Saturday, April 29, 2017

prayer diary Saturday 29 April 2017

When they had rowed about three or four miles, 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

Many today, faced with the divinity of Christ, react with their emotions. They are afraid and hide their fear by claiming such things can not be. But such things are. And Christ tells us we have no reason to fear.

Friday, April 28, 2017

prayer diary Friday 28 April 2017

When they were satisfied, he told his disciples, ‘Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost.’ 
John 6.12

Christ told his followers that nothing should be wasted. Neither should we waste anything, whether from that with which God blesses us of the fruits of the earth, or of any opportunity to share the word of God with all who come near.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

prayer diary Thursday 27 April 2017

Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.' 
John 14.6

This is a hard truth for modern ears. And even harder to share in a world so quick to take offense at anything proclaimed as an absolute truth. But share it we must, for it is part of the truth that God so loved the world that he sent his Son into it to proclaim.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

prayer diary Wednesday 26 April 2017

'the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil.' 
John 3. 19

People would not listen to Christ and crucified him instead. But as he died for our sins, by continuing in our sins we show our love for the darkness rather than the light. Repent, therefore, of your evil and enter into the light that is Christ.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

prayer diary Tuesday 25 April 2017 (St Mark)

'and you will be hated by all because of my name. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.' 
Mark 13.13

Christ warned his disciples of the consequences of following him. Should we not then expect to be persecuted by those who hold to the popular opinions of the day? And if we are not a thorn in their side should we not ask ourselves why we are not.

Monday, April 24, 2017

prayer diary Monday 24 April 2017 (St Joseph of Nazareth)

All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: ‘Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son.’
Matthew 1. 22,23

The gospels tell us St Joseph was a righteous man. His faith was rewarded by his being accorded the privilege of being the foster-father of God himself.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

St Thomas: Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed

May my words be in the name of the Holy and undivided Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Today's reading shows us the last time in the Gospels that we hear St Thomas speaking. It is the occasion for which he is most remembered, the one which earned him the sobriquet 'Doubting Thomas.' It occurs to few, I believe, to think back to the first time we hear this holy Apostle speak in the Gospels in a passage we read only a few weeks ago just before the beginning of Holy Week. I refer, of course, to the passage in St John's Gospel recording the events around our Lord's raising of Lazarus from the dead. You may recall on that occasion that Jesus' followers were anxious about his plans to go to Bethany. The Jews, they knew, had only recently attempted to stone their master. Returning to Judea so soon after would be dangerous for him; and, we may note, also for anyone with him. So they are glad when he delays going; and alarmed when he announces that he intends going after all. And, with all around him afraid, St John records his fellow-apostle speaking some remarkable words: St Thomas says 'Let us go also, that we may die with him.' He considers going to Judea to be a grave risk – but he nonetheless is willing to face death rather than abandon his master.
So he was a man of great courage. And his bravery is also revealed in the passage we heard read today – even though it is easy to miss it. Most are too caught up in St Thomas' refusal to accept what the other disciples who have seen Jesus try to tell him to consider a very important implication revealed in the fact that he was missing for the time when our Lord first revealed himself to his Apostles. He was not there. All the rest of Jesus' followers kept themselves hidden for fear of the Jews. And yet St Thomas was not there. He alone of them all does not keep himself hidden. He is not afraid to go out and about in Jerusalem among the people who seized his master, subjected him to a mockery of a trial, and then condemned to death on a cross.

We may ask ourselves why such a man, a man not only of such great courage but who also was so deeply devoted to our Lord, unafraid to face death for his sake, may have doubted that his master had Risen from the dead? But this is something I believe we must not be too hard on him for. Doubt is, after all, quite a normal thing – especially in the face of extraordinary events such as these. We may also note that the other disciples also doubted when they were first told of our Lord's Resurrection. The woman who went to the tomb on that morning told them of the Empty Tomb and how they has seen the Lord Risen and Alive. But they did not believe them. It was not until they saw the Lord for themselves that they believed. We may also consider the words of the Church Father St Gregory concerning this – that it was no accident that St Thomas was absent when our Lord first appeared, but rather it was something intended by God for our benefit. Indeed, that it was part of God's plan seems beyond dispute. Our Lord could easily have timed his appearance so that all of his Apostles were there; that he did not must have been deliberate. And he knew how St Thomas would react to the news of his first appearance; just as he knew how he would react on being present at the second.
What are the ways in which we benefit? First that our Lord allows St Thomas to touch him, proving the Resurrection was no mere spiritual event. Christ had risen indeed in bodily form; if it were not so, then St Thomas could not have touched him. Next there is St Thomas' truly wondrous declaration of faith: My Lord and my God! The Risen Lord is addressed as God by one of his disciples – and he does not reject his words or rebuke him for using them. Indeed, he confirms them by saying to St Thomas 'because you have seen me, you have believed.' The Resurrection is intended to confirm to all men that Christ is God – and St Thomas is the first one not only to recognise this but to declare what it means publicly. Finally, St Thomas' initial doubts allow our Lord to directly bless all Christians who would come after him: blessed are they that have not seen and yet have believed. We should bask in those words, savour them, glory in them. Christ himself has pronounced his blessing upon our faith; God himself has proclaimed that we are blessed by our faith in him.

Because of all that I have already said, I have never liked the fact that many have given St Thomas the title 'doubting.' St Thomas through whom God himself has blessed us might be better. Or perhaps St Thomas the bravest of the Apostles. He, after all, was the one who declared he was willing to die for Christ even before he understood that he was God incarnate. And when he did understand, he lived that declaration out in its fullest sense. Like all the Apostles, save St John the beloved disciples and writer of the Gospel that bears his name, St Thomas died a martyrs death; he took the faith to India, where the Church he founded still remains and today is nearly 30 million strong. I pray that all here will be inspired by his witness, declaring for themselves daily 'My Lord and my God' in response to the Gospel witness; and thereby hearing in their hearts from now until the end of the ages our Lord's words spoken directly to them 'Blessed are you who have not seen and yet have believed.' Amen. 

Saturday, April 22, 2017

prayer diary Saturday 22 April 2017

Later he appeared to the eleven themselves as they were sitting at the table; and he upbraided them for their lack of faith and stubbornness, because they had not believed those who saw him after he had risen. And he said to them, ‘Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation.' 
Mark 16.14, 15

Christ calls us all to proclaim to the world not only that he is risen, but what his Resurrection means for all. To do otherwise shows a lack of faith and stubbornness of heart.

Friday, April 21, 2017

prayer diary Friday 21 April 2017

Jesus said to them, ‘Children, you have no fish, have you?’ They answered him, ‘No.’ He said to them, ‘Cast the net to the right side of the boat, and you will find some.’ 
John 21. 5-6

Christ's words that day to his apostles recall the events of when he first called them to him, telling them that they would be fishers of men. It reminds us that our work continues and that we must strive daily to make disciples of all people.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

prayer diary Thursday 20 April 2017

Jesus said ‘Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see.' 
Luke 24. 38,39

Christ's Resurrection was both spiritual and physical. Death could not hold him and so body and soul together broke free of the tomb. Therefore we can be sure that the eternal life he promised waits for all who love him and show that love by hearing and obeying his word.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

prayer diary Wednesday 19 April 2017

Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread. 
Luke 24.35

Each time we gather round the Lord's Table he makes himself known to us in the breaking of the bread. How blessed are we that we can share in the intimate experience of those who journeyed with him on the road to Emmaus whenever we gather to celebrate the Eucharist together.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

prayer diary Tuesday 18 April 2017

Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, ‘I have seen the Lord’; and she told them that he had said these things to her. 
John 20.18

We also encounter the Risen Lord daily in our lives. Like Mary we must proclaim this good news to others and be his witness to all the world.

Monday, April 17, 2017

prayer diary Monday 17 April 2017

Suddenly Jesus met them and said, ‘Greetings!’ And they came to him, took hold of his feet, and worshiped him. 
Matthew 28.9

The joy of the disciples at the Resurrection of Jesus found its natural expression in immediate worship. So too must we be filled with this joy each day and worship our Lord who has risen from the dead and in so doing has vanquished death for us all.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

the good thief and the birth of hope at Easter

May my words be in the name of the Holy and undivided Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Today we have come to the end of our journey through the desert; our 40 days in the Wilderness has come to an end and we have emerged from the desolate places into a wonderful oasis, the joyful Paradise that is Easter Day. And why is it that we rejoice – because the Lenten Fast is over? No; for it would make no sense to fast for the sole purpose of rejoicing when we cease to fast. We rejoice because Christ is risen – and what it is that his Resurrection means for us.

And what does that Resurrection mean for us? Well, consider a man, justly condemned to death. The morning for his execution comes and he is taken from his cell. And then as he stands at the foot of the steps of the Gallows, instead of being forced to ascend, he is instead set free. Would not such a man rejoice? Of course he would – and yet what Christ has given to us through our Baptism into his Church is even greater than that. For that condemned man must one day face death again in some other form. But we, through our Baptism have gone beyond that; for by his Resurrection Christ has destroyed the power of death; and what was once the end of Life has now become the Gateway to Eternal Life.

And this Eternal Life is something that he offers to all, no matter how terrible as sinner they may have been, what crimes they may have committed, provided they Repent and through themselves upon Christ's mercy. To know this, we have only to think about the life of one person who was also at Calvary with Jesus, a person whom we may forget about as the pain and sorrow of Good Friday are left behind in the joys of Easter Day.

That person is the man who also hung on a cross on Golgotha with Christ. We often refer to him as the 'Good Thief' – but his crimes were surely greater than mere theft, for we have his own words recorded for us in St Luke's Gospel telling us that he was justly condemned. Tradition has given him the name Dismas, and St John Chrysostom tells us that he was both a murderer and a bandit, a man who preyed upon anyone unlucky enough to cross his path, robbing them not only of their goods but their very lives.

A terrible man, then, who has earned his terrible fate – death on a cross. And yet this is the one who rebukes the other criminal who hung on our Saviour's left, asking him does he not fear God, admitting that his crimes are deserving of death, and then turning to Christ, asking him that he remember him when he comes into his Kingdom. Why should such a wretched man do such a thing? Well, St Augustine put forward an interesting idea concerning this matter. He wondered if perhaps this was a man who had been previously baptised. It is of course only a speculation – yet it is a compelling thought. Perhaps this man had once followed Christ – and then turned away from him to go back to his life of Evil. And then after many terrible crimes, after much shedding of innocent blood, he is caught, condemned, and his sentence of death is carried out. And then as he hangs on his cross, his life beginning to ebb away, he recognises his former master. Perhaps the nearness of his own death causes this man who was once a follower of Christ to understand something that all the other disciples, even the Apostles themselves, failed to understand …he alone sees through the Cross to the Resurrection and the Empty Tomb … he alone sees that the suffering of the man beside him does not indicate failure but a triumph.

It does not really matter whether it was because he was former disciple or simply a deeply sinful man blessed with a sudden flash of divine insight that caused him to ask Jesus to remember him. Whatever his reason, he received as his answer the wonderful words – truly, I tell you that this day you will be with me in Paradise - by which Christ meant Heaven, as St Ambrose assures us. The criminal on the cross is blessed to hear our Saviour himself assure him that that very day, the moment his sufferings in this life were ended, he would enter into the divine glory which is eternal life.

Dismas, the Good Thief, is also sometimes called the Penitent Thief; and his penitence reminds us of something important – the very thing we celebrate this morning. And that is that it is the birth of hope into the world. The Resurrection of Christ from the dead tells us our lives are more than what we see around us; it tells that by our Baptisms we are born into the hope of Eternal life. It tells that however far we have strayed from the path that God calls all his children to, repentance offers the hope of salvation and eternal life. Dismas, as St Gregory of Nyssa tells us, was bound to his cross, with only his heart and his tongue under his control. Yet this was freedom enough for him to recognise Christ as Lord, freedom enough to accept him as his Saviour. This tells us that no matter how our own lives seem to hem us in, we have that Freedom also – a Freedom that opens to us the Hope that Christ offers – a hope that I pray that all here will joyfully embrace this day and always. Amen. 

Saturday, April 15, 2017

prayer diary Easter Eve 2017

And so, because it was the Jewish day of Preparation, and the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there. 
John 19.42

This day your Saviour's body lies in the tomb. He lies there for you. Let your every act and thought this day reflect your awareness of this.

Friday, April 14, 2017

prayer diary Good Friday 2017

He said, ‘It is finished.’ Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. 
John 19.30

Christ died on the cross for you. He who was without sin gave up his life so that sinners might have eternal life. Do not reject the sacrifice that he made for you.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

prayer diary Thursday in Holy Week 2017

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

Christ, God and man, was not above the humble service of others. What are the ways in which you are too proud to serve, thinking such actions beneath you?

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

prayer diary Wednesday in Holy Week 2017

Jesus was troubled in spirit, and declared, ‘Very truly, I tell you, one of you will betray me.’ 
John 13.22

Do not in your pride despise Judas. Rather, consider the ways you daily, even hourly, betray your Lord.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

prayer diary Tuesday in Holy Week 2017

'Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.'  
John 11.24

Deny yourself that you may die to self and thus bear much fruit for Christ.

Monday, April 10, 2017

prayer diary Monday in Holy Week 2017

'You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.’ 
John 11.8

There are some who think themselves too busy with the practical work of the Gospel to spend time in worship. Christ demands both of those who follow him.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

prayer diary Saturday 8 April 2017 ( Day of Discipline and Self-denial)

'What are we to do? This man is performing many signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him.' 
John 11.47,48

The authorities of his day feared people's faith in Christ. They still do today. This is why they either try to subvert it to their own dark ends or attempt to undermine. But we, faithful to the teaching passed on from the beginning, must stand fast.

Friday, April 7, 2017

prayer diary Friday 7 April 2017 ( Day of Discipline and Self-denial)

Many came to him, and they were saying, ‘John performed no sign, but everything that John said about this man was true.’ 
John 10.41

John the Baptist was the last and greatest of the prophets. The people of his time saw that all he told us of Christ was true. John continues to speak to us today through scripture and he continues to testify as to who Christ is and what we can hope for as a result.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

prayer diary Thursday 6 April 2017 ( Day of Discipline and Self-denial)

'Very truly, I tell you, whoever keeps my word will never see death.’ 
John 8.51

By his resurrection we know all of Christ's promises are true. Life eternal awaits those who are faithful to his teaching in the face of all the temptations of this life.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

prayer diary Wednesday 5 April 2017 ( Day of Discipline and Self-denial)

Then Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, ‘If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples.' 
John 8.31

Those who follow Christ must be obedient to him. Reflect on this when next you find some of his teachings difficult or another tries to tell you they are too hard to bear.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

prayer diary Tuesday 4 April 2017 ( Day of Discipline and Self-denial)

So Jesus said, ‘When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will realize that I am he.' 
John 8.28

It is through the cross that God's plan is fulfilled and on it his Son is revealed to be who he truly is. It is through the cross also that God's plans for us reach fruition and we become who we were created to be. This is why we must take up our own cross and follow Christ.

Monday, April 3, 2017

prayer diary Monday 3 April 2017 ( Day of Discipline and Self-denial)

And Jesus said, ‘Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again.’ 
John 8.11

Christ does not condemn the woman taken in adultery, but he does condemn her sin. His forgiveness is for all, as is his command to go and sin no more.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

'Lazarus, come forth!'

May my words be in the name of the Holy and undivided Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

In our gospel reading today Jesus stands outside the tomb of his friend and follower Lazarus and commands the dead man to come forth. It is perhaps the best known of all of Jesus' miracles – so well known that the name of the man raised from the dead is often used to describe occasions when a person seems to all but miraculously survive a brush with death. But sometimes familiarity can breed if not contempt then at least a certain comfortableness with the event. We know from the moment the passage begins what is about to happen. And so perhaps something of the awesomeness of what is recorded here can pass us by. We read of Jesus raising the man from the dead and we almost forget to think how remarkable what is recorded here really is. Instead, when we hear how he stood outside the tomb of a man who had been dead and buried for four days and says 'Lazarus, come forth' and the dead man obeys and is restored to his family we should be stricken to our core. For by virtue of the living and inspired word of God in Sacred Scripture we have been made witness to something truly extraordinary – the power of the divine in action. For it is only God that can restore the dead to life.

This point is brought out very clearly in our reading from the prophet Ezekiel, the most famous of all the passages in this book of the Bible, concerning the valley of the dry bones. In it God almost teases the prophet – look at all these bones, and see how dry they are – so dry, as we learn later that no so much as a scrap of flesh remains upon them, not even a withered sinew – can something like this live again, he asks? And the prophet wisely defers to the Almighty, saying that is something that only he can know. And God tells him that these bones will indeed live again; and the reason that they will live is so that he will know that this is indeed the Lord.

And that last point is important, for it is for just the same reason that Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead. Before he begins his journey to Bethany to where his friend is buried, Jesus tells his disciples that he is glad for their sake that he had not been there to prevent Lazarus from dying – why? So that they will see the divine power he wields, the power over life and death. He says much the same thing to those who stand by the tomb with him, that they are about to see the glory of God. Something that they indeed see when he tells the dead man to come forth.

Jesus intends that those present be awed by what they see, that they be left in no doubt that what they are seeing is the glory of God first-hand. He wants them to understand who it is that stands before, that he is exactly who he claims he is, the Son of God, a person who can say with absolute truth that he and the Father are one – a claim that the Pharisees and religious leaders of the day had no hesitation in understanding was a claim to be God himself – for they, in their wilful blindness refused to believe him and instead accused him of blasphemy, knowing that by what he said he was making himself equal with God.

And this is the point we must not miss – Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead to give witness to his divine authority - not for the sake of restoring his friend to the world. Of course he loves his friend – he weeps at his grave; and he loves Martha and Mary also, the dead man's sisters and it grieves him to see them mourning for their brother. But the lives of all men end in the grave. No, Christ's purpose was to show even though the grave waits for all, the grave does not have to be the end of life. True life, as we read in our Epistle, is the life we have in Christ. Christ calls Lazarus forth from the grave so that all might know that he came into the world so that all men might be saved and have eternal life.

Without this hope it is the world that is the grave; for without this hope our lives are short and meaningless and crumble to dust that are lost in the winds of time after a few short years. But we do have that hope. Christ proved this to us in many ways. And today we see him doing it by calling Lazarus forth from the grave. And by doing so, he does far more than make a single dead man live. He calls us forth all of us who were otherwise dead into eternal life. Christ calls us all forth to share in eternal life with him. The question we must ask ourselves is our we listening … and our we willing to obey him and so enter into the eternal life he offers? This is something that I pray all here will: in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen. 

haiku: web on window

web on window
the fly
behind the glass

Saturday, April 1, 2017

prayer diary Saturday 1 April 2017 (Day of Discipline and Self-denial)

Nicodemus .. asked, ‘Our law does not judge people without first giving them a hearing to find out what they are doing, does it?’ 
John 7. 50,51

Christ was an innocent victim in all that he suffered for us. Those who opposed him denied him everything, even simple justice. Yet he willingly endured it all for our sake.

Friday, March 31, 2017

prayer diary Friday 31 2017 ( Day of Discipline and Self-denial)

Then they tried to arrest him, but no one laid hands on him, because his hour had not yet come. 
John 7. 30

Even as he journeyed to Jerusalem, Christ was always in control. He laid down his life willingly, for it was something that no man could take from him.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

prayer diary Thursday 30 March 2017 ( Day of Discipline and Self-denial)

The works that the Father has given me to complete, the very works that I am doing, testify on my behalf that the Father has sent me. 
John 5.37

Christ, the Son of God, did the work of the Father; how can we, called to be as Christlike as possible, do less? Use this season of Lent to consider how it is that you fail to do the work that God calls you to do.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

prayer diary Wednesday 29 March 2017 ( Day of Discipline and Self-denial)

For this reason the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because he was not only breaking the Sabbath, but was also calling God his own Father, thereby making himself equal to God. 
John 5.18

The people of Jesus' day had no doubts that he claimed to be divine. Ponder this deeply during the season of Lent and what it means for you that God became man and died for your sins.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

haiku: summer time

our clocks move forward
still begins at dawn

prayer diary Tuesday 28 March 2017 ( Day of Discipline and Self-denial)

Later Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, ‘See, you have been made well! Do not sin any more, so that nothing worse happens to you. 
John 5.14

Even as he healed men's bodies, Christ's first concern was for the salvation of their souls. Strive this Lent for the healing of your soul so as to avoid the worst of all possible fates, the loss of eternal life.

Monday, March 27, 2017

prayer diary Monday 27 March 2017 ( Day of Discipline and Self-denial)

Then Jesus said to him, ‘Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.' 
John 4.50

Some crave miracles, saying without them they will not believe. And yet they ignore so much around them that is truly miraculous - all of creation, that life exists, and that they have the God-given mind with which to wonder at it all.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

the man born blind

May my words be in the name of the Holy and undivided Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Jesus' disciples ask him an interesting question in today's Gospel especially so in this season of Lent when we strive even harder to take up our own crosses and better follow our Lord. They see a man born blind and ask if it is because he sinned or because his parents sinned that he has been blind from birth. Jesus, of course, answers that it was neither, but rather so that God's works might be revealed through him. But their query reflects the not uncommon human suspicion that personal misfortune represents some kind of divine punishment. One might wonder, however, why it is that faithful Jews such as Jesus' followers would ask such a question. It is reasonable to presume that they should have been familiar with the book Job – a book of Sacred Scripture which makes it clear that human suffering is not related to the wrongdoings of those who suffer. Also, they should have thought of our Lord's own words on the matter, recorded by St Luke in the 13th chapter of his Gospel, where Jesus says that the Galileans whose blood Pilate mingled with their sacrifices – meaning that they were killed by his soldiers while they offered sacrifice in the Temple – were no worse sinners than any other Galileans, or that those who were killed when the tower of Siloam fell upon them were no worse offenders than any one else living in Jerusalem at that time.

Suffering then is not to be seen as some kind of a specific punishment that the one who suffers has brought down upon themselves. Suffering in a more general sense, of course,is a result of sin – original sin, the sin of our first parents. It is a result of our fallen nature and it is as such part of the human condition. In this life we can all expect both the good and the ills that this world offers – as our Lord made clear in chapter five of St Matthew's gospel when he said that our Father in heaven makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous.

Indeed, we have many examples from Scripture showing us how good people can endure much suffering in this life. Job I have already mentioned. We may also think of St Peter in the Acts of the Apostles being beaten and thrown into prison, the Apostle St James being killed by King Herod's men, and the lengthy list of sufferings that St Paul underwent – as he tells us in his second letter to the Corinthians, chapter 11, he endured many imprisonments, countless floggings, and was often near death. Five times he received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times he was beaten with rods. Once he was stoned and left for dead. Three times he was shipwrecked, being for a night and a day adrift at sea; on his frequent journeys, in was in danger from rivers, bandits, faced many a sleepless night, was hungry and thirsty, and was often cold and naked. And, as if that were not enough, he tells us in chapter 12 of the same letter that he was given by God what he calls a thorn in the flesh. What this mysterious thorn was we are not exactly sure – but we know that it tormented him and presumably, since he says it was in the flesh, he means it caused him great pain. So greatly did it torment him that three times he appealed to God that it might leave him. But God refused his request saying : ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for strength is made perfect in weakness.’

It would also be well to consider here some other words from St Paul on the subject of suffering, words that we heard in last week's reading from chapter five of his letter to the Romans: suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us. Our sufferings in this world can be of spiritual benefit to us, provided that we accept them in the right spirit. This does not mean that if you are ill you should not seek medical attention or take the medicines that will cure you; but rather that those sufferings that can not be avoided can provide an opportunity for growth.

Think of them, perhaps, as a temptation. One way of dealing with suffering is to grow angry with God that he allowed this pain to come into your life or that he will not take it away from you. Another is to accept it in a spirit of humility, reminding yourself that just as we accept those things we think of as good from God so also must we accept those we think of as bad, to paraphrase the words Job use when it came to his own suffering; and saying to God that with his grace it is something we can bear. And also remembering the words of the Lord that those who would follow him must take up their cross. Our Lord did not reject his cross, painful though it was; and neither must we. Through our patient endurance God's works are made manifest through us, just as they were with the blind man; and just as St Paul's suffering with his thorn helped make him perfect, ours borne with God's grace can also help us be perfect – and thereby lead us at the last to be with him in heaven. Amen. 

Saturday, March 25, 2017

prayer diary Saturday 25 March 2017 - The Annunciation

Then Mary said, ‘Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.’ 
Luke 1. 38

How important were those words of obedience from the Mother of our Lord. We also must, like her, seek to say 'yes' to God in every aspect of our lives.

Friday, March 24, 2017

prayer diary Friday 24 March 2017 ( Day of Discipline and Self-denial)

'you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.” 
Mark 12.30

It is from this love of God that all goodness in our lives flow; and this love is shown in our lives in how we show our love for all others.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

haiku: carrot and coal

carrot and coal
together on ground
-the snowman departs

prayer diary Thursday 23 March 2017 ( Day of Discipline and Self-denial)

'Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.' 
Luke 11.23

Our Lord does not appreciate those who sit on the fence. Make your choice and choose wisely; for to refuse to choose is to reject him.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

haiku: green arc through white

green arc through white
leading to where snow
becomes man

prayer diary Wednesday 22 March 2017 ( Day of Discipline and Self-denial)

'whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven.' 
Matthew 5.19

It is not only by our words that we teach others, but by the example of our lives. Take care then that you thus teach others to obey God's laws if you hope to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

prayer diary Tuesday 21 March 2017 ( Day of Discipline and Self-denial)

Then Peter came and said to him, ‘Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?’ Jesus said to him, ‘Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.' 
Matthew 18. 21,22

We hope for forgiveness from God. But as Christ tells us here and elsewhere in Scripture those who would be forgiven must themselves forgive all others.

Monday, March 20, 2017

prayer diary Monday 20 March 2017 ( Day of Discipline and Self-denial)

‘Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in the prophet’s home town.' 
Luke 4. 24

The blindness of the people of Jesus time in rejecting him because he seemed to be one who came from among them seems foolish to us today. Yet how many of us behave in exactly the same way, rejecting him even as we call him Lord?

Sunday, March 19, 2017

the woman at the well

May my words be in the name of the Holy and undivided Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

The woman Jesus meets at the well of Sychar, whom we read of in today's gospel, certainly seems to have been an interesting character. First, she certainly does not appear to have been a shy woman, as is apparent from the back and forth banter she engages in with our Lord. And this conversation reveals her to have been not only sharp of tongue but sharp of mind also, for after her initial somewhat barbed remarks she engages with Christ in a quite serious theological discussion.

The next important thing we may say of her is that she most certainly has not lived what might be considered a conventional life to date, for she has been married no less than five times and is now living with another man to whom she is not married. And we can also glean from Scripture that she has paid a price for her lifestyle. We can know this because she comes to the well at noon – the hottest time of the day. This was not the time for drawing water. That was done either in the cool of the morning or later in the afternoon when the burning sun was no longer at its height. And it was a social time, where the woman who gathered caught up on the gossip of the day. That this woman comes at noon, a time when she can expect no one to be there, means that she is someone who is not popular with the other women of the locality. No doubt they fear that when the time comes for her to move on from her current partner, her gaze may fix upon one of their husbands as a possible replacement.

Something of this latter aspect of her character may have been apparent from her appearance, for Jesus' followers are surprised that he is talking to her. Why? Because she is a woman? But Jesus, we know, was in the habit of talking to women – he had many female followers, and indeed his group relied on some of them for financial support. Because she is a Samaritan? But Jesus did not go in for the Jewish custom of shunning those from this part of the world – he even has one as the leading figure in one of his parables; and we know that he cured a leper who was also a Samaritan. Yet still they wonder that he talks with her. I suspect that it is because there is something about her that signals to them that she is not a respectable woman according to the lights of their culture. Perhaps she is dressed a little too flamboyantly. Perhaps she has too much showy jewellery on. Perhaps her make-up is a little too extreme. Or perhaps it is some combination of all three. But there is definitely something about her that tells them that this is not the kind of woman that the man they are sure must be the Messiah should be talking to.

Their reaction is illustrative of an age-old problem. How do you indicate to someone that there are aspects of the way that they are living their life that you do not approve of because they objectively violate God's law without falling into the trap of yourself violating God's law by judging them, something that is the prerogative of God alone? It is a balance that followers of Christ have struggled with throughout all the history of the Church. Often we have focussed solely on moralising the sinner while neglecting completely reaching out to them. Our attempts at correcting sin have themselves been sinful – sometimes, it would seem, more sinful than the sin they strive to correct, for they have taken people struggling with their failings and driven them out of the Church, the very place Christ created to be a hospital for the healing of those afflicted by sin.

We would have done better to follow the example of our Lord, as set out for us in this passage of Scripture. First, I do not think their meeting was accidental. St John tells us that Jesus is tired and waits by the well while the others go on into the town to buy food. And no doubt he was tired after their long journey from Judea. But was the one who fasted 40 days and 40 nights in the wilderness, the one who would later carry the great weight of the Cross from Jerusalem to Golgotha after a brutal scouring that would have killed most other men, is he really more tired than his disciples and unable to go on? Or is he engineering this meeting with the woman, so that he may reach out to her – and model for us how we also should reach out? For reach out of her he does – he, remember, is the one who initiates the conversation with her, much to her surprise, and persists, despite her somewhat barbed reaction to it. But his openness to this woman who has been marginalised by the society she lives in does not extend to an openness to the things that are wrong about her life. As we so often see him do elsewhere in the Gospels with those who have been excluded because of their behaviour, he points out her wrongdoings. He calls out her less than exemplary behaviour with regard to marital relations; and he even points out the manner in which she, along with all other Samaritans, have got things wrong in relation to the right practice of religion. And her reaction is illuminating. Does this sharp-tongued woman respond with angry words? Does she turn on her heel and walk away? No – his openness to her and his honesty about her situation convince her of the truth of what he says. We can learn much from her reaction – a person of goodwill will never be offended by the truth, even if it can be uncomfortable for them to hear it.

Indeed, far from being offended, the woman rushes back to the town, in such a hurry that she leaves her water jar behind, to tell other about the Messiah and bring them also to know Jesus. Over the course of her brief conversation with Jesus something remarkable has happened: she has gone from being a social pariah, to being a follower of Christ, to being an evangelist who brings others to know and believe in Jesus.

We have no name for the woman our Lord met by the well. But we do have names for others that we know – others that we exclude because we are unhappy about the way that they live, or whom, even if we do not exclude them from our lives we do not truly invite them in because we would find it too uncomfortable to share the gospel truths with them for fear it would cast an uncomfortable light on their own lives and the way that they live it. During the time that remains of Lent it might be a good idea to consider who it is in your life might fit that description. And then consider how you might follow the example of Christ by trying to reach out to them and helping them transform their lives utterly by drawing them back into the Kingdom of God. Amen.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

prayer diary Saturday 18 March (Day of Discipline and Self-denial)

'Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life.' 
Luke 15. 31, 32

Being lost in sin brings death. But repenting of that sin and returning to God restores one to life.

Friday, March 17, 2017

prayer diary Friday 17 March (St Patrick's Day)

Jesus said to them, ‘My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work.' 
John 4.34

Nourished by his faith in God, St Patrick returned to the land of his enslavement to bring the freedom that comes from the Gospel. God also sends you to share that Good News. Do you labour at the task you were given?

Thursday, March 16, 2017

prayer diary Thursday 16 March (Day of Discipline and Self-denial)

He called out, “Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in agony in these flames.” 
Luke 16. 24

The rich man cared only for his own pleasure in this life. He did not heed the warnings of Scripture and was blind to the suffering of others. Too late he learned his folly. Take warning from his fate.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

prayer diary Wednesday 15 March (Day of Discipline and Self-denial)

'Whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant.' 
Matthew 20.26

Christians are called to a life of loving, humble service of others. And you can perform no greater service for another than bringing him closer to God.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

prayer diary Tuesday 14 March (Day of Discipline and Self-denial)

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

Let all you do be for the greater glory of God. For if you do it for the praise of men, even if it is God's work, you have had your reward here on earth rather than laying up treasure in heaven.

Monday, March 13, 2017

prayer diary Monday 13 March (Day of Discipline and Self-denial)

'Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned.' 
Luke 6. 37

Judgement belongs to God alone. But do not mistake refusing to judge with approving, and thereby calling good, that which is against God's law.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

prayer diary Saturday 11 Mar 2017 (Day of Discipline and Self-denial)

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

As Christ was nailed to the cross, he prayed for those who hated him enough to make him suffer so. Therefore we, who are called to be like him in every way, must also pray for those who love us not.

Friday, March 10, 2017

prayer diary Friday 10 Mar 2017 (Day of Discipline and Self-denial)

But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgement; and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, “You fool”, you will be liable to the hell of fire. 
Matthew 5.22

Refrain from the violence you do to others from anger in a look, a word, or a thought. The satisfaction it gives is fleeting; and the damage is does to you is eternal.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

prayer diary Thursday 9 Mar 2017 (Day of Discipline and Self-denial)

‘Ask, and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you.' 
Matthew 7.7

How is it that we may ask anything of God other than through prayer? And what better thing to ask for than the strength to turn from our sins that we may attain unto eternal life? If you faithfully ask such of God, he will not deny it to you.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

prayer diary Wednesday 8 Mar 2017 (Day of Discipline and Self-denial)

‘This generation is an evil generation; it asks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah. For just as Jonah became a sign to the people of Nineveh, so the Son of Man will be to this generation.' 
Luke 11. 29-30


The people of Ninevah repented in sackcloth and ashes, fasting, when God spoke to them through Jonah. We have our warning through the Son himself. Can our response be less than the people of Ninevah?

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

prayer diary Tuesday 7 Mar 2017 (Day of Discipline and Self-denial)

'For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.' 
Matthew 6. 14-15

Forgiving those who have wronged us is not easy. Yet we hope that God will forgive us of our wrong-doings and Christ tells us for that to be possible we must also forgive. This Lent consider past hurts you have suffered and pray for the strength to forgive those who caused them.

Monday, March 6, 2017

prayer diary Monday 6 Mar 2017 (Day of Discipline and Self-denial)

'When the Son of Man comes in his glory … he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats ... And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.’ 
Matthew 25. 31,-32, 46

The season of Lent is a time of cleansing, a time to grow spiritually, and rid ourselves of that which separates us from God ... so that on that last day we may be found worthy to be counted among the righteous.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Lent Begins

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

Lent is a time when we engage in self-discipline, training ourselves in how to resist temptation. We deny ourselves things that are good and permitted us so that we might be better able to resist those things that are against God's law when we are tempted by them. It is a season modelled on our Lord's forty days – which is, of course, why we mark the first Sunday of this time with one of the Gospel accounts of Jesus' time of prayer and fasting in the desert. And if we study that account carefully, there is much we can learn, I think, about temptation and how we may resist it. Today I shall focus on just three things we may learn from this passage.

The first is that because we know that Jesus is the perfect man, like us in all things except for sin, that it is not sinful to be tempted. And it is very important indeed for us to know this. From time to time people come to me to discuss the fact that they have suffered from temptations; and some can be very distressed indeed that they have been tempted. They worry that the mere fact of being tempted is in itself sinful. And this is simply not the case; if it were, then Christ himself sinned. But since we know that to be impossible, then we can know that when we ourselves are tempted we do not sin. It is vital for this to know this; for if we think we have already sinned by being tempted, it is all the harder to resist committing the actual sin we are being tempted towards. Indeed, far from being distressed by temptations we ought, in a sense, welcome them; for we are told by St Thomas a Kempis, author of the 'Imitation of Christ', the most widely read book of Christian devotional literature in the world after the bible, that 'temptations are very profitable to man, troublesome and grievous though they may be, for in them, a man is humbled, purified and instructed. All the Saints passed through many tribulations and temptations and were purified by them.'

However, saying that it is not sinful to be tempted is not the same as saying it all right to dwell on our temptations. That is another lesson we learn this passage. Notice how our Lord each time that the Devil tries to tempt him he at once rejects the temptation. That is what we must do also – push it away at once if we can; and continue to fight it off if it does not at once retreat. This is spiritual warfare at its most basic; for if the enemy discovers a weakness in some areas he will try to work away at it if we allow him to. Remember the words of the letter of St James in this regard: resist the Devil and he will take flight. Therefore call on God when tempted; invoke Christ's name in your heart. Evil can not stand to be in the presence of good; and evil can not withstand the power of God. So trust in God when tempted and he will protect you. And as well as refusing to dwell on temptations when they assail you, learn from these battles how you may avoid future temptations. What are the circumstances that open you up to temptations? Are there particular social occasions that you know will make you particularly vulnerable to temptation? Then avoid them. Are there individuals whom you know will try to lead you astray? Do not keep their company. Are there television programmes, books, kinds of music that put you at risk? Thrust them from you. To paraphrase our Lord: it is better to enter the kingdom ignorant of the goings on during the course of the latest reality tv show than to know every detail of it and be cast into the flames.

And finally, we may take special note of the manner in which Christ resists the ancient enemy of all mankind – by calling upon God's Word as it has been revealed to man in Sacred Scripture. Satan, of course, tries to twist it to his own ends; but Christ uses it the way God intends and so the devil is defeated. We therefore must be well versed in Scripture. This means we must not only study it in depth, reading every passage carefully again and again throughout our lives, but we must be guided in our understanding by the manner in which it has been understood by the saints and doctors of the Church down through the ages. Satan's way is to pick a verse here and a verse there, rip it from its context, and spin it until it says the opposite of what God intends; but the Christian way is to focus on the way Scripture has always been understood so that we are not led astray by falsehoods parading themselves as fresh insights. As St Paul said, if anyone attempts to preach another Gospel than the one that he taught, let them be accursed.

As I draw to an end, one final thought. Our Lord, having having vanquished Satan during his time in the wilderness was then surrounded by and ministered to by angels. We should not think of Lent as a gloomy or grim time. The athlete as he trains is not miserable, but rather takes joy in the way his body grows stronger as a result of every challenge he sets it. So too we should rejoice in our spiritual growth in this season. Especially knowing that this strength will be rewarded not only with the company of angels come the end our our days, but to be in the presence of God himself: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.  

Saturday, March 4, 2017

prayer diary Saturday 4 March 2017 (Day of Discipline and Self-denial)

After this he went out and saw a tax-collector named Levi, sitting at the tax booth; and he said to him, ‘Follow me.’ And he got up, left everything, and followed him. 
Luke 5.27.28

Levi abandoned wealth, power, and position for a new life with and in Christ. What do you leave behind for the promise of eternal life?

Friday, March 3, 2017

prayer diary Friday 3 March 2017 (Day of Discipline and Self-denial)

And Jesus said to them, ‘The wedding-guests cannot mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them, can they? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast.'
Matthew 9. 15

Giving things up for Lent can sometimes seem old fashioned. But Christ envisaged that his disciples would fast, and there is never anything that he calls us to do that is out of fashion, for his message is the same yesterday, today, and always.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

prayer diary Thursday 2 March 2017 (Day of Discipline and Self-denial)

Then he said to them all, ‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.' 
Luke 9.23

Christ calls his followers to a life of daily self-denial. Consider your life and ask yourself: in what way have you taken up your cross?

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

reflections: my first Lent

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

Today is Ash Wednesday which marks the first day of Lent. I well remember my first Lent – or rather, the first Lent I actually engaged with in the sense of giving stuff up.
I was seven. We were living with my grandparents on their farm near Newmarket in North Cork. Our teacher, Mrs FitzPatrick, was quite religious – well, wasn't everyone back then? - and she encouraged us children to take the season seriously by giving something up.

Now this was back in what now seems like the dark ages. Television was black and white and had only one channel. There was no internet or mobile phones back then, so none of your 'digital fasts' from their beloved devices that are popular with some these days. No, back then giving things up meant giving up some tasty food item you were particularly fond of. Adults tended to go without milk and sugar in their tea – and perhaps the biscuits that normally went with it. Or maybe the drink. And children gave up sweets.

I found this both hard and surprisingly easy. Hard, because, as we all know, sweet things are pretty much addictive, so saying 'no' to them voluntarily is tough. On the other hand, children didn't have much money back then. This made sweets an occasional treat. I think my intake at the time would have been limited to a few penny sweets from the shop near the school a couple of days a week; with the odd chocolate bar thrown in … but something as large as a chocolate bar always had to be shared with friends, which meant you could only reasonably expect to eat at most half of any bar you bought.

So with relatively few sweets in my life my first Lent was tough - but not so bad that I thought it was going to kill me. And, of course, I comforted myself with the thought of all the sweets I would buy when it was all over. By the time I got to the end I had a whole lot of pennies burning a hole in my pocket screaming at me 'Lent is over – you can buy sweets again!' Not long after Easter Day we went to town for the Fair Day and I bought all the sweets I would have eaten over Lent at once. And then I ate them all. And felt dreadfully ill. I didn't actually throw up, which was a blessing as the whole town would have seen.

I would like to think that I have learned a little more about what the meaning of Lent is since I was that little boy. I think of the season as being a gift to us from God through his Church. It is a time that allows us to bring very forcefully to mind the fact that we are indeed sinners in need of redemption, sinners who need to repent. That is the significance of ashes on Ash Wednesday – the use of ashes being in keeping with the Biblical tradition of repenting in sackcloth and ashes; a tradition emphasised by our Lord in chapter 11 of St Matthew's Gospel when he speaks wonderingly at the lack of faith in certain cities that he has performed miracles in, and remarks that if certain foreign cities that the Jews regarded as sinful had seen such wonders they would have been moved to repent in sackcloth and ashes.
Lent is also a time that allows us to discipline ourselves in resisting temptations. We do not give up things just for the sake of doing so, or making some kind of a public display; no, we do it so that in order by giving up things that we are allowed to have or do we may be better able to resist doing things that are not in accordance with God's will. Just as the athlete trains in order to be better able to run the race, even though the training itself is not the race, so our training in resisting allowing ourselves small but permitted pleasures during Lent helps give us the self-mastery that will aid us from falling prey to temptation and doing what we know to be wrong.

But as I finish, one final thought. My first Lent as a child was perhaps not done as well as it might have been. But it was done with a childlike sincerity and simplicity. And our Lord, we know, exhorted us, to be like little children if we were to enter into the kingdom. So my prayer for you today is the hope that you may recapture some of your own childlike wonder and innocence as you engage with the season of Lent this year; and thereby grow stronger in the faith and closer to God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.  

prayer diary Ash Wednesday 2017 – a day of Special observance, discipline, & self-denial

But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that your fasting may be seen not by others but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. 
Matthew 6. 17,18

From the earliest days, Christians have observed Lent as a penitential season. It's 40 days echo Christ's own time in the wilderness. We, who are called to imitate Christ, must use this time to be ever more like him through the prayer, self-denial, and alms-giving that are the hallmarks of this season.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

prayer diary Tuesday 28 Feb 2017

Jesus said, ‘Truly I tell you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields, for my sake and for the sake of the good news, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this age—houses, brothers and sisters, mothers and children, and fields, with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life. 
Mark 10.29-30

There is everything to gain by turning to the Gospel. As you prepare to begin Lent tomorrow, think as to how this time of prayer and fasting will help you achieve eternal life.

Monday, February 27, 2017

prayer diary Monday 27 Feb 2017

Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, ‘You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.’ 
Mark 10. 21

The material things of this world can stand between us and Christ, between us and eternal life. As you prepare for Lent this year consider how you may defeat the hold that the passing things of this world have over you and gain instead treasure that is eternal.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

building on sand

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

Our Gospel reading today might be termed the parable of the wise and foolish builders. The wise man's house has its foundations upon rock and is secure against all that might threaten it; the foolish upon sand and is washed away. Our Lord tells us that it those who hear and obey his words who are like the wise man; and those who do not are like the fool. If you detect an ominous tone in this parable, you would not be wrong. For in it Jesus is telling his followers that those who are obedient to God will be rewarded; and that those who are not will be punished.

Now we live in an age in which many people do not like to be reminded that heaven is not the only option when it comes to the next life. And such as they might decry this passage as being threatening, an attempt at frightening them into being good out of a fear of divine punishment. But I think it would be wrong to interpret our Lord's words as a threat. He is Truth incarnate and therefore speaks only the truth; and therefore when he tells us that there is one fate for those who hear and obey and another for those who do not he is simply laying out the facts. And he does so with the purpose of warning us of the dangers that we face.

Now, of course, being warned of dangers can worry people. I remember, for example, when I was in the army that we were warned that some of the areas in which we did training exercises was home to Black Widow spiders. Now, black widows are, as I am sure all know, highly poisonous. Their bite will not generally kill a healthy adult but it will make them quite ill and is certainly no pleasant thing. So any time we got the news that we would be training in a place where they were commonly present not surprisingly made some of the troops quite nervous. Some people, of course, are terrified of spiders, even soldiers, which only made things worse.

So you can well imagine that when we were in those parts of the training grounds, living in tents, there was a good deal of careful checking of boots in the morning before putting them on. Typically, we'd peer into them, then bang them together vigorously, then turn them upside down and shake them even more vigorously, and then, provided no unwelcome guest had fallen out, shove our feet into them with great force, on the theory that if one had managed to stay ensconced inside our military issue shoe leather then the swift entrance of a foot into the boot would crush any deadly spider before it had a chance to bite our toes through our thick military issue socks. And, not surprisingly, once the boots were safely on, a careful checking of the tent corners followed. I remember on several occasions finding that the night had indeed brought a dark arachnid among us; but the problem was easily solved by the donning of my thick leather gauntlets and gently but carefully escorting the uninvited guests from the premises and back out into the woods.

So a serious enough problem. But people were careful and I never heard of anyone being bitten during my time there. However, imagine the authorities had chosen not to warn us. People certainly would have come to harm. Fingers and toes would have been painfully nibbled by the unpleasant lady spiders. And the excuse that 'we didn't want to worry people … or have them think we were trying to frighten them into being careful' would have sounded pretty weak indeed.

The fact is that warnings serve a purpose. And a little bit of concern over what the consequences might be if we fail to heed those warnings serves a purpose also. And just as the fear of being bitten by a poisonous spider kept us on the lookout for their presence in the army, so in life the warnings of Christ as to the consequences for those who do not listen to his word and obey helps keep us on the straight and narrow path.

And, as I draw to a close, I think it important to remind you why it is that our Lord gives us these warnings. It is because he loves us. Warnings, after all, are not given to inspire fear, but because we either love those we warn or have a duty of care toward them. And just as the warning about black widows did leave us all cowering with fear, neither should Christ's frighten us. For our Saviour has not only warned us, he has provided us with the means to be safe. He has given us the rock on which to build so that no danger may ever threaten us and we may come safely to the end of our lives to be with him in heaven. This what he wants – and he wants it so badly that he was willing to take flesh and suffer and die on the cross so that we might indeed by saved. All we have to do in return is trust in him and choose wisely. And I pray that you all will. Amen.  

Saturday, February 25, 2017

prayer diary Saturday 25 Feb 2017

'Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.’
Mark 10.15

God is our Father and we are his children. And we must be his loving children, obedient to his will, if we are to enter into eternal life.

Friday, February 24, 2017

prayer diary Friday 24 Feb 2017 (Day of Discipline and Self-denial)

“a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.’ 
Mark 10.7-9

Christian marriage is more than a mere civil contract. Through it the couple witness to the world their faith in God through their adherence to his law.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

prayer diary Thursday 23 Feb 2017

'If any of you put a stumbling-block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea.' 
Mark 9.42

Leading or provoking others to sin is gravely offensive to God, particularly when they are the young or vulnerable whom compassion dictates you should take especial care that they are not lead astray.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

prayer diary Wednesday 22 Feb 2017

'For truly I tell you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ will by no means lose the reward.' 
Mark 9.41

Small actions done with loving care matter much in God's eyes, especially when done for those whose need is great.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

prayer diary Tuesday 21 Feb 2017

‘Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.’ 
Mark 9.37

We must treat the weak and vulnerable of this world as if they were our Lord himself if we wish to have God in our lives.

Monday, February 20, 2017

prayer diary Monday 20 Feb 2017

His disciples asked him privately, ‘Why could we not cast the unclean spirit out?’ He said to them, ‘This kind can come out only through prayer.’ 
Mark 9. 28,29

We face many dangers and temptations in this life that we can not conquer on our own. It is only by calling on God's help through prayer that we may prevail and be saved.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

they neither toil nor spin

May my words be in the name of the Holy & Undivided Trinity: Father, Son, & Holy Spirit.
I remember once while I was working in Revenue being approached by a colleague, asking me to lend him a hand in getting a case settled that had being going on for a few years. I told him that I would be happy to, but would have to check with my line-supervisor first. He was amenable to the idea, particularly as he also wanted to see the case finalised, as it had been on our books far too long in his opinion.
'But,' he told me, 'I'll warn you now, you'll have to do most of the work on this. That chap is like the lillies of the field.'
'What do you mean?' asked.
'He does not toil, neither does he spin,' came the reply. It is an interesting twist, I think, on our Lord's words, which we hear in our gospel reading today, being used to describe someone who was particularly shiftless and idle; words, as we all know, I am sure, which were intended to make clear to us how great is God's wisdom and generosity in how he meets all our needs. When I think of all the amazing ways in which God provides for us, I find it difficult not to think of the 40 years the people of Israel spent wandering in the desert – during which time, we are told by sacred scripture, neither their clothes nor their shoes wore out, their need for food being met by manna from heaven and great flocks of quails, and whose need for water was met by the rock that Moses struck and from which a great torrent then poured out – a rock that, we are told by St Paul in First Corinthians, followed them. God therefore provided them with all they needed to survive during their time in the wilderness.
It is a powerful scriptural reminder to us, I think, of what we should know from looking at the world around us, how God provides with everything we need in this world he has created for us to live in. And because God has given us everything we need we must stop worrying, Christ tells us. Stop worrying that we do not have enough – or if we have enough for today perhaps we will not have enough for tomorrow or the day after. Trust in God; we know he will provide because he has already provided. Accept his gifts gratefully … and start to concern yourself with things that are of greater importance – the salvation of souls. Strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, Christ tells us. This means we must give spiritual matters a higher place than material. Christ assures that matters relating to bodily needs will be met by God – so we have therefore no excuse when it comes to souls - your soul, the souls of your family and those around you in the community in which you live, and the souls of those in the world around us.

And of course, just as God has provided us with the means to sustain our bodies, so he provides us with the means to sustain our souls. And because it is for us of greater worth to seek the kingdom of God than it is to search out earthly treasure, therefore we must understand that the spiritual gifts God provides for us are of a higher worth than all the material wonders he provides us with. First he has given us our reason, by dint of which, as St Paul tells us in Romans, all people may come to know him – at least in the sense of knowing he exists and having the knowledge of right and wrong written in or hearts. More specifically, he has given us his word in Sacred Scriptures – a treasury of revelation through which he has spoken to men and women down through the ages and continues to speak to us today. He has also revealed himself to us even more fully through his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who came into the world to suffer and die for our sins so that all might be saved. That Son established a Church to which he gave Sacraments – sacraments which are a channel of grace for us, and a powerful way for us to strengthen our spiritual lives. And just as he ensured the Israelites in the wilderness had the food they needed to sustain during their wanderings, so to does he give us the spiritual food and drink we need to sustain our souls during our pilgrimage here on earth. And not just any food, but the very body and blood of his Son Jesus Christ – the second person of the Blessed Trinity – God himself! For as Christ himself told us in Scriptures, his body is true food, and his blood true drink … and those who eat and drink of it will have eternal life … never, of course, forgetting St Paul's words that we must do so worthily – not that we can ever be truly worthy of so great a gift, but even then God's provides us with the means to be as worthy as we may through his gifts of baptism, and confession and absolution … showing that we are all, in a sense, like more like my idle colleague in the civil service than we may realise … for when it comes to what truly matters in life, we indeed neither toil or spin, but God our Heavenly Father provides … and for such great gifts I pray that we are now, and always be, truly grateful. Amen.