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Bishop John Arnold image ICN/JS
Bishop John Arnold image ICN/JS
Bishop John Arnold, Bishop of Salford and lead bishop on the environment gave the following homily at the NJPN conference in Swanwick on Saturday.
If I was going to be giving a homily to a parish community on that Gospel, I think I would be filling what I had to say with a sense of encouragement - that Jesus is so extraordinarily generous. Not only is he feeding everybody to the limits that they need with food there's loads left over. And how that should really affect the way that we see Jesus - not someone we bargain with, who is a bit resentful about how much he loves us. No he's overwhelming in his generosity. So that would be my line to a parish community. But I'm talking to participants in a rather important justice and peace conference and I think there a rather more radical way of looking at that Gospel.
Jesus is most definitely very generous. He provides in every way. In that miracle scene he would have relied on the disciples to do the distribution of the food. And they did it excellently and gathered up the scraps left over.
What I have to say is, given the world in which we live, I think we as disciples collectively are failing to distribute the food that we have; the wealth and resources that we have. Its as if, in that Gospel scene, if you were to rewrite the disciples said: 'oh that's good. There's lots of food. Lets sit down and we'll eat it and then clear away. But no, that as disciples as missionary disciples as Pope Francis continually reminds us, we are part of that distribution of God's love and generosity and material wealth around in the world in which we live - because we're living at a strange a uniquely strange time are't we? We've got a pandemic that knows no geographic boundaries, but of course is going to hit the poorest nations worse than the prosperous ones. as is always the way. We've got climate change which has been affecting people for many years in the global south but we've rather pushed that on one side, we haven't been noticing it because it hasn't been affecting us - but now it is. A very prosperous part of California destroyed by wildfires, western Canada with heat levels that were not even predicted by the scientists is happening with climate change over the next ten years happened months ago. And then, in the heart of Europe, yes floods.
The idea - what was the statistic? - that three months of ran fell in one day in Germany. and then we get China where they had all that rain that fell on Germany and more - in one hour! And that they've had more ran in one day than they had in a whole year. These are extraordinary events, and they go beyond anything that the scientists were expecting. We've got to move. But Pope Francis says everything is connected. The pandemic, and and if we're going to save everybody we've got to make sure everybody is saved. We've go to make sure the vaccination goes worldwide. If we're going to sort out climate change in any way we've all got to engage with it. We've got to make changes. We've got to do something about poverty.
And its not just poverty out there. There's that awful statistic I read the otters day that the ten richest people in the world have an accumulative wealth of three billion of the poorest. That's beyond calculation. I'm no mathematician but its horrible. And yet its not just out there. This week we're told that one third of infant school children are below the poverty line. We've got a lot to do.
What is God telling us? Well I think he's speaking through Pope Francis very clearly when he says we've got to start thinking globally. We can't just solve the problem for ourselves looking after ourselves making sure the vaccines are great just for us. It won't stop climate change. It won't have much impact on poverty. No we've got to be rethinking who we are, what we're about. as a global family. Our brothers and sisters our common home. Pope Francis has been so clear about this. When he wrote Laudato Si repeating it time and time again. in all his other encyclicals.
Does it look overwhelming? It certainly looks challenging. But Pope Francis is always clear that we live in hope. That's what out faith is all about. I love his definitions. When asked 'what do you think the Church is like?' He didn't come up with some great theological something well beyond my understanding of theological terms - of the supreme triumph of the apocalyptic God, Christ Redeemed - no he said it's a bit like a field hospital after a battle, where people are coming to have their lives saved not their cholesterol checked. And when he speaks about the Eucharist as not a reward for good behaviour but as food for our spiritual journey.
This man is prophetic. I just feel so humbled by him because he's affected me and the way I think. I feel personally so full of gratitude for Pope Francis because he seems to have taken away so much of the overriding language and the rules and the regulations. Yes we needs rules and relations - he's happy about that. But they mustn't cloud those basic fundamental principles which we need to get back to. Which start with the dignity, the God-given dignity of every human being. They're all our brothers and sisters. So we've got a lot to do - the missionary disciples. And he keeps telling us that each and every one of us can have an impact - and thats most certainly true - and I see here people wanting to make an impact and making an impact already but we've got to spread that. We've got to leave a lot to the politicians but we can't leave it all. And we're got got to make sure the politicians do what they're elected to do. and what the people want them to do.
So we've got our agenda. But we're not starting from nowhere. W'e have faith and we have our prayer. Lets never neglect the importance of prayer in what we're doing - in what we're trying to do. Because when we're open to God using us he can use us in ways that will never be able to measure or appreciate or understand. He'll be working through us very powerfully indeed.
Thank you for who you are. What you stand for what you want. What you think is important. Lets allow that prophetic mission of Pope Francis be part of our lives. So each and every one of us - step by step are making the difference which will make our common home a better place. That we will respect the dignity of each and every one of our brethren and sisters. And that we will in some way - maybe this is the decade - where we really being to recognise the global qualities of the world in which we live. And how we can mend a broken home.
Tags: NJPN, Swanwick, Climate Change, Bishop John Arnold
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