Today is Home Mission Sunday, and World Mission Sunday follows in a few weeks' time. We are taking a Mission collection for them both today. As those names suggest, the home mission involves the tasks of evangelisation and outreach in our own country. The appeal for the world missions goes to the work of 'Missio' which coordinates the missionary effort throughout the world and especially in developing countries, contributing to evangelisation,  healthcare, education and infrastructure. Today, the Church is growing to its full stature in the world. There are almost 1.3 billion Catholics alive today; there are approximately 5000 bishops, 414,000 priests, and 670,000 professed women religious . The Pope was in Africa last week where there are almost 200 million Catholics but not nearly enough priests to serve the growing churches. But even more important than numbers is the missionary character of our hearts. Whether we can give up our lives to preach the Gospel in far flung lands, or whether our apostolate lies in saying our prayers at home, we are all called to be missionaries who reach out in faith and hope for the common good of all our brothers and sisters.

I would like to repeat the words of welcome written here last weekend - welcome back to school, college and the new term, and welcome back to the parish if you have been away on your summer holidays. We all hope you had a brilliant summer.
Today is known as Education Sunday. This is a special day on which we are invited to reflect on the deeper truths about education and its profound spiritual and theological meaning. We know that education is a God-given right, which is one reason why the Church has always made it part of its primary mission to bring education to children all around the world. Education helps us to make sense of our own identity as children of God, created in his image and likeness, each with a unique calling. It helps equip us for our important mission in life, that of contributing to the building of a true civilisation of love, a civilisation in which each one of us, and together, strive to live the way that Christ shows us. Today we salute the many wonderful teachers, staff, governors, parents and children in our schools. We keep them and their work in our prayers. Perhaps we can also give thanks to God for the education we received ourselves, often given in love from our parents and families, and from all those whose care it was to teach us to pray and to live. God bless you all.

In our Gospel this weekend, Our Lord is asked, “will there only be few saved?” Jesus doesn’t get into the numbers game but instead says simply, “Try your best to enter by the narrow door.”  The point about the door to heaven being narrow is not that it reduces the number who may enter but rather that it changes the way in which we may enter. To get through a narrow door we have to slow down, there’s no charging the gates of heaven, we must slow down and proceed with care, there’s a certain humility needed to enter through a narrow door.  And we may have to shed some baggage, shed attachments to the things of this life.  And to get through a narrow door we need to be slim, not physically slim, but spiritually slim.  In other words we need those disciplines of prayer and penance and charity that keep us in spiritual shape.   And then we may enter humbly through the narrow door and take our places at the feast in the kingdom of God.

I hope that everyone enjoyed a good summer, whether you were 'home' or 'away'. As you know, I attended two ordinations at the end of July, and then I had holidays. Sadly, my grandmother died in August so I was pleased to be at home with my family and we celebrated her funeral in Northumberland last week. Please pray for the repose of her soul. 

Many thanks to Fr Andrew, Fr Johnson and Fr Michael Quaicoe for their ministry in the parish during August. Fr Michael will be saying some Masses this weekend, followed by some time at the cathedral before he returns to his studies. We wish him well. David Knight will resume his appointment with us at the weekends in two week's time. 

A special mention to all those who are starting or returning to school, college or university shortly. Please pray for all the pupils, students, parents, staff and governors as they return to their places of work or study. I would like to especially mention Mrs. Gillian Hood who joins our parish as the new head of Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Primary School next door, and all young people who are starting at a new school or college. As we begin the new academic year, let us pray for and encourage each other. 

By Manvarca - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

‘I have come to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were blazing already!’

Sometimes Jesus can surprise us, even shock us in what he says.  In the Gospel this Sunday he does just that.  He says that he has come to bring fire to the earth, division and not peace.  So what happened to gentle Jesus, meek and mild?   Here’s the point, the fire that Jesus comes to bring to the earth, to our lives, is the fire of love for us which burns in his Sacred Heart.  Jesus is on fire with love for us and he wants us to burn with love for him.  To really love involves making a choice.  To really love Jesus means rejecting anything that gets in the way of that love and choosing him above everything.  This is the division that Jesus brings.  The Sacred Heart of Jesus on fire with love for us invites us to make a radical choice of love.


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