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The Ascension: Behold the man here too

Jesus stood before Pontius Pilate, while a bloodthirsty crowd clamoured for his crucifixion. Pilate simply wanted to release Jesus, but the mob pressure was strong, so he had Jesus flogged as a punishment, hoping that would satisfy the crowd and show that Jesus was helpless. He brought the battered and bloodied Jesus before the mob and said, ‘Behold the man!’

Jesus is the image of God on earth. But he is also the image of man, what humankind is supposed to be. The devil and his powers want to tear down the image of God in man. The evil in the world loves to mock us and say, ‘Look, here is what man is good for. Here is man. Disfigured. Bloodied. His only crown is that of cruel thorns. He is good only for the discard heap.’ How often in our films and stories this is the way humanity is portrayed. We look at image after image of man humiliated. Man in the gutter, searching and groping blindly for meaning, and finding only despair. Man acting like an animal. Man helpless before his lusts. Man violent and destroying. Materialists tell us we are nothing but a speck in an indifferent universe.  

This is where the ascension is so important. Jesus is the one man who lived out perfectly the image of God in a human being. The final picture we have of Jesus is not the battered, rejected, disgraced Jesus. It is the triumphant, radiant Jesus ascending into heaven. ‘Behold the man’ must be said not only before the crucifixion. It must be said at the ascension. Look, there is man, man as he was meant to be, going to communion with God. There is man, meant to reign in heaven, restored in glory, the very image of the eternal God. So Pope Benedict taught that to truly understand what people are, you have to look not just where we came from and where we wallow and slop now, you have to consider where we can go in Christ. Our destiny in Jesus is to be in communion, in glory and harmony, in loving dominion over a flourishing earth, restored to a glorious destiny. The ascension is the guarantee, the down payment on all God is going to do to restore his redeemed race. Behold the man! If we are in Christ, we are meant for heaven. We are bound for glory. Our destiny is not the gutter; it is the mansions of the high king where we will live as his sons and daughters.

Based on “Seven Things to Like About the Ascension” by Gerrit Scott Dawson

I did sit and eat…

This Sunday in Mass we hear the wonderful story of the Road to Emmaus. I was reminded of the much-loved poem called ‘Love III’ by George Herbert, the great 17th century poet, born in Montgomery in Wales. Like the disciples, the poet is drawn in by love/God/Jesus until the truth is revealed through a meal. In this season we are drawn from Easter through the Ascension to Pentecost and beyond to Corpus Christi, the feast of the Eucharist. Take time with the poem – it’s 400 years old – and put yourself into it as the ‘I’ or ‘me’…  If you like it, try Herbert’s ‘The Collar’.

And by the way, if you find yourself in Salisbury perhaps to visit the cathedral, I recommend a stroll across the water-meadows, painted so often by Constable, to the little village church at Bemerton, where Herbert was vicar.

Love bade me welcome. Yet my soul drew back
Guilty of dust and sin.
But quick-eyed Love, observing me grow slack
From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning,
If I lacked any thing.

A guest, I answered, worthy to be here:
Love said, You shall be he.
I the unkind, ungrateful? Ah my dear,
I cannot look on thee.
Love took my hand, and smiling did reply,
Who made the eyes but I?

Truth Lord, but I have marred them: let my shame
Go where it doth deserve.
And know you not, says Love, who bore the blame?
My dear, then I will serve.

You must sit down, says Love, and taste my meat:
So I did sit and eat.

Fr Matthew

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Easter Triduum information

Maundy Thursday

7.30pm 3 Churches Mass of the Lord’s Supper at St Brigid’s with Presentation of the Holy Oils and Washing of the Feet. Followed by Watching before the Blessed Sacrament at the Altar of Repose until 10pm.

Good Friday

10am Morning prayers at Christ the King

3pm Celebration of the Lord’s Passion at both St Paul’s and Christ the King. Children’s Liturgy at Christ the King during this Service (the children go directly to the Parish Centre and re-join the congregation for the Veneration of the Cross). Retiring collection at both churches for the Holy Places

Holy Saturday
10am Morning prayers at Christ the King

8.30pm 3 Churches Easter Vigil and First Mass of Easter at Christ the King. Congregation to gather in the Parish Centre beforehand. Light refreshments afterwards in the Parish Centre

Easter Sunday

9am Mass at St Paul’s

9.30am Family Mass at Christ the King. If any child or young person would like to take part please contact Marie (07753 439567 or email

10.30am & 6pm Masses at St Brigid’s

Power of Love vs Love of Power

“When the power of love overcomes the love of power the world will know peace.” These words are often attributed to Jimi Hendrix, but it was actually William Gladstone who said “We look forward to the time when the Power of Love will replace the Love of Power. Then will our world know the blessings of peace.”

Today Jesus rides into Jerusalem on a donkey, with a crowd of followers who shout “Hosanna to the Son of David” and wave palm branches in the air. The Jews are frustrated and angry living under the Roman occupation and are hoping that Jesus will save them from this, and they are cheering him in the hope that the power of Jesus will raise them out of oppression and back into a nation. But Jesus’ mission was to show to the world the power of love over the love of power. He enters Jerusalem on a humble donkey, his procession, unlike that of Roman generals, is one of peace, vulnerability, humility and compassion. Jesus’ followers do not realise that their idea of power is not the same as his.

Only five days later this same crowd are shouting “Crucify him, crucify him”. They feel let down that their plan of salvation has not been fulfilled. Jesus has not formed an army, or led a rebellion and overthrown the Romans; he has been arrested and tried and is now to be crucified. They do not recognise the power of love, the self-sacrifice of the God of love who does not rule by force or oppression or fear. They fail to see the power of love which is poured out on the cross on Good Friday and the power of love that conquers despair, darkness and death on Easter Sunday.

Our world continues pursuing the love of power. We have seen it in our arrogant and selfish attitudes and actions in the world; the plundering of resources, the polluting of our air and seas, the turning of a blind eye to those in need, the constant battle to ensure we have what we want even at the expense of our environment, or at the expense of another’s humanity and dignity. Stories during lockdown that lifted our spirits were those of individuals and communities who were practising love; a 90 year old who offered her ventilator to someone younger; the doctors and nurses who died from the virus they were treating in others; the many volunteers ensuring that those who live on their own had food, medication and a phone call offered to them. These stories show us the power of love in transforming despair into hope, darkness into light and death into life.

On this Palm Sunday, as we hear the followers of Jesus shouting “Hosanna” let us not be tempted by the love of power that will lead us to be part of the crowd that shouts “crucify him” by Friday. Let us open our eyes to the power of God’s saving love for us – the power of love that can heal humanity and the power of love that enables humanity to heal the world.

Edited from a school chaplain’s sermon for Palm Sunday 2020