Seventh Week in Ordinary Time and the feasts of the Chair of St Peter and of St Polycarp

BERNINI, Gian Lorenzo – The Throne of Saint Peter (1657-66), Marble, bronze, white and golden stucco, Basilica di San Pietro, Vatican

SUNDAY 19th February – Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

I go to St Aloysius’ Jesuit church in Glasgow. A beautiful Mass sung in Latin. The priest says he doesn’t like everything about Trump, except that he is reaching out to Russia.

Later we drive to Greenock. The Isle of Bute shrouded in mist.

I don’t know if today’s Gospel is relevant:

“You have learnt how it was said: Eye for eye and tooth for tooth. But I say this to you, offer the wicked man no resistance”
Matthew 5:38-48.

MONDAY 20th February

I speak in the debate on denying President Trump a state visit.

I say, perhaps a bit bravely, which man has not made a ridiculous sexual comment sometime in the past in private of which he would be embarrassed if it became public. Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.

The reaction is predictable: several hate emails from around the world.

“The sand of the sea and the raindrops,
And the days of eternity,
Who can assess them?
The height of the sky and the breadth of the earth,
And the depth of the abyss, who can prove them?”
Ecclesiasticus 1:1-10.

Yet people are so certain. I wonder why.

TUESDAY 21st February

There is a visit from Queen Elizabeth High School, Gainsborough, a meeting of the International Trade Select Committee and later I meet with a group of Palestinians.

Who seems to care that two million people are trapped in the largest prison camp in the world in Gaza? They are unable to come or go. They live in abject poverty. They are in a kind of giant ghetto.

A word from King David:

“Then turn away from evil and do good and you shall have a home for ever; for the Lord loves justice and will never forsake his friends”
Psalm 36.

WEDNESDAY 22nd February – the Chair of St Peter

I travel to Geneva with the International Trade Select Committee for a very full day of meetings with the European Free Trade Association and the WTO – people build an entire career on these trade negotiations but, like everything else, the principles are simple and the right principle is free trade moving tariffs towards zero.

As we sit all day in meetings I look outside at a perfect spring day and snow-capped mountains in the distance, my heart yearning for the freedom of mountain tops.

THURSDAY 23rd February – St Polycarp

Before leaving Geneva I pop into the Cathedral, its interior austere and Calvinistic. Here in the sixteenth century, one of Calvin’s people spotted a protestant heretic making a visit and promptly had him burnt at the stake. Things are calmer now. On the right side of the Cathedral is a beautiful chapel, stained glass restored to former glory.

I fly back, a horrendous journey to Cambridge. The railways can’t cope with storm Doris and I lose the motion: This House Regrets Brexit, but I try to be counterintuitive by putting the internationalist case for free trade. It is always lovely being with bright, young, interested people. These events are more fun than the House of Commons.

FRIDAY 24th February

I visit Lincoln University’s Vice-Chancellor to argue for a fair deal for further education at Riseholme College.

Before leaving Cambridge, I would have loved to go inside the college chapels but Monty is not welcome so we walk along the Backs, one of the greatest conglomerations of aesthetic beauty in all of Europe. Why does the modern world favour ugliness and size over simplicity?

SATURDAY 25th February

A long, tiring walk to Binbrook and back in the wind and rain.

Psalm 102
“The love of the Lord is everlasting on those who hold him in fear”.