Saturday, December 1, 2018

prayer diary Saturday 1 December 2018

‘Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with … the worries of this life and that day does not catch you unexpectedly.' 
Luke 21.34

The temptations of this world are not limited to its pleasures. It is all too easy to be so distracted by the cares of daily living that you forget about both God and godly living. Take care: there is nothing of this life important enough to risk the next for.

Friday, November 30, 2018

prayer diary Friday 30 November 2018 (Saint Andrew)

He saw two brothers, Simon ... and Andrew his brother,... and he said to them, ‘Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.' 
Matthew 4. 18,19

We are all called to call others to Christ. Some must do so by preaching the word; all must do it by the holiness of their lives.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

prayer diary Thursday 29 November 2018

'Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.' 
Luke 21.33

God's word is eternal. It's truth is for all people in all places; it does not alter for the fashions of the age.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

prayer diary Wednesday 28 November 2018

'They will arrest you and persecute you … will be brought before kings and governors because of my name. This will give you an opportunity to testify.' 
Luke 21.13,14

The world has always been hostile to the message of Christ. Do not fear to preach it boldly, nonetheless, for this is your chance to be a witness to the faith.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

prayer diary Tuesday 27 November 2018

‘Beware that you are not led astray; for many will come in my name and say, “I am he!” and, “The time is near!” Do not go after them.' 
Luke 21.8

Christ warned us against false teachers. Be wary, therefore, of those who preach that which has not 'been believed everywhere, always, by all' (St Vincent of Lerins).

Monday, November 26, 2018

prayer diary Monday 26 November 2018

‘Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them.' 
Luke 21.3

Love of God and neighbour is not expressed through giving what you can easily spare out of your abundance. Rather it is when you must make real sacrifices to give.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

eat, drink, and be merry!

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

Today is the Sunday before Advent, the Sunday when we celebrate the Kingship of Christ. What that kingship entailed in his first coming is laid out for us in our Gospel reading this morning: the word made flesh, suffering and dying for our sins. What it will comprise of in his second coming is laid out in our reading from the Revelation to St John the Divine: 'Look! He is coming with the clouds; every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and on his account all the tribes of the earth will wail. So it is to be. Amen.' The wailing that is foretold is because when he comes again Christ will 'judge the living and the dead,' as we pray each Sunday and on every other occasion when we recite the Creed And we know, for Christ himself told us in the parable/prophesy of the Sheep and the Goats, that at that judgement many will be found wanting.

And for those found wanting his judgement will be severe: Christ often speaks of such as they being cast into the outer darkness where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth or into the fires of hell; and his parable of the ten minas, where the ruler returns to reward those who have used his gifts to them well, punish those who have not, and utterly destroy those who have fought against him in his absence, is a sobering vision indeed of the day of his return.

But this is not to say that Christians are to live their lives in fear and trembling, afraid to enjoy themselves in any way in this life in case they are punished for it in all eternity in the next. That kind of thinking would be to adopt the type of false view of our faith put about by those who hate religion. God gave us the good things of this earth and intends us to enjoy them. For evidence of this, we may look to Genesis. All that he created God called good. And then he set the man and woman he had made in the beautiful garden of Eden and told them they might enjoy everything there – as long as they kept within the limits he had set. They did not, as we all know; and that was the sin of our first parents, the sin which brought about the Fall.

Those instructions essentially hold true today. We may enjoy all God has given us in the world, but within limits. And those limits are that we should use what God has given us according to his will.

Therefore, for example, there is nothing wrong with a good dinner, whether at home or even occasionally in a fine restaurant. But we are not eat and eat and eat to the point of gluttony; and if we stuff ourselves endlessly while others go hungry, then we offend against charity. Similarly, there is nothing wrong with a glass or two of wine, or whatever you're having yourself, but we are not to be drunkards. When it comes to money, there is nothing wrong with working hard in order to provide a comfortable home for yourself and your family and have a decent standard of living; but avarice, or greed for money, is to be avoided … and from your plenty, you must share with those who do not have enough.

And the marital embrace, to phrase things delicately, is a good and wholesome thing, where the couple, to paraphrase from the Prayer Book, with tenderness and delight may know each other in love and through the joy of their bodily union they may strengthen the union of their hearts and lives. But that bodily union was ordained by God to take place within the bonds of holy matrimony, and there only.

We could go through all areas of life, but if I did we'd be here a very long time indeed! And I think the examples given are sufficient. Christians may indeed eat, drink and be merry – but not to excess and not as if that was all there was to life and not in ways that do not conform with God's law. But otherwise, by all means enjoy yourselves! Good news, I think, as we draw near to Christmas, and all that comes with it.

The reason, of course, why we celebrate the feast of Christ the King this Sunday is because it is also the last Sunday before Advent. And Advent is the season when we remember both the time when Christ came first; and that he will come again in order to help prepare ourselves for that day. St Augustine of Hippo had something very appropriate to say concerning our Lord's first and second coming: and that was that we should not resist the first in order that we may not dread the next. To put it another way: if we embrace his first coming by doing all we can to live good Christian lives we have nothing at all to fear on the day when he shall come again. 

But why should we resist? For he came to suffer and die that we might be saved. And why should we dread? For it has been his hope out of all eternity that we would be saved. And therefore my prayer for you this morning is to say again those words of St Augustine: that you may not resist the first coming so that you never never dread the next.

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

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Prayer diary Saturday 24 November 2018

Jesus said 'Now he is God not of the dead, but of the living; for to him all of them are alive.’ 
Luke 20. 38

Christ gives us a firm promise of the hope we have of eternal life. With such an assurance, how might anyone not do all within their power to achieve it?

Friday, November 23, 2018

Prayer diary Friday 23 November 2018

Jesus said, ‘It is written, “My house shall be a house of prayer”; but you have made it a den of robbers.' 
Luke 19. 46

Do you always treat the Lord's House with total reverence? Indeed, is your lack of attention during Divine Services such that it might be said that for you it has ceased to be a house of prayer?

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Prayer diary Thursday 22 November 2018

As he came near and saw the city, he wept over it. 
Luke 19.41

Even when we are at our worst God weeps for our sins. He will not deny his mercy to those who seek it; but he will not force it upon those who do not wish it.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

They Shall Not Grow Old

On the 100th anniversary of the ending of World War One, my wife and I went to see the documentary They Shall Not Grow Old. It was directed by Peter Jackson, whose previous work includes the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit trilogies. After the film, they showed a short question and answer session with the director, where he said that, of all his works, it's this one that he's proudest of. And when one considers that the others have won multiple Oscars and earned billions at the box-office, that is really saying something.

He is right to be proud of it. The film is a technological marvel. He took the scratchy old footage filmed during the war and ran it through computers to change it to the right speed, cleaned up all the graininess, enhanced it so that every minute detail could be seen, and removed all the blotches and scratches. Then he ran it through more computers to take it from black and white to full living colour. He did that so perfectly that my wife thought he must surely have recreated the scenes using modern actors on film sets. But no, the men the movie showed marching, digging trenches, and lying wounded in field hospitals and dead in no-man's land were the real deal. So marvellous a job had he done on it that one could almost say that he's brought the dead back to life.

The war took place in the days of silent film. So we couldn't hear the voices of these men from long ago. Yet Peter Jackson overcame this difficulty ingenuously. The documentary is narrated, not by actors, but by the actual voices of men who fought in the war, who memories of the conflict were recorded by oral historians many years ago. There are only a few times when actors voices are heard; that's when the long dead men on camera are speaking and Jackson had people who could lip-read work out what they were saying and had actors duplicate what those men had said on the field of battle all those years ago.

Several things shine through about these men from our past. One is their bravery. Another is how little ill-will they bore towards those they fought; they knew they suffered just as much as they did, and if anything felt sorry for them. And finally, despite all their sacrifice, they never really knew what they were fighting for.

What was the war all about? My own thought is that it was pride. The 'powers that be', having got themselves into a pointless, brutal conflict couldn't admit that they had got things badly wrong; instead they kept going to the bitter end. And their pride cost millions their lives.

Pride in a worthy achievement, like Jackon has in this film, is good. The stiff-necked pride that ignores all common sense, whatever the cost, is not. If those men died for anything, let us hope that it was so that future generations might understand the difference. 

this article appears in this week's issue of the Kilkenny Reporter

Prayer diary Wednesday 21 November 2018

'Why then did you not put my money into the bank? Then when I returned, I could have collected it with interest.' 
Luke 19.23

Our life on earth is the time we must put to good use the talents God has given us. On the day of judgement he will not be held guiltless who has wilfully wasted those gifts.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Prayer diary Tuesday 20 November 2018

All who saw it began to grumble and said, ‘He has gone to be the guest of one who is a sinner.’ 
Luke 19.7

How foolish it is to condemn others, for all are sinners and have fallen short. To do so risks not only your own soul but that of those you would keep from seeking out God's mercy

Monday, November 19, 2018

Prayer diary Monday 19 November 2018

Then he shouted, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’Those who were in front sternly ordered him to be quiet. 
Luke 18.38, 39

We are all sinners in need of God's mercy. We must never heed those who would try to prevent us seeking out the life-giving mercy he offers.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Beware that no one leads you astray

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

We may wonder today why when Jesus' disciples ask him when the destruction of the temple which he has just foretold will take place, he answers them by speaking on a different topic altogether – things to do with the end of days, his second coming, and the false teachers which may appear before those events take place. Why does he do so?

Perhaps it because there is a link between his own death and downfall of the temple; with his death and resurrection the temple becomes superfluous in God's economy of salvation. Also, we may remember his words elsewhere in scripture where he says 'destroy this temple and I will raise it up again in three days' – and those listening thought he meant the temple made of stone, whereas in fact he spoke of the temple of his own body. Perhaps it is that when his disciples begin to question him about future events he takes the opportunity of their interest to speak about future events of greater important than when a building may be destroyed – their salvation and the salvation of generations to come. Time for him was all too short, as he was well aware; he is Jerusalem only days before his passion begins - and the fact that he uses what was effectively his last opportunity for teaching on this topic can only act to emphasise importance of what he teaches here.

It is a lengthy passage, consisting of most of the 13th Chapter of St Mark's Gospel, which makes it more than we can possibly consider in detail today. So let us perhaps look at just one point, the one that Christ begins with, one intended to help us avoid one of the great temptations of this world – false teachers who claim to teach not just with authority, but with Christ's own authority: ‘Beware that no one leads you astray. Many will come in my name and say, “I am he!”  and they will lead many astray'

What does our Lord mean precisely by this? Scholars are uncertain. He might mean that after he is gone others will come claiming to be the Christ come again, and lead people off the one true path; he might mean that false teachers will arise, claiming to speak with the authority of Jesus, or the authority of the Church and that their false teachings will put at risk the salvation of those who listen to them; perhaps it is something else. In our own era it would be tempting to think his warning points to those in the secular world who, despite their avowed or practical atheism, drape their philosophy with an almost divine authority and use it to pronounce judgement on the teachings of the Church and where it does not agree with theirs call it evil; and, bizarrely, even at times declare the teachings of Christ 'unchristian!'

Whatever the precise meaning, our Lord's words certainly serve as both a warning as a blessing. A warning, because they tell us to be on our guard against such teaching – teaching that will not build us up but instead will serve to tear us down because it is false. We may distinguish false teaching from true by applying the simple test of considering whether it is in agreement with what it says in the Sacred Scriptures or that which has been taught by the Church from the beginning. If it does not, then we may usefully keep in mind the words of St Paul on the subject, as written in his letter to the Galatians: 'even if we or an angel from heaven should proclaim to you a gospel contrary to what we proclaimed to you, let that one be accursed! As we have said before, so now I repeat, if anyone proclaims to you a gospel contrary to what you received, let that one be accursed!

And it is also a blessing, not only because all the words of our Saviour are a blessing, but because all warnings which are spoken truly are a blessing, as they serve to keep us from harm if we heed them; and as we know that Christ is The Truth, then we know his warnings are true; and we are truly blessed to receive them. I pray that you all will indeed heed them with great joy; and thereby be kept safe from all the false teachings and teachers of the world that would seek to deny you the eternal life that Christ suffered and died to place within your reach.

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

Saturday, November 17, 2018

prayer diary Saturday 17 November 2018

The Lord said, ‘Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night?' 
Luke 18. 6,7

Be persistent in your prayers; God will heed you. Pray most of all to know what it is that is his will for you ... and that you will show your love for him by listening to his word and obeying.

Friday, November 16, 2018

prayer diary Friday 16 November 2018

'The day that Lot left Sodom, it rained fire and sulphur from heaven and destroyed all of them — it will be like that on the day that the Son of Man is revealed.' 
Luke 17.29,30

When Jesus returns it will be without warning and swift will be his judgement. Therefore we must live as if it might be within the next moment; for thus we may keep alert and avoid falling prey to the temptations that will bring his judgement upon us.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

prayer diary Thursday 15 November 2018

'But first the Son of Man must endure much suffering and be rejected by this generation.' 
 Luke 17. 25

The generation of which Christ speaks was not only those of his day but all people until he comes again. Therefore do not be amazed by the lack of faith you see in the world.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

prayer diary Wednesday 14 November 2018

Jesus asked, ‘Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? ' 
Luke 17. 17

All receive blessings from God, but not all give thanks in return. Do not behave thus; for your humble gratitude is pleasing to the Almighty.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

prayer diary Tuesday 13 November 2018

'So you also, when you have done all that you were ordered to do, say, “We are worthless slaves; we have done only what we ought to have done!” ’ 
Luke 17.10

Many expect the praise of men for their obedience to God. There is but one reward to be hoped for: eternal life on the last day.

Monday, November 12, 2018

prayer diary Monday 12 November 2018

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Occasions for stumbling are bound to come, but woe to anyone by whom they come!' 
Luke 17.1

We will be held accountable if we lead others astray. Therefore the example of your life must be good and the doctrine you share must be sound, because you will not be found guiltless if you cause another to stumble.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

prayer diary Saturday 10 November 2018

‘Whoever is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much; and whoever is dishonest in a very little is dishonest also in much.' 
Luke 16. 10

It is easy to excuse what we see as our small failings, thinking they do not matter much. But it is the small that hardens our heart to ever greater evils, until the time comes when we have fallen into grave sin and, sadly, do not even know it.

Friday, November 9, 2018

prayer diary Friday 9 November 2018

His master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly. 
Luke 16.8

While he still had time the manager used the resources at his command to secure his future. So also must we use our temporal goods wisely, showing charity to those in need and using them to advance the Kingdom, so as ensure our Eternal destiny.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

prayer diary Thursday 8 November 2018

And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, ‘This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.’ 
Luke 15.2

How foolish were the Pharisees and how silly the scribes in their grumbling for did the Scriptures not teach them that all men are sinners? So too must we never forget that we are sinners in need of God's mercy.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

prayer diary Wednesday 7 November 2018

'Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.' 
Luke 14.27

The Lord makes it clear that to be his follower is to take up the cross. Therefore if you will not take it up you can not be his follower.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

prayer diary Tuesday 6 November 2018

'He sent his slave to say to those who had been invited, “Come; for everything is ready now.” But they all alike began to make excuses.' 
Luke 14. 17,18

All are invited by the Lord to his table each Sunday for a foretaste of his heavenly banquet. And yet many do not come, making excuse after excuse for their absence.

Monday, November 5, 2018

prayer diary Monday 5 November 2018

'Invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind.. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.’ 
Luke 14, 13,14

Do your good deeds without expectation of reward, whether in kind or by the praise of men. By doing so you lay up treasure for yourself in heaven.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

the death of Lazarus and the faith of Martha

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

I wonder if any of you have ever noticed how much space St John the Evangelist devotes to the story of Lazarus? The entirety of chapter 11 of his Gospel is spent outlining not only the raising of this man from the dead by Jesus, but also the build-up to the miracle and the aftermath of the event. That's fifty-seven verses of Sacred Scripture; by contrast, the other evangelists spend only a handful of verses in the accounts they give us of our Lord raising someone from dead. This means that St John believes that these details are of immense importance; and more, that the Holy Spirit, as he inspired the Beloved Disciple in his writing, knew that the details were essential for us to know for the sake of our own salvation. So it would well behove us to ponder these details very deeply indeed.

Therefore this morning I would like to consider not so much the raising from the dead itself, but the behaviour of his sister Martha in the lead-up to that miracle. For I think that her reaction to the death of her brother has much to teach us as to how we should act ourselves when faced with adversity and when God, seemingly, has not answered our prayers – or, to put it more accurately, has answered them, but not in the way that we would have preferred.

Now, we have met Martha before in the Gospels. St Luke introduces us to her in Chapter 10 of his account. Let us remind ourselves of what he says:

'Now as they went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, ‘Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.’ But the Lord answered her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.’

It is not very flattering to Martha, is it? Her busy-ness is rejected in favour of her sister Mary's more contemplative approach, echoing in a way God's rejection in Genesis of the sacrifice of Cain in favour of that of Abel. But Martha is no Cain, as we discover as St John tells us more about the woman who at another time worried about many things. And look at the reaction of this practical woman when Jesus arrives on this occasion.

She asked Jesus to come and heal Lazarus, but he did not come.
Indeed, perhaps she even knew his decision not to come was deliberate, for most likely those she had sent to ask him to come had returned to her and said that Jesus had refused to come with them. And so her brother is dead and four days in the grave when the Lord arrives. Indeed, not only did he not come in time, the one that can cure at a distance as we learn from the healing of the Centurion’s Slave, did not do so for a man whom the evangelist said he loved.

But despite all this, Martha has not lost faith in Christ. Consider how absolute her faith is from her words to Jesus only moments after he arrives ‘I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God.’ And remember that she says this after her brother has died but before he raises him to life again or even says that he will; she says this while her brother lies in the grave where he will, for all she knows, remain until the end of days.

This is what it is to have faith; and why it is that I believe that Martha's faith is an example to us all. For real faith accepts God's will whatever it happens to be. Real faith accepts that sometimes God's answer to our prayers is 'no' or 'not yet' or even that his answer may be something completely different to what we expected or hoped for. Real faith accepts that God in his wisdom knows best, even if we cannot understand what that better thing is, and that lack of understanding causes us pain in the here and now.

This is what happened in the case of Martha's prayers. God said no to the healing of her brother; but only for the sake of the greater miracle that would help bring many to faith in Christ. But Martha did not know that when Jesus arrived. And yet her faith in Jesus, her faith in God was not shaken. I pray that we will all learn from Martha's example. Was it not for that reason that the evangelist told us of her faith, that we could learn from it? And was this not also the reason that the Holy Spirit inspired him to write of it? So that we might learn, like Martha not to doubt or lose hope, even when things seem at their worst.

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

Saturday, November 3, 2018

prayer diary Saturday 3 Nov 2018

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

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

Friday, November 2, 2018

prayer diary Friday 2 Nov 2018

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

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

Thursday, November 1, 2018

prayer diary Thursday 1 Nov 2018 (All Saints')

'Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God'. 
Matthew 5. 8

A saint is not some plaster figure, divorced from reality and untouched by the troubles and temptations of the world. A saint is one who has struggled with the messy reality of human life and managed to remain faithful to the end.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

prayer diary Wednesday 31 Oct 2018

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

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

Sunday, October 28, 2018

blind faith

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, October 25, 2018

prayer diary Saturday 25 October 2018

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

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

prayer diary Thursday 25 October 2018

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

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

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Nothing but crickets

I don't know if you ever walked out into a field at night, away from the noise of traffic and the glare of the street-lights. It's quite a pleasant thing to do of a summer's evening, standing there with nothing to distract you from the light of the moon and stars, and the smell of the grass. Pure silence. Well, not exactly pure – the reason you know that it is so quiet all around you is because of the little noises of the night that you can't normally hear over the sounds of modernity. Like the whisper of a slight breeze among the trees, or the fluttering of the swallows overhead as they swoop to claim the last of the insects before full dark falls. Or the chirping of crickets.

Ah, crickets. It has to be very quiet indeed before you can hear those. So much so that the phrase 'nothing but crickets' has entered into modern parlance to describe the response of politicians to questions they refuse to answer, or their words on issues that they avoid addressing. In other words, none. Just silence. Nothing but crickets.

The referendum about deleting the reference to blasphemy from the Constitution is starting to feel like that. No, not starting. It's been like that from the beginning. Almost nothing from our politicians as to why we should vote 'yes' to the proposal to change the Constitution on this. They have explained in such detail as to why we're holding a referendum on this issue that the sound of the crickets is almost deafening.

Now, why is that? If it is important enough to hold a referendum on, important enough to ask the people to change the fundamental source of all law in the land, it is surely important enough for our elected representatives to take some time to put the arguments about the issue to us. Most referendums have politicians out knocking on doors, canvassing for a vote one way or the other. They have posters up on every lamp post, blocking your view as you drive, and coming down and nearly taking the head off you when there's a strong wind. And glossy pieces of paper come through the letter box, with little pictures of various politicians on them, and a brief overview of what they, and perhaps their party also, thinks of the matter and why it is that they believe you should vote one way or the other on the matter.

But not this time. This time the silence is eerie. And, frankly, a little insulting. Why are we holding a referendum on this if our politicians don't think it is important enough to hold a debate on? Do they just take it for granted that we're all in agreement in this and are going to vote blasphemy out of the constitution? And if so, how would they know? Their asking us about it in advance of calling the vote was exactly the same as the talking they've done after. Nothing but crickets.

this article appears in this week's issue of the Kilkenny Reporter

prayer diary Wednesday 24 October 2018

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

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

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

prayer diary Tuesday 23 October 2018 (St James)

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

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

Monday, October 22, 2018

prayer diary Friday 25 October 2018

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

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

prayer diary Monday 22 October 2018

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

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

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Prayer diary Saturday 20 October 2018

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

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

Friday, October 19, 2018

Prayer diary Friday 19 October 2018 (day of discipline and self-denial)

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

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

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Prayer diary Thursday 18 October 2018 (St Luke)

After this the Lord appointed seventy others and sent them on ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself intended to go.Luke 10.1

Our Lord sent all these men out to prepare the way for him, St Luke among them. All who would follow our Lord are also sent, each with a different task. Listen carefully and prayerfully at all times; for the Lord will speak to your heart as to what task in his kingdom that he calls you to do.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Courting trouble

It will be a long time, I think, before the dust settles on Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation hearings. Some lucky few may have been able to avoid the controversy. For those, a brief summary is in order.

Kavanaugh is an American judge who was nominated to the US Supreme Court by Donald Trump. Democrats, unsurprisingly, said he was an appalling choice; Republicans, as expected, thought him a fine candidate. However, as the senate is controlled by the latter it would have taken quite the bombshell to shake his chances of being confirmed.

And bombshell there was, with an accusation of sexual impropriety being brought forward at the eleventh hour, after the hearings were over but before the vote was taken. The FBI investigated and found the claims lacked credibility; so the Senate voted and confirmed his nomination.

His supporters think the whole thing was a stitch-up; his detractors that the investigation was a white-wash. Which makes the whole thing deeply disturbing whichever side you're on. But there is something about the affair that both sides should find troubling. And that is the weaponising of accusations of sexual violence.

By this I mean that it has been established that the faction in the US Senate that opposed Kavanaugh's nomination had been contacted by his accuser many weeks in advance of his confirmation hearings. They chose to keep that information to themselves until the hearings were over. And call me cynical, but I find it hard not to suspect that they feared that the allegations would not stand up to rigorous scrutiny, which means if they had gone public with the story at once it would have fizzled out long before the hearings and done nothing to damage Kavanaugh's prospects. So they chose instead to wait until the process was almost over in the hope of derailing the process and costing him his seat on the Supreme Court.

It's all quite dreadful. I find it difficult to believe that someone who truly wanted justice for this woman would have behaved this way. Someone who had her best interests at heart would have taken her story to the authorities immediately and allowed a discrete investigation to take place at once. If her claims were found to be credible then, and only then, would the information be used against Kavanaugh. If not, then nothing would have been said and the woman would have been allowed to go quietly back to her life with her privacy intact. Instead, because they wanted to throw him to the wolves they flung her to them also.

But at least it is over now. Or is it? The circus that these hearings became could only happen in a society that is deeply divided, one in which the concept of shared values has been lost. Being liberal or conservative is no longer different points on the political spectrum, they are the identifying labels of hostile tribes, ones that find it increasingly difficult to live peacefully alongside each other. War is coming. And it will be ugly. 

this article appears in this week's issue of the Kilkenny Reporter

Prayer diary Wednesday 17 October 2018

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

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

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Prayer diary Tuesday 16 October 2018

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

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

Prayer diary Monday 15 October 2018

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

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

Sunday, October 14, 2018

'what must I do to inherit eternal life?’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, October 13, 2018

prayer diary Saturday 13 October 2018

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

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

Friday, October 12, 2018

prayer diary Friday 12 October 2018 (Day of Discipline and self-denial)

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

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

Thursday, October 11, 2018

prayer diary Thursday 11 October 2018

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

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

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

It's a dog's life

I was reading an article the other day about how some researcher has done a study and concluded that dogs aren't as smart as most people think they are. Goats, in her estimation, are just as clever. And a wide variety of other domestic animals can do most of the things that people are so proud of when their pet pooches do them, such recognise human faces, or being able to know one person from another by smell.

Ho hum, with a great big yawn, is my attitude to such stuff. Just another researcher needing another article to put on their CV to justify the big office and the big salary in whatever university they teach at.

The thing that surprises me just as much as the fact that anyone can be bothered to think this is a topic worthy of study is the fact that there are people out there who are truly convinced that dogs are smart. Not all dogs, of course. Just their dogs. Other people's dogs are, mostly, dumb as rocks. But their Fido or Rex or Prince is a genius.

Hardly. Here is the truth. Most dogs are not very smart. Many dogs are very smart when compared to other dogs, but that is not the same thing. I am very fond of dogs. We had dogs at home when I was growing up; and we have a big, loveable mutt in the house now on whom much money is spent for food, toys, and bedding, and much time and energy is expended on keeping him exercised. I have loved all of them. But I have never made the mistake in thinking that they were smart. As dogs go they are not the dumbest, but they are not particularly smart, even for dogs.

I remember one once getting hold of an old light bulb and playing with it. Before anyone could stop him he had managed to bite into and break it. And he kept on chewing even as the blood ran over his lips. We had some trouble getting him to let go of the bits and some anxious moments as we pieced them together trying to assure ourselves that he hadn't swallowed any and was going to die a horrible death as a result. He didn't, but no credit to him for surviving. I guess you could call it dumb luck.

No, we don't keep dogs because they're all that smart. But, by golly, their loyalty and affection is hard to beat. A dog will love you even if you don't treat him all that well. And if you're decent to him he'll adore you. And that unconditional love really melts the human heart.

And the numbers prove it. There are almost nine million dogs in Britain right now. Their closest wild cousin, the fox, numbers less than 300,000. Loving and being loved by humans is something that has really worked as a survival strategy for our four-footed friends. Pretty smart, if you ask me.

this article appears in this week's issue of the Kilkenny Reporter

prayer diary Wednesday 10 October 2018

'From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required; and from one to whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded.' 
Luke 11. 48

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

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

prayer diary Tuesday 9 October 2018

'Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit; be like those who are waiting for their master to return from the wedding banquet,' 
Luke 11.35, 36

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

Monday, October 8, 2018

prayer diary Monday 8 October 2018

'And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.” 
Luke 11. 19,20

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

Sunday, October 7, 2018

what God has joined together

Let us have a short look at our Gospel reading for today. You know, I always am a bit taken aback when I read this passage from Mark – our Lord is so uncompromising on the topic of marriage and the fact that it is indissoluble – once you are married, you are married as long as the other person is alive. St Matthew completes our Lord's teaching on this matter in his Gospel, based on which the Church both East and West allows in some very limited circumstances the possibility of someone marrying another while the spouse of a previous marriage is still living. But these exceptions are very stringent - and seem even more so in our very secular, just about any goes sexually society -  and outside of them any attempt at remarriage is regarded as adultery. And adultery is, of course, a serious sin, the commission of which is a breach of one of the Ten Commandments.

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, October 6, 2018

prayer diary Saturday 6 October 2018

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

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

Friday, October 5, 2018

prayer diary Friday 5 October 2018 (day of discipline and self-denial)

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

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

Thursday, October 4, 2018

The Next Amendment

Most of the attention concerning the soon occur visit of the people to the polling booth has focused on the presidential election. There has been far less public reflection on the fact that there will be another vote taking place that day; one that will decide as to whether to remove the blasphemy provision from our Constitution or not.

No doubt some will shrug and say that is how it should be. 'The presidency is more important; and who cares about blasphemy anyway?' they may argue. That, I would suggest, is to take rather a blinkered view of the situation. Who our next president will be is, of course, of great importance. But whoever that person will be their tenure will be of a relatively short duration, and their powers while in office will be limited indeed. The Constitution, on the other hand, is the fundamental law of our land; changes to it can have far-reaching and unforeseen implications. They should not be made lightly. And they certainly should not be trivialised by burying it beneath a presidential election that was always bound to occupy the vast bulk of attention as both campaigns were being run in tandem.

Mind you, I find the whole push to remove blasphemy from our Constitution, shortly followed by the removal of the offence from our statue books, more than a little odd. There hasn't been a prosecution for it within living memory; yet still those arguing for it claim it is necessary so that |Ireland can be seen as a modern, secular state.

Secularism, of course, has its own form of blasphemy, political correctness; and anyone offending against it can and will be swiftly and severely punished by way of an online lynch mob baying for their blood … a mob whose demands are always quickly yielded to. So we'll still have 'laws' against blasphemy. They'll just be unwritten and there will be no appeal against them. And they will apply only to offences against whatever has to be in fashion with the politically correct crowd rather than against God and religion. Still, that's the world we live in. A bit strange when the vast majority claim to have some sort of religious affiliation every time a census is conducted.

And, of course, we can expect more of the same kind of amendments in the years to come. Because there are quite a few references to God and religion in our Constitution. And the secularists pushing for this amendment have made it clear that they want them gone as well. They won't be happy until the Constitution is scrubbed free of anything to do with the Almighty. And all of public life as well. Prayers before government meetings. Local clergy blessing the opening of a new town hall or school or the like. They'll want it all gone.

And it's hardly surprising. After all, anything to do with God and religion has become pretty politically incorrect … a blasphemy against secular sensibilities, if you will.

this article appears in this week's issue of the Kilkenny Reporter

prayer diary Thursday 4 October 2018

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

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

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

prayer diary Wednesday 3 October 2018

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

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

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

prayer diary Monday 1 October 2018

'Which ... was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?’ He said, ‘The one who showed him mercy.’ ... ‘Go and do likewise.’ 
Luke 10. 36-37

All are our neighbours and all are entitled to our help. But do not care for their material needs and neglect their spiritual ones. Mercy demands that you do your best to help them with both.

prayer diary Tuesday 2 October 2018

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

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

Sunday, September 30, 2018

trusting that God has a plan for each and every one of us.

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

Our Old Testament reading from the book Esther is a good example of what it means to be responsible for the safety and well-being of others, even if doing so involves great personal risk. It is perhaps necessary for me to give a short summary of the story as, sadly, I fear there may be some here for whom the story is not entirely familiar.

It is a story of courage, and daring, and intrigue; of great risks taken and evil plots overthrown; a tale where the stakes could not be higher – the lives of hundreds of thousands of people. It is set at a time when many of the children of Israel as a result of war no longer live within the boundaries of the Promised Land. They are dispersed among the lands of those who conquered them, first the Babylonians, and then the Medes and Persians who conquered the conquerors. And just as Daniel became a person of importance at the court of King Nebuchadnezzar, so also does the Jew Mordecai become someone who is valued by the king of his time, Ahasuerus; in this case Mordecai uncovered a plot to assassinate the king and so Ahasuerus owes him his life.

The person who is second only to the king in all the empire is Haman, a man full of pride and ambition. He hates Mordecai, because he, alone of all men, will not bow before him. He does not care that this is not intended as a slight towards his honour and dignity and that the reason that Mordecai will not bow is that he is a faithful Jew and will not treat any man as if he were a God. But with a sinful pride that mirrors that of Satan himself, Haman can not bear that even a single man does not treat him as he thinks he deserves.

So, driven by his irrational hatred, he determines to destroy not only Mordecai, but all the Jews dwelling within the borders of the empire. He proceeds with cunning; Mordecai has saved the king's life after all. So Haman goes to the king and deceives him; he tells him that there is a people dwelling within the empire who are dangerous to its safety and security, a people who will not obey its laws. He does not, of course, tell the king that they are the people of Mordecai, the man who had saved his life. He asks for permission to root out and destroy this threat to the peace and stability of the empire; and the king, trusting the man who is second only to him, gives him the authority to proceed as he sees fit.

So a decree goes out, in the name of the king, that on a certain day all the Jews are to be killed – man, woman, and child. Mordecai learns of the plan and determines to do what he can to save his people. There is one slim hope for survival; his niece Esther. For unbeknownst to Haman, or anyone else, she is the queen. And this was a more slender hope than one might think. Firstly because a decree of the king was irrevocable, even by himself; and secondly for anyone to appear before the king unless summoned the penalty was death, even for the queen, unless he chose to forgive the transgression. And it was more likely than not that he would not do so – for this king was a temperamental sort of fellow, and, although no Henry the Eighth, had a record of getting rid of queens who breached royal protocol.

Esther is terrified. But her uncle reminds her of the faithfulness of God – if she does not act, then he will surely find some other way to save his people, and then her failure to act in order to save her own life will surely come back to haunt her; and in any case what if it was by Divine Providence that she is now queen, placed in this role by God so that the Jewish people may be saved?

So despite her fears, Esther decides to risk death to save her people. She prepares herself by three days of prayer and fasting, and asks that her people do the same; and then she puts on her royal robes and, uninvited, enters the presence of the king. It is a tense moment – will she be struck down by a furious king? Or will he smile upon her and invite her in? But her gamble pays off; the king spares her life.

But that, of course, is only the beginning. She must now persuade the king to find a way to do the seemingly impossible – save a people who have been condemned by royal decree in an empire where even the king himself may not revoke his command once given. Does she succeed? Well, you will know from the short fragment we heard read earlier that she does. We do not have time this morning to go into the details – I must ask you to open your Bibles when you return home and read the full story for yourself later!

But her success proves true the prophetic words spoken by Mordecai, that it was Divine Providence that Esther was queen at this time of danger, God putting her in this position so that through her he might save her people. The Fathers point to many important lessons to be learned from the book of Esther; but today I wonder does it not speak to us of trusting in God, trusting that he has a plan for each and every one of us. What is his plan for you? To save countless thousands of lives? Perhaps not; but perhaps it is a task even greater – to save some few souls from spiritual death. We see from today's Epistle our duty to bring back those who wander from the faith – are there those in your life whom you can help in such a way? But remember first that you must begin with yourself – the blind cannot lead the blind. In fact, if you are not living the faith yourself you are more likely to cause others to stumble, as you lead others astray by the poor example of un-Christian living; and what does our Lord say in our Gospel today about those who cause others to stumble? That it were better that a millstone be tied about their necks and they be cast into the depths of the sea.

So, as I finish this morning, I conclude with a prayer: I pray that you will open your hearts to be faithful to Christ and all his teachings; that in that faithfulness you will strive daily to help others to be faithful also; so that in that fidelity you will learn what it is that God wills for your life; and in so doing, attain at last unto eternal life in heaven. Amen.