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Scots Catholic Blog
|Posted on March 24, 2016 at 7:00 AM||comments (30)|
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 (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.
|Posted on March 18, 2016 at 8:45 AM||comments (26)|
As we embark on another Holy Week we cast our hearts and minds back to Christ's persecution at the hands of his executioners. Jesus' Passion was a horrific and exhausting episode filled with hate, violence, abuse, blood and gore. All directed at one person.
The culmination of this hatred and violence was death on a cross. Left to hang in shame, to be gawped at by the very people he loved and was sent to save.
But thankfully, this death on a cross was not the end. Christ was to overcome the power of death to rise again and give all of us hope for eternal life. He gave us proof that death need not be the end.
This Lent, keep it simple. Praise and thank Jesus for the love he showed you and your family when he bore unimaginable abuse and violence in being beaten to the point of death.
Praise and thank him for the love he showed you and your family when he carried the Cross through the streets of Jerusalem, struggling under its weight, in front of countless people who had once love him but who now hated him.
Praise and thank Jesus for the love he showed you and your family when he had nails driven into his hands and feet and was left to hang on a cross to suffer the most excruciating death at the hands of people he loved.
And finally, praise and thank Jesus for his determination to overcome death when he got on his feet, rolled back the tomb stone and walked out to eternal life.
This Lent, keep it simple: praise and thank a real hero in Jesus Christ.
|Posted on March 11, 2016 at 12:03 PM||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.
|Posted on March 4, 2016 at 12:22 PM||comments (0)|
|Posted on March 4, 2016 at 12:02 PM||comments (20)|
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.
|Posted on February 22, 2016 at 12:49 PM||comments (21)|
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:
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.
|Posted on February 11, 2016 at 12:19 PM||comments (11)|
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.
|Posted on February 9, 2016 at 11:40 AM||comments (0)|
Lent is now upon us and we can all hopefully look forward to spending much time reflecting on our faith and our relationship with Jesus as we embark on a journey of prayer, fasting and almsgiving.
And while we have the option to develop our relationship with Jesus all year round, there is perhaps no better time than Lent to spend a little more time in the presence of Christ; one to one. This Lent we are invited to get up and walk a while with our Saviour. We are asked to pray more often than normal; to fast more; and to give more freely to those in need. All of this can be achieved with the help of Christ. If we take up his offer to walk with him he will give us the graces we need to make the most of this special season of Lent.
But what if you are far from the Church or have fallen away from the faith? If this applies to you I would ask you to just consider taking a little time out this Lent to speak to Jesus. It might be a prayer; it might be a question; it might be a concern or worry; or it might even be a simple hello! The truth is….anything goes. Jesus wants to give you the floor so that you can tell him everything that is on your mind. The most important thing for Jesus is that you need him. He wants to be the perfect friend; one who doesn't judge, who doesn't argue, and who doesn't impose any conditions on your friendship that you can’t handle.
Consider popping into a Church this Lent and spending some quality time with Jesus. He is right there waiting for you in the tabernacle. It's no illusion, no trick; he exists right there and he is waiting for you to come home to him.
And if your lack of faith relates to the Church, remember that the Church is a hospital for sinners not a club for saints. If you feel disgruntled or even distrust towards the Church, remember that it is Christ who founded it and it is Christ who waits for you. He is the most important element of our faith. It is through him that we will learn to love God, to love one another, to become better people and, ultimately, to be united with the Father in Heaven.
This Lent, as you give up chocolate or alcohol, consider spending some quality time with your Saviour. He has so much love to give and this love has your name written all over it. Nobody can give the perfect love and peace that Christ can.
Make a special effort this Lent to attend a very special appointment in your local Church. You may not know it but Jesus already has your name in his diary. The only question is: will you turn up....?
|Posted on February 4, 2016 at 12:37 PM||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.