Our Lady Help of Christians
4 Lady Margaret Road, Kentish Town
London NW5 2XT
31st May 2020 – Pentecost Sunday
Please also read the other important announcements
@ Fr John writes and Fr John’s reflections
Pentecost: a Reflection
This weekend we celebrate the Feast of Pentecost, the climax of the Easter Season. We have seen how the Easter story develops in three stages.
First there is the crucifixion of Jesus, when Jesus is effectively silenced, put out of sight and mind, his body supposedly hidden for all time behind the stone covering the tomb. The little community he gathered around himself is scattered and grieves.
Then there is the discovery of the empty tomb accompanied by the appearances of Jesus. During this time the community is miraculously gathered together again, and begins to learn to recognise Jesus in his new, risen form and hear his voice again. It is a time of small steps being taken to recover and renew faith, of deep prayer, as joy begins to take the place of sadness and conviction replaces doubt.
Pentecost represents the third stage. The community emerge from the Upper Room into the public space. Where up to now they had been fearful, now they are courageous. Where before they were silent, now they speak, and miraculously what they say proves to be accessible to people of many different languages.
The word Pentecost in Greek means literally the fiftieth (day). It has its origins in a very ancient harvest festival. In other words this day celebrates the beginning of our receiving the fruits of Jesus’ short ministry. Jesus is present, no longer just to the people of Galilee, no longer just to the close band of disciples, but to the whole world through his Holy Spirit given to the Body of Jesus which is the Church.
Throughout the Easter Period the Readings at Sunday and weekday Mass have been taken from the Acts of the Apostles. Acts begins with the story of Pentecost, the giving of the Holy Spirit which constituted the Church as the Body of Christ and energised the preaching of the gospel, the good news about Jesus Christ, dead and risen. It reminds us that our membership of the Church is itself a gift, a gift that expresses itself ritually in the sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation. Without the gift of the Holy Spirit the Church would be just a gathering of the likeminded, or a corporation or NGO or pressure group. Our identity is not bound up primarily with solving problems, or advancing causes. Our identity comes from Christ himself. Any good that we do springs from that encounter with Christ, impelled by the Spirit of the Father and the Son.
The story of Pentecost still contains elements of the unusual and the wondrous that we saw in the stories of the appearances of the risen Jesus. The scene begins with the disciples together in a small room, in prayer as they wait for the coming of the Holy Spirit. Just as the risen Jesus seems to move imperceptibly from one side of a closed door to the other, so in the Pentecost narrative there is no indication of the disciples moving from the room to another space. Without any prompting by the narrator, we read that the disciples have moved from the upper room to the public square with its large crowds where they speak to and are understood by people from the four corners of the earth. Here we see an image of the Church impelled by the Holy Spirit, a spirit of energy, but also a spirit of love. It contains within its identity both the interiority of life in the upper room, in other words that dimension of prayer, where we offer ourselves to Jesus Christ as a response to his love for us, but it also lives in the public square, where, ‘fired up’ by the Holy Spirit, it speaks its message fearlessly, as Jesus had promised. To put it another way the two lungs with which the Church lives are contemplation and activity.
The reading from St Paul’s Letter to the Corinthians begins with one of the earliest summaries of the gospel message, namely, ‘Jesus is Lord’. Paul identifies Jesus with the God of the Old Testament, while at the same time refuting the ideology of the Roman state that proclaimed Caesar Augustus as its Lord. For the Christian there was a further dimension to this profession of faith. To say ‘Jesus is Lord’ is to say, ‘Jesus is my Master, I live under his authority, and his alone’.
The community of Corinth was a community of the gifted and talented. But it was also a community that was very conscious of its social superiority. It was made up of people who did not like to be told what to do, especially by the likes of Paul, who despite his passion and learning was considered a cut below their standing. Paul has to reiterate that if their gifts and talents are to be brought to fruition they have to be put at the service of Christ and be guided by his Holy Spirit. That this was not the case in Corinth was evidenced by the constant quarrelling and bickering that went on among the community and its tendency to break up into factions. Paul is saying to them in effect, ‘If Jesus is your Lord, you need to obey him’.
In the second part of the reading Paul introduces the concept of the Body, a favourite image that he uses many times to describe the community that is the Church. Like the crowds who gathered to listen to the first preachers in Acts, the church is characterised by the diversity of its members. It is only the Holy Spirit that enables all these different people with their differing gifts to be brought together to function in harmony. The Spirit, as the spirit of harmony, is a gift to the Church, but it also places a task on us. Working in harmony, as a single body, requires a kind of mutual obedience. We cannot just spin on our own orbit. Nor can we live as authentic members of the Church if we live, in effect, as people outside of the body, who are content to pluck the fruits we require from the church without really participating in its activity and working with the Church, as the parts of the Body work with one another. That also means transcending cultural differences which have the potential to alienate us from one another. ‘There is neither Jew nor Greek’.
The Holy Spirit is a principle and source of love, harmony and energy. In the Gospel reading from John we are brought back to Easter Day, and one of the first appearances of the risen Jesus. It is as if we conclude our readings of Eastertide by going back full circle. Implicit in this gospel reading are some of the themes of Pentecost. Unlike Luke John does not speak of Pentecost as a separate event at the end of fifty days, but as a mystery which evolves out of the mystery of the Resurrection. When Christ appears he offers the disciples his Peace, and the gift of the Holy Spirit. Peace, in the writings of St Paul, is described as one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit, one of the outcomes, if you like, of the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives, and an indication of whether we are drinking from the fountain that is the Holy Spirit or from somewhere else.
What is new in the Gospel is the association between the Holy Spirit and forgiveness. Jesus’ return to his disciples after his Resurrection is also a sign of his having forgiven them for their cowardice at the beginning of his passion and death. This comes out particularly in the story of Jesus’ encounter with Peter on the shore of the Sea of Galilee where Jesus asks Peter three times if he loves him, evoking Peter’s denials. Forgiveness is an important gift to the Church. Unlike in Matthew’s Gospel where the gift of forgiveness is imparted in particular to Peter, and has been associated with the Sacrament of Penance/Reconciliation, in this Gospel forgiveness is a gift offered to the whole Church. Forgiveness then, as a gift of the Holy Spirit, becomes part of our identity. We are people of forgiveness. Like peace and harmony, forgiveness for us is both a gift and a task. Each one of us has our part to play.
Pentecost is also a feast of new beginnings. As the burdens of lockdown are gradually lightened we begin to feel as if our life is beginning again. We can begin to look forward to our being gathered together as a community once more. Let us pray that as we prepare to return we have grown in faith and have a deeper sense of our identity, given to us by the Holy Spirit.
Copies of the Universe
Fr John has 4 copies of last week’s universe and will be getting a new delivery this week. If anyone would like to receive a copy Fr John will deliver it if you live near the church or arrange for it to be collected.
Please email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 0207 485 4023, leaving your name, address and phone number.
The Universe and Catholic Times are now combined as one paper.
OUR CHURCH BUILDING MAY BE CLOSED, AND WE MAY NOT BE ABLE TO COME TO MASS, BUT WE STILL HAVE THE SCRIPTURES, AND WE CAN STILL MAKE A ‘SPIRITUAL COMMUNION.
Mass will be celebrated privately every day in this church. We will be praying for you and your families, and all those who are affected by the epidemic.
To find the scripture readings for weekday and Sunday mass click “Sunday and weekday readings Catholic Masses“.
For children and families we have created a special page with online resources.
The diocese also created a page with resources during mass suspension.
Mass intentions this week
All booked Masses will be honoured as near as possible, either
before or after the date for which they were originally booked.
Sunday 31st May (Pentecost) For our Parishioners
Monday 1st June, Mary Fitzpatrick RIP
Tuesday 2nd June, Frederique Habibis – RIP (6th anniversary)
Wednesday 3rd June, Marie Scanlan’s intentions
Thursday 4th June, Holy Souls
Friday 5th June, Holy Souls
Saturday 6th June. Holy Souls
Sunday 7th June, For our Parishioners
Friends of the Holy Land / Pentecost Challenge
As we await news at the weekend that our lockdown may be eased, our Christian brothers and sisters in Bethlehem and the Palestinian territories have been told that they must remain indoors for another thirty days, making twelve weeks in all.
Even before the Coronavirus hit, the Palestinian economy was in poor shape. Once it hit tourism was halted, and there is no government package for individuals or businesses. Even government employees had a pay cut of 50% way before the lockdown. Movement into Israel is very strict which has created more unemployment.
The Friends of the Holy Land are supporting over 100 families with just the basics to get them through the next 3 months, and responding to appeals for medical help (there is no NHS).
Thanks to the generosity of two anonymous donors, any donations made to the friends this side of Pentecost will be matched so your donation will be doubled.
If you would like to donate please click on Friends of the Holy Land/Pentecost challenge.
If you have friends who might like to donate, please ask them too. For more information please go to Friends of the Holy Land.
‘Friends of the Holy Land’ is an ecumenical Christian charity. Its patrons include The Cardinal and the Archbishop of Canterbury, and a number of Catholic and Anglican Bishops. If our pilgrimage is able to take place next year we will be visiting some of the Friends’ projects in Bethlehem.
The Chair of the Finance Committee
Dear Parishioners, my name is Mark Holdsworth. I am a parishioner and also the Chair of our Church’s Finance Committee. I hope you are all as well as can be and staying safe in these trying and unprecedented times. The Finance Committee understands many of our parishioners may be experiencing immediate financial hardship and have concerns for their future due to the impact of the virus pandemic lockdown. We are therefore especially grateful to those of you who are still able to contribute to our offertory which goes to support our Church’s normal expenditure and maintenance.
Some of you have asked how they can continue to give in the offertory now that the church itself is closed. Due to Covid19 and the need for social distancing, we are unable currently to accept any cash donations, or envelopes containing such, to the church or presbytery. We kindly ask those that are able and willing to sign up to a standing order which means we get a further 25p from the government for every £1 you on the basis that you are UK tax payer. Or please simply make any or weekly one-off donations online and these will then go directly to our church.
Both standing orders and one-off donations can be done via this link which has easy-to-follow instructions
Yours faithfully, Mark Holdsworth, Chair of Finance Committee
Cardinal thanks NHS staff and care workers
Well, this lockdown has to go on and we have to be persistent and resilient and keep up the effort that we’re making in order to protect each other, protect other people.
But there’s a big thank you I want to give to all those who are caring for others.
It’s especially true in our care homes, in our hospitals, but it’s true in every place where somebody is genuinely caring for another person. And in these circumstances, it’s stressful, but it’s deeply appreciated.
We can see on a Thursday evening how much that caring work, especially in the NHS and in care homes, is appreciated. Now, what we want to do, is add to that public applause, the practice of public prayer.
So every Thursday at 7pm, a bishop will celebrate Mass in one of the cathedrals for the care workers, 7pm every Thursday. We will begin here in Westminster Cathedral.
This coming Thursday, I will celebrate Mass at 7pm, so please do join in, if you can, on the live-stream. Follow where the Mass takes place on each different Thursday.
And even more importantly, use that time before 8pm on a Thursday to offer your prayers of thanksgiving for these generous, courageous people, for their support, their encouragement, that God will sustain them in this great work that they’re doing.
We applaud, but we pray and we pray fervently for them. May God bless them all.
No one is alone! Prayer when confined to your home
For a prayer of spiritual communion go to No one is alone.
Sustaining Faith during the Pandemic
Prayers of Hope
An initiative has been launched (one of many!) to invite Christians to put a poster in their windows as a sign of faith and trust in the Lord in these troubled times. The Cardinal encourages us to go to Prayers of Hope and print a poster and show it in the street window of our homes. It could well encourage those who are downhearted.
Regular celebrations of Mass broadcast by RTE Radio are accessible on a standard radio, on 252 Long Wave. Please can you share this information verbally with any people who, through lack of internet links, would otherwise not receive it.