Monday October 22nd 2018

A WORD FROM YOUR PARISH PRIEST July 29th, 2018

We are drawing ever closer to the Archdiocesan Conference on Divine Renovation, which will take place here at Holy Redeemer Church for the whole day on Saturday 18th August. Over the next few weeks I would like to highlight some of the major themes of the book Divine Renovation, written by Fr James Mallon, and who will be here to present the Conference. Originally from Scotland, Fr Mallon lives and works in Canada, and was able to transform the quality of his parish through the practices explained in his book.

The subtitle of his book hints at the main purpose of his work: to move from simply maintaining our parish life and structures and to focus afresh on the fact that, as disciples, we are called not simply to attend Mass each week, but also to embrace our vocation to share in the Mission of Jesus.

In the first chapter, entitled House of Prayer, he argues that the Catholic Church is suffering from an identity crisis. This is because we have forgotten who we are, and what we are called to do as Church. The Church exists for Mission, but what exactly is that mission? The mission of the Church was given to the disciples just before the Ascension of Jesus into Heaven, when he commanded them to “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19). The problem that Fr Mallon sees is that as a Church we are called to make disciples, but very many of us have not really become true disciples ourselves. But the truth is clear. We are a Church that is sent by Jesus. We are all called to be missionary by nature. That is our true identity as Catholics.

In the second chapter, entitled Rebuild My House, Fr Mallon gives us a summary of how, over the last 60 years, from the time of the Second Vatican Council up to the writings of Pope Francis, the focus of Church teaching has been on a renewal of our Church through a deeper awareness that we all are called by baptism to share in the missionary dimension of the Church.

The third chapter of the book is entitled House of Pain. Here, Fr Mallon focuses on the fact that in most parts of the world we are witnessing institutional decline. By this he means that more and more Catholics do not attend Church regularly, and he also highlights that many young people no longer find the Church welcoming or as a place where they can find spiritual fulfilment. Because of this decline in numbers, and also the shortage of vocations to the priesthood and religious life, many parishes all over the world find that it is a major struggle just to maintain our existing structures and practices. As a result, we are no longer driven by spiritual and pastoral zeal to go out to others and to make disciples. We no longer think in terms of sharing the gift of our faith with others.

Fr Mallon gives us much to reflect on in these opening chapters of his book. Next week I hope to turn attention to what he has to say about moving forward towards a renewed faith and sense of our parish life.  

Fr Gerard, CSsR

A WORD FROM YOUR PARISH PRIEST July 22nd, 2018

It is good to be back at Holy Redeemer parish after having attended the Redemptorist meeting in Nairobi. Along with Br Richard, Fr Sean Wales and myself, there were representatives from the 12 countries in Africa where the Redemptorists are currently working. Also present at the meeting were our Superior General from Rome, along with members of his Council.

The main purpose of the meeting was to reflect on our present situation in Africa, and how the Redemptorists can best serve the needs of the Church in our context today. It became clear that, in general, we are struggling to continue to do all the work that has been done over the past number of years, primarily because of a lack of personnel, and a lack of vocations to the Redemptorist way of life. This is a reality that must be faced, and calls on us to think of new ways of continuing our missionary presence in Africa.

Even here in South Africa, we are struggling to continue with all our pastoral commitments, given that many of our Redemptorists are very aged or in poor health. Indeed, we have reached the point where we are no longer able to sustain all of our present pastoral commitments. So, the central question for all of us attending the meeting became this: what do we need to do in order to continue to proclaim the Gospel in many varied situations in Africa?

The Redemptorists agreed that the only way forward for us is through a process of restructuring, where Redemptorists from different countries will join together in order to strengthen numbers and to bear witness together to the love of the Holy Redeemer.

We are going to have more meetings on this important topic. But at present it seems likely that the Redemptorists in South Africa will amalgamate with the Redemptorists working in Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Kenya and possibly Angola too. This amalgamation will not happen overnight, since much needs to be done in order to facilitate the process. But this is the most likely scenario, and one that will mean changes to our Redemptorist ministry here in South Africa. Please continue to pray for us that we might make decisions under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and the intercession of our Redemptorist saints.

In other news, we were privileged to host the book launch of Divine Renovation on Tuesday evening. I would like to thank all of our parishioners who attended, and in particular to thank our Alpha Team for providing such lovely snacks and refreshments. It marked the first step as we lead up to the Archdiocesan Conference which will take place at Holy Redeemer on Saturday, 18th July.

I would like to remind you that the programme will begin at 8.a.m with registration and conclude with the celebration of Holy Mass at 6.p.m. All parishes of the Archdiocese will be represented, along with priests working in the parish. The members of our Parish Pastoral Council will be in attendance, but it is also open to anyone else who might be interested. If you would like to register for the day, the website can be found at maintenancetomission.co.za The cost of the day is R150 per person and includes lunch and snacks.

The members of our Pastoral Council have already registered for the day. I would encourage many of you to register and to attend the Conference, since it will also lead to significant changes in our parish over the coming months and years.

Fr Gerard, CSsR

A WORD FROM YOUR PARISH PRIEST July 15th, 2018

Once again the third Sunday of July has come around and we celebrate the Patronal Feast of both our parish and of the Redemptorist Order. We were very nearly not called the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer at all. Originally the first brothers wanted to be called the Congregation of the Most Holy Saviour but there was already a small group of canons regular with that name in the early 1700s (who have since ceased to exist).

We have always rejoiced in being named after the Redeemer. Many Orders are nicknamed after their founder – the Order of Friars Minor are popularly called Franciscans, the Order of Preachers, the Dominicans, &c. There’s something special about being called after the Redeemer, as the Jesuits are called after Jesus. It always points away from ourselves and towards Christ.

So … Redemptorists rather than Saviourists! … it is worthwhile to pause for a moment and meditate upon the meaning of redemption and redeemer.

Of course, as members of a parish served by a religious order dedicated to the Most Holy Redeemer, you’ve heard lots of sermons about Redemption over the years.

No doubt you already know that the model of ‘redeemer’ is found in the Old Testament – the Go’el or Go’el HaDaham, the family member whose duty it was to get other members of the family out of trouble. The Go’el’s duty was to restore the rights of a family member who was wronged and to avenge them. In Isaiah, God is called the ‘Go’el’ or redeemer of Israel, who will redeem his people from captivity. It is clear in Isaiah that, applied to God, the people are redeemed in order to move on to something greater. Slowly the language of vengeance drops away.

In this context, Christ becomes our redeemer by redeeming humankind from slavery to evil.

So, for a change, and as we have been studying St Paul in our Scripture Circle once a month, I would like to offer a few more images of what redemption means in Paul’s mind.

In Paul’s time, slaves were common – up to 40% of the population of Italy and Rome itself and 95% of the population of Athens! There was a practice at the time of slaves being able to buy their freedom. If they earned any money by their skills outside of working for their owners, that money belonged to the owners but the owners could allow the slaves to keep some or all of that money.

The slave could go to the temple of one of the gods and lodge that money with one of the priests of the temple. Once he or she had collected enough money to cover the cost of his or her purchase in the first place, the slave could bring the owner to the temple. The priest would then give the money to the owner and the god had ‘bought’ the slave. Technically the slave was now the slave of the god but it meant in practice that they were free.

Paul borrows this idea but there are obvious differences. It is not we who have collected our price to buy ourselves back from slavery to sin, but in our case it truly is God himself who has ‘paid’ the price and ‘bought’ us. We are now free to chose God out of love or fall back into voluntary slavery to sin and selfishness.

 

Another of the many images Paul uses is adoption. Especially in the Roman world, adoption was taken very seriously, much more complete than for us today. When a child was adopted by a family, they were regarded as having no ties to their former family and were treated exactly as though they were of their adopted family’s blood line. They could no longer inherit from their ‘blood’ family. All ties were cut. There were cases of petitions to the Senate for permission for an adopted son to marry his ‘sister,’ even though he was actually totally unrelated to her.

Paul sees in this practice a clear parable of how God has adopted us in Christ – we are truly ‘blood’ relatives of Jesus now, his brothers and sisters.

What is very clear for Paul and all of the New Testament is that Redemption isn’t a rescue attempt because humankind has gone off the rails, nor is it Jesus stepping in to avert the anger of the Father over our sinfulness. In fact, the popular idea of Jesus taking our punishment in our place … a human idea, not found in Scripture but fitting with our own ideas of punitive justice … was even called a heresy by Pope-emeritus Benedict XVI.

Paul puts it very clearly, time and again, that Redemption is God’s idea, God’s initiative: ‘… when the fulness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons and daughters … so you are no longer a slave, but a son or daughter …’ [Gal 4:4-7].

In the fulness of time … when we were ready for him … but are we ever ready for love quite so infinitely great? We find it hard to believe that we are so loved and so fall back into trying to earn God’s love, rather than responding to the love we’ve received, living lives which demonstrate our gratitude by seeing Christ in one another.

 

Fr Scott, C.Ss.R.

A WORD FROM YOUR PARISH PRIEST July 8th, 2018

I would like to begin this word to you by giving you some Redemptorist news. Fr Sean Wales, Br Richard and myself will be attending a meeting in Nairobi throughout this coming week. The main purpose of the meeting is to discuss with other Redemptorists in Africa how we can best serve the Church in Africa, and how to use our limited resources, in terms of personnel, to continue to proclaim the Word of God as best we can. I would ask your prayers for the guidance of the Holy Spirit during our meeting, because there is no doubt that it will have implications for our Redemptorist presence in South Africa in the years to come. During the week of our absence, Fr Scott will be the only priest available to the parish. I should also offer you an update regarding Fr Charles. We have just heard that his application for a work permit in South Africa has been refused. So, he must remain in Zambia and begin the process of application again. I have no idea as to when or indeed if he will come back to us here at Holy Redeemer parish.

I would also like to say a few words about the process of Divine Renovation. Last year I had the privilege of attending the International Alpha meeting in London. But the main reason I was asked to attend by the Archbishop was in order to meet with Fr James Mallon, a Canadian priest, who has written a very influential book entitled Divine Renovation. In his book he describes the way that he was able to utterly transform the spiritual life of his parish by helping all people that our task in faith is not simply to maintain our existing parish structures, but rather to see that we are all called to the same Mission to make Christ known through the life of the parish.

It was astonishing for me to listen to many priests, Bishops and Cardinals from all over the world describing how their experience of the life of the Church was transformed by engaging in the process of Divine Renovation. Such stories came from Latin America, most countries in Europe and Asia, as well as several countries in Africa.

Last year the Bishops of Southern Africa decided to accept the process of Divine Renovation as a way forward for the Catholic Church here. As a result, Fr James Mallon will be shortly coming to South Africa to share his reflections on how best to implement the Divine Renovation process here. During his time here, he will spend some days in the main Archdioceses of South Africa, in Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town. I am delighted that Holy Redeemer parish has been asked to host the day when Fr Mallon will make his major presentation on Divine Renovation. We already have a team who are busily preparing for the day.

The date for the event here at Holy Redeemer is on Saturday 18th August, and the programme will begin at 8.a.m with registration, and conclude with the celebration of Holy Mass at 6.p.m. All parishes of the Archdiocese will be represented, along with priests working in the parish. The members of our Parish Pastoral Council will be in attendance, but it is also open to anyone else who might be interested. If you would like to register for the day, the website can be found at maintenancetomission.co.za The cost of the day is R150 per person and includes lunch and snacks.

If you would like to know more about the programme for Divine Renovation, we will also be holding a book launch here at Holy Redeemer on Tuesday 17th July, at 7. 30p.m in the parish centre. I do hope that many of you will be able to attend this important event.

Fr Gerard, CSsR

A WORD FROM YOUR PARISH PRIEST July 1st, 2018

Despite the fact that as human beings we are very social beings by nature, the truth is that much of our deepest personal life is hidden from others. What we think about things, what we think of others, remains private to ourselves, unless we choose to reveal these thoughts to others. The same holds true in terms of our human emotions. How we feel about things and about other people is also hidden within our hearts unless we manifest those emotions in one way or another. But perhaps the most hidden aspect of our lives lies in our spiritual life. Most of us do not find it easy to reveal the state of our spiritual being, how we pray or how we experience the presence of God in our daily lives.

Yet unless we are aware of our own hidden life we run the risk of our faith being shallow and undeveloped. We might easily attend Holy Mass each Sunday and yet never move deeper into a living personal relationship with God. So, one of the real challenges of our life is to create space for our hidden self, our inmost being, that we might find our real treasure in that which is largely hidden, in our heart seeking the God who loves us so intimately.

This was one of the desires expressed by St Paul in his wonderful prayer written for the Christian community at Ephesus:

 “This, then, is what I pray, kneeling before the Father, from whom every family, whether spiritual or natural, takes its name:

Out of his infinite glory, may he give you the power through his Spirit for your hidden self to grow strong, so that Christ may live in your hearts through faith, and then, planted in love and built on love, you will with all the saints have strength to grasp the breadth and the length, the height and the depth; until, knowing the love of Christ, which is beyond all knowledge, you are filled with the utter fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3: 14-9)

We can easily find the grace to allow our inner hidden self to grow strong by reflecting on the life of the Holy Family. It is quite astonishing that most of the details of the life of Jesus are not revealed to us in the Gospels. Apart from the story of the birth of Jesus, and a moment in his life when he was 12 years old, the Gospels only reveal details about the public life of Jesus, which lasted for three years.

After Jesus had gone up to the temple with his parents at the age of 12, and was lost to them for three days, we are left with only a glimpse of his personal life: “Meanwhile the child grew to maturity, and he was filled with wisdom; and God’s favour was with him” (Luke 2:39-40).

So, we are invited simply to reflect prayerfully on these long hidden years of Jesus as he grew into spiritual maturity in the presence of Mary his mother, and with St Joseph. May we too ask for the grace that our hidden self should grow strong and that we may grow into the maturity of a deep faith in Christ. In this manner, we will also discover the truth that God’s favour rests on us too.

Fr Gerard, CSsR

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