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Scots Catholic Blog
|Posted on January 7, 2017 at 3:37 PM||comments (0)|
After Jesus had been born at Bethlehem in Judea during the reign of King Heron, some wise men came to Jerusalem from the east. “Where is the infant king of the Jews?” they asked. “We saw his star as it rose and have come to do him homage.”
Today's Gospel (Matthew 2:1-12):
'After Jesus had been born at Bethlehem in Judaea during the reign of King Herod, some wise men came to Jerusalem from the east. ‘Where is the infant king of the Jews?’ they asked. ‘We saw his star as it rose and have come to do him homage.’ When King Herod heard this he was perturbed, and so was the whole of Jerusalem. He called together all the chief priests and the scribes of the people, and enquired of them where the Christ was to be born. ‘At Bethlehem in Judaea,’ they told him ‘for this is what the prophet wrote:And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,you are by no means least among the leaders of Judah,for out of you will come a leaderwho will shepherd my people Israel.’Then Herod summoned the wise men to see him privately. He asked them the exact date on which the star had appeared, and sent them on to Bethlehem. ‘Go and find out all about the child,’ he said ‘and when you have found him, let me know, so that I too may go and do him homage.’ Having listened to what the king had to say, they set out. And there in front of them was the star they had seen rising; it went forward, and halted over the place where the child was. The sight of the star filled them with delight, and going into the house they saw the child with his mother Mary, and falling to their knees they did him homage. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts of gold and frankincense and myrrh. But they were warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, and returned to their own country by a different way.'
In contrast to the wise men in today’s Gospel, we live in a world of instant access to news. Through television and the internet, we have access to the most up-to-date news of all genres 24 hours a day. Indeed we are bombarded by news from across the world and it is difficult to disconnect from this stream even with concerted efforts. The wise men were likely men of contemplation. Before setting out on a long and arduous journey, carrying with them precious belongings, they would have spent much time noticing and pondering the meaning of the star rising in the west. They likely discussed this at length between them, having their own doubts and misgivings about their quest. How puzzled would they have been to find their journey’s end, not in a palace, but in a stable – had they got this right? And there, in the silence of the night, their efforts and faith were rewarded as they saw the wondrous sight. They saw that which prophets had long foretold and nations sighed for. The Lord at his birth.
What would we be willing to do or sacrifice to see this sight? To us, Jesus’ birth may seem like “old news”. Repeated re-enactments and a multitude of nativity images can numb us to the awe we should rightly feel when contemplating this scene. We face different challenges from the magi in our time. Theirs was a time of quiet and contemplation, of expectation and hope. They saw this wondrous sight for the first time, having no idea what they would see. Our is a time of noise, instant gratification and cynicism. We have ‘seen it all before’. Plus Christmas is really over now isn’t it? It’s time to move on to a new year! But like the wise men we are asked in the readings today to search in the silence for signs of our Saviour’s coming and to remain open minded about where and when we might encounter Jesus. Taking the promptings of our innermost soul and no little share of faith, Jesus will guide us through uncertainty and darkness, to behold His face in all its glory. It is worth spending time contemplating what the wise men saw and asking God to give us the grace to see this scene anew, so that we can honour and praise him with all our hearts as they did.
|Posted on November 11, 2016 at 5:47 PM||comments (0)|
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 August 18, 2016 at 2:33 PM||comments (0)|
‘Through towns and villages Jesus went teaching, making his way to Jerusalem. Someone said to him “Sir, will there be only a few saved?” He said to them, “Try your best to enter by the narrow door, because, I tell you, may will try to enter and will not succeed”’
This year the pass rate for Higher Grades in Scotland was 77.2%. The chances of winning the UK National Lottery is 1 in 45 million. As humans, we love statistics and take comfort in them. They help us feel like we know where we stand, what the likelihood is that we will succeed and fail. In today’s Gospel passage Jesus is asked a seemingly straightforward question: what is the success rate of people getting to Heaven? Wouldn’t it be great to know the answer to that question? Knowing the exact proportion of people who ‘make it’ might just give us the comfort we need to know that our future rests with God. But the Lord, in His infinite wisdom, does not give an easy answer to the question posed to him as he makes his way to Jerusalem. Instead he uses it as a training opportunity; his message seems to be that we should not compare ourselves with others, and that we should focus and strive for the Kingdom, aiming for the narrow door. We may tremble at the seemingly harsh and sobering reply Jesus gives; and so perhaps we should. But a healthy fear of the Lord is important and a great virtue. We can also take comfort in today’s second reading:
‘My son, when the Lord corrects you, do not treat it lightly; but do not get discouraged when He reprimands you. For the Lord trains the ones He loves and He punishes all those that He acknowledges as His sons”’
It would do no good for an athlete to know the statistical chances of obtaining a gold medal in his or her sport, but instead a good coach would push them hard to reach that top prize regardless of statistics. Similarly, we need the same push to win the greatest prize of all. We should not fall into despair and resign ourselves to being one of those locked out of the Kingdom, and we should not doubt God’s unfathomable mercy. But neither should we grow complacent and lazily take our salvation for granted. Jesus shows us the narrow door. He is the way we must follow, bearing our crosses and sufferings as He did, using them to shape us into saints, and all for God’s glory.
|Posted on July 8, 2016 at 10:10 AM||comments (0)|
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 17, 2016 at 11:11 AM||comments (0)|
Sunday’s Second Reading (Galatians 3:26-29):
‘You are, all of you, sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. All baptised in Christ, you have all clothed yourselves in Christ, and there are no more distinctions between Jew and Greek, slave and free, male and female, but all of you are one in Christ Jesus. Merely by belonging to Christ you are the posterity of Abraham, the heirs he was promised.’
This Sunday’s second reading reveals a teaching that is fundamental to the Christian life, that of unity. Jesus Christ unites. He doesn’t desire to separate or divide. Rather, his intention is to bring all people together in his name so that he can one day bring them to share in the glory of the Kingdom of God.
Do we unify people? Do we seek to be at one with others as we go about our daily lives? Or do we create divisions through pride, selfishness and cynicism?
Christ’s love demands unity, not division. If we love as Christ loves, we will unite.
|Posted on June 3, 2016 at 9:29 AM||comments (0)|
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 May 24, 2016 at 9:19 AM||comments (0)|
‘You will shine in the world like bright stars
because you are offering it the word of life.’ (Ph2:15-16)
Today’s Gospel acclamation is a beautiful summary of our mission as Christians. At a time when Christianity - despite being on the rise worldwide - is gradually being eroded across the western world, this little piece of scripture is a timely reminder of our call to evangelise.
By evangelising and spreading the Gospel, as instructed to by Christ himself, we aren’t simply passing on a simple historical message in order to preserve it and keep it going for as long as possible. By evangelising and spreading the Gospel we are offering people life. The Word of God is life itself and if we allow it to penetrate our lives and the lives of those around us the world will have life. And it won’t be a temporary life that is over all too quickly. Rather, it is an eternal life. And this eternal life is not something that is reserved for the select few. It is for everybody, and God wants every single human being to share in this great gift.
So why doesn’t God just guarantee everybody eternal life from the get go? In a way He has, but He still expects something in return. He wants us to use our free will to turn to Him and to accept His gift. This is something that should be very natural for those of us raised as Christians. But what about those who are not so fortunate? How will they ever come to know about this gift? This, brothers and sisters, is why Jesus selected disciples and established a Church. His Church is charged with guarding the message of eternal life, and it is charged with sharing that message with everyone, taking it to all four corners of the earth. And what is the Church? It is me, and it is you.
Brothers and sisters, let us live out our mission as disciples for Christ; taking the Gospel to all people. Let us leave no stone unturned and no person untouched by the beauty and goodness of God’s most incredible gift….the gift of eternal life.
|Posted on May 6, 2016 at 12:32 PM||comments (0)|
‘Stephen, filled with the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at God’s right hand. ‘I can see heaven thrown open’ he said ‘and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.’ At this all the members of the council shouted out and stopped their ears with their hands; then they all rushed at him, sent him out of the city and stoned him. The witnesses put down their clothes at the feet of a young man called Saul. As they were stoning him, Stephen said in invocation, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.’ Then he knelt down and said aloud, ‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them’; and with these words he fell asleep.’
While sitting at my desk at work earlier this week a conversation about religion was struck up among my colleagues. Religious chat is generally taboo these days and where it does exist it tends to take the form of an attack on whatever religion happens to be in the spotlight. This time it was the Catholic faith; my faith. I was asked to explain the Catholic Church’s belief in the Eucharist. No easy task in a very secular environment I can assure you. But I tried my best to explain it in terms acceptable to the ears of my audience.
My colleagues listened to what I had to say and once I had finished a stony silence followed. This was followed soon thereafter by a change of subject, diverting away from the ridiculous notion that a piece of bread and a cup of wine could be turned into the body and blood of a two thousand year old Jew. The truth is, my colleagues probably felt not only confused but also a little uncomfortable by all the body and blood chat. And I can assure you that I most certainly felt uncomfortable with having to explain it to a cynical crowd.
Yet our discomfort at explaining our faith can never match the discomfort that must have been experienced by the Christian martyrs. In today’s first reading St Stephen shows incredible courage as he stands before a cynical crowd and tells them that he has seen ‘heaven thrown open’ and that he has also seen ‘the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of God’. Despite knowing that such words would likely lead to his death he was still not afraid to speak them. And he even echoed the words of Christ on the Cross when he begged God to forgive those who were killing him. Like any human being in that situation he would have been absolutely terrified, but he never once denied his faith in order to save his earthly life.
It’s not easy to talk about our faith to others. We can feel embarrassed, afraid, and even silly. But thankfully the UK is not like the world St Stephen lived in. It is a place where, despite some arguments to the contrary, people are generally free to talk openly about their faith. We must not be afraid to use this freedom, but to do it sensibly and proportionately. Our world needs a message of love, mercy and peace; a message that was so profoundly illustrated in the words and actions of St Stephen just before his death. We can give the world hope with our message; a message that comes in the shape of one man….Jesus Christ.
|Posted on April 29, 2016 at 10:11 AM||comments (0)|
|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.