Wednesday, March 4, 2015

prayer diary Wednesday 4 March 2015 (Day of Discipline and Self-denial)

‘Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?’ They said to him, ‘We are able.’ He said to them, ‘You will indeed drink my cup.' 
Matthew 20. 22,23

Christ offers his cup of suffering to all who would be his disciple. Those who accept it must deny themselves and take up their cross. For some this means persecution or even a martyr's crown; but for all it means being faithful even unto death.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

set always before you the image of the Crucified

Be mindful of the purpose you have embraced, and set always before you the image of the Crucified. Good cause have you to be ashamed in looking upon the life of Jesus Christ, seeing you have not as yet endeavored to conform yourself more unto Him, though you have been a long time in the way of God. A religious person that exercises himself seriously and devoutly in the most holy life and passion of our Lord, shall there abundantly find whatsoever is profitable and necessary for him; neither shall he need to seek any better thing, besides Jesus.

Imitation of Christ, by Thomas á Kempis: Book 1, Chapter 25

prayer diary Tuesday 3 March 2015 (Day of Discipline and Self-denial)

'All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted.' 
Matthew 23.12

Reflection: The Christian must be humble because he knows himself to be a sinner, in need of God's mercy and forgiveness. Through that humility comes the only true exaltation: to be welcomed at the last into the presence of our Creator.

Monday, March 2, 2015

the Dawkins Delusion

There's an interesting article in the Irish Times today, reprinted from the Financial Times, on the topic of the tendency people have to brag about themselves by retweeting complimentary tweets posted by others. The author, Lucy Kellaway, dubs the phenomenon 'the thirdpartybrag.'

What piqued my interest was not the tweeting, something I have no interest in. No, what caught my attention in particular were two lines. The first was 'a particularly prolific thirdpartybragger is the British scientist Richard Dawkins'; and the second 'has thirdpartybragging damaged the scientist’s considerable brain?' 

What struck me was how she referred to him; not the fact she called him a 'thirdpartybragger,' which she is perfectly entitled to do, and if he doesn't like it let him take to twitter and express his outrage (or perhaps wait for someone else to do so and then retweet it). Nor that he has a considerable brain which, even though I disagree with him on many things, he clearly has (considerable in the sense that he evidently a very intelligent man; I'm not suggesting that I think his brain is larger than usual, thereby giving him a very big head). No, it was the fact that she referred to him as a scientist.

Now, as far as I am aware, this gentleman pretty much became a full-time promoter of his own particular philosophy years ago; so wouldn't it be more correct to refer to him as a former-scientist? I mean, he doesn't teach science, he doesn't engage in research, and he doesn't advance the cause of scientific knowledge by publishing in distinguished peer-reviewed journals; but he does write books, give lectures, and make public appearances to further the cause of atheism. Can it be correct to still call him a scientist?

There surely must come a time when it is appropriate to refer to a person by their current occupation rather than their previous. So shouldn't he be called, if one is determined to drag his academic past in every mention of the man (which I know many of his fans, including himself, are), something like 'professional-atheist and former scientist Richard Dawkins' (if I'm mistaken and he still does a little science work, the phrase 'part-time scientist' could be used instead)? A little more cumbersome but I would think far more accurate. 

If I was into twitter, this is an idea I could tweet and see what the twitter-verse thought. Who knows, perhaps Richard Dawkins might even re-tweet it? Although I think probably not; 
after all, that would be less a third-party-brag and more a third-party-slag. And why would he want to do that?

prayer diary Monday 2 March 2015 (Day of Discipline and Self-denial)

'Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned.' 
Luke 6.36

This does not mean we do not teach what the Church has always taught, for the Church teaches what she was given by Christ. But it behooves us to remember that part of that teaching is that judgement is the prerogative of the Lord, the one who did not decline to sit at table with all manner of sinners.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Get thee behind me, Satan

May my words be in the Name of the Holy & Undivided Trinity: + Father, Son, & Holy Spirit. Amen.

It must have been quite a shock for St Peter when our Lord turned to him and said: 'Get thee behind me, Satan!' It would have been a stunningly harsh rebuke from a master to one of his most faithful followers at the best of times. But this was coming just moments after what we read about in Matthew 16, where Jesus asked all his disciples: 'who do people say that I am?' The others stumbled and stuttered over their replies, saying what they heard; and then Jesus asked them 'but who do you say that I am?' And it was St Peter alone who gave the answer: You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.’ Of them all, it was only St Peter who not only recognised who Jesus was, but wasn't afraid to say it out loud, in front of witnesses.

And how pleased St Peter must have been by his master's response. For Jesus answered him by saying: ‘Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.’ 

What a moment for St Peter! He has just been blessed by the Messiah and Son of God publicly in front of all the disciples; he has been told that God himself has given him the knowledge needed to recognise and declare who he is, in other words telling him he is a man of great holiness, one who is favoured by God himself for a direct and personal revelation; he is given a special new name by Christ – Peter or rock – and told that on that rock he would build his Church and that the rock of Peter's faith was so secure a foundation that all the powers of evil that exist could do nothing to bring it down; and then he ends by giving him what is often called the power of the keys, saying that whatever he binds on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever he looses on earth will be loosed in heaven, words indicative that great authority was to be given to him.

St Peter must have been on a real emotional high; which would his fall all the greater when our Lord looked at him and said: 'Get thee behind me Satan!' One moment he is holy and blessed; the next he is the devil incarnate! Why did our Lord speak so harshly to him? It was because even though St Peter had not long before had spoken words inspired by the Father of us all, he was now speaking words inspired by the one who was the Father of Lies from the beginning. When St Peter called Jesus the Messiah and Son of God, he spoke of heavenly things; but when he spoke of trying to prevent our Lord going to Jerusalem for his passion and death his perspective was totally of this world. 

Remember how in St Luke's Gospel the evangelist says that after Satan had tempted Jesus in the wilderness and failed that he left him 'until an opportune time'? This was the opportune time and St Peter was his unwitting agent. He was again tempting our Lord, tempting him not to take up his cross, not to suffer and die for the salvation of us all. We know from the account of our Lord's agony in the garden of Gethsemane while he kept lonely vigil while he waited for his enemies to come and arrest him that he had no greater desire to be tortured and endure a painful death than any other man – 'Father, if you will, let this cup pass from me,' he prayed, his agony in those moments so great that sweat fell from him like drops of blood. But even in that time of suffering his response was that of simple obedience: 'but not my will, but thine be done.' And poor St Peter, well-intentioned though he doubtless thought himself, was actually attempting to persuade him to disobey the will of the Father. How aptly it has been said on so many occasions that the road to hell is paved with good intentions; and how many times have people, thinking they are being kind and compassionate, have pointed others along that road, when they should have instead given them the sometimes hard to hear answer that no matter how difficult you may find it, there is a toll to be paid for those who would walk the road to heaven, and that toll is to deny yourself and take up your cross.

No doubt St Peter was humbled in that moment. And we know that it was to be quite a while before he understood what his master was about. He didn't understand when he abandoned Jesus in the Garden; he didn't understand when he denied even knowing him three times in the courtyard that night; he didn't understand when he stood, wide-mouthed with amazement, before the empty tomb on Easter morning, he didn't understand while he huddled with all the rest in an upper room for fear of the Jews after the Ascension. He didn't really being to understand until the day of Pentecost when he was filled with the Holy Spirit and went out and boldly proclaimed the word from that day on until the day of his death in Rome many years later. From that moment on he understood that to do the will of the Father sometimes involves hardship, suffering, perhaps even death, at the last literally taking up a cross of his own to die a martyrs death; but knew it was worth it; because he knew that it profits a man nothing to gain the whole world if by so doing they forfeit eternal life.

Therefore let us make this Lent a time of strengthening ourselves to resist the temptations of the world that we may,like our Lord and like St Peter, take up our cross that we may gain for ourselves the crown of eternal life. Amen

Examin Sunday 1 Mar 2015

The sin of our first parents was to use their God-given free-will to be disobedient towards God. The result is that all mankind since has had a propensity for sin. But the same free-will that allows us to sin also allows us to repent and turn back to God. Make this season of Lent a season of turning to God and turning from sin. Through prayer and the use of the intelligence God gave you discern where it is that you struggle most to obey his will. Remember that sin is not simply what you 'feel' bad about; look to the Sacred Scriptures and Church teaching for guidance as to how it is that you sin. Then, praying for strength to turn away from all that has tempted you in the past, use your free will to decide that you will turn your back on them for-evermore.