Wednesday, September 30, 2015

prayer diary Wednesday 30 September 2015

Jesus said to him, ‘No one who puts a hand to the plough and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.’ 
Luke 9. 62

Many say to God 'I will serve you' and then allow the cares of this life distract them; soon their life is no different to what it was before. Always remember that you were created for and called to God's kingdom. Let nothing prevent you from getting there.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

prayer diary Tuesday 29 September 2015 (St Michael and all Angels)

War broke out in heaven; Michael and his angels fought against the dragon. The dragon and his angels fought back, but they were defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. 
Revelation 12. 7,8

We may well give thanks to St Michael and all the angels this day for the witness of their fidelity to God. We should also tremble at the fate of all those who will not do God's will.

Monday, September 28, 2015

prayer diary Monday 28 September 2015

An argument arose among them as to which one of them was the greatest. But Jesus, aware of their inner thoughts, took a little child and put it by his side. 
Luke 9.46, 47

God sees our secret thoughts and knows how we sin in our hearts. Heed the Gospel message and ask for the grace to be pure in thought, as well as in word and deed. 

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Queen Esther and Divine Providence

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

Our Old Testament reading from the book Esther is a good example of what it means to be responsible for the safety and well-being of others, even if doing so involves great personal risk. It is perhaps necessary for me to give a short summary of the story as, sadly, I fear there may be some here for whom the story is not entirely familiar.

It is a story of courage, and daring, and intrigue; of great risks taken and evil plots overthrown; a tale where the stakes could not be higher – the lives of hundreds of thousands of people. It is set at a time when many of the children of Israel as a result of war no longer live within the boundaries of the Promised Land. They are dispersed among the lands of those who conquered them, first the Babylonians, and then the Medes and Persians who conquered the conquerors. And just as Daniel became a person of importance at the court of King Nebuchadnezzar, so also does the Jew Mordecai become someone who is valued by the king of his time, Ahasuerus; in this case Mordecai uncovered a plot to assassinate the king and so Ahasuerus owes him his life.

The person who is second only to the king in all the empire is Haman, a man full of pride and ambition. He hates Mordecai, because he, alone of all men, will not bow before him. He does not care that this is not intended as a slight towards his honour and dignity and that the reason that Mordecai will not bow is that he is a faithful Jew and will not treat any man as if he were a God. But with a sinful pride that mirrors that of Satan himself, Haman can not bear that even a single man does not treat him as he thinks he deserves.

So, driven by his irrational hatred, he determines to destroy not only Mordecai, but all the Jews dwelling within the borders of the empire. He proceeds with cunning; Mordecai has saved the king's life after all. So Haman goes to the king and deceives him; he tells him that there is a people dwelling within the empire who are dangerous to its safety and security, a people who will not obey its laws. He does not, of course, tell the king that they are the people of Mordecai, the man who had saved his life. He asks for permission to root out and destroy this threat to the peace and stability of the empire; and the king, trusting the man who is second only to him, gives him the authority to proceed as he sees fit.

So a decree goes out, in the name of the king, that on a certain day all the Jews are to be killed – man, woman, and child. Mordecai learns of the plan and determines to do what he can to save his people. There is one slim hope for survival; his niece Esther. For unbeknownst to Haman, or anyone else, she is the queen. And this was a more slender hope than one might think. Firstly because a decree of the king was irrevocable, even by himself; and secondly for anyone to appear before the king unless summoned the penalty was death, even for the queen, unless he chose to forgive the transgression. And it was more likely than not that he would not do so – for this king was a temperamental sort of fellow, and, although no Henry the Eighth, had a record of getting rid of queens who breached royal protocol.

Esther is terrified. But her uncle reminds her of the faithfulness of God – if she does not act, then he will surely find some other way to save his people, and then her failure to act in order to save her own life will surely come back to haunt her; and in any case what if it was by Divine Providence that she is now queen, placed in this role by God so that the Jewish people may be saved?

So despite her fears, Esther decides to risk death to save her people. She prepares herself by three days of prayer and fasting, and asks that her people do the same; and then she puts on her royal robes and, uninvited, enters the presence of the king. It is a tense moment – will she be struck down by a furious king? Or will he smile upon her and invite her in? But her gamble pays off; the king spares her life.

But that, of course, is only the beginning. She must now persuade the king to find a way to do the seemingly impossible – save a people who have been condemned by royal decree in an empire where even the king himself may not revoke his command once given. Does she succeed? Well, you will know from the short fragment we heard read earlier that she does. We do not have time this morning to go into the details – I must ask you to open your Bibles when you return home and read the full story for yourself later!

But her success proves true the prophetic words spoken by Mordecai, that it was Divine Providence that Esther was queen at this time of danger, God putting her in this position so that through her he might save her people. The Fathers point to many important lessons to be learned from the book of Esther; but today I wonder does it not speak to us of trusting in God, trusting that he has a plan for each and every one of us. What is his plan for you? To save countless thousands of lives? Perhaps not; but perhaps it is a task even greater – to save some few souls from spiritual death. We see from today's Epistle our duty to bring back those who wander from the faith – are there those in your life whom you can help in such a way? But remember first that you must begin with yourself – the blind cannot lead the blind. In fact, if you are not living the faith yourself you are more likely to cause others to stumble, as you lead others astray by the poor example of un-Christian living; and what does our Lord say in our Gospel today about those who cause others to stumble? That it were better that a millstone be tied about their necks and they be cast into the depths of the sea.

So, as I finish this morning, I conclude with a prayer: I pray that you will open your hearts to be faithful to Christ and all his teachings; that in that faithfulness you will strive daily to help others to be faithful also; so that in that fidelity you will learn what it is that God wills for your life; and in so doing, attain at last unto eternal life in heaven. Amen.

Examin Sunday 27 September 2015

Many writers and philosophers have said that at birth begins the journey to the grave. They are mistaken, for it is then that we take our first steps towards eternal life. We are, as St Paul reminds us, citizens of heaven and but sojourners on this earth. Do not then let any of the things of this alien land seduce you from the path that will take you home.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

prayer diary Saturday 26 September 2015

Jesus said: 'Let these words sink into your ears: The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into human hands.’ 
Luke 9.44

How often did Christ before his passion forewarn his disciples what he would endure in obedience to the will of the Father! So also we should learn to deny ourselves the empty pleasures of the world for the sake of the greater prize that awaits all those who are obedient to God's will.

Friday, September 25, 2015

prayer diary Friday 25 September 2015 ( day of discipline and self-denial)

'The Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.'
Luke 9.22

Do not scorn suffering. Did not Christ suffer? Did not many great saints find the way to faith and holiness of life by painful paths? And did not our Lord say that those would follow him must, like him, take up their cross?

Thursday, September 24, 2015

the plight of the North Korean's: another refugee crisis

a Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) press release

Christian Solidarity Worldwide has today written to China's President Xi Jinping to request that North Korean refugees are allowed safe passage to a third country. The letter has been sent to mark the Day of Action on behalf of North Korean Refugees and the 33rd anniversary of China becoming a signatory to the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and the 1967 Protocol.

CSW's Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas writes: 'Unlike any refugee crisis in the world today, the North Korean refugees have a place to go for immediate resettlement as they are citizens of South Korea, under Articles 2 and 3 of the Republic of Korea Constitution. Furthermore, the United States as well as other countries have shown a willingness to accept these refugees for resettlement. There is no reason for them to remain a burden and concern for China and face the threat of repatriation to North Korea where they will most certainly be tortured and imprisoned, and in some cases, executed for fleeing their country.' 

'The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHRC) can help China quickly and safely resettle these refugees, and we are asking our government to do more to facilitate resettlement,' he added.

A supporting letter to President Xi by Justice Michael Kirby, on behalf of the United Nations Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) cites the findings that:

-DPRK citizens who cross the border into China do so owing to a well founded fear of being persecuted; 
-Those forcibly repatriated are subjected to torture and arbitrary detention and in some instances rape, enforced disappearances, summary execution and other gross human rights violations;
-There are reasonable ground for believing that Chinese officials have in some cases shared with DPRK authorities information which further aggravates the risk for these repatriated DPRK nationals and that China is allowing DPRK agents to operate on Chinese territory and even abduct DPRK citizens and at least one Republic of Korea (ROK) national;
-Many North Korean women are being trafficked into forced marriages and in some instances commercial sexual exploitation; and
-Estimates of 'stateless' children in China (children of Chinese fathers and North Korean mothers) ranges from 10,000 to 25,000.

Mervyn Thomas concludes: 'These findings could immediately be addressed if China simply followed its international treaty obligations. We believe working together with the international community and the UNHCR that China can resolve this crisis quickly and safely.'

For further information or to arrange interviews please contact Kiri Kankhwende, Press Officer at Christian Solidarity Worldwide on +44 (0)20 8329 0045 / +44 (0) 78 2332 9663, email or visit

Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) is a Christian organisation working for religious freedom through advocacy and human rights, in the pursuit of justice.

prayer diary Thursday 24 September 2015

‘John I beheaded; but who is this about whom I hear such things?’ 
Luke 9. 9

Herod murdered John for speaking out against his transgressions of the moral law. The law did not change as a result. Such wicked deeds bring 
the perpetrator only self-condemnation - even as they bring the glorious crown of martyrdom to the one who has been faithful unto death.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

prayer diary Wednesday 23 September 2015

Jesus called the twelve together and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God. 
Luke 9. 1,2

Christ gave great authority to his apostles. This authority continues in the Church he established. This is why we proclaim in the Creed that his Church is 'One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic.'

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

prayer diary Tuesday 22 September 2015

But he said to them, ‘My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it.’ 
Luke 8. 21

Jesus does not denigrate his mother with those words; rather he gives us the chance to be elevated. He tells that by obedience we may achieve holiness, and being holy be found worthy to be numbered among the saints in heaven.

Monday, September 21, 2015

prayer diary Monday 21 September 2015 (St Matthew)

As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth; and he said to him, ‘Follow me.’ And he got up and followed him. 
Matthew 9.9

Reflection Christ calls us all no matter how deep in sin we are, for all are sinners and all have fallen short. But by answering that call we may become what we were created to be, saints in heaven.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

obedience, humility, and St John Kolobos

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

Our Epistle and Gospel today both speak of the importance of humility. Our Lord takes his disciples to task for arguing among themselves which of them was greatest; and St James rebukes those he writes to for their selfish ambition. But such pride is not the Christian way; ours is to be a life of humble service. This is exemplified in the life of Christ – God became man, the son of poor parents, lived the life of an itinerant preacher, and then, in obedience to the father, endured a humiliating death. And if a life of humility is preferred by God the Son over that of worldly glory, then so it must be for us.

But how to achieve such humility? It is not easy in a world that us endlessly how fabulous we are, and deserving of only the best that money can buy. And knowing that we are told this not because the ad-men believe it to be true but because they wish to manipulate us and persuade us to spend our hard-earned money on products thar are often shoddy and seldom needed does not make it any easier to resist their flattering words.

This, in fact, is not a problem of the modern age. From the beginning of the Church Christians sought ways to resist the temptations of the world, temptations that made it difficult to lead a Christ-like life. The Desert Fathers, in fact, went to great lengths to cultivate the humility Christ had called them to – humility that they hoped would not only help them save their souls, but aid them in saving the souls of others also who would learn from their hard-won experience.

It may help you a little to hear the story of one such Desert Father. St John Kolobos was born around the year of our Lord 339 and was by all accounts a cranky and quarrelsome youth. This may have been due to the fact that he was very small in stature and people can often be cruel to those who are a little different – and he was so small that he is also known as John the Short or even John the Dwarf. At any rate he seems to have realised that being ill-tempered in his dealings with others was not a help to his spiritual development – you will recall, no doubt, our Lord's teaching that to be angry with your brother was a breach of the commandment 'thou shalt not kill' and a sin you would be held accountable for on the day of judgement … and the words of St James that to have a foul tongue was a wicked thing indeed – and he took himself off into the desert region of Scetes in Eygpt and placed himself under the spiritual authority of St Pambo, another of the Desert Fathers.

St Pambo must have been a man of remarkable discernment. He knew that one of the best ways to develop humility in a person whose soul was in his care was to teach them unquestioning obedience. And so he set St John what will to most of you at first hearing I am sure seem a very peculiar task. He set a dry rod in the ground – a stick, a piece of wood really – and gave his pupil the task of watering it twice daily. Pointless, but not very arduous you may imagine … until you recall they were in the desert. In fact the nearest water was 12 miles away. And so St John had to travel to the well twice a day and back – around 48 miles in total – to water this dry stick. A great deal of walking, you will agree, for someone whose legs were not long to begin with; almost two full marathons each day in the dry and dusty desert.

How long would you remain obedient to such a seemingly unreasonable instruction? A week? A couple of days? Would you refuse to do it even once? St John endured for many days, for many weeks, for many months – he was obedient to his master's command for three long years, each day making that double journey there and back to the well to fetch water to pour into the ground beneath a dry and dead old stick. But at the end of those three years something strange and wonderful occurred. The dead stick began to develop green shoots and in time it grew into a tree which bore fruit. And St Pambo pick some of this fruit and offered it to the some of the other monks of his community saying 'take, eat of the fruit of obedience.'

Now perhaps there are not many here who would think St John Kolobos' obedience a good thing, even if at the end it was rewarded with a near miraculous event – an event, may I point out, that should echo in our minds as a mirror image of the disobedience of our first parents in the garden. But the point is not that the tree blossomed, or that it bore fruit. The point of the story is the persistent obedience of St John.

Does three years of obedience in carrying out a hard task seem a very long time? If it does, consider your life – it has already been much longer than three years for most here; and most, I suspect, hope to be spared for at least three more – most for much more – and for many that is quite a reasonable expectation. But however long each of us has left, at the end of that time there waits something even more miraculous than a dry branch restored to life – there is eternal life in heaven.

The humility to be obedient – to those in spiritual authority over us, trusting that they have been called by God to this task, and most particularly obedient to God himself, not only when he speaks to us by in Sacred Scripture, but also through the Church his Son our Saviour established – such obedience is necessary for our salvation. I pray that all here will not only seek that humility, but learn to live it out in obedience; and not as some chore, grudgingly done, but joyfully, knowing that it is part of the way that God helps his children find their way to him in heaven. Amen.

Examin Saturday 19 Sep 2015

on the duty and authority of one's father in God
Let the abbot always bear in mind that at the dread Judgement of God there will be an examination of these two matters: his teaching and the obedience of his disciples. And let him be sure that any lack of profit the master of the house may find in the sheep will be laid to the blame of the shepherd. On the other hand, if the shepherd has bestowed all his pastoral diligence on a restless, unruly flock and tried every remedy for their unhealthy behaviour, then he will be acquitted at the Lord's Judgement and may say to the Lord with the Prophet: "I have not concealed Your justice within my heart; Your truth and Your salvation I have declared" (Ps. 40.11). "But they have despised and rejected me" (Is. 1:2; Ezech. 20:27). And then finally let death itself, irresistible, punish those disobedient sheep under his charge.
The Rule of St Benedict, Chatper two

Saturday, September 19, 2015

prayer diary Saturday 19 Sep 2015

As he said this, Jesus called out, ‘Let anyone with ears to hear listen!’ 
Luke 8.8

Jesus' words are for all and God has made us all with the ability to hear what he says. But some will not, for there are none so deaf as those who will not hear. Pray for them that they will listen while they still have time. 

Friday, September 18, 2015

prayer diary Friday 18 Sep 2015 ( day of discipline and self-denial)

The twelve were with him, as well as some women … and many others, who provided for them out of their resources. 
Luke 8. 1-3

It was a joy and a privilege for t
hese disciples to support Christ and his apostles. Be ye joyful also in what you give to Christ's Church, for the Lord loves a cheerful giver.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

prayer diary Thursday 17 Sep 2015

Those who were at the table with him began to say among themselves, ‘Who is this who even forgives sins?’ 
Luke 7.49

Reflection God alone can forgive sins; therefore the claim to forgive sins is a claim to be God. Remember that when you hear people try to say Jesus was a great teacher who never said he was God.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

prayer diary Wednesday 16 Sep 2015

'For John the Baptist has come eating no bread and drinking no wine, and you say, “He has a demon”; the Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, “Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax-collectors and sinners!” 
Luke 7. 33,34

They condemned Christ and they condemned John, for there are always those who will seek to justify their own evil by reviling virtue. Be joyful then if they also hate you.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

prayer diary Tuesday 15 Sep 2015

When the Lord saw her, he had compassion for her and said to her, ‘Do not weep.’ 
Luke 7. 13

The compassion Christ for the widow of Nain is the compassion he has for us all. He suffered and died for us so that we may have hope of eternal life.

Monday, September 14, 2015

prayer diary - The Triumph of the Cross

'For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.' 
John 3.16

What love God has for us, that he would become man and die on the Cross of us. Yet it was by that death that we are saved; that is the Triumph of the Cross

Sunday, September 13, 2015

judged with greater strictness

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

'Not many of you should become teachers, my brethren, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.'

Those words from our Epistle today are ones that bishops and priests should not only know by heart, but would do well to reflect upon daily. Indeed, it might be no harm if they were to print them out and place somewhere they will see them frequently and thus be reminded of them – the door of their office, near their desk, or some other place they are likely to be on a regular basis. I confess that I had not thought to do so before now, but as I was writing this sermon I took time to pause and do just that – and they are now printed off, laminated, and blu-tacked to the door of my office.

Now, at first glance this verse might seem a bit ominous. Not only does it contain the word 'judged' but it is included as part of the phrase 'judged with greater strictness.' But, I don't think they are intended to frighten or put potential clergy off. I prefer to think of it as giving them a fair warning. It is a reminder that all Christians will be judged; and those who answer God's call to be leaders in his Church will be held to a higher standard so that they will preach the truth boldly and live it out exactly. I like to think of this verse as God's way of whispering in the ears of his bishops and priests to help them keep in mind of the importance of the role he has given them and to stiffen their resolve to carry it out faithfully; just as he consoles them, if they should feel daunted at times, with those words of St Paul from Ephesians that God equips those whom he calls for the building up of His Church.

And what is the work God entrusts to his clergy; to all leaders of his Church, of course, but the clergy are the most visible of those and generally make up the bulk of them. There are, after all, many things that clergy do. Think of the typical priest in the parish and the various administrative, pastoral, and sacramental/liturgical tasks they carry out. In that context I think it is useful to think of Christ. He did many things also – preaching, teaching, healing, the working of signs and miracles. But first and foremost he was our Saviour. He did all those other things as well; but he did them to further the primary task of his ministry, which was the saving of souls. Consider the of the words of our Lord we heard from St Luke's Gospel today: If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life?'

What does our Lord mean here by 'lose their life' but lose their eternal life in heaven? And so that his disciples may save their souls and enter into that eternal life, he tells them what they must do – deny themselves, take up their cross, and follow him. There are to be as like him as they can possibly be. They are to be holy as he is holy.

And just as Christ's work was the salvation of souls, so too the work of the priest and bishop is, first and foremost, the salvation of souls. All of the work in the parish and diocese is subservient to that. The time spent maintaining churches, for example, is not primarily because we have a love of architecture or a particular desire to see the built heritage of the nation preserved – although, of course, some may have a personal interest in such things. But first and foremost it is so that the buildings themselves may express the desire of God's people to give glory to him and so that they may have a fitting place to come together and worship him.

And just as Christ sometimes had to say things those who heard him found uncomfortable to listen to, we should not be surprised if there are times when it is the same for the priest or bishop to say things that their flock will find challenging; for it is the same Gospel that they are called to preach. And knowing that it is for the salvation of their soul, those who feel challenged should welcome that challenge. Just as the priest or bishop should keep in mind that even though the stricter standard to which they will be held will not be applied to their flock, nonetheless they will be judged; and it is their task to do everything the can to ensure that those entrusted to their care will not be found wanting when the day of judgement comes. Amen.

Examin Sunday 13 September 2015

The Church Fathers taught that the key to holy living was to keep the prospect of death always before us. In this they followed the teaching of our Lord that we 'know not the day nor the hour.' In the current age, it is as well to also keep in our minds the thought of what comes after death: judgement, followed by heaven or hell; and that Jesus taught that hell is real and that many will go there.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

prayer diary Saturday 12 September 2015

'No good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit; for each tree is known by its own fruit.' 
Luke 6.43, 44

Consider how many there are today who claim that what the Church teaches is evil. They say it so loudly and so often sometimes even the faithful may begin to wonder. At such times think of what Jesus said: if the tree is good, so then must its fruit be. The Church, founded by Christ, is good; and so, therefore, what she teaches must also be good.

Friday, September 11, 2015

an anniversary visit

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

We are gathered here today for three reasons. The first is, as it always is when we gather together at the Lord's Table, is to give glory to God, to give thanks that his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord died for our sins so that we might be saved, and rejoice in the sure hope we have of eternal life in heaven.

Today we also gather to welcome Elizabeth and Michael as they return to St Mary's Church, the place they were 50 years ago this very day when they were joined together in Holy Matrimony. In a world that day by day diminishes the sacredness and seriousness of marriage, it is a wonderful testimony to stand in the presence of a couple who have faithfully persevered together in that state of life for half a century; and may I add that it speaks volumes that after so many decades together they freely choose to return to the place where it all began, the 'scene of the crime' as it were!

And today we also remember in a particular way Elizabeth's father, Canon Edward Curry, a past rector of this parish, and therefore a man I have the privilege of being a successor in title to. He was sadly to pass away less than two years after seeing his daughter married in this church, and I speak from the heart when I say that his passing was at much too young an age as he was only 57 when he died and I turn 53 today myself.

In the six years he spent in this parish, Canon Curry must have left a deep impression. This is shown by the beautiful stained-glass window presented by the parishioner in his memory just by the pulpit he would have preached from Sunday by Sunday. It is no slight, I hope, on the memories of others who held title before him that no other rector has been so honoured.

Interestingly, there is another piece of stained-glass in this church that bears his name – it is the beautiful rendering of the Annunciation near the baptismal font presented by Edward and his wife. And after this service I invite you to examine that window and note for yourself, as I did, a feature that makes it unique among all the stained-glass windows in here. All the others were presented by the donors in memory of some loved one, or group of loved ones; that window alone was presented to beautify the church. All the others, of course, also beautify the church. But that window alone was presented for no other reason than it should help make this house of God a more beautiful place to worship in - an act of remarkable generosity, it should be noted, as stained-glass windows to not come cheap and are not easily afforded on a rector's stipend;

I, of course, never met Canon Curry. I was only five years old and living far, far from this place when he died in July of 1968. But I think I would have liked him; if for no other reason than he understood how important it was for a place of worship to help give glory to God by being beautiful. So often you hear people say that such money were better spent on the poor or some other worthy cause. But I think of how in the Old Testament, while God reminds us again and again to care for the poor, the widow, and the orphan, I also note the instructions he gives for the resting place of the Ark of the Covenant and for his Temple in Jerusalem. And he most certainly wanted those places to be richly adorned. And I also think of the words of our Lord when the woman anointed his feet with expensive perfume and he said to those chiding her saying it could have been sold and the money given to the poor that she had done a beautiful thing for him.

So there is no conflict between beautifying God's house and caring for the poor – we must do both! And that Canon Curry understood that I think is shown by the beautiful window he and his wife gave to this church; which is why I say that I think that I would have liked him. Whether he would have liked me, is of course, another matter all together!

But it is a privilege to welcome his daughter Elizabeth and her husband Michael back to this church today; not only because it gives us the chance to rejoice with them on this special occasion, but because of the opportunity it gives us to remember her father. May he rest in peace and his beloved wife also; and may his daughter and her husband be blessed with many more years together of wedded bliss. Amen

prayer diary Friday 11 September 2015 (day of discipline and self-denial)

Jesus also told them a parable: ‘Can a blind person guide a blind person? Will not both fall into a pit?' 
Luke 6. 39

Our mission in life is to become a saint. This is no easy task. That is why God helps us with his Grace and established his Church to help us. He also sends those who will teach us the faith; take care that those you choose as teachers are not blind guides who can never help you on your journey to heaven.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

prayer diary Thursday 10 September 2015

'But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you.' 
Luke 6.27

Christ commands that we must love those who do not love us. Love then is not some emotion which we cannot help. It is an act of will. We decide who it is we love.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

the call of Christ: no one is left out

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

Our readings today have two stories of God calling children to him. The first is when the prophet Samuel is a boy in the temple. He doesn't really seem to know what's going on, does he? He hears the call, but thinks it must be a human being who is talking to him. He's probably starting to think that someone is messing with him by the time it gets to the third call! And then we have the story with Jesus. People are bringing children to him; and his disciples think that children aren't important enough to bother with and try to send them away. But Jesus isn't having that! He stops his disciples and tells them they were wrong to try and send the children away.

Now, all this talk of calling people reminds me of when we were playing games when I was a child and we were picking teams. We used to choose two captains and then they would take turns picking people out of those who were there until they had a team each. Do you still do things like that? You do? Great. In fact, I think it so great that children still do that that I'd like to do it right now!

So I'm going to pick two captains. A couple from sixth class – X, Y could you come up here with me? Thanks. So now, would you start picking people out for your team? Let's just say you were going to play a game of football – we're not actually going to play a game of football, by the way – sorry, we don't have time and we are in church, which is God's house, after all! And since you two are the captains, you get to decide who you want on your team … and how many … so you guys decide when to stop picking! X, you get to pick from that side of the church, and Y you get to pick from the other.

And those they pick out – stand up when they call your name. But just stay where you are – no need to come forward.

OK. You've both picked out about a dozen each. Why did you stop there? Because you had enough for a team? Fair enough. And why did you pick these people and not others? Because you thought these would be best at the game? I suppose that's fair enough too. But what about everybody else? They just seem to have been left behind. But that's what happens when you play a game.

But now imagine if Jesus was doing the picking? Would he leave anyone out? No he wouldn't! Jesus calls everybody. So all of you who are still sitting down, stand up right now! Because you have been picked too – you've been chosen by Jesus! I see that the teachers and other staff are still sitting down – I did say Jesus was calling everybody – so you need to get up too! And all those parents, and grand-parents, and everyone who is sitting down the back – don't you know what 'everybody' means? It means you too, that's what! So, on your feet – Jesus is calling you as well!

And since Jesus has called us all, I think we should give Jesus a great big thank you! And maybe a cheer as well – hip hip hurrah! Great; now all sit down again.

It's great to be picked, isn't it? I don't know about you guys, but when I was a child and the captains were picking teams, it wasn't great to be left out. Because sometimes people don't get picked. Sometimes that happens for a good reason. Sometimes they're too little to play with all the others; they'd get hurt if they were allowed to join in. Sometimes they're not very good at the game – and the captain wants to win and he or she thinks that if they're on the team then the team will lose. And sometimes the captain is just being mean. He or she doesn't like someone – maybe they had a fight or they don't get on – and they simply refuse to pick them, no matter how good they are.

Whatever the reason for not being picked, it doesn't feel good, does it? But Jesus isn't like that. He asks everybody to be on his team – and his team is his Church. He calls everyone to come be a part of his Church. But you know what? Not everybody wants to say 'yes.' And I think that's very sad. Because they are deciding to leave themselves out of the game, out of the Church, out of the eternal life God offers us. And even if they don't realise what they're doing, we do. We know that they deciding for themselves that even though they have been picked, they're going to say 'no' to Jesus, 'no' to God. And I don't know about you, but I certainly don't want that for any one.

So I'm going to end with a prayer. I'm going to pray that everyone listens when Jesus is calling them. So if I could ask everyone to bow their heads and put their hands together:

Father in heaven, your Son calls all your children. He calls us when we are alone in our beds at night; he calls us as we work and play and do other things during the day. Help us all to hear him when he calls; and especially help all those who don't want to listen when he calls not only to listen, but to say 'yes' to him and all the good things he offers to us all. Amen

(preached in St Mary's, Castlecomer as part of the opening service for the new school year of the Wandesforde National School.)

prayer diary Wednesday 9 September 2015

‘Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man.' 
Luke 6. 22

Christ promises you will be blessed for what you suffer in his name. Why then do you fear to risk suffering for your faith?

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

The Blessed Virgin Mary and the Protoevangelium of James

Today we celebrate the birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Personally, I think birthdays are often too much about the self. Should they not be just as much about the parents, the ones who brought the person into the world, the ones who remember best the day being celebrated?

While my mother was alive (may she rest in peace) I always liked to visit her on my birthday. It wasn't always possible - I lived abroad for many years and during that time, being a military man and not in charge of my own movements, sometimes I couldn't even call her. But when I was home and able to visit, one of the things I liked best was hearing her tell again the story of my birth - the sudden rush to the hospital, the speed of my delivery compared with that of my older brother, my father's dash from work and arrival to be presented with a son the nurses were calling 'an atomic baby' because I was healthy and strong. A natural enough topic of conversation between a mother and son under the circumstances!

Perhaps that is why I like to think of the Protoevangelium of James today, telling as it does the story the birth of our Lady. There are those, I know, who don't put great stock in it. I, however, find it very credible. Would not St Anne and St Joachim have told their little girl again and again about the events surrounding her wondrous conception and birth? And would she not have passed that story on to others - just as she passed on the story of the birth of her own Son, which was recorded and passed down to us by St Luke in his Gospel?

So it seems appropriate to me to read the story of the birth of the Mother of God again on this day, which I have posted below. If you have not seen it before, I hope you will enjoy it; and if you have, then perhaps you will enjoy it even more.

The Birth of Mary the Holy Mother of God, and Very Glorious Mother of Jesus Christ.

1. In the records of the twelve tribes of Israel was Joachim, a man rich exceedingly; and he brought his offerings double, saying: There shall be of my superabundance to all the people, and there shall be the offering for my forgiveness to the Lord for a propitiation for me. For the great day of the Lord was at hand, and the sons of Israel were bringing their offerings. And there stood over against him Rubim, saying: It is not meet for you first to bring your offerings, because you have not made seed in Israel. And Joachim was exceedingly grieved, and went away to the registers of the twelve tribes of the people, saying: I shall see the registers of the twelve tribes of Israel, as to whether I alone have not made seed in Israel. And he searched, and found that all the righteous had raised up seed in Israel. And he called to mind the patriarch Abraham, that in the last day God gave him a son Isaac. And Joachim was exceedingly grieved, and did not come into the presence of his wife; but he retired to the desert, and there pitched his tent, and fasted forty days and forty nights, saying in himself: I will not go down either for food or for drink until the Lord my God shall look upon me, and prayer shall be my food and drink.

2. And his wife Anna mourned in two mournings, and lamented in two lamentations, saying: I shall bewail my widowhood; I shall bewail my childlessness. And the great day of the Lord was at hand; and Judith her maid-servant said: How long do you humiliate your soul? Behold, the great day of the Lord is at hand, and it is unlawful for you to mourn. But take this head-band, which the woman that made it gave to me; for it is not proper that I should wear it, because I am a maid-servant, and it has a royal appearance. And Anna said: Depart from me; for I have not done such things, and the Lord has brought me very low. I fear that some wicked person has given it to you, and you have come to make me a sharer in your sin. And Judith said: Why should I curse you, seeing that the Lord has shut your womb, so as not to give you fruit in Israel? And Anna was grieved exceedingly, and put off her garments of mourning, and cleaned her head, and put on her wedding garments, and about the ninth hour went down to the garden to walk. And she saw a laurel, and sat under it, and prayed to the Lord, saying: O God of our fathers, bless me and hear my prayer, as You blessed the womb of Sarah, and gave her a son Isaac.

3. And gazing towards the heaven, she saw a sparrow's nest in the laurel, Tobit 2:10 and made a lamentation in herself, saying: Alas! Who begot me? And what womb produced me? Because I have become a curse in the presence of the sons of Israel, and I have been reproached, and they have driven me in derision out of the temple of the Lord. Alas! To what have I been likened? I am not like the fowls of the heaven, because even the fowls of the heaven are productive before You, O Lord. Alas! To what have I been likened? I am not like the beasts of the earth, because even the beasts of the earth are productive before You, O Lord. Alas! To what have I been likened? I am not like these waters, because even these waters are productive before You, O Lord. Alas! To what have I been likened? I am not like this earth, because even the earth brings forth its fruits in season, and blesses You, O Lord.

4. And, behold, an angel of the Lord stood by, saying: Anna, Anna, the Lord has heard your prayer, and you shall conceive, and shall bring forth; and your seed shall be spoken of in all the world. And Anna said: As the Lord my God lives, if I beget either male or female, I will bring it as a gift to the Lord my God; and it shall minister to Him in holy things all the days of its life. 1 Samuel 1:11 And, behold, two angels came, saying to her: Behold, Joachim your husband is coming with his flocks. For an angel of the Lord went down to him, saying: Joachim, Joachim, the Lord God has heard your prayer. Go down hence; for, behold, your wife Anna shall conceive. And Joachim went down and called his shepherds, saying: Bring me hither ten she-lambs without spot or blemish, and they shall be for the Lord my God; and bring me twelve tender calves, and they shall be for the priests and the elders; and a hundred goats for all the people. And, behold, Joachim came with his flocks; and Anna stood by the gate, and saw Joachim coming, and she ran and hung upon his neck, saying: Now I know that the Lord God has blessed me exceedingly; for, behold the widow no longer a widow, and I the childless shall conceive. And Joachim rested the first day in his house.

5. And on the following day he brought his offerings, saying in himself: If the Lord God has been rendered gracious to me, the plate on the priest's forehead will make it manifest to me. And Joachim brought his offerings, and observed attentively the priest's plate when he went up to the altar of the Lord, and he saw no sin in himself. And Joachim said: Now I know that the Lord has been gracious unto me, and has remitted all my sins. And he went down from the temple of the Lord justified, and departed to his own house. And her months were fulfilled, and in the ninth month Anna brought forth. And she said to the midwife: What have I brought forth? And she said: A girl. And said Anna: My soul has been magnified this day. And she laid her down. And the days having been fulfilled, Anna was purified, and gave the breast to the child, and called her name Mary.

Read the rest of the Protoevangelium of James here.

prayer diary Tuesday 8 September 2015 (The birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary)

'For the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation.' 
Luke 1. 49, 50

Even as she carried the Christ-child within her, our Lady spoke of the need to be 'God-fearing'; that we must be in awe at the holiness of God and obey his laws. We cannot claim to have faith if we will not live as if we were faithful.

Monday, September 7, 2015

prayer diary Monday 7 September 2015

The scribes and the Pharisees watched him … so that they might find an accusation against him. Even though he knew what they were thinking, he said to the man who had the withered hand, ‘Come and stand here.’ 
Luke 6.7,8

There have always been those lying in wait so that they might condemn the virtuous words and deeds of others. Christ by his example teaches us that we must not let such people stand between us and doing God's will.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

faith and works

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

Our Epistle reading today is from the letter of St James. There's an interesting story behind that letter, and particularly the passage we heard read. I'm sure that most of you know that at the time of the Reformation in Europe that there was a good number of books of the Bible that the Protestant reformers felt that the early Church Councils had been wrong to include as part of the Canon of Scripture. So they took them out! They were still included as a kind of appendix in all bibles that were published in Britain and Ireland – in fact they had to be by law. It was only about 150 years ago that, to save on costs, that printers were allowed to leave them out. That is why today there are more books in Catholic and Orthodox Bibles than there are in what might be called Protestant Bibles. But our own Articles of Religion still consider them to be recommended reading; and so the Bibles you will find on lecterns in churches always include these books; and they are also occasionally included in our lectionary readings as well.

Of course, all of the books that were taken out were from the Old Testament. But that doesn't mean that was where the reformers wanted to stop! There was a few in the New Testament that weren't very popular with them as well. One for example was the Revelation to St John; quite a few found that one problematic – possibly because they found it difficult to understand. Martin Luther particularly did not like the letter of St James. You might be able to guess why. Luther was very keen on the idea of 'sola fide' – by faith alone. And St James says quite clearly: 'What good is it, my brethern, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you?' and 'So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.'

Now the reason this passage worried Luther, if I understand things correctly, was because he was worried it might give people the idea that they could earn their place in heaven by way of their good works. One of the reasons that this was an issue for him, you may recall, was because of the scandalous sale of indulgences that had been taking place in the lead up to the Reformation where people were being the quite erroneous impression that for a sum of money they could effectively buy their place, or the place of a loved one's place for them, in heaven. Luther wanted to stamp that idea out – and if had to edit the Bible to suit, then so be it!

Well, not really – he realised that there were limits. But he found it annoying just the same. And in a way I understand; it isn't good for people to think they can earn their way into heaven. We may think here of our Lord's words when he told us the parable of the Pharisee and the publican. The the first was full of pride for all the good things he had done; but it is the latter whom God praises, for he is the one who understands that he is in need of God's mercy.

But there is a danger, too, in thinking all you have to do is claim to have faith in Jesus to be saved. I think here of a documentary I was watched about a group who called themselves Christian bikers. The reporter was interviewing one who was regaling him with how he intended that very night to get drunk, use illegal drugs, and engage in further, and even more serious, immoral activity until the dawn should break. And how, asked the reporter, do you square this behaviour with your Christian faith? Tomorrow, smiled the biker, I shall be washed clean in the Blood of the Lamb. No sorrow for his sins; no intention of turning or even trying to turn from those sins in the future; just a presumption that as long as he claimed to be a man of faith he could behave as he wished.

Not so. For, as Psalm 62 tells us, the Lord will repay us according to our deeds; as St James tells us, it is no good to say we have faith but have no works; and, as our Lord Jesus reminds us in the parable of the sheep and the goats, those whose faith have not been reflected in their deeds will be found wanting on the day of judgement.

Christ calls us them to a balance between faith and works. Yes, we must have faith and know that we rely on God's mercy. And we must pray daily for that mercy for ourselves and others. But that faith must be seen by all the world in how we live our lives; and when we fail, as we know we all will, sometimes in sins of commission, sometimes in sins of omission, whether those sins be in thought, or word or deed, then we cry out to heaven 'Lord, have mercy on me a sinner' – full of sorrow for our sins, asking God's grace to be stronger in the future to obey his law, and full of confidence and hope that he will grant that mercy to all who love him and show that love in the way they live their lives. Amen

Saturday, September 5, 2015

prayer diary Saturday 5 September 2015

Then he said to them, ‘The Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath.’ 
Luke 6.5

Who is Lord of the Sabbath but God himself? This then is a divine claim. And just as in this matter, so is all his teaching underpinned by his divine authority.

Friday, September 4, 2015

prayer diary Friday 4 September 2015 ( day of discipline and self-denial)

Jesus said to them, ‘The days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast in those days.’ 
Luke 5. 35

Thus did our Lord declare the ancient practise of holy fasting a necessary part of the Christian life. For it is in denying ourselves those things that God allows us that we develop the disciple to resist those that he does not.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

God's Not Dead

Interesting video ...

prayer diary Thursday 3 September 2015

But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, ‘Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!’ 
Luke 5. 8

All are sinners, yet Christ calls us all. But happy are those who, even as they are called, like St Peter, acknowledge before God their sinfulness; for in such humility begins the road to salvation.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

prayer diary Wednesday 2 September 2015

But he said to them, ‘I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to the other cities also; for I was sent for this purpose.’ 
Luke 4.43

The Good News of Jesus Christ is for all people in all places of all times. And Jesus has commanded his Church to share that News. It is both our privilege and our duty to obey him in this and everything he asks of us. 

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Save our Post Office!

Our post-office in Bilboa is threatened with closure.
The loss would be catastrophic for our community.

I urge everyone to write to An Post
saying 'no' to this latest attack on rural Ireland
before the closing date for submissions of Sep 9th.

Here is a link to samples to give you an idea of what a letter of submission letter should look like, along with a list of reasons why the post-office is so important to our community.

And here is a link to the relevant Act for those who like to read the law and perhaps might be able to use it to construct an argument
as to why An Post is obliged to retain the service. 

Post your submission to: 

Mr Pat Cremin,
An Post Retail Operations Manager,
An Post,
Cook Street,
Co Laois.

Thank you!

prayer diary Tuesday 1 September 2015

'He cried out with a loud voice, ‘Let us alone! What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.’ 
Luke 4. 33,34

The demons knew who Jesus was and his power over them. Why then do we so often act as if we do not know who he is?