no different from other people, so we become tasteless and darkness. The true follower of Christ must have something special to offer, some light to shed, some flavour to add, some hope to bring. If not, then she or he is not only redundant but also useless. We all know what is done with useless things. For how long can Salt and Light last without running out if we continue to give of ourselves relentlessly? That’s where the power of God comes in. We become Salt and Light to the World as a gift that is given to us by God through Baptism. This is a gift that never ends. One may not be able to become a massive beacon of light, but if one has even a little goodness, and try to be true to it, then one can at least be a humble candle which sheds precious light in its own immediate vicinity

Fr Albert’s Reflection – The Presentation of the Lord

Today, the 2nd of February, we interrupt our progression through the Liturgical year, to stop and meditate on the Solemnity of the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord in the Temple. Traditionally, we refer to this feast as Candlemas, because of the blessing of the candles at the beginning of the Mass. The blessing of the candles reminds us that Jesus is the True Light, ‘the light to enlighten the Gentiles’ (Lk 2, 32). In the Eastern Churches, this feast is referred to as the Feast of the Encounter, where the Messiah encounters His people for the first time. Jesus’ solemn encounter with His people of Israel happened in the Temple of Jerusalem when he was still only 40 days old. Animated by the desire to fulfill what was prescribed by the Jewish Law, the newlywed parents, Mary and Joseph, took Jesus in their arms to the Father’s House. At the Temple, they are received by two elderly people, Simeon and Anna. Simeon and Anna are both described as advanced in years, thus representing the history of the People of Israel. What is new is that both Simeon and Anna are at the Temple because they were led there by the Holy Spirit. But Jesus is the centre of this encounter between the Holy Family and these two representatives of the Holy People of God. It is Jesus who moves everything, who attracts one and all to the Temple, which is the House of His Father. Jesus brings together young people full of joy in observing the Law of the Lord and the elderly, full of joy by the action of the Holy Spirit. It is a singular encounter between observance and prophecy, where the young are the observers and the elderly are the prophets. In reality, the observance of the Law is animated by the Spirit himself, and the prophecy is moved in the way traced by the Law. Today’s Gospel presents us with the encounter between youth and old age; between the Old Testament and the New Testament; between hope and fulfilment; between birth and the Resurrection. From the very first moments of his life, Jesus is making his way to his glorious death in Jerusalem. As a result, the presentation calls us to spend our life living fully for God, devoted to the will of the Father. The presentation of our complete gift of self, out of love, leads us in faith to the hope-filled assumption of eternal life.

Mgr Gerard’s reflection – 3rd Sunday of Ordinary Time

One of the most common responses to the call to be evangelisers is that we are not ready, prepared or worthy. That may be true, but worthiness is not part of the gospel’s demand. In fact, to be aware of our frailties and weaknesses is a key dimension of our spiritual journey. It helps us stay humble with our feet on the ground. The gospel speaks of the sudden invitation to come follow Jesus and become fishers of people. The call may come out of the blue and of course we don’t feel ready or prepared and we can have too many excuses to put off what God’s will may be expecting of us. I am sure the fishermen, Peter, Andrew, James and John, when asked to follow Christ, could have come up with many, many excuses but they took the risk and their mission was to capture the hearts and minds of people. We are all asked to do the same. We cannot be part-time Catholics. To follow Christ is a lifestyle change and we show example by the way we live our life and how we look after brothers and sisters. It’s through how we live our life in this world that people will want to be part of who we are and what we are about. Such was the lives of Jesus Christ, John the Baptist and the apostles. Proclaiming the good news, healing and teaching. We pray we may have the courage to respond to the needs of this world with Jesus’ love and compassion.

Mgr Gerard’s reflection – 2nd Sunday of Ordinary Time

Our Gospel this weekend really does show the character of John the Baptist. He has spent months, maybe years, encouraging people to listen to him, follow him, to be part of his group. People like him, they like what he has to say and are impressed by what he does. It was good to be part of his group even if it was challenging and demanding. And then someone else comes along and John the Baptist actively encourages the people who have been following him to leave him and go with this other person. Yet John the Baptist does just this. He sees Jesus, recognises him for who he is, the Messiah, and immediately withdraws. John is not concerned with popularity. He is not interested in being the centre of attention. John the Baptist has dedicated his life to preparing for the arrival of Jesus Christ and now it is time for him to ‘decrease’ so that Jesus can ‘increase’. His friends trust John enough to leave him and follow Jesus. But whatever was said and done in that time together, it was enough for all of them to understand this was no ordinary man. This was indeed the Messiah.

Mgr Gerard’s reflection – Baptism of the Lord

We are called to grow in wisdom and grace. It took Jesus thirty years to reach maturity and to acquire wisdom. It will take us a lifetime to grow to maturity and to ripen as human beings and children of God. The Feast of the Baptism of Jesus reminds us of our own baptism and provides us with an opportunity to commit ourselves to the Christian life which essentially is a life of service. There are many people that understand this but there are sadly many that don’t. We are not called to save the world or to solve the problem, nevertheless each of us has our own unique calling in our families, in our work, in our world. We need God’s help to be faithful to that call. Faithfulness for everyday tasks is our way of responding to the problems of our time and participation in the work of Jesus. Baptism is like the planting of the seed. It will take a lifetime for this seed to grow and ripen.

Mgr Gerard’s reflection – Epiphany of the Lord

Today we celebrate the Feast of the Epiphany. The word Epiphany means ‘manifestation’ so we celebrate Jesus manifestation of himself to the gentile world. Some countries celebrate it more solemnly than they do Christmas. The manifestation of Jesus means that we must continue to proclaim the good news that Jesus the Son of God lived among us and came for all people. This is a practical message of the Feast of the Epiphany. We are called to proclaim this message. There is a beautiful message written by an unknown Christian author that sums up in a beautiful imagery the practical message of the Epiphany: “When the song of the angels is stilled, when the star in the sky is gone, when the Kings and the princes are home, when the shepherds are back with the flocks, the work of Christmas begins, to feed the hungry, to release the prisoners, to rebuild the nations, to bring peace among our brothers and sisters, to make music with the heart.” May I wish you all a very happy, healthy and peaceful New Year.

Mgr Gerard’s reflection – Feast of the Holy Family

Pope Francis wrote in his recent exhortation that the family is “where we learn to live with others despite our differences and to belong to one another.” That very belonging to each other is what today’s readings are about. Our lives are complicated and families don’t always consist of two parents. But Paul’s letter to the Colossians offers all of us the tools we need to care for each other: heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another. I can guess that Paul was intimately connected with family as he notes other important family skills, like “bearing with one another” which seems like an apt phrase on the harder days. When we share a home, we not only have to forgive each other, but to be aware that we need forgiveness from each other, prompted by the example of God’s deeply loving forgiveness for us all. The Gospel is Matthew’s story of the Holy Family fleeing to Egypt in fear of Herod, who was searching for their son. They left their homeland and lived in a country they did not know, with languages and customs not their own, separated from their family. When they could finally return to Israel, fear of Herod’s successor forced them to go not home, but to Galilee, where they would be less likely to be found. But despite the stress of their situation, I picture them as holding onto each other even more closely. That seems to be our human reaction to tragedy – we want to gather our loved ones together and hold onto each other. Even with the people who drive us crazy. But they are family and they belong to us and we belong to them; because family is not about perfection but fidelity. As Pope Francis says about families, “We remain steadfast in our intention to respect others, to heal wounds, to build bridges, to strengthen relationships and to ‘bear one another’s burdens.’” Being part of a family means being faithful to our everyday lives, to loving each other on our best and worst days.

Mgr Gerard’s reflection – 4th Sunday of Advent

The birth of the baby we’re about to celebrate is like no other birth because he was like no other baby. Yes, the child was special because through the power of the Holy Spirit he was born to Mary, a young girl, but he was also special because of his life because he was Emmanuel which means God is with us. God comes to share our life so that we could be saved from sin and death and this amazing wonderful story just has to be told over and over again each Christmas. Just like your own family traditions of Christmas, the stories we tell every year, the decorations we hang, the foods we eat and gestures we make all remind us who we are and what we value the most. So it is in the Christian community, we gather together in church to hear about Jesus, who he was, why he came. We remember that he shows us the human face of God’s love, saves us from sin and offers us a share in the divine life. So this wonderful story needs to be told again and again because each time we hear it we come a little closer to the source that is God with us. We are changed by hearing, by believing, by responding in gratitude to what God has done and reaching out to love one another.

Mgr Gerard’s reflection – 3rd Sunday of Advent

At the time of today’s gospel John the Baptist had been arrested and was sat in a prison cell. He became impatient and he sent some of his visitors to ask Jesus why the delay. Had John been wrong in thinking that Jesus was the one to come? We often hear the same kind of query in our world. Is Jesus really the saviour of the world? If he is, how do you explain the sad state of the world? You hear this asked about our church. Why doesn’t the church leadership do this or that? Jesus answers John’s questions by pointing out the reign of God was in progress and we are not yet at the end. Jesus tells us his friends “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. (John 16:12). He then spoke about the Holy Spirit who he would send from the Father, “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you all into the truth. He will take what is mine and declare it to you”. The Holy Spirit is not often thought of during the Christmas season but today would be good to reflect on the role of the Holy Spirit and the role the Holy Spirit plays in in my life.

Mgr Gerard’s reflection – 2nd Sunday of Advent

This week our country calls us to vote. We have had various political parties making incredible promises in a very nice and heart-warming way. But today we meet someone who is no politician, whose words were challenging and uncompromising. He uses strong language as the Pharisees and Sadducees discover in todays gospel. He told his listeners to repent, to turn their lives around, to become new people. He told them to get ready for the coming of the reign of God. Now the extraordinary thing is that rather than being put off by this tough talk the people welcomed it. In fact, they journeyed out into the inhospitable desert to listen to him. They stepped forward to confess their sins and be baptised in the Jordan. They saw that unlike other religious leaders and politicians, John spoke with real authority. He was not interested in promoting himself but only in promoting God’s word and in pointing people towards God. So, they took his message on board. They listened to him, they heeded him, they were baptised and turned their lives around. John the Baptist’s uncompromising message is directed to each one of us today. We must repent, change whatever in our lives need changing, so that we will be ready to celebrate Christmas well.

Mgr Gerard’s reflection – 1st Sunday of Advent

Advent is a real challenge for parents. Why? Because it has been turned upside down by our culture and only the church continues to remind us that this is not a commercial time (to overspend, to party, to be exhausted, to pile up presents) but rather a very sacred time and so four weeks before Christmas the church begins the season of Advent. This word from the Latin ‘Adventus’ meaning ‘coming’ or ‘arrival’. Advent reminds us that Jesus came among us in history, is even now among us in mystery (spiritually) and will come again in glory at the end of time. We start to unpack the nativity set we carefully put away last year when the Christmas season was over, we start to think about Christmas trees, decorations and even now singing along to Christmas songs and carols. It is good to remember Jesus’ birthday in this way, but Advent is a time to do more. The Advent season is all really to do with preparation, preparing our homes and preparing our families and preparing ourselves to celebrate Christmas. Besides the fun way of all these preparations we must remember our own personal preparation to give time to what the birth of Christ means in our lives. Perhaps to refresh ourselves for the celebration by going to confession and to renew ourselves of the Christmas story.

Fr Albert’s Reflection – 34th Sunday of Ordinary Time

The celebration of the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, brings to an end the Liturgical year. We are presented with the kingship of Jesus which is revealed to us in a very surprising way. “The Christ of God, the Chosen One, the King” (Lk 23:35,37) appears without power or glory: his throne is the cross; his crown is made of thorns; he has no sceptre but his hands are pierced with nails; he has no treasure, but is sold for thirty pieces of silver. Saint Paul tells us in the Second Reading, that in Jesus we find redemption and forgiveness. The grandeur of Christ’s kingdom is not power as defined by this world, but the love of God, a love capable of encountering and healing all things. This love alone overcame and continues to overcome our worst enemies: sin, fear and death. However, it would mean very little, if we believed that Jesus was King of the universe but did not make him Lord of our lives. Today’s gospel presents us with an encounter between Jesus and a THIEF, who begs the Lord: “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom” (v. 42). This person, simply looking at Jesus, believed in his kingdom. Though crucified because of his errors, sins and troubles – this man still turned to Jesus. He asked to be remembered, and he experienced God’s mercy: “Today you will be with me in paradise” (v. 43). Throughout his ministry Jesus shared his forgiveness; he dies breathing it. He died as he lived, reaching out to the distressed on either side of him. In the midst of his agony, he still had time for others. This is the gospel image of royalty – the king and the criminal who go together into paradise. This is the King we celebrate and whose values we try to live. May His kingdom come.

Fr Albert’s Reflection – 33rd Sunday of Ordinary Time

The end of the liturgical year reminds us of the approach of the end of time at the second coming of Christ. This must be a central desire to our faith. We profess in the Nicene Creed, “He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead.” After the Consecration, we profess, “Christ has died, Christ has risen, and Christ will come again.” The Theologian Pierre Teilhard de Chardin tells us “we must renew in ourselves the desire for the great coming.” Our fear should be of putting false pretences in things that are perishable. The people of Israel put their trust in the beauty of the Temple. They witnessed its destruction at the hands of the Romans in 70AD. Luke, writing his Gospel just after this event happened (around the year 80AD), wanted to tell Christians that the destruction of the Temple did not signal the end of the world. He cautioned the people not to listen to anyone who claimed to know the time of God’s visitation. Since Luke’s time, many people have claimed to know when the end of the world will come. Some claim a special revelation from God or Mary, and others claim to have calculated it from the Bible. All such claims should be ignored. We should not allow ourselves to be misled by claims or speculations that the end is near but must maintain a constant watchfulness. Before God’s final advent, there is life to be lived and struggles to be endured. Luke’s Gospel offers hope and encouragement in the face of conflict, persecution and family division. Jesus himself was about to experience a violent rejection by his own people and he prepared his disciples for the persecutions that they were to experience as they brought His message to the world. As disciples of Jesus, we trust in God’s mercy and protection, even when we are facing difficulties. Luke presents persecution as an opportunity for the followers of Jesus for “It will lead to your giving testimony” (Luke 21:13). In persecution, God’s wisdom and power will prevail. Perseverance in the face of persecution will lead to our salvation.

Mgr Gerard’s reflection – 32nd Sunday of Ordinary Time

Looking around us in the world we live in you must surely be aware of the horrors, the violence, the lack of respect of human beings and God’s creation continues to be an ongoing presence which is hard to ignore even if we are not immediately involved. It is always interesting to read about heroic responses by ordinary people that stand up for those caught up in such difficulties such as things related in the first reading this weekend (2 Maccabees 7). Seven sons and their mother to stand against being forced to break the law. Their mother urged them to remain faithful at all costs. One son in particular is mentioned who cried out, “Heaven gave me these limbs; for the sake of his laws I disdain them; from him I hope to receive them again.” This also reminds us of all those who have died for what they believe in on this Remembrance Sunday. We remember all who died in the wars in our country fighting for peace. We remember those martyrs who died for their faith and we remember those who have also died in helping those on the edges of society, the lost and unloved in caring and supporting them. We will always be judged by our loving God on how we have loved our neighbour, cared for our world and loved God. Consider that phrase, “Where your treasure is, your heart is also.”

Fr Albert’s Reflection – 31st Sunday of Ordinary Time

Zacchaeus was a wealthy man from Jericho. His job as chief tax collector put him in a position where he could get “perks” through extortion, and by overstating monies due from powerless citizens. The wealthy Zacchaeus, who exploits people, hears that Jesus, a charismatic teacher and healer, is going to pass through the town. Curious, Zacchaeus desires to see Jesus. He climbs up a tree to do so. When Jesus arrives, he stops close to the tree, and tells Zacchaeus to come down, for he wishes to stay at his house. We can imagine Zacchaeus’ astonishment! Had Jesus said: ‘Come down, exploiter, betrayer of the people! Come to speak with me to settle the accounts!’ No doubt the people would have applauded. Instead, they began to murmur: ‘Jesus goes to his house, that of a sinner, of an exploiter.’ Jesus’ gaze goes beyond sins and prejudices. He sees a person through the eyes of God, who does not stop at past evil, but perceives the future good. Jesus looked at Zacchaeus’ wounded heart. God is not blocked by our sin but overcomes it with love and makes us long for the good. All humans contain something of good inside their hearts and God looks for this, to help us step away from sin and return to our good selves.

Mgr Gerard’s reflection – 30th Sunday of Ordinary Time

What Do We See? I am drawn by a detail in today’s gospel. It has to do with eyes, with what the main characters are seeing. It is striking that the Pharisee sees the tax collector. His eyes are roving about as he prays in the temple. By contrast, the tax collector sees nothing, certainly not the Pharisee, since we are told that the tax collector “would not even raise his eyes to heaven.” This detail raises the of question what one sees, how one sees, and reminds us of the haunting phrase spoken by the Lord in 1 Samuel 16, 7. As the sons of Jesse are presented before him, he is sure that the number one son is the Lord’s choice. But here the Lord trains and corrects Samuel’s sight: “Not as man sees does God see, because man sees the appearance, but the Lord looks into the heart.” How do we acquire such sight, eyes that see as the Lord sees? One only begins to see with God’s eyes when the heart has been humbled. Knowing our own sinfulness, our identity as loved sinners, gives us new eyes so that we look out on the world and, especially on other people, the way God does. When we see others from such a heart, we see brothers and sisters who are “like me,” in contrast with the eyes of the Pharisee, who does not see from the heart and can only observe that “I am not like the rest of humanity.” Such a humble heart is the key to everything: “Humility is the foundation of all the other virtues hence, in the soul in which this virtue does not exist there cannot be any other virtue except in mere appearance” (St. Augustine). Lord, humble our hearts. Give us your eyes!

Mgr Gerard’s reflection – 29th Sunday of Ordinary Time

The opening line of the gospel makes it clear that this parable is a lesson about persevering in prayer. The parable involves the conflict between two stock characters. The widow stands for the most vulnerable kind of people in Israelite society – with no husband to ensure their rights widows were at the mercy of others. The rather important judge who neither fears God nor listens to public opinion isn’t going to allow a defenceless woman like her to get the better of him – or at least that’s what he thinks. In the last line of todays gospel something of a reverse takes place. The main character of the parable was an earthly judge but not a very good one at that. Another judge is coming – the Son of Man who will be even more searching than even the most stringent earthly judge. Perseverance in prayer is the key to everything. If I persevere love and trust and patience all grow, and God becomes more real. God is leading us, loving us and the Spirit prays for us when we do not know what to say. So, as the example the widow shows in today’s gospel – have courage, trust and pray.

Mgr Gerard’s reflection – 28th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Jesus hated no one. His love and compassion extended to all people no matter who they were or what their plight. Today’s gospel speaks about the need to be thankful to God for all God gives us and does for us. It also challenges us to think of our attitude to other people who because of their race, colour, creed, wealth, sexuality or health are different from us. Pope Francis has decided that October 2019 is a special month of prayer and action to strengthen and grow God’s mission throughout the church. Each of us is a mission to the world and each of us is the fruit of God’s love. This is where we respond generously to the call of helping and supporting all our brothers and sisters in the world who are in need. Prayer is at the heart of the church’s mission and prayer puts Christ at the centre of our lives so that we as his church will permanently be on mission in the world. Be loving in the support of your brothers and sisters.

Mgr Gerard’s reflection – 27th Sunday of Ordinary Time

A missionary in Africa was translating John’s Gospel into the local dialect and he encountered many problems with certain words. One such word was ‘to believe’. There was no exact word in the dialect, so he approached one of the natives for help. When he explained his problem, the native replied without hesitation, “To believe should be translated to ‘listen with the heart’”. The apostles asked Jesus to increase their faith, but I don’t think they were merely talking about and academic knowledge you get from reading books or studying the bible. Faith also involves ‘prayerful listening with the heart’ to the words of Jesus, modelling our lives on his. Our faith grows when we are no longer uncomfortable about practising our religion in public especially among those who are no longer church goers. St. Paul says in the reading today, “Never be ashamed of witnessing to the Lord”. To increase our faith in the world we live in today is about listening more to God’s word.

Mgr Gerard’s reflection – 26th Sunday of Ordinary Time

In Jesus’ time as indeed today, there was the feeling that the better person you were the richer you were. So a rich person was a good person and a poor person was a bad one. But in today’s gospel Jesus turns this on its head. This message of hope for the poor and oppressed is one that appeals to many but in real terms people do not live up to it even today. Many people today are rich and successful by exploiting others. This weekend in particular we remember migrants and refugees and victims of human trafficking. We are asked by Pope Francis to remember them in our prayers and to help wherever possible. Every person in this world deserves a life and as a Christian we should not use people or walk on the others side of the road when we see people needing help. I would urge us all to pause and think and pray and be of good heart.

Mgr Gerard’s reflection – 25th Sunday of Ordinary Time

In today’s gospel Jesus uses a rather unusual parable about a steward’s sharp practise to make a point about our relationship with God. In telling this parable Jesus isn’t condoning improper behaviour but rather he uses it to stress the importance of taking decisive action when decisive action is needed. The steward hadn’t been doing his job properly and so faced the sack but when his future security was on the line he acted quickly. He didn’t hesitate – he saw he needed to act and he did. It must be the same with our spiritual life. Our relationship with God is of paramount importance in our life but we can easily neglect it and allow it to drift along or we can get distracted by other things, become dishonest and fall into bad habits. If we neglect our relationship with God, if our spiritual future is threatened, then we need to act as quickly and decisively as that astute steward. We need to be as clever at safeguarding our spiritual future and the salvation of our souls as the clever people of this world are when their financial future is in peril.

Mgr Gerard’s reflection – 24th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Mgr. Gerard writes: Whether you are a brand new catholic, a “cradle catholic”, new to the area and parish, young or not so young, now is the time to get involved with your church. Members of the parishes who are actively involved often feel more at home and find joy in serving the Lord and others. Many also say they grow in their spiritual life. Do you want to be an usher, altar server, extraordinary minister of Holy Communion, minister to the sick and housebound? Do you have experience in work relating to health and safety or finance? Are you willing to get involved in flower arranging, helping with tea and coffee, fund raising for the parish and being a welcomer, joining the choir, the offertory procession rota? In all our parishes I am extremely grateful for everyone that is currently involved, and I don’t take the support and help for granted but I am also aware that many things that happen in a parish revolve around the same people. At every parish this weekend I am distributing a form that I would like you to take and fill in a form and tick a box what you could on a regular basis become involved with in the parish. I know we all lead very busy lives and have many family commitments but over this past year since taking over the admin of St. Francis’ and St. Clare’s as well as the Shrine and the Cathedral I am asking for more help and support. Sadly, particularly at St. Francis’, our deacon Ray Hall will be stepping down from ministry from 6th October and Ray has been a great help and support to me and the priests in opening the church and setting things up for Mass etc. and I need to rely on people to come forward and take those duties on. Once you have filled these forms in please return them to each of the sacristies where I will personally collect them over the next few weeks. It takes one easy step to volunteer and become part of what are already great teams of people that really look after our churches and our Shrine. Over the next couple of weeks, I will be starting to put the heating back on in all our churches. Recently there have been fairly big bills coming in with all the heating costs and we have also at all our churches had some fire risk assessments and this has resulted in a number of recommendations that must be adhered to and some of those incur costs, in particular the lighting for all of the churches which will be a major cost. But the big change will be when we light the candles. First, we are not allowed to have the seven-day candles at St. Clare’s and the Shrine because I am not allowed to have a church that is not manned while candles are lit and therefore I am having to remove the seven-day candles. I would recommend if you want to light a tea light at any of our churches I would recommend that you do that before Mass begins and not at the end as all candles need to be extinguished when we lock the church. In order to comply with our insurance I have to comply with the fire regulations. Obviously, the recent fire at Notre Dame in Paris is still under investigation as to how the fire started and has brought in stricter controls over the use of candles. Finally, may I thank you for your patience and help over the past year trying to juggle between three churches has been an interesting experience for all the priests but I think we are all slowly getting there.

Mgr Gerard’s reflection – 23rd Sunday of Ordinary Time

Today Jesus reminds us that the choice to follow him is the most radical decision we could take in our life. It touches us far more deeply than, for example, the decision to join a political party or to emigrate or to get married. Jesus must be important to us and if we don’t realise that or if we hesitate to affirm it then we are not keeping our baptismal promises.

If we think we can be true disciples of Jesus by going to Mass occasionally, saying the odd prayer, maybe even wearing a cross and making occasional donations to charity whilst remaining radically selfish and easily going along with the norms and patterns of our secular society then we deceive ourselves and our great need is to be shaken out of our spiritual complacency and be truly converted. Setting out in the race as a believer is one thing, crossing the line at the finish is quite another

Mgr Gerard’s reflection: 22nd Sunday of Ordinary Time

The truly humble don’t pretend to know everything. They are aware of their limitations and they give respect for everyone. Jesus himself suggests that humility is linked with the way in which we treat other people. So he is actually posing a challenge here to all of us. The word humility is from the Latin word humus meaning ground so a humble person is one with their feet on the ground, a realist who is unpretentious, unassuming, self-accepting. Interestingly in contrast hypocrisy is associated with stage acting so a hypocrite is a pretender, a person who acts a part, wears a mask and puts on an external show. In today’s gospel Jesus calls us to turn from the play acting of hypocrisy and turn to authentic humility. If you want your humanity to reach it’s richest expression then live humbly.