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Scots Catholic Blog
|Posted on November 11, 2016 at 5:47 PM||comments ()|
From Sunday's Gospel:
“But before all this happens, men will seize you and persecute you; they will hand you over to the synagogues and to imprisonment, and bring you before kings and governors because of my name – and that will be your opportunity to bear witness. Keep this carefully in mind: you are not to prepare your defence, because I myself shall give you an eloquence and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to resist or contradict. You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, relations and friends; and some of you will be put to death. You will be hated by all men on account of my name, but not a hair of your head will be lost. Your endurance will win you your lives”
Jesus warns us time and again through the gospels that we will be persecuted for believing in him. We are perhaps tempted to brush over this, given the relative comfort and freedom we enjoy as Catholics in the Western world of the 21 Century. And indeed it is unlikely that any of us will be martyred for the faith, imprisoned or seized and brought before governors and kings. So can we happily skip these passages of scriptures, confident that they are not relevant to us, needed perhaps for another time and place, but not now? I would suggest that we would do this at our peril. Christians remain the most persecuted people in the world today. But even in our apparently “tolerant” society, Christian beliefs are scoffed at and looked upon scornfully.
It is worth meditating upon in prayer: in what ways does your Christian faith disadvantage you in the world? Do colleagues laugh or look at you askance when you mention you went to Mass at the weekend? Do family members dismiss some of your views, as they are based on faith and therefore are somehow less important? Do disbelieving friends aggressively try to engage you in debate to point out the flaws in your theology? Do people stare if you say grace in a restaurant before meals? To help us to consider this further, it is perhaps worth pondering the times when we fail to stand up for Jesus for fear of ridicule. Do we stay quiet when others discuss ‘hot topics’ like abortion or same-sex marriage? Do we bite our tongue when we overhear someone taking the Lord’s name in vain? Do we agree with the relativist position “that’s true for you but not for me” when challenged?
These might seem like small points, compared to the crown of martyrdom. But these are the persecutions of our time, put in our path to lead us to holiness. These are the “opportunities” talked about in today’s gospel passage. We must “keep this carefully in mind” and pray about these things, asking Jesus to give us the grace to be bold and confident in his love and help. And we must look on any ridicule or challenge as a blessing, ever keeping our eye on the prize of eternal life. In staying true in these small persecutions, our souls will be prepared, with God’s grace, for martyrdom, should we ever be called to that.
|Posted on July 8, 2016 at 10:10 AM||comments ()|
Sunday’s Gospel (Luke 10:25-37):
‘There was a lawyer who, to disconcert Jesus, stood up and said to him, ‘Master, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ He said to him, ‘What is written in the Law? What do you read there?’ He replied, ‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbour as yourself.’ ‘You have answered right,’ said Jesus ‘do this and life is yours.’
But the man was anxious to justify himself and said to Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbour?’ Jesus replied, ‘A man was once on his way down from Jerusalem to Jericho and fell into the hands of brigands; they took all he had, beat him and then made off, leaving him half dead. Now a priest happened to be travelling down the same road, but when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. In the same way a Levite who came to the place saw him, and passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan traveller who came upon him was moved with compassion when he saw him. He went up and bandaged his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them. He then lifted him on to his own mount, carried him to the inn and looked after him. Next day, he took out two denarii and handed them to the innkeeper. “Look after him,” he said “and on my way back I will make good any extra expense you have.” Which of these three, do you think, proved himself a neighbour to the man who fell into the brigands‘ hands?’ ‘The one who took pity on him’ he replied. Jesus said to him, ‘Go, and do the same yourself.’’
Eternal life in Heaven is where we all want to be. And even for those who do not believe, the idea of living in comfortable and joyful surroundings forever is a fantastic thought!
But how do we get there? Well, Jesus gives us two very straightforward commands. He tells us that we must love God with everything we’ve got and we must also love our neighbour. Looks simple on paper doesn’t it? And in a way it is. It is, however, important to avoid oversimplifying these commandments in order to suit our own busy lifestyles and agendas. For example, we can’t simply state that we love God and we love all other people and never follow this up with words and actions to support our claim. If we are going to follow Jesus’ commands we need to act upon them, and act with conviction; a conviction that tells the world: 'this guy really does love God and he really does love other people!'
Jesus’ commandments are a perfect summing up of the Ten Commandments (or Decalogue) given to Moses by God. They are not a watering down of the Ten Commandments and they are certainly not an attempt to abolish and replace the Ten Commandments. What Jesus does is present to us the Ten Commandments in a new way in order to aid our understanding of them. He invites us to rediscover the beauty and truth of God’s perfect law. It is worth remembering that the first three Commandments concern love of God and the other seven concern love of neighbour, hence Christ’s summing up of them by referring to love of God and love of neighbour. This is also why God presented the Commandments to Moses using two tablets of stone rather than one; so as to distinguish between the call to love God and the call to love our neighbour.
In order to obtain eternal life our words and actions must be in keeping with the Ten Commandments. We must respect God’s clear instructions and, in a spirit of humility and love, encourage others to do the same.
The Ten Commandments:
|Posted on June 3, 2016 at 9:29 AM||comments ()|
Sunday’s Gospel (Luke 7:1-17):
‘Jesus went to a town called Nain, accompanied by his disciples and a great number of people. When he was near the gate of the town it happened that a dead man was being carried out for burial, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a considerable number of the townspeople were with her. When the Lord saw her he felt sorry for her. ‘Do not cry’ he said. Then he went up and put his hand on the bier and the bearers stood still, and he said, ‘Young man, I tell you to get up.’ And the dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him to his mother. Everyone was filled with awe and praised God saying, ‘A great prophet has appeared among us; God has visited his people.’ And this opinion of him spread throughout Judaea and all over the countryside.’
The miracle performed by Jesus in this Gospel passage is one of great hope. The woman, a widow, had lost her only son. Can you imagine the grief and sorrow that this woman must have been experiencing? Can you imagine how alone she must have felt watching her only family being carried away for burial? She must have felt that nothing could take away the extreme pain that was now drilling through her heart. Yet moments later she would witness the resurrection of her son from the dead. Just when all had seemed to be lost, along came Jesus.
We must never lose hope when death comes knocking at our door. Whilst it is perfectly natural for us to grieve and to feel sorrow when a loved one dies, we must always have confidence in the one who makes all things new. Jesus’ death on the Cross was not a pointless exercise. It was necessary so that our sins could be wiped away and we could have eternal life.
When your loved one dies, remember that Jesus is there. He has come down from the Cross and is standing ready at the gates of Paradise, waiting to put his hand on your loved one, waiting to bring them back to life.
|Posted on April 29, 2016 at 10:11 AM||comments ()|
|Posted on March 24, 2016 at 7:00 AM||comments ()|
In today’s Gospel we hear about the washing of the apostles’ feet by Jesus. Peter was very resistant to this as it seemed completely absurd to have Jesus do such a thing. This was, after all, God made man, the Saviour of the world! It should surely be the other way round would have been Peter’s thinking.
Yet Jesus makes it clear that this is something he must do. Firstly, he makes it clear that “unless I wash you, you will have no inheritance with me.” This is a clear link to our Baptism and its fundamental importance in our salvation. It is also a link to the Sacrament of Reconciliation, where we are once again clothed in the white robe of our Baptism and brought to new life. Our inheritance, it seems, is dependent on living in accordance with Christ’s teaching, and this is achieved through our acceptance of and living in the Sacraments of his Church.
Christ’s washing of the apostles’ feet is also a sign that he is here to serve rather than be served. It is also considered by many to be an important sign of the priesthood and its role in taking the love of God to all people. And this is what I would like to focus on for a moment. Despite being in the knowledge of the intolerable pain and suffering he was about to endure, Christ took time out to perform this simple but critical act of love. And that is what we need to take from this special moment between Jesus and his apostles. It was an act of selfless love; a visible sign of how man should treat man. Jesus wanted to show this love to his apostles so that they would then do the same to others.
This Holy Week, are you prepared to wash the feet of those closest to you? While we may participate in the washing of the feet during the Mass of the Lord’s Supper we must also remember that our homes and families are small churches too. So after tonight’s Mass when you get home, consider washing the feet of your family and perhaps take turns doing so. And while this is something that can be initiated by any member of the family, perhaps those of you who are fathers can take the lead. Men are called to follow in the footsteps of Jesus and tend to their own flock in the same way that Jesus did. And what better way to do this than to replicate Christ’s actions and wash the feet of those closest to you? While simple, this act of love carries with it an incredible power, the power of Christ who makes all things new. And for those of you with children in your household, it will create a real sense of intrigue among them and they will no doubt want to learn more. It’s a great opportunity to explain to them, in simple terms and by action, just how much Jesus loves them and how much you love them too.
|Posted on March 22, 2016 at 1:09 PM||comments ()|
From today’s Gospel:
‘Simon Peter said, ‘Lord, where are you going?’ Jesus replied, ‘Where I am going you cannot follow me now; you will follow me later.’ Peter said to him, ‘Why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.’ ‘Lay down your life for me?’ answered Jesus. ‘I tell you most solemnly, before the cock crows you will have disowned me three times.’’
This small passage from today’s Gospel follows on nicely from our reflection on yesterday’s Gospel when we compared the simple love Mary had for Jesus in needing to be close to him with Martha’s need to be on the go. In being so preoccupied Martha missed out on precious quality time with Jesus, a mistake Mary was not prepared to make.
And today we have Peter, one of Jesus’ closest disciples, claiming that he would lay down his life for Jesus. That, you would think, is a step up from the love shown by Mary. And it is. And Peter would, of course, eventually become a martyr for Christ in Rome. But for now Jesus has an unfortunate surprise for Peter. He tells him that he is going to deny him. Imagine your best friend, or even your spouse, telling you that they know you will betray them in some way. You, like Peter, would be very disappointed to hear such news! But then don’t we betray people every day, denying their true value as fellow human beings and children of God? Don’t we gossip, complain and criticise other people behind their back on a regular basis? These are human weaknesses and no human is exempt from them. Even St Peter fell into this trap! So, in that sense, we are in good company.
But, like St Peter, we are called to greater things. We are called to overcome our human weakness and realise the hurt caused by some of our actions. How can we forget the look on Peter’s face in Mel Gibson’s The Passion of The Christ when he heard the cock crow? How can we forget the way he then rushed to the feet of Mary and sobbed uncontrollably as he clung to her garment, realising how foolish and weak he had been?
We are all capable of moments of weakness in our lives, even to the point of mistreating or even denying those most precious to us. The next time you fall into this trap look for the comforting arms of your mother Mary, just as Peter did, and seek reconciliation with Jesus in the Sacrament of Confession. This is how we can overcome our weakness and become saints. If Peter can do it, so can we.
|Posted on March 21, 2016 at 10:30 AM||comments ()|
Today’s Gospel: (John 12: 1-11)
‘Six days before the Passover, Jesus went to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom he had raised from the dead. They gave a dinner for him there; Martha waited on them and Lazarus was among those at table. Mary brought in a pound of very costly ointment, pure nard, and with it anointed the feet of Jesus, wiping them with her hair; the house was full of the scent of the ointment. Then Judas Iscariot – one of his disciples, the man who was to betray him – said, ‘Why wasn’t this ointment sold for three hundred denarii, and the money given to the poor?’ He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he was in charge of the common fund and used to help himself to the contributions. So Jesus said, ‘Leave her alone; she had to keep this scent for the day of my burial. You have the poor with you always, you will not always have me.’
Meanwhile a large number of Jews heard that he was there and came not only on account of Jesus but also to see Lazarus whom he had raised from the dead. Then the chief priests decided to kill Lazarus as well, since it was on his account that many of the Jews were leaving them and believing in Jesus.’
It’s hard to imagine what went through Jesus’ mind as he sat at table in the home of his friend Lazarus. He was just days from that most horrific persecution, when his detractors would finally have their wicked way with him and he would be hung on a cross and left to die. Yet here he is, sitting with his friend while the busy Martha scurries about waiting on them, and the more relaxed Mary pours an expensive fragrance over his feet.
The question often arises: are you a Martha or are you a Mary? Would you be too busy rushing around to appreciate the King in your presence, or would you recognise him immediately and desire to be at his side? Martha’s role in this episode is not without purpose. Her waiting on the Lord is a noble act and one deserving of praise. Mary’s actions are quite different. There is something quite beautiful about the simplicity of Mary making a beeline for Jesus with the jar of expensive ointment. Her focus is not so much to make everything perfect for Jesus as seems to be the case with Martha. Rather, Mary’s focus is to simply be by his side and spoil him with gifts.
Mary simply wanted to be close to Jesus and to show him how much she loved him. Martha undoubtedly loved Jesus too and she spent considerable effort in order to show this love. But she didn’t get close enough to him. Perhaps she kept what she thought was a ‘respectful’ distance, only periodically getting close in order to serve him his meal. But Jesus doesn’t just want us to flit in and out of his life. He wants something more concrete. He wants the closeness shown by Mary. If we are busy running around we perhaps forget the most important thing when it comes to our faith. That is, being close to Jesus. There is no need for a respectful distance. While Jesus is a King, he is a King with a difference. Unlike the many Kings and Queens of our world, Jesus does not care for pomp and ceremony in order for his people to get close to him. He is accessible 24/7 and he wants all people to come to him, from the lowest of the low to the greatest. We are all his children.
This Holy Week, think about your relationship with Jesus and how you can develop it for the better. Don’t get too caught up in the chores of the day at the expense of spending some time with Jesus, and be careful not to fall into the trap of thinking that Jesus isn’t accessible to you. He is right there by your side, right now! So stop and talk to him. Tell him what you think of him; tell him all your joys as well as your troubles and difficulties. And if you haven’t been to Mass for a while, consider coming back to be in the presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, where he is truly present…. body, blood, soul and divinity.
Jesus loves you more than anyone else and he just wants a little love back. So give him it. Be more Mary.
|Posted on March 11, 2016 at 12:03 PM||comments ()|
Sunday’s Gospel (John 8:1-11):
‘Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. At daybreak he appeared in the Temple again; and as all the people came to him, he sat down and began to teach them.
The scribes and Pharisees brought a woman along who had been caught committing adultery; and making her stand there in full view of everybody, they said to Jesus, ‘Master, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery, and Moses has ordered us in the Law to condemn women like this to death by stoning. What have you to say?’ They asked him this as a test, looking for something to use against him. But Jesus bent down and started writing on the ground with his finger. As they persisted with their question, he looked up and said, ‘If there is one of you who has not sinned, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.’ Then he bent down and wrote on the ground again. When they heard this they went away one by one, beginning with the eldest, until Jesus was left alone with the woman, who remained standing there. He looked up and said, ‘Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?’ ‘No one, sir’ she replied. ‘Neither do I condemn you,’ said Jesus ‘go away, and do not sin any more.’’
In the Jubilee Year of Mercy this particular passage of scripture stands out more than most. It is a perfect example of the new world order that Jesus seeks to achieve. It is a world of mercy, where no sin is incapable of forgiveness. It is a world where hate, grudges, complaints and criticism reign no more.
What Jesus wrote in the sand is a mystery. But his message is abundantly clear. We must be careful not to judge and condemn the goodness or otherwise of people when we ourselves are in a sinful state. If we are aware of someone acting contrary to the Gospel we are called to be like Jesus and do two things. First, we are called to show kindness, mercy and compassion and to put our arm around the person to show them that they are loved. Second, we are called to encourage them to seek the forgiveness of God, to live in accordance with the Gospel, and to refrain from committing sin again.
This is precisely how things are played out when we go to Confession. Jesus welcomes us, puts his loving arms around us and forgives our sins. He then asks us to go and sin no more. And while we must take Jesus’ call to refrain from further sin very seriously, he understands our weaknesses and the difficulties and struggles we experience in our world. That is why he welcomes us again and again in Confession. He never tires of pouring out his forgiveness. He just needs us to be willing to make the effort to go to him.
|Posted on March 4, 2016 at 12:22 PM||comments ()|
|Posted on March 4, 2016 at 12:02 PM||comments ()|
Do you speak openly about your faith to others? Are you not afraid to be frank about how your religion shapes your moral code? Do you even go as far as to try to bring others round to your way of thinking on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter?
In the New Evangelisation just a few years back, Pope Benedict XVI encouraged us to get out into the world to preach the Good News of Jesus Christ. And he wanted us to use every available platform at our disposal in order to do this. He used the humble but powerful image of a mustard seed from the Gospel, suggesting that if used effectively a small seed of faith has the potential to bring people to God. His words were: "I have a mustard seed, and I'm not afraid to use it". In today’s age we are blessed to have social media forums like Facebook to speak more openly about our faith and to tap into a seemingly infinite knowledge base. While social media can often be a curse there is no doubt it has opened up new avenues of opportunity for spreading the Gospel.
Yet, while some people seem content to do this, many more are not. In today’s secular relativist world it is undoubtedly a big challenge for people to spread their faith by means of social media. There is fear of criticism and mocking. There is also fear of offending people or of compromising long-held friendships. It is a significant problem for our faith and our Church. And it is an even bigger problem for Jesus.
While new age beliefs are thrust onto social media at an astounding rate, somehow managing to gather almost unanimous support in the process, Jesus is left to feed off the few scraps that are left. People would rather post and read quotes about being true to oneself and looking after number one rather than the horrific thought of making love of God and neighbour our priority. Quotes from famous authors or even the Dalai Lama have the potential to be of untold worth, but their value often pales in comparison to the Word of God or quotes from the Saints.
The Christian message is a tough one because it asks us to put ourselves in third place, behind God and all those around us. It also asks us to take up our cross on a daily basis and follow Jesus, accepting the suffering that this will inevitably bring. It also expects us to toe the line on controversial issues such as abortion and same-sex marriage. It is, in all respects, a challenge of great proportions. But it is not without its rewards.
And as if this challenge wasn’t difficult enough we are also expected to take Jesus’ message of love and mercy to all people. Not just one or two, but to everyone. Had Jesus not called the Disciples to his side and taught them his message, what hope would there be? Had the Disciples not then taken that message of Jesus to others, what hope would we have today?
You see our faith is a faith of action, full of energy and enthusiasm, drenched in positivity and hope. We can’t just settle for our own evangelisation or the evangelisation of those closest to us. This is not the Christian way. We must be prepared to carry Jesus and his Gospel message to as many people as we possibly can through our life. We need to put Christ at the centre and be his voice to all nations, all peoples. To be truly Christian we must do as the disciples did and carry Jesus and his message to all people, be it on social media, the internet, on the phone, or in person. Had the disciples failed to do this we would have no Jesus in our lives. Imagine how empty that life would be?
Remember, your duty to spread the message of Jesus Christ is not just limited to the people close to you. In fact, it isn’t just limited to the entire human population of our world in your lifetime. Like the disciples, your witness will hopefully carry the message of Christ well into the future so that another 2000 years from now people are talking about the great disciples of this time and how without their powerful witness the faith would be dead.
Jesus told the apostles to "Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature". We need to be disciples for Christ in today's world. Let the future generations rave about your willingness to speak up for Jesus and how you never shied away from openness and honesty about his loving and merciful message. Let your children and grandchildren see you stand up for something that will bring eternal life to millions and millions of people! And remember, you don't need to be a great orator or writer to evangelise. As Pope Francis has said: “We evangelise not with grand words, or complicated concepts, but with the joy of the Gospel, which fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus". So don't worry, let the joy of the Gospel speak for itself!
The phrase ‘do not be afraid’ appears often scripture. It is a strong, powerful message from God about how we must feel when it comes to our faith. In doing Christ’s work and spreading his message we have no need to be afraid. He is on our side!
Here’s the challenge: let your life be a life of evangelisation. Don’t be afraid to share Christ’s message with other people. Let your work reverberate down through the generations where it has the potential to bring millions of lives to eternity with God. Don’t keep good news to yourself. Use your mustard seed. Evangelise.