Saturday, October 31, 2015

prayer diary Saturday 31 Oct 2015

'For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.’ 
Luke 14.11

The proud of heart will be humbled, for their false pride is a rejection of God. Yet the humble will be exalted, for in their humility they seek God's mercy and he is faithful to all who call upon him sincerely.

Friday, October 30, 2015

prayer diary Friday 30 Oct 2015

'And Jesus asked the lawyers and Pharisees, ‘Is it lawful to cure people on the sabbath, or not?’ But they were silent.
Luke 14. 3

They were silent because they sought a reason to accuse Jesus. Wicked indeed is the one who hates another so much that he will use any means to attack him, even his good deeds.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

prayer diary Thursday 29 Oct 2015

'Jerusalem, Jerusalem ... How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!' 
Luke 13. 34

God does not cease to love, nor does he abandon, those who reject him. Neither should we abandon those who reject us when we try to bring them the Gospel truth.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

prayer diary Wednesday 28 Oct 2015 (Feast of St Simon & St Jude)

‘If the world hates you, be aware that it hated me before it hated you. If you belonged to the world, the world would love you as its own.' 
John 15. 18-19

Those who love the Gospel love the world for they wish to share with it the message of salvation. But the Evil that is in the world hates that love and fights against it. But because of that love, Christians will not retreat – not even in the face of death.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

prayer diary Tuesday 27 Oct 2015

'The kingdom of God is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened.’ 
Luke 13. 20,21

The work we do for the kingdom can seem as nothing when placed in the scales against all that is in the world. Yet continue your labour and trust in God that his Good News continues to work its way into to all places.

Monday, October 26, 2015

prayer diary Monday 26 Oct 2015

The leader of the synagogue ... kept saying ... ‘There are six days on which work ought to be done; come on those days and be cured, and not on the sabbath day.' But the Lord answered him and said, ‘You hypocrites!' 
Luke 13, 14-15

The leader cared not about the woman, but rather used her healing on the sabbath as a pretext for accusing Christ. Be alert for those who hide evil intent under the cloak of righteousness.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Blind Bartimaeus

Almighty, eternal, and merciful God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit: we pray that as we meditate upon your Word you will lead us deeper into all truth that we may better know and do your will and grow in holiness day by day. Amen.

Our Gospel reading today tells us the story of Blind Bartimaeus. And I think it must be said that there is none who sees so clearly on the road that day as he, even though he is the one who is without sight. For consider what it is that he cries out when he hears that Jesus of Nazareth draws near: it is 'Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!' He addresses the Lord by a royal title, for he recognises that he is the Messiah. How is it that he, a blind man, knows this, someone who because of his disability can not move about the country freely and is forced to survive by sitting on the side of the road and calling out to others to help him?

Well, it seems certain that he has heard the stories about Jesus, the signs and wonders he has done, how the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the dead are raised, and – most importantly for him – the blind see. And perhaps he may even have heard some of the teaching, for there is an echo, is there not, of the parable of the Pharisee and the Publican in what he calls out to Jesus? In the parable the publican, the who goes away justified, prays 'Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner' and the blind man says 'Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.' A remarkable similarity, which may well indicate that he has heard some of Jesus teaching; and more, pondered it deeply in his heart.

I think that likely; for he has come to the conclusion that the man who walks down the road before him, the man who has performed great deeds of power and offered the world teaching teaching so wondrous it can only have its source in heaven, is indeed the Messiah. And so he cries out, according him that Messianic title. Not all nearby are pleased. They tell him to stop. Perhaps they are scribes and Pharisees, following Jesus not because they believe, but because they seek a chance to condemn him. And just as the religious authorities in Jerusalem during our Lord's triumphal entry, when the crowd is calling him the Son of David, try to silence them, so too do these men try to silence Bartimaeus that day.

But he will not be silent. Instead he calls out all the louder for the Son of David to have mercy on him. And the Lord hears him and calls him to him. And note well the way Bartimaeus responds. St Mark provides us with a very telling detail of that moment. He tells us that he throws off his cloak and springs up. And to understand the importance of that, we must first understand how important his cloak would have been to him. For a poor man, his cloak was both his blanket at night and his coat during the day, the most expensive item of clothing he would have had, something almost irreplaceable for a blind beggar; not something he would normally let out of his reach. And yet in that moment he casts it aside, with no heed as to how or if he will be able to find it again. His trust in Jesus is total.

Note also the beautiful simplicity of his prayer to Christ. He does not plead or bargain, does not boast of previous good deeds that make him worthy to receive what he asks; instead he simply asks 'My teacher, let me see again.' Even the way he addresses Christ is beautiful – my teacher, acknowledging both the authority of Jesus as teacher and the personal relationship that exists between them; for to call someone 'my teacher' is to recognise also that you are their pupil, student, follower, disciple. And thus it also demonstrates humility, for the student knows he is not equal with his master.

There is much for us to learn from the example of Bartimaeus, and I pray that all here will learn it, to see with the same clarity and insight that the blind man saw: that you may have the spiritual awareness to know who Jesus is, and the willingness to proclaim it openly, even before the hostility of the world; the same total faith and trust in the Lord, no matter what the risk, or what it may cost; and the faith like his that you may throw yourself upon God's mercy, bringing before him your needs, humbly and reverently, knowing you are a sinner in need of that mercy. And, of course, that you will, like him, follow Christ.

To the Almighty and Eternal God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, to him be all honour and glory, now and unto the ages of ages: Amen.

Examin Sunday 25 Oct 2015

We read in the Holy Gospel that it was the custom of Jesus to go to the synagogue on the Sabbath day (Luke 4.16). We have then the example of our Lord not only to worship on that day, but to worship corporately; in other words, not alone but with the people of God in God's house. And the Church, founded by Christ and granted authority by him, has always taught that all Christian's should be in Church every Sunday with their brothers and sisters in Christ attending Divine Services unless prevented by unavoidable necessity. Think carefully then about the way you yourself choose to keep Holy the Lord's Day.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

From darkness into light - a story, part one

Bartimaeus woke to total darkness. He always did. He was blind. Even so, he knew it was morning. He could hear the quiet sounds his mother made nearby as got breakfast ready and the smell of the fresh flatbreads she was baking and the smoke of the charcoal fire she cooked them upon. He curled up deeper into his cloak on the thin mattress on the floor. He did not want to get up. But he knew he must. With a groan, he sat up.
'Good morning, Bartimaeus,' said his mother softly.
'Good morning, mother,' he said back, just as softly. He did not want to wake his younger brothers and sisters who still slept, breathing softly and deeply under their own cloaks.

He got up and went over to give his mother a hug. He walked as quickly and confidently as one who could see, for he knew well every inch of his home. He poured himself a beaker of water from the pitcher. As he drank it, the smell of warm bread drew closer and he knew his mother was holding out a piece to him. He reached out his hand and took it.
'You are amazing,' she said. He could hear the smile in her voice. 'Sometimes I almost believe you can see.' He smiled back.
'With hearing, and smell, and touch as good as mine, who needs eyes?' he said. His mother laughed. But he didn't mean it; not really. He would have given anything to be able to see her smile, see her face when she laughed.
'I must go,' he said. Munching bread, he went swiftly back to his mattress and picked up his cloak. Gathering it around him, he moved to the door.
'Must you?' said his mother. He paused.
'We've talked about this,' he said. 'You know I must. With father gone, we need the money.'
'But begging, Bartimaeus!'
He shrugged.
'What else can I do? I'm blind. There is no work around here that I can do. And all those small mouths we have must be fed.'
'I know,' she said with a sigh. 'But you were such a fine scholar. Rabbi Jonah says you know the scriptures better than anyone your age, even those who can see to read. You practically know them by heart.'
Bartimaeus sighed.
'But there's so much more to study than the Scriptures to be a Rabbi. And there's no way for me to read them. We have to face facts, mother, without sight, this is the best I can hope for. And let us be grateful for what we have. I may be blind, but I'm otherwise strong and healthy. And people are kind; being a beggar may not be what I'd prefer, but people won't let us starve.'
'You're such a good boy. What you say is right – we should thank the Lord for what we have. Little though it is, it is enough. But I can't help wishing that by some miracle you could have your sight again.'
Bartimaeus smiled.
'Maybe I'll meet Jesus of Nazareth. He has worked many miracles – he's made the lame walk and even brought the dead back to life and he has given sight to many like me. Say a prayer that he walks past me on his travels this day!'
'I will,' she said. 'But people say strange things about him, Bartimaeus. That he's the Messiah and Son of God. The scribes and the Pharisees don't like him.'
'Of course they don't,' said Bartimaeus. 'He challenges what they teach. But they should read their Scriptures more closely. I think he is the Messiah; could one do what he does and not be who people say he is? I don't think so. Anyway, I have to go!' And grabbing his stick from by the door, and wrapping his cloak about him tightly against the morning chill, he went out.

The sunshine on his face told him the day was off to a bright start. He strode briskly on, his stick out before him to warn of any unexpected obstacle, but otherwise his pace as near as quick as if he could see. He had a map in his mind of all around him: the small village in which he lived, the road to Jericho where he was headed, and the city of Jericho itself. Blind since childhood, his senses of hearing, touch, and smell were so keen that he often had as good an idea as what was going on around him as those blessed with their eyesight. In fact sometimes better – at night when there was no hint of light from moon or stars he had often marched on at full speed, while his friends stumbled and tripped in the dark.
'Darkness is my friend,' he often said. 'I live in it always; and when there is no light, I am as good as any man – better, for I need no light to find my way or go about my business.'

His village was only a mile from the city and he covered the distance quickly, guided by familiar sounds and smells along the map in his mind. In the city he settled himself down in the spot he would beg, in a doorway near an alley not far from one of the city gates. He folded his cloak into a cushion to sit on and took a small wooden bowl from his satchel and placed it on the cobbled street before him. There were not many people passing yet; it was too early. But still, several who did pass paused to drop a small coin into his bowl. The sound of each chink told him what kind it was. Most were small copper ones, a couple larger. Not much, but if people's kindness continued at this rate, he would certainly have enough money to feed his family that day.

There was a lull of passers by. It was the time for morning prayer in the synagogue. Most, he supposed, were there. He wished he could be there also, worshipping. But he could not afford to leave his spot. Instead, he recited psalms in his head from memory.

As he did so, he became aware of two men approaching. From their footsteps one was large, the other small. The large one walked with a stick – no, there was no sound of a second footstep along with the thump of wood on the ground. A man with one leg, or at least badly lame in one leg, walking with a crutch. They were murmuring between themselves; the small one waved his arms about a lot as he spoke. Bartimaeus could tell from the sound of his clothes flapping. No, he waved only one arm about. Perhaps the other was injured, crippled in some way, and held close to the body. Even without sight, he could tell who they were – two other beggars. They both smelled of stale wine and the sweat of many days of not washing.

'What are you doing here? This is our spot!' said the small one. His voice was high and shrill. Not local going by his accent. Probably from Jerusalem.
'Peace, brothers,' said Bartimaeus. 'This is where I sit everyday.'
'Well, not any more! This is our spot now, so you'll move along if you know what's good for you, blind boy. There's two of us, and if you could see how big my friend is here, you'd know to be really afraid.'
Bartimaeus held back a smile. He could tell from the sound of his breathing that the other man was tall, at least a head taller than his friend. And the sound of his weight shifting on the the ground before him told him he was heavy with it. Probably more fat than muscle, he thought; the short walk across the square to where he sat had left him panting a little.
'Come on, shift yourself,' said the short one. 'We know who you are – Bartimaeus, son of the Greek Timaeus. We asked around. Well, life is tough enough for beggars around here without having to share with foreigners like you, so clear out!'
'And yet do not the Holy Scriptures say to share with the alien and stranger among you?' said Bartimaeus.
'What? What are you talking about?'
Bartimaeus sighed. It didn't sound like these two were the kind who spent much time in the synagogue. Why was he not surprised. He fought down a flash of anger – he didn't want to leave this spot. It had been his place for a long while now and it was a good one. But it would be foolish to take on two. They might be cripples, but they could see; fighting them wasn't a good idea. With a sigh, he picked up his bowl.
'All right, I'll go.'
'And you can leave that. Our spot, our money.' Bartimaeus could hear the sneer on his face. Anger boiled within him. Wasn't it enough that they should take his place, without trying to rob him as well? He thrust the bowl, coins and all into the satchel he wore.

'The money is mine.' He rested one hand on the corner of his cloak, and placed the other near where his stick lay. He had a good idea what might be coming next. The little one took a step back and he sensed the big one raising his crutch. With a grunt and a whoosh he brought it down with such force that he would have broken bones if Bartimaeus had still been sitting there.

for part two, click here

(C) Rev Patrick G Burke 2015

From darkness into light - a story, part two

(for part one click here)

But he wasn't. Just as the crutch had begun to come down he had rolled to the side, grabbing his cloak and stick as he went. He heard the big man gasp and stagger as the blow landed on the ground, about two feet lower than he had expected; and then bump into the smaller man and grab him for support. Bartimaeus was on his feet in an instant and running down the nearby alley. The other two wasted long moments in surprise before starting after him. He wasn't too worried they'd catch him before he got where he wanted to go. The big one was slow, and the little one would make sure that he didn't catch up with him alone. It was already clear that he left the rough stuff to his bigger companion.
He knew there was an abandoned store room half-way down the alley. Reaching it, he ducked inside. It was dark inside, very dark. He knew, because when he had been choosing his spot for his begging, he had first checked out the area with one of his little brothers to guide him. The only light came through the open doorway; and the high walls of the narrow alley meant there wasn't much light available, even less at that hour of the morning when the sun was still low on the horizon. Bartimaeus moved himself into what he knew were deep shadows to the side of the door and waited. He heard the two other beggars come huffing and puffing up the alley and then pause outside the door.
'Are you sure he's blind?' said a deep voice. He guessed that must be the big one.
'Of course he's blind. Everyone said he's blind. What makes you ask such a thing?'
'He ducked right out of the way when I tried to hit him. And he ran down this alley awfully fast.'
'He got lucky. He was already planning to make a run for it and he just happened to make his move when you swung. As for running, he's blind, not a cripple. And he didn't run far did he? He hid himself in a dark hole just as fast as he could.' He stepped closer to the doorway. 'Come on out, blind boy. Maybe we won't beat so bad if you don't make us come in and get you!'
Bartimaeus remained silent.
'Maybe he's not there,' said the big one doubtfully. 'Maybe he ran out the back, or something.'
'Naw, he's there,' said his friend, stepping even closer. It sounded like he was in the doorway now. 'No other doors or windows. This is the only way in or out.' He spoke louder. 'All right. You asked for it. We're coming in. Come on,' he said to his friend. 'What are you waiting for?'
'It's dark in there.' He sounded nervous. The small one laughed.
'There's a nice pile of coins to be had for the taking. Not to mention the fun of giving that Greek a good kicking. We're not going to let a little dark stop us.'
Bartimaeus heard the big one make a stumbling entrance. His friend must have pushed him. He heard them both make their way into the room and stop.
'Where are you, you blind Greek?' called out the smaller one.
'Here,' said Bartimaeus. He sprang out of the shadows and slammed the door shut. Darkness was his friend. The big one shrieked.
'Afraid of the dark, are we?' said Bartimaeus. The man swung out wildly with his crutch. Bartimaeus ducked under it and then stepped in and gave him a push. Already teetering on one leg, he fell to the ground with a crash, dropping his crutch as he did. Bartimaeus kicked it away.
'What's happening?' shouted the small one. 'Stay away from me?' He swung his good arm back and forwards in front of him. Bartimaeus listened to the sound of his laboured breathing and the frantic rustling of his sleeve as the man swiped blindly here and there and smiled. He crept forward and then sideways so he was standing beside the man. He placed his lips close to his ear.
'Boo!' he shouted. The man screamed, turned, and ran blindly away from him. He crashed into a wall and bounced off it onto the ground where he lay groaning. Without a sound, Bartimaeus walked to the door, opened it, went out, and shut it after him. No point in leaving it open so they could crawl out and come after him even more quickly. Let them lie there in the dark for a while before having to crawl around and find their way out by touch. Let them live in his world a little longer, he thought.

He made his way back to the city gate. He knew it wouldn't be safe in the city for a while. The thugs who had tried to rob him weren't local; he guessed they were troublemakers who had been moved on from where they came from. And given the way they were behaving in Jericho, it wouldn't be long before they were sent packing from there as well. Bartimaeus figured maybe a week before enough complaints came in that the city authorities booted them out of Jericho as well. But until then he'd have to stay clear himself. They'd be a lot more careful if they caught up with him again and he'd be sure to take a beating.

He mentioned what had happened to the guard on the gate and headed off down the road. Begging on the road wouldn't bring as much money as in the city – too many people on donkeys or in carriages or just in a hurry who wouldn't stop to fiddle with their money pouch and drop him a coin. But maybe if he started early and stayed later than usual he could make enough to keep them going until the troublemakers were gone.

He made his way along the road outside the city wall to the Jerusalem gate. That was the road with the most traffic on it and so the best one for him to settle himself. Plus, he was guessing it was a place the two who had attacked him were unlikely to come. They'd stay in the city, where the begging was best, and where there were plenty of other beggars to try and rob; and if they had been kicked out of Jerusalem, then they wouldn't be heading down that road any time soon.

There weren't too many other beggars on the road, but he still had to go almost half a mile before he found a place far from anyone else. With a sigh he sat down under the shade of a tree and put out his bowl. It was cool in the shadows, so he kept his cloak around his shoulders. He heard a donkey coming. He waited until he could hear the sound of the person leading its footsteps before he spoke.
'Help a poor blind man,' he called out. 'Please, help me! I can't work and I have a widowed mother and younger brothers and sisters to feed. Please help me.'
But the man gave him nothing. Without a word, he walked on. Bartimaeus sighed, but did not blame the man. Times were hard. He had caught a strong odour of fresh leather as the man passed; probably his donkey was laden with newly tanned skins. If he was transporting his load by donkey rather than by cart, he was probably a very small dealer, barely eking out a living. If he gave even a small copper coin to every beggar he met he'd starve himself.

For a while, nobody came. In the distance he could hear the sounds of a large group of people. He thought they must be gathering outside the city gate. He wondered why – a funeral perhaps? No one could be buried within the city walls. The sounds of the crowd drew closer. There were no cries of mourning or weeping; not a funeral then. What could be going on? As the first person drew near, instead of asking for money he called out a question instead.
'My friend – what is happening? What are you all doing?' A man's cheerful voice replied.
'It is Jesus of Nazareth, my blind friend. He spent the night in Jericho – you would not believe the wonders he performed. And now he journeys with his followers to Jerusalem.'

Jesus of Nazareth! Bartimaeus' heart began to pound within him. The man who worked miracles was here, right before him. The man he believed was the Messiah sent by God. Had his mother's prayers been answered? Would the man who had made so many others see give him back his sight also?

For the third and final part, click here

(c) Rev Patrick G Burke 2015

From darkness into light - a story, part three

(part one here and part two here)

Jesus of Nazareth! Bartimaeus' heart began to pound within him. The man who worked miracles was here, right before him. The man he believed was the Messiah sent by God. Had his mother's prayers been answered? Would the man who had made so many others see give him back his sight also? Without even thinking, he began to cry out:

'Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’ He heard the footsteps of those nearest him in the crowd stop suddenly.
'Who dares say such a thing?' called out a voice. It was rich and deep, the voice of one used to speaking in public, used to being heard and obeyed. A scribe or a Pharisee, he thought. They didn't like Jesus, didn't think he was the Messiah, but followed him about, trying to catch him out, and trick him into saying something against the Romans or the Jewish law so they could arrest him. Everyone knew they did; but so far they had failed. 'Stop that,' continued the voice. 'It is near blasphemy for anyone to call this wandering teacher the Messiah, the Son of God, the Saviour of us all.'
But Bartimaeus paid him no heed. He cried out even more loudly, ‘Son of David, have mercy on me!’ All the crowd stopped. It was as if whatever was at the heart of it had stopped and so all around must stop also. Jesus, thought Bartimaeus. He must be right there in front of me. From the centre of the crowd someone called out:
Call him here.’ The voice was low and clear. Bartimaeus knew it must be the Son of David himself who was calling him. He couldn't bring himself to move. This was such an important moment. It had been so long since he had had the use of his eyes; and the one who had made so many others who were blind see was waiting for him to draw near. Someone standing nearby said to him:
'Take heart; get up, he is calling you.’
Suddenly, Bartimaeus could move again. He flung off his cloak onto the ground – his cloak which was blanket and coat to him, irreplaceable, normally something he would never let be out of his reach in case it was lost – and sprang to his feet. His stick was in his hand, but he let it fall. He heard it land across his cloak. He began to walk slowly toward where the low voice that called him had come from. He felt the crowd parting before him. He kept walking until he sensed that it parted no more and knew he must be standing in front of Jesus of Nazareth. The clear voice spoke again.
What do you want me to do for you?’
Bartimaeus knew at once what to say.
'My teacher, let me see again.’
Go; your faith has made you well,’ was the reply. He could hear the smile in the voice. All at once his eyes were filled with pain. He fell to his knees gasping. For a moment he didn't know what was happening. The teacher had said his faith had made him well; what then was this pain? And then he recognised it. It was something he had felt in his childhood, when he could see. It was the pain that came when one came suddenly from a place of great darkness to one of bright light, like the time he had once crawled out of a dark old cellar into brilliant sunshine. The pain faded as his eyes adjusted and in a few moments he was able to open his eyes. He found himself looking at a pair of sandled feet. Great, he thought. So many years blind and the first thing I get to see when my sight is restored is a pair of dusty feet. Then he realised they must be those of the teacher, the Son of David himself, and he looked up. A smiling, bearded face looked down at him. And then without a word he walked on, continuing his journey to Jerusalem. The crowd moved on with him.
A burly man who smelled slightly of fish helped him to his feet. A fisherman, thought Bartimaeus, but one who has not been to sea for a long time.
'Well, boy,' he said. His voice was deep and friendly. 'What now?'
With hardly a thought, Bartimaeus said:
'I must follow him.'
He snatched up his cloak and threw it over his shoulders. Then he took up his stick and bowl. Thrusting the latter into his satchel he began to walk after the teacher.
'What's your name, boy?' asked the fisherman, walking alongside him.
'Mine's Peter. Simon really but everyone calls me Peter. Bartimaeus? That means 'son of Timaeus.' Timaeus is a Greek name, isn't it?'
'My father was Greek, a tailor. He was a God-fearer who came to this land to learn more about the faith he loved. He died not long ago.' Suddenly Bartimaeus stopped.
'What is it, lad?' said Peter.
'I can't go with you. Not today, anyway.'
Peter nodded.
'I understand.'
'You do?'
'Of course. You're only a boy. You can't just head off without so much as a word to your mother. And you said she was a widow; and there you were begging on the side of the road. She relies on you for support, doesn't she?'
Bartimaeus nodded.
'And I have younger brothers and sisters as well.'
'Hungry little mouths to feed,' said Peter with a chuckle. 'Well, you can't leave them to starve, can you? Go to them. They need you.'
'But the teacher gave me back my sight,' said Bartimaeus staring down the road after the crowd. 'And I know that he is the Messiah, the Son of God. How can I not follow him?'
'Indeed you must follow him,' said Peter. 'But not on the road. Not today. Follow him in your heart for now. Go home, find work, provide for your family. Your time to follow the master will come soon enough.'
'I will follow him,' said Bartimaeus. 'I'll study his teachings and live them. I'll teach them to others. And I will come and find you all again one day. I promise.'
'Good man,' said Peter, clapping him on the shoulder. 'Now go home. Surprise your mother with your great and glorious good news – you were blind, and now you see!' And with that he walked away and followed after his master.
Bartimaeus watched after him and then turned and began to walk slowly back towards the city. The sun was hot on the back of his neck and he threw his cloak over his head to keep it off. He could hardly begin to understand what had happened to him. He had met Jesus. And now he could see. And surely there was no doubt at all that he was the Messiah, the Christ, the Son of God.
So deep was he in his thoughts that at first he didn't notice the two men walking along the road towards him. They stopped suddenly a long way off. The shorter of the two pointed at him and then put his finger to his lips, silently telling the larger to keep quiet. He had an evil grin on his face. Their behaviour puzzled Bartimaeus. Then he studied them further. The short man was had a withered hand; the larger was fat and and lame in one leg, using a crutch to walk. It was the two beggars.

He realised he had been wrong about their staying clear of the road to Jerusalem. They had spotted him coming along and, not knowing he could now see, planned to wait on the road in silence until he drew near and then jump on him. They were going to get a big surprise, he thought with a smile. He continued to walk towards them, as if he didn't know they were there. With the sun behind him and his cloak over his head they couldn't see his face. As he got near, the big man balled his hand into a huge fist and drew it back. What fools, thought Bartimaeus; even if I were still blind, I can hear their breathing, and smell the reek of sweat and old wine off them. I'd know it was them from yards off and turn their surprise attack back on them.
As soon as he was within reach, the man with the crutch swung a massive blow at him. Bartimaeus simply moved his head out of the way and the man, totally off balance, went crashing to the ground. The short one plunged his one good hand into the folds of his cloak and came out with a short, wicked looking knife with a curved blade. With a snap of his stick Bartimaeus knocked it out of his grip. The man howled in pain and cradled his hand to his chest.
'Careful boys,' said Bartimaeus. 'I can see now. Your advantage is gone. Now its one fit young man against a titchy guy with one hand, and a fat bloke with one leg. I don't know about you, but I like those odds.'
'I don't understand,' said the big man, struggling to sit up. Bartimaeus planted his stick firmly on the ground.
'Well hear is what there is to understand. Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah, the Son of God. He proves who he is by signs and wonders. He makes the blind to see and the lame to walk. And he has given me back my sight. And learn this also; have faith in him and you also might be healed. He is on the road to Jerusalem. Go to him; believe in him; fall at his feet and worship him. Beg his mercy and cry out to be made whole. Perhaps you will be healed; perhaps you will not. But whatever happens, believe in him; believe in his Good News and be saved.'

And with that he walked past them and continued on the road to Jericho. He wondered what his mother would say to see him healed. She would be overjoyed. But even better, he thought, was that now she would surely also believe that Jesus was the Messiah.

(c) Rev Patrick G Burke 2015

prayer diary Saturday 24 Oct 2015

“Sir, let it alone for one more year, until I dig round it and put manure on it. If it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.” 
Luke 13.8,9

The parable of the barren fig tree reminds us that God grants sufficient time to all to work out their salvation – indeed often in the eyes of the world a super-abundance of time. But the day comes to us all when that time is ended. Pray that you will be found to have been fruitful.

Friday, October 23, 2015

prayer diary Friday 23 Oct 2015 (Day of Discipline and self-denial, St James)

The whole assembly kept silence, and listened to Barnabas and Paul … After they finished speaking, James replied, ‘My brothers, listen to me.' 
Acts 15. 12,13

St James presided at the first great council of the Church in Jerusalem. As we remember him, we should also remember the great authority Christ gave not only to the Church, but to its leaders – something that was respected by all, even then

Thursday, October 22, 2015

prayer diary Thursday 22 Oct 2015

'Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division!' 
Luke 12.51

Christianity is not the faith of 'anything for a quiet life' or trembling at the thought that someone may take offence at what you say. The Gospel truth must be preached boldly so that all may have the hope of being saved.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

prayer diary Wednesday 21 Oct 2015

You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour. 
Luke 12. 40

Again and again our Lord warned that the moment when we will stand before him will come without warning. If we live as if we may be called home within the next instant we will not be found wanting.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

prayer diary Tuesday 20 Oct 2015

'Blessed are those slaves whom the master finds alert when he comes.' 
Luke 12. 37

Jesus – or death – may come at any moment. Blessed is he who lives all his life with this thought to help keep him from sin.

Monday, October 19, 2015

prayer diary Monday 19 Oct 2015

And Jesus said to them, ‘Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.’ 
Luke 12.15

Greed is not confined to a desire for riches. Some, while caring not for wealth, may burn with desire for other things – and would do anything rather than give them up. If they get between you and love of God, then they are as much a danger to you as love of money.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

why pain?

Almighty, eternal, and merciful God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit: inspire the hands in the writing, the lips in the preaching, and our hearts in the pondering so that we may be led deeper into your truth, better know and do your will, and grow in holiness day by day. Amen.

The question as to why is there evil and pain in the world is a serious one, especially as to why there should be innocent suffering. Somewhat tediously, that tiny group of very vocal people who are loosely collected under the banner of Militant Atheism – those who not only have no faith themselves that there is anything that exists beyond what the eye can see and they hand may touch, but actively and aggressively seek to convert others to their own belief that God that does not exist – act as if this were a question that only occurred to humanity recently. Christians claim God is good, they say; but a God that was good would not allow suffering, especially the suffering of those who are truly innocent. God therefore does not exist.

It must be noted with a certain degree of amusement that they can get quite angry with a God that they claim they believe is not real. But that aside, their raising of this issue is not new. Philosophers have always dealt with the problem of pain and suffering. They dealt with at length in the middle ages; they considered it deeply during the long and varied history of the Roman Empire; and they pondered it endlessly during that shining period of human achievement that was the time of the Ancient Greeks. But before any on them, many centuries before, was the sublime and divinely inspired work on the matter that is the Book of Job.

Job, as I am sure you are aware, is a man who is not only innocent but righteous, and who suffers greatly. After he has lost everything – family, wealth, even his physical well-being – friends come to comfort him; friends who try to persuade him that he has done something to deserve his suffering. His friends are scandalised by his claim that he has done nothing wrong. But the truth is – and this is the point of the book – that he has not. Job is a good man who has suffered terribly. In his pain, Job cries out to heaven for an explanation for what has happened to him. And in our Old Testament reading this morning, we hear part of the answer that God gives to him:Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements—surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? On what were its bases sunk, or who laid its cornerstone when the morning stars sang together and all the heavenly beings shouted for joy?'

Such words may sound strange to the modern ear, but what God is essentially saying to him is that he is God and Job is not. And that is a more profound explanation than it might first seem. Imagine a human being trying to explain to an ant – a creature that is tiny in size, whose time of life is brief, and whose ability to grasp abstract ideas and concepts is as nothing compared with ours – what he was doing in building something as massive as a railway line crossing from one end of the United States to the other, a project that would take many years to complete, and when finished would be in service for an even greater span of years. Could any explanation be possible, as long as the ant remained an ant and the human being a human being? Even if it were possible for them to communicate, perhaps all that the man could say to the ant ultimately is that 'I am a man and you are but an ant.'

However, the gulf between God and Man is even greater than that between a man and an ant. A man and an ant at least have some things in common; they are born, they die, they must eat while they live, they both live in communities, and understand what it is to seek out food and build things. But God is Eternal, all-powerful, all-knowing, able to create all that is out of nothing, and keep it in being with nothing more than the force of his will. How could it be possible for us understand the thinking of a being who plans not in terms of decades or centuries but billions upon billions of years; whose scale of operations is not the few miles that surround a person, or a country, or even a single planet, but the infinite reaches of the universe – a space so vast that it contains, as far as we can tell, more galaxies than it would be possible for us ever to count? And how might anyone dare, a person so tiny and limited, to say to a being that is infinite and all-knowing, that because there is some aspect of his creation that we simply do not understand, or like, or find unpleasant, that the fact that this aspect does not meet with our approval is proof that he can not possibly exist? Such an reaction is not only foolish, it displays an embarrassing arrogance; the passing speck of dust demanding of the infinite creator that he justify his each and every action to him, and explain in tiniest detail to him the reasons behind all that he does. Could the speck understand the ways of God any more than the ant could understand what it is that we do?

And yet, God does not leave his explanation to Job as the only answer. And that fuller answer is in the person of Christ, God made man. For in Christ, God came to suffer and die with us, to drink the cup of his passion, and to suffer the baptism of his death on the cross, to use the words of our Gospel reading for today. We may not understand why there is innocent suffering – suffering seemingly unconnected with the brokenness of the Fall, suffering which is not caused by our evil misuse of our God-given free-will. And yet we can trust that it is not without purpose or meaning; because God loved us enough to enter into this suffering and broken world to endure all its slings and arrows with us. And because we know that Jesus, having died on the cross for us, has conquered death, and given us the hope of eternal life. And that hope guarantees us that nothing in this life is without purpose or meaning, even if there are things that we do not understand, things that we must simply pray for the grace to accept and endure, knowing that at the last they are overcome by Christ.  

To the
Almighty and Eternal God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, to him be all Glory, both now and unto ages of ages: Amen.

Examin 18 Oct 2015

God tells us in Leviticus that we must be holy because he is holy; and St Paul in 1 Thess prays that God will make us perfect in holiness. Being holy, then, is essential. Do not neglect it. Leading a good life will of necessity flow from holiness; but being holy will necessarily result from trying to be good. And as holiness is what is needed in order to inherit eternal life, to neglect it is not just foolish, but fatal.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Saturday 17 Saturday 17 Oct 2015

'Everyone who acknowledges me before others, the Son of Man also will acknowledge before the angels of God; but whoever denies me before others will be denied before the angels of God'. 
Luke 12. 8,9

Fear of this world can cause us not only to fear declaring ourselves to be Christians, but also living as if we were. But the cost of such peace is a poor bargain indeed; for it trades the joy of in heaven for a few quiet years in this life.

Friday, October 16, 2015

prayer diary Friday 16 Oct 2015 (Day of Discipline and self-denial)

‘I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that can do nothing more. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell' 
Luke 12. 4,5

It is tempting to fear those who can harm us in this life; but is an easy life worth risking eternal life for? Better to fear God and let the world do what it may.

Thursday, October 15, 2015


a Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) press release

A man was killed and a church burned down in violent clashes in Aceh Singkil, Indonesia, on 13 October.

Violent clashes broke out after a demonstration on 6 October by an Islamic youth group demanding that the local government tear down a number of churches that they claimed had been built illegally without permits. They threatened to tear down the churches themselves if their demands were not met.

The local government agreed to demolish at least 13 churches in Aceh Singkil and force the churches to register for new permits to build churches. They also decided to force the Christian community to adhere to a 1979 agreement which stated that only one church and four chapels can be built in Aceh Singkil. However the group took matters into their own hands. After the first church was burned down, they clashed with Christians at another church.

The police and the military were deployed to restore order and the attack on the churches was condemned by President Joko Widodo.

The organisation Solidarity of Victims of Freedom of Religion and Belief Violence (SobatKBB) stated that the incident in Aceh must not be viewed as an isolated incident but is the result of discriminative policies against churches which have been applied since 1979. Furthermore, the government's 2006 Joint Ministerial Regulation on Houses of Worship has complicated the question of legality for houses of worship built before 2006.

Palti Panjaitan, National Coordinator of SobatKBB, said that the government's focus must not only be on halting the violence but also on conflict resolution and the repeal of discriminative legislation: 'Without any serious effort, violence in Aceh will keep recurring. Christians practically live without any protection, which keeps them in fear of further attack and violence.'

Christian Solidarity Worldwide's 2014 report, Indonesia: Pluralism in Peril, highlighted 'the inaction and at times complicity of the local, provincial and national authorities' as a factor fueling religious intolerance in Indonesia. Recommendations to the Indonesian government include the repeal of discriminatory legislation and ensuring that violations of religious freedom are properly investigated and the perpetrators are brought to justice.

CSW's East Asia Team Leader Benedict Rogers said, 'This tragic attack is the latest in a series of incidents in recent years, in different parts of Indonesia, which threaten Indonesia's tradition of religious pluralism and tolerance. It is vital that the Indonesian government act to bring the perpetrators to justice and prevent further violence.'

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 15 Oct 2015

When he went outside, the scribes and the Pharisees began to be very hostile towards him and to cross-examine him about many things, lying in wait for him, to catch him in something he might say. 
Luke 12.53,54

Christ told the scribes and the Pharisees where they were in error; their response was not thanks but hatred. So also may you expect many of those you seek to help to hate you.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

prayer diary Wednesday 14 Oct 2015

'From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required; and from one to whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded.' 
Luke 12. 48

Much has been entrusted to us – not only the faith, but the duty to pass it on. Do not be found to have been an unworthy servant when the Final Trump shall sound.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015


a Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) press release

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reports that three Christians who were part of a group of 200 held captive by Daesh (Islamic State) since February have been executed. The terrorist group released a video on 8 October showing Dr Abdel-Maseeh Aniyah, Ashur Rustam Abraham and Bassam Issa Michael in orange jumpsuits. The men were ordered to confirm their names before being shot dead. Daesh have threatened to execute the remaining hostages if their ransoms were not paid.

The men had been held since 24 February, when Daesh abducted 253 Assyrian Christians following dawn raids on their settlements in the northeast of Syria. While the group has periodically released elderly prisoners, reports indicate that 202 people remain in captivity with Daesh. According to news reports, Daesh is demanding ransoms of around $50,000 per hostage for the release of each prisoner. In March, 23 Christians were released after paying a religious tax.

Syrian Christians have been targeted by militant Islamist jihadi groups since the outbreak of the civil war in 2011, with many killed or forced to flee their homes. In many cases, those who have remained, often the elderly and disabled, have been ordered to either convert to Islam or pay a religious tax (jizya).

In other news, Father Jacques Mourad, a priest from the Syriac Catholic Church who was abducted on 21 May, has been released.
Father Mourad, who is also head of the monastic community in Mar Musa, located between Damascus and Homs, was abducted as he travelled to the Mar Elian monastery in al-Qaryatain town, where he had been helping those displaced by the war. At the time of the abduction his colleague, Father Jihad Youssef, stated: 'Father Jacques made no distinction between Christians or Muslims. He helped anyone in distress. The psychological care of people in the war and other emergency humanitarian aid were also important to him. For years he had cared for war refugees.'

According to ARA (Independent Press Agency), Father Mourad is currently in Zaydal village, Homs Province and further details of the priest's release have been withheld for security reasons.

Daesh destroyed the Mar Elian monastery in late August. More than 2,000 Christians lived in al-Qaryatain prior to the Syrian civil war but most have left since violence reached the province of Homs.

Mervyn Thomas, Chief Executive of Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), said, 'We offer our heartfelt condolences to the families of Dr. Abdel-Maseeh Aniyah, Ashur Rustam Abraham and Bassam Issa Michael and pray that one day their murderers will be brought to justice. The release of Father Mourad is a rare piece of good news, but our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the many innocent people who are still held captive and who are now also under threat of extrajudicial execution pending payment of exorbitant ransoms. 

'We also remember Archbishop Boulos (Paul) Yazigi of the Greek Orthodox Church and Archbishop Yohanna Ibrahim of the Syriac Orthodox Church, who were abducted by gunmen in April 2013 and whose whereabouts remain unknown. We renew our call to the international community to provide protection for Syria's religious and ethnic minorities against an onslaught that is claiming innocent lives and erasing the country's diverse heritage.'

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 Tuesday 13 Oct 2015

'Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit; be like those who are waiting for their master to return from the wedding banquet,' 
Luke 12. 35, 36

Those who follow Christ must live as if their lives might end at any moment. Do not neglect the duties of this life; but never forget that this life will pass.

Monday, October 12, 2015

prayer diary Monday 12 Oct 2015

'And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.” 
Luke 12. 19, 20

How many of us live as if we had all the time of the world and concern ourselves near exclusively with worldly things, paying scant attention to God? Yet the day will come for all who live thus when they hear the words 'You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you.' And what then of their souls?

Sunday, October 11, 2015

the rich young man

Almighty, eternal, and merciful God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit: inspire the hands in the writing, the lips in the preaching, and our hearts in the pondering so that we may be led deeper into your truth, better know and do your will, and grow in holiness day by day. Amen.

Our Gospel reading this morning begins with the detail that it is just as Jesus is setting out on a journey that the rich man comes to him. And I think we may place some significance on that fact. Jesus, if we look at the passages of scripture that precede this incident, has been going from place to place teaching; he would have, it seems fair to assume, spent a reasonable amount of time in each town or village or place on the road he stopped at. So he has been at the place he is leaving now for a while – many hours at least; possibly days.

But the man must only have heard of his presence. Perhaps he was away from the town on business and had just returned; perhaps other affairs have kept him occupied. Whatever the reason, he heard about the fact that the 'good teacher' is near only very late in his visit; and so he comes running, finds Jesus preparing to leave, throws himself on his knees before him, and asks him the most important question of all: 'what must I do to inherit eternal life?

Jesus responds to him with what might be described as a summary of the Ten Commandments; and the man replies that he has kept these all his life. And we may believe that he speaks the truth, for Christ looks at him and loves him. This is more than simply the love that God has for all of his creatures; this, I think, is our Lord responding on a human level to a man who not only has tried all his life to be good, but seeks to know what more he must to go to heaven.

Perhaps this love our Lord has for him is evident to all standing there, shining forth in the way he gazes upon this man, and is later remembered and recorded by the evangelist St Matthew as he stands there watching; or perhaps Jesus shares this with his Apostles as they are walking down the road later, on the journey whose beginning the man interrupted. But we can be certain that the Son of God loved this man in a special way and that the answer he gave him was the one he needed to hear in order that he might inherit that eternal life he so earnestly sought.

But the answer he receives shocks him: You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.’ And he goes away grieving. Why grieving? Remember what his question was – what must I do to inherit eternal life. And Jesus, the good teacher, tells him that there is one thing more that he must do, as well as all the rest he does already, if he is to enter into eternal life. And he can not do it; he can not give up the material things of this world.

Why will this man not inherit eternal life? He seems to be a good man; we know he keeps the commandments; and we can trust that a man who does that, who is a faithful Jew, does more as well. He surely gives alms to the poor; and is scrupulous about the paying of tithes. By any objective standpoint he is a good man; and yet, because of the one thing he lacks, he will not, it seems, go to heaven. Why should this be so?

Because, I think, he makes the mistake – a mistake that is common today – of thinking of religion as being an ethical system. That is a common error, even today. How many times have your heard someone say something like 'why do I need religion to lead a good life? I can make perfectly fine moral and ethical decisions without any need to believe in any kind of god.' And that is perfectly true – although, it must also be said that one need only look at the competing ethical systems at play in the secular world today to realise that seemingly any kind of behaviour can be justified if one puts one's mind to it. No, the point is that Christianity is not merely yet another ethical system among many.

Yes, it expects people to behave in a manner that is moral according to the lights of its teachings; but it expects more than that – far more. If it did not, then the rich man we read about today would have had no problem. But the Christian is called not only to be good, but to holiness of life. Think what the Apostle Paul teaches us in first Thessalonians – he asks that God make us perfect in holiness. Think about what God tells us in Leviticus – be holy as I am holy.

And what is holiness? There are many long answers, but a short one would be to be set apart from the world and totally devoted to God. Using that, we can see the difficulty faced by the rich man. Yes, he was good, as the world defines good; but he could not set himself apart from the world. His possessions meant too much to him; and because of that he could not bring himself to devote himself entirely to God by following Christ. This was the 'one thing' he lacked; and even for the sake of eternal life, he could not bring himself to embrace it.

What of us? Must we give up all things to enter into eternal life? Not necessarily. Jesus spoke directly to the man that day, to his specific needs. Perhaps he would say something different to you if you were to throw yourself on your knees before him and ask the question that poor young man asked that day: Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?' Perhaps it is something that you should do, every time you pray, morning, noon, and night. We can be sure that as you make your request he will look upon you with love, and seek to tell you what it is that you lack. Perhaps it would be as well to pray also that you will not be brought to grief by his answer, because you can not, like the man, find it within yourself to let go of what it is that stands between you and following Christ completely.

To the
Almighty and Eternal God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, to him be all Glory, both now and unto ages of ages: Amen.

Examin Sunday 11 October 2015

What is humility? One way for the Christian to think of it as accepting that anything they wish to do in life that does not accord with the will of God, as revealed to us in his Sacred Scriptures and the Holy Traditions and teachings of the Church He established, is sinful and therefore to be put from our minds. They are certainly not to be acted upon. Total submission to the will of God in all things – that is humility. Is that how you lead your life? Is it even your goal as to how you should live?

Saturday, October 10, 2015

prayer diary Saturday 10 October 2015

A woman …. said to him, ‘Blessed is the womb that bore you ...!’ But he said, ‘Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it!’ 
Luke 11, 27,28

Christ's words here do not in any way denigrate his Mother. No, he speaks in order to stress that there is nothing more important than listening to God and obedience to Him.

Friday, October 9, 2015

prayer diary Friday 9 October 2015 ( day of discipline and self-denial)

Some of them said, ‘He casts out demons by Beelzebul, the ruler of the demons.’ Others, to test him, kept demanding from him a sign from heaven.
Luke 11. 15,16

Do not be discouraged when there are those who call the Gospel message evil or challenge you to provide extraordinary proofs of its truth. For they did the same even before the face of Christ himself.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

prayer diary Thursday 8 October 2015

‘So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you.' 
Luke 11. 9

Christ taught us to persevere in prayer, for God will surely answer us. Sometimes, however, we may not like His answer. What we desire is not given us; or the pain continues. Perhaps then what we are to pray for is the strength to endure.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

prayer diary Wednesday 7 October 2015

‘Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.' He said to them, ‘When you pray, say: Father, hallowed be your name.' 
Luke 11. 1,2

Christ teaches us that not only is God our Father, but that he is holy. We then, who are his children, must strive to be like our Father and be holy as he is holy.

Monday, October 5, 2015

prayer diary Tuesday 6 October 2015

‘You are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.’ 
Luke 10.41,42

In our busy world it can be easy to forget the importance of sitting quietly and prayerfully in the presence of the Lord. Make time for prayer in your life; nothing you will do all the day long will be as important as that time you spend with God.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

till death do us part: a reflection

Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer. Amen.

Today more of a reflection than a sermon given that this is intended to be a fairly brief service this morning, as we have the Harvest Thanksgiving later on in the parish. So let us have a short look at our Gospel reading for today. You know, I always am a bit taken aback when I read this passage from Matthew – our Lord is so uncompromising on the topic of marriage and the fact that it is indissoluble – once you are married, you are married as long as the other person is alive; if you divorce and marry again, you are not married at all, but rather in an adulterous relationship. And adultery is, of course, a serious sin, the commission of which is a breach of one of the Ten Commandments.

And if I am a bit shocked at our Lord's very strict interpretation of the moral law on this issue, imagine what it must have been like for those listening to him at the time. I at least have grown up with this idea my entire life; and live in a culture where this has been the norm for almost 2000 years. This was not the case for the Jews listening to him. They were used to being able to get divorced when they wanted to; and in fact, there were various rabbinical schools of thought that suggested that it was acceptable to get divorced for what we might consider today to be quite trivial, if not indeed sexist, reasons – essentially if your wife burned the dinner! They must have been blown away by what Jesus was saying.

And so they argue with him. And so Jesus reminds his hearers of what it says in Genesis, where God's original plan for marriage is written. When a man and woman marry, they become one flesh, joined together by God; and what God has joined together, man may not separate.

Now there is not space in a short reflection to deal adequately with so complex an area of moral theology, especially one that for many can be so sensitive. But perhaps we may consider one small point. Why does God think marriage to be so important that he will join together as one flesh those who marry in an unbreakable bond? Let us step away for a moment from the more obvious reasons such as the bringing into the world of children and providing them with a secure and stable place in which to grow up; or even to provide companionship for the spouses. Let us think instead of why we have been created – which is to be in heaven eternally with God. And during this life, that is to be our primary aim – to grow in holiness so that at the end of this life we may enter into eternal life. God wants this more than anything – was it not for this reason that he sent his only Son into the world? And if God became man for our salvation, we must also look at the relationship between husband and wife in that context as well – that marriage, along with all other relationships, is intended to help us grow in holiness.

Viewed in that light, the primary work of the husband is to work work for the salvation of his wife; even as it is the job of the wife to do her utmost that the soul of her husband be saved. Not all marry, of course, but those who are called by God to do so and answer that call must not look on it as some kind of temporary arrangement that lasts as long as the two parties are both getting what they want out of it; but rather that it is a divinely ordained state of life, where the one looks to the ultimate good of the other, even as they trust that the other will look to their ultimate good also. A challenging task, no doubt; but to help God grants the couple his grace by changing them on day they make their marriage vows from two into one; one flesh from that moment until the day they are parted by death.

This may seem difficult; but is it too difficult a thing? Not if we trust that God grants us the grace needed. As I said earlier, marriage is a calling, and, as the Apostle St Paul tells us, God equips those whom he calls. And above all else, we can have no doubt as to whether the permanence of marriage is part of God's plan for us, for we have nothing less than the words of Christ himself to assure us that this is so. Christ said elsewhere that blessed are those who listen to God's word and obey; and so the prayer I end with today is that all of God's children will listen to his word and obey – in marriage, and in all things. Amen.