January 29, 2016
Next Tuesday we celebrate the lovely feast of the Purification, or as our ancestors in these islands called it, Candlemas. You can read the account of Jesus being brought to the Temple 40 days after his birth in St. Luke’s gospel. The characters we find there are very important ones. Obviously there is the baby Jesus and his mother, and step-father Joseph. They are devout Jews who are observing what the law commands. But we also meet Anna and Simeon. They realise that in this child the hopes that they and their ancestors have been cherishing are now come to fruition.
Simeon praises God in words now familiar to us in the Nunc Dimittis which is sung at compline, and at Evensong in the Anglican church. He speaks of Jesus as a ‘light to lighten the gentiles’. This baby is the means through which God will extend salvation to the ends of the earth.
The Liturgy picks up this theme of light. We process with lighted candles and often all the candles that will be used during the year are blessed at this Mass. This lovely feast, celebrated on a dark and miserable February evening, reminds us of Christmas. But it also points us towards the Easter Vigil.
January 25, 2016
Next Monday we celebrate the feast of the Conversion of St. Paul. This event was so momentous in the history of the Church that it is commemorated like no other. The story of Paul’s conversion can be found in the Acts of the Apostles, but Paul himself refers to it in several of his letters.
As we know Paul, or as he was originally known, Saul, was one of the chief opponents of the ‘new religion’ that proclaimed that Jesus was the Messiah. As we also know he became one of its chief proponents and advocates. His influence was felt throughout the early church and he has shaped our understanding of the Christian faith to this day. His letters are full of sound teaching and practical advice for the earliest believers as they strove to deepen their understanding of Jesus, his message, and the role of the Church.
Paul was full of zeal and his determination to preach the gospel took him across much of the Roman world. He eventually died a martyr’s death in Rome and his body is still venerated there in the basilica that carries his name.
Paul shows us how God can turn things around, how God has plans for us beyond our wildest imaginings. Let us for his prayers to that we too may experience an ever deeper conversion.
January 18, 2016
We have now entered what is rather prosaically known as ‘Ordinary Time’. The vestments are green, and the systematic reading of the Scriptures has begun. The next big change will be when Lent comes upon us in just over a month’s time.
But although this is ordinary time it is still full of extraordinary people: the saints. Over the next few weeks and months we will be looking at their lives and seeing what they can teach us. Saints are given to us to follow and imitate. But they are far from being just dead heroes. The wonderful thing is that they are alive in Christ and pray for us. Just think of that the saints are praying for us, because they want us to share in their joy. It is a tremendously encouraging thought.
Saints are not standard or of a type. They come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. Some were rich and powerful, others poor and insignificant in the sight of the world. Some were geniuses, others were illiterate. Some were a great age when they died, others were mere children. They are not confined to one country, or one race, or one way of life.
The Second Vatican Council called us all to be saints. As we examine their lives we can see that call is not impossible. With their prayers we too can come to the joy of heaven.