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Our duty to save souls

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

It is true….only Jesus can save us (Dwelling on the Word of God, Sunday 26th April 2015)

Posted on April 24, 2015 at 11:35 AM Comments comments (18)
Only this man has the power to save us
 
Sunday’s First Reading (Acts 4:8-12):
 
Filled with the Holy Spirit, Peter said: ‘Rulers of the people, and elders! If you are questioning us today about an act of kindness to a cripple, and asking us how he was healed, then I am glad to tell you all, and would indeed be glad to tell the whole people of Israel, that it was by the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, the one you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by this name and by no other that this man is able to stand up perfectly healthy, here in your presence, today. This is the stone rejected by you the builders, but which has proved to be the keystone. For of all the names in the world given to men, this is the only one by which we can be saved.’
 
 
 
Only Jesus Christ can save us.  Only Jesus Christ can save us. Only Jesus Christ can save us. Only Jesus Christ can save us…. 
 
 
Has it sunk in yet?? It’s quite incredible to think that each one of us can be saved from sin and death and brought to eternal life.  It’s even more incredible to think that all this is achieved through one man!  Can you imagine being that one man?  Can you imagine if you were the key to Heaven; the key to eternal life?  Wouldn’t it be quite a responsibility?  It certainly would; but it would be worth all of that responsibility to see wave after wave of people coming back to you because they trust in you and because they believe in you and believe in the Church you founded. Yet conversely, wouldn’t it be so sad to know that not all of your created people are coming back to you?  Wouldn’t it be sad to be rejected by your very own creation?  Rejected despite coming to earth to spread the message of a perfect love; rejected despite performing miracle after miracle to help the poor and the needy; rejected despite suffering greatly at the hands of your oppressors who humiliated you and abused you before nailing you to a cross; rejected despite rising from the dead and revealing yourself to those close to you who then took that great news to the ends of the earth.  After all of that and still you are rejected!  How breathtakingly sad must that be for Jesus? 
 
 
It would seem that no matter how often we are told Christ is the only way to God and the only way to salvation, we still don’t quite take it in.  Even Jesus himself told us that he was the way, the truth and the life and that nobody can get to the Father except through him; yet many still doubt.  So here is St Peter, the rock upon which Christ’s Church is built, telling us once more that Christ is the only one who can save us. 
 
 
So, are we prepared to really let this sink in?  And even more importantly, are we prepared to take this message to the ends of the earth no matter what?  You see, we can’t possibly just keep this to ourselves or within the confines of our families and close friends.  An increasingly aggressive secularism tells you to keep it to yourself, but Jesus tells you to take it to the ends of the earth!  So let’s get out there and tell the world that Jesus is the only way!  It is Jesus Christ, the most perfect, most beautiful, most glorious, most incredible man who ever walked this earth who can give us the gift of eternal life.  It is the most precious Jesus, that man who took on unbearable pain on our behalf, who is the key to our salvation.  Trust him, love him and surrender to him.  And encourage others to do the same.

The glory of Easter: accepting and sharing Jesus' outstretched hand of love

Posted on April 2, 2015 at 12:45 PM Comments comments (0)
 
The next few days are simply fascinating!  The future of every human being has already been affected by what is about to unfold as our Lenten journey comes to an end and we find ourselves immersed in the incredible reality of Christ's Passion, death and Resurrection. 
 
With the exception of reading this article, stop whatever you are doing right now.  Take a moment to ponder the reality of what you are about to read and let it really sink in....
 
Around two thousand years ago a man was brutally beaten and killed.  He died before numerous witnesses, including his own mother and friends.  He was taken from the cross on which he limply hung and buried.  It was just another death followed by just another burial.  Except that several hours later this man woke up and walked out of his burial place.  That's right, he simply got up and he walked.  
 
Just think about that for a moment....
 
My dear friends, Jesus is the man who can give us eternal life.  He even said himself that he was "the way, the truth and the life".  And how can we argue with him?  We can't!  We just can't argue with a man who gets up and walks out of his own burial place!  
When all seemed to be lost and when a dark shadow hung over the reality of yet another poor soul lost to the ground this man did the impossible and got up!  Not only that, he went on to live forever!  
 
And if you think that's special it ain't half as special as him wanting us to join him!  He wants you and me to rise again just as he did!  Isn't that really something?  Isn't that the greatest piece of news you could ever wish to hear?  
Of course it is!  So let's rejoice in it!  Let's delight in this reality and follow Christ and his Commandments!  And let's tell others about this wonderful story of our salvation!  This is the kind of good news you won't find in the newspapers or on the news bulletins.  No, this is the kind of good news you hear on the streets; from people who are willing to share the news of our salvation with others so that they too may find joy in it.  It's not something we should keep to ourselves.  That's what secular society tells us to do.  But Jesus challenges us to share the reality of his Resurrection with everyone!    
 
Jesus died and rose again so that we too may rise after we die.  My brothers and sisters, death is not the end.  Jesus is offering us his outstretched hand of love with a promise of eternal life.  We just need to accept it and then be prepared to go out and encourage others to do the same.    

The Passion, death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ....in Lego

Posted on April 1, 2015 at 4:44 PM Comments comments (0)
This is the Passion, death and Resurrection of Christ as you've never seen it before.  While depicting this earth shattering event using Lego may, on the face of it, seem inappropriate, this is certainly not the case.

Indeed this is a very useful way to show children the story of the Passion.  You may even want to watch it with your children now.


Is The Passion too long for you? Just thank God you aren't hanging from a Cross

Posted on March 27, 2015 at 1:03 PM Comments comments (0)
'I'm doing this for you, and all because I love you'
 
This Sunday is Palm Sunday.  A day when we commemorate Christ's journey into Jerusalem, where the very same people who were to betray him just days later, welcomed him with great joy and excitement.
 
And it is also the occasion when we are asked to listen to a more lengthy Gospel passage, recounting the story of Jesus' passion and death.
 
For some people this day is a difficult one.  I have heard complaints first hand from people when it comes to having to endure listening to the last hours of Jesus' life.  They are all for Jesus being our Saviour and all that, but do we really need to stand and listen to the Word of God for that long??    
 
I suppose the answer is no, you don't need to.  So we then need to ask ourselves...do I want to stand and listen to this reading?  Do I want to hear once again that two thousand years ago a man was ridiculed, abused, spat on and hung from a cross, all because he loved me? 
 
 

It pays to listen to Jesus (Dwelling on the Word of God, Sunday 22nd March 2015)

Posted on March 20, 2015 at 10:15 AM Comments comments (0)
It pays to listen to Jesus
 
This Sunday's second reading (Hebrews 5:7-9):
 
'During his life on earth, Christ offered up prayer and entreaty, aloud and in silent tears, to the one who had the power to save him out of death, and he submitted so humbly that his prayer was heard. Although he was Son, he learnt to obey through suffering; but having been made perfect, he became for all who obey him the source of eternal salvation.'
 
 
Here's a simple formula....obey Jesus and you will receive eternal salvation. 
 
There you go.  End of. 
 
But do we need to explore this further?  Perhaps we should just bear in mind that this instruction means obeying everything Jesus commands us to do, not just the bits we think are easy or the bits we are comfortable with.  No, Jesus asks us to listen to him and to obey him in all things.
 
Perhaps this Lent we can start to do a bit more listening when it comes to Sacred Scripture, focusing intently as we hear the Word of God during Holy Mass.  We might even consider picking up our bible at home and just flicking it open at a page and see what inspires us.
 
If we can open our ears and eyes to what Jesus says to us in Sacred Scripture and let it sink into our hearts, we will be on the right path of obedience to him.  And it is this obedience that will give us the gift of eternal salvation.
 
You see, it pays to listen to Jesus.   

Only Jesus can bring us into the light (Dwelling on the Word of God, Sunday 15th March 2015)

Posted on March 13, 2015 at 11:29 AM Comments comments (0)
Sunday’s Gospel (John 3:14-21):
 
'Jesus said to Nicodemus:
 
‘The Son of Man must be lifted up
as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert,
so that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.
Yes, God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son,
so that everyone who believes in him may not be lost
but may have eternal life.
For God sent his Son into the world
not to condemn the world,
but so that through him the world might be saved.
No one who believes in him will be condemned;
but whoever refuses to believe is condemned already,
because he has refused to believe in the name of God’s only Son.
On these grounds is sentence pronounced:
that though the light has come into the world
men have shown they prefer darkness to the light
because their deeds were evil.
And indeed, everybody who does wrong
hates the light and avoids it,
for fear his actions should be exposed;
but the man who lives by the truth comes out into the light,
so that it may be plainly seen that what he does is done in God.’'
 
 
Perhaps it would be of benefit if we carved up this Gospel passage a little.  Perhaps we should boil it right down into a few snappy statements of fact, as declared by Jesus.  He says this:
 
God gave the world His only Son
 
Everyone who believes in the Son will not be lost but may have eternal life
 
God sent his Son not to condemn but to save
 
No person who believes in the Son will be condemned
 
Whoever refuses to believe in the Son is already condemned
 
It’s hard hitting stuff!  How can we reconcile the fact that God is all loving and all merciful yet He is prepared to allow people to be condemned!  We are all God’s creation, so how can He allow any of us to be lost? 
 
It’s a conundrum alright and it’s a stumbling block for many people.  But one thing that is absolutely certain is that what we are reading is the Word of God.  These are the words of Jesus Christ; the words of God made man.  There can be no dubiety about the reality of these words and their applicability to all people.  These words apply to everyone.  Yet sadly so many people aren’t aware of them.  But hey, that’s why you and I exist!  We have been given a special grace by God to have knowledge of His Word.  Not only that but we have been entrusted to take that Word to others! 
 
How do you think our faith spread back in the early days of the Church?  How do you think the Word of God found its way into the hearts and minds of so many people through the years?  Simple.  People used their mouths, their hands, and their feet to spread the Word!  There are millions of people out there who do not have the joy of God’s Word and His Truth.  We are called to take His Word to all of those who have not yet heard. Wow!  God doesn’t ask much of us does He??
 
And while we may have this huge responsibility on our shoulders, we needn’t do it alone. No, Jesus is always with us.  And God sends His Holy Spirit to be our comforter and our guide as we try to bring the Truth to all people.  We are never ever alone.  That is why we must follow Jesus’ example and take time out to sit in a quiet place and pray.  We must learn to take some time away from the crowd to clear our heads and to be in the presence of God, the Father who loves us and wants us to love Him back. 
 
This day, take some time to speak with Jesus and ask him for guidance on how you can be an instrument of God’s work.  Ask him what you can do to take God’s Word to other people.  Ask him if there is anything specific God wants you to do to bring His Truth to those who do not believe.
 
Remember the warnings of Christ when he speaks of those who refuse to believe.  He says that they are already condemned.  But this needn’t be the case.  We can change this!  We can bring people to God and save their souls!  In today’s world which has embraced the modern idea of new-age spirituality and religion it is widely accepted that each individual person is entitled to believe in what they want and do pretty much whatever pleases them. It is their life and ‘who am I to interfere?’ is the general consensus in a society with an increasing desire for relativism.  And while God’s great gift of free will for all people makes this possible, sacred scripture is full of warnings about how we ought to live our lives.  Too often we hear the cry that ‘Jesus wouldn’t do this’ and ‘Jesus wouldn’t do that’.  Who are we to decide what Jesus would and wouldn’t do?  If we want to know what Jesus would and wouldn’t do we just need to read the Word of God.  It’s all there in black and white! 
 
The difficulty many people have is that they find it hard to accept some of the difficult teachings of Jesus.  They find it difficult to accept some of the harsh words he sometimes has to say.  But remember, this doesn’t change the fact that he is pure love, pure gentleness, pure compassion, and pure mercy.  He is still all of those things.  It’s just that some of his teachings challenge us. And there can be no greater challenge than to bring the condemned into new life in Christ!  That’s the challenge Christ sets us is in this Gospel passage. God doesn’t want anyone to be condemned. He wants everyone to love Him and to eventually be with Him in Heaven.  But sometimes we choose the wrong path.  But thankfully there is only one wrong path which makes it really easy for us to know when we and others around us are going the wrong way.  The wrong path is simply the path that Christ isn’t walking along.  If we want to take the right path we need to follow Christ.  It is that path that will lead us to God.  Jesus himself said: “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one can get to the Father except through me”.  Jesus isn’t lying here.  It’s impossible for him to lie for he is all good.  No, Jesus is telling us in a very honest and frank manner that we need to follow him if we want to get to the Father.  Any other route to the Father simply will not work!  Why?  Because there is no other route to the Father!  Every other route is one of darkness.  Jesus is the only way.  It is Jesus who brings us into the light.
 

A call to Catholic dads: man up and make Jesus the real hero! (Dwelling on the Word of God, Sunday 1st March 2015)

Posted on February 27, 2015 at 10:11 AM Comments comments (16)
Jesus Christ: truly heroic
 
Sunday’s First Reading (Genesis 22:1-2,9-13,15-18):
 
‘God put Abraham to the test. ‘Abraham, Abraham’ he called. ‘Here I am’ he replied. ‘Take your son,’ God said ‘your only child Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah. There you shall offer him as a burnt offering, on a mountain I will point out to you.’
 
When they arrived at the place God had pointed out to him, Abraham built an altar there, and arranged the wood. Then he bound his son Isaac and put him on the altar on top of the wood. Abraham stretched out his hand and seized the knife to kill his son.
 
But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven. ‘Abraham, Abraham’ he said. ‘I am here’ he replied. ‘Do not raise your hand against the boy’ the angel said. ‘Do not harm him, for now I know you fear God. You have not refused me your son, your only son.’ Then looking up, Abraham saw a ram caught by its horns in a bush. Abraham took the ram and offered it as a burnt-offering in place of his son.
 
The angel of the Lord called Abraham a second time from heaven. ‘I swear by my own self – it is the Lord who speaks – because you have done this, because you have not refused me your son, your only son, I will shower blessings on you, I will make your descendants as many as the stars of heaven and the grains of sand on the seashore. Your descendants shall gain possession of the gates of their enemies. All the nations of the earth shall bless themselves by your descendants, as a reward for your obedience.’’
 
 
This is perhaps one of the most difficult passages in scripture for us to understand.  Can you imagine if you picked up the paper to read that a man took his son up a mountain to sacrifice him for God??  To say there would be an outcry would be a huge understatement.  Thankfully God didn’t want Abraham to actually sacrifice Isaac; rather, God wanted to see if he was prepared to do it.  And he was.  Out of fear and respect Abraham was prepared to do whatever God asked of him.
 
So how can we align this to today and our own lives?  Can we class ourselves as an Abraham, willing to entrust our children to God?  Perhaps the first thing to do is to think about who our children really are.  Do we consider our children to be gifts from God, entrusted to us by their true Father in Heaven?  And in response to this great gift from the Father do we praise and glorify Him and teach our children to do the same?  If the answer is yes to both of these questions then you are on your way to being a modern day Abraham!  You accept that your children belong to God and you delight that He has chosen you to look after his little ones! 
 
But there’s more; and while the following is relevant to all parents, perhaps it is most relevant to the fathers among us.  As Catholic fathers we are all called to be Abraham.  We must always remember that God created our children and it is to Him that they will hopefully one day return.  God wants His children returned to Him and He has entrusted you with the task of shaping His child and developing that child into a tabernacle in which the Holy Spirit can flourish for all eternity.  You aren’t just raising your child so that they have a nice life, visit lots of places, experience lots of thrills and die at a respectable 80 or 90 years of age.  You are raising your child so that they will live forever in Paradise!  What responsibility!  And while western society is making a very good job of trying to dispense with the need for fathers in our world, nobody can deny that every child has one.  So, can you be like Abraham and do whatever God tells you to do?  Can you be the ultimate father to your child?   
 
Jesus, when he died on the Cross, was the sacrifice God was preparing the world for when he sent Abraham up the mountain to sacrifice Isaac.  God, in His love for us, didn’t hesitate to spare Isaac when he realised what faith Abraham had in Him.  But years later, and on another mountain (Calvary), it was God’s own son who would be sacrificed.  And it would be the sacrifice to end all sacrifices; a sacrifice to bring an end to death itself and open the gates to eternal life in Heaven.  And while many may criticise God for having done this to His own son, He did it out of love for all of His children; that is, every human being who has ever lived and is to live. 
 
God doesn’t want you to take your child up a mountain so that you can offer them up as a human sacrifice.  But He does want you to respond to His call to raise that child to be like His own son, Jesus Christ.  He wants your child to share in the perfect life of Jesus and to make Jesus the ultimate role model.  No footballers, no movie stars, no musicians.  Jesus. And the first step to ensuring Christ is the role model of choice for our children?  We must make him our role model too.
 
So let us all accept the great gift of children from the Father and let us put in the effort to give them the best chance of eternal life.  And may all of us, especially the dads, make Jesus our role model so that our children will know that following Jesus is the best way to live their life. Remember, Jesus is ‘the way, the truth, and the life’.  He is the only way to the Father.  While Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo may provide you with great goals, and Johnny Depp may deliver a flawless big screen performance, none of them can possibly give you eternal life. By all means enjoy what talents these guys have to offer; they are, after all, gifts from God.  But when your child asks you who your role model is and who they should aspire to be, only one name should fall from your lips: the name of Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the world.  So man up all you fathers out there, and don't be afraid to tell your kids who the real hero is!     
 

Is there really no salvation outside the Catholic Church?

Posted on February 9, 2015 at 9:26 AM Comments comments (1)
Is the Catholic Church the only way to eternal life?
 
Tim Staples, Director of Apologetics and Evangelisation at Catholic Answers, considers this most crucial question in his latest blog piece at catholic.com. 
 
In a thoroughly detailed and considered view on the matter, Tim comes to the following important conclusions:
 
1. No one who knowingly and deliberately rejects the truth will be saved. It doesn’t matter how good of a Muslim, Jew, Baptist, or anything else he may be. If anyone rejects the truth of Christ and his Church—even one definitive teaching—they will be lost.
 
2. Religions that have as tenants of their respective faiths the rejection of Jesus and his Church have no power to save anyone. It is “the truth that makes us free” (cf. John 8:32), not falsehood.
 
3. In the case of one who is ignorant of the truth of the Catholic Faith, “through no fault of [his] own,” he can be saved, if he is truly “invincibly ignorant, [is] given the supernatural virtue of faith and [has] perfect charity in [his heart]” (cf. Instruction of Holy Office of Dec. 20, 1949).
 
4. We must remember that we are not the judges of salvation. God is the sole and final judge. We do not know who is truly “invincibly ignorant” and who is not. Therefore, we must be careful to “evangelize all men” as the Catechism commands us and leave the judging to God.
 
5. “Whatever good or truth is found amongst [other world religions] is considered by the Church to be ‘a preparation for the Gospel and given by him who enlightens all men that they may at length have life’” (Lumen Gentium16). And if they seek the true God given the light they have received, they have the possibility of salvation.
 
6. This does not mean they are not in need of the Eucharist! Without the grace that comes from the sacraments, one is at a decided disadvantage to get to heaven. And if one has rejected the truth, then there is no way he can merit heaven apart from repentance and the acceptance of the truth. The Church makes very clear: “The words bind and loose mean: whomever you exclude from your communion, will be excluded from communion with God; whomever you receive anew into your communion, God will welcome back into his. Reconciliation with the Church is inseparable from reconciliation with God” (CCC 1445).
 
 

Don't ever be afraid to share the Good News (Dwelling on the Word of God, Sunday 8th February 2015)

Posted on February 6, 2015 at 12:42 PM Comments comments (1)
Even the design of St Peter's Square tells us to evangelise
 
Sunday’s Second Reading (1 Corinthians 9:16-19,22-23):
 
‘I do not boast of preaching the gospel, since it is a duty which has been laid on me; I should be punished if I did not preach it! If I had chosen this work myself, I might have been paid for it, but as I have not, it is a responsibility which has been put into my hands.  Do you know what my reward is?  It is this in my preaching, to be able to offer the Good News free, and not insist on the rights which the gospel gives me.
So though I am not a slave of any man I have made myself the slave of everyone so as to win as many as I could.  For the weak I made myself weak.  I made myself all things to all men in order to save some at any cost; and I still do this, for the sake of the gospel, to have a share in its blessings.’
 
 
Do you think that it is only priests who are duty bound to proclaim the Word of God?  What about you? 
 
In order to find an answer to this question we need to consider the role of the Church and the role of its members; people like you and me.  What is it we are called to do as Catholic people?  Well, praising Goda nd surrendering to His Holy Will would certainly be a good start.  Abiding by His Commandments and following the example of Christ is also fundamental.  But we are also called to be in the business of saving souls for Christ.  The Church is a church of mission which means it needs to always be reaching out to people. That’s why St Peter’s Square is designed the way it is; with open arms stretching out to the world, inviting all people to come to know and to love God!  And a critical part of our mission to save souls is to evangelise.  But how do we evangelise, you might ask?  Simple….by speaking the Word of God and revealing its unrivalled beauty! 
 
Do you ever wonder why the Church grew so quickly in the years after Jesus’ death and resurrection? It was because people like Paul preached the Word of God.  Today is no different.  We are still called to preach the Good News of God’s Word to all people in order to bring them closer to God and into a real and personal relationship with Him. And this doesn’t just apply to strangers and people who we know to be non-believers.  This evangelising also needs to take place in our own homes, in our families and among our friends.
 
And, of course, it won’t be easy.  It certainly wasn’t easy for St Paul when you consider the kind of barriers he faced two thousand years ago; being mocked, abused, tortured and ultimately put to death for his faith.  But if we fall in love with the Word of God, as Paul clearly did, we too can bring people to God.  We too can evangelise the world so that others may come to know the beauty of living a life in the Catholic faith.  We are members of the Church founded by Jesus Christ two thousand years ago!  It is, to this very day, the very same Church, and it is still preaching that same Word of God proclaimed by St Paul in his letter to the Corinthians.
 
Don’t ever be afraid to proclaim God’s Word as you go about your daily life.  You are part of a huge family of God which spans the whole of time and has among its number a multitude of saints enjoying the glory and splendour of the Father’s Kingdom.  It is a family which, at this very moment, numbers 1.2 billion on planet Earth. Your family is huge!  Why are you afraid?  Remember, God is on your side.  Go out and win people over to Him and find joy in being a true disciple of Christ.