For a long time now I have been an admirer of the writings of Fr Timothy Radcliffe OP, former Master of the Dominican Order. In fact when I was parish priest of Bicester and later Caversham I forbade my parishioners to buy his books because if they did they would quickly discover where I got all my homily material from! When I met Fr Timothy recently at the home of the Chilson family (who are beneficiaries of our Society) and told him about this he playfully threatened to sue for loss of earnings! But I, for one, will continue to buy anything he chooses to publish because he is always well worth reading. His travels around the world have given him so much knowledge of human society and of the Church’s mission in so many different places and situations and his books are full of these experiences. In fact he is about to publish a new book so watch out for it and buy it! As I am no longer a parish priest I am no longer so dependent upon Fr Timothy for material for my homilies!
Over a delightful kitchen supper in the Chilsons’ family home I asked Fr Timothy if he had ever written anything on the subject of“conversion” and he didn’t think he had. So, of course, I asked him if he would think about writing something on this subject for the St Barnabas Society and he told me that when the book is published and he has completed the lecture tours of Australia and Germany which lie immediately ahead he would think about it. It would certainly be a great privilege for us if he agrees.
While I was parish priest of Caversham I briefly served as Area Dean of Oxford South and during that time our Deanery received a visitation from Archbishop Bernard Longley and Bishop William Kenney. At the opening meeting of the visitation in Henley-on-Thames I was expected to say a few words and initially I wasn’t quite sure what to say. And then I received some heaven-sent inspiration from Fr Timothy’s lovely book Why go to Church? In a chapter entitled “As the Father has sent me, so I send you” he makes reference to a scene in the Bayeux Tapestry “where Bishop Odo can be seen poking a soldier in the backside with a spear, forcing him into the fray. The inscription reads ‘Odo comforteth his men.’” There in a nutshell, I said, is what a Deanery Visitation is all about. The Archbishop and his Auxiliary have come to comfort their men!
In another chapter in that same book Fr Timothy has this to say.
“…our faith is not primarily the assent to facts about God but friendship with God. This man Jesus offers us more than words about God, spiritual insight. He did not come to promote values. He did not come to tell us about God’s friendship for us. He is God’s friendship with us made flesh and blood.”
As we continue our journey through Eastertide and prepare to celebrate the Ascension of the Lord and the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost let us grasp for ourselves that monumental truth. Jesus Christ “is God’s friendship with us made flesh and blood.”