Monday, August 31, 2015

prayer diary Monday 31 August 2015

When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, as was his custom. 
Luke 4. 16

Christ did not excuse himself from worshipping with his fellow men on the day appointed by God to do so. By what authority then do you absent yourself from God's house on the Lord's Day?

Sunday, August 30, 2015

clean - inside and out

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

I always think today's Gospel reading, where Jesus does not seem too fussed about washing one's hands, must bring a smile to the face of children. I know that as a father, when we sit down to a meal as a family, I am constantly having to remind my boys about the need to wash their hands before eating. Perhaps girls are different. And I imagine children gleefully telling their parents that they were paying attention that morning when the Gospel was read and that Jesus didn't think hand hygiene was all that important – in fact, he seems to frown on it – so that it is OK for them to tuck into their Sunday lunch with their own little paws as dirty as they like – it is the Christian thing to do!

Alas, for these mucky children – Jesus is not talking about hygiene here at all. In fact the knowledge that cleanliness and good-health are connected is quite a modern thing. As late as the mid-19th century, for example, doctors were quite happy to go from patient to patient without cleaning their hands in between, causing quite a number of deaths as a result, because at that time no body knew about bacteria. Of course once they knew hygiene in hospitals became quite rigorous; and today even as a visitor you are expected to disinfect your hands before entering one.

No, the washing that is being talked about in our Gospel is ritual washing – notice that the Scribes and Pharisees do not accuse the disciples of eating with dirty hands but with defiled hands; that is ritually unclean or impure. It would have involved pouring water over ones hands and then rubbing them together – no soap involved and certainly no disinfectant or anti-bacterial liquids like we have today. It was a religious custom of the day designed to try and bring a religious significance to the meal and had nothing at all to do with hygiene.

Jesus responds to their complaints by repeating the words of the prophet Isaiah 'This people honours me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.' What our Lord is talking about is what is the point of following all the customs and rituals and seeming to be 'pure' on the outside when inside your heart is far from pure. 

To continue with the theme of hygiene: you could well imagine a doctor telling you that there is little point in engaging in a huge amount of personal hygiene – showering carefully, brushing and flossing your teeth after every meal, and thoroughly washing your hands before eating – if everything you put into your mouth is total rubbish – loads of sugary and deep-fat fried food, free from all taint of fruit and vegetables or anything healthy. A diet like that would do you more damage than the occasional set of dirty fingers; you might be clean on the outside, but inside you'd be full of all the rubbish that the fast-food industry can provide and the damage that it does.

And it is like that with religion too. There's not much point in following all the outside trappings of religion – in Jesus' day all the different kinds of ritual washings we read about in the Gospel; in our own time it might be going to Church every Sunday and Holy-day, fasting during Lent, saying our prayers morning and evening, and reading the Bible regularly – if our hearts are full of vile and sinful thoughts. 

Because the sins we commit begin first in our thoughts – before we steal, we think about wanting the object we steal; before we commit an act of violence, we are first angry with the other person in our hearts; before we say horrible things about another person, whether they are true or not, we think about saying them first; and anything else wrong that we do, we first imagine doing them. And even if after we have thought about these things in our hearts we do not later do them, that does not mean we have not done wrong. For Jesus teaches us elsewhere that it is as wrong to have such sinful thoughts in our hearts as it is to carry them out.

So what Jesus is teaching us here is that his followers are to have absolute purity of heart. Now that is not to say that we are therefore to neglect the practise of our religious duties; that would be like your doctor telling you that you didn't need to wash yourself or brush your teeth as long as you ate healthy food. No, the obligation to practise our faith remains the same. 

But with purity of heart, that practise becomes different. Will not the heart that no longer seethes with evil thoughts and desires partake more worthily and joyfully in the Body and Blood of of our Blessed Saviour in the Holy Eucharist? Will it not give more fervent and sincere worship to the God who created and sustains us? Will it not be more eager to pray and more alert and focused as it does so, freed from the distractions and temptations of unholy thoughts? And will it not be filled with desire to hear and read his Holy Word as revealed to us in Sacred Scriptures, more open to the promptings of his Holy Spirit, more aware of how it shows his great love for us, and the purpose for which we were created, to be be with God in heaven for all eternity?

So, I am sorry to disappoint any of our young people here today who thought our Gospel today might serve as an excuse when they appear at the dinner table with hands looking like they had spent an hour pulling up turnips followed by another mucking out cow stalls followed by a third taking apart the engine of a tractor. But I hope they have learned something far more important – the Christian needs to be clean, in the sense of being pure, on the inside as well as the outside. And it something that I pray that everyone else here today has learned as well. Amen.

Examin Sunday 30 August 2015

Keep Holy the Sabbath Day

Christians from the earliest days have seen in this a commandment from God to come together to worship him on Sundays, the day that his Son rose from the dead. Being a divine law it is not to be treated lightly. Therefore no one should, without good and unavoidable cause, be absent from the Lord's House on that day.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

prayer diary Saturday 29 August 2015

'As for this worthless slave, throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.' 
Matthew 25. 30

There are many who like to think that God does not care how we live. Yet Christ himself warned us that at the end we will all face judgement – a judgement that will not be pleasant for all.

Friday, August 28, 2015

prayer diary Friday 28 August 2015 ( day of discipline and self-denial)

Later the other bridesmaids came also, saying, “Lord, lord, open to us.”But he replied, “Truly I tell you, I do not know you.” 
Matthew 25. 11,12

It is easy to become complacent and think 'I am part of the Church – what more need I do?' The lamp of their faith burns low and then goes out unnoticed by them until it is too late. Our Lord warns against such carelessness and we must heed his warning.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

prayer diary Thursday 27 August 2015

'Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.' 
Matthew 24. 44

We know not when our Lord may call us to stand before him. It is for good reason, then, that great teachers, from the Fathers of the early Church to the great spiritual fathers of our own time, remind us to keep the thought of death always before us; for in that thought may lie the salvation of our soul.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

prayer diary Wednesday 26 August 2015

'You are like whitewashed tombs, which on the outside look beautiful, but inside they are full of the bones of the dead and of all kinds of filth.' 
Matthew 23.27

Did Christ not say lustful thoughts were the same as adultery, and anger equivalent to murder? A façade of goodness may mask a life that contains much that is evil. Strive, then, to master the passions within for the sake of your soul.