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3 July 2016
posted by Canon Dakin on 07-07-2016

The kingdom founded by King David with its capital at Jerusalem was destroyed by the Babylonians in the year 587. Some of you ladies when you played your games as children may remember the rhyme: Nabuchadonosor, king of the Jews, bought his wife a pair of shoes and so it went on. Nabuchadnezar, to give him his right name, was not king of the Jews except by conquest.  It was he who did the damage. After he had reduced Jerusalem to ruins, all the people of influence and all those with special skills were taken off into exile in Babylon, modern Iraq.  The Persians, modern Iran, then rose to the top and their kings freed the Jews and helped them to return to Jerusalem. That was the subject of the first reading. Isaiah pictures Jerusalem as a mother welcoming her returning children.  He regards the Persian kings as God’s instruments. The underlying truth is the power of God to restore a broken situation.

I am linking this in my mind to the gospel. Funny number - seventy two! It is symbolic - the Jews believed that the nations of the world numbered seventy or seventy two. Our Lord means his Church to take the gospel to the whole world and he makes it clear that this is God’s work not a human ambition to conquer the world.  ‘Ask the Lord of the harvest to send labourers to his harvest’. ‘The harvest is rich but the labourers are few’.  And when we regard the English scene - you might say the European scene, the few labourers that we have are dwindling in numbers. Last week the papers were reporting rejoicing in the diocese of Aberdeen - the first priest in five years had just been ordained.  When we look at our own diocese I am reminded of King Alfred’s vision of Our Lady in Chesterton’s poem. Her message to Alfred was: ‘I tell y0u naught for your comfort, naught for your desire, save that the sky grows darker yet and the seas rise higher’.  The diocese has contingency plans for one priest to serve the whole of Thornton and Cleveleys. So, what happened? I believe it was the youth culture of the sixties and seventies. The pop idols were hardly encouraging. Their philosophy was ‘If you want it, its right for you. Take it’.  Young people, beginning then to go to university in considerable numbers, were offered a cocktail of Marx, Sartre and Freud.  And being immature they swallowed it. Religion was not part of the recipe. They became detached.  There has been a reaction. Again this year Youth 2000 is organising a camp at Walsingham where twelve hundred young people will make a retreat for a week centred on adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.  There will be fun, of course, but spirituality is the real business.  One hundred and ten young people from our diocese will shortly be attending the World Youth Event in Krakow in the presence of Pope Francis.  If you tot up the diocesan average it will mean that at least 2000 youngsters from England will be there.  It’s from these groups that we may hope for vocations but as Our Lord himself reminded us the call to serve is God’s work. We do have the Exposition on Wednesday for this intention and I appreciate that not everyone is free to attend but we are all free to pray in private. We are not exactly facing the extinction of Christianity in Europe and there are examples in history, notably in Japan and Korea of the faith surviving without priests, but the Mass is so central to the presence of the Church, that we should be taking seriously Our Lord’s admonition: Ask the Lord of the harvest to send labourers to his harvest.

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