A year ago, when I was still working in Elgin parish, Fr Colin decided to begin the introduction of the new translation of the Missal. We ordered special leaflets, got them, and then he took seriously ill. So seriously that he was completely out of action for three months. Suddenly the task of gradually introducing the new translation became my responsibility. It was strange and funny at the same time: a foreigner with rather moderate English and a strong accent was doing an essentially linguistic task across Moray from Lossiemouth to Tomintoul. During that time I was asked several times by different people about one particular word that had appeared in the Creed: ‘consubstantial’. Every time I heard this question I promised to give a broad explanation of it in a sermon. But I haven’t done it yet. Till now.
In our present economic situation news about huge unemployment, particularly among young people, appears on the news on a worryingly regular basis. There are stories about graduates desperately looking for any job they could grab. High education seems to be a fast-track to wealth and position – but far too often graduates find themselves unemployed, in debt and with poor prospects. On the other hand, last Tuesday one of the country’s biggest companies, the car firm Arnold Clark, has described many young Scots as “unsuitable” for work. […] The company’s training arm said that, of 2,280 applicants to its apprenticeship scheme, 81% were not employable. […] Its report said many candidates had a poor attitude to others and poor communication skills with no concept of citizenship. […] Many potential employees were also shocked at the number of hours they were expected to work.
In 1993 a young Polish man was completely paralysed after a motorbike accident. Even his breathing had to be supported. But his mind remained sharp and clear. Despite the great care provided by his parents, he was feeling so isolated that in 2007 he applied to the President of Poland to let him die. Permission wasn’t granted for legal reasons; but his request prompted wide public discussion. However, and more importantly, his request attracted the attention of some charities and individuals. As it turned out, his request was in fact a cry for attention and love. Five years later, as disabled now as he was back then, he enjoys life and is an inspiring figure for many people. In Poland euthanasia is forbidden by law. But there were vibrant individuals, many of them inspired by Christian values, who really saved his life.
Recently I’ve seen on the internet a picture of a Catholic priest; the ironic caption read: “the expert on love, sex, marriage and the raising of children”. Obviously, what could a Catholic priest know about these things, supposedly having had no practical experience of them? This way of thinking is quite widely held among many people. Do they all believe that only a doctor who has personally experienced a broken leg or broken arm can successfully help those with broken bones? Or that only those firemen whose houses have burnt down can properly extinguish a fire? Of course, experience has a distinctive and – in many aspects – crucial impact on performing a job. But education and knowledge are even more important, because they provide tools for the professional to analyse mistakes and to correct them in the future. A desirable attitude to cultivate is the ability to learn from the mistakes of others. In this regard active priests have a plentiful supply of them. So, I think I’ve just cunningly justified my right to speak about love.
I’ve recently been to my home town to visit my mum. Once it was a strategically important railway hub and military area; now it’s a small, unimportant town. Once it was a playground for an interested kid, nowadays it’s just a place of blurred memories. I left the town when I finished college and actually I’ve never really returned to it. My bonds with the people and the place have been loosened until they have practically faded away. However unpleasant it sounds – it’s just a place, visited without any personal excitement.
People make a place interesting; or more accurately: relationships turn even the dullest place into something exciting. My former primary school was a huge featureless building full of anonymous pupils; but classmates and some teachers turned it into a vibrant and lively space. Years later the building is still the same, but for me it’s a long dead place.
During last Lent two groups of people were gathering once a week at St Peter’s and St Mary’s for a series of meetings pretentiously called biblical studies. Week by week, meeting by meeting I tried to deprive the participants of their faith; in this regard I was apparently unsuccessful. I missed ten football matches of the Champions League as they were broadcast at the same time as the meetings, and I gained nothing.
The three women in tonight’s gospel were rushing to the tomb of Jesus to do him an ultimate favour they hadn’t done on Friday because of lack of time. Although they had diligently observed the rest of the Sabbath, their minds had been at work all that time, planning ahead. This is why on the way to Jesus’ tomb they were so well prepared with spices used for traditional Jewish burial. Yet they hadn’t solved all possible problems; they worried about the large stone closing the entrance.
But when they reach the place it turned out that nothing went as planned. The stone had been rolled away, so one potential problem was solved. But the tomb was empty – it meant their preparations were in vain. They wasted the time of the Sabbath, they wasted their money buying spices… If they had listened to Jesus before his death, they might have spent better their time and their money – and probably they wouldn’t have had to wake up before the dawn.