Thursday, April 26, 2018

prayer diary Thursday 26 April 2018

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

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

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

prayer diary Wednesday 25 April 2018

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

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

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

prayer diary Tuesday 24 April 2018

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

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

Monday, April 23, 2018

prayer diary Monday 23 April 2018

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

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

Sunday, April 22, 2018

the faith - what you have signed up for!

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

When I joined the US Army I had to take an oath to defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic. I remember the day well. We were gathered in a large, low-ceilinged room in a recruiting centre in North Florida. The décor was quite dull, as were all government offices at the time – a very plain, beige carpet, walls painted a nondescript shade of green, and with a scattering of desks and chairs, all the standard government issue gunmetal grey. The only splash of colour was the red, white, and blue of the flag in the presence of which the oath had to be taken.

The people who were to take that oath with me that day varied considerably. They ranged in from late teens to mid-thirties, covering the whole span from youngest to oldest ages at which a person might join up. Some were Black, some Hispanic, some Asian, others, like myself, Caucasian. Perhaps other ethnic groups were represented, but nothing stands out in my memory. The style of dress varied greatly also. Some were in t-shirts and jeans, a few in hoodies; a small number were dressed quite formally, men in suits, women in dresses. The majority would have been somewhere in between – smart casual is the term, I believe – the men wearing proper shirts but no ties with neatly ironed trousers, and the women blouses and skirts.

Really, the whole melting pot that is American society was represented there that day. But whatever their age, ethnicity, or socio-economic background all there had one thing in common: they were all prepared to make a solemn pledge that if need be they would die to defend the values of their society and the democratic way of life.

Most soldiers know, of course, that they will never be called upon to make that ultimate sacrifice. Even in times of war most in uniform have a very good chance, statistically speaking, of avoiding not just death but serious injury as well. But that was not what Jesus was signing up for, so to speak, when he became man. Death was certain. As he says in our Gospel today, He is the good shepherd who lays down his life for the sheep – the sheep being all of mankind, all those who have ever lived or ever will live.

And like a soldier, he laid down his life for a purpose. That purpose was the salvation of all mankind. But unlike a soldier he had the power not only to lay down his life, he had the power to take it up again. And by his rising he destroyed the power that death had over his flock – like him all would die; and like him all would rise again – but to eternal life on the last day.

But until that day comes, he left work for his flock to do. In our Gospel we also hear our Lord speaking of the sheep who are not of this fold who must be brought in also. Jesus was telling his disciples that he had not come only for the Jews, but for all the people of the world. This is a teaching that he would give to his followers more than once – for example at the end of Matthew's Gospel in what is often called the Great Commission where he told them make disciples of all peoples.

And how are we progressing with that work? Well, with over two billion Christians in the world some might think not badly. But if we consider that there are around six billion people in the world there is clearly much that needs to be done. Indeed, perhaps much more than we might first think. Firstly, how many of those two billion are Christians in name only, people who although they are baptised live no differently to those who are not, people who would never dream of allowing the teachings of their faith to interfere with how they live? And secondly, there is our Lord's teaching that there should be one flock and one shepherd. And there is indeed only one shepherd and can be only one, our Lord himself, but the flock is sadly divided into many thousands of different denominations.

So there remains much work to be done. And looking to further words of our Lord's in today's gospel, the place to begin that work is, as always, with ourselves. We must not be as those he condemns as hirelings, who care nothing for the flock. And because Jesus commanded all his followers to make disciples of all nations, all have a role in caring for his flock – both in increasing it by bringing more in and maintaining it by supporting and encouraging those already within the fold in the faith. All, of course, have different roles to play; but there are certain basics that all must fulfil. 

The first is we that must know our faith. This involves both the regular reading of scripture and educating oneself in the teachings of the faith. Studying what the Church teaches did not end with Confirmation class – that was only supposed to be the beginning of a new stage in your journey of faith! 

Next, we must live our faith. Private prayer and regular attendance at public worship are a vital part of this. Those blessed with having the care of children and young people must ensure they are instructed in the faith – part of which is the example of godly living that they see in the home. Decisions, small and especially great, must be proceeded by prayer and careful consideration of what it is that the doctrines of the faith instruct us as to what is right and wrong in particular situations – by which I mean the teachings given by Christ to his Apostles and handed down by his Church generation after generation, not some new and fashionable thought that someone came up with five minutes ago. 

And third and last we must proclaim our faith. I do not mean by this standing on the side of the road holding up a sign that says 'sinner repent!', but rather in our everyday interactions with others. If someone tries to get you involved in some deal that means cheating of some kind – a good price for cash, for example, but no receipts so that the taxman need never know – not only say no, but say why you're saying no. If you are discussing the issues of the day with friends, don't be afraid to make it clear that your Christian faith informs your views. If an election candidates comes knocking on your door, make it clear that if they want your vote they have to represent your values … and if it happens to be someone who said one thing to you last time round and then behaved another once elected, make it clear that they needn't expect your vote this time and why. 

And, of course, when you do vote cast it in accordance with those Christian values. Secularists make no bones about trying to see their values enshrined as matters of public policy – why should a Christian feel it is wrong to also vote in the way he or she feels is right? And, in any case, if Christians will not vote in support of Christians values, then who will?

This may seem like a lot. But really it is not. It is simply a small part of what it is to live as a Christian in the world – something, I will add, that you faithfully promised that you would do as part of the vows you made at Confirmation. These, rather like a soldier's oath, commit you to serve as Christ's witnesses in the world. Such living is not something you will be awarded medals for - indeed, many in the world many condemn you for your fidelity to Christ. But this should not dismay us but rather cheer us. Christ told us to be afraid if the world hates us, for it hated him first; and his followers all through the ages always considered it a great privilege to suffer for the sake of his name. Indeed, we even today we have a title of great honour for those who die for the faith – martyr. But even if our fidelity brings neither medals nor martyrdom, it brings us something greater: eternal life in heaven. And this is something for which we must thank God always: Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

prayer diary Saturday 21 April 2018

Jesus said; 'It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh is useless. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.' 
John 6. 63

We worry a great deal about material things – which we indeed need to live. But we must not in pursuing these things neglect those which are more important – those which lead to eternal life.

Friday, April 20, 2018

prayer diary Friday 20 April 2018

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

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

Thursday, April 19, 2018

prayer diary Thursday 19 April 2018

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

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

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

prayer diary Wednesday 18 April 2018

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

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

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

prayer diary Tuesday 17 April 2018

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

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

Monday, April 16, 2018

prayer diary Monday 16 April 2018

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

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

Sunday, April 15, 2018

giving thanks for the Resurrection

Christ is Risen! The Lord is risen indeed – Alleluia!

In our Gospel reading today our Lord, having come to spend time with his disciples, shows that he is truly a living man of flesh and blood and bone. He touches things. He eats food. They both see him and hear him. And at the end of his time with them, he tells they are witnesses to what they have seen and heard and they are to preach to all the nations his good news of penance and remission of sins to all nations.

They were his witnesses. And in this season of the resurrection, it makes me wonder when it was that all here first heard that good news – that Jesus was risen from the dead. Truly, I must say I can not say the precise moment when I first heard that good news. My first memories connected with religion is of when I was a small boy, kneeling with my brother by the side of the bed as our mother taught us our prayers. My sister was too young to be with us, still being a baby in her cot. And as I am two years older than her I must have been somewhere between the ages of two and three. I do not remember the precise moment, as I said, when I first heard the resurrection mentioned; but it was most likely at that young age with my mother and brother.

A few days ago I came across a short video clip on line of a man who remembered precisely when he first heard of the Resurrection. He was an elderly bishop of the Romanian Orthodox Church, Metropolitan Ioan (John) of Timisoara, and he told the story in a very moving way. Allow me to tell you in his own words how it was that he told the story. My telling, I am afraid, will not do justice to the heart-felt emotion with which he told it. You must imagine a very old man with a long white beard; his eyes are full of tears as he speaks; and he says what he has to say very slowly, because he has to stop often, so choked is he with emotion at the memory of what it is that he is recounting:

I will tell you when I received the good news in my life. When I was in the cradle, on Easter night, my mother went to the church for the service of Resurrection. And… She came back home with the lit candle. Leaning over my cradle, making the sign of the cross with the lit candle she whispered to me: “Christ is Risen!” Since then, I believe in the Resurrection, because my mother never lied to meBrothers and sisters, I also believe that your mothers never lied to you…”

He does not give his exact age for when this took place. Now, he says he was in his cradle; but the Romanian word he uses might equally well translate as cot, and as he remembers the details we may estimate that he was a small boy, a toddler, perhaps around two. Why was he so emotional as he told the story? Well, perhaps it was simply because he was an old man being a little bit sentimental, remembering a tender moment from when he was a small child with his mother who has long since gone to her grave. But it is more likely his tears are a combination of joy and sorrow. Joy as he thinks back to the time when his mother gave him the most precious gift one person can give another – the wondrous central truth of our faith that Christ is risen … and sorrow as he thinks of all those who have been offered that great gift, lovingly by their mother, or perhaps their father … only for that gift to be rejected … if not openly, by their child's later failure to lead a Christian life … or even try to do so.

That sorrow would not just be for the one who has so foolishly rejected the gift of eternal life … but also for the pain of all those mothers and fathers who have seen their children chose not the narrow path that leads to life, but the broad one that leads to perdition. For all parents want what is best for their children; this includes, of course, the good things of this life; but far more important are those that lead to eternal life. For no life is a success if it does not end in heaven.

This is why parents, in the Christian tradition, are the primary educators of their children. It is so that they can bring them up in a godly fashion – so they can do for them as Christ commanded his disciples and be his witnesses to them. If all parents took that duty seriously so many of the evils in the world would be eliminated. Parents would go to their graves proud of their children, not because they had a good job or a fancy car, but because they were faithful disciples of Christ. And those same children, when they were old and grey themselves, would weep tears of joy that they had had such parents … parents who loved them enough to give them to gift of faith in Christ … the faith that would bring them one day to the place where they would be with God: Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Christ is Risen! The Lord is risen indeed – Alleluia!

Saturday, April 14, 2018

prayer diary Saturday 14 April 2018

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

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

Friday, April 13, 2018

prayer diary Friday 13 April 2018

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

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

Thursday, April 12, 2018

prayer diary Thursday 12 April 2018

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

Christ, here in his own words, links the eternal life he offers both with belief in him and obedience to his teachings. Ponder these words deeply and pray that you may both believe and live out his teachings daily in your life.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

prayer diary Wednesday 11 April 2018

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

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

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

prayer diary Tuesday 10 April 2018

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

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

Monday, April 9, 2018

prayer diary Monday 9 April 2018

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

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

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Doubting Thomas and weak theories

Christ is Risen! The Lord is risen indeed – Alleluia!

This might well be thought of as the Sunday of Doubting Thomas, for the reading that earned him that nick-name is the traditional one for this day. The reason for its place in our liturgical calendar is obvious. The appearance of our Lord that he 'missed' took place on Easter Day; and the one that he was present for happened exactly one week later, what we would now term as the second Sunday of Easter.

St Thomas, of course, might seem a very appropriate saint to be high-lighted at this time of year. Because even as Christians recall and celebrate the resurrection of Christ from the dead, the doubters and the nay-sayers predictably crawl out of the wood-work to re-cycle all their old anti-religious 'fake news'. Particularly they love to make all sorts of false claims about how Christianity has hi-jacked various pagan festivals and symbols. In this case the hi-jacked occasion would be the celebration of the coming of Spring with Easter; and the hi-jacked symbols would be those associated with fertility such as rabbits and eggs.

So in the interests of what in modern parlance is called 'fact checking' let us examine those claims, beginning with the claim that Christians have somehow tried to take over a pre-existing Spring Festival with Easter. First, let us note that the best lies always contain some small element of truth. So it is indeed true that festivals celebrating the coming of Spring long pre-date Christianity. But what of it? That Christians celebrate Easter during this season has nothing to do with the timing of various pagan festivals. It is rooted in the historical fact that Jesus died on Good Friday, at the beginning of the Jewish Passover festival; and rose from the dead three days later, what we now refer to as the first Easter Day. The suggestion that Christians were somehow acting strategically, picking a time that was already a cause for celebration in wider society so that it could in some way supplant the existing festivals is nonsense that flies in the face of the historical facts. 

Indeed, given that Easter is a movable feast, one whose date can vary by several weeks from one year to the next, one would wonder exactly what pagan festival it is supposed to be taking over. Of course, the purveyors of modern doubt never specify; they merely talk vaguely about pagan festivals without ever identifying exactly which one Easter is supposed to have supplanted.

Some, occasionally, will try to do a little better and talk about how the word Easter comes from the Old English word 'Eostre' which scholars speculate was the name of a pre-Christian Old English goddess. However, by doing so, they merely compound their ignorance. 'Eostre' was the name given to April in the Old English calendar; and because April is the month in which Easter normally falls, with the passage of time, the Christian festival in English became known as Easter. But it is only called Easter in the English language. Originally in Greek and later in Latin it was referred to as 'Pascha', referring to the Passover. It is still known as Pascha in many other languages; and even in English the word Paschal remains – used, for example, to describe the Paschal candle lit during the Easter season. There was never, it should be noted, a spring festival in honour of this goddess as far as we know; a pagan deity, it should be remembered, whose existence remains a theory constructed for the sole purpose of explaining why it is that a month in the Old English calendar should have the name that it did.

Regarding eggs – they are indeed a fertility symbol of long-standing. But their association with Easter has to do with the fact that during Lent Christians traditionally fasted from them, along with meat, dairy, alcohol, and other items. It became the custom to paint eggs and give them to children as treats once the fast was over; and the tradition continued even after the practice of fasting from them during Lent was abandoned in the Western Church. As for the Easter Bunny – well, given their fast-paced breeding, rabbits have not surprisingly long been associated with fertility.

But the association of rabbits and Easter is a rather late development. Children today have no idea how lucky they are – for having done some historical research of the matter it would seem that the Easter Bunny made his first appearance in the late 17th Century, less than 350 years ago. Why he should have done so then and not before is a matter that is shrouded in mystery; but the fact remains that for most of Christian history there was no bunny bearing eggs to children; and by the time he appeared paganism was long vanished from our society. The idea that he is some kind of Christian hi-jacking of some old pagan symbol is simply too ludicrous to take seriously.

Interestingly, these rather lame theories are put forward by those who claim to be too intelligent to be taken in by the foolishness of religion. Of course, if they were really as smart as they think they were they wouldn't keep repeating their tired old claims about Christians festivals. But instead they cling to them and continue to repeat them no matter how often their errors are refuted. They could learn a lot from St Thomas. He may have doubted for a short time; but once he was confronted from the truth he turned from his error and uttered the words for he should be better remembered, the words which made him the first to directly acknowledge the divinity of Christ: my Lord and my God. That is the truth that we celebrate in this season; a truth that has withstood all the foolish errors, half-truths, and deliberate falsehoods that the world has thrown at it down through the ages … and will continue to do so until the end of the ages. For Christ is Risen! The Lord is risen indeed – Alleluia!

Saturday, April 7, 2018

prayer diary Saturday 7 April 2018

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

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

Friday, April 6, 2018

prayer diary Friday 6 April 2018

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

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

Thursday, April 5, 2018

prayer diary Thursday 5 April 2018

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

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

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

prayer diary Wednesday 4 April 2018

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

Great was the joy of the men who journeyed to Emmaus when they recognised our Lord in the breaking of the bread! Great must our joy be also, we who like them are priveleged to meet with him in the breaking of the bread.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

prayer diary Tuesday 3 April 2018

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

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

Monday, April 2, 2018

prayer diary Monday 2 April 2018

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

The reaction of the women to the empty tomb was both fear and joy. Joy the grave no longer held their master; but fear as to what all this might mean. Therefore, even as you rejoice in the resurrection, tremble also as to what it means for you.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Christ is Risen! He is risen indeed – Alleluia!

Christ is Risen! He is risen indeed – Alleluia!

We gather here this morning to celebrate one of the greatest historical events that has taken place since the beginning of the world – the Resurrection of our Lord. I use the word 'historical' deliberately – for ours is a faith that is grounded in history, in things that took place at certain places and at certain times, happenings which we need have no doubt are completely and utterly true. And we know that they are true because the documentary evidence that supports the facts that took place during our Lord's time on this earth are more varied and of greater reliability than we have for any other event that took place around that time.

Some will say the Gospels and the other New Testament writings are not to be trusted because the writers had an agenda. But all writers have an agenda. Why should a writer be trusted more because he wishes to glorify some military or political leader than one who wishes to share the good news of Jesus Christ? If we are to apply such a standard fairly, then we must say that there is nothing we know from written sources of what happened in the Ancient World that can be relied upon. Most would, rightly, regard such a position as nonsense; and therefore the idea that the facts as related to us as in Scripture as to the details of our Lord's life are not to be trusted are equally nonsensical. The same standards must apply to both; what is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.

This means that the events that took place in Jerusalem at the time of the Passover Festival in the year of our Lord thirty-three are to be accepted as absolute fact. Jesus did indeed enter the city to the acclamation of the crowds shortly before the festival began. A few days later one of his own closest disciples betrayed him for money and handed him over to his enemies, the religious authorities of the city. They, regarding him as a danger to their own power and as someone who might bring down the wrath of the Roman overlords upon the region, conspired against him, falsely accusing him of blasphemy to turn the people against him, and of fomenting rebellion so that the Romans would have cause to execute him. The governor, Pilate, saw through their deception, but allowed the execution anyway rather than risk a riot in the city and out of fear that the Jewish leaders would send false reports about him also to Rome. And so Jesus was scourged, made to carry his cross, and crucified. And after a few hours upon the cross, he died and was buried by two members of the Council, Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, while women from his group of followers watched.

All are happy, whatever their religious persuasion or none, to accept this account of what happened in Jerusalem during those frightful days. And had the story ended there, no one would have raised any issues. It would simple be the tale of a holy man like Buddha, who lived and died; or a wise man like Socrates, conspired against by his enemies and executed. But the story does not end there; and that is what makes it one of the greatest historical events to ever take place. For Jesus did not remain in the grave – he rose from the dead. Such things do not happen say the scoffers. But the evidence that he did is just as good as it is for the facts concerning how he died; to believe those and refuse to believe the rest is to fail to be consistent. These are the historical facts. Jesus lived. Jesus died. And Jesus rose from the dead.

Not only is this true, it is something that all should want to be true. For it is a truth that gives ultimate meaning to all our lives. Without it the coming into being of the universe is an inexplicable occurrence; the existence of life is a matter of highly unlikely random chance; and that there is intelligent life is even more unbelievably unlikely. Without it all our lives are just the blink of the eye in the vastness of eternity – we came into being for no reason, our brief time consciousness is without significance, and soon we will die and all too quickly what we have done will be forgotten … even those lucky few whose lives and deeds are remembered for a short number of decades or even centuries after their deaths are little better off, for time will consume the universe and everything that exists will fade into nothingness.

But we know that this is not the case. We know this because Jesus rose from the grave, proving to us and all the world that what he told us was true. We have a God who loves us so much that he became man for our sakes; a God who made both the world and us; a God who created us so that once our lives on this earth was over, might live with him for all eternity in heaven.

And we know this to be true not just because it is something that we want to be true, not just because it is something that are hearts know to be true in spite of what logic and reason tell us, but because the plain and simple historical facts, documented and attested beyond all doubt, tell us that it is true. This day all those many years ago Jesus rose from the dead and left behind him an empty tomb – breaking the bonds of death for all and letting us know that our lives and every life is precious and full of meaning – not just now but into all eternity. No wonder we celebrate this day – it is something that we should celebrate every day for the rest of our time on this earth – and then, please God, continue celebrating with him throughout all eternity. For Christ is Risen! He is risen indeed – Alleluia!

Examin: Easter Day

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

Saturday, March 31, 2018

prayer diary Easter Eve (Day of special Observance & Discipline & Self-denial)

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

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

Friday, March 30, 2018

prayer diary Good Friday (Day of special Observance & Discipline & Self-denial)

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

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

Thursday, March 29, 2018

prayer diary Maundy Thursday (Day of special Observance & Discipline & Self-denial)

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

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

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

prayer diary Wed in Holy Week (Day of special Observance & Discipline & Self-denial)

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

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

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

prayer diary Tuesday in Holy Week (Day of special Observance & Discipline & Self-denial)

Very truly, I tell you, 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 12.24

Christ, being fully human, loved his life as much as any man. Yet he willingly laid it aside for our sake. Pray that you may never by your actions reject so great a sacrifice.

Monday, March 26, 2018

prayer diary Monday in Holy Week (Day of special Observance & Discipline & Self-denial)

Jesus said, ‘Leave her alone. She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial.' 
John 12. 7

Our Lord well knew that the time of his suffering and death was near. Pray for his grace that you never willingly act to wound our Blessed Saviour further.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Passion Sunday: The Long Gospel

Mark 15. 1-47

1 And as soon as it was morning the chief priests, with the elders and scribes, and the whole council held a consultation; and they bound Jesus and led him away and delivered him to Pilate. 2 And Pilate asked him, "Are you the King of the Jews?" And he answered him, "You have said so." 3 And the chief priests accused him of many things. 4 And Pilate again asked him, "Have you no answer to make? See how many charges they bring against you." 5 But Jesus made no further answer, so that Pilate wondered.

6 Now at the feast he used to release for them one prisoner for whom they asked. 7 And among the rebels in prison, who had committed murder in the insurrection, there was a man called Barab'bas. 8 And the crowd came up and began to ask Pilate to do as he was wont to do for them. 9 And he answered them, "Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?" 10 For he perceived that it was out of envy that the chief priests had delivered him up. 11 But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have him release for them Barab'bas instead.

12 And Pilate again said to them, "Then what shall I do with the man whom you call the King of the Jews?" 13 And they cried out again, "Crucify him." 14 And Pilate said to them, "Why, what evil has he done?" But they shouted all the more, "Crucify him." 15 So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released for them Barab'bas; and having scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified. 

16 And the soldiers led him away inside the palace (that is, the praetorium); and they called together the whole battalion. 17 And they clothed him in a purple cloak, and plaiting a crown of thorns they put it on him. 18 And they began to salute him, "Hail, King of the Jews!" 19 And they struck his head with a reed, and spat upon him, and they knelt down in homage to him. 20 And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the purple cloak, and put his own clothes on him. And they led him out to crucify him.

21 And they compelled a passer-by, Simon of Cyre'ne, who was coming in from the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to carry his cross. 22 And they brought him to the place called Gol'gotha (which means the place of a skull). 23 And they offered him wine mingled with myrrh; but he did not take it. 24 And they crucified him, and divided his garments among them, casting lots for them, to decide what each should take. 25 And it was the third hour, when they crucified him.

26 And the inscription of the charge against him read, "The King of the Jews." 27 And with him they crucified two robbers, one on his right and one on his left. 29 And those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads, and saying, "Aha! You who would destroy the temple and build it in three days, 30 save yourself, and come down from the cross!" 31 So also the chief priests mocked him to one another with the scribes, saying, "He saved others; he cannot save himself. 32 Let the Christ, the King of Israel, come down now from the cross, that we may see and believe." Those who were crucified with him also reviled him.

33 And when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. 34 And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, "E'lo-i, E'lo-i, la'ma sabach-tha'ni?" which means, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" 35 And some of the bystanders hearing it said, "Behold, he is calling Eli'jah." 36 And one ran and, filling a sponge full of vinegar, put it on a reed and gave it to him to drink, saying, "Wait, let us see whether Eli'jah will come to take him down."

37 And Jesus uttered a loud cry, and breathed his last.

38 And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. 39 And when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that he thus breathed his last, he said, "Truly this man was the Son of God!"

40 There were also women looking on from afar, among whom were Mary Mag'dalene, and Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salo'me, 41 who, when he was in Galilee, followed him, and ministered to him; and also many other women who came up with him to Jerusalem.

42 And when evening had come, since it was the day of Preparation, that is, the day before the sabbath, 43 Joseph of Arimathe'a, a respected member of the council, who was also himself looking for the kingdom of God, took courage and went to Pilate, and asked for the body of Jesus. 44 And Pilate wondered if he were already dead; and summoning the centurion, he asked him whether he was already dead. 45 And when he learned from the centurion that he was dead, he granted the body to Joseph. 
46 And he bought a linen shroud, and taking him down, wrapped him in the linen shroud, and laid him in a tomb which had been hewn out of the rock; and he rolled a stone against the door of the tomb. 

47 Mary Mag'dalene and Mary the mother of Joses saw where he was laid.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

prayer diary Saturday 24 Mar 2018 (Day of Discipline and Self-denial)

Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, ‘You know nothing at all! You do not understand that it is better for you to have one man die for the people than to have the whole nation destroyed.’ 
John 11. 49, 50

Caiaphas, in his unwitting prophecy of Christ's death, condemns himself. He seeks to have a man killed in order that peace may be maintained. But it is never permissible to do evil on the grounds that you seek a good end.

Friday, March 23, 2018

prayer diary Friday 23 Mar 2018 (Day of Discipline and Self-denial)

‘It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you, but for blasphemy, because you, though only a human being, are making yourself God.’ 
John 10.33

Some try to pick and chose what they will accept about Christ's teaching. Yet it can not be so. To reject part of what he teaches is to reject him.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

prayer diary Thursday 22 Mar 2018 (Day of Discipline and Self-denial)

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

Here Christ binds his promise of eternal life to obedience to his word. We must then ask his grace to do his will; and, truly repenting, his pardon when we fail.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

prayer diary Wednesday 21 Mar 2018 (Day of Discipline and Self-denial)

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

Did God need Mary? No, for he might have chosen another way to bring about our salvation. But he did not so chose; and so we must give thanks for Mary's 'fiat', her 'let it be with me according to your word;' for from her obedience did the Incarnation begin.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

the obedience of Christ

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

Our Gospel reading today begins with the requests of some Greeks who were visiting to Jerusalem to St Philip that they might see Jesus, might meet with him. There are two interesting points concerning them that strike me. The first is that in original language of the New Testament, which is Greek, these men are quite literally described as Greeks … but in some older translations this is rendered as 'gentiles'. There is a reason for this, I suspect; in many other places in the New Testament, particularly is some of the writings of St Paul the word 'Greeks' is really meant as a synonym for gentiles, the Jewish term for all those who were not Jews. We may think perhaps of what he says in his letter to the Galatians when he says that there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for all are one in Christ. The tradition of the Church down through the ages has been to understand what St Paul here is not literally someone from Greece but rather all people who are not Jewish – and for that reason some modern translations actually use the word 'gentile' in place of Greek, to avoid confusion in this age when biblical literacy and the understanding of our heritage is not what it once was among Christian peoples. Regarding our reading today, the reason, I think, that some older translations use the word 'gentiles' here is because they regard it as more important for us to understand that there were people who were neither from the Holy Land or even of Jewish origin present at that time, rather than knowing the precise country they were from.

The second interesting point is that after they are introduced they disappear from the text completely! These men take their request to St Philip; he repeats it to St Andrew and together they take it to Jesus – who them begins to teach them about the things that to happen to him … and we are never told how he responded to the request that was made to him by these foreigners and whether they ever indeed get to meet with him.

This is not, I think, a lapse in the story-telling techniques of the evangelist. It might be nice for us to know what became of the men who made the request; but it is really of very little importance in the context of the Gospel message. What is important is that their request, when brought to Jesus, caused him to speak the teaching which followed. And it is the teaching that matters – because it is the Word of God, given to us directly from the mouth of the Word who was made flesh.
It must be said it is not immediately evident what it is about their request that sparks the teaching that follows. Perhaps it is merely the fact that it is made by foreigners – men who were presumably, given that they had come to Jerusalem for the festival to worship, would have been what were called 'God-fearers' … those who found Jewish religious thought and practices attractive but had not taken the decision to convert … and who most probably, given that it would have required that they be circumcised, would be unlikely to take such a step. But as God-fearers they would have known a great deal about Jewish teachings; and they would have known well the prophecies of the Messiah to come. And being able to meet the one that so many were either saying was the Messiah, or wondering if he was indeed the Messiah, would have been tempting indeed for them.

So there is our Lord, teaching those standing close by; when along comes his apostles with this request, from men who are perhaps a bit star-struck at the idea of meeting the Messiah. A request that was made within the hearing of all there. And for our Lord the important thing was not so much what the men wanted, as to make it clear to all who the Messiah was – someone who was to suffer and to die.

More, and perhaps this even more important, that the Messiah was one who was perfectly obedient to the will of the Father … even if that obedience should require death. The impact of that teaching is far greater for us – or should be - than it was for those who heard it on that day. For them the Messiah was simply a man – a man sent by God, but a man nonetheless. We know that he was much more than that – he was God incarnate. And having taken on human flesh he was, in his manhood, obedient to the will of the Father … irrespective of the cost.

There is a foreshadowing here of the words he will all too soon speak in the garden, when he prays that if it be possible that the cup of his crucifixion should pass him by: but not my will, but thine be done. This shows us the importance of obedience to God's will; for if even the Son of God must be obedient to the Father, how much more so must we be?

This is a teaching to be followed by all who would follow Christ. And he speaks it to us all directly by the medium of Sacred Scripture. Indeed, in this way we may understand why it was that the evangelist saw no importance in recording whether or not those men visiting Jerusalem that day met with Jesus or not; for they, like we, if they would meet with him through his teachings, through his word. Christ is someone whom all may meet; male or female, slave or free, Jew or Gentile. And as I end, I pray that here will indeed meet him, and know him, and love him, and learn from him the perfect obedience that leads us to become one with the Father as he was one, the perfect union with God that leads to eternal life that his Son suffered and died so that all might attain. Amen.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

prayer diary Saturday 17 Mar 2018 (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

St Patrick knew that man does not live by bread alone. He shared the word of God and bread of life with the people of Ireland and began the work that won this land for Christ for generations to come. The people of this land still must be fed; all must work to share with others the spiritual nourishment needed by their souls.

Friday, March 16, 2018

prayer diary Friday 16 Mar 2018 (Day of Discipline and Self-denial)

Now some of the people of Jerusalem were saying, ‘Is not this the man whom they are trying to kill? And here he is, speaking openly,' 
John 7. 25,26

We live again in an age of red martyrdom, when men and women die daily for the faith. Their courage in the face of violent and bloody death should give us the courage to speak our faith boldly, we who face no worse than the scorn of those who proclaim the new secular orthodoxies for speaking God's truths.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

prayer diary Thursday 15 Mar 2018 (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

Nicodemus was mocked and threatened for asking that Christ be given a fair hearing. Today many try to silence Christians when they try to speak to the issues of our day; but we must not be silent. For the sake of those who wish to hear us least, we must do our best to let them hear God's word.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

prayer diary Wednesday 14 Mar 2018 (Day of Discipline and Self-denial)

'Very truly, I tell you, the hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live.' 
John 5.25

Who are the dead of whom Jesus speaks here but the spiritually dead, who will be born to eternal life if they will but listen to him? Listen well to his words that you may yourself have that life within you.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

prayer diary Tuesday 13 Mar 2018 (Day of Discipline and Self-denial)

The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had healed him. And this was why the Jews persecuted Jesus, because he did this on the sabbath. 
John 5.15,16

Christ healed the man out of love and compassion and was hated for it. In our own day those who offer his words for the healing of souls will often be hated also. Rejoice in this; for if our Lord was persecuted for the truth, why should not you be as well?

Monday, March 12, 2018

prayer diary Monday 12 Mar 2018 (Day of Discipline and Self-denial)

The royal official went and begged him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death. Then Jesus said to him, ‘Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.’ 
 John 4. 47, 48

How many of us think our prayers have not been answered when we do not get what we want? Remember that prayer is most times more about gaining the grace to accept your lot than it is about changing it.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Mothering Sunday

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

As this is laetare Sunday, I thought I might preach a fairly light-hearted sermon today … Lae-what? I hear some of you say? Lae-ta-re … meaning in Latin 'Be joyful' … this is the 4th Sunday in Lent, roughly the half-way point in the season … and traditionally by way of encouraging people for all the austerities that they had been practising up until now, they got to take a little break & cheer things up a little bit … and so flowers were allowed back to decorate the altar … music, which was traditionally banned during this season, was played … even the liturgical colour changed, going from the sombre purple to a more light-hearted 'rose' colour … & if we don't keep up with those traditions very well any more, perhaps it is because we don't take Lent as seriously as they did in times gone by and we don't feel the need for a break in the same way that they did!

Now I'm sure some of you are thinking at this point, what's all this Laetare stuff? I thought today was Mothering Sunday? Well today is also called that … but have you ever stopped to wonder why we have a mothering Sunday, when we don't have special day in the church calendar for any other relatives? There's no fathering Sunday, or uncle-ing or aunt-ing Sunday … no cousin-ing … and if we were going to pick a relative, why not brother-ing or sister-ing, given the emphasis in the New Testament on how we are all brothers and sisters in Christ?

Well, the clue is in today's Gospel reading, where we see the Mother of our Lord at the foot of the Cross with the beloved disciple … & if you looked at the other Mothering Sunday reading which the lectionary gives us as an alternative, you would find that it also has Mary in it – in that case the passage from Luke where the prophetess Phanuel tells Mary that a sword will also pierce her heart …

The readings suggest that there is very much a Marian character to this festival … that the title 'mothering' refers not to the secular (or non-church version of Mother's Day) but the sacred …

And in fact, this festival began as just that: a festival of Mary, as mother of us all who have been baptised into her Son, Jesus Christ … and also a festival of the church's role as mother, how it nurtures us and cares for us … the impetus for there being a festival of mothering began in the early days of the church … the ancient Romans had a festival in March in honour of the mother goddess Cybele, who was connected with the earth & fruitfulness … our early brothers and sisters in Christ while they thought it a good idea to do away with the pagan festival, nonetheless thought it a good idea to have their own festival, honouring both Mary and the Church, and so we ended up with Laetare Sunday … so named from the entrance antiphon traditionally used on this Sunday which begins 'laetare Jurusalem' O be joyful Jerusalem … Jerusalem, of course, being the mother city of the Christian faith.

Many customs grew up around this Sunday … and with all the references to motherhood, it is not perhaps surprising that the custom of honouring our earthly mothers also came to be seen as appropriate. Initially the term 'mothering Sunday' came from the practice of going 'a-mothering' which was when people went either to the mother church of their diocese on this Sunday, or for those living away from home, returning to visit their own mother church, their parish church, on this Sunday … and as for most people in the old days this might be the only chance to visit their homes and families in the entire year, the custom also grew up of bringing some small gift home to mother, even if it was only as simple as picking her some of the flowers that grew along the roadside as they made the long journey home on foot.

But – and I think this can not be stressed enough – what we celebrate in church on mothering Sunday is not mother's day … Mother's day is a secular American idea … and worthy as that idea is, we do not make secular events part of our church calendar … what we are celebrating is the idea of mothering … an ideal of mothering drawn from the perfect mothering of the Blessed Virgin Mary for her Son … and the image of mothering as presented to us in the love and care we receive from the Church as our metaphorical mother …

This reminds us that on Mothering Sunday, while we may rightly look to honour our own mothers … we must also honour those who in some way fulfil the role of mothering in our own lives … we must also look to honour, for example, grandmothers, aunts, big sisters, and god-mothers … neighbours and friends who have looked out for us … teachers who have watched over us in loco parentis during our school days … all those who with love and affection have contributed in some way to creating the cocoon of love and affection that has sheltered and nurtured us all our days …

And of course as love and affection is not limited to women, we must also on this day remember fondly all those men who have provided us with care and nurture, perhaps doing the things most commonly associated with women, but nonetheless, often also done by men … most of us, no matter how impoverished our backgrounds, have many people to give thanks for in our lives …

Which is why this Sunday, laetare Sunday, we give thanks with great joy for all those who have shown a mother's love to us … the Mother of our Lord … our mother the Church … our own mothers … and all others who have cared and nurtured us … and pray that they will continue in that love … and that we will continue to be nurtured by it, even as we show that love to others … something that I pray that we will all be able to do on this Sunday, in this Holy Season of Lent, and always … in the name of the Father & the Son & the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

prayer diary Saturday 10 March 2018 (Day of Discipline and Self-denial)

But the tax-collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” 
Luke 18.13

The one who knows he is a sinner and repents is worthier in the sight of God than the one who thinks himself worthy, no matter how blameless his life may appear. Therefore, repent; for you are, as are we all, a sinner.

Friday, March 9, 2018

prayer diary Friday 9 March 2018 (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

Christ taught that this was the greatest of all the commandments. And it is a hard one to live out, for it seems to compete with love of self or family, even of life itself. But it does not; for it is from love of God that all love flows, for God is love. And anything you think of as love is not love at all if it is not of God

Thursday, March 8, 2018

prayer diary Thursday 8 March 2018 (Day of Discipline and Self-denial)

But some of them said, ‘He casts out demons by Beelzebul, the ruler of the demons.’ 
Luke 11.15

The evils of the world are so entrenched in some that they take comfort in declaring the good to be wicked. Do not let his distress you; for if it happened to Christ, why should it not also happen to you?

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

prayer diary Wednesday 7 March 2018 (Day of Discipline and Self-denial)

'Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.' 
Matthew 5.17

The moral law of the Old Testament did not end with Christ. Indeed, he warned against those who taught that it did; and assured us that those who continued to teach that law would be blessed in heaven.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

fasting - some wisdom from the Holy Mountain

prayer diary Tuesday 6 March 2018 (Day of Discipline and Self-denial)

'You wicked slave! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. Should you not have had mercy on your fellow-slave, as I had mercy on you?' 
Mathew 23.32,33

How many today call on God to forgive them? How many even think anything they do as needing forgiveness? Is this then the reason so many are slow to forgive others?

Monday, March 5, 2018

prayer diary Monday 5 March 2018 (Day of Discipline and Self-denial)

'Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in the prophet’s home town.' 
Luke 4.24

Once the nations that made up our society were called Christendom; essentially Christ's kingdom, where every town and village was that of Christ. Is that why, then, he is so little heeded today?

Sunday, March 4, 2018

destroy this Temple and in three days I will raise it up

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

The cleansing of the Temple, our gospel reading today, is an important incident in the life of our Lord – so important that all four of the gospels have an account of it, something that, the Passion, Crucifixion, and Resurrection aside, is a rare enough occurrence. It is not surprising that all four evangelists include it: in Matthew, Mark, and Luke, who place the episode near the end of Jesus' ministry, it is the 'last straw' if you like that 'breaks the camel's back and spurs the religious authorities to conspire together to bring about his death; and in John, who places the incident near the beginning of his narrative, there are also allusions to not only his death but the conspiracy that will bring it about, for in it he speaks of his death and resurrection after three days, and the way he phrases that prophetic utterance, that if they destroy this temple he would raise it up again in three days, is part of the evidence brought against him at his trial to help support the false charge against him of blasphemy.

The scene is of course very dramatic; and St John, of all the evangelists, brings out most strongly not only the sacrilegious way in which the Temple, the holiest place in all the holy city of Jerusalem, is being desecrated by what is taking place and our Lord's righteousness anger at the way in which his Father's House is being treated like some kind of a market place. All mention the overturning of the money-changers tables and the driving out of the temple those who were selling there; but John alone mentions the sheep and the cattle, as well as the doves which are mentioned by some of the others. Now this is a farming community, so there is no need for me to mention the filthy state the ground of the temple courts would have been with all these poor creatures penned up inside the place. Is it any wonder that the Son of God was appalled at the sight? This was surely no way to treat God's House! And so he drove them out; and John underlines the extent of his holy indignation by mentioning a detail that the other evangelists have omitted – the whip made with his own hands from cords that he has picked up from amongst the litter of the place.

The prophesy of the Passion he will endure that is contained in this passage is an important one in this Great season of Lent when we, like Christ, journey toward Jerusalem. Indeed, perhaps it is because of these intimations of what our Lord is to suffer explains why it is that St John places this account at the beginning of his ministry – he wants to emphasise that Jesus knew, even as he began, what it truly meant to be the Messiah, and that it was not a role that would bring earthly glory and authority, but that rather it would end with his death on the Cross.

Or rather, it would not end there. For our Lord's message concerning his own death to come also speaks of his Resurrection which will follow. It is therefore a message of hope, of joy, of the ultimate triumph over what seems like defeat.

It is a message that the Church of the day in which St John was writing desperately needed to hear. For theirs was a time of persecution … and savage persecution at that. They risked everything for their faith; and quite frequently suffered the most terrible of fates. A quick execution by the sword was the best they could hope for; and more often it was death by slow and perverse torture … and not infrequently the abominable fate of being thrown to the wild beasts in the arena where they would be torn to pieces and devoured for the amusement of the crowd. So they very much needed a message of hope … and who better to bring it to them than one such as St John, by then the last remaining of the original 12 Apostles, a man who had walked the roads of the Holy Land with Jesus, ate with him day by day, the Beloved Disciple who sat with his head in his master's bosom at the Last Supper, and who had seen the Church spread from Jerusalem throughout all the known world in the years that followed? He had seen the Risen Lord and could testify to the truth that he had indeed passed from death to life before returning to his Father in Heaven.

We know that having the Word of God set before them by St John, as well by others, did indeed help give them the strength they needed to continue strong in the faith because we know that the Church came through those bad days, winning more and more souls for Christ day by day, spreading further and further in the world, and continuing to do so down through the ages.

This message of hope that the Church will prevail, come what may, remains just as important for Christians today. Around the world many of our brothers and sisters in Christ continue to face severe persecution – martyrdom, we must never forget, is not simply something from the dark past but remains a reality today and indeed takes place in greater numbers than in any previous time in history; and in the Western World we face scorn from many, and attempts from some to squeeze our voices, concerns, and values to from public debate, declaring that in the name of tolerance our beliefs and views are not to be tolerated. We are, we are told, on the wrong side of history. But we need not be afraid. The Church will prevail. We know this because God himself has told us so. There is only one right side of history – God's side, the side that results in salvation and eternal life in heaven with the Risen Lord. This is the side that I pray that I, and all here, will find ourselves on on that Great and Terrible Day at the End of the ages … in the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Saturday, March 3, 2018

prayer diary Saturday 3 Mar 2018 (Day of Discipline and Self-denial)

And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, ‘This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.’ 
Luke 15. 2

Great is the irony of those men's words. For they saw no reason that Jesus should not welcome or eat with them. And yet they also were sinners, as are we all.

Friday, March 2, 2018

prayer diary Friday 2 Mar 2018 (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. 36

It sometimes seems impossible for us to understand how anyone can reject Christ. Yet even in his own day there were those who witnessed his deeds of power who refused to believe in him. Those who chose unbelief can always find a reason for doing so, whatever age they live in.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

prayer diary Thursday 1 Mar 2018 (Day of Discipline and Self-denial)

Abraham said to him, 'If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.' 
Luke 16.31

The parable of Dives and Lazarus tells us of a man who learns too late the error of his ways. The tragedy is that Dives had in this life all he needed to gain eternal life. We stand in the place of his brothers and therefore must ask ourselves if we will make the same mistake as he.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

prayer diary Wednesday 28 Feb 2018 (Day of Discipline and Self-denial)

‘Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?’ They said to him, ‘We are able.’ He said to them, ‘You will indeed drink my cup.' 
Matthew 20. 22,23

Christ offers his cup of suffering to all who would be his disciple; those who accept it must deny themselves and take up their cross. For some this means persecution or even a martyr's crown; but for all it means being faithful even unto death.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

prayer diary Tuesday 27 Feb 2018 (Day of Discipline and Self-denial)

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

The Christian must be humble because he knows himself to be a sinner, in need of God's mercy and forgiveness. Through that humility comes the only true exaltation: to be welcomed at the last into the presence of our Creator.

Monday, February 26, 2018

prayer diary Monday 26 Feb 2018 (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 6.36

This does not mean we do not teach what the Church has always taught, for the Church teaches what she was given by Christ. But it behooves us to remember that part of that teaching is that judgement is the prerogative of the Lord, the one who did not decline to sit at table with all manner of sinners.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

set your mind on things Divine

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

What an extraordinary scene we are presented with in our Gospel reading today – St Peter, first among the disciples, takes our Lord aside and begins to rebuke him. And this, having witnessed all the miracles, including seeing people raised from the dead, and heard his teaching, and having himself, only moments before, confessed him to be the Messiah. So that he should suddenly dare not just to question what he says, but actually to rebuke him, is extraordinary indeed.

However, we must keep in mind that St Peter acts from good motives – from a human perspective at least. First, he knows that our Lord is the Messiah. And the Messiah, or so all of Israel thinks, is going to be some kind of great military and political leader who will free the Jewish people from their oppressors. St Peter is simply unable to reconcile his idea of what the Messiah to be with what the one he knows to be the Messiah is tells him. And so, rather than changing his thinking in line with the new information that he has – information given to him from the best of all possible authorities – he tries to change what it is our Lord has told the fate of the Messiah must be.

And secondly, we must keep in mind the great love St Peter has for our Lord. This is the man he has given up everything for, has followed around from place to place along the dusty roads of Galilee and Judea and Samaria and elsewhere. Jesus is his master but also his friend – does not our Lord declare elsewhere in the gospels that all the apostles, saving one of course, are his friends? – and surely St Peter as the leader of that group must be the closest of them all. And which of us wants to hear that someone we love and respect is going to suffer and die? We would surely be appalled and do anything we could to prevent it if it were possible. And so St Peter, the disciple, rebukes Jesus, his master and messiah.

But even though the apostle may think his motives are good, our Lord declares that they are not. They are in fact the opposite of good; they are evil – and the worst kind of evil, evil that stems from Satan. How could St Peter, whom we know to have been a good man, if flawed – particularly prior to the Resurrection and the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost – how could he have gotten things so badly wrong? It is because he has, as our Lord bluntly tells him, he has set his mind on human things rather than divine. God himself, in the person of Jesus, the second person of the Blessed Trinity, has told him that the Messiah must suffer and die; but this does not fit into his view of how things should be. And so he rebels against it; and in so doing behaves evilly.

There is a powerful lesson from this for our times. The values of the secular culture of the world we live in often run counter to the values we as Christians are called to hold by God – values that have been given to us by way of Divine Revelation in the Sacred Scriptures given to us by God himself and the Holy Traditions of the Church he founded, telling us that his Holy Spirit would guide it into all Truth, and that the gates Hell itself would not prevail against it. But today these teachings and traditions are repugnant to many in the world around us – particularly those who proudly call themselves the liberal elites – people who have no hesitation in calling what God has given to man something that is man-made; and so they have no compunction in declaring God's holy laws, and the commandments he has given to us for our salvation as evil, lacking in compassion, cruel, harsh, impossible to live up to, arbitrary, foolish, and out-dated.

They particularly love to declare them out-dated; because everyone knows the more modern something is the better and more true it is. They fail to see the foolishness of this; for by that logic what they call to be true today will be declared false and replaced by what called true tomorrow; and so truth has no objective reality and becomes nothing more than a passing fashion.

But we can not allow ourselves to be influenced by their false logic – both for their sakes and for our own. For theirs, for such as they need the witness of godly men and women and the world to help lead them to the truth – the one and only truth that is found in the Gospel – and for ours, for the sake of our own salvation. We can not let the opinions of the world influence us, because as Christ tells us, what does it matter if a man gain the whole world if by doing so they forfeit their life – the eternal life that he offers?

And we must be particularly watchful not to be swayed by those who would call us to the false compassion of the world – a compassion that keeps people happy and comfortable and affirmed as they are led astray by the temptations of the world the flesh and the devil, but ends not in salvation but destruction – and instead measure all things according to the standards that God has set before us. Very watchful – for even St Peter was tempted to put those worldly things before what God required – and for this he was called Satan. A hard lesson for him; and a sober warning for us not to do as he did that day; for those who do so and do not repent of it will face the Son of Man on the last day and find him ashamed of them, they will find themselves rejected by him. So we must embrace the Gospel message and cling to it, come what may. It may not win us the approval of those who follow the things of this world; but it will mean that we are keeping our minds on things that are divine, and will one day, with God's grace, bring us to be with him: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.