Welcome to the Cathedral Church of Saints Peter & Paul, Clifton.

Upgrading of the heating and lighting in the Cathedral is nearing completion, and all of our Masses are now being celebrated in the Cathedral, but please note that for the time being, apart from when Mass is being celebrated, the Cathedral will remain closed in order for the final elements of the projects to be completed. Thank you for your understanding and support during this project.


Sunday 18th March 2018
Fifth Sunday of Lent, Year B
Jeremiah 31: 31-34     Hebrews 5: 7-9     John 12: 20-33

Designer Penances.

If the truth is told, most of us would opt for the quiet life, for the easy way out and for the line of least resistance. We might like to think of ourselves as great heroes, as fearless spokespeople, or as campaigning crusaders on behalf of the downtrodden masses, but we know things are different. It doesn’t quite work out like that. Faced with a picket-line or a remote control, there’s not much of a battle to decide.

It’s probably much the same with our spiritual life as well. As Lent progresses do you find yourself cursing the fact that you never quite got round to choosing a Lenten penance, or that your good intentions quickly evaporated? Sometimes it’s not our fault. We give up cream cakes but feel obliged to eat one that the mother-in-law made, and then our resolve goes. Or we’re forced into just one drink at a social gathering (when we’ve actually given up for Lent), and one leads to a few more.

There’s nothing wrong with penances like giving up alcohol or sweets. They remind us that it’s Lent. But we can end up with ‘designer penances’. These are things which sound good, but which really make no demands on us: like deliberately drinking red wine with fish. If I can give up sweets without too much bother, it may be a reminder, but is it really a penance? It’s rather like going through the motions without getting the good effect. The discipline and the joining in Christ’s passion are both missing.

Not that penances have to hurt. They don’t. But our Lenten penances are reminders of the Christian’s continual call to associate himself or herself with the suffering of Christ. We undertake penance to purify ourselves and recognize that our sin keeps us from God and injures others. If you want to give up sugar in your tea, then fine. But why not also think of a practical penance which will also help someone in need?

Visit someone whom you know is lonely; phone that family member and patch up the quarrel that’s been going on for years; offer to lend a hand to someone who could do with help; go and see someone in hospital; volunteer to do something in the parish; do without something and send the money you save to CAFOD. In other words, do something which causes you a little effort and which at the same time is productive for others. There are still two weeks of Lent left. So put down the remote, throw away the book of designer penances, and remind yourself of your duty to others!




Scripture Reflections (below) © Peter J Harrison 2018