News from St Mary the Virgin, Kenton on Saturday 29th and Sunday 30th October 2022: The Thirty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time
The first reading at Mass this coming Sunday, from the book of Wisdom, describes how, '[little] by little … you [The Lord] correct those who offend, you admonish and remind them of how they have sinned, so that they may abstain from evil and trust in you, Lord.' Last Sunday, I spoke in my homily about how all growth and progress in the spiritual life begins with the profound acknowledgment that we are loved by God, because only this knowledge can give us the firm foundation required to reject selfishness and sin, the assurance that our lives are in God's hands, and the reason thus not to put ourselves before others.
This is the same idea behind this verse from the book of Wisdom, which calls us away from evil, and towards trust in the Lord. So much sinful behaviour stems from a failure to trust ourselves to Jesus, a failure to believe that he will always guard and guide us, and so to realise that there is no need for us to focus so fiercely on ourselves. But the reading recognises also that spiritual growth and progress happen incrementally – in small steps – 'little by little', as the reading has it. Sometimes we may feel frustrated at the seemingly slow pace of our progress, but there is another side to this gentle development: it means that the next step in our own spiritual lives is always an achievable one, a modest change or revision: we cannot put off this progress because the way ahead seems too hard! Is there a single change we can make in our lives to draw closer to Jesus – a single bad habit we might try harder to abandon, a single virtuous habit we might try harder to adopt? Is there a single devotional practice we can add to our prayer lives, or a single person to whom, this week, we can reach out in love? If we view our spiritual development in these terms, pretty soon a series of small steps will add up to a great distance travelled: 'little by little' we will grow in trust in Jesus, and little by little turn more definitely away from sin.
St John Henry Newman wrote, in his famous hymn, “Lead, kindly Light”, about this very matter of spiritual progress, of moving forward in our faith: he recognised that, for all of us, the path through life can sometimes seem dangerous, dark and clouded – but this, he said, was why faith is so important: 'I do not ask to see / The distant scene; one step enough for me.' One step… one movement, little by little, nearer to Jesus. My namesake, St Richard of Chichester, similarly summed up the point and purpose of the spiritual life as a series of small steps: 'may I know thee more clearly, love thee more dearly, and follow thee more nearly', all the days of my life. What is the next step on your journey with Jesus? What can you do today?
I conclude this week's reflection with two practical notices: first, in setting up home in the Vicarage I have come across various items in the garage which may belong to parishioners. If you wish to claim and re-home these, please do so before 13 November, after which the items in question will be disposed of.
And, finally – don't forget that this Sunday the clocks go back by one hour! I look forward to seeing you at Mass, and gently remind parishioners that the live-stream is only for those unable to be present in person: we must make every effort to be present at Mass each week.
With my love and prayers,