Saturday, August 31, 2013

Examin - Saturday 31 August 2013

You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, strength, soul, & mindLoving God is not some abstract thing where we merely say we love him. It must be shown in the way that we willingly conform our lives to his will and cheerfully accept the hardships of this life. Part of loving God is loving his Church, for it is the body of his Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. All Christians must show their love for the Church in practical ways: both through diligent attendance on Sundays and other festivals; and generous giving to help support the Church both locally and globally.

prayer diary Saturday 31 August 2013

'I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground; here, you have what is yours.' But his master replied 'You wicked and lazy servant!' 
Matthew 25. 25, 26

Reflection 
God has given us our talents and abilities for a reason; and he expects us to use them. It is just as wrong to leave undone the things we should have done as to do evil deeds.

Friday, August 30, 2013

using your gifts

(sermon: start of year service for the local primary school)

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

That parable we just heard, about the servants receiving all that gold from their master and doing different things with it … what do you think it was all about? … yes, yes … those are all good thoughts … you know, I really thought this was a good reading for starting back to school … & I thought I might tell you a little story based on what it is trying to say to us …

there once was a king with three sons: Andrew, Bill, and Charlie. Andrew was the eldest and very strong; Bill was next and very fast; and Charlie was the youngest and, well pretty ordinary compared to his brothers. And boy did they let him know it.

'You're not much good at anything, are you?' they would jeer. 'There is no chance you'll be the next king!' The reason they said that was because each year on his birthday, the king had a tournament. And as part of the tournament, each of his sons was allowed to challenge the royal champion in combat. The king had told them that the first to defeat the champion would be his heir.

For the past several years, both Andrew and Bill had challenged the champion, but neither had ever beaten him. The reason was because, all though Andrew was very strong and Bill very fast, both were very lazy. Both preferred to go off riding horses and hunting with their friends to putting in the hard training needed to beat the champion.

'But it doesn't matter,' said Andrew to himself. 'As I grow older, I get stronger. Soon enough I'll be able to beat him.'

Bill thought the same, that the day would come when he was quick enough. And so neither of them worked very hard to hone their skills and make the best use of their gifts.

Charlie, on the other hand, although he didn't have their natural talent, worked very hard at his training. When they went off hunting, he went to the champion and begged him for private training lessons. And smiling the champion agreed.

'You're getting good,' he told Charlie. 'But you'll never be as strong or quick as your brothers. I can't see the day coming when you can beat me.'

'Perhaps not,' said Charlie. 'But I'll do my best.'

Finally it was the king's birthday again. Before the tournament, Charlie went to each of his brothers.

'Andrew,' he said. 'I hope you do well today. But I think this is the year that the champion will be defeated. And it won't be by you!' To Bill he said

'I think that this year is you final chance to win the crown. Because if you don't win this time, it will go to another.'

Andrew, thinking he meant Bill was nearly ready, put up a ferocious battle. It went on for ages, but at last he was defeated. Bill, thinking that Charlie had meant that Andrew would soon be ready, and seeing how hard he fought this year, thought that this was surely his last chance, for Andrew might win the following year. He also put up a great fight against the champion and lasted a long time, but at last he too was defeated.

And then Charlie stepped forward.

'Yes, my son?' said the king.

'This year, I also challenge the champion.'

The king smiled.

'I wondered when your time would come. Fight on.'

After two hard battles, the champion was tired. And Charlie, although he was neither as fast nor as strong as his brothers, was very well trained – trained by the champion himself. Soon the battle was over, and Charlie was the victor.

The champion clapped him on the shoulder.

'Nicely done,' he said.

'But we don't understand,' wailed Andrew and Bill.

'It is simple,' said the king. 'You each had your gifts, but you did nothing with them. Charlie also had gifts, which you did not see. He was not only hard-working, but wiser than you. You have missed your chance and it is he who shall be king. And you will serve him.'

And in the fullness of time, Charlie did become king. And a very good king he was, as wise and hard-working as he had been to win the crown.

And that's the point. There's no point having gifts and not using them. And if you waste them, the day will come when it is just too late. And you'll loose out. You'll miss out on the greatest prize of all. And you'll have no one to blame but yourself, because you were the one who chose to do nothing with them. Something I pray that no one here will ever do. Amen. 


prayer diary Friday 30 August 2013 (day of discipline and self-denial)

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

Reflection
One day there will come a moment for us all when it is no longer enough to say 'sorry' and there is no more time left to make amends. Do not be caught napping.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

prayer diary Thursday 29 August 2013

''Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.' 
Matthew 24. 42

Reflection 
There is only one perfect time to start leading a life that is pure and holy: right now. Who knows whether or not this very night that you may be asked to render an account of your life before the heavenly throne?

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

funerals: asking 'what about me?'

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

I'm sure you've all heard the old joke about the funeral service where the preacher was telling the mourners about what a wonderful, kind, and caring man the deceased had been. And about half way through the sermon, the son leaned over to his mother and whispered: 'Are we at the right funeral?'

As I never met Kildare Dobbs (& here) in this life, I might have been at risk of giving that kind of sermon today. Luckily, we have not one, but two speakers after the service who can talk about him from personal experience. I'm sure they'll be able to give a far more accurate picture of him than I, who has no idea whether he was a saint or a sinner.

Well, that's not entirely true. As we are all saints and sinners, I have no doubt that Kildare was something of a mixture of both. I'm simply not in a position to say what kind of a balance he struck between the two. What I do know about him is gleaned from his autobiography, a copy of which Linda kindly sent me. From it, it is clear that he was a fine writer who lived a life that was often quite exciting and adventurous. But the saint or sinner question goes largely unanswered – he says at one point he doesn't really like the idea of making his confession on its pages. Indeed, other than describing himself towards the end as a 'lapsed Protestant' he doesn't really address the issue of religion or faith much at all. Whether because that was too private a matter for his reading public or simply because he had no real interest is a question for those who knew him more intimately than I.

Which leaves a stranger such as I no closer to answering the saint or sinner question. That is perhaps as it should be. Christ in the Gospels when asked about who was righteous, who was a sinner, who would be judged and found wanting, or who would be saved, would typically respond along the lines of: 'forget about those others; what about you?'

Maybe that's the important question for all to ask themselves at a funeral or a memorial service – what about me? The decision as to whether the absent loved one was more saint than sinner or the other way round is beyond us now. It is in the hands of our loving God. A God, who in the vision he granted to St John in Revelation, let us know that the heaven he holds our to us is a place where there is 'no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain.' A place that his Son assured us, as we heard in our Gospel reading, where there were many mansions, a place where he went before us to prepare a place for us.

On these occasions 'what about me' is the more important question because it gives us the chance to re-assess our own lives; to consider for ourselves where the balance for us is between saint and sinner; to perhaps knock us out of the miasma of daily life that causes us to about eternal life and live not only as if we will live forever, but that it matters how we live; to remind ourselves that not only is sin real, but true holiness of life is indeed possible; and if we think perhaps after careful consideration that we have let ourselves go too far in the wrong direction on that scale, what it is that we might do in the time we have left to redress the balance. Maybe for you that means go to Church more, or read the Bible more, or pray more. Or simply say sorry to God more often for having gotten the balance wrong.

I do have one slight clue as to where Kildare might have struck his balance. When we were organising this memorial service, his sister Sally said that one of his favourite hymns had been one we'll have later: 'For all the saints, who from their labours rest.' If he loved a hymn that was about those who having led holy lives attaining heaven at the last, is it too much to think that he also wished to lead a Godly life, even is he didn't write about it much?

And if that is so, we may also hope that a man who was successful at so many other things, had equal success in this venture … hope that he was received at the last by his loving and merciful Father into one of the many mansions prepared for him by his Lord and Saviour. I pray that he was; and that one day you shall be also, even as I ask that you pray the same for me. Amen.

prayer diary Wednesday 28 August 2013 (Feast of St Augustine)

'For you are like white-washed tombs, which on the outside look beautiful, but inside are full of the bones of the dead and all kinds of filth.' 
Matthew 23. 27

Reflection
Don't be too quick to envy those you think have glittering and perfect lives. The happy-shiny exterior may hide a soul that is dead to eternal life. Success in this life does not necessarily make anyone a role model.

prayer diary Tuesday 27 August 2013

'You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel!' 
Matthew 23. 24

Reflection 
It is possible to be over scrupulous, fretting over the tiny details while missing the big picture. It is a little like being 'penny wise & pound foolish.' Take a step back and re-examine how you are dealing with the bigger issues.

Monday, August 26, 2013

A red light for Ireland?

My letter in Saturday' Irish Times, as a response to this article advocating legalising & taxing prostitution ... better to poke fun than to go apoplectic when suggestions like are made, I think!

A chara, 
– Dan O’Brien’s suggestion that our blighted economy is a good reason to legalise and tax prostitution (Business Opinion, August 23rd) gives a whole new meaning to the notion “ask not what your country can do for you, but rather what you can do for your country”. I hope the women of Ireland are ready for his brave, new Ireland. Oh wait: that’s a little bit sexist of me – equality legislation would no doubt ensure that everyone had the opportunity to play their part.
I suppose there’d be a Bord Fáilte campaign to highlight Ireland’s new status as a sex-tourist destination? The logo could be a shamrock with a red light in the centre. Or maybe just a red shamrock? And there would probably need to be some kind of a national campaign to persuade the “prudes” that it is OK for the rest of us to live off what used to be called “immoral earnings”.
I’m still not clear though why Dan O’Brien thinks it would reduce trafficking. I’d have thought it would have the opposite effect as pimps struggled to meet demand. And wouldn’t a whole lot of licensed “knocking shops” be the ideal thing to help traffickers hide what they were up to? It would surely be tough for the punter to know the difference between a legal and a “black market” brothel. Still, it would be in a good cause. After all, what’s more important than the economy?
 – Is mise,

prayer diary Monday 26 August 2013

'Hypocrites! For you lock people out of the Kingdom of Heaven; for you do not go in yourselves; & when others go in, you stop them.' 
Matthew 23. 13, 14

Reflection 
There are many who have abandoned the way to eternal life for themselves. And they are very happy to have company on their journey to perdition. Do not allow them to be your guides in this life.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

lessons from Jeremiah for a holy life

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

Our Old Testament reading today is the well known and rather haunting story of the calling of the prophet Jeremiah. And the story is important, I think, not only because it tells us about how one of the major figures of the Bible came to understand the plan that God had for him, but also because there are lessons in it that apply to each and every one of us.


The passage begins: Now the word of the Lord came to me saying, 'Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.

'Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you.' God had a plan for Jeremiah before he was born, before, as one might say, he was even a twinkle in his father's eye, the priest Hilkiah. And just as he had a plan for Jeremiah, he has a plan for each and everyone of us. Something that can be of comfort to us at moments of doubt, at the times when we wonder what it's all about and if our life is really going anywhere … and a reminder to us that we never have the right to play God with the life of ourselves or others. Life is a unique gift from; a God who knew us before he formed us in the womb; a life we have no right to interfere with by deliberate termination, murder, self-harm, or euthanasia.
The response of the prophet to being told that he is to be God's prophet is instructive: Then I said, ‘Ah, Lord God! Truly I do not know how to speak, for I am only a boy.’ 

Jeremiah is not at all sure that he wants to follow God's plan. Small wonder: as he says, he is only a boy! Some versions like to translate the Hebrew here as 'young man' but the word used does actually mean boy. So he's probably only around 13 when God speaks to him and quite frankly he doesn't find the prospect of being a prophet appealing! He doesn't think he's suited: he's too young – no one will listen to him; he doesn't think of himself as being a public speaker – and if he's like most, the prospect of speaking in public terrifies him; the Holy Land of his day is a place torn by war and where the worship of false gods is rampant – being a prophet charged by God to tell people to repent of their sinful ways is likely to be a short career ending in a violent death.

And the truth is that we can all be overwhelmed by what it is that God is calling us to do. We may not be facing being a prophet to a hostile and adulterous people, but that doesn't mean we won't feel inadequate to doing what it is that God is calling us to do, whether that is being a missionary, exploring a vocation to the ordained ministry, or leading the Holy Life that all Christians are called to do.

There's a good reason for feeling inadequate – it's because we are. None of us are equipped to lead the life that God wants us to live. But that doesn't mean we should worry. Look at the answer God gives to Jeremiah when he voices his concerns:

Do not say, “I am only a boy”; for you shall go to all to whom I send you, and you shall speak whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you'

God already knows that we are weak. He knows – and he has chosen us anyway. And knowing that we are to weak to do it by ourselves, he lets us know that he will be there with us. Just as he tells Jeremiah 'I am with you' so he is also with us. And more, he will equip us to do what it is that he asks of us. Look at what he did for Jeremiah:

Then the Lord put out his hand and touched my mouth; and the Lord said to me, ‘Now I have put my words in your mouth. See, today I appoint you over nations and over kingdoms,to pluck up and to pull down,to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant.

And just as he gave Jeremiah what he needed to be a prophet, so will he also give us what we need to lead the life that he needs also. And if at any time leading the life that God asks of you is proving difficult, if you're finding it tough and think that you can not do it, consider that Jeremiah also cried out to Lord that he couldn't do it, and God gave him the help that he needed. So too must we all pray to God for the help he will unfailingly give to all who ask to lead as he wills us to live … just as we must also pray for each other for the strength to endure to the end. Amen.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Examin - Saturday 24 August 2013

Honour your father and your mother
We are taught by this commandment not only to obey the lawful commands of those appointed over us as children, but also of the duty adult children have to care for their parents in their old age. This duty extends to a responsibility of ensuring that all the elderly are looked after in a manner that is consistent with the dignity that is due to them as human beings created in the image and likeness of God.

prayer diary Saturday 24 August 2013

'The greatest among you must become the youngest, and the leader like one who serves.' 
Luke 22.26

Reflection
Followers of Christ seek no glory for themselves, but desire only to serve others. And the greatest assistance one can render to another is leading them to the path whereby their soul may be saved. In what way do you do others this service? Is the example of your life such that it may lead others to eternal life?

Friday, August 23, 2013

prayer diary Friday 23 August 2013 (day of discipline and self-denial)

'You shall love the Lord with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all you mind. This is the greatest and first command.' 
Matthew 22.37,38

Reflection 
Christ proclaimed this the greatest commandment because it is from this that all the others flow. If you do not love God completely then you can not do his will in other areas.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

prayer diary Thursday 22 August 2013

'The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore into the main streets and invite everyone you meet to the wedding banquet.' 
Matthew 22.8,9

Reflection 
The parable of the wedding feast is a stark warning to us all. Many who complacently believe their place in heaven is assured have shown themselves not worthy by virtue of how they choose to live. What of you – are you living a life that shows you to be worthy of the invitation you have received?

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

prayer diary Wednesday 21 August 2013

When those he hired last came, he gave them the usual daily wage; and when the first came, they thought they would receive more.' 
Matthew 20.9

Reflection
It is never too late to change your ways and enter into the vineyard of the Lord. The reward he offers is the same to all, whenever they come: eternal life.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

prayer diary Tuesday 20 August 2013

'It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.' 
Matthew 19.24

Reflection 
Wealth is not evil in itself; but it is seductive. The riches of this world can lure you into having greater regard for them than for having treasure in heaven.

Monday, August 19, 2013

prayer diary Monday 19 August 2013

'If you wish to be perfect, go, sell all your possessions, give the money to the poor, & you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.' 
Matthew 19.21

Reflection 
The problem of the rich young man is not his wealth, but his attachment to his possessions. They are something that he can not give up, not even for the sake of attaining the kingdom of heaven. What is there in your life that you can not give up, even though holding on to it may cost you eternal life?

Sunday, August 18, 2013

flee from compromise!

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

We tend to think of Jesus as a peace-loving sort: blessed are the peace-makers; love your enemies; turn the other cheek. We can over-look that this same Jesus made a whip out of cord and over-turned the tables of the money-changers; that he spoke a great deal about those who were not friends of God being cast into the outer darkness where there would be wailing and a gnashing of teeth; and, as we hear in today's Gospel, that he said he had come not to bring peace but fire and division.

That might sound contradictory, but I happen to think it is quite typical of most people: they prefer a quiet life, but they'll stand and fight when they have to. For example, most of the soldiers I served with in the US Army were what I would call peace-loving men and women. They had no particular desire to be sent into a war-zone, though of course they would go and do their duty if sent. And if they were sent to a place where a conflict was taking place, they were perfectly happy if they did not see combat.

I remember one, Sgt Burns, telling me about how he was out on patrol one night in Iraq, his M-16 in his hands locked and loaded: 'I spent the whole time praying,' he said to me. 'Lord, don't let me come across someone. 'Cause I surely don't want to get shot. And I just as much don't want to have to shoot someone.' There was another Gulf-veteran in the platoon, a Sgt. Gomez. He would have had pretty much the same attitude of Sgt. Burns. Which is why I was surprised when he told me about the loaded 9mm pistol he kept in his house. He lived in a pretty rough part of town and every morning he picked up his hand-gun and took a careful look outside before he exited his home to report for duty.

'You look surprised, Burke,' he said.

'Well, yes, Sgt. You always struck me as a kind of non-confrontational kind of guy.'

'It's pretty simple. I'm not looking for trouble, but it's where I live. What else am I going to do? A man can only retreat so far. And when you get past your own front door, you can't retreat no more.'

As I said, a preference for peace, for a quiet life; but ready to stand and fight if the occasion arose.

And the thought occurs to me, having reflected on today's Gospel, have we gone too far in the one direction and forgotten all about the other? Do we focus too much about the peaceful part of Christ's message, and think not at all about the division that he told us that his message would result in?

In our reading, Jesus uses the example of what his message could to to a family. He means here, I suggest, that this is what would happen if one part of a family believed in his good news and the other part did not – that the result would be that the family would be torn apart. Did he say, 'now if that happens folks, of course what you must do is find some kind of way of compromising … in such circumstances people, naturally I would expect my peace-loving followers to back down, to water the message down a bit, maybe keep what they believe to themselves – anything for a quiet life, after all!' No, he doesn't. In fact he says: I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled – not exactly indicative of a willingness to compromise! And families, we must remember, are the basic building blocks of society … if he expects that strict adherence to his word will cause difficulty in a Christian's family life, what problems might it cause in one's social life?

The truth is that Christ knew, and warned his followers, that keeping to the Way that he taught would cause divisions between between them and wider society – and the choice was his way or the world's way – his way and division or the world's way and a quiet life … but you couldn't be a Christian in your heart, where no one knew about it, and the same as everybody else as far as the world was concerned.

Not easy. But then, when someone says that haven't come to bring peace but fire and division then we know they are not inviting us into an easy life. But the fact that it is hard is softened somewhat by the fact that Jesus helps us to lead that hard life. He offers us his grace every day to endure. And he holds out the promise of eternal life to those who endure to the end. Which makes, I think, sacrificing the possibility of a quiet life an easy sacrifice to make … which is why that I pray that all here will chose the life of division he calls us to: in the name of the Father, & the Son, & the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Examin Saturday 17 August 2013

Honour your father and your mother
The first and most obvious meaning of this commandment is of the duty of young children to obey their parents in all that is lawful. This includes the child being obedient to all in authority over them. But this commandment also speaks to parents. They have a duty to not only to care for children's material needs, but to pass on the faith by word and example of life. And just as the first will often require sacrifices, so too will the other.

prayer diary Saturday 17 August 2013

'Let the little children come to me and do not stop them; for it is to such as these the kingdom of heaven belongs.' 
Matthew 19. 14

Reflection 
Christ again reminds us of the childlike simplicity required of all who would follow him. For just as a child implicitly trusts his parents, so too must we trust Christ and all that he taught us and all that he did for us.

Friday, August 16, 2013

prayer diary Friday 16 August 2013 (day of discipline and self-denial)

'What God has joined together, let no man separate.' 
Matthew 19. 6

Reflection
Christian marriage is a state that is only be dissolved by death; therefore it behoves those who would enter into it to not do so lightly. By doing so they may not only risk their happiness in this life but also in the next.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

prayer diary Thursday 15 August 2013

Peter said ' Lord, if another member of the Church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?' Jesus said to him 'Not seven times but, I tell you, but seventy times seven.'. 
Matthew 18. 21,22

Reflection 
Forgiving others is not simply a 'nice thing' to do; it is a fundamental of the Christian life. Forgiveness is not an emotion; it is an act of the will. And if you are obedient to the will of Christ it is something that you will do always.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

prayer diary Wednesday 14 August 2013

'Truly I tell you whatever you bind on earth will be bound on heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.' 
Matthew 18. 18

Reflection
Christ gave awesome authority to his Church. But why should we be amazed? It is his body on earth. Be careful, therefore, to listen to what his Church has always taught and still teaches.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

prayer diary Tuesday 13 August 2013

Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 
Matthew 18. 4,5

Reflection 
Humility is one of the defining traits of the Christian. Pride of any sort prevents us from making progress in the spiritual life  – especially that pride which sets our will above the will of God.

Monday, August 12, 2013

prayer diary Monday 12 August 2013

Jesus said to them: the Son of Man will be betrayed into human hands, and they will kill him, and on the third day he will be raised. 
Matthew 17. 22,23

Reflection 
Christ came to this world knowing that he would suffer and die. He thought each and every one of us was important enough for that. Do you live your life in a way that shows you appreciate what he did for you?

Sunday, August 11, 2013

but I obey most of the law ...

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

Imagine for a moment you're the kind of person who likes to drive a bit too fast. That, and maybe talk on your mobile phone while you're driving sometimes. Most of the time you get away with it; but every so often you get caught. Grumbling you pay the fine and accept the penalty points on your licence. Time goes by and you realise that you're up to ten – only two more points and you lose your licence! That makes you drive more carefully for a while; but then your nature gets the better of you; you start putting the foot down; and after a while you get a letter in the post saying you've been caught speeding on camera. Your options are to accept the penalty, which means two points; or challenge it in court which means four. And since accepting it means certainly losing your licence, you decide to go to court.

Of course, you have no real defence and the judge doesn't waste any time telling you that. 'But, before I give my judgement,' he says, 'have you anything further to say? Anything that might act in mitigation?'

You think hard. Then you slowly say:

'Well, your honour, if you convict me, I'm going to lose my licence. And I really don't think that's fair. I know I don't obey all the rules of the road – but I obey most of them. I never drive without insurance; I always have my car taxed and NCT'd*; and, other than the speeding and using the mobile phone, I'm quite good about following the rules. So I think it would be a bit harsh for me to lose my licence.'

How likely is it that the judge would be impressed by your defense?  Personally, I'm pretty sure that you'd be walking home from the courthouse! Why? Because plain common sense dictates that obeying part of the law doesn't justify breaking the rest. If it did, where would one draw the line? Would keeping 90% make ignoring the remaining 10% OK? What about 80-20? Or 70-30? And who would decide which bits were fine to disobey and which weren't? Obviously, such a regime would be chaotic. Which is why when it comes to playing by the rules, it has to be an all or nothing proposition.

That's what's going on in our reading from Isaiah today. God, speaking through the prophet says: I know you make the sacrifices required by the law; I know you worship the way you're supposed to; and that you say your prayers. Great. But guess what? You can keep your sacrifices – I don't want your sheep, your cattle, your incense, your offerings of grain. And I refuse to listen to your prayers. Why? Because there's more to holy living than that. And you've forgotten about that. You don't care about other people. You've forgotten about the poor and vulnerable. You don't care that your society is unjust. You should be the defender of the oppressed, but you are not. In fact, there's blood on your hands from the way you do nothing while others go hungry or are exploited – all of your, people and rulers alike. Do you think your prayers and worship make up for all the other evil you do? They do not! In fact, it makes them an abomination in my sight. I have to close my eyes so I don't see them. You may like to think a bit of worship and prayer adds up to a holy life and makes sin in other areas all right. But it doesn't. As far as I'm concerned you are no different to the people of Sodom and Gomorrah.

Strong words. As they should be. Because there is no point in mincing words on topics like this. We have a lot to lose if chose to reject God's law. But it doesn't have to be like that. Isaiah reminds us that there is hope for us all: 
though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be like snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool. With repentance comes forgiveness. And of course, Gods wants us to repent and obtain forgiveness. That's why he sent us the prophets who continue to speak to us today through Scripture. That's why we hear Jesus say in today's Gospel: Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. But in order to attain that kingdom, we must lead lives that earn us an unfailing treasure in heaven. But God himself supplies us the grace needed to lead the life he desires us all would lead. A grace that I pray that all here will be open to receive – and a life that I pray here will be willing to lead. In Jesus' name. Amen. 

*National Car Test - Irish vehicle safety test



Saturday, August 10, 2013

Examin - Saturday 10 August 2013

Remember the Lord's Day and keep it holy
Other than the obligation to attend Divine Services, the main way of keeping the Lord's Day holy is to avoid all unnecessary work. The Divine command to rest on this day goes back to Genesis where we have the example of our Creator resting on the 7th day. God himself ordained that this day should be set aside for the refreshment of our bodies and the benefit of our souls. If you fail to do so, or fail to allow others the opportunity to do so, repent.

prayer diary Saturday 10 August 2013

For truly I tell you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed you will say to this mountain 'move from here to there' and it will move. 
Matthew 17. 20

Reflection 
Faith knows that all things are possible ... and is wise enough to ask for only those things that are in accordance with God's will.

Friday, August 9, 2013

prayer diary Friday 9 August 2013 (day of discipline and self-denial)

If anyone wants to become my followers, let them deny themselves, take up their cross, and follow me. 
Matthew 16. 24

Reflection
The cross is at the centre of our faith. We must lead lives that proclaim that truth to the world, especially by the way in which we carry our own cross.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

prayer diary Thursday 8 August 2013

He said to them: 'But who do you say that I am?' Simon Peter answered: 'You are the Messiah; the Son of the Living God.' 
Matthew 16.15,16

Reflection 
Peter's confession is one that we must make for ourselves each day – and then lead our lives accordingly.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Prayer diary Wednesday 7 August 2013

Then Jesus answered her: 'Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.' 
Matthew 15. 28

Reflection
If we have faith in God, we know that all things happen according to his will, even if we do not understand ourselves why things happen the way that they do.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Prayer diary Tuesday 6 August 2013 (The Transfiguration)

And while he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white. 
Luke 9. 29

Reflection 
Jesus' companions were privileged to witness with their human eyes Christ's self-revelation. We share in that privilege through the eyes of faith.



Monday, August 5, 2013

Prayer diary Monday 5 August 2013

Jesus said to them: 'They need not go away; you give them something to eat.' 
Matthew 14. 16

Reflection 
Christ knew that he would feed the multitude; but we, his followers, must never forget our duty to share what we have with those in need.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

5 lessons from the rich fool

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

It would be easy to think that our Gospel reading today – often called the parable of the rich fool – is only something that is of relevance to wealthy people. That, I'm afraid, would be a mistake. We must remember who it is that Christ is speaking to: he is addressing a crowd made up of ordinary people. Some of them may have been wealthy – at least one came from a family that had enough to cause an argument over how the inheritance was to be divided … but, of course, given human nature, that doesn't prove we are talking about a whole lot at all – but the rest would have been quite poor, as most of the followers of Jesus were poor … fishermen, farmers, carpenters, labourers … which means that Jesus was addressing his words to all people, not just those with money to burn. Rich or poor, we all have much to learn from this parable.

So what lessons are there for us in it? Well, we'll call lesson number one the reminder that we should never think our Lord is talking to 'the other fellow', especially when what he has to say is hard or tough. Almost everything Jesus has to say is directly targeted at each and every one of us. 

The next lesson is a reminder that life is short and we never know when it will end. This is something that Jesus speaks of elsewhere. We do not know the day nor the hour when 'our lives will be demanded of us.' And we need to be ready; because while it might not be for many years, it also might be this very night … or even within the next few minutes.

The third lesson is that we must not fall into the trap of thinking that wealth, property, or the pleasures of this world are all that there is … or that they are the most important things in this life. There is nothing wrong with them in and of themselves – God created them along with the world and when he finished his creation he declared them good – but they are not the be all and end all of human existence … and if we start behaving as if they were, then we start behaving like the rich fool … and remember, as I said at the beginning, Jesus wasn't only talking to the super-rich. A poor person can be just as obsessed with the material things of this world as a wealthy one … poverty is not a virtue unless one has chosen poverty, rejecting the material comforts of this world for the sake of the kingdom. The poor man can just as greedily purse money, possessions, and comfort as the rich man … and if the only difference between them is that one has succeeded in his aims and the others has failed miserably, then that doesn't make the one who failed somehow morally superior to the one who has succeeded.

Our fourth lesson is the reminder of what is of most importance – being rich towards God … or to put it in the words we hear in St Matthew's Gospel, laying up treasure in heaven, where neither rust nor moth corrupt, nor thieves break in and steal. When it comes to the end, what matters most is being right with God, not how big a pile you leave to be divided up between your squabbling relatives …

Which brings us to our final lesson: why does it matter if we prefer to eat, drink, and be merry over being rich towards God? Do I really need to answer that question? In the parable, the rich fool doesn't thank God for all the blessings bestowed on him, doesn't share his good fortune with others, thinks only of himself and his belly and how he is going enjoy himself for many years … is there any doubt what his ultimate fate is to be, this man to whom God himself says 'You fool?' Our final lesson is a reminder that in the end we must all face God's judgement … and what that judgement will be depends on whether we have made earthly riches or being rich with God our priority.

So to summarise: Christ speaks to us all in scripture; today's parable reminds us that life is short, that wealth and pleasure are neither all there is, nor the most important things in this life; that being rich towards God is what is really important; and if we refuse to accept that truth, then we must be prepared to pay the ultimate price … a price that I pray that neither you, nor I, nor any of God's children may, with God's grace, never find themselves in the position of having to pay. Amen.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

prayer diary Saturday 3 August 2013

At this time Herod the ruler heard reports about Jesus and he said to his servants: 'This is John the Baptist; he has been raised from the dead.' 
Matthew 14. 2

Reflection 
Herod, a vain and foolish and wicked man, hearing all that Jesus did, was wise enough to know that he was dealing with more than the merely human. Let us, who hopefully are nowhere near as far gone in depravity as Herod was, be even wiser than he; and hearing all that Christ has done, know that we are in the presence of our God.

Examin – advice for the examination of your conscience

Remember the Lord's Day and keep it holy
The most basic way of marking the Lord's Day as holy is by Sunday attendance in whatever parish you should happen to be that day. From the earliest days of the Church, Christians gathered together on the Lord's Day to give him thanks for all he had done for them, to strengthen their own faith and the faith of their brothers and sisters by coming together as a community of faith, and to receive the sacraments. So too must each and every one of us gather with our brothers and sisters each and every Sunday. Do you ever fail to do so without serious reason (and by serious reason I do not mean that you are feeling tired that morning or have something else that you would like to do!)? If so, repent.

Friday, August 2, 2013

prayer diary Friday 2 August 2013 (day of discipline and self-denial)


'Prophets are not without honour – except in their own country and in their own house.' 
Matthew 13. 57

Reflection: 
We live in what many call a 'post-Christian age.' Perhaps that is why, in what used to be called 'Christendom', literally Christ's kingdom, Christ receives so little honour from so many. Pray that we, who claim to be his followers, always have the courage to reject the spirit of the world and always proclaim Christ as king.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

prayer diary Thursday 1 August 2013

'So it will be at the end of the age; the angels will come and separate the evil from the righteous and throw them into the furnace of fire.' 
Matthew 13. 49, 50

Reflection 
Again, Christ warns us of the judgement to come at the end of the age. It is all too easy to forget that part of what he did when he came to save us from our sins was to remind us again and again that there were real consequences for rejecting what he had to offer. We can not live lives that reject his salvation and hope to achieve it at the end.