May 18, 2018
The glorious seven week celebration of Easter finally draws to a close this weekend. But it ends not with a whimper but a bang – the Big Bang of the Holy Spirit in the great feast of Pentecost. The Church does not descend into torpor but rather is invigorated to carry out the mission given to her by Christ himself: to proclaim the gospel and make disciples of all the nations.
The Holy Spirit is given constantly to the church. The outpouring of the Spirit is not a one off event. And we too, especially through the sacrament of confirmation, have received the same Spirit that descended on Jesus at his baptism.
From its very start the Church has grown in leaps and bounds, often in the face of dire opposition. When her enemies have been crowing over Her defeat God has found new ways to renew Her. And it is always through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
The saints who we celebrate week by week were the chosen vessels of the Holy Spirit. In a myriad of different ways they have made the gospel alive for the people of their day.
We are called to follow those saints and do the same. And the same Spirit has been given to us for that task.
May 11, 2018
The choice of the twelve apostles was no arbitrary decision on the part of Jesus. He wanted to choose twelve men with whom he would share his ministry and preaching. We find lists of the twelve in the gospels, and they are shown as intimately associated with Him. When Judas betrayed Jesus that group was devastated. But it is interesting to note that one of the first actions of the early church after the resurrection was to make the group complete again. In the opening chapter of the Acts of the Apostles we read about the process whereby that choice was made.
The man chosen was called Matthias and we celebrate his feast day on Monday. He was suitable because he fulfilled the criteria set by St Peter – he had accompanied Jesus from his baptism until the Ascension. And the task he was given is absolutely clear: he is to be a witness to the resurrection of Jesus.
Down through the centuries that has remained the key task of all the followers of Jesus. Although the Apostles hold a unique place in the history of the Church their role is continued by the bishops. And although the Apostles saw the risen Lord themselves we are called to be witnesses to the resurrection too. The new life of Jesus should be visible in our lives. Let’s ask Matthias to pray that it will be.
May 4, 2018
May has traditionally been seen as Our Lady’s month. We have numerous hymns and prayers which refer to it in this way. It’s good for us to devote this time to contemplating the person of Mary.
Mary is the most perfect of all God’s creatures. She was conceived without sin and throughout her life was preserved from sin. Mary was prepared to listen to the Word and enabled the Word to become flesh. Mary always points the way to Christ. Mary stood at the foot of the Cross when nearly all others had fled. Mary rejoices in the resurrection and is present on the day of Pentecost. At the end of her earthly life Mary was assumed into heaven.
Mary has thus been seen as the first Christian. She hears, accepts and believes. She’s points and puts into practice. She allows God’s Spirit fully into her life.
It is therefore fitting that we honour her and seek to follow her example. But more than that we should love her as we love our own mothers because she is the mother of all who believe.
Mary has many titles. We could well spend some time thinking about those during May. It is good that we build a shrine for her in this month, and if possible hold a procession in her honour.
Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now, and at the hour of our death.
April 20, 2018
We have four gospels that the Church tells us are authentic records of the doings and sayings of Christ. Other gospels exist (such as the ones that I suspect Pullman bases his book on) but the Church has always ruled them out as inauthentic and misleading.
One of the authentic gospels is that written by the saint we celebrate on Wednesday, Mark.
Mark’s gospel is the plainest of the four. He is no great stylist, and the language he uses is stark and simple. He is also not flattering to the apostles who are depicted as slow on the uptake and slow to believe. The core of Mark’s message is the same as the other gospel writers however. Jesus is the one sent by God, who was crucified and is now risen from the dead. Through him we are saved.
What is startling when we read all the gospels together is not that they are different in style and tell the story in different ways but rather the story they tell. They are convinced, as Mark states in his opening lines, that here is good news.
Our task is to put that good news on the page into practice in our lives. The world has grown tired and cynical about preachers and teachers but the people of our generation will be convinced when they see us living out the good news in our lives.
April 11, 2018
The Church’s joy in the resurrection is boundless because it is at the very heart of all that it does. Every celebration of the sacraments, every good deed, every preaching of the word is because of the power of the resurrection.
In the liturgical year while Lent lasts for forty days, Eastertide lasts for fifty. During that period the new life that Jesus won for us, and what it now makes possible, are presented for our contemplation. We hear the accounts of the resurrection appearances but we also hear of the transformative effect these encounters had on the disciples. As we go through Eastertide the Sunday liturgy makes clear to us what the resurrection means.
As we celebrate the feasts of the saints during this period we are also made aware that their strength and power comes from the resurrection. They were faithful to the risen Lord and filled with his life. Those who were, and are, called to martyrdom could do so because they believed in the resurrection. Their deaths are another sign of the risen life of Christ at work in the church.
Let us pray that as we journey through Eastertide we may become more aware of what the resurrection means for us in our lives today.
March 15, 2018
Tomorrow we celebrate the feast of St Patrick. One of the things that we should remember about him is that he is first and foremost a missionary bishop – he went out to preach the gospel to those who had not heard it.
We all know the story about his capture and slavery, but is it not truly remarkable that he went back to those places? He had come to love his captors so much that he wanted to share the gospel with them to make them free.
Patrick was a man of immense faith but also immense courage. Again we know the stories of him challenging the High King of Ireland over the lighting of the Easter fire and the like. His faith was something that empowered him.
In our own day we don’t have to go far to encounter those who have never heard the gospel message. They are all around us. We need something of Patrick’s courage, something of his faith, but above all something of his love so that we too can go out and proclaim the gospel in all its fullness.
May St. Patrick, one the greatest missionary saints the church here has produced pray for us to follow his example. P.D.
March 2, 2018
Perhaps it comes as something as a shock to realise that north Africa was once a thriving outpost of Christianity. Apart from the Coptic Christians in Egypt little now remains of those communities. But what does remain is vitally important. On Wednesday we celebrate once such legacy: the feast day of Saints Perpetua and Felicity. Unlike some of the early martyrs we know quite a bit about these two woman and their deaths.
They died in the year 202. The Emperor had just forbidden conversion to the ‘new’ religion of Christianity. Perpertua and Felicity were catechumens when the decree came but still proceeded to baptism. They did nothing to hide their new allegiance and died in the arena at Carthage.
These two martyrs tell us so much about our faith. They remind us of the centrality of Christ and of the absolute demands of his gospel, which are above even those of the state. But they also remind us of the catechumenate which slowly we’re rediscovering: the state of preparing for baptism. Up and down the country we now have catechumens who are preparing for baptism at Easter. Although they will not be called on to die for Christ like Perpetua and Felicity they can revive our belief and love of God by their own manifest enthusiasm and faith.
As we journey to Easter let us these two saints to pray for us and also for those who, like them, long for baptism and eucharist. P.D.