June 21, 2012
Today we celebrate two of the most attractive saints in the calendar: St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More. Fisher was a cleric who, after a glittering career at the university of Cambridge, became bishop of Rochester . More was a layman, a skilled and clever lawyer who rose to become Lord Chancellor of England. Both were beheaded on the orders of Henry VIII because they would not accept the King’s claim that he was head of the Church in England, but rather insisted that the visible head of the Church on earth is the Pope, the Bishop of Rome, the successor of St. Peter.
Neither Thomas More nor John Fisher were in denial that the Church needed reform. Neither of them looks remotely like the Lutheran caricature which depicted Catholics as ignorant or afraid of the Bible. Both were friends of the leading biblical scholar of their day, Erasmus. Both were keen to spread the new learning and keen that those who could should read the scriptures in their original language, and both were keen that both lay people and clergy should be steeped in the scriptures.
We live in a different age to these two saints but their courage and their example are still very relevant to us. We need to seize hold of new learning, be steeped in the scriptures, and remain loyal to the see of Rome. May St John Fisher and St Thomas More, our countrymen, pray for us.
June 13, 2012
Unfortunately religion has no shortage of doom and gloom merchants. While, of course, we can chose to reject God and continue to do so throughout eternity in the state the Church calls Hell, nevertheless the fundamental truth of the gospel is that God loves sinners and does not hate them. Jesus came to save us, not to gloat at our condemnation. This is why the feast we celebrate today is so important. The Most Sacred Heart of Jesus is a testimony to the love our God has for us. It is no surprise that the devotion grew in importance at a time in the seventeenth century when some heretics, the Jansenists, were making far more of God’s wrath than God’s mercy. The Feast reminds us of priorities and of the supremacy of God’s love.
Jesus as the Sacred Heart is often depicted with a heart with flames coming out of it. This is to emphasise that Jesus’ heart is aflame with love for us. We often talk of love using metaphors that refer to burning and fire. This feast reminds us that Jesus burns with love for us. In return we are asked to do two things: to love Jesus back and to love those around us with the same fervent love. This feast is the great feast of love, let us celebrate it by loving.
June 11, 2012
There is always a tendency for groups under threat to retreat in on themselves. This temptation has been one that the Church has often had to fight hard, and there are those today who want to ‘pull up the drawbridge’ against the hostile world. Monday’s feast of St. Barnabas reminds us of the proper response to problems and attacks: be confident in the Spirit and proclaim the good news even more boldly.
We are told a few things about him in the Acts. He is described as ‘full of the Holy Spirit and faith’. He introduced the persecutor Saul to the fledgling Church, and took the newly converted Paul with him to confirm the faith of the Christians in Antioch. He and Paul embarked on the first great missionary endeavour of the Church, and brought the good news to the Mediterranean world. He is traditionally held to have been martyred for the faith on the island of Cyprus.
The world that Barnabas and Paul lived in was very hostile to the Church. They and most of their companions were eventually murdered because they followed Christ. They are examples to us of faith, and courage, and perseverance – all of which we need to proclaim the good news of the gospel in our present difficulties.
June 1, 2012
On Sunday we celebrate the wonderful feast of the Blessed Trinity. We rejoice in the fact that our God loves us so much that the life of God is made known to us and we are called to be caught up into that life. God is shown as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and we are invited to great, cosmic, eternal love that flows between each of the Persons. Some of the early Fathers went as far as to depict this divine life almost as a dance – and we are called to ‘dance’ with the Blessed Trinity for ever.
It is vital to grasp that the doctrine although elaborated in the first four centuries of the Church’s history is certainly not the invention of the Church as some heretics claim but rather a proclamation of the Gospel message in its fullness. When we look at the Gospel – at the Incarnation say or at the Crucifixion – we find the Blessed Trinity at work. When we look at the Baptism of Christ or the Annunciation of Our Lady we find the Father, Son and Spirit depicted and revealed.
Some think that the doctrine is too distant and therefore too difficult to grasp. The reverse is the case: it is because the Trinity is so near that we find the whole doctrine difficult to comprehend. When we pray we do so to the Father through the Son and by the power of the Spirit. The whole of our Christian life is shot through like a stick of rock with the presence of the Father, Son and Spirit.