Saturday, September 30, 2017

prayer diary Saturday 30 September 2017

‘Let these words sink into your ears: The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into human hands.' 
Luke 9.22

Christ spoke these words in prophesy of his passion. But the cause of his his suffering and death was human sin. Therefore each sin we commit betrays him still. Strive with all your might to be less and less a betrayer of the one who came to save you.

Friday, September 29, 2017

prayer diary Friday 29 September 2017 (St Michael and All Angels)

Nathanael replied, ‘Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!' 
John 1.49

Before the miracles, before the signs, before the Resurrection, Nathanael believed. Such are the gifts of God to those who have faith in him and love him.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

prayer diary Thursday 28 September 2017

Herod said, ‘John I beheaded; but who is this about whom I hear such things?’ And he tried to see him. 
Luke 9.9

Hardened in his wickedness as he was, even Herod felt the draw of Jesus' power. Never abandon your brother or sister, no matter how far gone they may seem to be in their life of sin. Their hardness of heart may yet be broken by Christ.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

prayer diary Wednesday 27 September 2017

Jesus called the twelve together and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal. 
Luke 9.1,2

What great and wondrous authority Jesus gave to his Apostles. And that authority now resides in the Church our Lord and Saviour established, his One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

prayer diary Tuesday 26 September 2017

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

An intimate relationship with God is possible for all. But it requires that first we hear the word of God and then live that Holy Law with humble obedience.

Monday, September 25, 2017

prayer diary Monday 25 September 2017

'No one after lighting a lamp hides it under a jar or puts it under a bed.' 
Luke 8.16

Your faith is not a private thing to be hidden away only to be taken out on special occasions. It is something you must openly live every moment so that by your life you share it with others and help bring the light of Christ to the world.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

the one reward for faithfulness

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

I have often thought that if a landowner were to actually behave like the one we read of in today's Gospel, he would soon find that in the morning there would be be very few men in the market-place seeking work; while come the evening when he returned for his last visit he would find the place bursting at the seams! However, it is not the intention of our Lord in this parable to provide us with business advice or to promote a new model of employment practice. Rather he seeks to explain that when it comes to the eternal reward that awaits each and every one of us, God's idea of what is right and proper is very different to how a human being might judge the situation.

And it is well for us that God views things very differently from men. In the immediate context in which Jesus is speaking, his purpose is to make it clear to Jews, whose ancestors have been faithful to God for generations, that the Gentiles who are only just coming to understand and believe in the one true God will not be treated any differently to them. But Sacred Scripture, as we know, speaks to all generations; and to us it says that those who come late to faith, or late to being obedient to God's law despite knowing the teachings of the faith, will receive the same reward as those who have been faithful servants all their lives.

This, of course, is how it must be. Eternal life is eternal life. One person can not have more of it while another has less. For if one person had less, then that person would not receive eternal life at all. And how can you grant one person more eternal life than another? The answer of course is that you can not. God created us all to have eternal life with him in heaven; and while we may reject that gift and spend eternity elsewhere as a result, it is simply a logical impossibility that God may grant one person more and another less of the eternal life with him that he offers.

God, of course, understands that this might be a difficult thing for us to understand. That is why he himself tells us this parable in the person of the second person of the Holy Trinity, our Lord Jesus Christ. He wants us to understand that he does no one an injustice when he gives the same reward to the person who is faithful to him over the course of a long life from beginning to end, and to the person who lives an equally long life but only repents of his evil ways at the end of it. This is because salvation is God's free gift to us; it is not something that any of us are entitled to. And as the landowner says to those who grumble: am I not allowed to do as I choose with what belongs to me? And if that is true of a man, then how much more true is it when it comes to God.

God, as already been pointed out, understands that this may be difficult for some to understand. That is why the landowner in the parable is not angry with those who grumble. This is evidenced by the mild manner in which he speaks to them. He even addresses them as 'friend.' There are many parables in which the person who by interpretation stands for God displays anger with those who argue with him or oppose him, sometimes a great and terrible righteous anger. But not in this case. He gently explains that they have suffered no wrong; and indeed have themselves received their just reward, the good reward that has been promised to them.

There are two points with which I should like to end. The first is prompted by a question I have had more than once in Confirmation classes, which goes along the lines of: why should I not live as I please and wait until the end of my life to repent, be forgiven, and go to heaven anyway? The answer to that is, I hope, obvious to all here. We none of us know for certain if we will be alive tomorrow, or even a moment from now, much less that we will be alive to repent many years from now. And, as I hope all here also know, to be able to commit deliberate and repeated sin requires you to harden your heart and constantly deny to yourself and the world that those actions are sinful in the first place; and it is, of course, impossible to repent of what one refuses to acknowledge as sinful.

And the second, and last, is that we should note that the landowner repeatedly returned to the market, searching for workers to labour in his vineyard. The road to salvation always begins with God's initiative; and he wants all to be saved, no matte how late they come. But we must also note that each time he arrived he found people there – people who had not been present at his previous visits, people who were now ready, willing, and able to work in his vineyard. God's initiative requires a response from us. And just as those who do not come to the market seeking work will not receive any payment at the end of the day, those who do not respond to our Lord's call at any stage in their lives cannot receive the reward of eternal life. Pray for me that I may always respond as our Lord desires I should respond to his call; even as I will pray for you in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. 

Saturday, September 23, 2017

prayer diary Saturday 23 September 2017

'The ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe only for a while and in a time of testing fall away.' 
Luke 8.13

We face many things that test our faith. When trials occur do you stand fast? Do you fall away and think you will ask for forgiveness later? Or do you fall away without even realising that you have done so?

Friday, September 22, 2017

prayer diary Friday 22 September 2017 (day of discipline and self-denial)

Soon afterwards Jesus went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. 
Luke 8.1

Our Lord did not just proclaim the good news, he brought it with him wherever he went. We too must live our lives in such a way as to bring his good news into the lives of those we meet.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

prayer diary Thursday 21 September 2017 (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

Our Lord called St Matthew to be an apostle and he followed him. He calls each of us also, each to our own role within the Church. And we must respond as St Matthew did, by rising up and following Christ – whatever the cost.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

prayer diary Wednesday 20 September 2017

'They are like children sitting in the market-place and calling to one another, “We played the flute for you, and you did not dance;we wailed, and you did not weep.”' 
Luke 7.32

There are some who will criticise you no matter what you do; truly it is a case of damned if you do and damned if you don't. Ignore them. There is only one whom you must hear and obey for he has the words of eternal life.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

prayer diary Tuesday 19 September 2017

Then he came forward and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said, ‘Young man, I say to you, rise!’ 
Luke 7.14

Each day our Lord commands us to rise up, to hear and obey his word, so that we may enter into eternal life. How do you respond to his command?

Monday, September 18, 2017

prayer diary Monday 18 September 2017

‘Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof.' 
Luke 7.7

Several times in the Gospels we read of Jesus' praise for the great faith displayed by some. In what manner do you think would he regard the faith that you have in him?

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Forgiveness and the Cross

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

The topic of our Gospel reading today is that of God's forgiveness; and the parable of the unmerciful servant demonstrates that his mercy toward us is essentially unlimited. There is no sin that we may commit that God cannot forgive, provided that we are repentant. However, it also shows, in order to attain mercy, we must ourselves be merciful; in order to be forgiven, we must also forgive. And if that seems hard, we must remember, as the parable demonstrates, that even though the offences that others commit against us may seem great, they are as nothing compared to the offences we commit against God. For any wrong done to us, no matter how great we may judge it to be, is simply an offence against a mortal creature; but all offences against God, no matter how trivial they may seem, if done against the Almighty creator of the universe.

It for that reason that Jesus died on the cross to atone for our sins. And it is because of that infinitely great sacrifice – God becoming man so that he might suffer and die for our sins – that we must keep the Cross at the centre of our lives. That Cross means the possibility of Salvation for all; and Salvation means that it is possible for us to one day be where we were created to be – with God, in heaven, for all eternity.

Therefore, wonderful things can happen for us if only we will keep the Cross at the centre of our lives. Indeed, let me tell you a little story concerning something rather wonderful that happened recently, in this very Church, when one person understood the importance of keeping the Cross at the centre of things.

One Sunday, not many weeks ago, I came into St Mary's to conduct Divine Services as usual. As I faced the altar, I was first startled and then entranced by an unusual sight. Upon the White Cloth on the surface of the Holy Table there shone an image of the Cross in golden light. It took me only a moment to realise that it was caused by light reflecting off the Cross in the Sanctuary onto the Altar Cloth. But why was it happening? It had never happened before that I had seen. Now, it was a sunny morning; and of course as we all know, the angle of the sun changes throughout the year and what with sometimes days being wet or cloudy, perhaps it was that conditions had never been just right for me to notice this happening before? But as the service progressed, I glanced back to the altar several times; and though the angle of the sun changed, the phenomenon continued and the bright, golden cross continued to shine unmoving upon the white linen of the Holy Table. This made it clear that it was the light of the sanctuary lights themselves being reflected from the cross down onto the altar; which made it all the more puzzling, as in that case why had it never happened before?

The only thing I could think of at that point was that someone must have moved the cross or adjusted its position so that for the very first time it was catching the light in this way and reflecting its image upon the altar. And so it proved to be. After the service, as I was telling the few people who had remained behind about what I had noticed and inviting them to come and see it for themselves, Sylvia Ward told me that when she had been cleaning and doing the flowers she had noticed that the flowers were obscuring the cross to some extent; and thinking that it was wrong that the cross should be hidden in any way, she had moved it a little so that it would remain in plain view and retain its position of prominence within the church. She had kept the Cross at the centre of things. And something wonderful had been the result.

Now, of course, this is only a small thing – although I must confess that it caused me great excitement and wonder at the time, and still warms my heart whenever I see it – but it does, I think, serve as a sort of a parable. We as Christians are called to keep the Cross at the centre of our lives. When it was done in this case, something rather beautiful was the result – a glowing cross was cast upon the Altar in God's Church. And that I think can serve to remind us of the even more beautiful and wonderful things that can result when we keep the cross at the centre of our lives always … if we lead our lives always thinking of how Christ died for us … if we lovingly follow his teachings, carrying our own crosses, forgiving others as we ourselves wish God to forgive us when we fail to live up to our calling to be as Christ-like as possible … realising that even as we carry our cross, the cross of Christ carries us … carries us daily ever nearer to our heavenly home and eternal life … to the place where all mourning ceases, all sadness is over, where all is joy and love, and all our sins forgiven … a forgiveness that we have through the Cross of our Lord … the Cross that I pray that all here will embrace, now and always, in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. 

Saturday, September 16, 2017

prayer diary Saturday 16 September 2017

'Why do you call me “Lord, Lord”, and do not do what I tell you?' 
Luke 6.46

There is no salvation without sacrifice. Christ died that we might be saved; and we must forego all that does not conform to his teaching if we hope to partake of the salvation that he offers.

Friday, September 15, 2017

prayer diary Friday 15 September 2017 (day of discipline and self-denial)

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

Who is it from that you seek to learn how to live – those blind guides who speak with the approval of the world? Seek the counsel rather of He who speaks with the authority of the Divine, God's Son, who speaks to us through Sacred Scripture and through the Church which He founded.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

prayer diary Thursday 14 September 2017

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

In the context of this passage, our Lord spoke of those who hate you because of your faith in Him. And what greater love could you show to such as those than to do all that you can to bring them also to the path that leads to Salvation?

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

prayer diary Wednesday 13 September 2017

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

Great are the rewards in heaven for those who risk the hatred of the world for the sake of the Lord. Can you say that you have earned the Lord's blessing in this way?

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

prayer diary Tuesday 12 September 2017

He spent the night in prayer to God. And when day came, he called his disciples and chose twelve of them, whom he also named apostles. 
Luke 6. 12, 13

Our Lord did nothing without first engaging in prayer. We must also seek God's guidance and strength before we act.

Monday, September 11, 2017

prayer diary Monday 11 September 2017

The scribes and the Pharisees watched him to see whether he would cure on the sabbath, so that they might find an accusation against him. 
Luke 6.7

The wicked seek for reasons even in the good deeds of the most holy to accuse them of evil. But the evil is in their own hearts and will one day be their undoing. Pray they will repent before that day comes.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

true love means speaking the truth

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

The topic of our Gospel reading today concerns the correction of wrongdoing in others. It is an uncomfortable one, particular in this modern age of 'live and let live.' And it seems to stand in contradiction of our Lord's words elsewhere of 'judge not, lest you also be judged.' This is a favourite scripture quotation of many these days; ironically, generally used by those who would never dream of obeying anything else that Christ teaches – people who, indeed, would deny our Lord's divinity, and perhaps even the existence of God.

However, our Lord's words here, and in many other places in scripture, make it clear that when he teaches us to 'judge not' he is not commanding us to be silent in the face of evil, whether in the world or in the behaviour of others. The Church has always taken it to mean that it is not for us to comment on the eternal fate of those who, ostensibly at least, seem to be very great sinners. That is something that is left to the judgement of God alone; and it is why the Church has never during the entirety of her nearly 2000 year history ever taught that any particular person, no matter how evil they have seemed to be, no matter how great their crimes, have passed from this life into eternal damnation.

But refraining from making this kind of judgement does not mean, as I have already said, being silent when we see those around us breaking God's laws. Let us look at a fictional example to consider why it is important that we should not.

Let us imagine a young, married woman whose husband's job takes him abroad for long periods of time. During one such absence she is seen having drinks with an old boyfriend in the local public house, their behaviour becoming increasingly flirtatious. Her family and friends say nothing. Soon after she goes out for dinner with him on several occasions and then on to local nightclubs until the wee hours. Again her family and friends say nothing. Finally, his car is seen parked outside her house all night, several nights a week. The other nights her car is parked outside his. And still her family and friends say nothing.

And of course they should speak. Why? For the sake of her reputation? Well, naturally, reputations are very important things. A good reputation is more valuable than silver and gold. Indeed, to quote Shakespeare : 'Who steals my purse steals trash … but he that filches from me my good name robs me of that which not enriches him, and makes me poor indeed.' But even so, there was a more important reason that her friends and family should speak.

For the sake of her marriage? Again, marriage is something of great importance. For the Christian it is something sacred – in the words of our Lord: 'What God has joined together, let no man put asunder.' And irrespective of faith, it is the very building block of society. This young woman's action threaten not only her own marriage but also helps undermine the institution of marriage within society. And yet there is an even more important reason that her friends and family should speak to her about the wrongness of her actions.

And that is for the sake of her immortal soul. This woman is engaging in adultery. This is not to judge her – it is to speak the plain and objective facts of the matter. And we all know what the commandment says: 'thou shalt not commit adultery.' And our Lord, even as he protected the woman taken in adultery from those who would stone her to death, told her to 'go, and sin no more.' Why did our Lord tell her to 'sin no more'? Because those who die unrepentant of serious sin face serious eternal consequences. The friends and family of this woman can not know that this woman will be damned; and it is certainly not for them to say that she will be; but that is quite evidently the fate that she is risking. And if her friends and family love her, then the fear of her anger at being told what she is doing is wrong, the worry that she will end their relationship and never speak to them again, will not stop them from speaking to her. Because what is that risk compared by what she risks by her actions?

This example, as I said, is made up. And it covers, you will note, only one of the commandments. There are others. Perhaps it would be good if you went through them all in your mind, if not now, then later. Think of the lives of those whom you love. Are they living in such a way as to break God's law? Would you dare, out of love for them, to tell them so? And as you ponder, think of your own lives. Are there aspects of it that need correcting? And if there are, are you willing to do so? And if not, do you have friends and family loving enough to help you, loving in the true sense of love, love that will only the best for the other person, understanding that the best must always look to the eternal salvation of the one they love? I pray that you do – even as I pray that you will love all others in his way in the Name of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen. 

Saturday, September 9, 2017

prayer diary Saturday 9 September 2017

Then he said to them, ‘The Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath.’ 
Luke 6.6

Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath. Why then do so many who call themselves his followers neglect him or pay him little heed on the day that is his?

Friday, September 8, 2017

prayer diary Friday 8 September 2017 - Birth of the BVM

And Mary said, ‘My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour.' 
Luke 1. 46,47

Mary, utterly pure, rejoiced at the privilege of being the Mother of our Lord. Should not we also rejoice, we for whom he took flesh, died for our sins, and nourishes with his own body and blood in the Blessed Sacrament?

Thursday, September 7, 2017

prayer diary Thursday 7 September 2017

But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, ‘Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!’ 
Luke 5.8

The honest and humble response to the greatness of God is to recognise how unworthy we are. And yet, God loves us and calls us to serve him.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

prayer diary Wednesday 6 September 2017

Then he stood over her and rebuked the fever, and it left her. Immediately she got up and began to serve them. 
Luke 4.39

The example of St Peter's mother-in-law speaks to us all. God provides us with everything. Our first response should be that of grateful service.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

prayer diary Tuesday 5 September 2017

They were astounded at his teaching, because he spoke with authority. 
Luke 4.32

Mere mortals that we are, we can not claim to have authority like Christ's. And yet if we pass on his teaching faithfully, the authority that is his teaching shines through.

Monday, September 4, 2017

prayer diary Monday 4 September 2017

They said, ‘Is not this Joseph’s son?’ 
Luke 4.22

We all face those who say things like 'who do you think you are to teach me anything?' Take courage from the fact that Christ himself faced the same problem; and that the teaching you share comes not from you but from the Father of us all.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

false compassion

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

In our Gospel reading today*(printed below) we see St Peter try to persuade our Lord from accepting the things that must happen to him – that he must go to Jerusalem, suffer greatly at the hands of the authorities there, and be killed. And it must surely seem to us that the reaction of St Peter is a very natural one – the man whom he has left everything for to follow, the man he believes to be the promised and long-awaited Messiah, the man he has declared to be the Son of the Living God, the man he calls master and teacher and Lord, the man he loves more than life itself has told him that he is soon to face a very cruel fate. And the greatest of the Apostles is quite frankly appalled. So much so that he is moved to speak to our Lord in a manner that is, to put it bluntly, astonishing. He begins to rebuke him! Imagine – a mere man takes it upon himself to rebuke the One he knows to be the Son of God! But, as I said, at a certain level his reaction to the information that Jesus shares with him about future events can be seen as being quite natural. Who among us, after all, would be happy to be told that even someone we did not like very much was soon to suffer greatly and then die? And if we were told that this was to be the fate of someone we greatly loved, would we not do everything within our power to prevent those terrible future events from taking place?

And yet the reaction of our Lord shows that reactions such as St Peter's are not to be countenanced. Consider: he does not say to him 'I know that you are saying this because you love me and do not wish to see me suffer'; and he does not say 'you speak this way because you are a man of great compassion who does not wish to see someone else in pain'. No; he says 'Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me; for you are not on the side of God, but of men.' He is telling St Peter that when he behaves in this way, even though he may think he speaks out of love, out of compassion, that he is actually doing the work of Satan; that far from being good, what he is doing is evil. Why? Because he is placing the way human mind thinks and the human heart feels above the will of God as it has been revealed to him. And let us be quite clear – God's will has been revealed to him concerning this matter in a very unambiguous and direct way. For he has been told by Jesus himself what the fate of the Christ is to be; and he himself, only moments before, just a few verses prior to those we hear read in our Gospel reading today, when Jesus asks his disciples who do they say that he is, has declared that he is the Christ, the Son of God.

This, of course, makes St Peter's actions all the more surprising. He knows this is the will of God – for the Son of God himself has told him that it is. And yet he sets himself to argue against it. This demonstrates to us what a powerful temptation it is that St Peter faced – the temptation that when obeying God's will seems hard or to come at a great a cost to try and find a way around it. It is so powerful a temptation that it is little wonder that we will often hear people speak out against the clear teachings of Scripture or the Church founded by Christ, saying that those teachings must be changed, or if not changed at least not acted upon, so we can deal with people more compassionately, or more pastorally … but it is a false compassion as the reaction of our Lord to the words of St Peter shows. It is false because even though these things may seem good, even godly to us, they are not – they are evil, they are of Satan. It is false because it puts the desires of men before the will of God.

And it is false because it forgets, as St Peter did that day, that there are things beyond this life. For when our Lord outlined the fate of the Christ to his disciples on that occasion, it did not end with suffering, it did not end with death. It ended with the Resurrection – the Resurrection which is for us the promise of eternal life. That is why Jesus was able to tell his followers that they must take up their cross if they wished to follow him; because no matter what it cost them to do so, it would not end in death for them just as it did not for him – it would end in eternal life. And it was for eternal life that we were all created; it was for eternal life for us all that Christ suffered and died and rose again; and it is for eternal life, for ourselves and all others that we must daily strive … even as we pray for it in the Name of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen. 

*Matthew 16: 21-28

From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. 22 And Peter took him and began to rebuke him, saying, "God forbid, Lord! This shall never happen to you." 23* But he turned and said to Peter, "Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me; for you are not on the side of God, but of men." 24* Then Jesus told his disciples, "If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. 26 For what will it profit a man, if he gains the whole world and forfeits his life? Or what shall a man give in return for his life? 27* For the Son of man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay every man for what he has done. 28* Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom." 

Saturday, September 2, 2017

prayer diary Saturday 2 September 2017

But the one who had received the one talent went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money. 
Matthew 25.18

We all know the fate of the servant who did nothing with the talent entrusted to him – his master called him wicked and lazy and cast him out. The gifts God gives us are to be used for his glory in the world. There is much to lose if you do not and everything to be gained if you do.

Friday, September 1, 2017

prayer diary Friday 1 September 2017 (day of discipline and self-denial)

Later the other bridesmaids came also, saying, “Lord, lord, open to us.” But he replied, “Truly I tell you, I do not know you.” 
Matthew 25.11,12

This life is but a preparation for the next. And there will come a moment when all the time for preparation is gone and you will be judged on what has gone before. Pray that your life will be such that Jesus knows you and opens the door.