Churches and temples around the world are admired for their architectural beauty, people, even those without faith, are attracted to them to admire the beauty and splendour of these places. These buildings have been constructed by mankind; those who the prophet Malachi says ‘fear God’s name’; to honour God and to provide a safe place for God’s people to worship. In the Gospel from St Luke; which we use today; we hear that some of the disciples were admiring the temple, while sitting next to Jesus. Jesus tells them that these beautiful walls would soon be rubble; and foretells times when mankind will attempt to destroy itself and when the earth shall produce sights which will be terrifying.
Jesus also talks of persecution of His believers and how even close relatives will betray followers of Christ. We may remember the history of the persecution of the early Church, with martyrs being crucified, beheaded, or fed to lions. We may remember the other martyrs down throughout the ages, including in our own country during the Reformation and in the decades afterwards and think these things have been consigned to history. But right now, in many places around the world our brothers and sisters in Christ are still being martyred for their love of Jesus.
Jesus urges us to keep the faith and to trust in Him. He says in the Gospel, He will provide us with an eloquence and a wisdom that our opponents will not be able to resist or contradict. Jesus is saying that the witness given by those martyrs who stayed strong and kept the faith will be irresistible to those persecuting them.
There are many examples of this in our Christian history. One of my favourites is the story of St John Ogilvie, who was executed in Glasgow for being a Catholic in 1615. After having endured torture, he was led to the place of execution where he forgave the executioner; and prior to his hands being tied he threw his rosary beads into the crowd. Those beads struck a young nobleman, who was not a Catholic, and led to him converting to the Catholic Faith. St John Ogilvie’s last actions; to forgive his executioner and to win another soul for Christ; are an example of this Gospel being lived out; opponents unable to resist and his endurance winning eternal life.
[As a young boy I remember the joy across Scotland when John Ogilvie was declared a saint, this followed a miraculous cure of a man in Glasgow from stomach cancer. This man, John Fagan, lived in what was Blessed John Ogilvie Parish, when the Parish priest came to anoint him in the hours prior to his expected death he pinned a medal of Blessed John Ogilvie onto John Fagan’s pyjamas and prayed with him. In the morning John Fagan woke up and asked his wife for breakfast, which surprised her as John had not eaten for weeks. The family doctor arrived expecting to sign the death certificate and was dumbfounded to find John sitting up and eating. When they examined him at the hospital the tumour had gone. The Vatican investigated this and declared a miracle; prompting 4000 Scots to descend on Rome for the Canonisation.]
When we watch the news or read the newspapers, we can be forgiven for thinking the times Jesus spoke of are at hand. Having just come out of a pandemic and now the prospect of a recession as the Cost-of-Living crisis deepens and the Global climate crisis becomes more evident. As Christians we know these are the tough times when we need to stand up and be counted. As a society we must continue to look out for the most vulnerable to see how we can help. The local foodbanks have put together a list of items which they need the most1 they have also put together a list of items for Christmas hampers2, maybe as families or Parish groups we could get together to see what we can do to alleviate the suffering of some of these families in crisis.
You may be reading now knowing that you are struggling, that you don’t know what to do or how you are going to feed yourself or your family this week. If this is you, please listen with fresh ears. There is help available to you. Please contact someone before your circumstances become drastic. The Citizens Advice Bureau 3or the St Vincent de Paul Society4 have volunteers who can help. You can also contact me if you need a referral for the Foodbank; which will give you access to other support. ALL confidentialities will be respected.
This Sunday our nation stands still to remember the men and women, who paid the ultimate sacrifice fighting for our freedom, we also remember the civilians killed in war. As Catholics we remember our dead during this month of November and pray for their souls. We visit cemeteries and bless the graves. The readings used today remind us that this world is not the end, that Jesus will come again. When? We do not know. What we do know is that we need to be ready, because none of us know the hour or the day when we will be called forward for what we pray, will be a merciful judgement.
This Sunday is also the sixth World Day of the Poor, with the theme of “For your sakes Christ became poor” (2 Cor 8:9). Pope Francis, in his message for the day, reminds us that from the very early days of the Church, attention to the needs of the poor was a feature of the community. St Paul, in his [separate] letter to the Christians in Corinth, is asking for help for the community in Jerusalem, who are suffering great hardship due to a food shortage in the country. He does not regard this request as a command but instead asks them to take up a collection as “a sign of love, the love shown by Jesus himself”.
As Pope Francis reminds us, “where the poor are concerned, it is not talk that matters; what matter is rolling up our sleeves and putting faith into practice through a direct involvement, one that cannot be delegated”. It is important that no one lacks what is necessary and our concern is born out of sincere and generous concern which sees those who are poor as our brothers and sisters. It is not so much that we are helping them, but that they “lend a hand to help me shake off the lethargy into which I have fallen”. Before being the objects of our almsgiving, those who are poor “can help set us free from the snares of anxiety and superficiality”. That is why the Pope insists that our work is never for the poor, but with the poor and of the poor, work that brings people together (Fratelli Tutti, 169).
More than that, we are called to become poor ourselves. Not materially poor, that is “a poverty that humiliates and kills” as the Pope says. The poverty we are called to is the poverty of Jesus, this is the poverty that sets us free, sets us free from attachment to the idol of wealth and all the anxiety it brings. The poverty of Jesus was his self-emptying love, which excludes no one “and seeks out everyone, especially the marginalised and those deprived of the necessities of life. Our freedom is the sharing of our lives out of love, restoring dignity to those trapped in injustice. This is what the Holy Father calls the way to create equality, “to free the poor from their misery and the rich from their vanity, and both from their despair”.
The Pope reminds us of the generosity of people in welcoming refugees from recent conflicts in the Middle East. He understands that host communities can feel burdened, and it is difficult to maintain relief efforts, but he says, “This is the moment for us not to lose heart but to renew our initial motivation. The work we have begun needs to be brought to completion with the same sense of responsibility.” 5 In the Catholic Church in England & Wales this work is organised by Caritas they do tremendous work to highlight the plight of the disadvantaged and work with other agencies to help those in need.
In a world with so many needs, we as Christians, are asked to share the gifts we have to help as much as we possibly can. If we are unable to contribute financially, we are asked to pray for those who have the financial means to be generous in their response.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church
CCC 162-165: perseverance in faith; faith as the beginning of eternal life
CCC 675-677: the final trial of the Church
CCC 307, 531, 2427-2429: human labour as redemptive
CCC 673, 1001, 2730: the last day
Please keep in your prayers this week
- An end to all wars.
- Those who are sick, those recovering from surgery, those who are dying, the recently deceased and those who mourn.
- All those struggling to feed their families at this time.
- Those working to help others who are struggling with the cost-of-living crisis.
- Those in business who have the power to make decisions to help the poor.
- All those working in Parishes and the Diocese on the ten-year plan
- All who are persecuted because of their faith.
- The souls in Purgatory, especially those with no-one to pray for them.
- Families attending the Baptism preparation programme.
- Our Confirmation candidates as they continue their programme.
- Those attending our RCIA programme.