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Finding hope in Peter's weakness

Posted on March 22, 2016 at 1:09 PM Comments comments (0)

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.

How to Love Jesus: Be More Mary

Posted on March 21, 2016 at 10:30 AM Comments comments (0)

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.

Go away, and do not sin any more

Posted on March 11, 2016 at 12:03 PM Comments comments (0)

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. 



The Parable of the Merciful Father

Posted on March 4, 2016 at 12:22 PM Comments comments (0)
The Gospel you will hear at Mass this Sunday is perhaps one of the most well-known passages of sacred scripture.  It is often referred to as the parable of the prodigal son (though I personally prefer to refer to it as the parable of the merciful father).


It is an astounding parable and it brings home the reality of God’s mercy.  No matter the sin, your Father is waiting for you to return to Him and seek his forgiveness.  Whatever you may have done or failed to do in terms of keeping God’s commandments and living a good, holy life, never forget that forgiveness is just around the corner.


There is no doubting the availability of God’s mercy.  But perhaps the biggest problem is within us, and our failure to acknowledge God as our Father and our failure to accept that He really does forgive us.  In order to reconcile ourselves to God we need to seek Him in the sacrament of reconciliation and it is in that sacrament that God really does pour out His forgiveness.  We need to accept this and then approach him, just as the son did in the parable.  The father couldn’t forgive the son unless the son first sought the father’s forgiveness.


That must be our challenge this Lent and thereafter.  We must be willing, like the son, to search out the Father and ask Him to forgive our failures, our sin.  God will never deny us His forgiveness.  But we must be prepared to ask for it.

Should I Evangelise?

Posted on March 4, 2016 at 12:02 PM Comments comments (0)

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.




The Catholic Church: Holding the Keys to Heaven for 2000 Years

Posted on February 22, 2016 at 12:49 PM Comments comments (0)

Today’s Gospel (Matthew 16:13-19):
 
‘When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi he put this question to his disciples, ‘Who do people say the Son of Man is?’ And they said, ‘Some say he is John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’ ‘But you,’ he said ‘who do you say I am?’ Then Simon Peter spoke up, ‘You are the Christ,’ he said ‘the Son of the living God.’ Jesus replied, ‘Simon son of Jonah, you are a happy man! Because it was not flesh and blood that revealed this to you but my Father in heaven. So I now say to you: You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church. And the gates of the underworld can never hold out against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven: whatever you bind on earth shall be considered bound in heaven; whatever you loose on earth shall be considered loosed in heaven.’’
 

In 1870, Vatican I declared that this Gospel passage was clear biblical support for the primacy of Peter and successive popes.  The Council’s interpretation touches on the following five points of doctrine:

  1. The Magisterium built upon Peter is instituted by Jesus Christ;
  2. Peter is given a unique role as chief teacher and ruler over the Church;
  3. Peter is the visible head of the Church;
  4. Peter’s authority is passed on through successors; and
  5. through Peter, Christ himself assures the infallible preservation of the gospel in the Church.


While it may sometimes be tough to be Catholic, especially in today’s secular relativist world which seeks to discredit the Church at every turn, we still have every reason to be joyful.  Why?  Because this is a Church that was established by the saviour of the world, Jesus Christ!  Indeed, it is the only church established by Jesus Christ. 


But Jesus didn’t leave it at that.  In addition to establishing a church he knew that the Church needed help from above to protect it from evil and to ensure its ongoing safety and wellbeing in protecting the gospel with which it is entrusted.  So he promised the Church that he will always be with it, ensuring that the gates of death, deception and destruction will never overcome it.  He then proceeds to give his close disciple Simon Peter the authority to make binding decisions with respect to the Church and gives him the keys to the kingdom of heaven.


Jesus, in just a few short sentences, establishes the Catholic Church, promises to sustain it, and even gives a mere mortal being the authority to be its chief teacher and chief administrator on earth.  So we can say with confidence that through the authority of Peter (often referred to as the ‘Chair of Peter’) and his successors, heaven governs the Church on earth. 


So be confident and joyful in your Church, and trust her authority always, for she is being guided by Christ who ensures her safe passage through time to that moment when he will come again on the clouds to be fully united with her.  And it is at that moment that our Lord will gather in his chosen people to take them to Paradise to be with him forever. 


The keys to Heaven are in the hands of the Church where they have been for the last 2000 years, from the moment Jesus entrusted them to Peter.  No matter how tough or testing it may sometimes feel to be part of the Catholic Church there is no denying that she is the surest way to Heaven and to Jesus.    

The Goodness of Suffering

Posted on February 11, 2016 at 12:19 PM Comments comments (0)

Today’s Gospel (Luke 9:22-25):

‘Jesus said to his disciples: ‘The Son of Man is destined to suffer grievously, to be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes and to be put to death, and to be raised up on the third day.’
Then to all he said, ‘If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross every day and follow me. For anyone who wants to save his life will lose it; but anyone who loses his life for my sake, that man will save it. What gain, then, is it for a man to have won the whole world and to have lost or ruined his very self?’’

 
Carrying a heavy, burdensome cross every day is a horrible thought, especially when you consider this in the context of a world that rejects suffering at every turn.  But Christ tells us that, in order to follow him, we need to do just that; we need to pick up our cross ever morning and carry it with us through the day.


Instead of lamenting our suffering perhaps we need to consider accepting the reality that suffering is essential to God’s plan for salvation.  If He is prepared to send his only Son to suffer “grievously” then perhaps He expects a little suffering on our part too.  But our suffering need not be in vain.  Indeed suffering can bring much good.  When we see someone suffer it brings out our loving, caring and compassionate side.  As each of us carries our cross through the day we must look to one other with the love and compassion of Christ, offering a hand of help and solidarity.  And in this way the love of Christ is able to shine out in our world.

Catholic Teaching on Homosexuality: The Truth.

Posted on February 4, 2016 at 12:37 PM Comments comments (0)


Following a recent discussion on our Facebook page I thought it might be useful to draft up a short note on our Catholic faith and homosexuality.  It is intentionally brief.  For a more in-depth article on the matter please click this link.

 
Our Catholic faith tells us that homosexual acts are wrong. I think it's hard for us to hear this in such an abrupt way in today's world but this is what we are taught by faith. The reason such acts are wrong is that God has ordered us male and female for the authentic union that is marriage between man and woman and to be completely open to the precious gift of new life. Homosexual acts are not ordered in this way and are thus sinful. There are many sinful acts so this isn't necessarily a singling out of homosexual people. Consider sex outside marriage between a man and a woman, which is also wrong, as is the use of contraception.

 
It’s absolutely critical to also bear in mind that having same-sex attraction is different to homosexual acts. Mere attraction is not of itself sinful. It is only when these feelings are acted upon where it is deemed to be wrong.  This is something that many people get confused about.


I think it's also important to see the positive side of the Church's teaching on homosexuality. It seeks to protect humanity by promoting the love between a man and a woman for the sake of giving new life to the world and raising this new life in marriage, which throughout history has been the best place for kids to thrive. The Church doesn't say a man can't love a man or a woman can't love a woman. Indeed, such a notion is completely contrary to Church teaching. It simply states that it is wrong to interfere with God's clear and natural plan for humanity.

 
It's not about hating homosexuals as many people wrongly think. It's actually about loving everyone and calling them all to live in accordance with God's plan. That too is a form of love though it is often hard for this society to see it in this modern age of relativism.  In my time running the Scots Catholic website and social media accounts I have often been corrected for straying out of line with respect to Church teaching.  I have learned so much in terms of my faith and I am grateful to those who have offered their generous help.  For me, they are simply doing God’s work.  They are doing what Jesus did and are challenging me, and I shouldn’t be afraid to be challenged.  

In fairness to anyone who abides by the teaching of Christ and his Church on this matter, they are simply trying to live out their lives as God intended and they are well within their rights to stay true to God no matter what the world may tell them.  Jesus and the Apostles were ridiculed and even put to death for going against the tide and remaining faithful to God's teaching. But they remained faithful. And we are called to do the same.

 
It is also very important to note that there are many, many gay people living out their Catholic faith chastely in the Church. Their call to chastity is no different to the call to chastity of single people in the Church.


And we must remember, the Church is open to all people and she loves all people, especially those of us who sin. That's why I'm a member.

 
Many people query whether the Church might change its stance with respect to homosexual acts. This is highly unlikely given the wrongs of homosexual acts is contained in scripture, the Word of God. It's also entrenched in nature itself and the ability of man and woman to procreate (something the Church wants to protect for the sake of the family). I appreciate this is a difficult teaching for some, especially in today's society, but the Church can't fit around the whims of society. First and foremost, the Church can't stray from the Truth it has protected for 2000 years. And secondly, it would be impossible to satisfy everyone all of the time.  The Church, like Jesus, is here to challenge us with the Truth.  It is not here so that we can abuse it for our own ends.

 
The Church is also here to bring God’s mercy to us through the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  There is no sin we can commit that is too great that we can’t reconcile ourselves to God.  He loves us like no other. 

 

For more information on reconciling our Catholic faith with same-sex attraction, click this link to go to the Courage RC website.

One with Christ (Dwelling on the Word of God)

Posted on January 22, 2016 at 11:48 AM Comments comments (0)
Surrender and let Jesus shine out of you

Sunday’s (alternative) Second Reading (1 Corinthians 12:12-14,27):

'Just as a human body, though it is made up of many parts, is a single unit because all these parts, though many, make one body, so it is with Christ. In the one Spirit we were all baptised, Jews as well as Greeks, slaves as well as citizens, and one Spirit was given to us all to drink.
Nor is the body to be identified with any one of its many parts. Now you together are Christ’s body; but each of you is a different part of it.'


Do you ever think of yourself being inextricably linked to Jesus?  We often talk about the ability of Jesus to be with us at every moment of the day, wherever we are, whatever we are doing.  We often imagine him by our side, walking with us through the trials and tribulations of life.  But today’s reading gives us a slightly different perspective on our relationship with Jesus.


Today’s reading tells us that we are actually a part of Jesus.  We are one with him.  Christ is often described as the head of the Church, and this reading confirms that truth.  Jesus is the head of the Church, and always will be.  And it is us, the people, who make up that Church.  Together, as the people of God, we are one with Christ.  It is the most beautiful union between the Creator and the created.  It is a link of unconditional pure and perfect love flowing from the one who was prepared to go through the agony of the Cross so that we would turn from sin and recognise and appreciate this powerful bond.


As we start another week perhaps we should consider taking some time out to contemplate this great bond with Jesus, remembering that each time we do wrong we are doing so in his presence.  But also remembering that each time we do good we are allowing him to take control.  There is a classic saying ‘let go and let God’.  Maybe we should bear that in mind as we think about being one with Jesus. 


Perhaps it’s time to let Jesus do a bit more in our lives.  Make it your goal this week to surrender to him and let him take over.  Let him take on your worries, troubles and daily difficulties.  What use being part of Jesus if you aren’t prepared to use his perfect heart for love, his awesome mind for wisdom, and his most beautiful face to show how much you care?  What benefit is to be gained from receiving Christ in the Eucharist at Mass if we simply ignore the truth and goodness he brings to our very being?  You have the power to let Christ shine out of you, for you are one in him and he is one in you.  Be the loving Jesus.  Be the merciful Jesus.  Be the compassionate Jesus.  Be the Jesus who led others to the Truth.  Be the joyful Jesus!  Let it be.  Let Christ be.    

As the world goes, so Christ comes to save

Posted on November 26, 2015 at 3:47 AM Comments comments (0)
 
Today's Gospel (Luke 21:20-28):
 
'Jesus said to his disciples, ‘When you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, you must realise that she will soon be laid desolate. Then those in Judaea must escape to the mountains, those inside the city must leave it, and those in country districts must not take refuge in it. For this is the time of vengeance when all that scripture says must be fulfilled. Alas for those with child, or with babies at the breast, when those days come!
‘For great misery will descend on the land and wrath on this people. They will fall by the edge of the sword and be led captive to every pagan country; and Jerusalem will be trampled down by the pagans until the age of the pagans is completely over.
‘There will be signs in the sun and moon and stars; on earth nations in agony, bewildered by the clamour of the ocean and its waves; men dying of fear as they await what menaces the world, for the powers of heaven will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. When these things begin to take place, stand erect, hold your heads high, because your liberation is near at hand.’'
 
 
Today's Gospel paints a really depressing picture.  The world, it seems, will one day succumb to an ultimate and deadly destruction, something that is hard to equate with a loving and merciful God. 
 
But our loving and merciful God always has an answer, and that answer is Jesus.  For Christ himself will come on the clouds to save those who trust in him and to set them free. 
 
We have everything to gain by trusting and believing in Christ and loving as he loves.  We have everything to lose by rejecting him.