Friday, August 31, 2018

prayer diary Friday 31 August 2018 (day of discipline and self-denial)

Jesus said to them, ‘The days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast in those days.’ 
Luke 5. 35

Thus did our Lord declare the ancient practise of holy fasting a necessary part of the Christian life. For it is in denying ourselves those things that God allows us that we develop the discipline to resist those that he does not.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

prayer diary Thursday 30 August 2018

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

All are sinners, yet Christ calls us all. But happy are those who, even as they are called, like St Peter, acknowledge before God their sinfulness; for in such humility begins the road to salvation.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Weather Wonders

Talking about the weather often falls into the category of 'small talk' – the topic of conversation when there is nothing else to talk about or you don't know the other person very well and need something to break the ice and get things going. It is therefore somewhat ironic that the weather has become an increasingly important item on most people's list of things that really need to be discussed of late. First there was the unusually cold and wet spring; then there was the very hot and dry summer. Whoever thought that water shortages would ever be a thing in Ireland? Ireland of all places!

All the experts agree that we have been abusing our planet – the only home in this life that we have – and we are suffering the consequences. The word 'we' is used, of course, rather broadly. Ireland isn't alone when it comes to climate changing behaviour … nor, arguably, are we the worst offenders. However, taking the view that others do more damage than we do or that there are so many people around the world wrecking the environment that our efforts to do better are meaningless would only compound the problem. Every little counts, whether to harm or to do good. And we are each responsible for our own actions. We may not be able to change the world. But we can change our own behaviour. And that is a good place to start.

Some, of course, argue that this whole global warming thing is bogus. Yes, weather patterns are changing, but it is nothing to do with people. Patterns have varied all through the ages ever before men existed. It had nothing to do with us then; it has nothing to do with us now.

Let's say, for the sake of argument, they are right. So what? It doesn't hurt us to change how we live a little so that we pollute less, even if it has no real impact on the environment. And if they are wrong, and we are doing real good, then so much the better.

One last thought. … how many, I wonder, prayed for an improvement to the weather during those miserable days of Spring? Did an equal number give thanks to God when things improved? How many then prayed for rain during our time of drought over the Summer as the grass in fields and gardens was burned brown? Did they all, when the heatwave at last broke and clouds filled with life-giving rain returned, get down on their knees to praise the Almighty? I cannot know, of course, if those who prayed for relief did or did not give thanks when their prayers were answered; but I may be forgiven, I trust, for hoping that the miracle of the ten lepers is not applicable … where of the ten who were cured, only one returned to throw himself at the feet of the Lord. Something to ponder, perhaps, as we head into the time of harvest.

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

prayer diary Wednesday 29 August 2018

But he said to them, ‘I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to the other cities also; for I was sent for this purpose.’ 
Luke 4.43

The Good News of Jesus Christ is for all people in all places of all times. And Jesus has commanded his Church to share that News. It is both our privilege and our duty to obey him in this and everything he asks of us.

Saturday, August 25, 2018

prayer diary Saturday 25 August 2018

'As for this worthless slave, throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.' 
Matthew 25. 30

There are many who like to think that God does not care how we live. Yet Christ himself warned us that at the end we will all face judgement – a judgement that will not be pleasant for all.

Friday, August 24, 2018

prayer diary Friday 24 August 2018 (day of discipline and self-denial; St Bartholomew)

'The greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like one who serves.' 
Luke 22.26

Our Lord spoke these words to his Apostles, men whom he only moments later told would in his kingdom sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel. If they were commanded to live lives of humble service, must not do so also?

Thursday, August 23, 2018

prayer diary Thursday 23 August 2018

'Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.' 
Matthew 24. 44

We know not when our Lord may call us to stand before him. It is for good reason, then, that great teachers, from the Fathers of the early Church to the great spiritual fathers of our own time, remind us to keep the thought of death always before us; for in that thought may lie the salvation of our soul.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Cry for us, Argentina

Argentina was in the news recently. The South American nation refused to allow an abortion regime along the lines of the one we voted in not long ago in Ireland. Argentina came under intense international pressure to follow the prevailing trend on this – just as we did. Argentina, however, resisted going with the flow – even though a raft-load of Irish politicians rowed in on their debate, pushing them to be lead by our example, to show the world that they were progressive like us. Thank God they didn't to bow to all the pressure.

Why did Argentina refuse to make this change when we did not? Well, perhaps people there don't care as much as what outsiders think about them as many in Ireland seem to. Maybe they simply don't pay attention to what the world 'elites' think and expect of them. The reason I say this is based on a conversation I once had with the late Fr Joe Campion, a man who had spent many decades in the Argentine, may God be good to him. We were in the vestry (or sacristy) of St Mary's in Castlecomer getting ready for the Christmas Carol service. Fr Joe was there to give the service it's usual ecumenical dimension.

One of the things that had been getting a lot of media attention at the time were the extraordinary remarks that the militant atheist Richard Dawkins had been making about the Catholic Church, who had said that raising a child Catholic was worse than being sexually abused (he really said this – it was December of 2012 – look it up if you don't believe me).

'Richard who?' he said without skipping a beat, a little furrow to his brow.

'Dawkins. Richard Dawkins.'
'I don't think I know the name.'
'Oh, I'm sure you must. Author of the 'God Delusion.' Big name in the militant atheist movement. Oxford scientist turned polemicist in the cause of showing the world how dangerous religion is.' There wasn't the slightest spark of dawning recognition in his eyes.

'No, I'm afraid I haven't heard of him.'

'Really? His book was a best seller. He's on TV and radio all the time.'
'His fame must never have made it to Argentina.'
'Oh dear. I don't think he'd like to hear that,' I said with a laugh.

We left the topic and got on with getting ready with the service. At the time I thought it was funny to think that the world-famous Richard Dawkins was only world-famous in those parts of the world that have heard of him! But now I wonder how much of the stuff that we are increasingly told is so important is irrelevant to the people there – and those other parts of the globe we often refer to condescendingly as 'undeveloped'?

The politically correct crowd are hopping mad that Argentina rejected abortion. But perhaps there's a lesson in their decision about not worrying about what others think. A lesson for others to heed.

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

prayer diary Wednesday 22 August 2018

'You are like whitewashed tombs, which on the outside look beautiful, but inside they are full of the bones of the dead and of all kinds of filth.' 
Matthew 23.27

Did Christ not say lustful thoughts were the same as adultery, and anger equivalent to murder? A façade of goodness may mask a life that contains much that is evil. Strive, then, to master the passions within for the sake of your soul.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

prayer diary Tuesday 21 August 2018

'You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup, so that the outside also may become clean.' 
Matthew 23.25

Our internal life is of great importance to our spiritual well-being. Purity of life begins with purity of heart.

Monday, August 20, 2018

prayer diary Monday 20 August 2018

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

Reflection: It is easy to become complacent and think 'I am part of the Church – what more need I do?' The lamp of their faith burns low and then goes out unnoticed by them until it is too late. Our Lord warns against such carelessness and we must heed his warning.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

truth matters

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

In our Gospel reading today, our Lord might seem to be somewhat inflexible, a man not open to the idea of compromise. He has told his listeners that they must eat his flesh and drink his blood if they are to have life in them. Some present complain that this is a hard teaching. Does Jesus try to soften it for them? He does not. Instead, he tells them his words are spirit and life. Many begin to leave. Does Jesus then call them back and try to soften his teaching?

No, he doesn't. Instead he turns to the 12 Apostles and asks them if any of them would like to leave as well. Accept what I say or go, is his clear message. And he will not change his teaching in order to keep those who hear him happy. The truth is the truth and it can not be changed just because hearing it makes some, or many, or even most unhappy to hear it. There is good reason for this. Not telling people the hard unvarnished truth, and instead only saying to them what they want to hear, can have disastrous consequences.

Imagine, for example, a doctor who didn't like to give his patients bad news. First into his office is a woman in her early forties. Doctor she says, I just got married. My husband and I hope to have children, but it's a very busy time at work for me, and we have a lot of bills after the wedding. Do you think it would be ok to wait a few years. No worries, says the doctor. Women are starting families later these days; and I believe the longer you wait, the more likely you are to conceive. So delay all you want. And the woman leaves the office delighted. 

Next in comes an older man, wheezing and coughing. He has a sixty cigarette a day habit and the first thing he says to the doctor is that he knows he needs to quit but he has tried before and found it very hard. Well, have I got good news for you, says the doctor. It turns out the tobacco companies have been right all along; there is no proof that cigarettes causes lung-cancer, or heart disease, or emphysema, or anything else. In fact, because they help you relax and deal with stress, they're really quite good for you. Actually, you might want to think about smoking a few more. And still coughing and wheezing, but smiling now, the man leaves.

Finally, a man comes in looking for his test results. He's afraid; he's sure he has cancer. In fact, he does have cancer. But the doctor just gives him a big smile and says not to worry, he's grand – the tests came back all clear. Oh, thank you says the man – I feel so relieved. And he leaves the office a happy man. And the doctor nods and smiles to himself thinking that he has done good work that day as he has made so many people happy.

I do not think that any of us would like to be the patient of such a doctor, even if he did manage to keep us happy for a brief while by telling us what we want to hear. And this is why Jesus insists on telling his followers the truth, even when they do not wish to hear it. For he is the physician of souls, the one who has come to make sinners well from the sin that afflicts them. And if the truth he tells causes some to run from him, better that they leave; for there is no salvation in staying to believe in a lie – quite the opposite, for did not our Lord tell us that lies are of Satan, who is the father of lies? Telling people what they want to hear rather than the truth, even if they find it painful, is of the devil then, not of God – and how could Christ do the work of the one whose power he had come to set man free from?

No, with Christ it is the truth, always … and so it must be with us. We must not be afraid to hear the hard truths, and live out the hard teachings. And we must not be afraid to share them with others. Jesus was not afraid to do so, even though it cost him many followers; we must do likewise, even if it will cost us friends.

For consider St Peter's words when Jesus asked the apostles if they, like those who left because the truth was too much for them, wished also to go – he replied 'Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words of eternal life.' What kind of friends would we be to them if we refused to share those words of truth with them, the truth that can save their souls? Indeed, is not refusing to share the truth with others the same as leading them astray, as causing them to stumble? And what was it our Lord said of those who lead others astray? It was that it were better that a millstone be tied around their neck and they be cast into the sea. So by sharing God's truth with others not only may you save the souls of those others – you may in fact save your own.

I pray that God will grant his grace to all present today to hear his truth, live it out in their lives, and share that truth with others always. Amen