Thursday, April 30, 2015

prayer diary Thursday 30 April 2015

'Very truly, I tell you, whoever receives one whom I send receives me; and whoever receives me receives him who sent me.’ 
John 12.20

Reflection
Christ appointed his apostles who in turn laid their hands upon others and so on down to the day. Those who will receive Christ must receive those whom he entrusted with the leadership of his Church and the handing on of his teaching.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

prayer diary Wednesday 29 April 2015

'The one who rejects me and does not receive my word has a judge; on the last day the word that I have spoken will serve as judge.' 
John 12.48

Reflection Christ died for us that we might be saved. And those who reject him will be judged according to his Word.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

prayer diary Tuesday 28 April 2015

'My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish.' 
John 10. 27,28

Reflection
To listen to the voice of the one true shepherd is to be blessed indeed. Those who do know God and are known by him - and at the last will be with Him in Paradise

Monday, April 27, 2015

prayer diary Monday 27 April 2015

'The sheep follow (the shepherd of the sheep) because they know his voice. They will not follow a stranger, but they will run from him.' 
John 10. 4,5

Reflection
Christ is the good shepherd and we are his sheep. If we would hear his voice we must listen only to those who speak with his voice, the voice that is to be heard in Sacred Scripture and the teachings of his Church. From the voice of all others we must flee.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

loving our neighbour also means caring for their souls

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

Last Sunday we had for our Gospel reading St Luke's dramatic account of the Lord's final appearance on the first day of his resurrection to his followers. He has gone to great lengths to convince them he is truly risen, that it is their flesh and blood master that stands before them, and not some ghost of vision. He has also gone to great lengths to open their minds and hearts to what the Scriptures had foretold about him, and that indeed he had told them all this before it happened: that the Messiah must suffer and die; but that on the third day he would rise again. He then tells them that 'that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning in Jerusalem.'

There are echoes of these words in today's Gospel reading from St John – although perhaps the word 'foreshadowing' would be better, given that what the evangelist is reporting here took place long before that evening in the upper room. Jesus tells his disciples that he is the good shepherd and that the good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep; that he lays down his life in order to take it up again; and he tells them he has other sheep that do not belong to this fold, that he must bring them also, and they will listen to his voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.

Clearly our Lord is speaking of the same events. In John he is telling them what is to happen; in Luke he is reminding them of what he had told them and how they have now seen those events take place. The Good shepherd is Christ, the Messiah; his laying down his life for the sheep is the suffering and death he endured for us; his taking up his life again is his rising from the dead on the third day; and those sheep of another fold who are to be brought in are the people of all nations who will also become his followers so that there will be one flock, one shepherd – in other words one Church with Christ as its head.

And, incidentally, I should note that Jesus' claim to be the 'good shepherd' is a divine claim; who, after all, is the shepherd in our psalm today, psalm 23? The Lord, God himself. So when Jesus identifies himself as the shepherd, he is putting himself on a par with God; a claim that is he later fully substantiates when, having laid down his life freely for us, he is able to take it up again by rising from the dead.

St John picks up the theme from his gospel of how Jesus laid down his life for us in his first letter, which we also heard read today. And in that he says something quite challenging: We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us—and we ought to lay down our lives for one another. Now what does it mean to 'lay down our lives for one another?' Partly it means caring for our brothers and sisters in need, for as St John goes on to tell us 'How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help?' Just as in the Lord's prayer we are told we can not have God's forgiveness if we will not forgive others, neither will we have God's love if we do not love others. To love God is to love others; and what we do for the least of our brothers and sisters is as if we do if for Christ himself.

But there is more challenge to come. Loving our neighbour requires more than sharing from our material goods. And laying down our life for one another is more than making sure our brothers and sisters have food and clothing and shelter. For man does not live by bread alone, as I am sure you will recall our Lord telling Satan face to face in our readings from the other side of Easter, all the way at the beginning of Lent, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God. What kind of love would it be if, having made sure that our brothers and sisters are not hungry or without clothes, we left them to die spiritually?

It is this love that we see in action in our reading from the Acts of the Apostles today. St Peter and another disciple have been arrested by the religious authorities for preaching the Gospel and healing a crippled man. The next day they are brought before Annas the High Priest, and Caiphas, and others – the same men who had arrested Jesus, beaten him, procured false witnesses against him, subjected him to a farce of a trial, condemned him, and then brought him to Pilate, stirring up the crowd and forcing the Roman governor to crucify a man he found innocent or risk a rebellion and serious trouble with the emperor. Who would blame them for being afraid; who would blame them for bowing to the demands of the religious authorities and agreeing to say no more about this Gospel or this Jesus whom they had killed? 

But they are not afraid – why? Because they love God; because they believe in the Resurrection and the good news of Jesus Christ; they take seriously his command to proclaim his message of repentance and forgiveness of sins to all the world, beginning in Jerusalem; because they believe that they, like Christ must be willing to lay down their lives for the love of their brothers and sisters. And so they stand before the men who crucified Christ, strengthened by the Holy Spirit who had come upon them at Pentecost, and defy them; they proclaim to them that even though these killers had rejected Christ, there 'is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved. The Gospel must be preached for there is no other way for souls to be saved; and we who follow Christ must be willing to lay down our lives as Christ did, for the love of our brothers and sisters; it is in this way that not only we show that we love them, but also that we love God.


And who is this companion of Peter's who stands with him and risks death for the sake of sharing the Gospel and saving the souls of others? The portion of Scripture we heard read does not say; but it is mentioned earlier in the passage. And that man is St John. The same man who gave us our Gospel reading and Epistle for today; this reminds us that the evangelist did not just 'talk the talk' when it came taking the words of Christ seriously, that it was not just words to him when he wrote of laying down our lives for others and bringing the message of salvation to others. He was willing to walk the walk also and risk his own life to put Christ's command into action. It was what he was called to; and it is what we are called to. I pray that you will have the grace to, like St John, answer that call and so win for yourselves the eternal life that you wish for others. Amen

Examin Sunday 25 April 2015

The way Christ offers can sometimes seem hard. And we may ask ourselves why we must take that hard path; is it not enough to say we believe in him and then live as all others in the world around us? But think of what Christ said in his teachings on the Holy Eucharist. He said it was his body, and those who would have eternal life must eat of it. He did not change the teaching when some left because they found the teaching too hard. Hard or not, even when they seem like a mystery to us, Christ taught the way of everlasting life; and if that is the life we desire, then we must follow in the way that he taught.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

prayer diary Saturday 25 April 2015 (St Mark)

Then Jesus began to say to them, ‘Beware that no one leads you astray. Many will come in my name and say, “I am he!” and they will lead many astray. 
Mark 13.5,6

Reflection:
Our Lord, through his faithful evangelist St Mark, warned that false teachers would come. Test then all doctrine, especially that which seems novel or strange, against that which you know he indeed taught and was recorded in Sacred Scripture.

A Letter from the People of the Cross to ISIS


Powerful. 
Humbling.
Watch. 
Share.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Fr Delaney and the lost sheep

It was a fine Saturday morning in May and Fr Delaney was strolling gently down the main street of Cooncastle. He had just finished morning Mass and he was looking forward to a late breakfast of tea and scones at one of the cafés on the square. A grandmotherly figure was watering the flowers in her window boxes of one of the terraced houses, the air fragrant with the smell of damp earth and African violets; he paused to greet her.

'Good morning Mrs Brooks Those flowers are looking well. The tidy towns committee will be well pleased with you.'
'Good morning, Father.' She beamed into the face of the tall, lean priest. 'Thank you. Ah, it doesn't hurt to make a bit of an effort. We all live in the one town and isn't it nice to have it looking nice?'

They chatted for a while about the importance of community spirit and the great job the tidy-towns committee did in keeping the area clean and litter free. The ring of a bicycle bell made them jump.

'Morning Father, Mrs Brook.' Jimmy Barnes stood there, the holding his old black high-nellie bike. 'Grand morning, isn't it.' He took a packet of cigarettes out of his pocket of his ragged brown overcoat and lit one.

'It is indeed, Jimmy,' said Fr Delaney. He adjusted his wire-framed glasses on his nose. Barnes stood there grinning at him in a way that made him feel slightly uncomfortable. They'd been in school together and Barnes had been the class bully. Nothing too serious; and Jimmy hadn't stayed long, dropping out when he was 12 to work on the family farm. Fr Delaney had carried on, going to college and then the seminary and was now the parish priest. The family farm had gone to an older brother who had sent Jimmy packing after one incident with the drink too many and Jimmy lived in a tumble-down cottage in the hills had once belonged to an elderly maiden aunt. But despite the facts of where life had taken them, Jimmy always had a bit of a sly grin on his face whenever he met his former classmate, as if he were thinking back to the days when they were boys and Jimmy was the one they all feared, thinking 'you may be someone now, Delaney, but I remember a time when you quaked when you saw me coming.'

'Good sermon on Sunday, Father,' said Barnes. 'I always enjoy it when you talk about the Good Shepherd.'
'Is that right, Jimmy?' said Fr Delaney.
'That's right. It always reminds me how little you know about sheep – but of course, you were at home reading your books when you were a lad, not out in the fields doing a bit of work like the rest of us.'
'James Barnes!' said Mrs Brooks, scandalised. Barnes laughed.
'I'll be seeing you, folks.' He pushed passed them. Fr Delaney got the smell of wood smoke from him, as well as his cigarettes; the large green haversack on his back reeked of something as well. He thought it might be sheep, but he wasn't sure. As Jimmy Barnes said, he really didn't know much about sheep. The wheels of Barnes' bicycle tracked through the water that had overflowed from Mrs Brooks' window boxes, leaving an intertwining trail as headed away. Mrs Brooks shook her head.
'That man is impossible. The cheek of him to speak to you like that!'
Fr Delaney smiled.
'It's all right Mrs Brooks. There's no harm in him.'
'No harm? And what about the drinking and the thieving? How many times has he been up before the courts?'
'Well, no real harm in him,' conceded Fr Delaney. 'He's never hurt anybody.'
Mrs Brooks snorted.
'It's only a matter of time. I wonder what took him to Mass at all!'
'It was his father's anniversary this weekend.'
Her face softened a a little.
'Oh, I'm sorry, Father. I didn't know.'
His mobile phone rang. 'You'll excuse me, Mrs Brooks.' 

He stepped away and put the device to his ear. 'Fr Delaney here.'
'Oh, Father. Forgive me for disturbing you.' It was Mrs Gordon, a young farmer's wife from a few miles outside the town.
'That's all right, Mrs Gordon. Is there a problem?'
'Oh Father, it's silly really. Maggie's pet lamb has gone missing and she's in bits over it.' Maggie was seven, the youngest of the Gordons' five children.
'I'm sorry to hear that; but why are you calling me? Surely it's Sergeant O'Grady you should be on to?'
'Ah, I wouldn't trouble him with it. Lambs go missing; they wander off; or maybe a dog or a fox took it. No need for the gardaí. But Maggie remembers you talking about the Good Shepherd last week and your saying something about priests being like shepherds and now she has it in her head that you can find her lamb, the same way Jesus found the lost sheep in the parable.'
Father Delaney sighed.
'Will I come out?'
'Would you Father?'
'I will. There's nothing I can do; but maybe I can talk to her, anyway.'
'Thank you Father.'
'I'll be there in a few minutes, Mrs Gordon.'
He hung up. There really was nothing he could do. But he hated to think of a small child so upset. Maybe his making a bit of a fuss of her would help. He walked back toward the church and his car, stopping at one of the shops along the way to buy a bar of chocolate. He was in being ushered into the Gordons' kitchen by one of the older children ten minutes later.

It was an old fashioned place; Bill Gordon had grown up there, as had his father before him. The original stone flags were still on the floor; and the range was a huge affair of doors and gratings that Bill Gordon had once told him had been installed when his grandfather was just a wee lad. The smell of wood-smoke from it was in the air, along with that of Mrs Gordon's bread and scones that were baking in it. Maggie sat on her mother's lap in an old armchair in the nook next to it, sobbing.
'It's good of you to come, Father,' said Mrs Gordon.
'It's all right,' he said shaking his head. Maggie jumped up.
'Fr Delaney, you're here!' she said. She turned to her mother. 'It'll be all right now, mummy; he's a real shepherd. He'll find Lamb-chop, you'll see!' Fr Delaney smiled at the lamb's name. It always amazed him how farm children could love their 'pet' lambs and calves so fiercely and then later sell them off to be someone's dinner without a care in the world. Probably just as well they could; they'd find farm life pretty tough otherwise. He put a serious look back on his face when Maggie turned back to him. 'You'll find her, Father, won't you?'
'Well,' said Father Delaney. 'I don't know that I can promise that. Would you like some chocolate?'
Maggie stared at him.
'What do you mean you can't promise? You said you were like the Good Shepherd – and he found the missing lamb!'
'Oh, Maggie,' said her mother. 'You can't blame Fr Delaney. You might not have closed the shed door properly and she might have wandered off.'
'I did so lock it,' said Maggie. But her lip trembled. Fr Delaney unwrapped the bar and put it in her hand. She took a bite.
'Why don't you show me where she was?' suggested Fr Delaney. 'Who knows – if it was a dog or a fox that took her, they might have left some tracks and then at least we'd know what happened.'
'Tracks?' said Maggie doubtfully.
'You know, footprints on the ground. You can tell a lot from footprints.'
'You two go on,' said her mother. 'I have to keep an eye on the baking.'

So Maggie took Fr Delaney by the hand and led him outside. Bill Gordon was a neat farmer and his farmyard was brushed clean. There was a smell of silage from the cattle shed at one side; and fresh straw from the barn at the other. As they walked, she said:
'So, you're not really a shepherd?'
'Not really.'
'But you said you were.'
'I said I was like a shepherd.'
'What does that mean?'
'Well, it means that a priest helps look after the people in his parish, helping to teach them what God wants them to know, about right and wrong. The same way a shepherd looks after his sheep.'
'But shepherds don't teach their sheep stuff. Sheep aren't very good at learning. They're a bit stupid really. All except Lamb-chop'
'I know. These things aren't often very exact.'
'So why use it then?'
'Well, in the Bible, kings would often talk about being the shepherds of their people; and the people who wrote the Bible would talk about God being a shepherd looking after his flock, who were his people; and, of course, Jesus called himself the Good Shepherd, again meaning that he loved people and wanted to looked after them. So it's a tradition really.'
'I don't think people should call themselves shepherds if they're not.'

Fr Delaney said nothing. In between the cattle shed and the barn was the shed Maggie was leading him to. There was a pungent odour from it; and this time he was sure it was the smell of sheep. The door had a self-locking mechanism on it, and it was unlikely Maggie could have left it unlatched accidentally. He looked at the ground in front of the shed. It was earth, soft and muddy. He pushed his glasses back a little on his nose and studied the ground intently. With a frown, he took out his old pipe and began to tap at his teeth with the stem.

'Well?' said Maggie. 'Do you see any dog prints?'
'No,' said Fr Delaney. 'No animal tracks at all.'
'So you don't know what happened to Lamb-chop after all?'
'I didn't say that.'
'What do you mean?'
He looked up from the ground to the serious, innocent face.
'Go back in to your mother. Tell her I'll be back in about half-an-hour.'
'Do you know where Lamb-chop is?'
'I'm not sure. But I might.'

A few minutes later he was pulling up outside Jimmy Barnes's old cottage. The high-nellie bike was outside, propped against the wall by the door. Jimmy was sitting on an old bench next to it, smoking a cigarette.
'Father,' he said. 'Long time no see.'
'Hello Jimmy.' He looked at the bike. 'You know that's a grand bike.' Jimmy looked surprised.
'It is that. It was my dad's, but still grand for all that.'
'You wouldn't see many like it these days.'
'That you wouldn't. I'd say it's the only one for miles around.'
Fr Delaney nodded.
'That's what I would have said. Which means those tracks I just saw in the Gordon's farmyard were made by you.'
Jimmy jumped to his feet.
'Who do you think you are, coming here making accusations? I've taken nothing and I was nowhere near that place!'
'And who said anything about anything being taken? It's a sign of a guilty man to deny all before he's accused of anything.'
'You think you're so clever. Just like when we were back in school, you always thought you were the brainy one and I was nothing.' He raised his fist. Fr Delaney just stood there and looked at him. He realised, perhaps for the first time, that he was by far the taller man; and, even though they were the same age, Jimmy was much more worn and aged-looking than he. Slowly, Jimmy let his hand drop to his side.
'That was 40 years ago, Jimmy. Let it go. The only reason I'm here is because the lamb you took was Maggie Gordon's pet lamb and the child is at home crying for it. You might not be the most honest of men, but you're not cruel. You wouldn't do something like that on purpose. I'm only here for the lamb.'
For a long time they stood there in silence. Then Jimmy walked away behind the house. There was the sound of a shed door opening. He was back, moments later, a lamb in his arms.
'Tell her I'm sorry,' he said. 'I didn't know it was hers.'
'I'll tell her the person who took it is sorry,' said Fr Delaney. 'I won't mention your name.' He took the lamb, its wool soft in his hands, and put her into the car. 'But you'll understand that if I hear of any more lambs going missing, I'll have to tell Sergeant O'Grady where to look.' He got back into the car himself. 'Come and see me, Jimmy. You're a bit of a lost sheep yourself. It's time you got your life back together. Maybe I can help.'
Jimmy nodded and sat back down on the bench. He took the packet of cigarettes from his pocket, but it was empty. With a sigh, he threw it onto the ground by his feet.

A few minutes later, Fr Delaney was back at the Gordon's. He carried the lamb into the kitchen. Maggie was at the table eating fresh scones. She burst away from it in a shower of crumbs and grabbed the small creature into her arms.
'You found her, you found her,' she cried.
'However did you do it?' said her mother in wonder. Fr Delaney opened his mouth to answer, but Maggie spoke first.
'It's because its like I said. He is a shepherd. He's a good shepherd. He's God's shepherd and he looks after us, isn't that right Father.' She grabbed him by the leg and hugged him, one arm around the lamb, one around his trousers, smearing it with butter, jam, and crumbs.
'Maggie! Mind Fr Delaney's clothes!' said her mother.
'It's all right, Mrs Gordon,' he said, 'I don't suppose I could trouble you for some tea and one of those beautiful scones I see on the table? I'm afraid I missed breakfast.'

'Of course, Father,' she said, turning to bustle about and set another place. He was glad she turned. It meant she didn't see the tear he wiped away from his own eye as he looked down at the smiling, tear-streaked face of the child clutching his leg and the lamb.

as told to the children of the Wandesforde National School on the morning of Friday April 24th 2015. 
(C) Fr Levi 2015

prayer diary Friday 24 April 2015

The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, ‘How can this man give us his flesh to eat?’ 
John 6. 52

Reflection:
This is one of the holy mysteries of our faith. Yet we believe, for our Lord said 'this is my body' and told us that he was 'the bread come down from heaven.' And remember that when those who followed him could not accept this teaching left him, he did not call them back, but rather asked those who remained if they wished to leave also.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

prayer diary Thursday 23 April 2015

'I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live for ever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.’ 
John 6.51

Reflection
Christ died for us and gives us of his flesh to eat in the Holy Eucharist. Partake of this holy food joyfully, humbly, and worthily that you may have eternal life

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

prayer diary Wednesday 22 April 2015

'This is indeed the will of my Father, that all who see the Son and believe in him may have eternal life; and I will raise them up on the last day.’ 
John 6. 40

Reflection
It is never for us to judge who will and will not be saved. But from Christ's words it is clear that those having seen him refuse to believe in him risk much; therefore pray that their eyes be opened.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

prayer diary Tuesday 21 April 2015

Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. 
John 6. 35

Reflection
Christ gives us his very body to eat to strengthen us in our faith. For his is the bread come down from heaven that gives life to the world.

Monday, April 20, 2015

prayer diary Monday 20 April 2015

Jesus answered them, ‘This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.’ 
John 6. 29

Reflection
Our faith in Christ must be reflected in our obedience to his teachings. For, as he taught, those who love him will be obedient to him also; and if you believe in him you must also love him.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

the importance of the Resurrection

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

Our Lord was, it would seem, ferociously busy on the day of his Resurrection. The account of his appearance to the disciples which we have in our Gospel reading for today is, in fact, only the last of many such appearances that he made that day.

The first, as all know, was to the women who had come bearing spices to finish the burial customs, who having found the tomb empty and encountered angels, next met with our Lord himself. Mary Magdalene must have gone on ahead of them; for she gets back to the disciples and tells them of the empty tomb and then follows them back; and it is only after Peter and the others have left the garden that she encounters the Risen Lord. Later on that same day, perhaps in the afternoon, Cleopas and another disciple meet with the Lord on the road to Emmaus and spend many hours in his company, walking, talking, and finally sitting down at table with him, only recognising who he is in the breaking of the bread. They rush back to Jerusalem to tell the others that the Lord really is risen – having doubted what the women have told them – only to be told that they already know, because the Lord has also shown himself to Peter. Whether that meeting took place before the meeting on the road to Emmaus or after we do not know; we have no details of that meeting, other than the fact that it is also mentioned by St Paul in first Corinthians. (St Paul also mentions a further private appearance to St James, but it is unclear whether that took place on this day). And then, as they are all talking so excitedly, our Lord appears to them again; this, it would seem, is the appearance we talked about last week that is also mentioned in John's gospel, the one where St Thomas is so famously absent from.

So, many meetings with the Lord on that first day; and these are only the beginning of a long series of post-resurrection appearances that are to take place between the discovery of the Empty tomb and the Ascension forty days later. This was not mere busy-ness on the part of our Lord; nor was it simply his going round to all his old friends to let them know he was now alive and in that way relieve their grief; the Resurrection stands at the heart of our faith and its importance can not be over-emphasised. It is as St Paul says: if Christ is not risen, then our faith is in vain. This is, of course, why so many have tried to claim that he did not rise. But they have never been able, in nearly 2000 years of trying, to put together a coherent argument as to why the tomb was empty, or who had rolled the stone away from it. Indeed, they have largely stopped trying. We don't know, they say; but it could not have happened because such things do not happen. Men do not rise from the dead. Men might not; but Jesus did. And that means that he is exactly who he claimed he was – the Son of God, who is one with the Father, God himself.

And this is why our Lord showed himself to so many, on that day and on the days to follow; that they might see and believe. He talks with them, eats with them, breathes on them, touches them, even cooks for them so that they might truly know that he is not some kind of hallucination or ghost, but that he is really standing there before them, he is the master whom they followed, and he has risen from the dead. Small wonder that St Thomas, as we read last week, realising the enormity of this, confessed 'my lord and my God'; my lord – recognising him for the the man he had followed for so long; and my God recognising that he was who he had so long claimed to be, God himself made man.

And in the wonder of understanding that not only did God become man for us , but he died for us, and then rose from the dead, thereby giving us the promise of eternal life, let us not forget what else Jesus did on that first day: he told them the actions that they must take as a result knowing that he had risen. He 'opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them, ‘Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.'


They were to be witnesses proclaiming to all the world that the Messiah had come, that he had died for us, and had risen also, and that now all people were called to turn their back on their old worldly lives and be forgiven of their sins in the name of the one who had risen. And just as they were called to be witnesses to this, so too are we; witnesses to all the world, proclaiming the truth of our risen Lord and God, by the words of our mouths and the way in which we live. I pray that the joy of this Easter season, the joy of the risen Christ, will give you the strength to do as he commanded us on that first day, and everyday since: Amen

Examin Sunday 19 April 2015

We are in the season of Easter, the season of the Resurrection. It is a time of great joy, for we are a Resurrection people. As St Paul tells us, if Christ is not risen then all our hope, all our faith is in vain. But he is risen; therefore our hope is sure, and our faith is built on solid ground. Do not forget, then, what Christ taught about having a good foundation. To hear his word and obey it, that is to have your house built on rock; to do otherwise is to build upon sand and such a house will be washed away. Do not neglect in your joy the need to both hear and obey the Word of the Lord.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

PAKISTAN: 13 YEAR-OLD BOY DIES AFTER BEING SET ON FIRE

a Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) press release

Noman Maish, the 13 year-old boy who was set alight by two men in Lahore, Pakistan, on 10 April after identifying himself as a Christian, has died of his injuries.

Noman Masih was in a market in Gulshan Ravi, Lahore on 10 April, when he got into a conversation with two men on a motorbike. They assaulted him and threw petrol and set him on fire when they found out that he was Christian. He sustained burns to 55 percent of his body and died on 15 April.

Mervyn Thomas, Chief Executive of Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), said, 'We extend our heartfelt condolences to Noman Masih’s family and reiterate our call for the perpetrators of this deplorable attack to be apprehended. A culture of impunity must end if religious minorities are to be guaranteed their rights as citizens in Pakistan.'

For further information or to arrange interviews please contact Kiri Kankhwende, Press Officer at Christian Solidarity Worldwide on +44 (0)20 8329 0045 / +44 (0) 78 2332 9663, email kiri@csw.org.uk or visit www.csw.org.uk.

Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) is a Christian organisation working for religious freedom through advocacy and human rights, in the pursuit

prayer diary Saturday 18 April 2015

They saw Jesus walking on the lake and coming near the boat, and they were terrified. But he said to them, ‘It is I; do not be afraid.’ 
John 6. 19,20

Reflection:
Coming near the divinity of Christ can cause us to fear; and that fear can cause us to do foolish things, to draw away, to risk turning from all he offers. Remember that he is truly man as well; and that through your baptism he is your brother and you have no need to fear.

Friday, April 17, 2015

prayer diary Friday 17 April 2015

So they sat down, about five thousand in all. Then Jesus took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated.' 
John 6. 10,11

Reflection:
These words echo the Institution of the Holy Eucharist as found in Matthew, Mark, and Luke. As well they might, for Christ is the bread come down from heaven, and he feeds all who will draw near to him with the bread of life.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

a short poem for my wife on the occasion of the 28th anniversary of our marriage



Married now more years than not,
any life before it near forgot,
I can not wish to change what we've got
by the slightest stroke or merest jot:
this is our lot; we have such a lot.

prayer diary Thursday 16 April 2015

'Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever disobeys the Son will not see life, but must endure God’s wrath.' 
John 3.36

Reflection
Christ, in his own words, links the eternal life he offers both with belief in him and obedience to his teachings. Ponder his words deeply and pray to be filled with the Holy Spirit that you may live them out daily in your life.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

prayer diary Wednesday 15 April 2015

‘For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. 
John 3.16

Reflection
Jesus came into the world and died for you. Confess his name, both with your lips and with your life, that you may enter into the eternal life he offers.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

prayer diary Tuesday 14 April 2015

'If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things?' 
John 3. 12

Reflection
If people will reject what God teaches us through the laws of his natural world, is it any wonder that neither will they believe what he has revealed by his Word?

Monday, April 13, 2015

prayer diary Monday 13 April 2015

‘No one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. 
John 3.5,6

Reflection
Through the waters of baptism, Christ offers us eternal life. However, it is the beginning, not the end in itself. Strengthen yourself, therefore, by prayer and the sacraments, that you may grow in holiness all your days and at the last end in heaven.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

where was st thomas?

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

Today is often referred to as St Thomas Sunday because of the fact that the gospel reading for the Sunday after Easter is always the account from St John concerning that particular Apostle's very famous denial of belief in the Resurrection, which is then followed by the saint's coming face to face with our Lord and not only realising the error of his ways, but being the first to openly declare that Jesus was not only his Lord, but his God also.

The reason that the reading is so appropriate for this Sunday is rather simple; St John tells us that St Thomas' meeting with our Lord takes place eight days after he first appeared to the rest of the Apostles in that upper room sometime on the evening of that first Easter Sunday; in other words, it took place on the Sunday after Easter, which is, of course, for us this Sunday.

But of course the story of what happened on this Sunday so many years ago would mean little if it were not what had happened the Sunday before, or what didn't happen, which is that St Thomas wasn't with the others when our Lord appeared. Which raises the question of where was he? If you have ever wondered about that, you are not alone; it is a question that even the Church Fathers have been curious about. No doubt even the other Apostles wanted to know where he was, and what he was doing; and they, unlike us, were in a position to ask him directly and no doubt did. But alas, they did not record the answer he gave, if any, and so we cannot know for sure.

But one or two things seem likely. The first comes from the fact that he seems genuinely astonished when he returns to the upper room at the idea that Jesus has risen from the dead. Now we know from the various Gospel accounts that the women had seen Jesus early in the morning; and we know that the women shared this information with the others. In fact, on the road to Emmaus, there is the somewhat ironic scene where the two travelers tell Jesus himself how the women are making this extraordinary claim and they really don't know what to make of it. From this it seems likely that St Thomas hasn't been with the disciples any of that Easter Sunday to hear these stories. And, if he wasn't there early in the morning when the women first set out while it was still dark, then it seems unlikely he was there all during the previous day – remember, Jewish law precluded doing anything much during the Sabbath, which was Saturday. In fact, the last confirmed sighting, as it were, that we have of St Thomas is in the garden of Gethsemane late on Thursday night when Jesus was arrested. 

What he did all that time until Sunday evening and where he was we will never know for sure; but we do get one tantalising hint. And that is from the fact that he seems to know more about Jesus' wounds than he should do if he wasn't in that upper room all during the Sabbath; and that is that he clearly knows about the fact that Jesus had a spear thrust into his side after he died. That wasn't a common thing to happen during a crucifixion; the more usual thing was, as all here know, for the condemned man to have his end hastened by his legs being broken. But the soldiers, finding Jesus already dead, took the unusual step of stabbing him with a spear just to be absolutely sure. 

Now, St Thomas would of course have expected Jesus to have nail wounds in his hands or wrists; anyone who had been crucified would have those. But for him to know about the spear wound, which his statement about only believing if he can put his hand into Jesus' side shows he does, is something he can only know if someone has told him about it or if he has seen it for himself. And since it seems unlikely that he has had any opportunity to speak with the only people who witnessed the execution, the women who stood at the foot of the cross and the beloved disciple St John, then he must have seen it.

So perhaps St Thomas was somewhere at a distance watching all that happened on Calvary. Why not? We know that he was a brave man; was he not the one, when Jesus seemed to be risking death to travel to the tomb of Lazarus, who said to the others 'let us go with him and die with him?' And the mere fact that he is not huddled in the upper room hiding like all the other men when Jesus appears speaks volumes for his courage. And after, according to tradition, he traveled all the way to India to spread the Gospel, further than all the others, to territory more dangerous and unknown than the places they visited, where he suffered a martyr's death. So it would be keeping with his known character that he would keep close to his master after all the rest had fled; that he would have seen him suffer and die; and then, given the lateness of the hour on the Friday, find it too late to return to where the others hid, and taken shelter somewhere else.

Now it would be tempting to think that the shock of seeing what all the other apostles had not witnessed – all, except as has already been mentioned, St John - the execution and death of his master – was what led him to the behaviour that earned him the nick-name of Doubting Thomas down through all the centuries; but that would not be true. For the behaviour of St Thomas, if we think carefully, was no different to any of the other apostles. Consider: none of them believed what the women told them when they returned to the upper room from finding the tomb empty; they didn't even believe that it was empty, but ran to see for themselves; the certainly didn't believe that he had risen; recall the witness of those on the road to Emmaus who as I said earlier even told Jesus about finding what the women were saying hard to swallow. They all only believed when they saw for themselves.


Indeed, while knowing that Christ had risen seems to have brought his disciples a certain amount of joy, it doesn't seem to have brought them much else. They do not rush out, filled with courage, to start preaching his Gospel; think of the ones who were there that first day when St Thomas was not; where are they a week later? They are still sitting in that upper room. Indeed, later in St John's gospel we get hints that, despite having seen the risen Lord they are ready to go back to their old lives; the men who Christ had called to be fishers of men are ready to go back to being ordinary fishermen and they take to the sea of Galilee in their boats once more. 

No, it is not until Pentecost when they are filled with the Holy Spirit that they are empowered to go out, to stop hiding, to boldly preach the word, and win others for Christ. Others, who even though they have not seen, are ready to believe. And this is good news for us; for we, like St Thomas, were not in that upper room when Jesus came; but he has sent his Holy Spirit to us all. We were bathed in that Spirit when we entered the waters of baptism to die to sin and rise to life; and by that Spirit we became those whom Christ said were blessed, for not having seen, still we believe. Our faith earns us the praise of Christ himself; high praise indeed, which I pray will sustain all here, and all our brothers and sisters in faith throughout the world, until the day when they do indeed meet with the Lord Jesus face to face. Amen

Examin Sunday 12 April 2015

By his Resurrection Christ indeed proved that he was who he said he was and that he had broken the bonds of death for all mankind. But the salvation he bought for us came at a terrible price, his suffering and death which he willingly bore. Do not ever take that for granted, thinking you may sin and sin and that the price for it all has been paid. For the salvation that comes by the Cross requires sorrow for your sins and repentance; followed by obedience and striving daily for holiness.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

prayer diary Saturday 11 April 2015

'I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth.' 
Mark 16. 12,13

Reflection:
Christ promised he would never leave us and indeed he did not, for he sent his Holy Spirit to guide us.

Friday, April 10, 2015

prayer diary Friday 10 April 2015

Just after daybreak, Jesus stood on the beach; but the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. 
John 21.4

Reflection
How many times we read in the Gospels that Jesus' disciples had difficulty recognising him after the resurrection. Perhaps we can make it easier to recognise him ourselves by remembering that we are called to see him in the face of all we meet.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

prayer diary Thursday 9 April 2015

He said to them, ‘Have you anything here to eat?’ They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate in their presence. 
Luke 24. 42-43

Reflection:
The risen Lord proved himself to his disciples to be a real flesh and blood person that truly walked among them. Is it any wonder that they were willing to witness to the faith unto death, knowing now that the power of death had indeed been broken?

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

prayer diary Wednesday 8 April 2015

When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. 
Luke 24. 30, 31

Reflection The joy of the men who journeyed to Emmaus when they recognised our Lord in the breaking was great. Great must our joy be also, we who are also privileged to meet with him in the breaking of the bread.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

prayer diary Tuesday 7 April 2015

‘See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn him to death.' 
John 20.18

Reflection

Even as Jesus had warned them of his death, he had told his disciples of his resurrection; and still they were bewildered when it happened. Do not be too quick to think that you understand all that it means for you; prayerfully and with great wonder ponder this awesome event.

Monday, April 6, 2015

prayer diary Monday 6 April 2015

So they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. 
Matthew 28. 8

Reflection
The reaction of the women to the empty tomb was both fear and joy. Joy that the grave had held their master; but fear as to what all this might mean. Therefore, even as you rejoice in the resurrection, tremble also as to what it means for you.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Simon of Cyrene and the Resurrection

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

We often consider what that first Easter Day must have been like for the various people involved in the Gospel story. We think of the women arriving at the tomb early in the morning to find it empty and running away, confused. We think of St Peter and other disciples dashing through the empty streets of Jerusalem in the weak light of dawn to see for themselves if what the women say is true, and departing, utterly bewildered. We think of Mary Magdalene, weeping in the Garden but not recognising the one she wept for even as she spoke to him until he called her by name. We think of Thomas, refusing to believe that Jesus had appeared to the others when he wasn't there. We think of the men journeying to Emmaus, in conversation with Christ all the way there, but only knowing who he was in the breaking of the bread.

But lately I've been thinking of how another person might have reacted; and that person is Simon of Cyrene. An odd person to think of, you may well imagine. After all, he's only in the Gospels as a passing detail almost, as the one drafted in by the Roman soldiers to help Jesus carry his cross. We hear no more about him than that; and that takes place before the death of Jesus, not after his Resurrection. So how might we have any information to go on to consider what his reaction to the Resurrection might have been, even if we wanted to?

Well, bear with me, and let us see. Perhaps there is than is apparent at first glance.

First there is his name: Simon of Cyrene. Cyrene is a city of North Africa in what is today called Libya. It was a Greek city with a well established Jewish community living there; and Simon is a Jewish name. So it would seem likely that this Simon was a Jew who was in Jerusalem visiting from there for the Passover festival. A pilgrim really, a man who has made the long and arduous journey on foot overland so that he might celebrate the feast remembering the liberation of his people from slavery in Egypt. Now St Luke tells us that he was a passer-by coming in from the country. This means that he wasn't one of those who cheered for Jesus when entered into the city in his triumph; and neither was he was of those who screamed out for his crucifixion to Pilate either. He probably had no idea who Jesus was; he wasn't there like some others to line the street to jeer at him as he staggered by under the cross; neither was he there to weep and mourn like the women of Jerusalem. No, he was just going about his own business, had just arrived on the scene, and was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. Or should that be the right place at the right time?

In any event, that's problably why the Romans picked him: neither jeering nor weeping, he had nothing invested. He wasn't going to kick up a fuss and refuse to help the one he hated; and he wasn't likely to be a supported who might seize on this as an opportunity to help the one he loved escape. No, just a yokel in from the country, gawping at this strange scene; the perfect one to grab so he could help carry the cross.

This, of course, should give us some clues about his age and size. You don't pick someone old or weak looking for an arduous task; and St Mark tells us that he was a married man with children, the father of two sons called Rufus and Alexander; and as men tended to get married at around the age of 30 he was at least that old. So we're talking about a man of most likely between the age of 30 and 40, solidly built and strong-looking, the type of man tough soldiers, realising their victim wasn't going to make it all the way on his own, would pull out of a crowd to help shoulder the load.

How did Simon of Cyrene feel about all this? Did he resent being forced to carry a blood-stained piece of wood, leading the way for a condemned man to his place of execution? And, to go back to the original question, what did he think when he heard stories that he had risen from the dead? We don't know how Simon responded. Not for sure. But we have a clue, a very good one. And it comes in the form of the fact that, despite what I said about knowing little about him, we actually know anything about him at all. How is it that we know the name and the city of a man who was pulled randomly from the crowd by soldiers as he was passing by? How is it that we know he had just come in from the country and that his sons were called Rufus and Alexander? Inded, how is it that we know more about this man than we do many of the Apostles? The little we know actually tells us a great deal. It tells us that even though he knew nothing about Jesus before the moment he was grabbed by the soldiers, he must surely have become involved with his followers afterwards. This is how the evangelists Matthew, Mark, and Luke know his name, his origins, his business, and details of his family. Something drew him to the Apostles and the other disciples, to speak with them, to tell them of the part he had played – a part that no doubt the women who had not run away like most of the men was able to confirm. And they were awed and honoured to meet the man who had walked with Jesus, who had carried his cross.

But what was it that drew him to them? Was it something he saw or heard on the road of pain and sorrow to Golgotha? His words of comfort to the women of Jerusalem? How he cried to God, forgiving the men who crucified him? Perhaps having come so far, he stayed with the man on the cross and heard him tell the good thief first that today he would be with him in paradise; perhaps he watched him suffer, breath his last, and die; and then heard the centurion, a man who had seen many men die, wondering at how this man had died like no other he had seen, exclaim that this man was truly the Son of God?

Something of that experience must have impressed him deeply; deeply enough that when he started to hear strange stories three days later he believed them. stories that the tomb of the man that he had helped was empty, despite the armed guard of soldiers, and the heavy stone sealing it closed; that his followers were claiming he had risen from the dead and that they had seen him; stories that the authorities seemed unable to refute.

We do not know. But something he saw that day on the Via Dolorosa impressed him enough to make him think the resurrection possible; and belief in the resurrection made him want to be a follower of the man who followed him to the place of the skull that day. And that he became a follower seems in little doubt; in fact the early traditions of the Church tell us that the sons mentioned in the Gospels themselves became missionaries; and we know that his city of Cyrene was an early centre of Christianity.


So, in the end, I think we do know what the reaction of Simon of Cyrene was to the Resurrection. It was the reaction of faith; the reaction of being led by it to becoming a follower of the one who had died and risen from the dead; the reaction of not only becoming a follower himself, but passing on this faith to his children, who no doubt passed it on to theirs. This is the reaction of Simon of Cyrene: that of an awed faith in the Resurrection, a faith that knew no other response than to follow the one who had risen. It is a response that should not surprise us; after all, is it not our own response, to have faith in the one who died for us and rose from the dead and to be his faithful followers? I pray that that is indeed your response, this day and everyday until the day you meet your Lord face to face. Amen

Saturday, April 4, 2015

prayer diary Easter Eve 2015

There was a garden in the place where he was crucified, and in the garden there was a new tomb in which no one had ever been laid. And so ...they laid Jesus there. 
John 19. 41,42

Reflection:
Remember that this day the one who died for you lies in the tomb. Yet even there, he works for the salvation of others, descending to the dead to preach to the spirits imprisoned there.

Friday, April 3, 2015

prayer diary Good Friday 2015

When Jesus had received the wine, he said, ‘It is finished.’ Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. 
John 19.30

Reflection
Let all creation be still; the One by whom all things came into being has been slain. Remember that he willingly took up his cross and died; and that he did so for thee.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

KENYAN UNIVERSITY ATTACKED BY AL SHABAAB

a Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) press release

Al Shabaab, the Somali-based Islamist terror group, attacked Garissa Universtiy in north-east Kenya on 2 April. So far at least 70 people are reported to have been killed and 79 injured in the ongoing attack.

Local reports indicate that the militants launched the attack at 5.30 am by throwing explosives at the university's main gate before storming the facility, firing indiscriminately and gaining access to the student hostels. According to several reports, the assailants separated the students based on their religion and allegedly released Muslim students, while killing several non-Muslims on the spot and taking others as hostages. Reuters news agency quoted a spokesman for the terrorist group as stating: 'There are many dead bodies of Christians inside the building. We are also holding many Christians alive.' While all staff members are reportedly accounted for, the national disaster operation centre has announced that 500 of the 815 students have been accounted for. The inspector general has issued a 6:30 pm to 6:30 am curfew of several areas including Garissa.

Mervyn Thomas, Chief Executive of Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), said: 'We extend our deepest condolences to the families of those killed and injured in this attack, and we pray for the safe return for the students who are still unaccounted for. CSW deplores this cowardly attack on civilians. The separation of hostages according to their faith echoes previous Al Shabaab attacks and highlights the group's deadly and divisive sectarian motivations. This is particularly poignant coming on the eve of the Christian celebration of Easter. We welcome the statement by President Kenyatta assuring the nation of the deployment of the necessary security apparatus and call upon the international community to support the Kenyan government as it responds to the ongoing situation and formulates policies to address this heinous threat.'

Al Shabaab attacks in Kenya have increased since October 2011, when Kenya's army joined international efforts to stabilise Somalia following the cross-border abductions of foreign tourists by the group. It formally aligned itself with al Qaeda in 2012, although reports of foreign fighters amongst its ranks predated this announcement. There have been three attacks in the last two years in which the group has separated hostages according to religious identity and murdered them accordingly; the siege at Westgate Shopping Mall in September 2013, the hijacking of a bus travelling from Mandera to Nairobi in November 2014, and the attack on a quarry in Mandera in December 2014.

The attack on Garissa University comes as the terror alert in East Africa was raised by the US, UK and Australian governments. On 27 March, Makka Al Mukarama hotel in Mogadishu, killing the Somali Ambassador to the UN in Geneva, Yusuf Mohamed Ismail Bari-Bari and nine others. On 31 March, the group was implicated in the assassination in Uganda of Joan Kagezi, the chief prosecutor in the case against 13 men accused of the 2010 suicide bombing in Kampala.

For further information or to arrange interviews please contact Kiri Kankhwende, Press Officer at Christian Solidarity Worldwide on +44 (0)20 8329 0045 / +44 (0) 78 2332 9663, email kiri@csw.org.uk or visit www.csw.org.uk.

Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) is a Christian organisation working for religious freedom through advocacy and human rights, in the pursuit of justice.

prayer diary Maundy Thursday 2015

Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him. 
 John 13. 5

Reflection:
The Son of God did not think himself too great to do the work of lowliest slave. Why then are you so lacking in humility? Are you greater than your master?

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

prayer diary Wednesday in Holy Week 2015

After saying this Jesus was troubled in spirit, and declared, ‘Very truly, I tell you, one of you will betray me.’ 
John 13.21

Reflection
Great was the betrayal of Judas. But great also is ours when we place the passing things of this world above love and obedience to our Lord.