Saturday, September 24, 2016

prayer diary Saturday 24 September 2016

While they were all marveling at everything he did, he said to his disciples, 'Let these words sink into your ears; the Son of man is to be delivered into the hands of men.' 
Luke 9.43, 44

Christ came to suffer and die for our sins. Never lose sight of this: the Cross lies at the heart of Christ's mission; and therefore it is at the heart of what it is to be a Christian.

Friday, September 23, 2016

prayer diary Friday 23 September Day of Discipline and Self-Denial

And he said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" And Peter answered, "The Christ of God." 
Luke 9.20

This is a question we must ask ourselves. And if we can not answer from our hearts as Peter did, then we must pray God's help to do so until the day we can.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

prayer diary Thursday 22 September 2016

Herod said, "John I beheaded; but who is this about whom I hear such things?" And he sought to see him.
Luke 9. 9

Even those who do evil have a natural attraction to good. We must always endeavour to bring back to God every soul, no matter how lost it seems.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

prayer diary Wednesday 21 September 2016 (St Matthew)

As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax office; and he said to him, "Follow me." And he rose and followed him. 
Matthew 9. 9

St Matthew left wealth and power to follow Christ. So too must we leave behind many things the world calls good if we are to be his disciples.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

prayer diary Tuesday 20 September 2016

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

Obedience to God's will places one in the closest possible relationship with Him. Compared to that all the cheap temptations of the world are as nothing.

Monday, September 19, 2016

prayer diary Monday 19 September 2016

'No one after lighting a lamp covers it with a vessel, or puts it under a bed, but puts it on a stand, that those who enter may see the light.' 
Luke 8.16

Your faith is a light. You must use not only to enlighten your life but all the world.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

prayer diary Saturday 17 September 2016

'And some seed fell among thorns; and the thorns grew with it and choked it.' 
Luke 8.7

The cares, riches, and pleasures of this life can cost you life eternal. Do not pay for things of such small worth with something that is without price.

Friday, September 16, 2016

prayer diary Friday 16 September 2016 - Day of Discipline and Self-Denial

Soon afterward he went on through cities and villages, preaching and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. 
Luke 8.1

Christ's life was devoted to bringing the Gospel to others. We are called to be as like him as possible; therefore we are called to preach the Gospel as best we may.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

prayer diary Thursday 15 September 2016

Then those who were at table with him began to say among themselves, "Who is this, who even forgives sins?" 
 Luke 7. 49

God offers forgiveness to all. But being forgiven requires recognising that you are a sinner – and asking for forgiveness.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

prayer diary Wednesday 14 September 2016

'John the Baptist has come eating no bread and drinking no wine; and you say, 'He has a demon.' The Son of man has come eating and drinking; and you say, 'Behold, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!' 
Luke 7. 33,34

Those of evil minds desire to make anything the virtuous do seem evil. Do not be led astray by such as they.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

prayer diary Tuesday 13 September 2016

And Jesus said, "Young man, I say to you, arise." And the dead man sat up, and began to speak. 
Luke 7. 14,15

Christ had power of life and death in this life; how can any think he does not have even greater authority in the next?

Monday, September 12, 2016

prayer diary Monday 12 September 2016

The centurion sent friends to him, saying to him, "Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof. 
Luke 7.6

Faith displays itself in trust of God; and humbly recognises that his authority is without limits.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

the greatness of God's love for us

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

Our Gospel reading today contains the well-known parables of the Lost Sheep and the Missing Coin. Each remind us of the great love that God has for his children – so great that when one is lost he will go to great lengths to bring that lost soul back to him. And we know, of course, what those great lengths consists of. The Son of God, the second person of the Blessed Trinity, took flesh and was born of a Virgin so that he might save us from our sins – dying on the Cross so that he might do so. There are no limits to which God will not go in order to bring the lost back to him.

Why was it necessary that Christ should die for us? That is something that all should know the answer to, for it is basic Christian doctrine. It was because in the sin of our first parents relationship was God was damaged and needed to be restored. And we have some examples of that break in our readings today. Consider the words that we heard speaking through the prophet Jeremiah: 'Now it is I who speak in judgement upon them. For my people are foolish, they know me not; they are stupid children, they have no understanding. They are skilled in doing evil, but how to do good they know not.' Because of the Fall we became skilled in doing evil and did not know how to do good; but the Father loved his children anyway and sent the Son into the world to save them.

Or consider the words of today's psalm: 'The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God.’ Corrupt are they, and abominable in their wickedness; there is no one that does good. The Lord has looked down from heaven upon the children of earth, to see if there is anyone who is wise and seeks after God. But every one has turned back; all alike have become corrupt: there is none that does good; no, not one.' And when the psalmist speaks of people saying there is no God, he is not talking about atheists – there were no atheists in the ancient world. He's talking about those who are denying the One, True God who had revealed himself to them and going off to worship idols and carry out the abominations demanded by those false religions.

And, of course, idol worship was not then and is not now limited to bowing down to figures made of stone, wood, or metal. As St Paul reminds us through gluttony we can, for example, make an idol of our stomachs. Anything in our lives that we put before God is an idol – whether it be a false religion, a false understanding of religion, or some ideology that places man's wishes and whims over and above the right worship of God and right relationship with him. That is what the psalmist was speaking of; and the result is that people become corrupt and do not do good. And still God sent Christ into the world to suffer and die on the Cross for us. So that each and every one of those lost sheep might be brought back to the fold.

And when you think of the lost sheep, who do you imagine it might be? Someone other than yourself? No - it is each and everyone of us; we are all lost sheep. We are all sinners in need of salvation whom Christ came into the world to save. Never make the mistake of thinking that you are doing well and it is the other person, someone you think worse than you, who is the lost sheep. That is to fall into the error of the Pharisee in the parable of the Pharisee and the Publican. Remember that it is the Publican who stands at the back of the synagogue, beats his breast, and says 'Lord, have mercy on me for I am a sinner' who goes home justified, not the Pharisee who thinks he is a fine upright fellow.

We must always keep in mind the words of someone who was a former Pharisee, St Paul, whom we hear say today: 'Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. And I am the foremost of sinners.' Note that he is not speaking merely of his former life, during which he had done terrible things, and committed many great sins in his persecution of the Church. No, even though at the time of writing he had left that all behind he says 'I am the foremost of sinners' – present tense. He realises that despite all he has done to spread the gospel, he remains a sinner, in need of Christ's salvation. And he is not unusual in this – great saints always recognise that that are also sinful men and women. Perhaps that is why they are great saints. And if such as they recognise how much they need to repent, how much they are in need of God's mercy because of their sins, how much more must we recognise it, we who are far from being anywhere near as holy as they were during their lives?

And yet, despite our sins, despite our lack of holiness, God reaches out to us. He reaches out to us as the shepherd searches for his lost sheep. He reaches out to us as the woman searches for her lost coin. He reaches out to us as the Son upon the Cross, dying for our sins. I pray that all hear will enter into the embrace of the one whose arms are opened wide for us upon the Cross and be saved; and I most especially ask that you pray the same for me. Amen. 

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Death in Cavan

The news is full of the terrible events in Cavan. I try to avoid too much of the details. The headlines tell me enough – enough to say a prayer for those who died and those who loved them who have been left reeling by what happened. I don't feel the need to know more. Indeed, I don't think it is good to know more. It is enough that I know something terrible happened. Too many details can only wound.

I heard a woman on the radio talking about it, an expert on murder/suicide. She agreed with me about it not being good for too many of the details to be made public. Not for the same reason that I thought it be kept more private, that it may in some way hurt those who see and hear about such sad things; and for the privacy of the family. She worried that too many details might spur on copycats. But she didn't say if there was anything to show that such awful happenings were influenced by hearing about them in the media.

She did say that such events were thankfully rare. They happen on average about twice a year. That is still too often, I think – being rare isn't enough; it should be a thing unheard of. But I suppose we have to take our blessings where we find them.

I thought her work must be very frustrating. Her studies have led her to identify some common features in such cases. The perpetrators are predominantly male; there is most often some history of mental illness; and they have often suffered a recent job loss or reduction in status at work. But this information doesn't help much with prediction or prevention of such occurrences. After all, half the country are men; a huge percentage of the population have had some brush with mental health issues; and, the economy being the way it is, unemployment and fewer hours at work are common.

So, as I said, it must be a frustrating area to study. She knows enough to be able to look at these cases after they have happened and say which are typical. But not enough to be able to say to the authorities: 'Go to such-and-such a house; there is a man there who is struggling. Help him now and something terrible can be stopped.'

The truly sad thing about these events is that they almost always involve families. Something happens and a previously loving husband and father does something worse than when Cain struck down Able. It only makes it sadder to think that something had snapped in the person, that in the wholeness of their health they would be more horrified by their actions than anyone, because the victims are the people they love most in the world; and that an intervention at the right moment might have prevented the whole thing.

And so I feel sorry for the perpetrator also. And I say a prayer for them as well as those they hurt. What else can I do? What else can any of us do?

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

do such things only as may profit us for eternity

Since therefore, brethren, we asked of the Lord concerning the dweller in His tabernacle, we have heard, as a precept concerning dwelling there, “if we fulfil what is required of a dweller there.” Therefore must our hearts and bodies be prepared as about to serve like soldiers under holy obedience to these precepts; and whatsoever our nature does not make possible let us ask the Lord to direct that the help of His grace shall supply. And if we wish to escape the pains of hell and attain to eternal life we must hasten to do such things only as may profit us for eternity, now, while there is time for this and we are in this body and there is time to fulfil all these precepts by means of this light.
from the prologue of the Rule of St Benedict

I often think that the words of St Benedict apply as much to those outside the monastery as those within. Every Christian, after all, lives in some form of a community of faith. The parish, for example, is also a faith community - is it not? And so there is value for all in reading the Rule, whatever their circumstance of life. 

As an aid to those who wish to read a little part of it daily, it has been broken down into shorten readings for each day. Above is today's. I think there is much wise counsel to be found there. Consider the words: 'we must hasten to do such things only as may profit us for eternity, now, while there is time for this and we are in this body.' They bring to mind for me the parable of the rich fool:

"The land of a rich man brought forth plentifully; and he thought to himself, 'What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?'  And he said, 'I will do this: I will pull down my barns, and build larger ones; and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; take your ease, eat, drink, be merry.' But God said to him, 'Fool! This night your soul is required of you; and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?' So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God." 
Luke 12. 16-21

Life is short, eternity is long, and tomorrow may never come. Now is all we can be sure of. And that is the time, to paraphrase St Paul, for us to work out our salvation with fear and trembling. (Philippians 2.12) 

Thursday, September 1, 2016


The topic of modesty has been somewhat on my mind of late. And not because our sweltering Irish summer weather has folk going about with hardly a stitch on! No, it was because of a new 'social justice campaign' that got a few mentions in the media. Stop reading now if you blush easily … and if you're still reading, don't say I didn't warn you! The campaign styled itself as 'free the nipple' campaign.

It was was launched by a few people who decided that it is a matter of grave injustice that men can go topless in public while women can not and that equality demands that the female of the species should have the right to stroll around naked from neck to navel while out and about if she so wishes. The idea isn't gaining much traction, I think. And small wonder. There are enough real issues relating to social justice in this country and the world. Public nudity isn't one of them.

Also, when it comes to the issue of men and women and going topless most I think realise that the simple explanation is that men and women are physically different. Trying to suggest that this is injustice is a bit like trying to claim that the lack of urinals in women's toilets is somehow discrimination. It is true that they aren't there, but they're not there for a reason, and that reason is rooted in physical reality.

One of the weaker arguments I heard put forward in favour of it was that in other European countries that sort of thing wouldn't even raise an eyebrow. Oh really? Even if it were true, what sort of an argument is that? It is essentially the 'everyone else is doing it' that children try to make to their parents when they are laying down the law. My dear old mother, may she rest in peace, had a great response to that sort of thing: 'and if everyone else threw themselves off a bridge, would you want to do it too?'

But anyway, it simply isn't true that this is common practice abroad. I'm just back from my holidays in France and I didn't see the like anywhere – not even on the beaches. In fact, I was struck by how modest people were when it came to changing into their bathing costumes. None of your wrapping a towel around yourself and hoping there wouldn't a gust of wind like we do here ! I was at several lakeside beaches while there and was astonished to see folk trooping to the loos to changes into their costumes before a dip and to towel off and get dressed again after.

It was so obviously the done thing that my family and I felt that our Irish towel-wrapping ways would be somewhat exhibitionist – so we changed in the loos, behind a locked stall door, like everyone else! It was a bit of an effort, true. But we figured it was worth it. Modesty, after all, is important.