Saturday, December 16, 2017

prayer diary Saturday 16 Dec 2017 (day of discipline and self-denial)

'But I tell you that Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him, but they did to him whatever they pleased. So also the Son of Man is about to suffer at their hands.’ 
Matthew 17.12

The shadow of the Cross lies over the child in the manager. Therefore remember to keep Advent as a penitential season; for it was for your sins that the Christ-child was to suffer and die.

Friday, December 15, 2017

prayer diary Friday 15 Dec 2017 (day of discipline and self-denial)

'For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, “He has a demon”; the Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, “Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax-collectors and sinners!” 
Matthew 11.18,19

Those who wish to find fault with you will do so whatever course you take. Ignore them and focus instead on following the path Christ sets before you.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

prayer diary Thursday 14 Dec 2017 (day of discipline and self-denial)

'Truly I tell you, among those born of women no one has arisen greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.' 
Matthew 11.11

Who one is in this life is as nothing compared to gaining heaven in the next. Strive to grow in holiness so that you may at the last be numbered among the saints.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

prayer diary Wednesday 13 Dec 2017 (day of discipline and self-denial)

'Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.' 
Matthew 11.28

The struggles of this life are endless. And in the end what are their purpose? You can take none of its rewards past the grave. Turn instead to Christ. In him you will find true meaning and true purpose.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

prayer diary Tuesday 12 Dec 2017 (day of discipline and self-denial)

'If a shepherd has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray?' 
Matthew 18. 12

Reassess your life this Advent. Consider whether you have become self-satisfied and complacent. The lost sheep the Lord is seeking may not be your neighbour – it may be you.

Monday, December 11, 2017

prayer diary Monday 11 Dec 2017 (day of discipline and self-denial)

Just then some men came, carrying a paralysed man on a bed … when Jesus saw their faith, he said, ‘Friend, your sins are forgiven you.’ 
Luke 5. 18-20

The first concern of Jesus was not for the man's illness, but for his soul. Something for us to ponder in an age when so many seem to think that the top priority of religion is making the world a better place.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

preparing the way like John the Baptist

May my words be in the Name of the Holy and Undivided Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Our Gospel reading today, as is traditional for the second Sunday in Advent, concerns John the Baptist. It is not surprising that we should think of this saint during this season. Part of what we do during Advent, after all, is look back to the time of Lord's first coming, to his nativity; and in the gospel according to St Luke the story of the birth of St John the Baptist is intimately intertwined with the story of the birth of our Lord.

However, St John is also an appropriate figure to consider at this time because of the other major purpose of Advent, which is to look to the time when our Saviour will come again in great power and majesty, a time when all the nations will be gathered before him, and he will judge the living and the dead, welcoming some into eternal life, and condemning others to eternal darkness.

And another title for the Baptist is the Forerunner; because he was sent to prepare the way for our Lord at his first coming. Naturally we must think in this time, between the first and second comings, to whom does it fall to prepare the way for when he shall come again? And the natural answer to that, I think, is that task falls to the Church that our Lord and Saviour founded. In other words, the task of preparing the world – by which we must understand ourselves, all others within the Church, especially those who are fallen away, and all those who are currently outside it whom it is our solemn duty to try and evangelise, bring to understand the truth of the Christian faith, and the necessity that they believe upon the name of Jesus and be baptised if they are to be saved – that task of preparation falls very much to us.

And it is therefore of great benefit to us who must do this work in relation to the second coming to the look to the example of the one who did the work in relation to the first. So it becomes of particular importance for us to look to the life of the Baptist in this season to see what lessons we can learn from him that will guide us in the work that has been entrusted to us.

So what do we see in the life of St John the Forerunner that will help us? First, let us consider what we learn of the manner of his life that we have set before us in our Gospel reading today from St Mark. Where did St John live? In the desert places. We are not told where he took shelter from the cold of the desert nights or its blazing heat by day, but we can imagine that it was no more than some little cave or some rough booth he had constructed for himself from branches and rocks and earth. What did he wear? A robe of camel hair girt about him with a leather belt. The most basic and simplest of apparel, just enough to cover his body and preserve modesty and decency. And what did he eat? Scripture informs us locusts and wild honey. Much has been written as to what these words signify; but for today it enough to consider that they mean that he lived off the land, eating whatever was to hand. 

Taken together these three elements of the way he lived tell us something very important about St John. He cared not at all for the material comforts of this life. What was needed to keep body and soul together he accepted gratefully from God; but he concerned himself with no more than that. This serves to remind us that neither must we be overly concerned with the good things of this life; like St John our focus must be on doing the work of God. Material things can get in the way and often do; and if we see that happening in our lives we must ruthlessly cut away anything that gets between us and the task we are called to.

Next let us consider what it was that he told those who came to him what role it was the he played in God’s plan for the salvation of humanity. He made it clear that he was not the Messiah, as some suspected. He made it clear that someone far greater was coming; someone that he was not worthy so much as to untie the sandals upon his feet. Now think what such words mean. In the culture of the ancient world it was the duty of the most lowly slave in the house to quietly and without saying a word to go to a guest when they arrived, kneel before them, undo their sandals and remove them, and wash their feet. But when it came to the one he prepared the way for, St John saw himself as more lowly than even the lowliest of slaves. His relationship to God, then, was characterised by the greatest of humility. So too must we be humble before our God.

Humility, as so many of the great saints tell us, is the mother of all virtues; from it all others flow; without it we can have no other. This makes it the beginning of holiness; and without personal holiness we can not carry out our task of preparing the way for our Lord and the day when he shall come again.

Finally, let us look at what St John taught. He called people to repent, to confess their sins and be baptised. And while it is not spoken of by St Mark in this passage, we know from the other gospels that people of high standing came to him – Roman soldiers, tax-collectors, the religious leaders of his day – and they heard the same truth from him that the poorest and meanest in society did. All are equal in the eyes of God; and sin remains sin whether it is committed by a peasant or a prince. And even if that sin is sanctioned by all in society it does not transform it into good in the eyes of God.

We know that later that St John’s refusal to speak other than God’s truth was to cost him his life. But he could do nothing else. For he knew full well, as our Lord was to teach, that it matters not if a man gain the whole world if it comes at the price of his soul, if it costs him eternal life. The example of St John sets before us a way of living, a way of humility, a way of fidelity to God that if followed by us will lead to a rich harvest of souls at the last day … a harvest among which all those who follow that way will be included … and it is my prayer that all here will walk in the way that this great saint sets before us and so be found worthy on the day to be numbered among that harvest and welcomed into the eternal kingdom: in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

prayer diary Saturday 9 Dec 2017

The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few. 
Matthew 9.37

To truly say 'Yes, Lord' to Jesus means serving him and working for the salvation of souls. In what ways do you answer his call on your life?

Friday, December 8, 2017

prayer diary Friday 8 Dec 2017

The blind men came to him; and Jesus said to them 'Do you believe that I am able to do this?' They said to him 'Yes, Lord.' 
Matthew 9. 28

Jesus offers us many things. Do we say yes to his promises?

Thursday, December 7, 2017

prayer diary Thursday 7 Dec 2017

No one can serve two masters. 
Matthew 7.24

Where does your true loyalty lie? Are the values praised by the world your guide or those given us by Christ? And have you the courage to proclaim it?

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

prayer diary Wednesday 6 Dec 2017

They put them at Jesus feet and he cured them, so that the crowd was amazed when they saw … And they praised the God of Israel. 
Matthew 15. 30,31

The crowds reaction was to praise God when they witnessed all that Jesus could do. Do we do likewise? And do we do it it for all the world to see?

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

prayer diary Tuesday 5 Dec 2017

Jesus said: 'Blessed are the eyes that see what you see! For I tell you that many prophets & kings desired to see what you see, but did not see it.' 
Luke 10.23,24

How aware are we of the privilege we have of knowing Jesus? It is a blessing beyond compare from God himself. Are we correspondingly grateful?

Monday, December 4, 2017

prayer diary Monday 4 Dec 2017

'Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof.' 
Matthew 8.8

How many of us approach God and all his gifts to us with a sense of entitlement; rather than humbly, with a true sense of our own unworthiness?

Sunday, December 3, 2017

why it is better not to know the day nor the hour

May my words be in the Name of the Holy and Undivided Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

I once saw the writer Anthony Burgess being interviewed on television. Burgess is most famous for his novel 'A Clockwork Orange', a work which explores deeply the issue of the nature of free-will, and which was later made into a movie which, while controversial, has long been considered something of a classic. He also co-wrote the screenplay for Franco Zeffirelli's highly praised mini-series 'Jesus of Nazareth'. Burgess was regaling his interviewer with the tale of how he first became very serious about writing. He had, it seemed, been diagnosed with a serious illness as a young man and been given six months to live. 'That must have been awful,' said the interviewer. 'Not at all,' chortled Burgess. 'Most people don't know if they'll be alive in the morning or even five minutes from now. But suddenly I knew I was going to live for six months – I had been told so by some very knowledgeable medical men. So I knew that if a started a project as long-term as writing a book I'd live long enough to see it to completion. And so I got started writing straight away!'

Burgess was, of course, being doubly facetious. He was an old man when he was telling this story, and mocking the doctors who had been so mistaken in their fatal diagnosis. And he knew full well that even had they been correct, their prediction of how long he might have left to live in no way guaranteed he had that much time left. He could still have been hit by a bus, suffer a heart attack, experience a sudden stroke, be beaten to death by muggers, fall down the stairs, drown in the bath, or any other of the myriad ways in which it is that we human beings may come to shake off this mortal coil. Burgess was born and raised a Catholic; and although he lapsed from his faith later in life, commentators on his works all agree that they are permeated with a Christian world-view. And he would have known as well as any man that we truly do not know the day nor the hour.

Our Lord speaks of this in our Gospel today (see below). It is not for us to know the day not the hour when he will return at the end of the ages. And, of course, just as we do not know when time and history and this world will end, neither do we know when our time in this life will come to an end.

Now some might think this is harsh of God. Would we not be better prepared for our last moments, better able to amend our ways and repent of our sins and so when we come to the end of our days be assured of leaving this life and entering into our heavenly reward if we knew the exact moment in advance; instead of risking being caught off guard and so end in that place where, as Jesus has told us, was prepared from the beginning for the devil and all his angels?

If you do happen to feel this way, then you are perhaps in for a surprise; for you will find that the Fathers of the Church, those great scholars and saints from the early centuries of the Christian Era, uniformly disagree with you. This is not surprising. For as I have already noted, these are saints – men of great sanctity. And men such as these understand that God's wisdom is greater than ours. He is all knowing; we are not. And if he has ordained that this is the way it must be, then we must humbly accept that it is so; and more, we must acknowledge that because of God's infinite wisdom then it must be, in fact, in our best interest that this is how it is and no other way.

But how exactly is it better not to know? How we any idea as to why it is? Well, this is a question that these same Church Fathers thought deeply about. They put it essentially like this. Suppose we all knew the day and the hour of our death. Some would still choose to lead good and holy lives. But more surely would think to themselves 'I have many years before I will die; and there are many temptations in the world about me. Why should I not indulge myself in these sinful passions to my heart's content; and then, when death begins to draw near, break off from them, repent, and lead a life of holiness for the time that remains to me?'

And it does not, I think, take the wisdom of a great saint to see the foolishness of that path. Such sinful indulgences are addictive indeed; the more we engage in them, the more we wish to, and the harder it is to stop. And the more steeped we become in them, the more difficult it is to recognise that we even do wrong by engaging in them. Few indeed are the individuals who would be strong enough to break away from their sins even as they drew close to the brink of eternity; and of those who did perhaps only a small number would have the strength to repent. Having spent all their years in wickedness and vice serving Satan, how likely is it that at the end they would find within themselves the holiness to serve God and him alone in their final moments? Not very likely at all, I would suggest; and so the Fathers of the Church thought as well.

And so instead God gave us the gift of uncertainty. We may not know the day not the hour, not because he wishes to toy with us in some way, but because he loves us. Not knowing spurs us on to live as if our Saviour and Judge might return at any moment; not knowing when we will may draw our last breath teaches us to live as if the next moment might be the one when we do indeed take that final breath.

And the sober truth is that one day we will be right. And when that day comes, if we have lived our lives as our Lord wishes us to – a life of holiness, a life of watchfulness and prayer – then we will be ready for his return or our deaths. And we will welcome that moment, even as we are welcomed by God to dwell with him, his angels, and all the saints in heaven; a welcome that I pray will be granted to all here - in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen. 

Matthew 25: 31-46

24 "But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, 25 and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. 26 And then they will see the Son of man coming in clouds with great power and glory. 27 And then he will send out the angels, and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven. 28 From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. 29 So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates. 30 Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away before all these things take place. 31 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. 32 But of that day or that hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33 Take heed, watch and pray; for you do not know when the time will come. 34 It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his servants in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch. 35 Watch therefore--for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cock-crow, or in the morning -- 36 lest he come suddenly and find you asleep. 37 And what I say to you I say to all: Watch." 

Saturday, December 2, 2017

prayer diary Saturday 2 Dec 2017

'He is God not of the dead, but of the living; for to him all of them are alive.’ 
Luke 19. 38

Our Lord was quite clear that death means passing from this life to the next. Live this life with that hope always before you; and let Christ's promise of eternal life guide all your actions.

Friday, December 1, 2017

prayer diary Friday 1 Dec 2017 (day of discipline and self-denial)

Then he entered the temple and began to drive out those who were selling things there. 
Luke 19. 45

Our Lord was moved to anger to see his Father's house treated shamefully. Never neglect to treat holy places with the reverence they deserve.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

prayer diary Thursday 30 Nov 2017 (St Andrew)

And he said to Peter and Andrew "Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men." Immediately they left their nets and followed him. 
Matthew 4.19-20 

Christ calls us all to bring others into his kingdom. Will we do as St Andrew did and answer that call; or will we, like so many others, ignore our Lord?

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

prayer diary Wednesday 29 Nov 2017

The first came forward and said, “Lord, your pound has made ten more pounds.” He said to him, “Well done, good slave! Because you have been trustworthy in a very small thing, take charge of ten cities.” 
Luke 19. 16, 17

Faithfulness in the ultimately trivial things of this life leads to great rewards in the next. Stand firm in your faith whatever the difficulties or temptations you face.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

prayer diary Tuesday 28 Nov 2017

When Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, ‘Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today.’ 
Luke 19.5

Zacchaeus' desire to come closer to Christ was rewarded in the most unexpected way. So too must we strive always to draw nearer to Jesus by trying to be more and more like him, not letting any obstacle prevent us.

Monday, November 27, 2017

prayer diary Monday 27 Nov 2017

The blind man shouted, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’ Those who were in front sternly ordered him to be quiet; but he shouted even more loudly.‘Luke 18.38, 39

Do not let anyone or anything persuade you from bringing your problems to God. Persevere in prayer; God hears and answers all, even if we do not understand how.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

the Kingship of Christ

May my words be in the Name of the Holy and Undivided Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Today is the Sunday before Advent, the Sunday when we focus on the Kingship of Christ. Our Lord, as you know, told Pontius Pilate at his trial that his 'kingdom was not of this world.' By this we may understand that in this age his kingdom may be regarded as a hidden thing. During this life we are expected to live our lives under his kingship and proclaim to the world that he is its true and only king – but he will force nothing on us. We have been granted free will and our Sovereign and our Saviour will not interfere with that.

However,at the end of the ages all that will change. Christ will come again in his glory with his angels; and we will be held to account by our Ruler and Judge for the choices we have made in this life. How have we employed that free will we were given? Have we used it well; or have we used it badly? And our eternal destiny hangs in the balance based on how Jesus, true God and true man, decides how that question is to be answered.

Now, there are some commentators who try to argue that the passage which speaks of this, our Gospel reading today,  should be seen as a parable and that therefore what our Lord is describing here is to be taken figuratively. However, to do so is to ignore everything what the Church Fathers have written about what Jesus says here; it is also to ignore what the Church that Christ founded has taught based on this passage down through the ages; and it is to ignore the clear and unambiguous words our Lord uses to begin this section of Sacred Scripture. He says a 'when the Son of Man comes in his glory.' This is not figurative language. There are two other parables in this chapter of St Matthew's Gospel; all concern the end of days; and they do not begin like this. The first begins with the words 'Then the kingdom of heaven shall be compared to ten virgins …' and the next with 'For it will be as when a man going on a journey …' Our Lord leaves his listeners in no doubt whatsoever that he is not speaking literally; and we can be sure, therefore, that he is undoubtedly speaking literally when he says 'when the Son of Man comes in his glory.'

So let us consider some of the implications of what is that God himself is telling us about what will happen at the end of the ages. The first is that Christ indeed will come again. We are almost into the season of Advent; a time for looking back to the time when he first came into our world; but also a time for preparing ourselves for that day when he will come again. It is therefore important not to use this time only as a time for rejoicing, thinking of his Nativity, and how he was born to save us from our sins; and certainly not to only use it as time for joining in all the secular celebrations of those in the world around who not only do not accept him as their King, but actively mock his teachings, his Church, and those who follow him; but to make space during that season to consider whether we are ready for when he returns … and how we may make ourselves ready if we are not.

Next, when he comes, he will come as king and judge. And he will hold us to account for how we have treated our brothers and sisters. Have we cared for those in need – have we fed the hungry; have we clothed the naked? And also, have we looked to their spiritual needs? For, as St Jerome reminds us concerning this passage, the poor are not only those who do not have food or drink or shelter … there are also those who are poor in spirit. Indeed, perhaps there has never been a time in the modern era where there have been so many who have poor in this way. And this is a far greater poverty than the material kind. For if you are poor when it comes to the good things of this life it is only a temporary thing; but if you are poor when it comes to spiritual riches then the harm you suffer as a result can be eternal. We must not neglect the needs of those who are poor in this way; and if we do not do our very best to alleviate this poverty which afflicts their very souls, then we may expect to be held to account for it ourselves.

And the last thing to consider this morning is this: hell is real, people go there, and they go there for all eternity. This may seem harsh in our modern era when the most wicked criminals often receive little more than a slap on the wrist compared with the enormity of their offences. However, divine justice works differently; and just as our free will is respected by God in this life, so it is respected by him in the next. And even as he will not force us to accept him as King in this age, neither will he force those who have rejected him as King on earth to serve him as King in heaven. They have chosen hell by their actions. The man who throws himself off a cliff may regret his decision when he sees the rocks below rushing up towards him; but he has already made his choice and his regrets will not alter the laws of gravity. Our chance to accept Christ as King comes in this life; and it is too late to do so in the next.

However, Christ does not tell us all this to alarm us or to frighten us. He informs us as to what will happen the next time he comes into the world for the very same reason he came into it the first time – so that all men might be saved. It is his greatest desire that all should one day join him in heaven; he wants it so much that he was willing to die on a cross in order that it would be possible. We have a king that loves us that much; and all he asks is that we love him in return and show that love by the way we live our our lives on this earth. Those who do so will receive the greatest reward any king ever has or ever could bestow upon his subjects; to be placed by him at his right hand on the last day and be welcomed by him into eternal life; a welcome that I pray all here will receive - in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen. 

Saturday, November 25, 2017

prayer diary Saturday 25 Nov 2017

‘Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day does not catch you unexpectedly, like a trap.'  
Luke 21. 34.35

Our Lord warned that the things of this life can be a danger to us, both in its pleasures and its concerns. Whatever comes your way, focus always on the true goal of this life – the eternal life Christ promised.

Friday, November 24, 2017

prayer diary Friday 24 Nov 2017 (day of discipline and self-denial)

'Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.' 
Luke 21. 33

Christ in his teaching spoke eternal truths. And what he taught is as true today as the day he first spoke his words to mortal men.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

prayer diary Thursday 23 Nov 2017

'Then they will see “the Son of Man coming in a cloud” with power and great glory.' 
Luke 21. 27

Christ will come again to judge the living and the dead. Ponder that this Advent, rather than treating it as a party season instead of a penitential one.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

prayer diary Wednesday 22 Nov 2017

'They will arrest you and persecute you; they will hand you over to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors because of my name.' 
Luke 21.13

Christ warned his followers that their lives would be dangerous and difficult for his sake. Perhaps that means we should wonder when our own lives are too comfortable.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

prayer diary Tuesday 21 Nov 2017

And he said, ‘Beware that you are not led astray; for many will come in my name and say, “I am he!” and, “The time is near!” Do not go after them.' 
Luke 21.8

Christ warned us that we would not know when he would come again. Wait for that day patiently, living as if it might be tomorrow, according to the way that he taught.

Monday, November 20, 2017

prayer diary Monday 20 Nov 2017

‘Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them; for all of them have contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in all she had to live on.’ 
Luke 21. 3-4

Christian giving is about more than giving what we hardly notice or can easily spare. It involves self-denial and sacrifice. In Christian giving one can see the Cross.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

bury not your talents!

May my words be in the Name of the Holy and Undivided Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Our gospel reading today concerns the parable of the talents (see below)*  A talent, as I am sure you are aware, was a sum of money in the ancient world; it could also refer to a certain weight of metal, for example bronze, around 75 pounds or so. Scholars are uncertain about the origins of the word, but speculate that it might originally have meant a load, drawn from the idea that this was the weight that a man of that era could reasonably be expected to carry for any time. And, I am sure you can imagine, a collection of silver coins amounting to that weight was a very large sum of money indeed! At the time of our Lord a talent of silver would have been 6000 drachma – a fortune, the amount of money it would have taken the average man perhaps 30 years to earn.

The New Testament, of course, was written in Greek; and the word used in the original language was 'talanton'. This word, as it happens, has no direct equivalent in English; and so rather than translating we do what's called transliterating … essentially, replacing the original Greek letters with the ones we use ourselves. And so 'talanton' becomes talent.

Now, it is not a coincidence that we have a word in English, talent, that is exactly the same as we use in place of the word 'talanton'. As it happens, our word in English is descended, as it were, from the Greek original. Talanton become in Latin talenta, which in Old English talente, which became in modern English talent.

And the meaning of the English word that 'talanton' became is, as you might expect, rooted in this parable also. The talents in the parable represents the gifts we have from God. And, as we all know, any abilities or aptitudes we have are gifts from God. And so it was that with the passing of the ages the word talent came to mean in English a sum of money only when we are reading this parable or discussing the weights and measures and monetary system of Ancient Greece and Rome and more commonly our natural abilities.

Now, it is all very interesting to know this; and it is somewhat gratifying to think that we have this specific word in English because our Lord used it in the way he did when he was telling the parable to his disciples. But it is, I think, somewhat unfortunate that the word talent has such a narrow meaning in English when our Saviour was using it in a much broader sense on that day.

Indeed, if you search the works of the Church Fathers, you will see that they seldom interpret the talents in the parable as standing for the abilities that God grants us as individuals. This is not surprising; for they were writing long before modern English was a language – or indeed even middle-English or old-English. They for the most part see the talents, the great sums of money that the master entrusts to his servants, as standing for the great and myriad gifts that God bestows upon us. This, of course, includes our abilities; but it also includes far more. And so it should; for God has given us far more; God has given us everything.

Reading the parable though the lens of our modern English understanding of the word talent – and by modern I mean here the last 500 years or so – has inclined us to overlook the deeper, richer meaning of what the talents in the parable are supposed to stand for. Indeed, it has given rise to the unhappy tendency for people to regard it almost as some kind of a pep-talk for people as they go about their careers; a kind of 'now you must do your best to develop the abilities you have been given or God will be very disappointed in you.' And God does indeed expect us to do the best with the abilities he has gifted us with; but we must not become so focussed on that idea that we lose sight of why Jesus is telling the parable; and that has to do with the salvation of souls and not worldly success.

This intent is made clear by the ending of the passage, where the servant who has done nothing with his talent save bury it in the ground, the servant called wicked and lazy by his master, is cast into the outer darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth. Therefore we must see this parable as being about using the gifts that God gives us as a means of attaining eternal life – all the gifts he gives us. And, of course, some of the gifts he gives us are more important when it comes to achieving this aim than others, although we must be grateful for them all. A glass of wine is a great gift from God – wine cheers the heart of man, as Scripture tells us. But I cannot recall hearing any story of how a man found salvation at the bottom of a bottle – although perhaps many have lost it through an immoderate love of the fruit of the vine.

But there are other gifts – higher gifts let us call them – that will guide us on our pilgrim path. The gift of prayer, which God gives us so that he may speak with us and we with him; the gift of Sacred Scripture, where we find the Divine Truth of his revealed word; the Church his Son founded, where we may find the fellowship of others on the journey who will encourage us on the road even as we encourage them; and the sacraments he administers to us through that Church – the waters of baptism which washes away our sins, Confession and Absolution so that when we fall into sin we may be washed clean again, the Body and Blood of our Saviour in the Holy Eucharist to nourish our souls. And there are, of course, many more.

And if we fail to use these gifts, if we behave as the wicked servant, effectively burying them in the ground, then woe is us. His fate was dismal; and it is the fate of all who do likewise, neglecting the wondrous and abundant gifts that God grants us in order that we might be with him for all eternity. But the others, those who use those treasures well, then to them will be given in even greater abundance – the gift of everlasting life in heaven. Such as they will hear the words the master spoke to those who had put their talents to good use: Well done, good and faithful servant; enter into your master's joy; words that that I pray will be spoken to all here - in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen. 

*Matthew 25: 14-31
"For it will be as when a man going on a journey called his servants and entrusted to them his property; 15 to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. 16 He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them; and he made five talents more. 17 So also, he who had the two talents made two talents more. 18 But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master's money. 19 Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. 20 And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, 'Master, you delivered to me five talents; here I have made five talents more.' 21 His master said to him, 'Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a little, I will set you over much; enter into the joy of your master.' 22 And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, 'Master, you delivered to me two talents; here I have made two talents more.' 23 His master said to him, 'Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a little, I will set you over much; enter into the joy of your master.' 24 He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, 'Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not winnow; 25 so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.' 26 But his master answered him, 'You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sowed, and gather where I have not winnowed? 27 Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. 28 So take the talent from him, and give it to him who has the ten talents. 29 For to every one who has will more be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who has not, even what he has will be taken away. 30 And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness; there men will weep and gnash their teeth.' 31 When the Son of man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne.” 

Saturday, November 18, 2017

prayer diary Saturday 18 Nov 2017

Then Jesus told them a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart. 
Luke 18.1

It is important to persevere in prayer. And the Christian at prayer seeks to conform himself to God's will, rather than trying bend God to his.

Friday, November 17, 2017

prayer diary Friday 17 Nov 2017 (day of discipline and self-denial)

'Just as it was in the days of Noah, so too it will be in the days of the Son of Man. They were eating & drinking, & marrying and being given in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed all of them.' 
Luke 17. 26,27

The great and terrible day when the Lord comes again will come without warning. Those who would be ready must live every moment as if our Lord will come in the next.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

prayer diary Thursday 16 Nov 2017

‘The kingdom of God is not coming with things that can be observed … For, in fact, the kingdom of God is among you.’ 
Luke 17. 20,21

Those of Jesus' time mistakenly thought the Messiah would bring about an earthly kingdom rather that a spiritual one. Neither must we, in this materialistic age, put our faith in the things of this world; but rather keep our hearts on higher things.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

prayer diary Wednesday 15 Nov 2017

Then Jesus asked, ‘Were not ten made clean?' … Then he said to him, ‘Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.’ 
Luke 17.17-19

God gives of his bounty to all, the grateful and ungrateful alike. But a much greater gift falls to those who give him glory – the spiritual gifts that lead to eternal life.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

prayer diary Tuesday 14 Nov 2017

'So you also, when you have done all that you were ordered to do, say, “We are worthless slaves; we have done only what we ought to have done!” ’ 
Luke 17.10

God has given us everything – life itself and the means to sustain it. Why then should we think that he is in some way in our debt because we have followed his laws?

Monday, November 13, 2017

prayer diary Monday 13 Nov 2017

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Occasions for stumbling are bound to come, but woe to anyone by whom they come!' 
Luke 17.1

Each person is liable for their own sins; but the one who leads another astray, whether by the example of their life or the exhortations of their lips, is by no means innocent and they will be held to account.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

knowledge, wisdom, and eternal life

May my words be in the Name of the Holy and Undivided Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

There’s a lot of talk about wisdom in our readings today. The first reading is from the book Wisdom; and our Gospel reading has the parable of the wise and foolish virgins. So, as we begin, it might be a good idea to think about what we understand by the word wisdom. Particularly what is the difference between wisdom and knowledge.

A simple definition might be the knowledge are facts and wisdom is knowing how to apply them. By way of illustration, we might think of a young man who has spent four years in college studying agricultural science, specialising in the husbandry of sheep, without ever having set foot on an actual farm. He graduates, and then goes to a sheep farm. He begins by thinking that he is the expert; after all he knows far more than the farmer who has never been to college. And we can all imagine he would soon learn differently. The farmer may have far less knowledge, but what little he knows he is able to apply well. He is wise in the way of sheep.

Now let us think about this distinction in relation to the parable we heard earlier. Why are some of the virgins wise and some foolish? Both groups have been invited to the wedding. Both have been given the task of bringing lamps to light the way of the bridegroom into the feast. Both have brought their lamps, filled with oil and wicks trimmed so they may burn brightly. So far so good. But only one group has brought extra oil. They are able to refill their lamps when the bridegroom is delayed, while the others have to rush off and buy more. Which means that they are not there when he actually arrives and so they miss the wedding feast as a result.

What is the difference between those who are wise and those who are foolish? Well, that the bridegroom might come late was foreseeable; and preparing for that by bringing more oil in case what was in the lamps ran out was a prudent action. Both had the same knowledge of the situation; but only the wise ones used that information well and gained access to the feast as a result.

Now, of course, our Lord did not tell this story for the sake of providing career tips to young women working in that part of the hospitality industry that specialises in wedding receptions. He told it for the sake of the salvation of all mankind. So what is the deeper meaning of this parable?

The virgins, wise and foolish, stand for all mankind. The wedding feast is eternal life in heaven. And the time they spend waiting represents our time in this life, which will end either with the end of the ages or by death. Entering into the feast is being welcomed into eternal life; while being refused means being cast into the outer darkness where there will be wailing and gnashing of teeth.

And what of the extra oil? After all, that is the primary distinction between the two groups. The oil, the Church Fathers tells us, stands for the good deeds of those who live their lives wisely, those who lead their lives according to God's laws and commandments. The oil represents the treasure they have laid up in heaven; the essential treasure that all too many neglect.

And I would like to draw your particular attention to a very important detail of the parable – a detail that is easy not to notice because it involves taking into account what it is that Christ does not say about those he describes as foolish. He does not mention them as being guilty of great wickedness of any kind. They are not murderers or robbers; they are not liars or blasphemers; they are not worshippers of idols or gluttons or
drunkards. Indeed, as he describes them as being virgins we may even consider that they are not sexually immoral. But Jesus did not need to mention such things. It is only in our own rather silly age that people almost universally agree that all that is needed to be a good person is not to do bad things. And, of course, what they really mean by that is that as long as they do not lead an evil life full of great wickedness then they are good. Essentially it is the standard of the extreme: Hitler bad; pretty much everyone else OK.

Such a way of looking things may be sufficient for the atheist who has no belief in an after-life, and thinks nothing of God and his holiness, and certainly thinks the idea of sin as offence against God's laws is either a joke or dangerous nonsense. But for the Christian, it is a very different matter altogether.

The Christian is called to lead his or her life in the light of eternity. We know that man was made by God, was tempted by Satan and fell into sin; and that God has rescued us from the consequences of that sin, both original and personal, by his Incarnation and Death on the Cross. Those are the facts of the situation; and the choice that falls to us is whether, knowing what we know, do we act foolishly or wisely. We can be foolish and act as if all this really means nothing at all, that we have no need to lead holy lives, and that sin is either not real or matters not at all; or we can be wise, and do our utmost to live as God wishes us to, accepting the graces that he offers us to help, especially those he offers us through the sacraments of his Church, asking his pardon when we fail.

The latter is the way of the wise; it is the way to lay up treasure in heaven, to fill up our flasks with the oil of salvation that will keep our lamps burning until the day of the great wedding feast so that we may walk joyfully with him to join with him in his banquet forever - a wisdom that I pray will be granted to all here - in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen. 

Saturday, November 11, 2017

prayer diary Saturday 11 Nov 2017

'No slave can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.’ 
Luke 16.13

We live in this world and must work to pay our way. But even in that we must seek to serve God and take care that the pursuit of wealth, material goods, fame, or anything else of this world does not become an end in itself.

Friday, November 10, 2017

prayer diary Friday 10 Nov 2017

'And his master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly; for the children of this age are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light.' 
Luke 16. 8

People go to great efforts to manage their affairs in this world, over things that do not last and often are of little worth. How much more then should we apply our skills and efforts towards laying up treasure that lasts in heaven?

Thursday, November 9, 2017

prayer diary Thursday 9 Nov 2017

'Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who need no repentance.' 
Luke 15.7

And whose work is it to bring those lost sheep to repentance? It is the work of all Christians. As for those who think it is work for someone else, perhaps there is more about the lost sheep about them than they would care to imagine.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

prayer diary Wednesday 8 Nov 2017

Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. 
Luke 14. 27

Discipleship costs. What sacrifices do you make for your faith? And do they truly come at a cost to you – or are you instead fooling yourself into thinking what is easy and convenient for you is more than it is?

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

prayer diary Tuesday 7 Nov 2017

He sent his slave to say to those who had been invited, “Come; for everything is ready now.” But they all alike began to make excuses. 
Luke 14. 17, 18

No doubt we think that we would never behave like the people in the parable. But the truth is that we do exactly that when we place our earthly concerns ahead of the demands of the Kingdom.

Monday, November 6, 2017

prayer diary Monday 6 Nov 2017

But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.’ 
Luke 14. 13,14

The Christian seeks to help those in need for no other reason than they are in need, no matter who they are. And the only reward they hope for is the one our Lord offers to those who helped others in his name.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

false prophets: yesterday and today

May my words be in the Name of the Holy and Undivided Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Christians who take their faith seriously wish to do all that Christ commanded us to do, understanding that the salvation of their soul is intrinsically linked to our humble obedience to God's law. For that reason, our Gospel reading today can sometimes raise questions for faithful Christians, particularly those in the mainstream denominations that value the traditions of the Church. The passage seems to condemn the idea of there being religious leaders with teaching authority, leaders who possess titles of honour and wear distinctive dress. And yet our clergy have a particular form of apparel, especially during liturgical services; they have titles such as Reverend or Father or even my Lord Bishop; and they most certainly have the authority to teach and preach, both from the pulpit and elsewhere. So what is going on here?

The first thing to note is that there is not really a problem here at all; if there were, then the Church has being getting things wrong in this regard almost since the beginning … the same Church that Christ founded, called his body on earth, and said he would send the Holy Spirit too in order to lead it into all truth. However, the problem only arises if the passage is read out of the context of the remainder of Sacred Scripture and also from the context in which our Lord is delivering this teaching.

Let us begin with Scripture. In both Old Testament and New we clearly see religious leaders having authority from God in order to teach his children. The Old Testament prophets spring immediately to mind; and in the New our Lord himself sent out the 72 to the towns and villages to prepare the way for his own coming, saying to them that the harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. And the letters of St Paul are filled with references to his teaching authority, that of the Apostles, and others. The Pentateuch, or first five books of the Bible, gives detailed instructions on the sacred garments to be worn by the priests while engaged in sacrifice and leading the people in worship. And concerning titles, again we find these commonly used in Scripture. In the New Testament, for example, our Lord gives those in his inner circle the title of Apostle; elsewhere we read of Episkopoi, the root of our word episcopal, or bishops; and Presboutorous, the origin of our word Priest; and St Paul in many places refers to himself as the spiritual Father of those under his pastoral care. So there is nothing scriptural that speaks of these traditions of the Church which have been practised since the earliest days. Which, of course, is good news for me!

Looking to the context in which our Lord gave this teaching, we see that he is making his remarks directly of the religious leaders of his day. Among them were hypocrites, men who taught the law of God but did not live it; worse, they added to the law, by their teaching making it harder to live. For them titles were not a mark of respect for the office they held; they took it to be an honour personally granted to them. And they wore distinctive clothes when they were out and about in the streets, not to give glory to the Almighty by way of practising a ministry of presence, doing their best to keep God before the minds of men by acting as a visual reminder by the manner of their dress. But rather, they sought respect for themselves, that none should be in any doubt of the high office they held so that they would always be treated with greater courtesy and dignity than all around them.

Naturally, Christ spoke against such men. They abused their sacred office for their own gain; as did the prophets and teachers that the prophet Micah condemned in our Old Testament reading. Such behaviour was not to be tolerated then; and neither should it be tolerated now. Church leaders who preach the truth of the Gospel but fail to live it are a cause of scandal to the faithful; something we know all too well from recent events in this country. How many souls have lest the Church because there were those who were supposed to be shepherds, but acted instead as wolves? With respect of Church doctrine, those privileged to be teachers of God's truth have no authority to make it any harder than it need be. So, for example, we may preach against drunkenness, but we may not try to claim that all drinking, even in moderation, is evil. We may preach against gluttony, but we may not try to forbid certain foods, claiming for example that it is more virtuous to be a vegetarian than to eat meat. Neither, it must be remembered, do we have authority to abrogate or reduce the force of any teaching, arguing that it is somehow more pastoral to allow those who find a particular teaching hard to live by to ignore it, or say that since certain teachings do not fit in with the values of the secular culture they must now be abandoned. Such behaviour, to paraphrase our Epistle today, takes what is the word of man and tries to present it as being the word of God. It may well bring earthly glory to the false preacher; but it does nothing to bring glory to God, and does nothing that aids in the salvation of souls.

For the salvation of souls is the purpose and aim of our faith. It was for that reason that our Lord severely criticised the religious leaders of his day who behaved hypocritically; it was for that reason he came to earth and suffered and died for our sins; and it the reason why we must do our utmost to be faithful to him and the teachings he gave us – something that I pray all here will be, this day and always, in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen. 

Saturday, November 4, 2017

prayer diary Saturday 4 November 2017

But when you are invited, go and sit down at the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he may say to you, “Friend, move up higher” 
Luke 14. 10

Prides often moves us to seek the riches and glory of this world. But the Christian is called to humility; which not only gives glory to God but makes us rich with treasure in heaven.

Friday, November 3, 2017

prayer diary Friday 3 November 2017 (day of discipline and self-denial)

When Jesus was going to the house of a leader of the Pharisees to eat a meal on the sabbath, they were watching him closely … and Jesus asked the lawyers and Pharisees, ‘Is it lawful to cure people on the sabbath, or not?’ But they were silent. 
Luke 14. 1-4

Blinded by their opposition to Christ, his enemies disregarded even basic mercy for a fellow man. We must never become fanatics like them, attacking everything that comes from a person we mistrust; for even an enemy may speak the truth on occassion.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

prayer diary Thursday 2 November 2017

'Jerusalem, Jerusalem, … how often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!' 
Luke 13. 34

Our Lord shows tenderness and love even toward his enemies, and longs for their salvation. Will he not then give great help to those who love him, even if they sometimes stumble and fall?

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

prayer diary Wednesday 1 November 2017 (All Saint's Day)

'Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God'. 
Matthew 5. 8

A saint is not some plaster figure, divorced from reality and untouched by the troubles and temptations of the world. A saint is one who has struggled with the messy reality of human life and managed to remain faithful to the end.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

prayer diary Tuesday 31 October 2017

Jesus said: 'the kingdom of God … is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in the garden; it grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air made nests in its branches.’ 
Luke 13. 18-19

Sometimes we look at the world and worry about the future of the Church. But we must never give way to despair; for it is in God's hands and he has promised us that not even the Gates of Hell will prevail against his Church.

Monday, October 30, 2017

prayer diary Monday 30 October 2017

But the leader of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had cured on the sabbath, kept saying to the crowd, ‘There are six days on which work ought to be done; come on those days and be cured, and not on the sabbath day.’ 
Luke 13.14

The leader of the synagogue, in his zeal for the sabbath, forgot the duties of love and mercy, and our Lord rightly chastises him. However, what would our Lord say to the carelessness with which his day is treated in our time by many?

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Good without God?

Sermon 5th Sunday before Advent, 29 October 2017
May my words be in the Name of the Holy and Undivided Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Sometimes in the culture of the world around us we hear talk of people having no need of religion in order to be good. There is, for example, a book by a prominent American Humanist called 'Good with God'; and closer to home the group Atheist Ireland even has a charity called 'Good without gods'. This idea of human-based morality raises two important issues. The first is that in this context what is meant by being good? Presumably 'good' here must mean whatever people think of as good. The obvious problem is that when there are no objective standards of what constitutes right and wrong what happens when people disagree? In our modern world you end up with what is good and moral in one place being quite different to what is good and moral somewhere else, or even from person to person … which is bizarre when looked at logically. How can something be good when done by one person, and yet also be wrong when done by another?

Not only is the idea illogical, it is also, from the Christian point of view heretical, idolatrous, blasphemous, and, of course, sinful. It is heretical because it goes against the teaching of the Church that it is God in his infinite wisdom who fashions the moral law, not man. We might term it the heresy of individualism. It is idolatrous because it places the individual in the place of God when it comes to deciding what is right and wrong, thereby putting each person in the place of God for themselves – essentially worshipping themselves rather than God – the idolatry of the person. It is blasphemous in its open defiance of God and his authority as creator and sustainer that all that there was, is, and ever will be until the end of the ages. And it is sinful because it goes against what our Lord Jesus Christ, as we hear in our Gospel reading today, declared to be the first and greatest commandment; that we love the Lord our God will all our heart, soul, and mind. And those who do not keep God's commandments do not and can not love him, as our Lord and Saviour makes clear elsewhere in Sacred Scripture when he says that those who love God will keep his commandments.

That deals with the first of the two issues that I said claims that we can be good without God raises. The second is this: it suggests that the primary purpose of religion is to make us good. And it is not; that is a false narrative of the secular culture that sadly all too often many even within the Church not only allow to go unchallenged but often even accept. But it not true; it is in fact a lie. We are not called to be Christians in order to be good; we are called to be Christians in order to be holy.

And that is the only thing that makes sense if you really think about it. Genesis tells us that we are made in the image and likeness of God; and therefore just as he is holy, so too must we be holy. God even tells us himself directly that this is what we must be. Listen again to what we heard in our Old Testament reading from the book Leviticus: “The Lord spoke to Moses, saying: 'Speak to all the congregation of the people of Israel and say to them: You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.'” Naturally, being holy will lead us to be good; for the good man or good woman, the good boy or good girl, will all, out of love of God keep his commandments, not just as they apply to loving him, but as they concern loving our neighbour.

But can being good make us holy? Well, if by good we mean following God's law as set out in Sacred Scripture and the Holy Traditions of the Church, then it is indeed a good path to holiness. But if by being good we mean good as defined by the secular culture of the world around us, then I am afraid the answer must be no. How could it possibly be otherwise? So much of what the secular culture proposes openly defies God's law, calling a great deal of what the Church teaches to be good evil, and presenting as good many things the Church Christ founded has called evil on the basis of not only the natural law but the Divine Revelation that God has granted us.

As I draw to a close, there is something else that needs to be said concerning the idea of being good without God - things that the Christian must always keep in mind. It was God who created us and sustains us; the idea of being good without him is an illusion, for without him we are nothing. It was he who died upon the Cross to save us from our sins; without him all our efforts are as nothing. It is He, who through his Church, gives us the Sacraments that give us the Grace, the Strength, and the Divine Nourishment we need to make us Holy; without him we have nothing. God created us to be with him in heaven; and it is by our lifelong struggle, aided by him, to be Holy as he is Holy – a holiness that is reflected by a life that does such good deeds that are pleasing to him – that will lead us there. And it is such holiness of life that I pray for all here: in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

prayer diary Saturday 28 Oct 2017

'Or those eighteen who were killed when the tower of Siloam fell on them—do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others living in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish just as they did.’ 
Luke 13. 4-5

The judgement for sin comes not in this life, but the next. But unless we repent, that judgement will surely come.

Friday, October 27, 2017

prayer diary Friday 27 Oct 2017 (day of discipline and self-denial)

'You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky, but why do you not know how to interpret the present time?' 
Luke 12. 56

Christ condemned those of his day who though wise enough to know what weather was in store, yet refused to recognise the truth of who he was. How will he judge those of us who call him 'Lord, Lord,' yet place our own will above his?

Thursday, October 26, 2017

prayer diary Thursday 26 Oct 2017

'And I will say to my soul, 'Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.' 
 Luke 12. 19

The rich fool did not have the many years he hoped for to enjoy all he had; he had not even a single day. And what did his all his earthly wealth avail him – he who had no treasures laid up in heaven? This is why all of us, who also do not know the day or the hour we will be called before our Maker, must strive to be rich towards God.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

prayer diary Wednesday 25 Oct 2017

'If the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.’ 
Luke 12. 39, 40

So many times in the Gospels our Lord speaks of the suddenness of death and the unknown time at which he will come again. He tells us this not to frighten but to warn us; for he loves us, and wishes none to deny themselves their chance of heaven.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

prayer diary Tuesday 24 Oct 2017

'Be like those who are waiting for their master to return from the wedding banquet, so that they may open the door for him as soon as he comes and knocks. Blessed are those slaves whom the master finds alert when he comes.' 
Luke 12. 36,37

Again Christ reminds us that none of us know when we will be called before the judgement seat. Therefore live every moment as if in the next one might be your last so that you might spend every moment of the life to come with Christ in heaven

Monday, October 23, 2017

prayer diary Monday 23 Oct 2017 (St James)

And looking at those who sat around him, he said ‘Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.' 
Mark 3.34. 35

All may be in a relationship with Christ as loving and close as with your dearest family member. But it requires that you not only hear his word but obey it also

Sunday, October 22, 2017

render unto God that which is God's

May my words be in the Name of the Holy and Undivided Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Our gospel reading today concerns one of the many occasions on which the religious authorities of our Lord's time attempt to lay a snare for him. And I imagine you know all too well the explanation for what they are trying to do, learned from your days in the schoolroom, sermons heard over the years, and hopefully even your own reading, what the trap is that they think they are setting. Should Jesus answer that that people should not pay taxes to the Emperor, then they will denounce him as a rebel to the Roman authorities – who will then, they hope, arrest him and at least imprison him and perhaps even execute him. But if he says that they should pay taxes – well, what sort of a Messiah is he, one that publicly declares that the Jewish people should meekly bow before the demands of the hated Roman oppressors? That answer, they hope, would finish him as a teacher of the people and remove him as a threat to their own authority. Whichever way he answer, Jesus is finished; something that will make them very happy.

Our Lord, of course, sees through their plan. 'Why are you putting me to the test?' he asks them. And he knows also that they are not asking him this out of a spirit of honest enquiry, but rather, as St Matthew puts it, out of malice; for he finishes his question by saying to them 'you hypocrites.' He then he takes a coin and asks them whose image and title is upon it; and when they say the Emperor's, he gives them his justly famous response of 'Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s' , as the old translation so beautifully puts it.

Our Lord, of course, does more than give a clever answer to his enemies with this reply. He also gives us two commands. The the first is that we must render unto Caesar what is Caesar's. This means that Christians must be good citizens of the state. We must pay our taxes, obey the laws of the land, provided that they are just laws that do not conflict with our moral duties as children of God, and uphold the state in the lawful exercise of its authority.

The state, as St Paul tells us, has the sword to compel us. And that is true. The state, at the end of the day, has the ability to use force in order to make us obey its commands. But the faithful Christian should not fear that ability, because he complies with all the just laws of the state willingly and cheerfully, not only in public but also in private. The consideration as to whether or not we will be caught in any wrong-doing ought not be a factor when it comes to how law-abiding we are.

The other command of our Lord's that lies within his response that day is that we must render unto God that which is God's. And we know, or should know, what that is, for Christ has told us. He has told us what the first and greatest of all the commandments is – to love God with all our heart, and soul, and mind, and heart. And he has also told us what it means to love God – those who love him will keep his commandments. And, as St John the Apostle tells us in his letters, those who say they love God and yet do not keep his commandments are liars. There are doubtless many who present themselves to the world, and perhaps even to themselves, as faithful Christians; but if they deliberately reject any part of God's law and refuse to obey it, then they are lying to both themselves and the world. It is such as they of whom Jesus Christ spoke when he said that there were many who call him Lord Lord to whom he will say depart from me, ye evildoers; I tell you that I never knew you. And they will be sent from him into the outer darkness where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

There is one final message in the twin commands from our Lord in our gospel today. And that comes, of course, from the fact that sometimes our duty of obedience to the state will sometimes come into conflict with our duty of obedience to God. What do we do should such a situation arise? The answer is obvious. Obedience to God must always comes first. It is, after all, from God that authority on heaven and earth comes – as our Constitution acknowledges. 

And you will have noticed, I hope, that when I spoke of obedience to the laws I also said that those must be just laws. A law that, for example, tried to outlaw going to church on a Sunday would be just such an unjust law – it outside the authority of the state to interfere with a person's practice of religion - and therefore such a law must neither be tolerated or obeyed. Another would be if the state were to declare that a certain class of human beings could be arbitrarily killed. Justice requires the protection of innocent human life; and any law that suggests otherwise must be rejected and resisted. God and religion are not something that Caesar permits as long as they do not interfere with how he exercises power in any manner he sees fit; but rather God allows Caesar to have power in order that the societies in which his children live may be well ordered … and they can only be so if they are governed in a manner that is in accordance with the laws he has given us out of love, and which must lovingly obey in return … something that I pray all here will remember always, in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

prayer diary Saturday 21 Oct 2017

‘But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and herbs of all kinds, and neglect justice and the love of God; it is these you ought to have practised, without neglecting the others.' 
Luke 11. 42

It avails nothing to follow all the rules and regulations of Church teaching without love of God and neighbour in your heart. The Christian must obey God's holy laws joyfully and with love.

Friday, October 20, 2017

prayer diary Friday 20 Oct 2017 (day of discipline and self-denial)

‘I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that can do nothing more. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell.' 
Luke 12.4,5

To fear for your life is natural. But take courage from your faith and consider rather what is more important and fear instead for your immortal soul.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Wear the wedding garment!

May my words be in the Name of the Holy and Undivided Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

There are three categories of people in our Gospel reading today. The first are those ungrateful subjects who refuse their king’s lawful command that they should attend the wedding banquet. Some simply ignore his invitation and go about their daily business, treating his command with wilful disrespect; others go further and treat the king’s messengers with violence. And terrible is the fate that they bring down upon their heads because of their wickedness – they are destroyed and their city is burned.

The Holy Tradition of our Church has always been clear as to the interpretation as to who these people stand for. In the context of our Lord’s time, they stand for those who reject him and his teachings, and therefore reject both the Father who sent him and his will for the children he created. And Holy Scripture, as we well know, speaks to all ages; so we must consider as well the context of the age in which we ourselves live and what it means for us. This means we must consider the words of our Lord as being a prophetic warning to those who reject him, the Truth of his Gospel, and the Church which he established. No one should desire to be counted among those of this first category. For the destruction of which he speaks in his parable is, of course, eternal.

Moving to the next category, the king in the parable sends his servants into the streets to invite new guests. And so they do. And they are not discriminating. Good and bad alike are invited to the wedding banquet. And so the hall is filled. But it is not enough to simply accept the invitation, as what happens next shows when the king challenges the man who has come not wearing a wedding garment. This man is bound hand and foot and cast into the outer darkness, where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.

What does all this mean? Again, the interpretation has always been clear. God invites all into his Church. But it is not enough to simply enter in and pay lip service when it comes to following his commandments. For as Christ says elsewhere there will be many who say 'Lord, Lord', claiming that they have been faithful followers of his, who will be told that he never knew them and they must depart into that outer darkness. They may never have formally rejected the Truth of the Gospel, but they have done so in the manner of their living. They may have come to the feast; but they never put upon themselves the wedding garment of obedience. It is not enough to say you believe, or even to actually believe, if that belief is not followed by action. A Christian is not someone who makes a formal intellectual acceptance of God's Truth; a Christian is someone who puts that truth into practice, whatever the cost.

For what is the point of belief if it is not backed up with practice? Let us consider some of the commandments. We say we believe that the Lord is God and we will worship nothing and no one other than him – and yet we will give work, sporting activities, and social events priority above the practice of our faith. We say that we believe that we must keep the Lord’s Day holy – and yet churches are near empty while the day that is his is treated as if it were simply another Saturday. We say that we believe in prayer – yet how many will actually pray even once during the course of a day, much less attempt to engage in the ceaseless prayer that we are called to by Scripture? We say the words ‘thou shalt not commit adultery’ - but how many will then follow that commandment by practising the sexual purity, both in mind and in body, that have always been part of the teaching that Christ gave to the Church he founded? And so on.

These practices are the wedding garment spoken of in the parable – the humble obedience to God’s law and the good deeds that follow from that obedience. Failure to clothe yourself in it leads, as we have noted, to being cast out. And it is not a category that any should wish to find themselves among.

But humbling oneself and putting the wedding garment on, and wearing it always, leads to the eternal life that is represented by the wedding banquet. Those who are invited in and allowed to remain are those who have clad themselves thusly, the practice of their faith bringing them to the everlasting wedding feast of the Lamb that takes place in heaven. These are the third and final category of the three I spoke of as being mentioned in the parable. And it is this last category that I hope and pray all here will numbered among on the Great and Terrible Day of the Lord when all shall be judged. Even as I hope that all here will pray likewise for me, in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.