Rector’s notes:

Reflection on the Gospel reading for the
fourth Sunday of Easter
“You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our
heart is restless until it rests in you.” (St Augustine’s
Confessions /CSEL 33, 1-5).
John 10: 1-10

John’s Gospel contains the ‘I am … sayings of Jesus, each of which is powerfully significant. “I am the bread of life… the living water… the light of the world…. and in today’s reading, I am the door of the sheepfold’ (v7) and I am the good shepherd, the one that lays down his life for the sheep” (v11). Jesus’ listeners at the time would be aware of how God, most famously of all in Psalm 23, presented as a good and caring shepherd ‘the Lord is my Shepherd, I lack for nothing’ (v1).

The image of ‘the Good Shepherd’ is one of the abiding pictures of Christ in Christian imagination. Words like “pastor” and “pastoral care” draw their meaning and power from the image of Jesus as the kind and caring guide of the flock. The sheep approach the protection of the sheepfold through the gate. Those who climb in by other ways – over rocks and brambles – are either robbers or predators.

Like many devoted shepherds, Jesus is both the shepherd and the gate. You might be aware of Middle Eastern shepherding practices where the sheepfold is surrounded by a circular wall of stones, topped by barriers of briar. A small opening (a gate) is made available for the sheep to pass through and it is here where the shepherd lies down, so no one can get through without confronting or even killing him, a role that requires both care and courage. Shepherds were also known for walking in front of flocks, using their ‘voice’ to call by name. Much has been written about how sheep are rather unintelligent animals. It is true that without a
shepherd, they could easily get lost and be unable to find their way home. However, what Jesus emphasizes about sheep is that they know the voice of their shepherd. They recognize the voice of the one who calls. Relationship with Jesus is the key to being in tune with the sound of his voice, ‘the still small voice’ that is known by you.

When Jesus reveals that he is the gate of the sheepfold, he is not just suggesting that he is the unique way into safety, but that he has come to us that we may have life and have it abundantly. We are assured that God’s love is so totally poured out into Christ and so
empowering, that his life, even though laid down, is given back again.

The quote from St Augustine’s Confessions “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you’ gives us another focus on the good Shepherd theme, in that it reminds us that it is not we who search out God, but rather, it is the Lord who seeks us out. So, the Lord has found us, how do we follow Jesus today, in our context, to know the immense power of his saving and protective love?

‘Life’ or ‘eternal life’ in John’s Gospel is about life that begins here and now; it is knowing the one true God and Jesus Christ whom God has sent. It is knowing the voice of the good shepherd who truly cares for us, having our restless hearts know His peace. It is life in community, finding security ad nourishment as part of his flock, a life that abounds in meaning and value and endures even beyond death. Liam

Easter Day

Rejoice (Greek chairete)

The joy of Easter is not only that God has
raised Christ from the dead, it is also
about the possibility and the promise that,
regardless of the suffering we have
known and the suffering we may have
caused, new life is available to each one
of us. God has raised Christ from the
dead and we are now free to claim the
forgiveness he offers, and to live his life
as our own. Rejoice says the Easter
proclamation (the Exulted) ‘Christ has
conquered! Now his life and glory fill

This Easter we are experiencing something unexpected, fellowship without
human touch and the warmth and reassurance that shared social space brings. Our Easter celebration is strangely very different, our church is empty, our common worship is communicated via electronic means, (streaming/ zooming) and our own voices ‘ring out’ with Easter joy, only in the safe environments of our homes and places of residence! Nothing however can take from each of us, the immensity of our Easter Event, as one of my favourite Easter hymns says, in the 2nd verse, ‘See, Jesus meets us, risen from the tomb: lovingly he greets us, scatter fear and gloom….’.
Last night we blessed the Paschal Candle and said the words of the Exulted,
‘The risen Saviour, our Lord of life, shine upon you, let all God’s people, sing and shout for joy’. What matters most about Easter is not the empty tomb but what we do tomorrow, the day after, and the day after that. How will we now live differently? I have read many times in theological and Christian books and articles the challenging statement that if this new life and freedom do not change us, we might as well put the stone back over the tomb!! The disciples throughout the ages did become heroic, joyous and courageous witnesses to the resurrection by their changed lives. Our lives too are to be the evidence of resurrection, today and tomorrow. “Go quickly,” the angel tells the women in today’s Gospel reading and we are also told, there’s nothing here, run for your life, rejoice! Christ is risen. You will see him in Galilee! “Where is this Galilee”? Next door, down the street, across the road, in the byways of Drouin, our places of work and recreation? Everywhere is our Galilee and each moment can be experienced and share the moment where we find the new life
of the Risen Lord.
We wish you all a Happy and Blessed Easter.
Liam Matthews

Poem by John Donahue
This is the time to be slow,
Lie low to the wall
Until the bitter weather passes.
Try, as best you can,
not to let the wire brush of doubt Scrape from your heart
All sense of yourself
And your hesitant light.
If you remain generous, Time will come good;
And you will find your feet
Again on fresh pastures of promise, Where the air will be kind
And blushed with beginning.
(St Stephen’s Richmond pew sheet)

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From our Locum Priest, Liam: Good Friday
In 1988 I did my first eight-day Ignatian retreat at St Bueno’s Jesuit Spirituality Centre, Tremeirchion, North Wales.
The sister who guided my retreat shared with me a set of different meditations taken from four small booklets on the thirty-day retreat written by American Religious Sisters.
Sadly, the names of the Sister who guided my retreat and the authors of the booklets are all forgotten.
The meditation ‘King and Priest’ I copied from the book from the third week.
My prayer is that these simple yet profound words that I have carried with me and used many times in meditative prayer, may be helpful to you and your reflections on this Good Friday. Liam

King and Priest “In his body lives the totem spirit of the tribe”.These words surely can be applied to Jesus.For Jesus, as king and priest, embodies the life of his people, God’s own Spirit.
In his crucifixion, Jesus is flagrantly displayed! Above his head the title, “King of the Jews,” simultaneously extols and condemns him, while at his feet, soldiers gamble to see who will win the priest-like garment, his seamless tunic.Suspended in stark vulnerability between heaven and earth, Jesus – king and priest – unites the secular and the sacred, chaos and cosmos, creator and creature, feminine and masculine, body and spirit. Wounded, Jesus is the healer of all that is disembodied.
The sufferings of Jesus are the means by which all things are reconciled to each other and to God. Through the cross, the marriage of opposites is affected. In Jesus, all humanity is thrust forward out of its slumbering darkness into the awakening of holy consciousness.
“Night truly blessed when heaven is wedded to earth and all is reconciled with God!” Author unknown

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Maundy Thursday
The Church celebrates this day as the day in which Jesus gave his love command. What Jesus was in effect doing was summarizing his entire life. In bending down to wash the feet of the disciples in Jn 13:1-13, Jesus brings together all that he was, all that he is, all that he does. Jesus abandoned his will to do only the will of God which for me is best expressed in this prayer called the prayer of Abandonment, by Charles de Foucauld

I abandon myself into your hands;
do with me what you will.
Whatever you may do, I thank you:
I am ready for all, I accept all.
Let only your will be done in me,
and in all your creatures –
I wish no more than this, O Lord.
Into your hands I commend my soul:
I offer it to you with all the love of my heart,
I am ready for all, I accept all.
Let only your will be done in me,
and in all your creatures –
I wish no more than this, O Lord.
Into your hands I commend my soul:
I offer it to you with all the love of my heart,
for I love you, Lord, and so need to give myself,
to surrender myself into your hands without reserve,
and with boundless confidence,
for you are my Father.

The heart of Jesus’ love is found in the gospel of John, when it says that Jesus “loved his own in the world and he loved them to the end.” Jesus in His humanity, experienced weakness – of body, of spirit, of mind. When we are depleted, exhausted and at the end of our ropes in life, we can recall the journey to Calvary that demonstrated Jesus’ manifestation of human weakness. Yet in that weakness, He was fortified by the Father’s grace. The washing of the disciples’ feet not only teaches us an important lesson about how we are to love, it teaches us a lesson about the kind of God we have. Our God, the Creator of the Universe, is willing to bend down in front of us and wash the dirt off of our feet. It’s in this simple, intimate act of service that God reveals his nature. He loves us tenderly, gently and all the way to the cross. “He loved his own in the world and he loved them to the end”. Liam your Locum Priest