February 16, 2018
It has become fashionable to decry the idea of sin. We are told that it means little to the men and women of the twenty first century. A quick look at the news should show that the effects of sin are still all too present: angry zealots, greedy bankers, lustful opportunists, and so many more. We can see the deep disharmony that sin brings all too often. The truth is not that ‘sin’ means so little but rather that people don’t want to admit that they are responsible for their actions.
The Church tells us otherwise. It tells us the truth. We are fallen human beings. We do what we know we shouldn’t. It’s almost as if we can’t help ourselves. In one sense we can’t. That’s why the gospel on Sunday is so important.
There we see ‘one who is like us in all things but sin’ triumphing over the temptations that are placed in his way. They are real temptations, Jesus is not play acting. But unlike us on so many occasions Jesus is able to see through the quick fix, the easy lie, the misplaced confidence.
The wonderful thing is that he wants to share his victory with us. By works of fasting , prayer and almsgiving we are able to see correctly and choose the good. P.D.
February 12, 2018
Next Wednesday we begin our celebration of Lent. While the world will be celebrating the rather spurious St Valentine’s Day we will be told of our fate loud and clear in both word and action: ‘Dust you are unto dust you shall return’ will be the stark message as our heads are sprinkled with ashes. No purely human organisation or individual ever tells us this obvious truth in cold, clear terms. The Church alone has courage to do so.
But the Church is able to proclaim this seemingly hopeless message because, on the contrary, She knows our true destination and calling. We begin Lent as a journey to Easter. We put on ashes to follow Christ to his death – and resurrection. We may go down into the dust but we shall rise again from it.
Our Lenten observance is a time for us to refocus on what really matters. We undertake fasting, prayer and almsgiving, not because we want to punish ourselves but because we want to be liberated from the things that bind us. We give things up to take on a fuller understanding of what it is to be human.
We begin our journey with the stark truth but we undertake it because we know the glory to which we are called. P.D.
February 5, 2018
Tomorrow we celebrate the lovely feast of The Presentation of the Lord. The feast marks 40 days since the celebration of Christmas. It recalls the time when Christ was brought to the Temple by Our Lady and St. Joseph. The holy old woman Anna realises the presence of the Saviour while the holy old man Simeon cannot contain his joy and proclaims that this child is the Light of the World.
Picking up on this latter insight during the Liturgy candles are blessed as a sign of the light that overcomes the darkness. With the evenings still dark and cold these speak of the warmth that will soon be arriving but also, more importantly of the kindling of the Easter Fire and Easter Candle which speaks of Christ’s glorious resurrection.
Our worship is not just words, it utilises action and material things as well. Look around on this feast and see how your fellow worshippers faces are irradiated by the candle light. We are called to be reflections of the Light of Christ in our world today. It is a world that has many dark places but into those Christians plunge to bring the good news: this child is the Light of the World. P.D.
January 29, 2018
It’s still cold, wet, and dark and Christmas now seems a long, long time ago. But the feast we celebrate on Friday is an echo of the joy and elation we felt at Christmastide. The feast has several names. It is known and the Presentation of the Lord in the Temple, or the Purification of the Virgin, but perhaps its best title is its ancient name – Candlemas.
We remember the presentation of the child Jesus in the Temple 40 days after his birth. It is described to us in the gospel reading. But that same reading also speaks of Jesus as ‘the light to enlighten the gentiles’. And it is that theme the feast picks up in earnest.
At the start of Mass candles are blessed (often all those that will be used over the year) and carried in procession to honour him who is the Light of the Nations. It is a lovely echo of the lights and celebration of Christmas.
The candles are signs of what we are called to be. It is amazing how much light just one candle can give in a darkened room. Similarly it is amazing how much warmth one Christian action can spread in a world that so badly needs that.
We shine with the light that is Christ.
January 19, 2018
Next Wednesday we celebrate the feast day of one of the most attractive saints in the calendar. During a period when the Christians of Europe were tearing each other apart over the controversies of the Reformation St. Francis de Sales stood as a beacon of charity, tact, and courtesy.
He was born in Annecy in France in 1567. His father was not too pleased when the young Francis decided to become a priest but he eventually agreed. In 1602 he became the Bishop of Geneva, the city at the heart of the radical reformation under Calvin. He realised that he needed to preach with love as well as fervour, and his sermons are free from the usual point scoring and polemic of the period.
He also realised that holiness, as the Second Vatican Council was to teach four centuries later, was for every Christian. His little book, An Introduction to the Devout Life, showed how ordinary men and women could become saints in their everyday lives.
We live in an age which can be very dismissive, even rude, about religion and faith. We should take Francis as our example. He insisted on the truth of the gospel and the Church’s tradition, but he did so with charm and tact. May he pray for us.
January 12, 2018
On Sunday we celebrate the feast of the Baptism of the Lord. It is important that we listen to the readings and prayers of the Liturgy as they tell us what this feast means. If we start from some pre-conceived idea that baptism is all to do with ‘washing away of original sin’ then we run the real risk of ending up in error and heresy. Jesus is sinless, he has no sins to wash away.
Rather the feast is speaking to us about who this man Jesus really is. He is revealed as the Beloved Son of the Father, full of the Holy Spirit. Moreover his disciples are told to listen to him – here is the voice of God speaking in our world.
The Baptism is traditionally seen as part of a trilogy with the Epiphany and the Marriage at Cena. All three ‘manifest’ the true nature of Jesus. All show him as the Son of God, full of the Father’s power. All show him as being sent into this world for our salvation.
This Sunday is a wonderful chance for us to think about our own baptisms. Unlike Jesus we did need cleansing from original sin but our baptism also made us the child of God, filled with the Spirit, and commissioned to bring good news to the world.
December 9, 2017
Today we celebrate the wonderful feast of the Immaculate Conception. We believe that, through the grace of God, Mary was kept free from the taint of original sin from the first moment of her conception. Although she was conceived in the normal way, Jesus alone being the subject of the virgin birth, Mary was not corrupted by the tendency to sin from which every other human being suffers. All this was achieved through the power of God, and in many ways can be seen as the dawn of the reality of salvation in our human history.
Mary’s whole life is a living out of this initial singular grace. She is the one who responds completely to the Holy Spirit when he announces that she is to be the Mother of God. She is the one who whole heartedly hears the message her Son preaches. She is the one who is completely united to him in his suffering and death on the cross. In her Assumption Mary shows what glory awaits all the saints.
And that is why Mary is so important. She is the first of Christians and the best of Christians. She shows us what we are called to be and also helps to be that new creation.
May Mary Immaculate, conceived without sin, pray for us today and always. P.D.