Tuesday, July 17, 2018

prayer diary Tuesday 17 July 2018

'For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.’ 
Matthew 12.50

Christ offers many graces to those who obediently follow him. Is it not worth many sacrifices in this world to come so close to God himself?

Monday, July 16, 2018

prayer diary Monday 16 July 2018

But he answered them, ‘An evil and adulterous generation asks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.' 
Matthew 12.39

Here Jesus speaks of his death and resurrection after three days. No greater sign can be given; and no other will be given to those who refuse to accept it.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

come away and rest a while

May my words be in the Name of the Holy & Undivided Trinity: + Father, Son, & Holy Spirit. Amen.
Jesus said to them, ‘Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.’ For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat.
I remember once some years ago standing in a queue in a credit-union in Cork. The line was long and moving slowly and the two elderly ladies in front of me struck up a conversation. And standing behind them as I was it was, of course, impossible for me not to overhear what they were saying.
'Ah, that plane crash yesterday was terrible, girl' said the first.
'Oh, it was,' said the second.
'All those poor people, going off on their holidays.'
'Shocking awful, girl.'
'Still, they had to be going off, gallivanting around the world on their foreign holidays. Back in my day, we happy enough to get on the bus on go down to Crosshaven for the day. And bring our sandwiches with us. No airplanes for us, flying here there and everywhere, and we were happy out, like.'
'Oh, we were indeed, girl.'
Now, while there is nothing wrong with spending the day in Crosshaven – I have spent many a happy afternoon there, a truly charming place, particularly in the summer when the weather is fine, there is a gentle sea breeze, and the merries are open for the children to enjoy a ride on the carousel or the bumper-cars - I can't help but think that the two ladies were being a little hard on the doomed holiday makers. For a holiday is a holiday, whether it is a day by the seaside or a fortnight abroad, and the difference between the two is only a matter of degree; and, of course, not only is air transport very safe, but a bus may crash perhaps even more easily than a plane.

And the truth is not only do we need a break now and again, it is actually part of God's plan that we should. He teaches us this by the example of his own actions when in Genesis he rests on the seventh day after the work of creation on the preceding six; and later in Exodus he makes it part of his Divine Law that man should keep holy the Sabbath day and refrain from work.

Our Lord in our Gospel reading today recognises his disciples need for a break. They have just returned from the mission he sent them on, out preaching and teaching and calling people to repentance. We don't know exactly how long they have been gone, but these are the instructions that he gave them before they went out:
He called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. He ordered them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; but to wear sandals and not to put on two tunics. He said to them, ‘Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave the place. If any place will not welcome you and they refuse to hear you, as you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them.’ So they went out and proclaimed that all should repent. They cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.

We can presume from all this that they were gone more than a few days – weeks, perhaps even months. A good long time certainly, walking on dusty roads wherever they went in the hot, dry climate of Israel. They have been working hard, these fishers of men. And so Jesus wants to take them away from it all for a while. But the break he is suggesting is not the ancient world's equivalent of a 'mini-break' at some sort of spa-hotel. 'Come away to a deserted place' he says. And the word that is translated here as 'deserted' in used elsewhere in Mark's gospel, in the first chapter, where it is more usually translated as 'wilderness.' And there it refers to the wilderness where John the Baptist preached and the wilderness into which our Lord was driven by the Holy Spirit after his baptism. So already we should be realising that there are spiritual dimensions to this 'time away from it all' that Jesus wants his disciples to take.

And our Lord, of course, does not send them to this 'wilderness place' alone – he goes with them. They are going to a quiet place to spend time with Jesus. After their long, hard weeks of pounding the roads and working hard what the Son of God thinks his followers need is not some time in the local tavern, filling themselves with food and wine; neither is it to lounge on the shores of Galilee, relaxing on the beach in the sun and splashing in the cool water; nor is it to go off to some place they have never seen before and see the sights and learn interesting details about the local culture. It is to go to a desert place and spend time with the Lord.

Something for us to consider, perhaps, at the end of our own working day, or after a long, hard week, or even after many weeks of particularly arduous labour. Is there more to refreshing ourselves than an hour in front of the telly, or a shopping trip in a nearby town, or yet another holiday of sun, sea, and sand? Perhaps true refreshment lies in making a quiet space in our lives to spend time with the Lord. It was what he wanted for his disciples; and as we are his followers also, I can not but think that it is what he wants for us also. Amen
(as I am currently on leave, this is a reprint of a sermon preached 19 July 2015)

Saturday, July 14, 2018

prayer diary Saturday June 14 July 2018

The Pharisees went out and conspired against him, how to destroy him. 
Matthew 12.14

This is something for all Christians to consider, for if the master was hated, why should the servants be surprised if they too face hatred? For the servant is not greater than the master and can expect no better treatment than he.

Friday, July 13, 2018

prayer diary Friday 13 July 2018 (day of discipline & self-denial)

'For the Son of Man is lord of the sabbath.’ 
Matthew 12.8

The Lord's Day is for rest and worship. Necessity can make this difficult for some; but the necessity of the few does not grant license to the many. Consider this in relation to how you spend your own Sundays.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

prayer diary Thursday 12 July 2018

‘Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.' 
Matthew 22. 28

This world is no easy place. But Christ calls us all to him; and those who take up his yoke find peace, for the things of this world can trouble them no more.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

answered prayers

I was talking to a man recently. Let's call him Corky (because that's the name he asked me to use for this). Corky is in a bad way. He suffers from a variety of various fairly serious health problems, affecting not only his quality of life but also his mobility and therefore his independence. And, to add suffering to suffering, he's recently been diagnosed with cancer. Corky is a few years younger than I am. Will he make it to my age? Only God knows.

'A lot of prayers have been said for me,' he told me. 'I've said a lot myself. But they don't seem to be working.'

What he means by this, of course, is that he has not been healed from the diseases that afflict him. And his disappointment is understandable. People of faith know that God can heal our bodies of anything. We read of it in the Bible all the time. When Jesus walked the earth all people had to do was touch the hem of his garment to be cured. And cured they were in their droves. So why them and not us? And why not Corky?

To make matters worse, Corky seems like a genuinely good bloke. He wakes up every morning and gives thanks to God for another day, for the blessing of being able to get up and get dressed and put on his shoes. Before he even gets out of bed he says a prayer, dedicating that day and the remainder of his life to God. When he was well he worked for a charity, helping raise money to help needy children in Africa. His work involved a lot of travelling and meeting people. And a lot of them found a sympathetic ear in Corky for their troubles.

'I suppose they found it easier to talk to a stranger,' he said. 'Sometimes they'd be crying before I left. I'd be crying myself.'

So, a man of faith. A man who has done some good in the world. What could I say to a man like him about his suffering? Only what I say to all who think their prayers go unanswered when they aren't healed – that there's more than one kind of healing. There's physical; but there's also spiritual. The first is always temporary. In the end we all die. But the second has the potential to be eternal if it helps get us right with God. After all, which is more important: relief from the sufferings of this life, however bad they may seem? Or eternal life in the next with the one who created us? The answer, I think, is obvious. It was to Corky, at least.

'Better if we're healed in here,' he said, touching his chest, 'in our souls.'

Afterwards I stopped at a church I was passing and lit a candle for him. I said a prayer for his healing also. I didn't specify which kind. That I left in the hands of God. 

this article appears in today's issue of the Kilkenny Reporter