Tuesday, March 31, 2015

prayer diary Tuesday in Holy Week 2015

Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. 
John 12.24

Christ, being fully human, loved his life as much as any man. Yet he willingly laid it aside for our sakes. Pray that you may never by your actions reject so great a sacrifice.

Monday, March 30, 2015

prayer diary Monday in Holy Week 2015

Jesus said, ‘Leave her alone. She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial. 
John 12. 7

Our Lord well knew that the time of his suffering and death was near. Pray for his grace that you never willingly act to wound our Blessed Saviour further.

Examin Holy Week 2015

During Holy Week we commemorate so many different events in our Salvation History, among them Christ's anointing, his betrayal, the Institution of the Eucharist, his arrest, trial, suffering, and death. Ponder them deeply and prayerfully; the more you take them into your heart, the more you enter into them, the more you grow in your own holiness.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

the Passion Gospel

Each year on Palm Sunday, as well as reading the Gospel of the Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem, we read one of the accounts of our Lord's Passion, the 'Long Gospel.' On this Sunday let us leave Sacred Scripture to speak for itself, which it always does more eloquently than any homily in any case.

Examin Sunday 29 March 201

There is only one week left of Lent, Holy Week. In what way have you observed this penitential season? If you have done nothing at all, why not? Do you think that you, above all others, have no need to heed our Lord's words that those who would follow him must deny themselves and take up their cross? But there is still yet time; just because you did not begin this season well does not mean you can not finish it better than you began.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

a little mole

I've always had something of a horror of moles. The kind you get on your skin, not the cute little ones that burrow underground. When I was a child there was a nice man who lived in our apartment building in New York. A fairly young black man. He used to help my mother carry her shopping up the steep stone steps of the old brownstone we lived in. He always took a shy glance around before he did so; looking back, I wonder if he didn't want people to see him being helpful, that it would have spoiled his image.

One day he wasn't there. After a while I asked my mother. He had died. Cancer. I asked her how he got it. 
- He had a mole, she said. It went funny. 
- Couldn't they do anything about it I asked? 
- No, she said, they caught it too late. 

So I've never really liked moles. It doesn't help that I have my own share of them. First noticed them when I was about four or five. My dad said they were beauty spots. Just as well. I probably would have freaked and thought I was going to die if he'd said they were moles.

By the time I knew what they really were I was old enough not to worry unduly. But when I was about thirty I decided maybe the time had come to part company with some and had a lot of them burned off with a cryo-gun. Some of them weren't completely gone; they left a kind of flat brown mark on the skin. A couple of months back one on my right collar-bone got a bit sore. Probably from the chain of the cross I wear. But still, a touch of the childhood horrors were there. A niggly little voice at the back of my mind said I probably should go to the doctor right away, but put I it off. Pressure of work. You know how it is.

I went in the other day. I had a gap in the schedule, a prescription that needed refilling, one or two other small things that needed looking at. I gave the doctor my wee laundry list. He checked out everything else first. Finally, 
- Off with your shirt says he. He looked at the mole, and one or two others. I steeled myself for his diagnosis.

-Yeah, he said, that's a mole. The others too. Want me to take them off? I've got a cryo-gun. 

It stung like blazes. He did three, then went back and did them all again for good measure. That stung more.
 - You'll probably want to come back so I can see if I need to give them another go. Leave it until after Easter. I know you'll be busy. 
- That's right, I said. I'll be pretty busy over Holy Week. Thanks. 

I left his office not exactly as if I'd had a burden lifted because I hadn't been frightfully worried in the first place. It had been more like a little niggle at the back of my mind. Still, stupid of me to leave it and I'm grateful the news wasn't bad. I really need to be a bit more careful in the future. But the niggling little voice at the back of my mind says 
- Good luck with that!

prayer diary Saturday 28 March 2015 (Day of Discipline and Self-denial)

Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, ‘You know nothing at all! You do not understand that it is better for you to have one man die for the people than to have the whole nation destroyed.’ 
John 11. 49, 50

Caiaphas, in his unwitting prophecy of Christ's death, condemns himself. He seeks to have a man killed in order that peace may be maintained. But it is never permissible to do evil on the grounds that you seek a good end.

Friday, March 27, 2015

a pilgrimage to Jerusalem

May my words be in the Name of the Holy & Undivided Trinity: + Father, Son, & Holy Spirit. Amen.

Our readings today mark the beginning and the end of an extraordinary week in Jerusalem almost 2000 years ago. It began with Jesus' triumphal entry into the city, with people cheering, crying hosanna, and waving palm branches in the air. It ended with the same crowd crying out for his blood, and the man they had cheered being beaten, condemned to death, and dying on a cross.

I'd like to tell you the story of something that could have taken place in between those two days, the story of a Jewish boy living in Greece who had come to Jerusalem for the Passover festival, which was taking place at this time. The boy, let's call him Reuben, was very excited by it all. His mother had worried he was too young for such a long journey and for many weeks he had thought he'd wouldn't be allowed to come. But at last his father had persuaded her and he had set out with his father and another group of men and boys from the city they lived in.

Their family had lived in Greece for many generations. They were part of what was called the diaspora, Jewish people living away from the Holy Land, but still never forgetting who they were, keeping to their religions traditions, and only marrying from among their own community. Because of this, they all dreamed of some day visiting the home country, worshipping in the great temple in Jerusalem, offering sacrifice there, and celebrating the great festival of Passover in the city that all Jewish people wished to do so.

The journey was long and hard. First they had to walk a long distances by road to the port. Then when they got to the sea, they had to find a ship that would take them to the Holy Land. And when they got there, they had to walk many miles more. It was exhausting; early starts every morning, sleeping by the road side or on the floor of some inn, for they were poor people. Ruben wondered at all the Roman soldiers he saw everywhere; for even though Greece was also part of the Roman Empire, soldiers weren't all that common. They were something for the frontiers, the borders of the empire where invasions might occur. Why so many in the Holy Land?

His father told him that this was a troubled land; the Jews hated being under the control of gentiles, people who didn't believe in the One, True God. Because of that, rebellions were always breaking out. Worse, often rebel leaders arose claiming to be the Messiah, the one God had promised would save Israel; people would believe them and follow them only to be destroyed by the Romans.

Ruben found this idea fascinating, the idea of a leader sent by God to rescue his chosen people. Wouldn't it be wonderful to meet such a person? But his father said not to be foolish, it would be too dangerous.

But to Ruben's delight, when they got to Jerusalem the city was buzzing with the news that the Messiah might actually be there! A man called Jesus had been performing all kinds of signs and wonders. People said he healed the sick, drove out demons, raised the dead, walked on water, calmed storms, and had even fed thousands with just a few scraps of bread. He was also a rabbi, a teacher, and what he had to say was deeper and more wonderful than any of the prophets in Sacred Scripture. The religious leaders didn't like him: they said he was a fraud and a blasphemer because he claimed to be the Son of God; but when they tried to argue with him, he always silenced them, winning every discussion with ease. Only a few days earlier the whole city had risen up when he entered the city, greeting him with cries of joy, and breaking branches from trees to wave in the air.

Of course, Ruben wanted to meet him! And even his, father, despite what he said about it being dangerous, couldn't resist the idea of speaking with the Messiah. But how could they, in a city that thronged with tens of thousands of people at the time of the festival, all crowding around Jesus; especially as they were strangers in the city? But then one of his father's friends who had travelled with them, said that one of Jesus' closest followers, called an Apostle, came from a Greek background like them. Well, he had a Greek name, anyway – Philip. Perhaps he would help them?

So they went to him. He said he'd talk with Andrew, another of the Apostles. And together they went off to speak with Jesus. Breathlessly the whole group of Jews who had travelled from Greece watched the two men squeeze through the crowd. From a distance they saw they go up to a man sitting in the middle of a large group of people and speak with him. Ruben supposed this must be Jesus. They waited for Philip to return. But instead he sat down, clearly listening to the rabbi as he began teaching again. They waited a long time, in case he came back to them. Finally, disappointed, they returned to their lodgings.

Perhaps we'll meet him another day, his father told him. But that day never came. Because soon Jesus was arrested, put on trial, and executed in the cruellest way possible, death on a cross. I guess he wasn't the Messiah, said his father; and Ruben agreed. But even before they left the city a few days later to head home to Greece people were saying he had risen from the dead, that he was truly the Son of God, and he was indeed the Messiah.

A few years later, when Ruben was almost fully grown, a man called Paul came to their city in Greece. He was a follower of Jesus and shared his teachings with them, and preached of his resurrection from the dead and how his death had been for the salvation of all mankind. Ruben became a believer in Christ and was baptised, and able to join in the special meal Christians called the Eucharist where after prayers by a priest like Paul bread and wine became the body and blood of Christ.

One day, just after one of these sacramental meals, Ruben told Paul how he had almost met with Jesus in Jerusalem years before, and how disappointed he had been not to.

I'm even more disappointed now, he said. Paul laughed. You think you have never met with Christ? You have met with as much as I have. I never met him face to face either; yet I meet with him every day in prayer, in the reading of Sacred Scripture and his holy Gospel, and especially in the Eucharist when he is present in his body and blood. Christ did not refuse to meet with you that day: he meets with everyone who believes in him and accepts him into their hearts. And he will meet with them in those ways until the end of time itself when they meet with him in heaven and see him standing at the right hand of the Father in glory.

And the disappointment that Ruben was feeling at that moment, and the disappointment he had felt all those years before in Jerusalem, melted away to be replaced with a sense of joy. For he knew what Paul said was true. He had met with Jesus, just as much as any of his Apostles who had walked with him in the Holy Land. He could meet with him any time he wished in prayer, the reading of Scripture, and most importantly in the breaking of the bread. For he knew then that the Lord Jesus will always meet with those who love him and follow him. Amen

as preached/told to the children of the Wandesforde National School on the occasion of their end of term service prior to the Easter holidays. 

prayer diary Friday 27 March 2015 (Day of Discipline and Self-denial)

‘It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you, but for blasphemy, because you, though only a human being, are making yourself God.’ 
John 10.33

Some try to pick and chose what they will accept about Christ's teaching. Yet it can not be so. To reject part of what he teaches is to reject him.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

prayer diary Thursday 26 March 2015 (Day of Discipline and Self-denial)

'Very truly, I tell you, whoever keeps my word will never see death.’ 
John 8.51

Here Christ binds his promise of eternal life to obedience to his word. We must then ask his grace to do his will; and, truly repenting, ask his pardon when we fail.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

solar eclipse

Some people found last Friday's solar eclipse something of a non-event because they couldn't see what was happening through the clouds. Some even wrote letters of complaint to the papers - although what good they thought that would do, I can only imagine. Perhaps they they thought the power of the press extends to the forces of nature!

Now, I'll admit that when the day dawned grey and overcast my own spirits sank somewhat. Nonetheless, when eight-thirty came around, the time we were told it would all kick off, I went hopefully into the garden and scanned the skies, hoping for a break in the clouds, or at least a sufficient thinning that would allow me a shadowy glimpse of the great event. But if anything they seemed thicker and so, disappointed, I returned indoors and got on with the morning routine of making school lunches and getting children out the door on time. 

A little later, children gone and peace reigning, I sat by my bedroom window to read my morning office. I was struck by how dark it was; I needed to turn on the lamp to see the pages clearly. And then, before I could begin, I noticed something else: bird-song. I looked up and out the window at the darkening landscape, now as dim as any twilight, but somehow very different with the light coming from above rather than the horizon; the almost surreal half-light filled with music from the trees and hedgerows, as nature's choristers were tricked by the gloom into thinking this day would have a second dawn.

Later still, prayers said, I walked the short distance from my home to the local school, surrounded by bird-song and ghostly light. There was beauty in the strangeness of it all and I was utterly charmed. Did I ever see the moon covering the face of the sun? Alas, no. Was I disappointed by my experience of the solar eclipse? Definitely not. It was a wondrous occasion, and one the memory of which I will treasure.

the anniversary of my mother

Today is the second anniversary of my mother's death. 
May perpetual light shine upon her; may she, and all the faithful departed, rest in peace to rise in glory. 

Please, of your charity, say a prayer for her happy repose.

Thank you.

prayer diary Wednesday 25 March 2015 The Annunciation of our Lord (Day of Discipline and Self-denial)

Mary said, ‘Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.’ Then the angel departed from her. 
Luke 1. 38

Did God need Mary? No, for he might have chosen another way to bring about our salvation. But he did not so choose, and so we must give thanks for Mary's 'fiat,' her 'let it be with me according to your word;' for by her obedience did God's plan for our salvation begin.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

the wisdom of the ages

Interesting to read the suggestion that some 'older people' are being re-educated out of their fuddy-duddy old ideas and values (particularly those related to sexual morality) by their 'own adult children.'  Now there's progress for you! It used to be that it was the older generation who passed on their wisdom to the younger; but the times, clearly, are a-changing. 

I wonder will those who think themselves wise in this generation be just as happy to sit and learn at the feet of their own children when the time comes - and discover that all their modern values (what is currently modern, that is) have become old-fashioned nonsense? That day must surely come; you cannot, after all, stop progress!

prayer diary Tuesday 24 March 2015 (Day of Discipline and Self-denial)

(Jesus said) 'I told you that you would die in your sins, for you will die in your sins unless you believe that I am he.’ 
John 8.24

Again Jesus speaks of sin; and again he speaks of being the way to the forgiveness of sins. Draw near him, and draw others with you, that salvation may be yours.

Monday, March 23, 2015

prayer diary Monday 23 March 2015 (Day of Discipline and Self-denial)

And Jesus said, ‘Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again.’
John 8. 11

Jesus is merciful. But neither does he condone sin, nor is he afraid to call it what it is.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

‘Sir, we wish to see Jesus.’

May my words be in the Name of the Holy & Undivided Trinity: + Father, Son, & Holy Spirit. Amen.

There is in today's Gospel a couple of verses that might almost slip past unnoticed: Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, ‘Sir, we wish to see Jesus. Who were these men?

Well for a start, they almost certainly were not Greeks, not in the sense that we would mean that to be, Hellenists of Greek ancestry. The clue to that is in the fact that they had come up to Jerusalem to worship at the time of the festival, the Jewish Passover. They could perhaps have been what are sometimes termed 'God-fearers. ' These were gentiles who were attracted to the religion of the Jews, especially its strong and unyielding moral code. It was unlikely that they would convert – the dietary laws, strict monotheism, and, for men in particular, the requirement to be circumcised generally proved too great a barrier for most. But they did wish to learn all they could about this strange and ancient faith, one that often provided answers where other religions only had questions – or indeed often raised endlessly more questions if you took what it had to say about the gods seriously.

But far more likely that they were Jews living in the Greek part of the Roman Empire, part of the diaspora. The Jews, as you know I'm sure, had spread out into all of the known world, and had communities everywhere. Think of the missionary journeys of St Paul: the great Apostle generally went from Jewish to community to Jewish community, beginning his work of evangelisation first among those of his own people, using them as a base, and then moving out from them into the gentile communities.

Now the members of the diaspora were not generally people who had been born in Israel and moved away for business reasons and were back and forth to the home country on a regular basis. A few might have been born in Israel; and a few might have been wealthy enough to afford the high costs of frequent long distant travel, both in terms of time and money; but most would have been born in gentile lands and been brought in Jewish enclaves there and a trip 'home' to Israel would have been a rare, once in a life-time event. Think of the many people of Irish descent today, who dream of someday making a visit to the 'old country' where their ancestors came from; or indeed Christians who make a pilgrimage to the holy land, something that most will only be able to afford once in their lives.

So these were most likely the Greeks St John the Evangelist is speaking of. They have arrived in Jerusalem, having spent years imagining it, dreamt of walking in the courts and precincts of the great Temple, offering sacrifice there, and celebrating Passover in the place where all pious Jews of the time wished to celebrate it. They would have expected great crowds, travelers from all over Israel and all over the known world; but they found more. They found a city buzzing with strange news – that perhaps the Messiah walked among them. Only days before Lazarus had been raised from the dead by a man called Jesus; and this Jesus had entered Jerusalem to a heroes welcome from a cheering crowd who shouted 'Hosanna' and waved palm branches in the air. The air would have been thick with tales of this man, of the signs and wonders he had done – healing the sick, feeding the multitudes, walking on water, calming storms, driving out demons. And these men would surely have wondered if what would have been a once in a lifetime trip for any Jew living in the diaspora was instead a once in a lifetime experience for any person living – to meet and talk with the One promised by God from long ago, the Messiah.

But how to meet him, with so many thronging about the place? And then they learn that one of his closest followers, Philip, is a man of Greek background like themselves – for Philip, in case you didn't know is a Greek name. Perhaps he could help them? So they approach him, make their request that they might see Jesus and then watch breathlessly as he goes first to Andrew and then with him go to Jesus.

And then comes the reason why I said at the beginning that these men and their request might almost slip by unnoticed – because they are never mentioned again by the Evangelist. What happens next is that Jesus begins talking, and if these pilgrims ever got to meet and talk with Jesus privately we will never know, because St John never mentions it. Presumably they have not.

But that is not the same as saying that as far as we know our Lord simply ignored their request altogether. Because I think his answer was more profound than a mere 'why yes gentleman, come over and see me.' These men asked to see Jesus, and see him they did; not in the manner they asked for, by way of a private audience; and not simply as so many others would have seen him that day, from a distance and amongst the crowds. No, they are allowed to see and meet with him as we do: by hearing the Gospel message – by learning of his teaching, by hearing of the signs and wonders he performed. Was this not the reason that they asked to meet him in the first place?

St Paul, for example, never as far as we know met with Jesus face to face while he walked this earth. True, it is possible that he saw him from amongst the crowd; perhaps he even was on the fringes of the trial that condemned to death in some way. But a meeting such as these Greek Jews asked for was something he was denied also; and yet if anyone had said to him that he had never met Jesus he would have laughed at them. And later when he began his missionary journeys, preaching and teaching in the very towns and cities that those who were in pilgrims there that day in Jerusalem, the converts he was soon to make in that gentile world also knew that they had met with the Lord Jesus. Perhaps some of those converts were taken from among the men we read of in our Gospel today? They would have known then that their request was not denied or ignored; they would have known that they had truly met with the Lord Jesus, just as we do we hear his Gospel message, speak with him in prayer, and partake of his body and blood in the Holy Eucharist. How privileged are we, who can meet with our Lord and Saviour whenever we wish, every day, and every moment of every day. For he refuses no one who will welcome him into their hearts. Amen

Examin Sunday 22 March 2015

The new secular orthodoxy proclaims that faith is a private thing and tries to exclude it from public debate. Yet, as St Paul tells us in Romans, God's law is written in nature and is plain for all to see. Therefore the values that Christians wish to see reflected in society are not some alien construct but plain common sense. We are obliged then to speak out on all occasions; to not to do so is not only to fail to proclaim God's truth, but to fail to share that truth with those who need most to hear it.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

prayer diary Saturday 21 March 2015 (Day of Discipline and Self-denial)

Nicodemus ..., asked ‘Our law does not judge people without first giving them a hearing to find out what they are doing, does it?’ 
John 7. 50, 51

Nicodemus was mocked and threatened for asking that Christ be given a fair hearing. Today many try to silence Christians when they try to speak to the issues of our day; but we must not be silent. For the sake of those who wish to hear us least, we must do our best to let them hear God's word.

Friday, March 20, 2015

prayer diary Friday 20 March 2015 (Day of Discipline and Self-denial)

Now some of the people of Jerusalem were saying, ‘Is not this the man whom they are trying to kill? And here he is, speaking openly,' 
John 7. 25,26

We live again in an age of red martyrdom, when men and women die daily for the faith. Their courage in the face of violent and bloody death should give us the courage to speak our faith boldly, we who face no worse than the scorn of those who proclaim the new secular orthodoxies for speaking God's truths.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

catching up

I had lunch with an old friend today. We hadn't seen each other in around 25 years, not since we were both military broadcasters in Lajes Field, in the Azores (think 'Good Morning Vietnam' without the screaming and the shooting and the screaming). His daughter was dancing in the St Patrick's day parade in Cork, and being only nine naturally she couldn't come without mom and dad ... etc, etc ... and so, before you know it, we were sitting in the very nice Cathedral Cafe in Kilkenny talking over old times and wondering where the years had gone.

Alas, we are unable to say we look no different to when we last met. However, we took consolation in the fact that at least we both still had hair (even if mine looks almost white in the photo ... but I think that it's just a trick of the light ... black with a few strands of grey is what I see when I look in the mirror ... and that, I tell you, is the acid test!).

I often disparage Facebook. But today I have reason to be grateful for it. The past may be a land we can never visit again; but we can at least meet and talk with those who traveled there with us and remember what made that now faraway land so special and do our best to keep it alive in our memories. 

prayer diary Thursday 19 March 2015 St Joseph (Day of Discipline and Self-denial)

An angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, ‘Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you.' 
Matthew 2. 13

St Joseph listened to the voice of God and so saved the Christ-child. Thus he played his part in ensuring the Gospel message was shared with all the world. God calls us all to a role in sharing his word; what is yours?

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

prayer diary Wednesday 18 March 2015 (Day of Discipline and Self-denial)

'Very truly, I tell you, the hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live.'
John 5.25

Who are the dead of whom Jesus speaks here but the spiritually dead, who will be born to eternal life if they will but listen to him? Listen well to his words that you may yourself have that life within you.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

prayer diary Tuesday 17 March 2015 St Patrick's Day (Day of Discipline and Self-denial)

Jesus said to them, ‘My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work.' 
John 4.34

St Patrick knew that man does not live by bread alone. He shared the word of God and bread of life with the people of Ireland and began the work that won this land for Christ for generations to come. The people of this land still must be fed; all must work to share with other the spiritual nourishment needed by their souls.

Monday, March 16, 2015

prayer diary Monday 16 March 2015 (Day of Discipline and Self-denial)

The royal official went and begged him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death. Then Jesus said to him, ‘Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.’ 
 John 4. 47, 48

How many of us think our prayers have not been answered when we do not get what we want? Remember that prayer is most times more about gaining the grace to accept your lot than it is about changing it.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Mothering Sunday

May my words be in the Name of the Holy & Undivided Trinity: + Father, Son, & Holy Spirit. Amen.

Today is Mothering Sunday, perhaps known more popularly these days as Mothers' Day. It is commonly celebrated with, at the very least, the sending of a card or the making of a long distance phone call, perhaps some flowers, or even lunch in a nice restaurant. Those whose children are still small may be obliged to smile and pretend amazement and delight as they are presented with a breakfast in bed consisting of burnt toast, weak tea, and a plate of eggs which it is impossible to decide if they are scrambled, an omelette, or particularly broken and battered fried ones. That this was most likely prepared by her loving husband on behalf of their children only adds to the joy of the occasion.

Interestingly, Mothering Sunday had little to do with our flesh and blood biological mothers originally, except almost as an accidental afterthought. It began with the practice of returning to one's 'Mother Church' – either the local cathedral, or some large church in the area – on the fourth Sunday of Lent. To do so was to have gone 'a-mothering.' The idea of seeing the Church as a mother to the children of God is quite an ancient one; as is shown by the statement of the third century bishop of Carthage St Cyprian 'you cannot have God for your Father if you do not have the Church for your mother.' In order to allow people to go a-mothering, many people who worked away from home, particularly servants, were given the Sunday off; naturally enough they took advantage of the visit to their home parish to spend some time with their family, especially their mothers, perhaps picking some wild flowers along the road home for to present her with, and so what was originally a religious holiday grew into what we have today, which is really more of a sweet occasion on which we celebrate motherhood.

So, as I said earlier, the connection between Mothering Sunday and actual mothers came about almost by accident. But perhaps it was inevitable that that connection should be made. After all, just as the symbolism of the words 'Our Father' in the Lord's Prayer would have little impact if it were not for the importance that biological fathers have in the life of their children, so also the concept of the Church being as a mother to us would be devoid of meaning if it were not for the special bond that exists between a mother and her child. The uniqueness of that bond is beautifully expressed in the words I have heard so often spoken to bereaved adult children at the funeral of their mothers 'you only have one mother.' The meaning behind the words are clear: 'it is understandable for you to grieve now, even though you are grown yourself, and perhaps your children are grown; and this woman was of a great age, and her passing was a happy release for her; despite all that, there is nothing wrong with your grief, for this was your mother, and she is now gone from you. This is someone with whom you had a relationship of a kind you can have with no other. For she bore you within her very body for many months; her blood and your blood were one, her heartbeat your first lullaby; in pain that she welcomed she brought you forth into the world; and fed you with the milk of her own body. She was the one you cried out for when frightened in the night; she was the one who cared for you all the years when you could not care for yourself; and even when you could, she did not cease to love you up until the moment of her last breath and heartbeat. It is a love that you will carry with you to your own grave; even as she has carried that love for you from this life to the next.'

It is that understanding of what our mother truly is to us that underpins the idea of the church being like a mother to us. For the role of the Church is to nurture God's children from the moment they are born into the church-family all through the journey of faith that is their life until the moment when they pass from the ranks of the Church militant here on earth into the ranks of the Church triumphant in heaven. The Church is the body of Christ, and it was Christ himself who said that he longed to gather the children of Jerusalem together, as a mother-hen gathers her chicks under her wings. The Church is the new Jerusalem as we are told in Revelation. And so this Mothering Sunday, even as we show extra appreciation to our earthly mothers, or hold in our prayers those mothers who have gone before us, let us also remember with love and gratitude our Mother the Church, that body which was founded by Christ himself to nurture us all our days. Amen

Examin Sunday 15 March 2015

Christ made it clear that the moral law of the Old Testament was very much to obeyed by those who followed him, condemning those who taught otherwise, and praising those obeyed his teaching on this. The summary of this moral law is the ten commandments; therefore it is a good thing for all Christians to read them regularly, perhaps once a week, and consider how they may have offended against that law. Read them slowly and carefully, thinking about all the teaching they encompass. Remember, for example, how Christ taught that 'thou shalt not kill' also precluded anger; and that 'thou shalt not commit adultery' was also a command towards absolute purity. And having examined your conscience in this manner, do not then neglect to confess your sins to God and ask his pardon.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

prayer diary Saturday 14 March 2015 (Day of Discipline and Self-denial)

But the tax-collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” 
Luke 18.13

The one who knows he is a sinner and repents is worthier in the sight of God than the one who thinks himself worthy, no matter how blameless his life may appear. Therefore, repent; for you are, as are we all, a sinner.

Friday, March 13, 2015

prayer diary Friday 13 March 2015 (Day of Discipline and Self-denial)

'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.” 
Mark 12. 30

Christ taught that this was the greatest of all the commandments. And it is a hard one to live out, for it seems to compete with love of self or family, even of life itself. But it does not; for it is from love of God that all love flows, for God is love. And anything you think of as love is not love at all if it is not of God.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

prayer diary Thursday 12 March 2015 (Day of Discipline and Self-denial)

But some of them said, ‘He casts out demons by Beelzebul, the ruler of the demons,’ 
Luke 11.15

The evils of the world are so entrenched in some that they take comfort in declaring the good to be wicked. Do not let his distress you; for if it happened to Christ, why should it not also happen to you?

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

prayer diary Wednesday 11 March 2015 (Day of Discipline and Self-denial)

‘Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfil.'  
Matthew 5.17

The moral law of the Old Testament did not end with Christ. Indeed, he warned against those who taught that it did; and assured us that those who continued to teach this law would be blessed in heaven.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

prayer diary Tuesday 10 March 2015 (Day of Discipline and Self-denial)

'You wicked slave! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. Should you not have had mercy on your fellow-slave, as I had mercy on you?' 
Matthew 23.32,33

How many today call on God to forgive them? How many even think anything they do as needing forgiveness? Is this then the reason so many are slow to forgive others?

Monday, March 9, 2015


People sometimes ask why their prayers for the healing of a loved one are not answered. What they mean, of course, is why hasn't the person been cured of the disease that afflicts them. It is a serious question; for the truth is, that while miraculous cures do occur, they are seemingly rare. But another truth is that even though a cure has not occurred, that does not mean that healing has not taken place. We are creatures of body, mind, and spirit and healing can take place on all these levels. Healing can encompass gaining the strength to deal with the bodily pain that illness can bring, the peace of mind needed to face our continued frailty or even approaching death, and the opportunity to draw nearer to God or perhaps even return to him if we had fallen away in the past. To be cured of what ails us is a wonderful thing and certainly something to be prayed for. But in the end, all cures are temporary, for we are mortal and at the last we all must die. But true healing offers something permanent; for it has the potential to last us into eternity. 

prayer diary Monday 9 March 2015 (Day of Discipline and Self-denial)

'Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in the prophet’s home town.' 
Luke 4.24

Once the countries that made up our society were called Christendom; essentially Christ's kingdom, where every town and village was that of Christ. Is that why, then, he is so little heeded today?

Sunday, March 8, 2015

a cord of whips

May my words be in the Name of the Holy & Undivided Trinity: + Father, Son, & Holy Spirit. Amen.

Today's Gospel deals with the cleansing of the Temple, where our Lord drives the dealers in money and animals from the temple courts. It is a passage that, to be frank, that some people are a little uncomfortable with. It is not that our Lord is showing emotion; they are happy enough to know that he wept at the tomb of his friend Lazarus; or that he clearly liked to have a bit of a laugh and a joke, as displayed when he called Simon 'Peter' or Rock – Rocky if you will – and James and John 'The sons of thunder'; or even that he knew fear and anguish, as displayed in the Garden of Gethsemane during his agony in the Garden as he waited for his enemies to come and arrest him and for his torture and slow, cruel death to begin.

No, what they are uncomfortable with is that he is angry, an emotion we generally like to consider as negative; and that he then moves on from anger and uses physical force to drive those who have made God's house into a den of robbers out of that sacred space.

So, first let us make it clear that anger is not always to be seen as a negative thing. There is such a thing as righteous anger. This is the emotion that we get when we seen wrongs being done, various kinds of injustices; and it serves a good purpose when it spurs us on to speak out or act against the evils in the world around us. So for example if we were in a restaurant and we were to witness a member of staff refusing to serve a black man or a Muslim woman with the words 'we don't deal with your kind here,' then the natural anger that burned in our hearts would be righteous anger, and we would be more than justified in standing up and speaking out to support the person being discriminated against, calling for the manager, suggesting to all others present that they walk out should the manager affirm the biased behaviour, and indeed going further and taking the issue to the authorities or local media.

What our Lord witnessed that day in the temple falls into the same category. There he was, standing in what was then the holiest place in the known world – all the holier, I might add, because at that very moment God himself, the one to whom all this worship was being offered, stood amongst them in the form of Christ, the second person of the blessed Trinity, had they but known it – and finds it little better than a cattle market, with the sacred precincts filled with the cries of the animals and the men who drove them on, people haggling prices over the poor creatures while standing on the ground covered in their filth, the stench of it drowning out the incense from the temple, while all the while the money changers fumbled at their greasy tills nearby, raking in their profits from the piety of others.

The sight of it made Christ angry; which is to say it made God angry, that it was an offence before his eyes. It was more than righteous anger, it was holy anger, divine anger; and so our Lord made a cord of whips. But do not mistake what he did for some kind of random violence; this was more in the line of a prophetic gesture. The temple courts were huge, the throngs of people immense; one man could not drive them all out. And if he had caused serious injury to any, soldiers would have been called or the temple police and Christ would have been thrown out at best or into prison at the worst.

But instead of calling for the authorities, or indeed rising up against him in a mob and taking matters into their own hands, they ask him for a sign, to justify to them what it is that he is doing, to make sense of it for them. They may not understand what he is doing, but they recognise righteous anger when they see it and doubtless recognise the truth of his words and know they should not be using a holy place for worldly dealings; and they recognise a prophetic gesture when they see it, and know that the one making it is a holy man, calling them to change their ways.

So what message might we take this Lent from our Lord's righteous anger and prophetic intervention at seeing God's Holy Temple profaned? We do not, after all, allow any of the churches in this parish to be used as a cattle mart; and indeed, I think in general people know quite well how to behave themselves when in the House of God, and also how to gently correct others when they occasionally slip in that regard.

But we might consider how public Jesus is being about what he is doing. Clearly the idea that faith is a 'private thing,' something to be kept to yourself, seldom mentioned, and not allowed to intrude into 'real life' things such as buying and selling, is not for him; not for him the idea that people of faith need to keep quiet about their beliefs and not mention them in public and certainly not use them as way of trying to shape public debate. Think what his last words to his disciples were: go out and make disciples of all nations. Is that something that can be done by keeping faith private?

There was nothing private about what Jesus did that day. And so perhaps the message for us today is not to be afraid to be a little bit more public about our faith, a little bit prouder of the fact that we are Christians, a little bit slower to back down when people try to accuse us of trying to force our faith on them – indeed, secularists often do so to make it all the easier to force their views on us … and if we fail to challenge them, then their secularist philosophy, which not only is far from being a 'neutral' option, but is also often openly hostile to both faith and the religious rights of others, will prevail. Christ wasn't afraid or ashamed to publicly proclaim God's word; and neither should we. Amen

Saturday, March 7, 2015

prayer diary Saturday 7 March 2015 (Day of Discipline and Self-denial)

And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, ‘This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.’ 
Luke 15. 2

Great is the irony of those men's words. For they saw no reason that Jesus should not welcome or eat with them. And yet they also were sinners, as are we all.

Friday, March 6, 2015

God's stories

I was in with the children of the local school today, talking about Jesus washing the feet of his disciples (today is the International Day of prayer and that's the theme chosen for this year). I told it in story form, of course – children love stories – tracing Jesus' journey to Jerusalem, about how he was going there to suffer and die, about how he had told his disciples all about this, and how then, with all this in the atmosphere, he had knelt at the feet of his followers, taken the role of the humblest of servants, and washed their feet. And, naturally, I brought along a basin and some towels to do a little foot-washing of my own, to the delight of all!

As I said, children love stories. And the Bible is full of stories. Isn't it interesting that God speaks to us, who are his children, so much by way of stories? I would suggest a person could learn more about God's love and power and plan for how we should live from one story in the Bible than from a stack of theology books. Why wouldn't we? Children learn best from stories; and these are stories told us by us by God our Father.

That should alert us to a danger – the danger of biblical illiteracy, of people not knowing the stories because they don't read the Bible. And the danger of our children not knowing the stories because they are told them seldom, if at all. 

Parents shouldn't rely on the job being done for them in school or Sunday school or by the snippets heard in church of a Sunday. Hearing the Bible a fragment here and a fragment there is a bit like trying to watch a movie by seeing the occasional short clip in random order. You've no idea where it fits in to the overall story; and out of context it can be quite meaningless. So read the Bible to them. And if it seems like hard work, then good; a bit of humble service never hurt anyone. You only have to look to the example of Jesus if you don't believe me.

prayer diary Friday 6 March 2015 (Day of Discipline and Self-denial)

‘The works that the Father has given me to complete, the very works that I am doing, testify on my behalf that the Father has sent me.' 
John 5. 36

It sometimes seems impossible for us to understand how anyone can reject Christ. Yet even in his own day there were those who were witnesses to his deeds of power who refused to believe in him. Those who chose unbelief can always find a reason for doing so, whatever age they live in.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

prayer diary Thursday 5 March 2015 (Day of Discipline and Self-denial)

Abraham said to him, 'If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.' 
Luke 16.31

The parable of Dives and Lazarus tells us of a man who learns too late the error of his ways. The tragedy is that Dives had in this life all he needed to gain eternal life. We stand in the place of his brothers and therefore must ask ourselves if we will make the same mistake as he.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

prayer diary Wednesday 4 March 2015 (Day of Discipline and Self-denial)

‘Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?’ They said to him, ‘We are able.’ He said to them, ‘You will indeed drink my cup.' 
Matthew 20. 22,23

Christ offers his cup of suffering to all who would be his disciple. Those who accept it must deny themselves and take up their cross. For some this means persecution or even a martyr's crown; but for all it means being faithful even unto death.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

set always before you the image of the Crucified

Be mindful of the purpose you have embraced, and set always before you the image of the Crucified. Good cause have you to be ashamed in looking upon the life of Jesus Christ, seeing you have not as yet endeavored to conform yourself more unto Him, though you have been a long time in the way of God. A religious person that exercises himself seriously and devoutly in the most holy life and passion of our Lord, shall there abundantly find whatsoever is profitable and necessary for him; neither shall he need to seek any better thing, besides Jesus.

Imitation of Christ, by Thomas á Kempis: Book 1, Chapter 25

prayer diary Tuesday 3 March 2015 (Day of Discipline and Self-denial)

'All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted.' 
Matthew 23.12

Reflection: The Christian must be humble because he knows himself to be a sinner, in need of God's mercy and forgiveness. Through that humility comes the only true exaltation: to be welcomed at the last into the presence of our Creator.

Monday, March 2, 2015

the Dawkins Delusion

There's an interesting article in the Irish Times today, reprinted from the Financial Times, on the topic of the tendency people have to brag about themselves by retweeting complimentary tweets posted by others. The author, Lucy Kellaway, dubs the phenomenon 'the thirdpartybrag.'

What piqued my interest was not the tweeting, something I have no interest in. No, what caught my attention in particular were two lines. The first was 'a particularly prolific thirdpartybragger is the British scientist Richard Dawkins'; and the second 'has thirdpartybragging damaged the scientist’s considerable brain?' 

What struck me was how she referred to him; not the fact she called him a 'thirdpartybragger,' which she is perfectly entitled to do, and if he doesn't like it let him take to twitter and express his outrage (or perhaps wait for someone else to do so and then retweet it). Nor that he has a considerable brain which, even though I disagree with him on many things, he clearly has (considerable in the sense that he evidently a very intelligent man; I'm not suggesting that I think his brain is larger than usual, thereby giving him a very big head). No, it was the fact that she referred to him as a scientist.

Now, as far as I am aware, this gentleman pretty much became a full-time promoter of his own particular philosophy years ago; so wouldn't it be more correct to refer to him as a former-scientist? I mean, he doesn't teach science, he doesn't engage in research, and he doesn't advance the cause of scientific knowledge by publishing in distinguished peer-reviewed journals; but he does write books, give lectures, and make public appearances to further the cause of atheism. Can it be correct to still call him a scientist?

There surely must come a time when it is appropriate to refer to a person by their current occupation rather than their previous. So shouldn't he be called, if one is determined to drag his academic past in every mention of the man (which I know many of his fans, including himself, are), something like 'professional-atheist and former scientist Richard Dawkins' (if I'm mistaken and he still does a little science work, the phrase 'part-time scientist' could be used instead)? A little more cumbersome but I would think far more accurate. 

If I was into twitter, this is an idea I could tweet and see what the twitter-verse thought. Who knows, perhaps Richard Dawkins might even re-tweet it? Although I think probably not; 
after all, that would be less a third-party-brag and more a third-party-slag. And why would he want to do that?

prayer diary Monday 2 March 2015 (Day of Discipline and Self-denial)

'Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned.' 
Luke 6.36

This does not mean we do not teach what the Church has always taught, for the Church teaches what she was given by Christ. But it behooves us to remember that part of that teaching is that judgement is the prerogative of the Lord, the one who did not decline to sit at table with all manner of sinners.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Get thee behind me, Satan

May my words be in the Name of the Holy & Undivided Trinity: + Father, Son, & Holy Spirit. Amen.

It must have been quite a shock for St Peter when our Lord turned to him and said: 'Get thee behind me, Satan!' It would have been a stunningly harsh rebuke from a master to one of his most faithful followers at the best of times. But this was coming just moments after what we read about in Matthew 16, where Jesus asked all his disciples: 'who do people say that I am?' The others stumbled and stuttered over their replies, saying what they heard; and then Jesus asked them 'but who do you say that I am?' And it was St Peter alone who gave the answer: You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.’ Of them all, it was only St Peter who not only recognised who Jesus was, but wasn't afraid to say it out loud, in front of witnesses.

And how pleased St Peter must have been by his master's response. For Jesus answered him by saying: ‘Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.’ 

What a moment for St Peter! He has just been blessed by the Messiah and Son of God publicly in front of all the disciples; he has been told that God himself has given him the knowledge needed to recognise and declare who he is, in other words telling him he is a man of great holiness, one who is favoured by God himself for a direct and personal revelation; he is given a special new name by Christ – Peter or rock – and told that on that rock he would build his Church and that the rock of Peter's faith was so secure a foundation that all the powers of evil that exist could do nothing to bring it down; and then he ends by giving him what is often called the power of the keys, saying that whatever he binds on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever he looses on earth will be loosed in heaven, words indicative that great authority was to be given to him.

St Peter must have been on a real emotional high; which would his fall all the greater when our Lord looked at him and said: 'Get thee behind me Satan!' One moment he is holy and blessed; the next he is the devil incarnate! Why did our Lord speak so harshly to him? It was because even though St Peter had not long before had spoken words inspired by the Father of us all, he was now speaking words inspired by the one who was the Father of Lies from the beginning. When St Peter called Jesus the Messiah and Son of God, he spoke of heavenly things; but when he spoke of trying to prevent our Lord going to Jerusalem for his passion and death his perspective was totally of this world. 

Remember how in St Luke's Gospel the evangelist says that after Satan had tempted Jesus in the wilderness and failed that he left him 'until an opportune time'? This was the opportune time and St Peter was his unwitting agent. He was again tempting our Lord, tempting him not to take up his cross, not to suffer and die for the salvation of us all. We know from the account of our Lord's agony in the garden of Gethsemane while he kept lonely vigil while he waited for his enemies to come and arrest him that he had no greater desire to be tortured and endure a painful death than any other man – 'Father, if you will, let this cup pass from me,' he prayed, his agony in those moments so great that sweat fell from him like drops of blood. But even in that time of suffering his response was that of simple obedience: 'but not my will, but thine be done.' And poor St Peter, well-intentioned though he doubtless thought himself, was actually attempting to persuade him to disobey the will of the Father. How aptly it has been said on so many occasions that the road to hell is paved with good intentions; and how many times have people, thinking they are being kind and compassionate, have pointed others along that road, when they should have instead given them the sometimes hard to hear answer that no matter how difficult you may find it, there is a toll to be paid for those who would walk the road to heaven, and that toll is to deny yourself and take up your cross.

No doubt St Peter was humbled in that moment. And we know that it was to be quite a while before he understood what his master was about. He didn't understand when he abandoned Jesus in the Garden; he didn't understand when he denied even knowing him three times in the courtyard that night; he didn't understand when he stood, wide-mouthed with amazement, before the empty tomb on Easter morning, he didn't understand while he huddled with all the rest in an upper room for fear of the Jews after the Ascension. He didn't really being to understand until the day of Pentecost when he was filled with the Holy Spirit and went out and boldly proclaimed the word from that day on until the day of his death in Rome many years later. From that moment on he understood that to do the will of the Father sometimes involves hardship, suffering, perhaps even death, at the last literally taking up a cross of his own to die a martyrs death; but knew it was worth it; because he knew that it profits a man nothing to gain the whole world if by so doing they forfeit eternal life.

Therefore let us make this Lent a time of strengthening ourselves to resist the temptations of the world that we may,like our Lord and like St Peter, take up our cross that we may gain for ourselves the crown of eternal life. Amen

Examin Sunday 1 Mar 2015

The sin of our first parents was to use their God-given free-will to be disobedient towards God. The result is that all mankind since has had a propensity for sin. But the same free-will that allows us to sin also allows us to repent and turn back to God. Make this season of Lent a season of turning to God and turning from sin. Through prayer and the use of the intelligence God gave you discern where it is that you struggle most to obey his will. Remember that sin is not simply what you 'feel' bad about; look to the Sacred Scriptures and Church teaching for guidance as to how it is that you sin. Then, praying for strength to turn away from all that has tempted you in the past, use your free will to decide that you will turn your back on them for-evermore.