Monday, August 14, 2017

prayer diary Monday 14 August 2017

The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into human hands, and they will kill him, and on the third day he will be raised.’ And they were greatly distressed. 
Matthew 17. 22,23

The disciples were distressed at our Lord's prophetic words, as are we when when we consider he suffered and died for our sins. Why then do we continue to sin wilfully?

Sunday, August 13, 2017

walking on water

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

Today's Gospel reading is the account of our Lord's walking on water. It is a dramatic display of his divine power and has become justly famous, so much so that the phrase 'to walk on water' is widely used in popular culture – so that, for example, a person who has done something seemingly impossible might well say 'and for my next trick I will walk on water' or a person who thinks he is above others and doesn't think the usual limits apply to him might be disparagingly described as 'thinking he can walk on water.'

Read carefully, the account in fact details three miracles. First our Lord walks on water; next he permits St Peter to join him on the surface of the lake and walk on water also; and finally, he calms the storm that is afflicting those in the boat. And each teaches us something important about Christian life.

Looking at the first: initially when the disciples see Christ coming towards them, they are terrified. There they are, in a boat, in the middle of the Sea of Galilee, with a storm raging all around them. And suddenly they see someone walking towards them. That they should react with fear, thinking it is some kind of apparition, is not surprising. But Jesus tells them not to be afraid. And the fear leaves them.

We also have much to be afraid of. We live in a world that surrounds us with threats, both physical and spiritual. But we have been washed in the waters of Baptism and made part of his Body, the Church; we are fed on the Body and Blood of our Lord in the Eucharist; and we have the Sacred Scriptures and the Holy Traditions of his Church to guide us. Christ is with us also; and therefore we need not be afraid, whatever threatens.

It is in response to this first display of divine power that the second follows. St Peter sees our Lord on the water and asks him, if it is he, to command him to come to him. Our Lord does; and St Peter obeys. It is important for us to note here that the apostle does not attempt to do this in his own strength; he does not see Jesus walking on the lake and say to himself 'well, if he can do it, then so can I!' No, he seeks to do so in the power of our Lord; more, he asks him to command him to do so. And when, because of the howling wind around him he becomes frightened and begins to sink, his immediate response to to call out to our Lord, who saves him.

We as Christians often face great difficulties. Sometimes they seem impossible to overcome. But here we see St Peter, rather than try to avoid what seems impossible, instead actively seeking it out … and remembering that it is by God's power that he prevails; even when he doubts he remembers this. And therefore rather that giving up, he prays to God for further help. And God grants him that help.

Our Lord and St Peter then join the others in the boat. And the wind at once ceases. The storm is over. And the response of the disciples to this final miracle is equally immediate. They worship him, saying that he is truly the Son of God – the first time in the Gospels that he is recognised as such.

Many Church Fathers regard the tempestuous sea as representing the world; and the boat, once Christ has entered in, as being his Church. Thus it is the only place where we may truly find safety; and therefore we as Christians must be careful never to separate ourselves from it. Christ did not found his Church idly; it is a vital part of his plan for the salvation of all. His Church is the people of God; and a person who deliberately sets themselves apart is not part of a people. His Church is the only place where we may be in fellowship with those other people who are also members of the body of Christ. And his Church is the only place where we may partake in the Sacraments that sustain us during our earthly pilgrimage that is intended to lead us to our heavenly home. In our Gospel reading it is in the boat that the disciples worship Jesus; and if we are also to worship him rightly we must also do so from within that boat, that ark of Salvation, which is his Church.

And as I finish, a final thought. There is an element of fear in each of these three miracles: the fear of the disciples when they see Christ approaching; St Peter's fear that causes him to sink; and the fear all in the boat have of the storm that threatens them. Christ takes away the fear in all three instances; and he can take away the fears that surround us and threaten us, not just our bodies but our very souls, if only we will trust in him – something that we must all pray for: in the Name of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen. 

Saturday, August 12, 2017

prayer diary Saturday 12 August 2017

'All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted.' 
Matthew 23.12

Those who seek power and position in this life risk paying a high price. True glory lies in humbly serving both God and your fellow man.

Friday, August 11, 2017

prayer diary Friday 11 August 2017 (day of discipline and self-denial)

'And a second is like it: “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.”'
Matthew 22.39

What does it mean to love your neighbour? To do all you can to ensure that they are happy in this life is doubtless important. But earthly happiness must never be bought at the expense of eternal happiness in the world to come.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

prayer diary Thursday 10 August 2017

“Tell those who have been invited … come to the wedding banquet.”But they made light of it and went away, one to his farm, another to his business,while the rest seized his slaves, maltreated them, and killed them. 
Matthew 22. 4-7

The pleasures of this world can distract some from the higher prize, some even to the point where they mock or abuse the faithful. But let not that dishearten you, but rather let knowing what they risk loosing cause you to work even harder for the salvation of their souls.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

prayer diary Wednesday 9 August 2017

'When those hired about five o’clock came, each of them received the usual daily wage. Now when the first came, they thought they would receive more; but each of them also received the usual daily wage.' 
Matthew 20. 9,10

God has but one reward for all who truly love him, eternal life. But do not presume therefore to delay entering into his service lest, like the foolish virgins, you find that the chance has passed you by.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

prayer diary Tuesday 8 August 2017

‘Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.' 
Matthew 18. 3,4

It takes humility to enter God's kingdom. We must, with the joy and trust of children, let go of all our pride and accept that the One who created us asks that we hear and obey the holy laws he has given us in His Son's divine teaching.

Monday, August 7, 2017

prayer diary Monday 7 August 2017

Jesus said to him, ‘If you wish to be perfect, go, sell your possessions, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.' 
Matthew 17.21 

Not all are called to sell all we have; but we are to be detached from our possessions so they do not serve to distract us from our relationship with God. For if the focus of our lives becomes our earthly goods then we are without treasure in heaven.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

the feeding of the five thousand

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

The miracle of the feeding of the five thousand is familiar to us all – so familiar that one might ask what is there that is new to be said about it? But the point, of course, when speaking of Sacred Scripture is not to find new things to say about it, but rather to remind ourselves of what has always been said about it, to refresh in our minds the Eternal Truths that it contains – Truths, we must remember, that we have by way of Divine Revelation.

So let us begin by considering the miracle in the literal sense. What are we to make of the fact that our Lord was able to feed so great a number of people - 5,000 men, plus woman and children? There they are in the wilderness, far away from the towns and villages of the region. It is getting late and, as the disciples point out, the people have no food with them. But Jesus takes the little food that the twelve have with them and multiplies it so that the vast multitude present are fed – with much left over! That he can do so is a testament to the Divine Power that our Lord possesses.

And we might do well to think in this context of Moses, and how our Lord says somewhere in the Gospels, speaking of himself, that one greater than Moses is here. Moses also fed multitudes in the desert; but the food he supplied came not from him, but from heaven. Christ feeds these people himself, by way of his own power. Moses was the intermediary; but Jesus needs no intermediary, for he is God incarnate.

We must also look at this parable from a didactic sense: what does it teach us, who as Christians are called to be as Christ-like as possible, about how we are to live as Christians? The answer to this, we are told by that great Father of the Church St Jerome, is that just as Christ has compassion on these hungry people and feeds them, so we too must show charitable concern for the poor and needy. The Christian duty of caring for those in need is evident to anyone who has even a cursory knowledge of the Bible, for we are told many places in Sacred Scripture about this duty. And the importance of this charitable duty can not be over-stressed; for as we are taught by our Lord's prophetic words in the parable of the sheep and the goats, those who reject the poor and needy will be set aside by him at the Last Judgement.

And finally today let us also consider this miracle from a sacramental point of view. Note well the description St Matthew provides us of our Lord's actions on this occasion, how he tells us that he took the bread, blessed it, and broke it. The Eucharistic overtones are unmistakable given how closely these words resemble those used in the Gospels of the Last Supper and the institution of the Holy Eucharist. And if those similarities were not enough, our Lord himself links this miracle with the miracle of the Eucharist in St John's account of the occasion. For immediately after, when those who had been fed on bread come to him again looking for more he begins to speak to them of the necessity of eating his flesh and drinking his blood … confusing many of those present at the time, and causing them to ask how could this man give them his blood to drink and his flesh to eat … but we know, of course, that nothing is impossible with God, and that our Lord does indeed do just that in the Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist.

And remember also the words of our Lord on that occasion: he says who eat his flesh and drink his blood will have eternal life and he will raise them up on the last day; but those who do not eat his flesh and drink his blood will have no life in them. The salvation of souls is always the primary concern of our Lord – and this should not surprise us for we know that he came into the world that all men might be saved – and so, of course, it must be the primary concern of all Christians … the salvation not only of their own souls but also that of others. It should therefore be a matter of great sorrow for us that all men have not been brought to know the truth of the Christian faith … and of even greater sorrow that of those who profess themselves to be Christians so many partake so infrequently of the healing and saving Sacrament of the Holy Eucharistic … and even then carelessly and unworthily … our Lord sets the banquet of Salvation before us, the foretaste of the great heavenly banquet that is to come … but no one, not us, and not the Lord, can force them to partake.

However, just as it is not the part of the Christian to innovate when it comes to doctrine or interpretation of Sacred Scripture, neither is it our part to despair. Our part is to do what we can to bring them to believe in the Eternal Truths our Lord gave us that they may live them out faithfully, leading them gently to God by the preaching of the Word and the example of our lives … and of course, praying for them always in the Name of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen. 

Saturday, August 5, 2017

prayer diary Saturday 5 August 2017

For Herod had arrested John, bound him, and put him in prison on account of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, because John had been telling him, ‘It is not lawful for you to have her.’ 
Matthew 14.3,4

Speaking God's truth can come at a cost; and sometimes at a great cost. But we must not be afraid to do so, even if it costs us our very lives.

Friday, August 4, 2017

prayer diary Friday 4 August 2017 (day of discipline and self-denial)

Jesus said to them, ‘Prophets are not without honour except in their own country and in their own house.' 
Matthew 13.57

Preaching the Gospel can be hardest in our own communities and homes. Yet these are not only the ones we love most, they are the ones we are the most responsible for helping on the road to salvation.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

prayer diary Thursday 3 August 2017

'So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous and throw them into the furnace of fire.' 
Matthew 13.49,50

It is a great danger to think that only those you consider to be the wicked will be found wanting on Judgement Day. For we all sin again and again – and excuse our actions instead of repenting and asking God's forgiveness.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

prayer diary Wednesday 2 August 2017

‘On finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.' 
Matthew 13.46

There is nothing in this world valuable enough to risk losing eternal life for. Temptations seem to offer pleasure; but they come at the risk of everlasting misery.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

prayer diary Tuesday 1 August 2017

'Just as the weeds are collected and burned up with fire, so will it be at the end of the age.' 
Matthew 13. 40

Christ warns us repeatedly in the Gospels that there will be a judgement at the end of the ages. It is a warning that no one can afford to ignore or take lightly.

Monday, July 31, 2017

prayer diary Monday 31 July 2017

‘The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed …. the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it ... becomes a tree.' 
Matthew 13.31,32


We think of many things we work towards in life as being inevitable. Yet what is truly inevitable is that God's Will will be done; and his Kingdom will come.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

the Right Side of History

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

The term 'being on the right side of history' has become very commonly used in the last number of years. It is employed, for example, by those advocating various social changes in Western society with monotonous regularity. It expresses the idea that those changes are inevitable, unstoppable, and those who oppose them will appear foolish in the eyes of those who come later; but it is, in fact, the idea itself that is foolish, both arrogant in the way it presumes that a certain course of action is unquestionably correct, particularly in the way it condemns the former way of doing things, and ignorant in the way it understands history as some kind of a force moving humanity towards some kind an ever better future. Empires may rise, but they also fall; sometimes undermined from within, for example because they have let their seemingly invincible power erode their moral centre; sometimes from without, for example because there are barbarians outside their borders who want what they have or hate what they are; or sometimes both. And their fall should teach us that there is nothing inevitable about human systems, plans, or ambitions.

However, in our Gospel reading today we learn that there is something that is inevitable when it comes to history; and that is that God's Will will be done; and his kingdom will come. This is made very clear in the first two of the series of short parables that we read today - the ones concerning the mustard seed and the yeast that was used to leaven the bread. Both speak of the inevitability of the kingdom. Just as a small seed can become an enormous tree or a small amount of yeast cause a great batch of dough to rise, so will God's Kingdom grow, despite the fact that in human eyes its beginning on earth was humble and small. The truth first spoken by a carpenter born in a stable in an obscure corner of the world could not be stopped from spreading to all the corners of the earth.

The next two parables, that of the treasure in the field and the pearl of great price, explain to us why it is that we should wish to do our utmost to do our part to help usher in God's Kingdom - because there is nothing in this life as more important than to be in right relationship with God and being part of his kingdom on earth – not only living our lives in the light of its truth but helping to share that truth with others. Because the message of these parables is not about how we can shrewdly make a profit on a transaction, but about understanding that the things of this life are of limited value – limited because they are transitory – while the things of the kingdom are of infinite value, because they are eternal. As our Lord says elsewhere, what does it profit a man if he gain the whole world but lose his soul?

And that brings us to our final parable, that of the fishermen; and our Lord leaves us in no doubt whatsoever as to how we are to understand this parable, for he explains it to us in no uncertain terms. And in his explanation he makes he clear that at the end of the ages there will be a great sorting of the good from the bad, of the righteous and the evil. And just as the fisherman cast away the bad fish, so will God's angels cast out the unrighteous – and those unfortunate souls, our Lord tells us, will be cast into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

A stark warning; which is made all the more stark when we think carefully about what is meant by those who are evil. For it has been made abundantly clear to us, both in Sacred Scripture and in teaching of the Church down through the ages, that evil here is not mean simply those who rob, murder, rape, or otherwise cause great suffering to others. It is perfectly possible to be what the world calls a 'nice person' and be among the unrighteous. For Christ did not come to suffer and die on the cross so that we might be nice, but that we might be Holy.

When the end of the ages shall come and history itself shall cease there is only one way to be found to be on the 'right side of it' – by being someone who loves God with every fibre of their being; and being someone who shows that love by obeying God's commandments in thought, word, and deed – even if that love should cost them their life. They are the ones who will surely be found to be righteous by God's angels on that great and terrible day – and I pray that all here will be found to be among them: in the Name of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen. 

Saturday, July 29, 2017

prayer diary Saturday 29 July 2017

For Herod had arrested John, bound him, and put him in prison on account of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, because John had been telling him, ‘It is not lawful for you to have her.’ 
Matthew 14.3,4

John the Baptist was fearless in preaching the truth, even in the face of death. We face far less, yet often we fear to speak out.

Friday, July 28, 2017

prayer diary Friday 28 July 2017 (day of discipline and self-denial)

Jesus said to them, ‘Prophets are not without honour except in their own country and in their own house.' 
Matthew 13.57

Sharing Christ's word can be hard indeed when it comes to those closest to us. But because we love them, all the more reason not to shirk from the task. It is a poor kind of love that does not include caring also for the fate of their immortal soul.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

prayer diary Thursday 27 July 2017

'So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous and throw them into the furnace of fire.' 
Matthew 13.49,50

Again our Lord warns of the judgement to come and how terrible it will be on that day for those who reject God. His warning is one we must take seriously and share with others.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

prayer diary Wednesday 26 July 2017

‘On finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.' 
Matthew 13.46

All else is as nothing compared to what God offers us. Therefore no sacrifice we may make for the sake of entering into his kingdom can be too great.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

prayer diary Tuesday 25 July 2017

'Just as the weeds are collected and burned up with fire, so will it be at the end of the age.' 
Matthew 13. 40

Judgement is not something that anyone likes to think about; but Christ warns us of it. If we take seriously his promises of eternal life we must also accept his warnings.

Monday, July 24, 2017

prayer diary Monday 24 July 2017

'The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed …. the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it ... becomes a tree.' 
Matthew 13.31,32

God's kingdom is an unstoppable force. Allow it to touch your heart and it will transform your life.

Friday, July 21, 2017

prayer diary Saturday 22 July 2017 (St Mary Magdalene)

Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, ‘I have seen the Lord.’ 
John 20.18

Privileged with the first post-resurrection appearance, Mary's first response was a declaration of faith. We also have the privilege of seeing the Lord, but through the eyes of faith. And like Mary we must publicly proclaim him as Lord.

prayer diary Friday 21 July 2017 (day of discipline and self-denial)

'whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave.' 
Matthew 20.27

The only glory in the Christian life is that of humble service. But what glory it is! For in so doing we serve not only God also, but walk the path that leads to his kingdom.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

prayer diary Thursday 20 July 2017

Jesus said: 'Truly I tell you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, but did not see it, and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it.' 
Mt 13.17

We are among those blessed to see and hear what so many longed for. Do not waste so precious a gift by taking it for granted. Instead daily give thanks to the Lord and serve him with all your heart, strength, mind, and soul.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

prayer diary Wednesday 19 July 2017

'Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them.' 
Matthew 13.7

Jesus explained that the seed that fell among thorns are those who lose faith in the face of the cares of the world. Take his warning then and do not lose eternal life for the sake of things that are passing.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

prayer diary Tuesday 18 July 2017

Let both of them grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Collect the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.' 
Matthew 13.30

It may sometimes seem that there are those who escape justice in this life. But life does not end with the grave and justice must at last be faced. And severe indeed is the judgement for those who have refused to serve the Lord.

Monday, July 17, 2017

prayer diary Monday 17 July 2017

But he answered them, ‘An evil and adulterous generation asks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.' 
Matthew 12.21

Those without faith often cry 'extraordinary claims requires extraordinary proof.' Yet all the proof needed exists in the world around us. Demands for more in the shape of signs and wonders is a sign in itself – of an evil and adulterous generation.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

the parable of the sower: many are called, but how many answer?

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

Our Gospel reading today is the parable of the Sower – one of the most well known of all the parables. As well it might be, for its theme is of tremendous importance: how it is that a child of God, created in his image and likeness, is to behave in the face of Divine Revelation, how it is they are to receive his Holy Word that he has given to them by means of the Sacred Scriptures and the Person of His Only Begotten Son, the second person of the Blessed Trinity.

Our Lord gives us four examples of how people might behave; but we might break them down into three categories. The first concerns those who hear the word of God and reject it; the second those who hear the word and accept it – and then live as though they do not; and the third those who hear and obey and whose faithfulness is shown through their fruitfulness.

Concerning the first group, those who reject the word, Christ gives two reasons for their behaviour. Those he compares to the path are led astray by the Evil One; and those to the rocky ground, at first believe and then fall away at the first sign of any trouble that may come as a result of being a believer in Christ. They will not carry the Cross. It is important to note here that Christ does not offer these reasons so as to some way excuse what they have done. He is simply stating why they have acted as they did; but the responsibility for their actions remain their own. We might do well to think of our Lord's own sobering words spoken in the final chapter of St Mark's gospel where, having told his disciples to  ‘Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation.' he continued by saying: 'The one who believes and is baptised will be saved; but the one who does not believe will be condemned.'

The second category are those whose faith Christ describes as being as if it had been choked by thorns. They have accepted the faith – but then been led astray by the cares of the world and the lure of material gain; they do not reject the faith publicly, but they have become 'unfruitful' ... effectively they may as well have renounced the faith for all the good it does them – and their example certainly does nothing to bring others to the faith. We may think here of the parable of the talents and of the servant who did nothing with his master's property but bury it in the ground. His reward was to be cast out into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth – words that the Fathers of the Early Church always understood to mean as being damned.

And then finally we come to the last category, those who not only have heard the word, but understand and obey, and are fruitful as a result. Some of course will be more fruitful than others; but in that regard it is again useful to consider the parable of the talents. In that also some were more fruitful than others – but all heard the blessed words 'well done, good and faithful servant' and were called by their master to enter into his joy – which, again, has always been held to mean eternal life in heaven.

And as I reach the end, let me leave you with one further thought. It has no doubt struck you, if not today then on some previous occasion when you were reading this parable, that of all the examples our Lord gives, only one group is found to hear and understand, only one to be fruitful, only one to end in the place where all were created to be. All heard the word, all were called; but few responded, few were chosen, few were found worthy of eternal life with our Father in heaven. And this is sad indeed: freely was God's word and grace offered; but freely it was rejected. It remains for us to pray that those who hear but do not respond will be converted in their hearts; that those who hear and believe but then still fail to live as if they did will repent while time remains; and for us to pray that when the time comes we will be numbered among those who are found fruitful, among those blessed to hear the words 'well done good and faithful servant', among those called to enter into the joy of our master. All that indeed is something that we all should pray for not just daily, but unceasingly, in the Name of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen. 

Saturday, July 15, 2017

prayer diary Saturday 15 July 2017

But the Pharisees went out and conspired against him, how to destroy him. 
Matthew 12.14

Consider how the Pharisees, who thought themselves godly men, deliberately set out to break God's law with this conspiracy. Sometimes people fool themselves into thinking they can achieve good ends by evil means. But if the seed is not good, then neither can the fruit be. Do not be tempted to break God's laws for any reason.

Friday, July 14, 2017

prayer diary Friday 14 July 2017 (day of discipline and self-denial)

'For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.’ 
Matthew 12.8

Christ told the Pharisees he was Lord of the Sabbath; and indeed he is. But his dismissal of the petty and arbitrary rules that they imposed on the people of their day is not to be taken as an excuse for us to treat the Lord's Day as if it were no different than any other.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

prayer diary Thursday 13 July 2017

‘Come to me, all you that are weary and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.' 
Matthew 11.28

Such famous words. And what true wisdom; for where else are we to find rest from all the troubles of this life other than in the one who created and sustains us?

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

prayer diary Wednesday 12 July 2017

Jesus said, ‘I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants.' 
Matthew 11.25

Humility is the key to true wisdom. For those who think themselves wise often reject God's law; but those who are humble are grateful for what he teaches and so may enter into the eternal life that others fail to achieve.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

prayer diary Tuesday 11 July 2017

'But I tell you that on the day of judgement it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom than for you.’ 
Matthew 11. 24

Sodom was notorious in Scripture for its decadent living; and great was its fall. But its punishment will seem mild to that in store for those who respond to all that God does for them with contempt and ingratitude.

Monday, July 10, 2017

prayer diary Monday 10 July 2017

‘Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.' 
Matthew 10.34

Christ does not, of course, want his followers going around attacking people with swords. But neither does he want them to back down in the face of every challenge for the sake of a quiet life. His Good News is not easy for every ear to hear – but that doesn't mean we must stop talking.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

fools for Christ?

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

There is a tendency among those with a distaste for religion to believe that a lack of belief in God is a hallmark of intelligence; and that reason and rational thought is something that is the preserve of the atheist. One might be forgiven for thinking that, perhaps to their horror and bemusement, that there is a biblical justification for their beliefs. In our gospel reading today we hear our Lord say: 'I thank thee, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and revealed them to infants'. If Christ himself says that those who are wise and intelligent are the ones who reject his teachings and those who accept it are like innocent and trusting babes in arms, then who are we to argue? But of course Jesus is speaking with a certain irony here; and all the Church Fathers agree that his intent is not to praise those who turn their face from the Truth of his Word, but to condemn them; for what they consider to be their wisdom and intelligence is more to be thought of as an arrogance and pride that has led them very much astray. They may be wise in their own eyes; and in the eyes of the worldly; but they are not wise in either of the eyes of the Creator or his faithful children.

The reasons as to why a person might reject God are too numerous to go into here. But suffice it to say that it should be a cause of great sorrow to all Christians that there are those who are, like them, created in God's image and likeness who will go through life without the light of faith to guide them. The world contains very many spiritual dangers indeed; and it is difficult, if not impossible, to avoid pitfalls if you can not bring yourself to believe that holes even exist.

The lack of faith that exists in others demands a response from us. The first is to give thanks to God for our own faith – and the grace he grants us when faced with the many temptations that can cause one to fall away from the faith. We should also give thanks for those who have passed the faith as they have received it down through the generations; and particular thanks for those who have done their utmost to pass the faith on to us as individuals. We may think here of our own parents, our teachers, and those with roles in the ministries of the Church, particularly the clergy. All these have been obedient to the responsibilities that God has placed on their lives and we owe them a great debt of gratitude for the way in which they have not only instructed us in the faith but also for how they have corrected us when they have seen us going astray. There is no virtue – quite the opposite in fact – in minding our own business when doing so means allowing a brother or sister in Christ to draw too near to spiritual danger; and it is even worse to do so when that fellow-Christian is someone we have a particular duty towards when it comes to passing on the faith to them.

The next thing that it behoves us to do when it comes to the lack of faith in others is to pray for them. It does not matter who they are. If there are those in your own family who doubt or have fallen away, pray for them. If you do not, who will? If you have friends or neighbours who struggle with the faith or have abandoned it altogether, pray for them. Are we not called by God to love our neighbour as ourself? And what greater way is there to show that love than the spiritual assistance that comes from prayer? And pray also for those you do not know, in your communities, in this nation, and in all the corners of the world who live as strangers to God. Christ told us to make disciples of all nations; and while you may not be able to touch each person who has difficulties with knowing God yourself, at the very least you may pray for them that their hearts will be opened to his Truth and his Love.

And the last thing I suggest that Christians should do in the face of the unbelief of others is to know and live their faith as best they can. Knowing our faith allows us to defend it to others – and this is very necessary in an age where so many have a very distorted view of what it is that the Church teaches, a false version of Christianity promulgated by those in the media, academia, and other sectors of society who are hostile to the faith. We must also not only know enough abut the faith to defend it properly, but also be ready and willing to do so. Allowing those who behave like anti-Christs by spreading lies about the faith to do so unchecked is something no Christian should do. Learning about the faith, by the way, is a life long task; we should never believe that we have reached a point where we do not need to strengthen and deepen our faith. That is a task that only ends when, with the Grace of God, we have reached the place we were created to be – with God in heaven.

And to do that we must do more than know the faith – we must live it out. Living it out is one of the greatest ways of bringing the faith to others. We can not hope to convince others of its truth if we do not live as if we ourselves are convinced of its truth. Living it out will put the lie to the notion that it is the recourse of fools; living it out, ceaseless of the cost, will draw others to look again at what it is that we give our lives to; and living it out will, by God's grace, help others to believe in him - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen. 

Saturday, July 8, 2017

prayer diary Saturday 8 July 2017

Jesus said 'Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.' 
Matthew 10.28

The cost of following Christ's teaching in this life may sometimes seem difficult. But how much greater is the cost in the next life of not doing so.

Friday, July 7, 2017

prayer diary Friday 7 July 2017 (day of discipline and self-denial)

Jesus said ‘See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves.' 
Matthew 10.16

Jesus knew his disciples would face dangers, yet he sent them anyway. But then, he was not afraid to face danger himself. And therefore neither must we fear what it may cost us to share the Gospel message.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

prayer diary Thursday 6 July 2017

Jesus said 'You received without payment; give without payment.' 
Matthew 10. 8

All God gives us, the bounty of this world and the gift of Christ's good news, is freely given to us. And so we must freely share them with others.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

prayer diary Wednesday 5 July 2017

These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: As you go, proclaim the good news, “The kingdom of heaven has come near.” 
Matthew 10. 5-7

As Christians we are all sent into the world by Christ. And like those first disciples we must proclaim his good news in word and deed.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

prayer diary Tuesday 4 July 2017

Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest.’ 
Matthew 9. 37,38

How many times have you heard these verses or even prayed them yourself? Have you ever stopped to wonder if you are called to labour for the Lord's harvest? You should – because it is something that all Christians are called to do

Monday, July 3, 2017

prayer diary Monday 3 July 2017

He said, ‘Go away; for the girl is not dead but sleeping.’ And they laughed at him. But when the crowd had been put outside, he went in and took her by the hand, and the girl got up. 
Matthew 9. 24, 25

Those who put their faith in Christ have nothing to fear – in this life, or the next.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

the faith of Abraham

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

Our Gospel reading today shows us the high expectations that God has of those who love him. Nothing or no one is to be put before him – not son or daughter, father or mother. We read much the same in our Old Testament reading concerning the sacrifice of Abraham. This passage is often used today by those outside the Church – and sometimes even by those within – in an attempt to show the unreasonableness of God. But, of course, they can only do so by interpreting the passage in ways contradictory to the way in which it has been read by the Church down through the generations. Such attempts to use the Word of God to speak against Almighty God and the teachings of his Church should always serve to remind us that even the devil himself can try to quote Scripture to his advance his evil purposes; and that it is done so frequently in the age in which we live should only high-light the Spiritual dangers of the world around us.

Properly understood – which is, of course to say understood in the way that the Church has always understood this passage – the story of the sacrifice of Abraham teaches us much. First it serves as a testimony to the great faith of Abraham. He is an old man, already approaching the end of his years. One of the great sorrows of his life was that for many years his marriage to Sarah was childless. Late in life God grants them a child; and more, promises that through this child he will have descendants as numerous as the stars in the heavens. And then he is asked to sacrifice this child. If ever a man faced a temptation to defy the will of God, even a man like Abraham, one who spoke with the Almighty on such intimate terms that he could have no doubt that this command did indeed come from God, this was it. But Abraham responded to this challenge with a faithfulness and serenity that has served as an inspiration to all the generations that followed. He put his trust in God that he, Abraham, could be both obedient to the commandments of God and that God could even so still be faithful to the promises that he had made. And his great faith was rewarded.

And that is the second lesson for us from this story. It testifies to the great fidelity of God. He keeps his promises to us in all circumstances. We may find that this life gives us heavy crosses to bear – and indeed we may, and we should accept them in the knowledge that we were never promised that it would be otherwise – but if in spite of our burdens we remain faithful to God then we will find that he has always remained faithful to us … and that the crosses we have born are as nothing compared to the reward that comes from having carried them in the spirit of Christian love and fidelity.

And the last lesson I wish to speak of this morning that we may take from this account of Abraham's great faith is that even though it reminds us of the high expectations that God has of us, it also serves to demonstrate that God asks nothing of us that he is not willing to do himself. For the Church down through the ages has taught that in the story of Abraham and his willingness to sacrifice his son we see a foreshadowing of God's willingness to sacrifice his Son for us. But, of course, given that even that evidence of the Creator's great love for his children is twisted by those who hate God and religion to make a mockery of what the Father was willing to endure for the sake of his creation, it should therefore not surprise us that the story of Abraham has also been twisted by claims that it offers proof of the unreasonableness of God's demands upon his children.

But, as I have already noted, this twisting is really only evidence of the spiritual dangers of the age. For of course it is only by first loving God above all things that we can properly come to love others; and only by loving God above all things that we can come to be what it was that he created us to be – his loving children, destined to spend all eternity with him in heaven. This is something that the forces of spiritual darkness at work in the world are committed to working against. And all the more reason to give God first place in our lives always; and loving him always, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen. 

Saturday, July 1, 2017

prayer diary Saturday 1 July 2017

'Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.' 
Matthew 10. 28

Ironically, we live in a world where many won't defend their Christian faith against the values of secular society out of fear of a harsh word, or that they won't be popular. Christ warned us to fear nothing of this world – because if we do, the price we pay may indeed be that of our soul.

Friday, June 30, 2017

prayer diary Friday 30 June 2017 (day of discipline and self-denial)

See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves.' 
Matthew 10. 16

The work of being a Christian and spreading the good news is not without its dangers. We should welcome them with joy, knowing that in facing these dangers we are doing God's work.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

prayer diary Thursday 29 June 2017

Jesus, sending out the twelve to proclaim the good news, said: 'You received without payment; give without payment.'
Matthew 10. 8

The gift of the good news of Jesus Christ was something freely given to us by God. It is our work to freely pass that good news on to others.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

prayer diary Wednesday 28 June 2017

(Jesus, sending out the twelve, said) 'As you go, proclaim the good news 'The kingdom of heaven has come near.' 
Matthew 10. 7

As Christians we are all called by Christ and sent forth into the world. In what ways do you proclaim to others that the kingdom of heaven has come near?

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

prayer diary Tuesday 27 June 2017

The harvest is plentiful but the labourers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send labourers into his harvest.'
Matthew 9. 37-38

How often do you pray that people will answer the call to the ministries of the Church, especially the ordained ministries? How often and in what ways to your encourage or help others to answer that call? And how often do you listen to know as to what ways God may be calling you?

Monday, June 26, 2017

prayer diary Monday 26 June 2017

He saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth; and he said to him 'follow me.' And he got up and followed him.'
Matthew 9.9

To the Jews of Jesus time tax-collectors were the worst of all sinners. And yet, being called, Matthew responded at once. Sometimes even those we think of as being the worst of all people only need the slightest nudge to jump at the chance of redemption. Who have you called lately?

Sunday, June 25, 2017

fear not for the body but for the soul

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

Our Gospel reading today is part of the passage where our Lord, having chosen the 12 Apostles, is giving them their instructions prior to sending them out to preach his Good News in the towns and villages of the people of Israel. And one of the things that he told them that we heard read today was the following verse: 'Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.' The interpretation of those words are fairly obvious – Christ knew that speaking the Gospel truths are not without risks; and he wanted his disciples to understand that the seeming peace and comfort that may come by keeping quiet and going along with the world instead of preaching that truth is only temporary – whereas the benefits of being faithful to God and obeying his commandments, including his commandment to proclaim the Gospel and make disciples of all nations, are eternal.

I have no doubt that our Lord's words were of great comfort in the early centuries of the Church, when to be a Christian was to face persecution and death. The inspirational stories of the martyrs we have had passed down to us from that era demonstrate clearly that they refused to fear those who could kill the body; for they understood that it mattered nothing to preserve the life of the body if it was done at the cost of the soul. The life of the body is short and will end whether our time in this life is spent in comfort or in suffering; but the life that comes after this life is eternal and will be miserable indeed if those comforts have come at the expense of fidelity to God.

And surely those words of Christ must be of great comfort to those who face persecution and death today for the sake of the faith. For we must not forget that such persecution is not a thing of the past; it is not something that only took place in the bad old days of the Roman Empire. No, it continues today; and in fact Christians are the most persecuted people on the face of the earth today. Tens of thousands die for the faith each year; and tens of millions more face all kinds of suffering. And the suffering and death they face would end if they would only renounce their faith – but they refuse to do so, for they, like the martyrs of old recognise that those who kill the body are not to be feared; and they therefore place faithfulness to God and the eternal life that comes with that above any short-lived comforts they might gain in this life for the sake of renouncing their faith.

We, of course, do not face death on a daily basis for the faith. No one any time soon is going to put a gun to our head and threaten to pull the trigger if we do not deny Christ; no one is likely to beat us up, chase us through the streets, burn our homes, destroy our churches, or deny us our human rights for the sake of our faith. However, it would be a mistake to think because of that the Christ's words therefore only apply to people of long ago or people living far away. In our society Christians  are coming under increasing pressure to adapt the faith to conform with the values of secular society. Certain sections of the media endlessly condemn traditional Christian teachings as being unacceptable; indeed, in the United Kingdom only recently the leader of a major political party stepped down, saying that he no longer believed it was possible to both lead his party and be a faithful Christian. The modern world is becoming a very cold place indeed for those who take their Christian faith seriously. 

But that, I think, should not fill us with dismay. Rather, we should think of our Lord's words and be filled with hope. We have nothing to fear from those who can only kill the body; nothing to fear from those who can make our lives difficult; nothing to fear from those who will mock us and sneer at us and loudly proclaim we are fools, that our beliefs are out of step with the age we live in and are therefore unacceptable and must be either changed, abandoned or suppressed. For these are only the passing dangers and discomforts of this life; and enduring them does not diminish us in the least. Indeed we should welcome them, for they give us the opportunity to bear witness to Christ in the world – something we should daily give thanks for to God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen. 

Saturday, June 24, 2017

prayer diary Saturday 24 June 2017

The day will come when the bridegroom is taken from them, and then they will fast.' 
Matthew 9.15

Fasting, along with many traditional penitential practices, are ignored by many. Yet we know from Sacred Scripture that they were commended to us by Christ himself. Should not then we, who call ourselves his followers, follow his teaching as much concerning this as we do with all other matters?

Friday, June 23, 2017

prayer diary Friday 23 June 2017 (day of discipline and self-denial)

'For I have come to call not the righteous, but sinners.' 
Matthew 9. 13

And we know, of course, that Christ came to call all people to himself; for all indeed are sinners. But woe onto those who think they are without sin; for in that way they reject Christ's mercy and his promise of eternal life.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

prayer diary Thursday 22 June 2017

When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic 'take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.' 
Matthew 9. 2

We all remember that Jesus told the man to take up his mat and walk; how many remember that he did so that he might display to the world he had the authority to forgive sins? For that was why he came, to save us from our sins. Do not deceive yourself, and thereby reject Christ, by believing you have no sins to be forgiven of.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

prayer diary Wednesday 21 June 2017

Thomas answered him 'My Lord and my God.' 
John 20.28

the phrase 'doubting Thomas' has entered indelibly into common parlance. Yet this is the same man who was the first to clearly and unambiguously recognise and declare the divinity of Christ. We who walk the path he first trod should daily give thanks for his inspired witness to the truth of whom Christ is.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

prayer diary Tuesday 20 June 2017

And Jesus said to them 'why are you afraid, you of little faith?' Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a dead calm.' 
Matthew 8. 26

Death comes to us all. But for those who put their faith in Christ, there is nothing to fear in this world.

Monday, June 19, 2017

prayer diary Monday 19 June 2017

'Foxes have holes, the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.'
Matthew 8. 20

The material things of this world matter little. All that matters is following Christ.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

prayer diary Saturday 17 June 2017

‘No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and Mammon.' 
Matthew 6.24

The things of this world exist to serve our bodily needs while we live. If we instead become slaves to them we lose our path in this life and risk our life in the next.

Friday, June 16, 2017

prayer diary Friday 16 June 2017 (day of discipline and self-denial)

'But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven … for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.' 
Matthew 6.20,21

Honestly ask yourself if it is the things of this world that matter most to you. Then consider the fact that there is not a single one of them that you can take with you to the next life. Why love that which you can not keep and may even serve to deny you the one thing that truly matters?

Thursday, June 15, 2017

prayer diary Thursday 15 June 2017

'And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.'Matthew 6.12

The Christian way is hard. It is not easy to let go of the slights and wrongs we suffer. And yet, even as we hope that God will forgive us, so too must we forgive others.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

prayer diary Wednesday 14 June 2017

‘whenever you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be praised by others.' 
Matthew 6.2

We all must do all we can to help others. But consider carefully your reasons for doing so. Is it to gain glory in the eyes of the world? Or because they are your brother and sisters deserving your love and care?

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

prayer diary Tuesday 13 June 2017

'But I say to you, 'Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.''
Matthew 5.44

Christ commands us to love our neighbour as ourselves. And as all are our neighbours, those who hate us as much as those who love us, so we must love and pray for all.

Monday, June 12, 2017

prayer diary Monday 12 June 2017

‘You have heard that it was said, “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.”But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also.'
Matthew 5. 38,39

The Christian does not seek vengeance for real or imagined wrongs. We must forgive – seven times seventy if needs be.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Trinity Sunday - God reveals himself to man

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

Each year the Sunday after Pentecost we have Trinity Sunday. And it is a Sunday, you may have heard me say before, that some preachers regard with a degree of trepidation, for it is a day when they feel obliged to discuss one of the great mysteries of the Christian faith, that while God is One, he exists in three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

But mysteries, I think, are only for explaining when it comes to the fictional kind we find in detective novels and television programmes. The nature of God, however, is not a problem for us to solve, to put neatly into a box so that it does not trouble us any more. When it comes to faith mysteries are for accepting. But that does not mean there is nothing we can say about the matter. Indeed, I would think it important that we consider how it is that we know that although there is only one God he is three persons.

First, let us begin by thinking about how it is that we know anything about God. Natural reason can tell us much. We know, for example, that everything in nature has a beginning and an end, even the universe itself; and that nothing within our universe can cause itself to come into being. That suggests that there must be something outside of nature, some force outside of time and space which brought our universe into being. That act of creation and the intricate design of the universe argues that that force must have intelligence or mind – in other words it must be some form of being. This being, existing outside of time and space, must needs be eternal, without beginning and without end; having the ability to create our seemingly infinite universe out of nothing, it must be all powerful; and of unlimited intelligence.

Such things about God we can learn from observation of the world around us. But, just as there are things we can learn about a person from observing their actions, and other we can only know if they tell us, there are things we can only know about God if he himself tells us. And it is more than reasonable to expect that God would choose to tell us something more about himself than we can gain by simply looking at the world around us; if a Divine intelligence creates a universe with other intelligent beings in it, then it simply makes no sense to imagine that he would then not communicate with us in some way.

And if fact, God has communicated additional information about himself to us. We have a record of these communications in Holy Scripture. And we call this information Divine Revelation, for by it we know that God has revealed information concerning himself to those he has created.

And I use the word 'know' rather than 'believe' deliberately; for knowledge comes not just from the head but also from the heart. And just as we can know things concerning God by use of our natural reason and looking at the world around us, our heads, so also we can learn of him by looking within ourselves, our hearts. We should not be surprised at this; for the one who created the world also created us. And this inner knowledge tells us that the one who created us also communicates with us.
We all have some experience of this, such as our in-built sense of morality by which we know right from wrong and good from evil; we have it also in our innate sense that this life is not all there is, that there is something about human existence that goes beyond the mere physical; and we experience it also in our instinct for the Divine, an experience shared by all people, in all places, throughout history. Others have experienced this Divine self-revelation more clearly, more personally, and more specifically. And we call the record of that Divine Revelation Sacred Scripture, which we have collected together in that wondrous book we call the Holy Bible.

And in the Bible we are told by God himself that he is three persons in one God. We see this in our reading from St Matthew's Gospel today when Christ himself commands his disciples to go out into the world, baptising all people in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. We see it in our epistle from the Apostle St Paul when he blesses the church in Corinth with the words we now refer to as the Grace – words referencing God in the three persons of the Blessed Trinity. And we even see it in our Old Testament reading today, words taken from the very first verses of the first book of the Bible, Genesis, where we see first God himself, then his Spirit hovering over the waters, and then his creative Word spoken, saying 'let there be light' – and that Word, we know from the opening Chapter of St John's Gospel, was made flesh in Jesus Christ our Lord.

So we know that God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit because he has told us so in Sacred Scripture; and the knowledge of God that we have in our hearts assures us that what Scripture tells us is true. We do not have to understand how this can be any more than we have to understand how it is that he is eternal; how Christ can be both God and Man, or how it is that bread and wine becomes his Flesh and Blood for us in the Holy Eucharist. It is enough for us that God tells us it is so; and that we know in our hearts that it is true. A truth that I pray all people in all places will come to know in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. 

Saturday, June 10, 2017

prayer diary Saturday 10 June 2017

'But I say to you, Do not swear at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is his footstool.' 
Matthew 5.34,35

Of what use to you is an oath? If a person does not trust your word, will they believe you more because of your swearing? And if you speak a lie, why compound your sin by dishonouring God by your oath?

Friday, June 9, 2017

prayer diary Friday 9 June 2017

'But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.' 
Matthew 5 28

Christians are called to a high standard of holiness indeed. We must strive not only not commit the sin, but to avoid the thought of it also. You risk as much by your fantasies as by your deeds. Pray daily for purity of life and heart.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

prayer diary Thursday 8 June 2017

'For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.' 
Matthew 5. 20

Do not think of the worst person you have heard of and think as long as you are better than they you will see heaven. Instead, think of the holiest one and strive to be even holier than they. And pray always for God's grace to resist the temptations that surround you.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

prayer diary Wednesday 7 June 2017

'No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.' 
John 15.13

Christian love is no sentimental thing. It is about denying the pleasures of this world so that the example of your life may testify to your faith, and if need be facing death itself for the sake of Christ.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

prayer diary Tuesday 6 June 2017

'In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.' 
Matthew 5.16

Do not ever think that how you live affects no one but yourself. The example of your life is important – faithful living for good, unfaithful for ill. And woe unto you if you lead others astray.

Monday, June 5, 2017

prayer diary Monday 5 June 2017

Jesus said: 'Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.' 
John 12.25

The pleasures and comforts of this life come at infinite cost, for to set them above obeying Christ's commandments is to forfeit the hope we have of heaven.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Pentecost - the fulfillment of God's promise

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

Today is the feast of Pentecost, one of the three great festivals of the Christian years, along with Christmas and Easter. All are part of God's plan for the salvation of humanity, and thereby show God's great love for his children. They also show his great faithfulness to us, for all show how he keeps the promises he has made to his children; and because of this we know that he will keep the other promises he has made to us. That is how someone shows that they are trustworthy, is it not? They keep the promises they have already made to you; and because of this you have every hope that you can trust they can make their other promises to you in due course.

Christmas celebrates the Incarnation. And the incarnation was God's fulfilment of the promise that he would send a Saviour. This promise is woven throughout the fabric of Old Testament. Easter celebrates the Resurrection. The Resurrection marks God's fulfilment of the promise that the Messiah he would send was to suffer and die for our sins; but that after his death would rise again after three days. This promise is contained many places in the Old Testament, but also in the New where it is reaffirmed again and again by the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, Christ himself. And the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost is also the fulfilment of a promise made to us by God, again by our blessed Saviour, when he told his disciples that after his Ascension he would not leave them alone, but with instead send them the Holy Spirit, who would remain with them, all those who followed him, in other words his Church, to the end of the ages.

Because of the remarkable events that occurred at Pentecost – by which I mean the Spirit-inspired courage that suddenly filled the disciples who were hiding in the upper room so that they were suddenly enabled to go into the very streets they had seen Christ carry his Cross through, streets filled with the very people who had arrested him and dragged him off to his mockery of a trial, torture, and death, and start preaching our Lord's Good News to them with such bravery and conviction that they convinced thousands of its Truth that very day, and continued in that courage and conviction until they had spread that Truth to all the corners of the Empire and those who followed them continued to all the ends of the earth – because of those remarkable events, that first day of Pentecost is often called the birth of the Church. It might be more accurate to call it the Manifestation of the Church on Earth – for the Church of God's faithful exists in Heaven as well as on earth; and we know that the Angels, whom we name in our Liturgies as being part of the Church were worshipping God in Heaven before the beginning of Time itself. But the sending of the Holy Spirit on that day not only granted God's people in the world to be part of his Church on Earth but also the Divine power to continue in Christ's work of drawing all people to himself. So calling Pentecost the day when the Church was born is an understandable short-hand way of describing it, even if not entirely accurate.

We learn much from Pentecost, but today let me make three brief points. The first is that, as I already said, by it Christ shows his faithfulness to the promises he made us. This means we can be sure that the reward of eternal life awaits all those who love him and show that love by being faithful to his teachings. The second is that we can believe him when he tells us that the Holy Spirit will remain with his Church unto the end of the ages. Indeed, we know we receive that same Spirit at our confirmation when we 'receive the seal of the Holy Spirit.' The Spirit that came upon the Disciples the first day of Pentecost has also come upon us. And this means that we must act with the same conviction as they did, sharing the Good News of our Saviour with all people, in all places, in all ages; and with the same courage as they did, unafraid of any consequences, whether those be risking the the loss of material comforts, a reduction in social prestige or giving offence to those who wilfully refuse to hear the Truth, or like to martyrs of that time and down through the ages to this very day loosing our very lives. For it matters nothing if we lose the whole world, even life itself, if by our faithfulness to God's word we gain our souls, our salvation, life eternal.

And the third and last point is that the Church is not something made by us but by God. She - and I say 'she' for the Church is also referred to as the Bride of Christ – she is not man-made but a Divine Creation. She is therefore, as we say in the Creeds, something Holy. And being a Holy creation of the Almighty she is not something for us to do with as we please. Her teaching are not ours, her holy & Apostolic traditions are not ours, her Sacraments are not ours. And being God's we can not change them either to suit ourselves or the whims and desires of others. We can only hand them on as they were handed on to us, from Christ to the Apostles, and down to our time.

And that is something we must do until the end of the ages, a time when another promise of God's will be fulfilled – the great and terrible Day when he will come again. And just as we rejoice in the other Great Promises fulfilled, marking them as great festivals of the Church, so too we will be able to rejoice on that day if we have done our best to be as faithful to God as he has shown himself to be faithful to us. Amen. 

Saturday, June 3, 2017

prayer diary Saturday 3 June 2017

But there are also many other things that Jesus did; if every one of them were written down, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written. 
John 21.25

No amount of books could contain the entirety of the Word made flesh. But, inspired by the Holy Spirit, the Gospel contain enough for us to know Christ and trust in the Church he gave us.