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Following Christ and fighting the good fight with love, patience and gentleness

Posted on September 18, 2015 at 7:22 AM Comments comments (0)
We must take the narrow path to Christ
 
Today’s First Reading (1 Timothy 6:2-12):
 
‘This is what you are to teach the brothers to believe and persuade them to do. Anyone who teaches anything different, and does not keep to the sound teaching which is that of our Lord Jesus Christ, the doctrine which is in accordance with true religion, is simply ignorant and must be full of self-conceit – with a craze for questioning everything and arguing about words. All that can come of this is jealousy, contention, abuse and wicked mistrust of one another; and unending disputes by people who are neither rational nor informed and imagine that religion is a way of making a profit. Religion, of course, does bring large profits, but only to those who are content with what they have. We brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it; but as long as we have food and clothing, let us be content with that. People who long to be rich are a prey to temptation; they get trapped into all sorts of foolish and dangerous ambitions which eventually plunge them into ruin and destruction. ‘The love of money is the root of all evils’ and there are some who, pursuing it, have wandered away from the faith, and so given their souls any number of fatal wounds.
 
But, as a man dedicated to God, you must avoid all that. You must aim to be saintly and religious, filled with faith and love, patient and gentle. Fight the good fight of the faith and win for yourself the eternal life to which you were called when you made your profession and spoke up for the truth in front of many witnesses.’
 
 
It’s hard for Catholic people to remain true to Jesus Christ and the Traditions of the Catholic Church, especially in this day and age when religion is often frowned upon for one reason or another.  Yet that doesn’t make it any less true or relevant.
 
 
St Paul’s letter to Timothy encourages us to remain true to Christ and his teaching and to remain true to the teaching of the Church he himself founded; the Roman Catholic Church which continues to exist to this very day.
 
 
St Paul warns us about those who stray from this teaching, and in true St Paul style, he doesn’t mince his words!  He says that those who do things differently to that taught by Christ and his Church are “simply ignorant and must be full of self-conceit – with a craze for questioning everything and arguing about words.”  Isn’t it interesting that St Paul should specifically refer to arguments about words?  Consider the abortion debate and how pro-choice activists often try to use words and phrases to argue that abortion is okay. They use (albeit wrongly) terms such as ‘embryo’, ‘foetus’, ‘collection of cells’ and 'personhood' to try to make their point. Consider how Pope Francis’ words are so often used against him by those who misinterpret him or those who fail to understand his bigger message.  Other examples of this can be found in debates around contraception and the redefinition of marriage.
 
 
The tragedy of all this is that Catholic people, including myself, continually stray from Christ’s teaching and the teaching of his Church.  I fall into the traps of the secular relativist society and I become that ignorant person full of self-conceit that St Paul is referring to. But thankfully Christ and his Church give me the Sacrament of Reconciliation where I can go and be forgiven for straying from the Truth.
 
 
At the end of the day, there will be many times in our lives when we will stray from the right path. But the key is to turn back, as the prodigal son did, into the loving arms of the Father.  While we may turn our back on Him there will never be a time when He turns His back on us.  He is always standing there, watching and waiting for us to return; to return to the path of Truth which He himself created when He gave us His only Son and gave us His Church.
 
 
Brother and sisters, we must do as St Paul says and “Fight the good fight of the faith” by speaking up for the truth with love, patience and gentleness before all people, even when it makes us feel a little uncomfortable.  Remember, it is unlikely we will ever be made to feel as uncomfortable as the early disciples who suffered immeasurable pain, including death, in standing up for the Truth.   
And even though we may well feel a little uncomfortable we must remember that we were not made for this world; that our destiny is in Heaven to be one with the Father, with Christ our Saviour, our Blessed Mother Mary, and with all the Saints and Angels.  Surely that is worth fighting for?

Pope Francis says people who cannot forgive are not Christian

Posted on September 11, 2015 at 12:20 PM Comments comments (2)
 
It’s a pretty basic point: you can’t be Christian unless you are prepared to forgive.  It’s something that is abundantly clear in Christ’s teaching and we can be left in no doubt that we are all expected to forgive one another if we are to be true to Jesus.
 
 
Yet this call is seemingly never put into practice.  We are often prepared to talk the talk when it comes to forgiveness, but we are rarely prepared to walk the walk.  It is in this sense that the Pope’s words are timely.  As Christians we undoubtedly need to be reminded of Christ’s call to forgive all people, even when they have committed the worst crimes and atrocities against us.  This is, of course, very hard for us.  That is not in doubt.  But then Christian living is a challenge!  Living as a Christian goes against the grain of modern society and modern living.  It requires us to protect life from conception until natural death, it requires us to love all people without exception, and it requires us to forgive no matter what.
 
 
As the pope says: “If you can’t forgive, you are not a Christian.  You may be a good man, a good woman….but you are not doing what our Lord did. What’s more, if you can’t forgive, you cannot receive the peace of the Lord.  And every day when we pray the ‘Our Father’: forgive us as we have forgiven those….it is a condition.” 
 
 
The pope also urged priests to make sure they are merciful otherwise they shouldn’t be hearing Confession. He said: “If you are a priest and you can’t manage to be merciful, tell your bishop who will give you a job in administration, but please don’t go into the confessional box!  A priest who is not merciful does a lot of harm in the confessional box!”
 
 
He then encouraged more humility among Christians saying: “Which of us can say this, that the other person is more of a sinner than me?  None of us can say this!  Only our Lord knows this.”
Put bluntly, there should be nothing that is incapable of forgiveness, and there should be no person who is not entitled to receive our forgiveness.
 

Holding firm to Christ and his Church (Dwelling on the Word of God, Sunday 23rd August 2015)

Posted on August 21, 2015 at 10:07 AM Comments comments (0)
 
Sunday’s Gospel (John 6:60-69)
 
‘After hearing his doctrine many of the followers of Jesus said, ‘This is intolerable language. How could anyone accept it?’ Jesus was aware that his followers were complaining about it and said, ‘Does this upset you? What if you should see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before?
‘It is the spirit that gives life,
the flesh has nothing to offer.
The words I have spoken to you are spirit
and they are life.
‘But there are some of you who do not believe.’ For Jesus knew from the outset those who did not believe, and who it was that would betray him. He went on, ‘This is why I told you that no one could come to me unless the Father allows him.’ After this, many of his disciples left him and stopped going with him.
Then Jesus said to the Twelve, ‘What about you, do you want to go away too?’ Simon Peter answered, ‘Lord, who shall we go to? You have the message of eternal life, and we believe; we know that you are the Holy One of God.’’
 
 
 
In today’s Gospel we hear of how a number of Jesus’ followers began to leave him because of his teaching.  The teaching was, in essence, too challenging for them to come to terms with and would have taken them out of their comfort zone.  As a result they claimed that his language was intolerable and questioned whether anyone could accept it.  Jesus’ response was to ask them if what he says is upsetting to them which, judging by their sudden departure appears to be the case.  And is Jesus ready to offer them comfort and consolation in their lack of faith? Not at all!  Jesus’ reaction is to simply tell them what’s what, to tell them the plain and simple truth.  He then turns away from them and challenges the twelve disciples on whether they are prepared to stick with him.
 
 
And Simon Peter’s response to this challenge is crucial.  Crucial because it is a response we should all have in our hearts when it comes to Christ’s teaching, be it through the Word or through the Tradition of His Church.  Peter says, “Lord, who shall we go to?  You have the message of eternal life, and we believe; we know that you are the Holy One of God.”
 
 
There is no one to go to but Christ.  Jesus Christ is the only way to God.  He is the only one who has the message of eternal life.  His words are spirit and they are life itself (his own words). Our challenge is to utter those words of Peter and admit that Christ is the Holy One of God.  Our challenge is to admit that Christ's teaching, entrusted to the Church he himself founded, is truth itself and free from defect and it is held and protected by the Church until the end of time.  Our challenge is to join the Church and to follow Christ through thick and thin, even if we are hated for doing so.  As Christ himself said: ‘Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven.’
 

US conference urges Catholic youth to live their faith openly and warns against cherry-picking

Posted on August 21, 2015 at 8:48 AM Comments comments (1)
Cardinal TImothy Dolan
 
A number of distinguished speakers including Cardinal Timothy Dolan descended on the Steubenville youth conference in New York earlier this month to speak to 2,000 young people about the Catholic faith.
 
 
The youth were encouraged to live their faith openly and to be prepared to make more difficult decisions as they get older, including whether or not to have a relationship with God. They were also warned against cherry-picking their faith in order to try and justify their behaviour.
 
 
 

I’m Catholic but…

Posted on August 14, 2015 at 8:19 AM Comments comments (0)
Venerable Fulton Sheen
 
Isn’t it fair to say that our Catholic faith is under attack from many angles in our world today?  The growth of relativism, aggressive secularism, and even attacks from within our own ranks, by people who suggest that Church teaching is wrong on certain matters.
 
 
In my own experience it is becoming abundantly clear that more and more self-proclaimed Christians (especially Catholics) are attaching less and less importance to the role of faith, and ultimately Christ, in their lives.  It brings to mind a quote of Venerable Fulton Sheen when he said “When somebody says: ‘I’m Catholic but…’ it means: they’re really not Catholic!”  There are so many examples of people saying ‘I’m Catholic but…’ in our world today.  Indeed it is a daily occurrence on social media forums.  ‘I’m Catholic but I don’t go to Mass’; ‘I’m Catholic but I don’t go to Confession, I just go direct to God’; ‘I’m Catholic but I don’t think we should interfere with a woman’s choice when it comes to abortion’; ‘I’m Catholic but I believe that same-sex marriage is okay because two people love each other’.
 
 
And while those who propagate the view ‘I’m Catholic but…’ don’t seem to care much for the effect it has on the more traditional, conservative Catholic lay people around them; they don’t seem to appreciate the effect this has on the one who really matters….Jesus Christ.
 
 
It is often difficult to comprehend certain Truths taught by the Catholic Church; the Church’s stance on homosexual acts perhaps being the most relevant example.  Nothing seems to stoke the flames as much as this issue. And even when the natural law, Sacred Scripture or the Catechism of the Catholic Church is quoted in defence of the Church’s position, it still isn’t enough to eradicate the view that the Church is out of touch and living in the past.
 
 
Yet what is the Church? Is it really a bunch of decrepit old men as is often argued?  Certainly not.  The Church is an assembly brought together by the Word of God, forming the People of God; a people nourished and sustained by the Eucharist.  And by receiving this nourishment from Christ’s Body we too become the Body of Christ.  The Church is the community of believers in Christ and his Truth.  It is a people, stemming from Peter and the apostles through the ages to the present day.  It is a people charged with the task of not only proclaiming the Truth but protecting it so that it may continue to live on through time, penetrating the hearts of countless peoples through the ages.  And perhaps the most important component of the Church is its head; for it is Jesus Christ who is head of the Church.  Not the pope, not the Bishops nor her priests.  No, it is Christ; for it is Christ who formed the Church and it is Christ who promised to be with the Church until the end of time so that the gates of hell would never prevail against her.
 
 
When he formed the Church Jesus promised to be with her forever; and he remains with her to this day. And his Truth continues to exist to this very day because it has been protected by his Church.  Just think of the apostles and how they, as a relatively small number, carried that Truth with them, taking it to everyone they met so that they might come to know Christ as they knew him.  Think of how they changed hearts and minds with this Truth and how they were even prepared to take it to their excruciatingly painful deaths.  Yet despite this, the Truth continued to penetrate time, through the early Church Fathers, the Saints, and through converts to the faith.  And so it continued on and two thousand years later it remains with us today; that same Truth proclaimed by Jesus Christ and his apostles.  And it is here because he promised it would be here. Jesus promised to be with his Church, and so his Truth lives on; protected and preserved by a people who love him and who trust completely in him.
 
 
While it can be incredibly difficult to live a life of faith in today’s world, especially a life of faith in a Catholic sense, we must remember that we are preserving the Truth of Christ, the one who created us and who loves us more than any other.
 
 
Another beautiful way to look at the Church is to see her as Christ’s bride.  She waits for him to return to earth so that they, the bride and groom, can be completely united as one.  If we let go of the Truth there will be no bride waiting for Jesus at the end of time. That is why it is so important for us to be true to our faith, every last bit of it.  I have heard it said that the rib taken from Adam to create Eve was symbolic of Christ and the Church.  That is how close Christ is to his Church!  And when Christ died on the Cross on Calvary and his side was pierced by the roman soldier, the significance of Adam’s rib became even more apparent.  For in the blood and water which poured forth from Christ’s side came his forgiveness; a forgiveness that he would soon thereafter charge to his disciples and to his Church.  And the first person to fully appreciate the significance of the blood and water pouring from Christ’s side and who proclaimed him to be the ‘Son of God’?  The Roman soldier Longinus (now St Longinus) who pierced his side.  Many claim that he was the first convert to the Christian faith.  So, the Church, the creation of which was foretold by the removal of Adam’s (Jesus) rib to create Eve (the Church), can now be seen pouring out of Christ’s side and reaching out to his created people, calling them to conversion and to come to know the Truth.
 
 
St Longinus would never dream of saying ‘I’m Catholic but….’
 
 
Longinus pierces Christ's side
 

Struck by a Beautiful Faith

Posted on August 10, 2015 at 7:45 AM Comments comments (0)
GK Chesterton's powerful quote could be our inspiration
 
I had cause to be in a Catholic secondary school recently and was immediately struck by the show of faith in the school’s main halls.  Numerous crucifixes hung from the walls and there were posters detailing the Beatitudes and other teachings of the Catholic faith.
 
 
And perhaps the most striking thing about all of this was simply the incredible beauty of our faith and how lucky and blessed we are to have it.  As I looked up at the multitude of posters I realised that they were all carrying very similar messages.  Indeed, they often repeated the same words over and over again.  Words like love, compassion, forgiveness, humility, service, honesty, peace and friendship, to name a few.
 
 
It immediately struck me that we are incredibly lucky to have a faith with these values, especially when you set it against the backdrop of the modern, relativist age where the constant message from the multitude of media outlets is so often about bettering yourself and being happy with your own life.  The values set out on these school walls are the complete opposite of this modern relativist ideology.  These values challenge and encourage people to think of others and to bring the message of Christ to the world; a message of love, compassion, forgiveness, humility, service, honesty, peace and friendship.  These are all values that we, as Catholic Christians, are expected to evidence each and every day of our lives.
 
 
If we cannot hold these values close to our hearts and be proper witnesses to them by our words and deeds, how then can others possibly be convinced that it is the right and proper way to live? 
 
 
And this is where prayer can be our help. It is through prayer that we can receive the graces to bring Christ’s message, and the beautiful faith which he has entrusted to us, to others.  This prayer can take many forms: one-to-one time with Jesus, a Rosary, reading Scripture or the Catechism, reading or listening to the liturgy of the hours, attending the sacrament of Confession, and of course Holy Mass. 
 
 
There is an incredible richness to our faith; a richness we would all do well to explore as much as we possibly can.  By immersing ourselves in our faith we are learning the way to love, the way to forgive, and the way to peace.  Only Jesus Christ can deliver true peace to our troubled world.  And what better way for us to partake in that mission than to bring to the world the true beauty of Christ’s very own Church. 
 
 
Brother and sisters, our faith is something beautiful, something incredible.  It is a faith that simply must be shared.  Consider those values stuck to the wall of that secondary school: love, compassion, forgiveness, humility, service, honesty, peace, and friendship.  Aren’t they the complete opposite of all the heartache we witness in our world today; the wars and terrorism, the unnecessary deaths of innocent children, the poverty, the greed, the envy and the harmful gossip? 
 
 
Our faith is everything the world is not.  It is love, it is compassion, it is forgiving, and it is peaceful.  Let us make sure the world knows the truth of our faith. Let us immerse ourselves in the true beauty of our faith and the undying love of Jesus Christ, and never be afraid to let it shine out of us like a beacon of hope for the world.  Go on, get out there and be Catholic!  Let’s move the world!

Too many fans and not enough disciples

Posted on July 27, 2015 at 9:33 AM Comments comments (0)
We are all obliged to spread the Word of God
 
Isn't it true that you often hear people saying things like 'Jesus would do this' and 'Jesus would do that'?  Indeed, such statements are often used by secularists to backup their argument that religion is intolerant, or by liberal Catholics who claim that a loving Jesus would allow for a departure from the Truth of Church teaching.
 
 
Yet isn't it rare to hear someone say 'Jesus would do this' or 'Jesus would do that' when it comes to spreading the Gospel or proclaiming the Truth of the Kingdom of God? 
 
 
For many people, including many Catholic people, the perception of Jesus has become relativised to the point that we pick and choose the Jesus who happens to suit our argument at any given point in time.  We forget that Jesus is not only this all-loving, all-forgiving God; but that he is also a God who expects something from us.
 
 
Jesus expects us to follow him.  And to follow Jesus means we put everything else to the side.  He expects us to put him first, others second, and ourselves third.  And he expects us to take his name to all people; to proclaim the truth and beauty of the Gospel everywhere we go.
 
 
These days there are too many 'fans' of Jesus and not enough 'disciples'.  There are not enough people working in the trenches trying to bring other souls to Christ.  Instead they satisfy themselves that they do enough and that anything else is either the job of someone else or that their failures will not be harshly judged by the Creator.  
 
 
We have lost our sense of true discipleship and our obligation to bring people to Jesus, putting our own souls in danger in the process.  Perhaps we think that discipleship is the job of our parish priest, that they are the real disciples of Jesus in today's world.  But this is simply not true.  Each and every one of us is called to be disciples and to take Christ and his message of love and mercy to the four corners of the earth.  We are all missionaries, called to sow the seed of Truth.
 
 
Let us spend a few moments today thinking about what we do to bring other people closer to Jesus.  Do we do enough?  Or are we often guilty of ignoring this obligation, focusing only on the qualities of Jesus that suit our own needs?  If we do then perhaps it's time for us to take some responsibility and be a bit more disciple like. 
 

Conference on evangelisation considers the role of Catholic apologetics in today's relativist world

Posted on July 14, 2015 at 12:04 PM Comments comments (0)
Dr Scott Hahn speaks at the conference
 
A conference titled 'Encountering Christ: Apologetics and and the New Evangelisation' has brought together a number of high profile theologians and scholars to shed light on the issue of Catholic apologetics in today's relativist world.
 
 
Cardinal Francis Arinze, Dr Scott Hahn and Patrick Madrid were among the speakers at the event which attracted a crowd of 450 people at Christendom College, Front Royal in the USA.
 
 
 

Laudato Si - 13 things to know about Pope Francis' latest encyclical

Posted on July 14, 2015 at 8:59 AM Comments comments (0)
 
Click the following link to read what Catholic Answers apologist Jimmy Akin sees as being the 13 most important considerations to come out of the pope's latest encyclical 'Laudato Si': http://www.catholic.com/blog/jimmy-akin/pope-francis%E2%80%99s-environmental-encyclical-13-things-to-know-and-share
 
 

Our duty to save souls

Posted on July 7, 2015 at 9:23 AM Comments comments (0)
 
Our very existence can be defined by the requirement to save the souls of others and to bring them to God.
 
That is our call.  That is our duty.