Thursday, June 30, 2016

zika and foetal abnormalities

There's an interesting article here from the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) studying the Zika outbreak in Columbia. The article is, naturally, long and complicated. But cutting to the meat, the conclusion the researchers give in the abstract is as follows (emphasis mine):

Preliminary surveillance data in Colombia suggest that maternal infection with the Zika virus during the third trimester of pregnancy is not linked to structural abnormalities in the fetus. However, the monitoring of the effect of ZVD on pregnant women in Colombia is ongoing.

As they quite responsibly say, this is preliminary data and monitoring is ongoing. However, the implications of the findings are grave indeed. Why is this virus linked to foetal abnormalities in Brazil but not in Columbia? Is there a difference between what is happening in the two countries? 

Well, as it happens there is. Brazil puts larvacides into its drinking water to keep the mosquito population down. And they changed brands not long before the spike in abnormalities began. 

Could the insecticide be causing the problem? Brazil denied the possibility when the idea was first raised some months back. But this new report gives the suggestion new credibility. However, establishing that toxins targeting mosquito larvae is the cause isn't the issue here. If the preliminary indications of the NEJM report turn out to be correct that there is no link between abnormalities and Zika in Columbia, then it follows that there is a link in Brazil is unlikely to the extent of being highly implausible.

One thing is clear. The push for pregnant women infected with Zika to have an abortion needs to stop. I am pro-life; so of course I am of the opinion that it was always wrong to advise women to have an abortion because their was a risk their child would be born disabled. But I would hope that even the most ardent pro-abortion advocate would agree that it is lunacy to give that advice when there is doubt as to the causal link between the virus and abnormalities. 

prayer diary Thursday 30 June 2016

When Jesus saw their faith he said to the paralytic, "Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven." 
Matthew 9. 2

Jesus' first concern was for the salvation of the man's soul rather than the healing of his body. Consider this well when next you face some of the suffering this life has to offer.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

please watch this video

My teenage son has posted a video of himself reviewing his new bike on his YouTube channel. He had his eight-year old brother act as camera man. I think they have both done an excellent job - clearly both chips off the old block, their father, as some of you may know, having spent happy years in his younger days both in front of and behind the camera. So please watch this.

My son the reviewer informs me that if he gets to one million views YouTube will pay him $5000. He currently has about 500 - so he has a little way to go! So give it a look and help him along his way ... and to be honest, it's not about making it to a million - I think if he gets it up to the four-figure mark he'll be over the moon! So, if you will, view, like, and share.

prayer diary Wednesday 29 June 2016 (St Peter's Day)

“I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." 
Matthew 16. 19

This verse describes what is called 'the power of the keys.' It shows our Lord granted great authority to the Church he founded; which means that we, as his followers, must have great respect for that authority.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

prayer diary Tuesday 28 June 2016

And he said to them, "Why are you afraid, O men of little faith?" Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a great calm. 
Matthew 8.26

Those who follow Christ need fear nothing. For the one who has power over the winds and the sea has the power to forgive sins and save souls.

Monday, June 27, 2016

prayer diary Monday 27 June 2016

A scribe came up and said to him, 'Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.' And Jesus said to him, "Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man has nowhere to lay his head.' 
Matthew 8. 19,20

Thus it is that our Lord warns us that the rewards of following him are not to be found in this life. Indeed, to follow him demands great sacrifice; but the ultimate rewards for that sacrifice are beyond price.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

No one who puts a hand to the plough and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God

May my words be in the Name of Almighty God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

In our gospel today we have three sayings from our Lord which emphasise the cost of discipleship. Context is, of course, very important, so it is necessary for us to understand the circumstances under which Jesus is speaking. The time, St Luke tells, is drawing near for Jesus to be received up, in other words to be crucified; and he has set his face towards Jerusalem. And as he journeys, men come up to him, offering to be his followers. The high cost of his own obedience to the will of the Father is quite naturally very much on his mind. And out of that he speaks to these would be followers of what the cost will be for them for trying to emulate that obedience by following him.

His response to each man is phrased very much like a proverb. Proverbs are, as I am sure you all know, a way of saying something wise and profound in a short and often dramatic form. But they are not to be take with slavish literalness, for if you do, then you get bogged down in the details while at the same time missing the fundamental point of what is being said. For example, the saying a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush has actually nothing to do with either birds or bushes or the market value of feathered creatures; and the one that states it is a long road that has no turns is not really talking about roads, turns, or indeed commenting on highway construction. Taking these sayings literally would cause you to miss the point they are trying to make. And the same can be said of the rather challenging proverb-like sayings that our Lord speaks in today's Gospel.

So let us consider these three sayings in more detail. The first is when Jesus says, in response to a man who wants to follow him ‘Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.’ The next is when, having called a man to follow him the man says first let me bury my father and Jesus says ‘Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.’ And to a third man, who has said he will indeed follow the Lord, but first wishes to go home and make his farewells, he says ‘No one who puts a hand to the plough and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.’

Now, if we look elsewhere in the Gospels, we can see that Jesus does not intend what he is saying here to be taken as literal requirements of the Christian life. Looking at the first one, when he says the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head, we know from Scripture that Jesus, while he did indeed spend a lot of time travelling from place to place teaching, was far from being homeless. There was a house in Capernaum that is referred to as his home; we frequently see him being welcomed into people's homes as an honoured guest; and we know that there were wealthy women who were part of his followers who provided for him and the others out of their resources. So he is not exactly homeless; but he has left what little comfort there is in his life for this last journey to Jerusalem.

In relation to when he tells a man to let the dead bury their own dead, taken literally that would be rather shocking. But we know from the Gospels that Jesus had great compassion on the bereaved, as we see from his encounter with the widow of Nain at the funeral of her only son or his visit to the tomb of Lazarus. Mary and Martha, it should be noted, we already devoted followers of his; and there is no suggestion from our Lord that they should do other than mourn or ensure the usual funeral customs are observed.

The final one is when the man wishes to say goodbye to his family and Jesus says that no one who puts his hand to the plough and looks back is fit for the kingdom of heaven. We know that St Peter and all the Apostles abandoned him in the Garden of Gethsemane when his enemies came for him; that Peter in fact denied him; and that none save St John stood with him in his agony as he suffered and died upon the cross. And yet Christ welcomed all of them back, made them leaders of his Church, charged them at his Ascension with making disciples of all nations, and that all of them are now saints in heaven standing before the throne of God. They all did far more than look back; and yet all of them was most certainly fit for the kingdom of heaven.

So, as we are clearly not to take what our Lord here with complete literalness, what are we to learn from these sayings of his? With the first, that the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head, he reminds us of the challenge of Christian living. It is a life of sacrifice; something for which the rewards are not this life but in the next. And it is worth noting that many Church Fathers, in commenting on this passage, believe that this man sought personal advantage in associating himself with Jesus, thinking that he would gain in some way by becoming a follower; and that as a result of Jesus' stark warning that this would not be the case, he walked away from Christ.

In relation to letting the dead bury their own dead, our Lord here uses hyperbole, exaggeration for the sake of effect. To be a Christian means having obedience to God as the first priority in your life in all things. Nothing else can be set before following his will in all things, no matter how important they may seem. And again it should be noted that St Cyril of Alexandria, a Father of the Church, wrote that it wasn't the case that the man was looking to go and attend to the funeral of his father; but rather that his father was still living and the man was telling Jesus he would come and follow him when he died, whenever that might be. He was effectively telling Jesus that I would love to be your follower – at some time in the future when it is convenient to me.

Finally, with regard to the man who wishes first to return to his family, our Lord is again employing hyperbole. First let us consider the metaphor he employs, that of a plough. In ancient Israel, this was a light wooden affair, pulled by oxen. The ploughman needed one hand on the plough to to keep it straight, and the other holding the reins of his team of oxen. To plough a straight furrow required that all one's focus needed to be on the task at hand; looking around or looking away meant at best the furrows would go all over the place, and at worst you would run into a rock or some other obstacle and shatter the plough itself. The Christian life requires full focus on what lies ahead, not looking back longingly at the life that that has been left behind. That is the old life of sin and death; and dipping back into it for friendly visits with those who are still part of it risks tempting the Christian back into that life. As St Augustine puts it with the regard to the man Jesus was speaking to, it was as if he was being called to the East, and instead he wished to turn to the West; or as the Venerable Bede says, he acted like Lot's wife and by looking back at the things he was to leave and thereby risked loosing the gift of the kingdom to come.

But even if what our Lord is saying here is not to be taken with slavish literalness, they are nonetheless intended to make it forcefully clear of the great cost that is entailed in following Christ. And as I said at the beginning, proverbs contain great wisdom. And if that is true then such sayings given us from our Lord contain greater wisdom still, coming as they do from the lips of the God himself, the second person of the Blessed Trinity. The wisdom he imparts to us in our reading today is intended, as with all his teaching, for the salvation of our souls, to help us end where God created us to be – with him in heaven. And I pray that the words we have heard spoken by our Lord today – words intended to make us realise the importance of making living the Christian life the primary focus of our lives – will indeed enter into your hearts and bear fruit in your lives this day and always. Amen. 

saved by the Brexit!

So, the 'leave' side won in the Brexit debate. Did I see it coming? I can't say that I did ... but I did think it likely enough to defer buying the sterling I need for a trip to England next week until after the results were in - and saved myself about €20 on the exchange rate as a result, thank you very much!

On a serious note, the narrow victory - which means that the UK remains very much divided over the issue - does show that a major change such as this over such a contentious issue would probably have been served by requiring a two-thirds majority rather than a simple one. Too late now ... but perhaps a lesson to be learned for other nations ... particularly if the UK's example prompts others to consider doing likewise.

Examin Sunday 26 June 2016

Think of the many times our Saviour told those who follow him to pray. Prayer, then, is a commandment from God; and as such it is something that we must do. Consider then the dangers of neglecting your own prayer life. It is more than simply being lax in your faith if you fail to do so, and do so regularly. It is to be disobedient to the words he spoke to us directly in the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

prayer diary Saturday 25 June 2016

'No one can serve two masters.' 
Matthew 6.24

Where does your true loyalty lie? What matters most to you? Would you be afraid to say grace before eating lunch in a restaurant because you were worried what others might think? Is a late night out on Saturday more important than being able to get up on Sunday for worship? Are you sure you know who your true master is?

Friday, June 24, 2016

prayer diary Friday 24 June 2016 (day of discipline & self-denial)

'Store up for yourself treasure in heaven.' 
Matthew 6.19

When this life ends, the only thing that will matter is if were you a good and faithful servant. Focus on what truly matters.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

prayer diary Thursday 23 June 2016

'Your Father knows what you need before you ask him.' 
Matthew 6.8

In which case, you may ask, why pray? Because even though God knows what you need, it is likely you do not. Pray and listen so that you may learn of him.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

prayer diary Wednesday 22 June 2016

'Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them.' 
Mathew 6.1

Let your worship flow from love of God; if it does not, you are fooling no one but yourself.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

prayer diary Tuesday 21 June 2016

'Love your enemies; and pray for those who persecute you.' 
Matthew 5. 44

What Christ calls us to is more than mere emotion, but a moral decision resulting in virtuous action - which is the hallmark of his followers.

Monday, June 20, 2016

prayer diary Monday 20 June 2016

'If anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other one also.' 
Matthew 5.39

Violence can not be overcome with more violence; only good can overcome evil.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Examin Sunday 18 June 2016

Have humility not only in your heart but also by your very appearance make it always manifest to those who see you … head bowed and your eyes toward the ground. Feeling the guilt of your sins at every moment, you should consider yourself already present at the dread Judgement and constantly say in your heart what the publican in the Gospel said with his eyes fixed on the earth: "Lord, I am a sinner and not worthy to lift up my eyes to heaven" (Luke 18:13; Matt. 8:8); 

based on the rule of St Benedict, Ch 7 'On Humility'

prayer diary Saturday 18 June 2016

'Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you shall eat or what you shall drink, nor about your body, what you shall put on.' 
Matthew 6.25

Our heavenly Father knows we need the things of this life to live. But better to starve than turn them into idols and thereby lose the eternal life of heaven.

Friday, June 17, 2016

prayer diary Friday 17 June 2016

'Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal.' 
Matthew 6.20

Of what use are earthly things? They do not last and when this life ends they are left behind; what is eternal is the riches that have come to you through godly living.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

prayer diary Thursday 16 June 2016

'And forgive us our debts, As we also have forgiven our debtors.' 
Matthew 6.12

How often Christ calls us to forgive others! From this we know that it is more than some something we may or may not do; it is something we must do for our own salvation.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

prayer diary Wednesday 15 June 2016

'But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by men but by your Father who is in secret.' 
Matthew 6.17,18

Soldiers train for battle, and athletes for competition; so too must Christians train ourselves for what we will face. And the training Christ commanded of us was fasting.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

prayer diary Tuesday 14 June 2016

'But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.' 
Matthew 5.44,45

The Christian has no enemy but the evil one himself and his fruits which are sin. And his evil is defeated if by our love and prayers we can turn the sinner from his sins.

Monday, June 13, 2016

prayer diary Monday 13 June 2016

'But I say to you, Do not resist one who is evil. But if any one strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.' 
Matthew 5.39

Christ's call to forgiveness seems hard. Yet he is the one who forgave those who crucified him; and told us if we would be forgiven we must ourselves forgive.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

mercy and the Lord's anointing

May my words be in the Name of Almighty God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Our Gospel today concerns the story of the Lord's anointing by a woman as he sat at table. We are given versions of this event by all four of the Evangelists, which makes it quite unusual really. There are not that many stories, other than our Lord's Passion, Death, and Resurrection, that are in all four Gospels. True indeed were our Lord's words that all long as the Gospels were preached that this tale would be told in memory of her.

As is so often the case with stories that are in more than one Gospel, the details vary as each writer seeks to draw from the event a different theological emphasis. Looking at all the accounts, the full story seems to have been as follows: Jesus, along with his followers, is invited to dine with a man called Simon, a Pharisee, at his home in Bethany. St Mark calls him 'Simon the Leper' so perhaps he is a man who formerly suffered from one of the many quite loathsome skin diseases referred to in the Bible as leprosy, but are not what we call leprosy today. Perhaps he was even healed by Jesus as we know that he healed many lepers. 

And as a leper was ritually unclean, someone forbidden to mix with others or take part in the religious rituals of the day, that would have been something quite important to a man like Simon. Maybe that explains why he invited Jesus to his house, even though the Pharisees in general did not like Jesus. Also present, as we learn from St John, is Lazarus after he had been raised for the dead. While they sit at table a woman comes in and anoints Jesus with a very expensive perfume, washing his feet with her tears and drying them with her hair. And it is St John alone who gives us the woman's name – Mary, the sister of Lazarus.

At this point, the accounts separate. Matthew, Mark, and John focus on the reaction of the bystanders to the anointing – they see the cost of the perfume and think of the woman's actions being a waste. But Jesus defends her actions – he is worthy to be treated with such honour. John draws out in particular the hypocrisy of Judas in this matter – even as he protests the waste he mourns the chance to sell the perfume and keep the money for himself, as he was a thief.  

We must pause here to consider what kind of sinner it is that the woman is. All people are, of course, sinners; but this woman is more than a sinner in that sense – she is a notorious sinner, known to all about her as being someone who had led a sinful life. The tradition of the Church, from the Fathers down, is that her sin was of a sexual nature, even perhaps a woman of the night. Given we know from the context of the times in which she lived, this seems the most likely explanation.

If we turn to St John's Gospel, we know that by the time of this anointing that Mary, Martha, and Lazarus were already well-established as followers of Christ. So it seems reasonable to suppose that long before the anointing Mary had turned from her sinful life to become a disciple of Jesus along with her brother and sister. Their faith in him was proved to be well founded by the raising of her brother. And at this dinner at the house of Simon – to which, as a follower of Jesus she would have had access – she comes weeping, to express not only gratitude that her brother has been restored to her, but also that her own sins have been forgiven. The family's close brush with death would very likely have brought home to her with a particular vividness what her own fate would have been had she died in her sins, had she not been granted pardon of them by Jesus.

Simon the Pharisee is rather sneering of the whole thing. Once a sinner always condemned is his attitude. And if Jesus really were a prophet he would know the sort of woman that she is. But Jesus knows what he is thinking and acts to correct it. Most especially he makes it clear that the sins of Mary have been forgiven. God has mercy even where men do not. What is past is past; and the prostitute is now a saint. And her holiness is made clear by St John who records the words of our Lord making it clear that her act of anointing him is a prophetic one, part of preparing him for his death, which we know he will give for the lives of the sins of all. The sinner can indeed be a saint – if they will but recognise that what they do is sin, turn from it, ask God's forgiveness, and instead lead their life according to his holy laws. That is how sinners become saints. And that is what we are called to do – for we are all sinners; and we are called by God in his mercy to be saints with him, and St Mary, in heaven. Amen. 

Examin Sunday 11 June 2016

The fourth degree of humility is that he hold fast to patience with a silent mind when in this obedience he meets with difficulties and contradictions and even any kind of injustice, enduring all without growing weary or running away. For the Scripture says, "The one who perseveres to the end, is the one who shall be saved" (Matt. 10:22); and again "Let your heart take courage, and wait for the Lord" (Ps. 27:14)! 

from the rule of St Benedict, Ch 7 'On Humility'

Saturday, June 11, 2016

prayer diary Saturday 11 June 2016 St Barnabas

This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 
John 15.12

This is Christ's command to us. And because he commands it, it is therefore something that we can do.

Friday, June 10, 2016

prayer diary Friday 10 June 2016

And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell. 
Matthew 5.30

Sometimes it is hard indeed to resist temptation. But the effort is worth it; particularly compared to what yielding to it may cost.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

prayer diary Thursday 9 June 2016

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations … teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. 
Matthew 28.19,20

This command Christ gave to all his followers. Therefore it is something that all who follow him today must do.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Have you heard the one about the journalist who looked at a beach?

So, I heard about this Australian journalist who had sparked outrage by posting a racist joke about the Irish on instagram and twitter. Oh dear I thought, as I googled the story, prepared to be offended. Finding it, I found that what he had done was to caption a picture of a beach near him that had been devastated by a recent storm with the following:

Coogee demolished over the weekend and for a pleasant change the Irish aren’t to blame.

Gentle readers, what can I say? I was not offended; instead, I burst out laughing. The beach looks like Temple Bar in Dublin or Pana in Cork on the Sunday morning after a wild Saturday night. And Coogee beach, for those who are unaware, is a well-known haunt of the young Irish who make their way down under for the almost obligatory year or two of work, sun, and fun that so many head to Oz for these days.

The journalist refuses to apologise for what he says was a joke. But perhaps I should for my failure to be sufficiently thin-skinned or politically correct enough. Try as I may, I cannot take offense at his remarks. But maybe I'm just congenitally disinclined to take anything that gets the online lynch mob going too seriously.

However, there is something about the story that one might take offence at were one so inclined. On his twitter feed I found the following concerning his post:

'Horrible racist comment, shame on you, you'd kick up if we were racist to your kind. Lucky the Irish are so easy going...!!'

'Your kind'? The name of the journalist in question is Josh Massoud; and based on his surname and the photos of him available of him online he appears to be of middle-eastern decent. 'You'd kick up if we were racist to your kind'Oh, the irony of it all! Forgive me for saying it, but it seems they just were. And he apparently has not. Kicked up, that is. So Mr Massoud, it appears, is an easy-going enough fellow ... even if his critics are not!

prayer diary Wednesday 8 June 2016

Whoever then relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven. 
Matthew 5.19

The truth contained in Sacred Scripture is not given by men but God. It is not therefore for men to change what it teaches in even the smallest way.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

prayer diary Tuesday 7 June 2016

Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. 
Matthew 5.16

Your faith and how you live it out gives witness to Christ's truth in the world. Never be afraid to let others see how much you love the Lord.

Monday, June 6, 2016

prayer diary Monday 6 June 2016

Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so men persecuted the prophets who were before you. 
Matthew 5.12

Give thanks for all that tries and tests you in this life. Because it is through enduring that you may enter into eternal life.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

haiku: Summer Sunday

Summer Sunday
   ~open church door
          distant cattle lowing

not man's gospel

May my words be in the Name of Almighty God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

We have two examples of God's power over life and death in our readings today. In the first, in our Old Testament reading, the son of the widow of Zarephath is restored to life after the prophet Elijah prays to God and his prayers are heard and his request is granted; in the second, Jesus restores the son of the widow of Nain to life with a touch and the words 'Young man I say to you, arise.' Two widows, two sons who are brought back to life, but with telling differences – in the first it is God answering the prayers of the prophet, in the second Jesus raises the man from the dead by his own authority. And this does not – or at least should not – surprise us, for Jesus is God incarnate. And the power over life and death that we see God display in Zarephath is the same power we see Jesus display in Nain.

This is why we hear St Paul say in our epistle today 'I would have you know, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not man's gospel.' For Christ is God and it is from Christ he has received the Gospel. St Paul in his letter to the Galatians, as you will of course recall from last Sunday's readings, is fighting against the heresies that have arisen in that region. People, while still claiming to be followers of Christ, are trying to pervert the Gospel, and preaching a false-gospel other than that brought to them by the Apostle Paul, seemingly because they care more about winning the favour of men than pleasing God. And St Paul will not countenance this – it is not for man to change the Gospel in any way; for the Gospel is not man's but God's. And because it is God's, and God has given man free will, man is free to accept it in its entirety or reject it in its entirety. But he is not free to change it, either by adding to it as some in Galatia were attempting to do by trying to force those who wished to become Christians into first converting to Judaism – which included, for men, circumcision – or taking from it, as many did then and still do today, by trying to soften the teachings, particularly the hard ones such as those that relate to sexual morality.

Now, there is, I think, only one thing to do if you take with absolute seriousness the idea that the Gospel is not something that was invented by men, and was instead something revealed by God to men in order that they should know how they might live in such a way that pleases him – and that is to devote your life totally to living in the way that the Gospel demands. We know that this is how St Paul lived. Consider his life prior to his experience on the road to Damascus – he was a man of authority, a man of power, a man of influence in the society in which he lived. We do not know if he had been a wealthy man – but he had the time to study to be a Pharisee, and to sit at the feet of the best teachers that Jerusalem had to offer. And he had been born not only a Jew, but a Roman citizen also – this at a time when to be a citizen from outside the Eternal City was something that a person would most likely pay a fair amount to gain. So we can presume he came from a family that was at least comfortably off. But he gave all that up to follow the Gospel. More, he traded a life of comfort and respectability for one that would take him from city to city in the Empire, paying his own way by working at a manual trade, and suffering beatings, stonings, shipwreck, arrest, imprisonment, and much more until he at last died a martyr's death for the faith. That was St Paul's response to the truth of the Gospel. And ours must be like it.

Ah, but you may say, that Paul was a great saint – and we are but ordinary men and women, poor sinners, and not the stuff of which saints are made. But to that I must make the reply, what of it? Before Paul was a great saint he was a great sinner – far worse than any here, or at least I hope so! Did he not persecute God's Church, hunting the faithful, trying to prevent the spread of the Gospel? Did he not stand watching with approval as St Stephen was stoned to death, at the very least complicit in his murder even if he did not cast a stone himself? Was he not on his way to Damascus to arrest more Christians, to bring them back bound to Jerusalem, to suffer who knows what at the hands of those there who hated them and the name of the one they followed, when the power of the Gospel message came upon him?

But that revelation from God was his opportunity to change. And remember, even with so direct a call from God, Paul still had his free-will – he could have said no and refused to follow. Did not a great many of the Jews also see the great acts of power of our Lord but still refuse to follow? So St Paul had a choice. But with God's grace he chose wisely; he understood the truth of the Gospel, and despite all that he knew it would cost him to follow it, nonetheless he did.

Why? Because he knew that it is better to please God than men; that it is better to give up all that the world has to offer for the sake of a place in heaven. Because in the light of the Gospel Truth he saw that if he were to do otherwise then he was effectively as dead as the sons of the widows of Zarephath and Nain; but by following Christ he was restored to life as they were – a life of following Christ in this life and being with him forever in the next. We are are called to such new life – and I pray that all here will choose it. Amen. 

Examin Sunday 5 June 2016

Let a man consider that God is always looking at him from heaven, that his actions are everywhere visible to the divine eyes and are constantly being reported to God by the Angels. This is what the Prophet shows us when he represents God as ever present within our thoughts, in the words "Searcher of minds and hearts is God" (Ps. 7:10) and again in the words "The Lord knows the thoughts of men" (Ps. 94:11). Again he says, "You have read my thoughts from afar" (Ps. 139:3) and "The thoughts of people will confess to You" (Ps. 76:11). In order that he may be careful about his wrongful thoughts, therefore, let the faithful brother say constantly in his heart, "Then shall I be spotless before Him, if I have kept myself from my iniquity" (Ps. 18:24).

from the rule of St Benedict, Ch 7 'On Humility'

Saturday, June 4, 2016

1914 Street

A very interesting wee short film by a friend of mine in Cork, Brian Stynes. Well worth a look, especially in this decade of commemorations. Helps provide some context as to why so many Irish men were in the British Army during the Great War ... and why so many of the British soldiers involved in the 1916 Rising in Dublin were actually from Ireland. 

prayer diary Saturday 4 June 2016

He called his disciples to him, and said to them, 'Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury.' 
Mark 12. 43

Most of us give to God and those in need what we can easily spare of our goods or time, or even less. We are called to do much more than that.

Friday, June 3, 2016

prayer diary Friday 3 June 2016

"How can the scribes say that the Christ is the son of David? …. David himself calls him Lord; so how is he his son?" 
Mark 12.35-37

There is only one answer to the seemingly paradoxical question Jesus asks – himself. For only the Word made flesh can be both man and Lord.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

prayer diary Thursday 2 June 2016

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

Our Lord declared this the first and greatest commandment. And so it is, for without love of God there can be no true love of man.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

prayer diary Wednesday 1 June 2016

Sadducees came to him, who say that there is no resurrection … Jesus said to them, "Is not this why you are wrong, that you know neither the scriptures nor the power of God?' 
Mark 12. 18,24

There are still those today who deny our hope of resurrection. And our Lord's reply to the Sadducees may be directed at them, that they know not God nor Sacred Scripture.