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.