Canon Dakin on 08-10-2013
I have never heard any opinion expressing a good outcome from the war in Iraq. Speaking personally the advantage that I gained was the sharpening of my geographical awareness. I have a better idea of where these places are. It helps to unravel the O.T. Babylon was in modern Iraq and the Persians in what is now Iran. And 500 years before Our Lord was born they were at war. Nothing new under the sun. The problem for the Jews was that when the Babylonians and the Persians, like the Assyrians before them, fell out with the Egyptians, Jerusalem was in the way and because the Jewish kings were not sufficiently skilled in diplomacy Jerusalem was repeatedly attacked. We heard this morning a cry to God for help. ‘Hang on in there’ wsa the reply. Have faith - which means ‘Be loyal to me and I will be you help’
It’s said sometimes that Christianity in this country is under siege. After the same sex marriage legislation one of our bishops is reported to have said: “As Catholics, like Israel in Egypt, we now find ourselves in an alien land that speaks a foreign language, with unfamiliar customs”. There have been some men and women who have lost their jobs through being too overtly Christian in the opinion of their employers, but no one in this country, in our life time, has been faced with the choice: deny your faith or die. It is happening in so many places abroad. In one of the papers this week there was a review of a book: The Global War on Christians. In Syria Christians have joined the exodus of refugees because they have been targeted by radical elements among the rebels; the same is happening in Iraq, in Egypt, in Pakistan, in Sri Lanka, in Sudan. You may have noticed that about a fortnight ago there was a brief notice in the media of a bomb that killed more than fifty people as they came out of church in Pakistan, an Anglican church, on a Sunday morning.
So many incidents simply go unnoticed - the bombing and torching of churches and of Christians’ homes. These people really are on the front line. Their faith is being severly tested. For a quiet life what they have to do is to declare themselves Muslim converts. For so many it is impossible to uproot themselves and move abroad. Aid to the Church in Need tries to reach them where they are but when, as this morning, we are giving to Cafod, which cares for refugees, it is good, perhaps, to be aware that we are not only helping to feed those who are entirely reliant on aid but that so many have ended up in refugee camps in order to sustain their families in their Christian faith.
Canon Dakin on 30-09-2013
What would Amos have made of Blackpool on a Saturday night? The travel sections of the Sunday press are full of enticement to go to exotic places.
The ‘good life’ no longer means being self-sufficient on a small holding but luxury living. That is the social ideal. We imaginr ourslves to be standing on the sidelines, not implicated. Did BBC’s Panorama programme on Monday not give you food for thought? Where do you buy your clothes? It would be doubtful if they were made in England unless you are prepared to pay for Harris Tweed made up by a London taylor. To buy in from Bangladesh is standard for the clothing industry today and there poor people are being exploited, locked up in factories in Dickensian conditions, working 19 hour shifts for a pittance.
You walk into a supermarket and see banks of cut flowers. It is likely that they come from Africa where small farmers have been moved off their land so that multinationals may grow flowers for export - and, naturally, for profit. On a world scale we are the rich and we are caught up in a system that oppresses the poor.
What can we do? We can support campaigns to encourage clothing retailers not to take at face value the bland assurances of foreign manufacturers about standards to be oberved in their work-places.
You have received a Cafod envelope this morning. We use it at this time of year to express our harvest thanksgiving - our thanksgiving that for us the earth has provided food in abundance. Cafod’s strategic priority is to help small farmers first to become more efficient and then to form cooperatives to market what they produce. Please put your offering in the envelope and place it in the Offertory next Sunday.
Canon Dakin on 26-09-2013
Some of you will have heard of Ronaldo, the footballer who once played for Manchester United. He is presently playing for a Spanish club. It was rumoured that he was tempted to return to Manchester. He has been persuaded to sign a five year contract to remain in Spain at a salary, after tax, of £288K a week - more than twice the British Prime Minister will earn in a year. Wth endorsements and sponsorships he will be banking more than £300,000 every week. That’s a sum to challenge the imagination. Put it side by side with bankers’ bonuses, BBC redundancy payments, industrial executive incomes and you uncover a culture which is dominated by money.
We all indulge in dreams. Do you ever dream of winning the lottery? I do, especially when its a double roll-over. I have it all planned - how I would spend it. Would it make me happy? There would be satisfaction in giving to certain projects but it’s proverbial that money doesn’t buy happiness.
Mention of happiness reminds me of St Thomas Aquinas, possibly the greatest of theologians. When he comes to dealing with morals he doesn’t give a list of do’s and dont’s: he simply asks: What will make you really happy? The answer he gives is what makes you really human. To discover the life style that would fulfill our human nature, according to our different circumstances, is not alwys easy. St Thomas says that we need to pray about it bcause the perfect human person is Christ and as far as imitating him is concerned he said only one thing that applies to everyone: Love one another as I have loved you. And where the well off are concerned he gave us the parable of the rich man and Lazarus. Instead of indifference, there should have been care. In a society where some have more than they need and others have not enough there should be a rebalamcing. Pope Francis has said: Money is for persons and the only proper use for it is in sharing. This goes beyond the individual into the broader society. You know of the situation in Syria. On Thursday an indignant Aid worker was speaking on Radio 4. She had been living with a family displaced from Syria. At the camp where they arrived the tents had run out. The family was left to collect what bits of plastic they could to provide a shelter for themselves and the speaker was pointing out that some of the rich countries who had promised aid had not in fact delivered even one tenth of what they had promised. She was angry.
Pope Francis has also said: ‘We ought to sharpen our awareness of our duty of solidarity with the poor to which charity leads us. This solidarity means that we make our own their problems and their struggles’. It all adds up to the fact that a surplus of cash in the bank is not simply to be reviewed with pleasure, it carries responsibility.
Canon Dakin on 22-09-2013
Your people have apostasied’ was God’s message to Moses, heard in the first reading. To apostasise is to stand away from. There are five million baptised Catholics in England and Wales of whom four million rarely, if ever, go to church. That is a situation we may not accept with indifference. What has happened? Some were put through the hoop of First Holy Communion but never had the example and support they needed. Others went to University and learned about Kant with a K without realising it was cant with a c.
There was the Sixties phenomenon with its relaxed approach to life, turning the Church into a caricature of a prim Victorian grandmother. There was the challenge of the convenience of the pill. The reasons are multiple and complex. The fact is that what we used to call a leakage has become a flood. It is no consolation that the drift away from the Church has happened in other countries in Western Europe and across all Christian denominations.
So - what do we do about it? Today’s special collection is, partly, to fund materials for a campaign during the coming year to invite those who have drifted away to return back to the Church. Not easy, but at least we can show ourselves to be welcoming in the spirit of today’s gospel, the attitude of the father towards the son who came back home. The problem is to persuade those who have left that it would be good to return. If they fell away because once they were just too busy to bother there should be no obstacle other than overoming their inertia but if the Church had seemed to stand rigidly by principles to which they felt unable to conform there are some who might stll be thinking that the Church could have no place for them. The Church tends to speak about ideal situations and circumstances are not always ideal. If such people might be persuaded to discuss their situation they might find that their self-imposed exile had not been necessary. We are invited to be aware and to drop a helpful word at what may seem the right moment.
We are not to neglect to pray. I told you last Sunday of Pope Francis vigil of prayer on the Saturday night for a peaceful solution to the tragedy in Syria. Was it simply by chance that on Monday we heard of the entirely unexpected Intervention by President Putin? We should be encouraged to pray in and with the Church.
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