The Union of Catholic Mothers

  UCM Triennial Mass, Salford Cathedral, Saturday 25th April 2015

Transcript of Bishop Arnold's address

                                                                                                                                                                                                               

Today is the feast of St. Mark. We have heard a rather important passage, from that final chapter of St. Mark's Gospel. Where Jesus is saying to his disciples 'Go out to the whole world and proclaim the Good News'.

But what is important is that we recognise that Jesus is saying it right at the end of the Gospel of St. Mark, after all that has happened there in the Gospel of St. Mark, because it has not been a pretty story.

If I were ever to write anything about the Gospel of Mark I think I would title it 'The Gospel of St. Mark, a Gospel of failure?' because so much has gone wrong.

Almost everybody else has rejected Jesus in the Gospel of St. Mark. The scribes, the Pharisees, the elders and the crowds who have gone off when they finished being interested in the miracles he was presenting. And the disciples, Oh dear, almost wherever you look in the gospel the disciples get it wrong.

They do not understand the parables. Jesus starts teaching the crowds in parables and then almost immediately after the first parable, the one about the sower, that everybody else seems to have understood the disciples come up and ask what was the meaning of that parable?

Jesus says 'Did you not understand that parable, then how will you understand any of the parables? That was the easy one. There will be forty-two more like that'. Then just after that Mark writes Jesus will only teach the crowd in parables so far as they are capable of understanding him. He then goes on to say Jesus takes the disciples on one side and explains to them everything he has been saying to the crowds. They were not picking it up bless them.

Then all those arguments between themselves. James and John - Boanerges - sons of thunder. They must have been fun to be with. They were the ones who dared to come up to Jesus and say actually, 'We would like to be the most important, can we go one on your right and one on your left'.

Then there is Peter, always the one to assume he is going to answer any question that Jesus places and he usually gets it wrong. And when it comes to that moment of testing. Do they really love the Lord?  Do they want that strength of friendship?

When in that moment Jesus is challenged like the rest they all run away. It is not just Judas who betrays the Lord. It is not just Peter who denies even knowing him three times. They've all gone. It really looks like a bit of a disaster.

There is however a gospel within the gospel and frankly ladies it is down to you. It is the women of the gospel. They seem to understand what Jesus is all about. They are the ones who recognise that he is the Messiah. They are the ones who come along and follow him and provide for his needs and they acknowledge him for his passion. They are there to see the resurrection. Yes, there is something going on but unfortunately the people who were supposed to be picking up the story were missing the point.

Yet, here we are at the end of the gospel and Jesus is saying go out to the whole world. You might not have listened or understood. You might not have seen what I was doing. You might have been very slow to understand what it means for me to be the Messiah but now, having just reproached them for their obstinacy and incredulity - not the best school report - he says go out to the whole world.

And lets be grateful that Mark writes his gospel in that way because it encourages all of us in the society in which we live, in the secular world where so many things are not as they should be, there is still the command to go out to the whole world. I am with you. I am not sending you out on your own. I want to be there when you are making your decisions when you are about your ministry your apostolate. It does not matter that things have not gone right before. We are going to make them right. We are going to stand for what is true and good, right and just, right now.

Which is why the UCM is so important. What you do. What you stand for in this increasingly secular age. You stand for marriage, for family life, the security of children growing into their future. There are so many good things you are about. You are proclaiming the good news in a world, which actually does not want to listen at the moment, but it will because if our world goes in its secular direction people will understand it does not get us anywhere. We have to come back to the true news. We have to reform our society. We have to look at where God is asking us to be.

 So, lets give thanks for all that the UCM is and has been. Lets look to the future because you are still as strong as ever and the witness you give so important in the world in which we live. Lets carry with us that phrase that demand, that invitation from Jesus in almost his final words in the gospel of St Mark. Go out to the whole world, proclaim the good news. That is what you are doing and with the grace of God we continue to do together.


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