Wednesday, November 30, 2011

St Andrew



Today is the feast of St Andrew. You can read all about him here or here. But today I'd like to focus on what our Gospel reading tells us about him. He was already with John the Baptist at the Jordon when he saw Jesus. He was spiritually seeking and open to revelation from God. This was what led him to John. This is what caused him to follow Jesus. The reading for Morning Prayer today from Sirach describes his approach beautifully. Today let us remember his seeking heart that was open to the Word of God ... and consider the example it sets for us in how to be followers of Christ. Amen.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

rejoice



Christianity is a revealed religion, as our Gospel reading makes clear. Jesus rejoices in that fact. Those of us who believe must also rejoice. But even as we rejoice in the comfort and hope that our faith provides, we must also lead our lives according to the way that that revelation. Something to keep in mind during this Holy Season of Advent. Amen.

Monday, November 28, 2011

confusing times



May my words be in the Name of the Father, the Son, & the Holy Spirit – Amen.

It perhaps goes without saying that we live in confusing times … let's see if I can add to the confusion!

If I were to say 'happy new year' to you all today, would you know why? Any hands up? The answer is that it is today, the first Sunday in Advent, that Church Year begins … the Church has it's own calendar which runs alongside the secular calendar … a bit like the tax year which used to run from April to April … not that I ever wished people happy new year in April when I was in the Tax Office ... somehow I don't think they would have apprciated it! In any case, today is the first day of the Church year …

Some more confusion … we are now in the season of Advent … the word Advent comes from the Latin adventus and means coming … and we call it that because this is the time of the Church year in which we remember the coming of the Christ child into the world all those years ago and we prepare to celebrate again his birth … in the secular world this is a time of parties and merriment … but in the Church this season is a penitential one … you may have noticed the violet stoles and other liturgical hangings in the church … violet is the penitential colour of the church …

why penitential in the build up to something so joyful? Several reasons, I think: the first is that it is precisely because it is the ultimate joy that God should be made man for us that we prepare to commemorate that day by extra spiritual disciplines – traditionally prayer, fasting, & alms-giving – to help us focus on just how special and joyful Christmas is; the second is that it is impossible to separate from the incarnation the fact of the crucifixion and the suffering and death that were to come for this same Christ child … we can not celebrate Christmas properly without realising that the shadow of the Cross hangs over it at all times …

and adventus translates the Greek word parousia, which also means coming but is used by Christians usually to mean Christ's second coming … in Advent we are not only commemorating his first coming, but preparing ourselves for his second ...

And if all that didn't make your head spin, there is plenty to confuse us all in the secular world … economic crisis after economic crisis … savage budgets to pay back the billions that were borrowed as a result of the mistakes of bankers and developers and economists and governments … and so many numbers & money & programmes that the ordinary person in the street or the pew can not hope to understand them … if indeed anyone on the planet understands them, even if they pretend to!

Interestingly, our Gospel reading today relates to a time of spiritual and secular confusion … St Mark's Gospel was written not long after the sacking of Jerusalem by the Romans … which included the destruction of the Temple, which is talked about in the chapter from which our reading is taken … and also, persecution of Christians were beginning to take place in the Empire … also, the Gospel was written not long after Nero's persecution …

so that's the secular confusion … the spiritual confusion is that in the early Church, as you are probably aware, they originally thought that Christ's second coming would come quite soon after his ascension … and as time passed they realised that this wasn't happening …

so spiritually, a time of confusion … remember, the early Church didn't have the Gospels written down … they were relying on the memories of those who had been there and possibly some written collections of Jesus saying and teachings to guide them … this is why the Gospels were written … to put the Good News in Good Order and to preserve it in a form that could be passed down from generation to generation … but the time not long before the Gospels were written down was a time of tension … of time of uncertainty … a time of wondering: is he coming? When is he coming? How should we live while we wait and wonder?

People who are worried and confused want hope … and the danger is of course that they will be taken in by false hope … that they will grab to and cling to anything that gives them some comfort … just remember what happened when our own financial crisis began to break … all the things that banks and governments tried to do to reassure people … their message of hope turned out to be a false one … and those who tried to reassure us turned out to be false prophets indeed … exactly the same thing happened in those times … false prophets appeared … others claimed to be the Messiah …

and those who had known Jesus remembered the warning he had given … and remembered what he had said about his message; heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away … they realised that he had entrusted his words to them … and those words needed to be passed on by them … and so they wrote them down so that Jesus' words of reassurance and hope would be passed down … guarded and guaranteed as the words of the Saviour by his church …

Life is just as confusing today as it was then … and why shouldn't it be? We are still living in the time when we must live as if Jesus will not return in out lifetimes … even as we live as if he might return before this service ends … and the words that comforted them, comfort us, because they are the eternal words of our Saviour … who came into this world as a child … that he might bring truth and light and life to all …

and so I again wish you happy new year … and wish you joy as you enter into this season of spiritual preparation as we approach the celebration of the birth of the Christ Child … and pray that the contemplation of that blessed event will help strengthen you in the face of all spiritual worries … and help you overcome all concerns faced as a result of the confusions of the secular world, Amen.
Sermon notes: 27 October 2011 (1st of Advent)

Friday, November 25, 2011

at his left and at his right

 

Today's Gospel reading has the sons of Zebedee asking Jesus if can be at his right and left hand in his kingdom. In his answer to them, Jesus seems to reference his own death on the cross as he says it is not for him to sit at his right and his left.

Who was at his right and left when he was on the cross? The two thieves, of course. But his mother and the beloved disciple were there as well, and art commonly represents one to the left and one to the right. And we know Roman soldiers were there, at the foot of the cross gambling as he died, with one at his right as he thrust a spear into him. Not to mention those who gathered to jeer and mock.

The thought that occurs to me is that there were many at his left and right when he was on the cross: those who loved him, those who despised him, those caught up in their own suffering, & those who killed him.

In a sense, all human life is there. This is reflected in his words: 'Father, forgive them for they know not what they are doing.' Words that refer not to those who are physically there, but to all humanity, for whose sake he is being crucified. Perhaps that is why he says it is not for him to say who shall be on his left and his right. Because all are invited to stand at the foot of the cross and he will not give anyone precedence nor turn anyone away.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

it's never too late!



Today's Gospel reading is the well known parable of the workers in the vineyard. It is a wonderful affirmation of how it is never too late to begin to align your life to God's will, because our creator in his love is glad to welcome us at whichever point in our lives that we choose to turn to him.

But that is not the same as saying that one should leave it to the last possible moment ... we read very many places in Scripture of the danger of leading our lives solely according to our own passions and pleasures, planning to change our ways when we are too old to enjoy them anymore! Because that day may never come ... the warning that the time to repent may never come ... at least not with a date stamp on it! We know not the day nor the hour ... so if you already hear the call that God has on your life, the time to change your life around is now ... with no worry that you are not worthy ... because it is never too late ... until it is too late for anything.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

for mortals it is impossible



'Who then can be saved?' the disciples ask Jesus in today's Gospel reading. His reply is that  ‘For mortals it is impossible, but for God all things are possible.’

This suggests to me the importance of prayer in our lives, the conversation with the divine that helps us develop our relationship with our Creator. Reading during the week, I came across a short passage from one of the Church Fathers, Evagrios the Solitary. He advised:

Do not pray for the fulfilment of your wishes, for they may not accord with the will of God. But pray as you have been taught, saying: Thy will be done in me (Luke 22.42). Always entreat Him in this way -that His will be done. For He desires what is good and profitable for you, whereas you do not always ask for this.
(On Prayer, 31, from the Philokalia)

We, selfish and limited, may pray for what we want rather than what we need - both for this life and the next. But if we trust in God, then our prayers will be as the ought, in alignment with his will - difficult as that may be to imagine. For with God all things are possible.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

if you wish to be perfect ...



The rich young man in today's Gospel reading asks Jesus what he must do to have eternal life. Jesus refers him to the commandments. I have always kept these, says the young man: what do I still lack? And Jesus tells him that if he wishes to be perfect he must sell what he has, give the money to the poor, and follow Jesus. The young man goes away grieving, because he has many possessions.

 Is this story really about wealth? The young man tells Jesus that he keeps all the commandments ... does he think that he does so perfectly - that he is in fact already perfect? Is what he is really doing is pushing Jesus to say that he need do no more, that he is already perfect, that he already has earned eternal life?

In which case Jesus' answer is designed to puncture his bubble of smugness. Having pushed Jesus to tell him what more he must do, he can not accept the answer. When faced with the choice between eternal life and material wealth he can not bring himself to choose the former over the latter. He is not perfect. Love of money takes precedence for him over love of God. His keeping of the commandments is a posture, a public show. He does what is easy for him to do, but can not bring himself to make any real sacrifice.

The young man goes away grieving because he was not only fooling the world, but fooling himself. Jesus has shown him where his true priorities are, what he is really like, and he doesn't like it.

There is a lesson for us all here. What are the comfortable pretenses we keep up, before the world and ourselves? What are the easy, public virtues we display, while the truth is that there is much of this world that is more important to us than loving God and following his Son?

In truth, most of us, unless we are perfect, living saints, have more in common with the rich young man than we like to believe. But I pray that none of you make the mistake of the young man - unable to face the truth about himself, he turns away and does not follow Jesus. I pray that you, and I, and all God's children, imperfect as we are, will continue in our own stumbling and frail way, remembering the love that God has for us and trusting in his Grace, to always follow his Son. Amen.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Christ the King

May my words be in the Name of the Father, the Son, & the Holy Spirit – Amen.

Today is the feast of Christ the King & today our Gospel reading shows an aspect of that Kingship … judgement!

I Preached on this passage three years ago … spoke about it as a parable … after asked training rector what he thought … he said he disagreed with me completely, because he thought the passage was Jesus speaking prophetically!

So which is it, parable of prophecy? Both have similar elements, the use of metaphorical language, for example … so I thought I'd do some more research & looked to a few commentaries … one was not of much help: it described the passage as a 'word picture of the end times' … which may be true, but didn't help me decide! But other works seemed to agree that the passage was neither prophecy or parable but an example of apocalyptic scripture … the main examples of the apocalyptic genre in the Bible are found in Daniel and the Revelation to St John the Divine … it is called 'Apocalyptic' for no other reason than the word in Greek for Revelation is 'Apocalypta' and the genre as a whole takes its name from the book of Revelation …

Now despite what movies like to portray, or doom-sayers like Hal Linden says in his book 'the late, great Planet Earth', apocalyptic literature is not a type of prophecy, it is a completely different genre … it is something that is written or spoken at a time of trouble or persecution that is intended to give comfort to those to whom it is addressed … for example, Revelation was written at a time when the Church was undergoing severe persecution by Rome and it's message was to provide comfort to those who suffered so that they would know that what they endured was not in vain …

so what are the implications for the passage if it is one genre or another? If it is a parable, it falls into the category of example story, & it tells us how Christians should show kindness … if it is prophecy, it shows us how things will be at the end of days, & how there will be reward or punishment according to how we have followed the commands of our King … and certainly the passage works as both …

but as I said, most of the scholars seem to agree that the passage is essentially apocalyptic … what are the implications for looking at the passage in that way … well as I said, apocalyptic is intended to provide comfort to those for whom it is written … so what comfort is there to be taken from this passage? Well, clearly there is comfort in idea that our faithfulness will be rewarded … but also, I think there is comfort in the realisation that faithfulness can be a lot simpler than we realise …

sometimes it can be easy to be discouraged … being a Christian is not easy … and being a perfect Christian is all but impossible … and the temptation can be to throw the towel in, to give up … who can attain the level of self-denial and self-sacrifice required, who can avoid all the temptations and pitfalls, who can be in the world but not of it when there is so much to compete for our attention, so many day to day worries to distract us …
and that is how this passage gives comfort and hope … you don't have to be perfect … you just have to give bread to the hungry stranger … you don't have to turn your back on the world … you just have to visit the sick …

all of the things mentioned are simple and easy to do … or at least they should be easy … and they will be easy if we are faithful to the commands of our King … and our open to the Grace that he provides to make all things possible … because he promised that he was always with us … and we can take encouragement from the fact that we can see him with us in all we help and all who help us … and so I pray that our King will provide that Grace we need to follow his commands to you and I and all God's Children, this day and forever more. Amen.

(Sermon notes: 20 October 2011 - Christ the King)

Friday, November 18, 2011

Let them be as gentiles and tax-collectors to you


I have often wondered what Jesus meant by what he said in today's Gospel reading 'Let them be as gentiles and tax-collectors to you.' He is speaking about how to deal with those who do wrong but refuse to listen to correction. In that context one might suspect that he means to cast them out and have nothing to do with them, just as the Jews of his day wanted to have nothing to do with gentiles and tax collectors.

But then, this passage is part of a longer series of passages about forgiveness and how much we should forgive. And the lesson from the rest of the Gospel is that we shouldn't avoid people just because we disapprove of them ... the sinners, tax-collectors, & gentiles.

Also, wasn't St Matthew himself a tax-collector?

So is Jesus being ironic here? Does he, when he says let them be as gentiles and tax-collectors really saying: these are the ones that I came to save. You must never give up on them. Just as I never gave up on you. If he is, that's what he is saying to us also - don't give up on the ones you are tempted to give up on. They are the lost sheep whose being found causes joy in heaven. Amen.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

three pearls



Our Gospel reading today asks the question 'who is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven?' Yesterday I blogged on the importance of the teaching role of the clergy, especially when it came to admonishing. But lest anyone think I believe the clergy are by default 'the greatest', let me list three pearls of wisdom that I picked up on during a visit to an elderly lay person.

During the course of the visit, the person remarked several times  that they liked it when clergy were 'turned out properly'; they don't like it when clergy 'looked like they're ready for a disco.' Clergy should 'wear the uniform' so to speak. Some clergy, I know, don't like to - they see it as dressing up, as trying to stand out. It is not. A uniform, as I know from my time in the military, is intended to identify and anonymize. It is worn with pride, but it is not a sign of pride

The second thing was they thought was that those of faith should stand together. They felt Roman Catholic Church had taken a lot of criticism of late in this country, a lot of which was unfair and opportunistic on the part of those who had a secularist agenda. Where were the voices of leaders from other denominations and faiths showing solidarity or trying to ensure balance in the debate? Why did they keep their heads down? They felt that failure to speak out now was to the disadvantage of all & a failure of our Christian duty.

The third point was raised with me after I had left. Before I went I prayed with the person. Later, I received a phone call from a family member. They wanted to let me know how much it had meant to their relative that I had taken the time to pray with them. They were sick and old and sometimes felt cut off from the Church. Prayer helped them know that they were not.

So that is it. Some words of wisdom from one lay person to one clergy person that is applicable to all clergy. Wear the uniform; show solidarity with other denominations/faiths in times of trouble; and pray with and for your people. Simple things, but advice well worth taking. Amen.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Paul's appeal


Normally, I post on the Gospel reading from Morning Prayer in the RCL. However, today I have been thinking over the Epistle from last night's evening prayer. The reading was from 1 Thessalonians, and the verses that struck me in particular were the following:

But we appeal to you, brothers and sisters, to respect those who labour among you, and have charge of you in the Lord and admonish you; esteem them very highly in love because of their work.  (NRSV)

It seems to me that there are four commands in that short passage: two apply to the clergy and two to the laity. The latter must:

1.Respect those who labour among them who have charge over them; &
2. Esteem them highly in love because of their work.

And the clergy, for their part, must:

1. Have charge over their flock; &
2. Admonish them.

It is a reciprocal relationship. The people must allow the clergy to do their job, accepting that they have charge over them, that this authority comes from the Lord, and give them the loving esteem that is due to the person who is called to this work. The clergy have to remember that they have God given authority for their work which requires them to take charge of and pastorally lead their flock ... and sometimes this will require them to admonish their people when they see they are going wrong.

The role of admonisher is one, I think, that is neglected of late. No one likes to be admonished; and few, I think relish the confrontational aspect it requires to tell admonish someone. Perhaps that is why St Paul felt he had to use the words 'we appeal to you.' Even in the early days of the Church it was no easy thing!

Then and now no one enjoys having their behaviour corrected and few enjoy being the ones having to do the correcting. But it is part of the duty of the clergy to do so, out of love for those they have charge over; and it is the duty of the individual to accept that correction, because they know it is done out of love by one who has authority in the Lord, & out of love for that person and the role they have in the Church. Ultimately, the person has to desire the correction, already knowing that what they are doing is wrong, for it to be effective.

This issue is at the heart of the pastoral relationship. Which is job of the pastor? Is it to make the individual feel OK when they do wrong? Or is it to lovingly correct their errors so that they may live the lives they are called to by the Lord? It is the latter, of course ... and it is an awesome responsibility and a delicate task, because it is not easy to admonish while at the same time not being judgemental and being encouraging. This is why it is a task that not everyone is called to; and why those called to it need the loving prayers and support of those they pastor to in order to carry out this work.

St Paul's appeal is as relevant today as when it was first made. And if that appeal is answered with the same love with which Paul made it, then that can only be to the good of all God's people, clergy and laity ... and to the overall good of His Church. Amen.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Sex is not a recreational activity



There was an opinion piece in the Irish Times last week called Why are we still discussing the 'gay gene'? If you wish to decide the merits of the author's arguments, feel free to read it for yourself. What I was most perturbed by was what was almost a throwaway comment at the end of the:  'A person who disapproves of somebody on the basis of his or her recreational activities with consenting adults is a bigot.'

Leaving aside the other issues one might take with that statement, I am not happy with the suggestion that sex is a recreational activity (presuming he is using the word 'recreational' in the common sense of a way of passing the time, which the tone of the article leads me to believe). Sex is not a recreational activity. It is far more important than that.

The writer describes himself as an atheist, so most probably he won't see people as being made in the image of God or our bodies being temples of the Holy Spirit. But one doesn't have to be a Christian to see all the evil that flows from reducing our intimate acts to the level of any other casual way of passing the time. We see it in the world every day: casual relationships which cause all kinds of heart-ache & lowering of self-esteem; teenage pregnancy; adultery; marital breakdown; the spread of STD's; the pressure to engage in unwanted sex.

And of course, if its only a recreational activity, then why should the natural result of sexual activity, pregnancy, be seen as anything other than a nuisance which an abortion can take care of?

So if only bad things come from this attitude, why does anyone try to pretend that it is a good thing, some kind of societal advance? This may be simplistic, but it is in large part, I think, because of an attitude that has gained prevalence that any kind of restriction on our behaviour is a bad thing and that we are brave and daring when we defy the authority that is trying to control us.

Well, guess what?  We no longer live in a society where those old controls are in place. There's no point being a rebel when the revolution is over. So maybe the time has come to simply wake up and have some common sense. Sex as a recreational activity is of no benefit to either the individual or society. It hurts everyone involved. And you don't have to believe in God to believe that.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

talent


May my words be in the Name of the Father, the Son, & the Holy Spirit – Amen.

Today we heard the parable of the talents … and with all the trouble with the economy, we could only wish that all our bankers and developers and economic advisers were so good at managing investments as the faithful servants in this parable; indeed, as wrong as many as them have got things, we could almost wish they had followed the example of the unfaithful servant and buried the money entrusted to them and kept it safe!

But of course, the parable was not intended to give guidance to investment bankers, but for our spiritual development … so what is the parable saying to us? It is usually interpreted as meaning we should use the gifts/talents that God gives us in his service and the service of others … but I think we can draw some more from the parable … for example, the fact that our English word 'talent' means gift or ability isn't a coincidence … the word actually has its origin in this parable

So I'd like to focus on what is the significance of the 'talents' in the parable … they can't stand for gifts or ability in it: the parable actually says that the talents are distributed to the servants according to his ability … and to me, at least, the idea of handing out ability according to ability doesn't seem to make much sense … and therefore, the talents must be seen as something that are in addition to the person's actual gifts or abilities …

Let's begin by thinking back to what the word 'talent' would have meant to those sitting or standing around listening to Jesus in ancient Palestine … the word 'talent' is in Greek 'talanton' and it was was basically a measure of dry weight … you took a certain agreed upon clay jar and when it was filled up you had a talent of that material … over time it came to be used in reference to precious metals … so by Jesus day a talent was thought of as a sum of money in the Ancient World … a silver talent, which is probably what the parable is referring to was about 70 pounds in weight of silver … which was around what a day-labourer would have earned in about 15 years if he was lucky …

So what the servants in the parable were being handed was a vast treasure … and one they were expected to give an account of how what they did with it when the master returns! And more … they were expected to have increased the worth of this treasure in the absence of their master … each is given more or less treasure based on their abilities … do your best with it and the master will be pleased on his return … he doesn't look for the money back … but he says they are worthy of even more trust … and they are told that they will enter into the joy of their master … but, do nothing with it and he will not be pleased …. they will lose what was entrusted to them … and they will be removed from their master's presence …

The master is fairly clearly Jesus; and the journey he is talking about going on is again, fairly clearly, his absence from this world … his impending return to the Father … and the master's return, the second coming … In that context, then, what is the treasure that Jesus is leaving behind for others to look after and and to use their abilities to increase while he is gone?

Well, interpreting it all in the light of the rest of what we know from the Gospels … Jesus' concern that all be saved … that his disciples make disciples of all nations … of his founding of a Church to continue that mission while he was gone … then I think that the treasure of which he speaks is nothing less than the Gospel message itself and his desire for his disciples to continue to share that message and grow his church …

and the parable gives very strong indications of what he expects from his followers in carrying out that task … those with the greatest abilities are entrusted with the greatest responsibilities, like those receiving five talents … these are, for example, probably those we think of as great saints and evangelists … heroes of the faith whose devoted service brings many others to the faith … those getting two are perhaps those whose names we no longer remember but who devoted, solid service has been the backbone of the church down through the years …

and then there are those of lesser ability, those who can do no more than the equivalent of putting what is entrusted them in the bank and drawing interest … they are the ones who are the vast bulk of the faithful … those who are true to the faith all their lives, who think they achieve little, but whose lives of quiet, unassuming faith achieves far more than they realise … their example and devotion does much to encourage others … remember that a great treasure, placed in the bank, over a long period of time, garners a great amount of interest during that time …

the one thing that is not acceptable is to do nothing with it is to bury it, to put it out of sight … to think that it is something that you can hide away and they pull out of a hole when the master returns and point to it and say what a good job that you have done in looking after it … because for those who look on the treasure of their faith like that will discover that it avails them nothing … before the face of their master it simply melts away and they are left with nothing … nothing but the discovery that they joy they would find in his presence is something that they are not worthy of …

the great thing about this parable is that everyone, whatever their ability is entrusted with a great treasure … even one talent was a vast amount of money … all have a fabulous treasure that they can share with others … you may feel that you don't have the ability to be of much use … you're good at what you do in life … but can't see how you could be good at spreading the good news of the gospel … but this parable shows, I think that you can do better than you think … and that doing nothing because you doubt your abilities is not an option …

Jesus has entrusted you with this treasure because he knows that you have the ability to do something with it … he will give you the grace to succeed if you chose to obey him … something that I pray that I, and you, and all God's children will find the strength to do ... Amen.

(Sermon notes: 13 October 2011)

Friday, November 11, 2011

answer the question



In our Gospel reading today, Jesus asks his disciples who do people they say he is. They give various answers. Then he asks 'but who do you say that I am?' And Peter confesses that he is the Christ, the Son of God.

Why does Jesus ask, as opposed to simply telling them? Because, I think, there comes a point where they have to make their own minds up. All the evidence has been piled up before them; Jesus leaves it to them to decide where it leads.

Even then, it is a big leap, to go from what they have seen and heard to recognising Jesus for the Messiah, the Son of God. It takes more than just facts, it takes grace. That's why Jesus says 'For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven.' God guides the human heart.

Today, in Scripture, we have the witness of those who saw and heard the same things that Peter did. And the same question is asked of us: based on this, who do we say that Jesus is? It is as big a question for us as it was for Peter and all the others. And we, like them, have God's grace to help us with the answer. Amen.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

signs



We read of the Pharisees & Sadducees looking for signs in today's Gospel reading. Their demand puts me in mind of the modern mantra in relation to God and Christianity: extraordinary claims demand extraordinary proof. For me the universe, our world, and life itself is extraordinary evidence of God; the witness of the Gospels and the Church testament to the truth of Christianity. Those have been signs enough for most down through the centuries; for those whom they are not sufficient, I doubt anything would be enough. The truth of faith can not be put under a microscope anymore than love or poetry. The extraordinary proof asked for is there ... all that is needed is to open one's eyes and heart to it. Amen.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

say thanks!



Question for you: how often do you say 'thanks'? Most people, if they are fairly polite, say thanks dozens of times a day. When someone holds a door open; when someone passes the salt; when someone says something nice. And that's just for trivial things ... when somebody does something really special, a reasonable person really goes to town on the gratitude.

Which raises another 

In today's Gospel reading, the crowd gives thanks to God when they see the miracles. But so much of everyday life is a miracle. Let us all remember to give thanks for the many miracles of everyday life ... the thousands of extraordinary ordinary things that God pours into our lives each day ... as well as not losing sight of the extraordinary extraordinary things as well. Amen.
another question (and I bet you saw it coming!): how often do you say thanks to God? As Christians, we are a Eucharistic people; that is, our supreme act of worship is the celebration of the Eucharist. The word 'Eucharist' comes from the Greek εὐχαριστῶ (eucharisto), to thank. So we are a people who give thanks. So, do you thank God often ... or do you take all you have for granted? Maybe you think you don't have all that much to be grateful for ... and I don't know your situation ... but most have a lot to be grateful for ... life itself to begin with ... and ultimately, eternal life in Christ.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

persistence


Today's Gospel reading shows the importance of persistence in prayer. Persist no matter how bleak the situation seems, when others stand in your way, when even God himself seems deaf to your pleas. For all prayers are answered.

Sadly, the answer isn't always the one we hope for. The outcome to a particular situation is not as we would have wished; the illness is not cured; the loved one dies.

That, I think, is when persistence is needed more than ever. Pray for the peace which God gives. Pray that you will know his love in all situations. Pray that you will live in the hope that the Lord Jesus promised to all. The Word was made flesh to save the world, but also so that we would know that whatever we suffer in this life, Jesus suffered and suffers with us. Therefore, persevere in prayer, because you are not alone;  the one to whom you pray stands beside you in your pain and bears it with you. Amen.

Monday, November 7, 2011

self love



In today's Gospel reading, Jesus lists some of the nasty things that people can do: evil intentions, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander. Combine these with his words earlier in the passage about honouring your father and mother and you pretty much have all of that part of the ten commandments that deal with the wrongs we can do to other people. Jesus says that they come from within, from the heart. And they defile us. The wrongs that one does to anothers damage the one who does them also. 

The potential for evil exists within us ... and if it is unchecked, it will destroy us. Something to remember the next time you are indulging yourself in something that you know is wrong but excusing or comforting yourself with the notion that you aren't hurting anybody.

Yes you are. If nobody else, you are hurting yourself.

And I find it difficult to believe that the hardening of the heart needed to allow one to do what one knows to be wrong will not spill over into ones relations with others. This failure to show true love for oneself will result in failing to show love for others.

So pray for strength. Jesus called the ones who didn't focus on the evil that comes from within 'blind guides.' Pray for the grace to accept the guidance of the One who sees most clearly of all. Amen.