I trust that you, your families and loved ones are coping as well as can be expected in this third lockdown. It's great news that the NHS is rolling out the vaccine at such a terrific rate. We have now to hope that the government will not repeat it's previous errors and ease the restrictions to soon. We have seen, as a consequence of the Christmas easing, how quickly the infection rate rises. Surely a little caution now is better than further prolonged restrictions? Let's not forget to say a prayer of thanks for our NHS, our care workers and those who provided essential services.
There are two things I would like to discuss with you this month. For the first I will need to ask you a question.
How is your prayer life?
Prayer is so important in our individual and corporate Christian life and yet I suspect that far too few of us are not in sufficient contact with God in prayer. During the week of Prayer for Christian Unity I read an article concerning prayer by Pope Francis and in case you did not see it, I'd like to reproduce it here for you. I'm sorry that it's quite long:
Continuing his catechesis on Christian prayer, Pope Francis reflects how prayer is "anchored" in the liturgy, but then returns from the liturgy to the daily situations of life, such as on the streets, in offices and on public transport. "Essentially, everything becomes a part of this dialogue with God," which is prayer. "Every joy becomes a reason for praise, every trial is an opportunity to ask for help," he said. "Prayer is always alive in life, like embers of fire... Even when the mouth does not speak, the heart talks." Every thought, even apparently "profane" ones, can be permeated by prayer, "which illuminates the few steps in front of us and then opens up to the entire reality that precedes it and surpasses it." ... "Christian prayer instills an invincible hope in the human heart... Whatever experience we touch on our journey, God's love can turn it into good." Pope Francis cited the Catechism, which says: "We learn to pray at certain moments by hearing the Word of the Lord and sharing in his Paschal Mystery, but His Spirit is offered us at all times, in the events of each day, to make prayer spring up from us." "Time is in the Father's hands," says the Catechism, stressing, "It is in the present that we encounter God, not yesterday or tomorrow, but today."
The Pope says it is prayer that transforms the today we are living into grace - or rather, it transforms us. Prayer "appeases anger, sustains love, multiplies joy, and instills the strength to forgive." Grace lives and works in us; the problems we face no longer seem to be obstacles to our happiness, but appeals from God, opportunities to encounter Him. "When you have an angry or unhappy thought that brings bitterness, you should stop and turn to God. The Lord, who is there, will give you the right word and advice in order to go ahead without this negative bitterness. When one is accompanied by the Lord, he or she feels more courageous, freer and also happier." Pope Francis further explained that prayer helps us love others, despite their mistakes and sins, stressing that the person is always more important than their actions. And Jesus did just that. He did not judge the world but saved it. The Catechism further points out that "it is right and good to pray so that the coming of the kingdom of justice and peace may influence the march of history." But for this to happen, "it important to bring the help of prayer into humble, everyday situations; all forms of prayer can be the leaven to which the Lord compares the kingdom."
"And when a prayer is said according to the heart of Jesus, that prayer obtains miracles." Watch the Audience, streamed from the Apostolic Palace library today: www.youtube.com/watch?v=jGUhElv3NP0 Thinking of praying for justice and peace brings me to an important issue for us as Christians. New government statistics, published on the 10th February, show that the UK Government licensed £1.4 billion worth of weapons sales to Saudi Arabian forces in the immediate aftermath of its decision to renew arms sales to the regime in July 2020. The majority of these licences are for ML4 licences which cover bombs, missiles and countermeasures. The UK government has refused calls to follow the US lead and end arms exports for use in the war in Yemen. The UK is one of Saudi Arabia's leading arms suppliers, along with the US, and UK arms are playing a central role in the Saudi-led destruction of Yemen.
Surely as Christians, of every political hue, we must see that it's an absurd contradiction to speak of peace, to negotiate peace, and at the same time promote or permit the arms trade. Is this war, or that war, really a war to solve problems, or is it a commercial war for selling weapons in illegal trade, and so that the merchants of death get rich? Let us put an end to this situation. Let us pray all together that national leaders may firmly commit themselves to ending the arms trade which victimises so many innocent people.
The war in the Yemen has resulted in an estimated 233,000 deaths as of December 2020, including 131,000 from indirect causes such as lack of food, health services and infrastructure. The arms supplied previously to Saudi Arabia have, to our shame, contributed greatly to these statistics. I think we have become blase about such horrendous statistics in far off lands that we are in danger of forgetting that these are our brothers and sisters.
We can all do something about this situation even if it even if it's only writing to our Member of Parliament, which I urge you to do. It's time we gave peace a chance! Help please! Another request for financial help, please. I’m reluctant to ask given the generosity that has already been displayed, but as you know our usual expenses continue during this lockdown with the only income coming from your good selves. If you are able to help, donations can be made online at our ‘give a little’ donation site. If you have online banking you can transfer money via the Church bank account, the details of our bank account are NatWest plc., Baker Street Branch. Sort Code: 56-00-14. Account: St Cyprian’s Parochial Council. Account Number: 12138126.
Your Priest & friend
Some words of Saint Mother Teresa: ‘When you look at a crucifix you understand how much Jesus loved you then. When you look at the Eucharist you understand how much Jesus loves you now!’