Monday, August 21, 2017

prayer diary Monday 21 August 2017

Jesus said to him, 'If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.' 
Matthew 19. 21

Reflection
Not all are called to Holy Poverty for the sake of the Kingdom. But all are called to love God above all else and at all times strive to lay up treasure in heaven.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

no room for race hate in the Church

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

There is a very obvious theme running through our readings today from Sacred Scriptures – and that is how God is the God of all people upon the earth; and his Son was sent for all. In our Old Testament reading God, speaking though his prophet Isaiah says his house will be a house of prayer for all people. In our epistle St Paul reminds the Romans that God is merciful to all, Jew and Gentile. And in our Gospel reading the Canaanite woman comes to Jesus asking for healing for her daughter, who is tormented by a demon; she is a foreigner, but she seeks God's help and mercy – and her prayer is granted.

This message that God is the God of all people, with no preference being given to the colour of their skin or what part of the world they may happen to come from, is very timely in the light of recent events in the United States, where Neo-Nazis and White Supremacists marched openly in the streets. Theirs is the quite frankly evil ideology that lead to the Holocaust, a dark stain in the history of humanity when millions of innocent lives were brutally snuffed out on the basis of the nonsensical and blatantly pseudo-scientific notion that some races were superior to others and that the interests of 'racial purity' demanded that what were deemed 'lesser races' be exterminated.

Now, when we think of the Holocaust we quite naturally think first of the Jews, six million of whom lost their lives in its horrors. But we must also remember that over eleven million others, mainly Slavs, lost their lives as well. They were also deemed to be lesser by this dreadful ideology; as were those of African origins and many others too. That over seventeen million lost their lives is horrifying and reason enough that such beliefs as these should be seen as being beyond the Pale. But this mind-numbingly large number was simply the tip of the ice-berg in terms of what was intended. Had the Nazis prevailed, their evil ideology would have required the death of not just millions but billions.

Sadly, sometimes there are those who try to claim that religion justifies racism. Sometimes they do so to justify their own racism; and sometimes they do so in order to justify their own prejudice against religion. But as our readings from Sacred Scriptures today make clear there is no basis upon which a person can find comfort for such views in the Holy Bible. Indeed, I would go so far as to say that just as the Lord told his followers that they could not serve two masters and could not serve both God and Mammon, neither can a person claim to be a follower of Christ while also adhering to this kind of ideology. How could they? The first is to seek to be holy as God is holy; the second is evil and therefore must be seen as belonging to the Evil One.

He is, of course, the Father of Lies; and the lie that one race is somehow superior to another is one of his most noxious ones. It is denied by science which, by virtue of the study of DNA, tells us that ultimately all men and women of the earth are kin to each other, that no matter how far you travel every person you meet is a distant relation. And it is denied by Sacred Scripture, which tells us that we are all children of our First Parents, Adam and Eve.

Because the Christian faith is utterly hostile to such an evil ideology, it is important the Christian faith in all its fullness be proclaimed fearlessly in the world. We must never forget that many thousands of brave Christian men and women also died during the Holocaust, sent to the death camps specifically because they knew their faith demanded of them that they speak out against the evil they saw taking place around them. They spoke then; we must speak out now – not just against this evil, but all the evils in the world today. We may not have white supremacists in our nation, but there are plenty of other evil creeds seeking to tempt the unwary, the gullible, the dissatisfied, or the oppressed soul to follow them. And also, because we know that those who follow such evil ideologies are deluded by lies and falsehoods, we must pray for them. For our Scripture readings today tells us today that God desires the Salvation of all. And deluded though they are, they are also our brothers and sisters, some through their baptism, all through their blood. We must never abandon them to the Evil which has ensnared them but instead pray for them endlessly - in the Name of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen. 

Monday, August 14, 2017

prayer diary Monday 14 August 2017

The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into human hands, and they will kill him, and on the third day he will be raised.’ And they were greatly distressed. 
Matthew 17. 22,23

Reflection
The disciples were distressed at our Lord's prophetic words, as are we when when we consider he suffered and died for our sins. Why then do we continue to sin wilfully?

Sunday, August 13, 2017

walking on water

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

Today's Gospel reading is the account of our Lord's walking on water. It is a dramatic display of his divine power and has become justly famous, so much so that the phrase 'to walk on water' is widely used in popular culture – so that, for example, a person who has done something seemingly impossible might well say 'and for my next trick I will walk on water' or a person who thinks he is above others and doesn't think the usual limits apply to him might be disparagingly described as 'thinking he can walk on water.'

Read carefully, the account in fact details three miracles. First our Lord walks on water; next he permits St Peter to join him on the surface of the lake and walk on water also; and finally, he calms the storm that is afflicting those in the boat. And each teaches us something important about Christian life.

Looking at the first: initially when the disciples see Christ coming towards them, they are terrified. There they are, in a boat, in the middle of the Sea of Galilee, with a storm raging all around them. And suddenly they see someone walking towards them. That they should react with fear, thinking it is some kind of apparition, is not surprising. But Jesus tells them not to be afraid. And the fear leaves them.

We also have much to be afraid of. We live in a world that surrounds us with threats, both physical and spiritual. But we have been washed in the waters of Baptism and made part of his Body, the Church; we are fed on the Body and Blood of our Lord in the Eucharist; and we have the Sacred Scriptures and the Holy Traditions of his Church to guide us. Christ is with us also; and therefore we need not be afraid, whatever threatens.

It is in response to this first display of divine power that the second follows. St Peter sees our Lord on the water and asks him, if it is he, to command him to come to him. Our Lord does; and St Peter obeys. It is important for us to note here that the apostle does not attempt to do this in his own strength; he does not see Jesus walking on the lake and say to himself 'well, if he can do it, then so can I!' No, he seeks to do so in the power of our Lord; more, he asks him to command him to do so. And when, because of the howling wind around him he becomes frightened and begins to sink, his immediate response to to call out to our Lord, who saves him.

We as Christians often face great difficulties. Sometimes they seem impossible to overcome. But here we see St Peter, rather than try to avoid what seems impossible, instead actively seeking it out … and remembering that it is by God's power that he prevails; even when he doubts he remembers this. And therefore rather that giving up, he prays to God for further help. And God grants him that help.

Our Lord and St Peter then join the others in the boat. And the wind at once ceases. The storm is over. And the response of the disciples to this final miracle is equally immediate. They worship him, saying that he is truly the Son of God – the first time in the Gospels that he is recognised as such.

Many Church Fathers regard the tempestuous sea as representing the world; and the boat, once Christ has entered in, as being his Church. Thus it is the only place where we may truly find safety; and therefore we as Christians must be careful never to separate ourselves from it. Christ did not found his Church idly; it is a vital part of his plan for the salvation of all. His Church is the people of God; and a person who deliberately sets themselves apart is not part of a people. His Church is the only place where we may be in fellowship with those other people who are also members of the body of Christ. And his Church is the only place where we may partake in the Sacraments that sustain us during our earthly pilgrimage that is intended to lead us to our heavenly home. In our Gospel reading it is in the boat that the disciples worship Jesus; and if we are also to worship him rightly we must also do so from within that boat, that ark of Salvation, which is his Church.


And as I finish, a final thought. There is an element of fear in each of these three miracles: the fear of the disciples when they see Christ approaching; St Peter's fear that causes him to sink; and the fear all in the boat have of the storm that threatens them. Christ takes away the fear in all three instances; and he can take away the fears that surround us and threaten us, not just our bodies but our very souls, if only we will trust in him – something that we must all pray for: in the Name of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen. 

Saturday, August 12, 2017

prayer diary Saturday 12 August 2017

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

Reflection
Those who seek power and position in this life risk paying a high price. True glory lies in humbly serving both God and your fellow man.

Friday, August 11, 2017

prayer diary Friday 11 August 2017 (day of discipline and self-denial)

'And a second is like it: “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.”'
Matthew 22.39

Reflection 
What does it mean to love your neighbour? To do all you can to ensure that they are happy in this life is doubtless important. But earthly happiness must never be bought at the expense of eternal happiness in the world to come.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

prayer diary Thursday 10 August 2017

“Tell those who have been invited … come to the wedding banquet.”But they made light of it and went away, one to his farm, another to his business,while the rest seized his slaves, maltreated them, and killed them. 
Matthew 22. 4-7

Reflection 
The pleasures of this world can distract some from the higher prize, some even to the point where they mock or abuse the faithful. But let not that dishearten you, but rather let knowing what they risk loosing cause you to work even harder for the salvation of their souls.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

prayer diary Wednesday 9 August 2017

'When those hired about five o’clock came, each of them received the usual daily wage. Now when the first came, they thought they would receive more; but each of them also received the usual daily wage.' 
Matthew 20. 9,10

Reflection 
God has but one reward for all who truly love him, eternal life. But do not presume therefore to delay entering into his service lest, like the foolish virgins, you find that the chance has passed you by.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

prayer diary Tuesday 8 August 2017

‘Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.' 
Matthew 18. 3,4

Reflection 
It takes humility to enter God's kingdom. We must, with the joy and trust of children, let go of all our pride and accept that the One who created us asks that we hear and obey the holy laws he has given us in His Son's divine teaching.

Monday, August 7, 2017

prayer diary Monday 7 August 2017

Jesus said to him, ‘If you wish to be perfect, go, sell your possessions, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.' 
Matthew 17.21 

Reflection 
Not all are called to sell all we have; but we are to be detached from our possessions so they do not serve to distract us from our relationship with God. For if the focus of our lives becomes our earthly goods then we are without treasure in heaven.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

the feeding of the five thousand

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

The miracle of the feeding of the five thousand is familiar to us all – so familiar that one might ask what is there that is new to be said about it? But the point, of course, when speaking of Sacred Scripture is not to find new things to say about it, but rather to remind ourselves of what has always been said about it, to refresh in our minds the Eternal Truths that it contains – Truths, we must remember, that we have by way of Divine Revelation.

So let us begin by considering the miracle in the literal sense. What are we to make of the fact that our Lord was able to feed so great a number of people - 5,000 men, plus woman and children? There they are in the wilderness, far away from the towns and villages of the region. It is getting late and, as the disciples point out, the people have no food with them. But Jesus takes the little food that the twelve have with them and multiplies it so that the vast multitude present are fed – with much left over! That he can do so is a testament to the Divine Power that our Lord possesses.

And we might do well to think in this context of Moses, and how our Lord says somewhere in the Gospels, speaking of himself, that one greater than Moses is here. Moses also fed multitudes in the desert; but the food he supplied came not from him, but from heaven. Christ feeds these people himself, by way of his own power. Moses was the intermediary; but Jesus needs no intermediary, for he is God incarnate.

We must also look at this parable from a didactic sense: what does it teach us, who as Christians are called to be as Christ-like as possible, about how we are to live as Christians? The answer to this, we are told by that great Father of the Church St Jerome, is that just as Christ has compassion on these hungry people and feeds them, so we too must show charitable concern for the poor and needy. The Christian duty of caring for those in need is evident to anyone who has even a cursory knowledge of the Bible, for we are told many places in Sacred Scripture about this duty. And the importance of this charitable duty can not be over-stressed; for as we are taught by our Lord's prophetic words in the parable of the sheep and the goats, those who reject the poor and needy will be set aside by him at the Last Judgement.

And finally today let us also consider this miracle from a sacramental point of view. Note well the description St Matthew provides us of our Lord's actions on this occasion, how he tells us that he took the bread, blessed it, and broke it. The Eucharistic overtones are unmistakable given how closely these words resemble those used in the Gospels of the Last Supper and the institution of the Holy Eucharist. And if those similarities were not enough, our Lord himself links this miracle with the miracle of the Eucharist in St John's account of the occasion. For immediately after, when those who had been fed on bread come to him again looking for more he begins to speak to them of the necessity of eating his flesh and drinking his blood … confusing many of those present at the time, and causing them to ask how could this man give them his blood to drink and his flesh to eat … but we know, of course, that nothing is impossible with God, and that our Lord does indeed do just that in the Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist.

And remember also the words of our Lord on that occasion: he says who eat his flesh and drink his blood will have eternal life and he will raise them up on the last day; but those who do not eat his flesh and drink his blood will have no life in them. The salvation of souls is always the primary concern of our Lord – and this should not surprise us for we know that he came into the world that all men might be saved – and so, of course, it must be the primary concern of all Christians … the salvation not only of their own souls but also that of others. It should therefore be a matter of great sorrow for us that all men have not been brought to know the truth of the Christian faith … and of even greater sorrow that of those who profess themselves to be Christians so many partake so infrequently of the healing and saving Sacrament of the Holy Eucharistic … and even then carelessly and unworthily … our Lord sets the banquet of Salvation before us, the foretaste of the great heavenly banquet that is to come … but no one, not us, and not the Lord, can force them to partake.


However, just as it is not the part of the Christian to innovate when it comes to doctrine or interpretation of Sacred Scripture, neither is it our part to despair. Our part is to do what we can to bring them to believe in the Eternal Truths our Lord gave us that they may live them out faithfully, leading them gently to God by the preaching of the Word and the example of our lives … and of course, praying for them always in the Name of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen. 

Saturday, August 5, 2017

prayer diary Saturday 5 August 2017

For Herod had arrested John, bound him, and put him in prison on account of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, because John had been telling him, ‘It is not lawful for you to have her.’ 
Matthew 14.3,4

Reflection:
Speaking God's truth can come at a cost; and sometimes at a great cost. But we must not be afraid to do so, even if it costs us our very lives.

Friday, August 4, 2017

prayer diary Friday 4 August 2017 (day of discipline and self-denial)

Jesus said to them, ‘Prophets are not without honour except in their own country and in their own house.' 
Matthew 13.57

Reflection
Preaching the Gospel can be hardest in our own communities and homes. Yet these are not only the ones we love most, they are the ones we are the most responsible for helping on the road to salvation.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

prayer diary Thursday 3 August 2017

'So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous and throw them into the furnace of fire.' 
Matthew 13.49,50

Reflection
It is a great danger to think that only those you consider to be the wicked will be found wanting on Judgement Day. For we all sin again and again – and excuse our actions instead of repenting and asking God's forgiveness.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

prayer diary Wednesday 2 August 2017

‘On finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.' 
Matthew 13.46

Reflection:
There is nothing in this world valuable enough to risk losing eternal life for. Temptations seem to offer pleasure; but they come at the risk of everlasting misery.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

prayer diary Tuesday 1 August 2017

'Just as the weeds are collected and burned up with fire, so will it be at the end of the age.' 
Matthew 13. 40

Reflection
Christ warns us repeatedly in the Gospels that there will be a judgement at the end of the ages. It is a warning that no one can afford to ignore or take lightly.