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

Reflection
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

Reflection 
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

Reflection
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

Reflection
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

Reflection 
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

Reflection 
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

Reflection 
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

Reflection 
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

Reflection 
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

Reflection
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

Reflection 
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

Reflection 
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

Reflection 
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

Reflection 
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

Reflection 
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

Reflection
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

Reflection 
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

Reflection 
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.