St Etheldreda's

Roman Catholic Church

Homilies from St Etheldreda's

Was it not necessary?

Published September 12, 2020

Yr A Ordinary Time, 24th Sunday of the Year   Today’s parable (Matthew 18: 21-35) consists of three scenes. In the first scene the man owes the king a phenomenal sum.  He will never be able to repay it.  And yet he pleads: ‘Give me time and I will repay everything.’  Of course, the promise [...]

Love and law

Published September 5, 2020

23rd Sunday of the Year (Yr A) Today’s Reading from Romans (13: 8-10) is about the relationship between love and law.  Not civil law, like having to pay tax or not parking on double yellow lines, but moral and religious law – the ‘Thou shalt’, ‘Thou shalt not’ kind of law.  How is love related [...]

His own sacred tears

Published August 29, 2020

22nd Sunday of the Year (Yr A)      ‘If anyone wants to come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me’ (Matt 16: 24).  Every human being will sooner or later be confronted with suffering.  There is nothing especially Christian about suffering.  In one sense, there is nothing [...]

A singular vocation

Published August 22, 2020

21st Sunday of the Year (Yr A) ‘Thou are Peter and upon this rock I will build my Church.’  What an enormous impact these words in today’s Gospel Reading (Matthew 16: 13-20) have had on the history of the Christian world! But it is not the history of the Christian world that I want to [...]

Christ the first fruits

Published August 15, 2020

Feast of the Assumption Today we celebrate the feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  For us Roman Catholics the Assumption of the Virgin Mary is a dogma to be believed in as an essential part of our faith.  It was defined as such in 1950 by Pope Pius XII in the document [...]

19th Sunday of the Year (Yr A)

Published August 7, 2020

A sermon on today’s Gospel Reading (St Peter walking on the water) can be found below under the title Faith and the Feel-good Factor.

The love of Christ

Published July 31, 2020

18th Sunday of the Year (Yr A) In the passage from the Letter to the Romans that we have just heard St Paul is reminding the community of the grounds they have for looking forward with complete assurance to their final salvation.  So when he says that nothing but nothing can separate us from ‘the love of Christ’, he [...]

The pearl of great price

Published July 24, 2020

17th Sunday of the Year (Yr A) ‘Out of joy, he went off and sold everything he had!’   So we read in today’s Gospel (Matthew 13: 44-46).  This looks like a classic case of putting all your eggs in one basket.  The buyer was taking some risk, to say the least.  No cooling-off period, either.  [...]

Praying with God

Published July 17, 2020

16th Sunday of the Year (Yr A) The Spirit intercedes for us with groans, St Paul tells us in the second Reading (Romans 8: 26-27).  What kind of groans are these?, I hear you ask.  St Paul does try to tell us, but unfortunately the Greek adjective that he uses to describe them is ambiguous.  [...]

The redemption of our bodies

Published July 10, 2020

15th Sunday of the Year (Yr A)   In today’s second Reading (Romans 8: 18-23) St Paul envisages a future event when we shall be set free and transformed in glory (he calls it the ‘redemption of our bodies’).  We human beings, he says, will not be the only beneficiaries of this liberation.  For the [...]

A humble God

Published July 3, 2020

Fourteenth Sunday of the Year (Yr A) St Matthew seems to have been particularly struck by Jesus’ gentleness and humility.  So, for example, while all four Gospels tell of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem mounted on a donkey, only St Matthew calls attention to the fact that this action fulfilled the prophecy of Zechariah about the [...]

On the foundation of the Apostles

Published June 25, 2020

Feast of St Peter and St Paul What a phenomenal part St Peter and St Paul have played in the history of the Church!  If it were not for St Peter, the Church would not exist, for it was upon him that Christ built his Church: ‘You are Peter, and upon this rock I will [...]

St Etheldreda and her fellow saints

Published June 18, 2020

Today we celebrate St Etheldreda, our Patron Saint, and some related saintly figures whose heritage merges with hers. You have heard St Etheldreda’s praises sung many times, and we don’t need to rehearse them here.  She was a strong woman with a powerful sense of vocation and a single-minded devotion to God.  Though caught up [...]

Remember! (Corpus Christi)

Published June 12, 2020

I remember my First Communion day very well.  It was a lovely Sunday in March 1936. It was a sunny day, the church looked very beautiful, there was music.  There were so many beautiful things that I remember. There were about thirty of us, boys and girls from my little village of no more than [...]

In the bosom of the Father (Trinity Sunday)

Published June 3, 2020

There is a brief narrative in the first chapter of St John’s Gospel where two of John the Baptist’s disciples start walking behind Jesus.  Jesus turns and asks them: What are you looking for?  And they reply: Rabbi, where are you staying?  Jesus replies: ‘Come, and you will see.’  They went and saw where he [...]

Pentecost Sunday

Published May 27, 2020

The Church that comes into being with the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the gathered disciples is a missionary Church.  Impelled by the Holy Spirit, the apostles begin to proclaim the gospel to people ‘from every nation under heaven’.   The Acts of the Apostles is an account of the rapid spread of the [...]

Gazing up to heaven (Ascension)

Published April 30, 2020

Today as we see the apostles gazing up to heaven as the Lord ascended (Acts 1: 1-11), we may be reminded of St Paul’s words:  ‘Our homeland is in heaven’; and again:  ‘Set your minds on the things that are above, not on the things that are on earth.’  To be a Christian means to [...]

The fruit of the Spirit (6th Easter)


Today, the sixth Sunday of Easter, the Church is beginning to prepare us for Pentecost by giving us a passage from St John’s Gospel that speaks of Jesus’ promise of the Spirit of Truth that he will send to his disciples when he returns to the Father (Jn 14: 15-21). I suppose when we think [...]

Shepherds by vocation (4th Easter)


The fourth Sunday of Easter has come to be known as Good Shepherd Sunday, obviously because the Gospel reading is taken from that chapter in St John’s Gospel where Jesus presents himself as the Good Shepherd (Jn 10: 1-10).  As well as ‘Good Shepherd Sunday’, this Sunday has also come to be known as ‘Vocations [...]

Their eyes were opened (3rd Easter)


There are two important respects in which we can identify with the two disciples in St Luke’s Emmaus narrative (Luke 24: 13-35).  First, we can identify with them as they journeyed on the way, because our experience of faith is a kind of journey, through childhood, and adulthood and old age.  It’s not always easy [...]

Epiphany as life task

Published January 5, 2020

Today we celebrate the feast of Epiphany.  Epiphany means: becoming visible; shining forth.  Christmas Day itself is already the fundamental epiphany, because on that day God became visible in Christ.  God became visible not first and foremost in a doctrine, or in a system of ideas or in a collection of sacred writings, but in [...]

Be imitators of God

Published December 29, 2019

On Sunday afternoons, when I was a small boy, we used to attend what was called ‘Catechism’.  (It was the Catholic answer to Sunday School.)  The priest would ask us questions on the Penny Catechism.  ‘Now, then, children’, the priest asked on one occasion, ‘who can tell me, who is the Third Person of the [...]

A glimpse beyond the darkness

Published March 19, 2019

The story of the Transfiguration (Luke 9: 28-36) occurs in the Gospel narrative just at the point where the darkness begins to thicken.  Jesus has just spoken openly to the disciples, for the first time, about his death. He is heading for Jerusalem. The Transfiguration is the prelude to the painful drama that leads to [...]

Talk of the devil!

Published March 12, 2019

What do you imagine the devil to be like?  It’s fascinating how his profile has varied down the centuries.  Even in the Bible (where, admittedly, he is not mentioned all that often) he turns up in different guises.  In today’s Gospel reading (Luke 4: 1-13) he comes across as a mischievous but not-very-bright rabbinical student who [...]

Love your enemies

Published February 26, 2019

‘Love your enemies.’  That’s a tall order.  There’s enough in the New Testament to suggest that the early Christians did not always live up to the ideal.  St John’s Gospel has Jesus calling some Jews ‘the children of the devil, who is a murderer and a liar’.  Elsewhere too in the Gospels some very harsh [...]

That Primordial Ephphatha

Published September 9, 2018

‘His ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. … And they were astonished beyond measure.’  (Mark 7: 35-37). I suppose you would be astonished too, if you were deaf and spoke with a great stammer and a man came up to you and stuck his fingers in your ears and spat [...]

Keeping Faith

Published August 26, 2018

‘Many of his disciples drew back and no longer went about with him’ (John 6: 66). People lose their faith for a variety of reasons.  Some lose it as the result of some personal trauma, or as a result of witnessing the sufferings of a loved-one.  How could God allow this?  Where is that loving [...]

Something beautiful for eternity

Published June 12, 2018

Today we celebrate the feast of Corpus Christi.  This feast has a character all of its own.  Most of the other great feasts of the liturgical year commemorate key Biblical events, like Easter, Ascension and Pentecost.  Even Maundy Thursday, the celebration par excellence of the gift of the Eucharist, is part of the great historical and liturgical drama [...]

Undivided devotion

Published January 30, 2018

In today’s second Reading (1 Cor 7: 32-35) St Paul tells the Corinthians that a married person is too busy trying to please their spouse to be wholeheartedly devoted to the Lord.  ‘The married man’, he says, ‘is anxious about worldly affairs, how to please his wife, and he is divided’; whereas ‘the unmarried man [...]

The Things that are Caesar’s

Published October 22, 2017

‘Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s.’  This saying of Jesus has often been taken to mean that Caesar’s realm, the sphere of the secular, is not really important to Christians, for their homeland is in heaven. But why can’t we allow Jesus occasionally to use [...]

Out of Place at the Banquet

Published October 15, 2017

The parable of the wedding banquet (Matthew 22: 1-14) is about God’s grace unexpectedly lavished on all and sundry.  That’s how Christians saw themselves in St Matthew’s day.  They had suddenly been called from the highways and byways, so to speak, and brought into fellowship with the King’s son. It was not because they had [...]

Generous Minds

Published October 8, 2017

In today’s Gospel (Matthew 21: 33–43) Jesus says that the Kingdom of God will be taken away from the Jews and given to a people who will produce its fruit (namely Christians).  I wonder if Jesus ever spoke those words.  We cannot deny that Jesus clashed with the Jewish authorities during his ministry; and the [...]

The Gift and the Giver

Published September 24, 2017

I don’t know if the Union of Casual Vineyard Workers existed in those days, but if it did, its reps will have had something to say about this parable (Matthew 20: 1-19), and understandably so.  For it was crazy, surely, that the workers who had worked just a couple of hours should get as much pay as [...]

The Beatitudes

Published January 29, 2017

In today’s Gospel Reading (Matthew 5: 1-12) certain kinds of people are pronounced ‘blessed’.  ‘Blessed’ (makarios in Greek) is a religious word.  It means near to God, favoured by God.  What’s very surprising, however, is that even though ‘blessed’ is a religious word, the people whom Jesus here declares ‘blessed’ are not in any obvious [...]

Today salvation has come to this house

Published November 2, 2016

There is a happy little Sunday-school song that begins ‘Zacchaeus was a wee little man and a wee little man was he’.  It tells the story of the wee little man who got singled out by Jesus (‘Zacchaeus, you come down!’).  Jesus entered his home, shared a meal with him, and thrilled him by what [...]

Who Could Believe That?

Published August 14, 2016

Today’s second Reading, from ch. 11 of the Epistle to the Hebrews, brings together the ideas of believing and hoping:  ‘Faith is the assurance of things hoped for.’  I don’t know about you, but I find hope a far warmer, inspirational thing than faith.  We Catholics, especially, have tended to associate faith with creeds and [...]

Dealing with Evil

Published June 29, 2016

At this point in the Gospel narrative (Luke 9: 18-22) a horrendous prospect opens up before us.  Jesus predicts that he will be rejected, abused and put to death.  This is St Luke’s version of an incident that is reported in each of the first three Gospels.  St Luke, for his part, has toned it [...]

The Existential Moment

Published June 28, 2016

Today’s Gospel reading (Luke 9: 51-62), or part of it at least, is about discipleship.  The three men are faced with stark alternatives.  Either they follow Jesus or they do not.  The call to discipleship admits of no compromise or delay.  It’s all or nothing.  How the three decide will define their eternal future, for [...]

All Very Human

Published June 27, 2016

What strikes me most about the story of Jesus and the widow of Nain (Luke 7: 11-17) is that there’s no religion in it.  God isn’t mentioned in the story itself, and what Jesus does for the widow is not prompted by any petition or act of faith on her part.  We are not told [...]

Immersed in Humanity

Published January 13, 2016

Feast of the Baptism of the Lord.  Luke 3: 5-22 When the Gospels place the story of John the Baptist at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, they are no doubt simply reporting historical fact.  But they want to claim that this historical fact carries a theological message.  It is a message that concerns both Christianity [...]

Each one his own shepherd

Published July 22, 2015

In the first of today’s Readings (Jeremiah 23: 1-6) God, through the prophet Jeremiah, laments that the ‘shepherds’ were not doing their job.  The ‘shepherds’ were the prophets and priests whose role it was in Israelite society to keep the people on the straight and narrow and to censure their wicked ways.  God vows to [...]

Blessed be God who has blessed us

Published July 15, 2015

‘Blessed be God who has blessed us.’  So begins the Epistle to the Ephesians, as we heard in today’s second Reading.  The first three chapters of this epistle are about the wonderful blessings God has bestowed upon us. The author describes these blessings in the most superlative language.  In fact, his language strains so hard [...]

Funeral Oration for Father Jean-Marie Charles-Roux

Published September 26, 2014

Fr Jean-Marie with Fr John Fortune in Ewuaso, Kenya, where Fr John is parish priest. Taken in 2002 during one of Fr Jean-Marie’s regular visits. Given at the Memorial Mass at St Etheldreda’s on 19 September 2014 by Father David Myers I first met Father Charles-Roux 60 years ago when I was at Ratcliffe as [...]

Faith and the Feel-good Factor

Published August 12, 2014

St Matthew doesn’t tell us how far St Peter managed to walk on the water before beginning to sink (Matthew 14: 22-31), but it must have been a reasonable distance, for he got so close to Jesus that Jesus had only to stretch out his hand to save him.  Peter must have walked more than [...]

Darnel Everywhere

Published July 25, 2014

Many interpreters think that the weeds referred to in the parable (Matthew 13: 24-30) are not just any old weeds, but a particular weed known as darnel.  Darnel, sometimes called ‘false wheat’, often grows up among wheat and it is very difficult to tell the difference between them until the fruit ripens around harvest time, [...]

Seeing the Father

Published May 19, 2014

‘He who has seen me has seen the Father.’  Obviously,  when Jesus speaks of seeing the Father,  he does not mean seeing in the literal sense, because God the Father cannot be seen.  Jesus means that he reveals what God is like.  As St John says near the beginning of his Gospel: ‘No one has ever [...]

How To Influence People

Published February 10, 2014

Today’s Gospel reading (Matthew 5: 13–16) is about influence.  It is about the influence that the disciples of Jesus have on others – not, of course, in the sense of imposing their views upon others, but in the sense of quietly influencing their minds and hearts, as an oil lamp gives light to all in [...]

The Star of Bethlehem

Published January 6, 2014

Think of the story of the magi as a historical event, if you like.  Probably most Christians do.   Others, however, have treated it as a kind of parable.  T. S. Eliot in his poem The Journey of the Magi used it as a parable of his own painful conversion to Christianity.  Today I wish to [...]

A Christmas That Lasts

Published December 24, 2013

Christmas has a wonderful appeal for all of us, but it’s difficult to put your finger on precisely why this is.  It has surely got something to do with the fact that it falls in bleak midwinter, and how delightful it is to be cocooned with one’s loved ones, safe and warm against the rigours [...]

Low self-esteem?

Published October 6, 2013

Sit or lie in a quiet place on your own (if possible).  Close your eyes, take five deep breaths. Take them in through your nose and then hold your breath for 4 seconds.  Let the first four out with a sigh.  The fifth breath you can let out slowly and very controlled and as you [...]

God is three and God is one

Published May 26, 2013

In Cardinal Newman’s work, The Dream of Gerontius, which Elgar set to music in his famous oratorio of the same name, Gerontius is an old man, a Christian, who dies and his soul journeys through the terrifying dissolution of death on its way to God: an extremely profound and imaginative meditation on the soul’s final [...]

Pentecost: Pyrotechnics and quiet miracles

Published May 25, 2013

The mighty rush of wind and the tongues of fire and the miracle of one language being understood by all the world’s nations is the picture of Pentecost that is familiar to us all.  Actually, it is only St Luke in the Acts of the Apostles who gives us this picture of the coming of [...]

Ascension: They in us

Published May 20, 2013

All early Christians believed that Jesus went to God after his death and resurrection.  Only St Luke, in his Gospel and more especially in the Acts of the Apostles, tells us that Jesus physically ascended into the clouds, as in a vertical take-off, with the disciples left gazing up into the skies like spectators at an [...]

Easter Vigil: New creation

Published March 30, 2013

This sacred night is shot through with the beauty of nature.  Birds that fly across the firmament of the heavens; every tree with seed in its fruit; the busy bees and the mother bee, and wax for the bright candles: You will find all these lovely things and more in the liturgy of this Easter [...]

Good Friday: That they might have life

Published March 29, 2013

The blood and water that flowed from our Saviour’s side recall several earlier passages in St John’s Gospel: We remember the blood of Jesus that is ‘real drink’.  We remember the ‘rivers of living water’ that would flow from the belly of the Messiah; and the spring of water ‘leaping up into eternal life’ that [...]

Maundy Thursday – the sacrament of humble love

Published March 28, 2013

It is very surprising that St John’s Gospel says nothing about the institution of the Eucharist.  Nowhere in this Gospel does Jesus take bread and say ‘This is my body’, nor wine, and say ‘This is my blood’.   In fact, at the very point in St John’s Gospel where we would expect Jesus to take [...]

Palm Sunday: entry into Holy Week

Published March 24, 2013

Today we enter Jerusalem with Jesus, acclaiming him as our Messiah. On Thursday we shall be with him in the upper room, sharing his last supper.  On Friday we shall accompany him along the via dolorosa to his death.  We shall share the silence of his tomb on Saturday.  And finally we shall share with [...]

Unfinished business

Published March 17, 2013

There are several questions that arise from this passage about the woman caught in adultery (John 8: 3-11).  An obvious one for us is: How come it’s only the woman who gets it in the neck, whereas the bloke gets off scot free?  Another problem is: Granted that the woman receives Jesus’ forgiveness, why are [...]

The good thing about temptations

Published February 14, 2013

The first temptation of Lent comes round about 10.55 am on Ash Wednesday when you open the fridge and there, confronting you, at eye level, is the last remaining portion of Tuesday’s chocolate cherry gateau, cherries still glistening seductively amidst the dark crisp chocolate shavings sunk in cream. You slam the door in horror, of [...]

In a manner known only to God

Published February 3, 2013

St Paul had a very particular understanding of love.  Most importantly: love is not, for St Paul, primarily a human activity.  It is God’s own love poured out in our hearts.  Our love for one another is God himself loving in the core of our freedom.  That is why St Paul calls love ‘the way [...]

A sermon on the Feast of Epiphany in the Year of Faith

Published January 3, 2013

Today is the day when the Three Kings arrive. As a small boy I always had mixed feelings about their arrival. On the one hand, it meant: back to school after the Christmas holidays. On the other hand, it was fun to have three new figures in the crib. There is a limit to the [...]

Today is Friday of week 24 in Ordinary Time

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