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Friday, December 9, 2016
Text: Fr Timothy Radcliffe OP at St Anne's Church, Soho
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 The celebration of Mass yesterday, for London's gay Catholic community at St Anne's Church, in Soho, London, was a particularly joyous and poignant occasion. While it marked the fifth anniversary of the bombing at the Admiral Duncan pub in nearby Old Compton Street, in which Nik Moore, Andrea Dykes and her unborn child and John Light were killed and more than 60 were injured, it was also a liturgy of welcome and thanksgiving for a new member of the community - Charlie John-Henry Brown - who was received into full Communion with the Roman Catholic Church at Easter. Jo Siedlecka Fr Timothy Radcliffe OP gave the following homily: Jesus says, 'My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.' A few verses earlier Jesus says that he calls them by name, and he leads them out into wide-open spaces. Probably the first thing that anyone ever said to each of us was our name. We cannot remember it, but at the beginning of life, usually, is our mother's calling us by name. This is not just sticking a label on this newly born red blob. 'Let's call this one Charlie.' It is summoning us to belong. It is the invitation to become part of a family, to become human. The voice gives us the courage to belong. And it is not just our mothers. A human life is the story of how different people summon us to become alive by calling us by name. The people whom we love, our friends and spouses call us to become alive, to dare to belong. When we love people we love to say their names, we mention their names at every possible occasion. A child of four said, 'You can tell someone loves you by the way they say your name, because if they love you, your name is safe in their mouth.' So it is interesting to ask: who do you first remember calling you by name? Though I must confess one of the earliest times that I remember anyone calling me by name was not so pleasant. I was summoned out of the deep anaesthetic sleep by a voice saying 'Timothy, Timothy, Timothy', and I woke up feeling nauseous and promptly vomited. The trouble was that for years, every time anyone addressed me in that same tone of voice, 'Timothy, Timothy ', it had the same dramatic effect! All these voices are echoes of the voice of the Good Shepherd summoning his sheep to be brave, to come out into the wide open spaces and to become alive. Today we are celebrating the reception of Charlie into full communion with the Roman Catholic Church. This is a moment in Charlie's response to the voice that calls him. Many people may consider that Charlie is doing something rather crazy. We are celebrating that you, Charlie, are in full communion not just with your Catholic friends, not just with nice people like ourselves. You have entered into a community that is rocked by scandal. You are becoming one with all sorts of people with whom you may profoundly disagree, and who may appear to reject your sexual orientation and much that you may hold dear. You have entered into communion with Cardinal Ratzinger, with Opus Dei, with progressive Catholics and traditionalists. And this community of yours includes not just the living but also the dead, saints and sinners. You have entered into communion with St Francis of Assisi, Teresa of Avila, your beloved John-Henry Newman, and of course (lucky you!) St Dominic. But you have also become one with the Borgias, with the members of Inquisition, with people who persecuted Jews and have done terrible things in the name of Christ. You cannot make a selection. You cannot pick and choose. It's all or nothing. So the voice of the Good Shepherd summons you saying 'Come on Charlie. Here you belong!' Why? This vast communion of the good, the bad and the ugly, is a sign of the Kingdom of God in which all human beings are summoned to be at home and live. It can be a sign precisely because it can have no claim to be a gathering of the great and the good. It can have no pretensions to elitism or superiority. Jesus came to call sinners and in this, at least, he was highly successful! As James Joyce says, 'Here comes everyone.' How can we dare to belong to such a ragbag of a community? In the second reading John looks and sees a vast crowd from every nation and tribe and people and tongue. And one of the elders says to him, 'These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the lamb.' Clearly they are all Dominicans in white habits! It is very odd to wash one's robes white in blood, which you might expect would make them red! Perhaps it is because the lamb has taken upon himself all the violence that bubbles within us. All the enmities and hatreds that human beings may have towards each other, even inside the Church, is borne by the lamb. We can only belong to each other without violence in him. His blood washes away all the blood that we may wish to shed sometimes. All of us have the vocation to call each other by name, to give each other the courage to come out into the wide open spaces, to come alive. And people will only trust our voices, and know, as the child said, that their names are safe in our mouths, if we speak with our own voices, as the people we are, gay or straight, Jewish or Gentile. If we speak with our own voices, then they will catch the echo of the one who is at the centre of our very being, the God is closer to us than we are to ourselves. Many of you will remember my Dominican brother, Gareth Moore. One year we were on holiday together with some other friends on the Isle of Skye. After a day of walking in the mountains, we came home along the cliffs. There was a stretch where there wasn't a proper path. One had to stick one's feet in a sort of crack in the rock and wiggle along above the waves. Gareth was last in the line. We all emerged at the other end, but there was no sign of Gareth. So one of us had to go back and he was found stuck and incapable of moving. We had not realized that he suffered acutely from vertigo. He would not let that other person touch him. But he was summoned by name. 'Gareth; its OK. Put your left hand along a bit. Now you can move your feet. Come, Gareth.' Gareth was actually very brave and the next day he said, 'Lead me to a high cliff.' Every one of us may find ourselves stuck on that rock, trembling with panic. If we listen very carefully, then we can be sure to hear the voice that calls us by name and gives us courage. Everyone of us too may be that voice for another person.
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