Homily 23rd Sunday Ordinary Time Year B - Listen, Hear, Act

Homily (Sermon) - Listen, Hear, Act.

The Readings for Sunday 9th September 2012  or the twenty-third Sunday of Ordinary Time Year B:
Isaiah 35:4-7
Psalm 145:6-10
James 2:1-5
Mark 7:31-37
[These readings can be found at www.universalis.com for the next few weeks.]


This homily and readings are available as a Podcast at the iTunes store.
Or you can listen to it now by clicking here.


Why are we being told this story?

On face value it's a story of healing, showing us Christ's ability to perform miracles, demonstrating His Divine nature. However if we look a little deeper at the scripture we have heard today there is plenty it can teach us.

I want to start with prophesy. Isaiah had been told by God about the Christ, about how God would save His chosen people. Isaiah was told about things that the Christ would do, things that would enable people to recognise Him when he came. Isaiah prophesied about the healing of the deaf and dumb man we hear about today. However, the interesting and challenging thing to understand about prophesy, is that you can never be sure what has been prophesied has finished happening. It's far to simple to assume that because Isaiah said Jesus would unseal the ears of the deaf and make the dumb sing, that this is the end of the prophesy.

I think that todays prophesy is still in action, started by Christ and continued by his Church. It won't be finished until he comes again. Its our job to make sure we find ways to continue the work Jesus started when he healed the deaf and dumb man. And before we do that we really have to understand the lessons Mark is teaching us today, and depending on where you currently are in your faith journey with Christ the lesson may be different.

So let's start with the first lesson, the lesson for us as students of Christ. We have to learn to listen to Him. We have to have our ears unsealed.

How often do you listen to Christ's words? Probably at least once a week at Mass. More often I expect, as scripture is found in many places. Maybe you read your bible, or listen to scripture and reflections on the radio or television. Scripture is easy for us to listen too, but how easy is it to hear, to understand, to take it into our hearts, to let it guide us, to let it give us life? The simple answer is its not easy, we have to want to hear the message of Christ. We have to have our own deafness cured. We have to ask Christ to help us hear Him, we have to listen prayerfully before we can really hear, before we can understand, before we are ready to help Christ with His work, before we can take our place doing His work as part of His Church.

The man we hear about in today's Gospel could be me, could be you, in fact it should be. We have to let Christ stick his fingers in our ears. To allow Him to open us to His word, His gift of life. That's our first lesson from today's Gospel.

Christ calls us to continue his work, to work as His Church for Him, to help build heaven here on earth. Our second lesson today, is as followers of Christ, it's about how we go about doing His work. Jesus gives us a wonderful demonstration of this today. Think about the way he approached the man in today's gospel. Most of the time when Jesus cured people, He spoke to them, gave them an instruction or told them their sins had been forgiven. This time he used actions, why? Maybe because the man was deaf, Christ used a sign language to speak to him. He found a way to communicate with the man, before healing him.

That's our second lesson, find a way to communicate with people. Thats also the continuation of the prophesy, our tongues are being healed so we can proclaim Christ to a deaf world. But, how can we tell the world, or even just one friend, the wonders we know about Christ, if we can't communicate with them. Our ears have been unsealed, we know from our own experience Christ can and will unseal their ears, the challenge we are given as Christians is how do we start the conversation for Christ, He will finish it if we can just start it.

Starting the conversation is difficult, Jesus started it today in sign, and finished it in words. He started it in a language the man understood and finished it, once the mans ears were opened, in the language Jesus needed to use. You might need to learn a new language. You might need to learn about sport, or soap opera, or music. You might need to learn to enjoy country walks or computer games. Remember that Jesus started the conversation in the language the man understood, you need to do the same.

Today, tomorrow, until Christ returns, Isaiah's prophesy will continue. At some points you will need your ears unblocked and at others you will be asked to start the conversation so other can have their ears unblocked.

Where are you today in your journey. Are you struggling to hear, do you need to let Christ unblock your ears. Or have you heard Him and are now being called to communicate His message to others. Either way, today's gospel should be speaking to you, are you ready to listen, to hear, and to act?



Last weeks Homily 22nd Sunday - Homily Index

Tickets Website for Sara Groves Invisible Empires UK Tour Bristol

I have just found the website where you can buy your Sara Groves UK Tour tickets for the convert in Fishponds, Bristol on the 2nd October. Click here:
http://saragrovesbristol.eventbrite.com/
Sara is one of my favourite singer song writers and her music is beautiful and inspiring. If you know her music well I am sure you will have seen the influence some of her songs have had on my preaching and homilies.

Sara will be playing at Fishponds Baptist Church, Downend Road, Fishponds, Bristol, BS16 5AS on  Tuesday 2nd October at7.30pm. Tickets cost £10.

Previous Posts about Sara Groves:
Sara Groves coming to the UK and Bristol - This post links to a couple of her videos so you can listen to her sing.
Sara Groves UK Tour Update - Tour Dates - This post lists all the UK tour dates if your not close to Bristol.

Homily 22nd Sunday Ordinary Time Year B - Gods Love, Promise and Law

Homily (Sermon) – Gods Love, Promise and Law

The Readings for Sunday 2nd September 2012  or the twenty-second Sunday of Ordinary Time Year B:
Deuteronomy 4:1-2,6-8
Psalm 14
James 1:17-18, 21-22, 27
Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23
[These readings can be found at www.universalis.com for the next few weeks.]

The first five books of our bible Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy contain a loving promise. The promise of our Creator, the promise of God, the promise that He loves us and wants to be with us, to keep us safe and well. That promise became known as The Law, and it contained the wisdom and love of God.

The Law contained customs and commands, rules for living a good life. The Ten Commandments were part of the Law, part of the loving promise, part of the covenant between man and God. We can all to easily be drawn into thinking of the Law as just a set of rules, restrictions put in place to limit us. But you shouldn't look at the Law out of context, you can't hope to draw Gods wisdom from it unless you first understand that it's a gift from God, it's a huge warm hug from the the biggest softest pair of arms in  all creation.

If I told you that anything hot was bad and not to be approached, and that all objects with a shape edge can only transported at 3miles an hour or less, you would think this daft and restrictive. But have you ever told a small child not to go to near a fire or not to run with scissors. The instruction comes from love and is there to protect. It is the wisdom of a parent, and so is the Law that was given to Moses and then passed on by the people of Israel and Christ to us.

As Christ tells us today there are things within us that are opposed to the Law, our pride, envy and avarice to name just a few. They will try and drive our actions just as our love, compassion, kindness and faith drive our actions. We have a choice, sometimes it seems easy, sometimes it's very hard. Do we live our lives understanding and knowing that we are loved by God and trying always to please Him, to make Him proud. Or do we give into to the corrupted side of our nature, the selfishness we all have, the sin of the apple we have carried since Adam and Eve. Personally, I know I try and act as God would want me to act, but all to often I get selfish and do what seems best for me.

Once we have been selfish and given in to the weakness of sin we have another choice. We can own up to the mistake, say sorry and do our very best to make it right. We can look back at our actions and inactions and think about, pray about how to not make the same mistake again. Christ gave us the gift of saying sorry, He forgave us, God knows what we are and still loves us, He made sure through the sacrifice and suffering of His own Son, Jesus Christ, that we could say sorry and be forgiven.

The other side of the choice though, might be to not admit our wrong, to justify our actions, to hide in a legalistic debate with ourselves and our peers. We can twist and turn the words of scripture to make our wrong actions seem right in the letter of the Law. We can, as the Pharisees did, pay lip service to the Law and reduce Gods promise, Gods Love to just a book of human regulations.

As followers of Christ, we have to look hard at ourselves. We should reflect daily on our actions. We should say sorry to those we hurt and make good, and remember every time we let someone down we also let God down so we should say sorry to him as well. Our prayer life, our  liturgy and our sacraments all give us an opportunity to say sorry to God, please use them.

Live your life with love, kindness and charity for all those around you. Remember to be loving and kind to yourself as well, but not at the cost of others. Seek out those less fortunate than yourself, don't wait for them to find you they may not be able to. James tells us to help orphans and widows, in today's world there are many more we can also help. James also tell us to keep ourselves uncontaminated by the world. This is great advice, but so, so difficult. Our modern, mad and selfish world offers us everything we want instantly, the cost not to be worried about you can pay for it later. Take it now, because you are worth it.

God loves you now, because you are worth it. He has given you his Love, He has given you His Life, He has given you His forgiveness and He has Given you His Law, a promise that you and He can be together, always.


Last weeks Homily 21st Sunday - Homily Index

Homily 21st Sunday Ordinary Time Year B - The Message of Eternal Life

Homily (Sermon) – The Message of Eternal Life.

The Readings for Sunday 26th August 2012  or the twenty-first Sunday of Ordinary Time Year B:
Joshua 24:1-2,15-18
Psalm 33
Ephesians 5:21-32
John 6:60-69
[These readings can be found at www.universalis.com for the next few weeks.]

We have heard over the last few weeks John account of the loaves and fish, the crowds that followed him after this miracle, of Christ's teaching on the bread of life and now we come to the crowds reaction to that teaching. For many of them their reaction was to leave Him, to turn away from Him, to reject His message. But why? Why was his message so intolerable? Why couldn't they accept it?

So to start lets have a little recap of the word of God we have heard over the last few weeks. The Miracle of the loaves and fish, Jesus showed the people of Israel, a miracle previously done for Mosses in the desert by God and Elisha feeding 100 men with only 20 loaves. The people see a prophet, a free meal and maybe hope that God is sending a leader to overthrow the Roman governors.

They continue to follow him and their number grows. Then he stops to talk to them about the food they have eaten. It's not food for the body that he is offering but food for the soul. It not flesh he is offering but spirit. He is not offering worldly things, food and power, but heaven itself. He is not a prophet with a message from God, but God Himself. He is asking them to accept that He is God, that their salvation only comes, can only come,  from Him.

At this point the people start to realise this man is not the way to a free and easy meal. He is not the military leader to challenge Rome. He is not what they expected, and they really didn't expect what he said He was. They found it intolerable that a man like them could claim to be God.

Christ knew they wanted to see proof, hence he asked them if seeing Him ascend into Heaven would convince them. He knew His Fathers plan, he knew he had to die, that He would rise from the dead on the third day and later ascend into heaven. He knew that many would then again turn to Him, who couldn't find it in themselves to follow Him then.

In many ways I think we are all like the people listening to Christ in our readings. We follow for the good things he gives us. The support, the peace, the community, the Christian family, the promise of eternal life with Him, His father and the Holy Spirit in Heaven. Those are all great reasons to follow, those are the easy parts of following.

We know the truth behind the intolerable message, we know about His resurrection, about His ascension, we know Him as the Son of God. We know him in the Trinity, we accept and worship Him as our Lord and God.

With that knowledge comes the hard side of following Him, the sharing in his Cross. We have a life to lead for Him, in service of Him, using our bodies to do the work He left us to do. Sometimes it's fulfilling work, sometimes it is hard work, sometimes it difficult and heartbreaking work. But, if He asks, we should respond. We have the same choice as the people standing listening to Christ, we have the same choice that Joshua give the people of Israel. We can desert our God when the going gets tough, when we don't like the message, when we can't accept what we are taught. Or we can continue to follow, because Christ has the answers. He has the message of eternal life, where else would we go?

But what do we do if we choose to follow and we don't like or understand the message or the work we are given. That's a really difficult question to answer, because that's when the message becomes personal. That's where we are all different. That's where we have to turn to the person that knows us best, the person who can see inside our hearts, the person that knows the bad in us as well as we do ourselves and loves us still. That's when we have to turn to Christ and ask Him for help. We Know Christ has already stepped into our humanity and lived as we live, He knows what it is like to be human. Christ, if you accept Him into your life, will help you.

If you don't understand something ask to see things from God's perspective or ask for His wisdom, His understanding. If something is to difficult for you ask for Christ's help, His strength. If something is to painful to bear ask Christ to bear it for you or with you. All you need to do is pray, a simple prayer, just talk to Him, He will listen and He will answer, I promise you.

The intolerable, unacceptable message of our Gospels is that Jesus is God. He is life, it is Christ we must accept into our lives, in everything we do, everything we say and everything we believe. Let Him in, trust Him, follow Him, Serve Him. He will lead you to eternal life, where else have you to go?



Last weeks Homily 20th Sunday - Homily Index - Next Weeks Homily 22nd Sunday

Volunteer


Volunteer.

Vitality
Originality
Love
Unify
Natural
Talent
Emphasise
Enthusiastic
Resolve.
Patrick R.
August 2012

Mount Olympus Tomorrow


Mount Olympus Tomorrow.

Too often man’s pride is seen; a sin,
Assumption that I; all I am is best,
In my folly I am better than others,
Lack modesty; humility that pleases,
Makes me honestly successful; fun,
A man who is known for his integrity.

Sadly we allow understanding to fail,
Prove unable to accept right pride,
Those times when it is a celebration,
Acknowledgement of our sweat; tears
The occasions when they turn to gold,
And are a good example for us all.

The few remember the last Olympics,
When London city was the host,
And hope; expectancy was the king,
We had fought a war; tasted victory,
So then armoured for a fresh fight,
Our champions willingly gave their all.

2012; another year of opportunity lost?
If we fail to learn this one great lesson,
The joy; pride being the best must bring,
Prize for giving all; nothing less; far more,
We become a nation born of fools,
And do not deserve the laurel accolade.

So may we walk our heads held so high,
And may we abandon the malaise,
The loss of will to succeed; ability to win,
Today not only celebrate athletes’ victory,
But resolve ourselves to accept their mantle
And make them proud of next generation.

Then in the triumphal days that are to follow,
Let each of us give thanks and great praise,
Glorify the Almighty; the Creator God,
Our Lord; our King, who blesses each one,
Gives them talent; ability to succeed; be best,
And who is the author of all things good.
Patrick R.
August 2012.

Homily 20th Sunday Ordinary Time Year B - Draw Life from Christ

Homily (Sermon) - Draw Life from Christ

The Readings for Sunday 19th August 2012  or the Twentieth Sunday of Ordinary Time Year B:
First Proverbs 9:1-6
Psalm Psalm 33
New Ephesians 5:15-20
Gospel John 6:51-58
[These readings can be found at www.universalis.com for the next few weeks.]

Where do you draw your strength and your life from?

The word draw, as used in this sentence, means to pull. Think of a women in the hot sun turning a large wheel on a well to raise a bucket of water 50 feet from the bottom of the well. It's a tough action, a difficult thing to do, but it needs to be done. The pictures Christ paints with words are sometime lost on us, in our easy lives. Turn on a tap and get clean water. Turn on the heating for warmth. Open the fridge for food. No longer do we draw water from a well, collect firewood or farm and hunt for food.

Our lives have lost some of the basic struggle and we in turn have lost the language used to describe it. However, we have added complexity, we have replaced simple struggle with complex struggle. We balance shift work, school runs, multiple jobs and overtime. We reapply for our own jobs each year as our corporation downsize and change around us. We are always available through email, mobile phones, twitter and facebook. Our debt costs more and our savings are worth less. Our struggle is as tough today as every generation before us, it different that's all. But because it's different we need pay more attention to those things that don't change, those things that can support us, those things that give us life and let us shine in this world, those things that will prepare us for an everlasting life.

We can't draw strength and life from our selves. Our daily food and drink while it fuels our body isn't enough for the dazzling quality of our immortal souls. We need to turn to Christ. We need to Consume him. We need to draw life from him, to fuel our souls for the weekly struggle. He is our fuel, He is our bread, He is our life.

Even Christ did not expect to live this life drawing only on his own strength. He tells us today that he draws his life from his Father and in the next sentence He offers us Himself to eat, so we can draw our life from Him. But this is a difficult message, how can we eat Christ?

The obvious answer I hope you are all thinking is the Eucharist. The making present of Christ on this alter, the taking and eating of Christ's body and blood, the source and summit of our Christian lives. The taking of Christ into ourselves, the life Christ offers us, His beautiful gift, everlasting life with Him and His Father and the Holy Spirit. That is what Jesus is talking about in today's Gospel.

But there is more, this Mass is an opportunity for you to meet and encounter our God. A chance for you to worship our Father and Creator. A opportunity to be filled by the Holy Spirit. Our God, the blessed trinity, is fully present in this Mass. We come here to bow down and worship, just as our psalm today starts, “We come to Bless the Lord at all times, his praise always on our lips.”

We encounter Christ in every member of our congregation. In your husband or wife, in your brother or sister, in your parent or child. Christ is there right now in all of them. Draw life from them.

We encounter Christ in scripture. In the old testament and in the New, in the Gospel and in this reflection. Christ is present in every word, His life filling this building, there to inspire you, to teach you, to love you. Listen to the Life in the Word you hear, draw life from it.

We encounter Christ in our Priest, in Fr Frank. Look past the man you know and love, see Christ standing there behind the alter. See Christ break bread, see Christ bless the wine, you are gathered with the disciples looking upon Christ at the last supper, you are stood with John and Mary at the foot of the Cross, during this Mass you get to gaze upon Christ. Draw life from Him.

Fill yourselves with Christ, consume Him, draw life from Him. Take that life out from this Mass into your weekly struggles. Live careful lives in this wicked age. Take the joy and song and love of Christ from this Mass into the world. Go and make a difference, Go and shine! Show the world you are fuelled by Christ.



Last weeks Homily 19th Sunday - Homily Index - Next weeks Homily 21st Sunday

Walk this Week

[Verses use a Japanese poetry style - Haiku - 3 lines, 5 beats, 7 beats and 5 beats!]


Walk this Week.

(Monday)
Mayhem expected,
The first day of our week,
Our God will prevail.

(Tuesday)
Tumult subsided,
The second day of our week,
God is triumphant.

(Wednesday)
Weary now perhaps,
On the third day of the week,
God will sustain you.

(Thursday)
Time has made demands,
One more day after today,
God’s love is certain.

(Friday)
Frazzled but not down,
We are still praising our Lord,
Thanking Him today.

(Saturday)
Sunshine and showers,
Our time to relax and play,
Sing praise to the Lord.

(Sunday)
Soft sunlight brings hope,
We are His ambassadors,
Empowered by love!

(Always)
We will go forward,
To love and to serve the Lord,
Every day this week!

Patrick R.
August 2012.

Sara Groves UK Tour Update - Tour Dates

I have some more news to get excited about. Sara Groves UK tour is coming to Bristol and Bath. She will be playing at:

Fishponds Baptist Church, Bristol, on the 2nd October
Monkton Senior High School, Bath, on the 3rd October

 I don't know any details yet about ticket sales but as soon as I do I'll let you know. You can also keep an eye on Sara's web site www.saragroves.com  or the ticket website www.refinetickets.com or follow Sara and her husband Troy on twitter @grovesroad

Update: Tickets are now available at http://saragrovesbristol.eventbrite.com/ for the Fishponds concert.

If you want to know who Sara Groves is then please take a look at this earlier post Sara Groves Coming to the UK and Bristol. Sara Groves is one of my favourite singer song writers, her music is beautiful and inspirational, and the chance to see her perform live in the UK is not to be missed. In total there are, I think, 10 dates across Scotland, Northern Ireland and England.

Invitation to join Kiva

A few years ago Gail and I were given a Christmas present of a $25 Kiva voucher. Kiva is a charity organisation that arranges loans for people in developing countries. It works by you opening an account, or if your lucky like me someone giving you a voucher. You can then add money to the account, it still yours you haven't donated it. You can then look through the lists of people and groups who would like to borrow your money for business development projects, if you see one you like you can then lend money. As it's paid back you can lend it again and again and again.

It's a wonderful idea and very well done. I encourage you to take a look and see if it's something you want to do. There is some risk, as with any loan the borrower may default, but for me that's not a problem as I am not treating this as a financial investment, but as a spiritual investment. A way to get involved and understand a little more about how small business in developing countries around the world are doing, and God will give them a little help.

At the moment Kiva are offering to let you make a loan with their money so follow this link, find out more and maybe make a difference to someone else. Invitation to join www.kiva.co.uk

Athletes crossing themselves before a race


I saw a tweet about the Olympics last week which read, “As soon as anyone crosses themselves before a race I'm sucked in and want them to win.” It made me smile, because I also feel an affinity to someone I see crossing themselves. I think the affinity comes from knowing they are part of my Christian family, they are strong enough in their faith to offer themselves and their race (if racing is their sport) to God. I don't think for a second that God will favour them in the race against any other competitor and I don't think that is the reason why athletes cross themselves.

To give of yourself, to be a witness for Christ, to put God at the forefront of our thoughts is what all Christian's are challenged to do. The public display of the cross achieves all these, and I am instantly drawn to that person as a sister or brother in Christ.

But taking that thought on, when do I cross myself? Do I offer each post on this blog to Christ before I type it? Do I offer each day to Christ as I leave the house? Would I cross myself at work before going into an important meeting? And if I don't why don't I? Is the faith of the athlete stronger than mine, or different to mine?

I think it's good to ask these questions of ourselves. To react to the example of other Christians around us. To challenge ourselves and ultimately to come to a stronger relationship with Christ.

As a Deacon I am called to offer the daily prayer of the Church, the Divine Office, each morning and evening. This prayer starts and finishes with the sign of the cross. Part of the office is a hymn or poem and one of my favourites which I use often is the Prayer of Saint Patrick's Breastplate. The words of the poem bring to my mind the same emotion as the physical action of crossing myself, the poem puts into words the strengthening that prayer brings, a strengthening that is essential to living life with Christ, a strength that can only come from God, from the Trinity.

I'll leave you with the words of the poem, and a thank you for the lady who's tweet made me think about the cross. Thank you Jo-Anne, may God bless you the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

Prayer of Saint Patrick's Breastplate

I bind unto myself today
The strong Name of the Trinity,
By invocation of the same,
The Three in One and One in Three.

I bind this day to me for ever.
By power of faith, Christ's incarnation;
His baptism in the Jordan river;
His death on Cross for my salvation;
His bursting from the spic├Ęd tomb;
His riding up the heavenly way;
His coming at the day of doom
I bind unto myself today.

I bind unto myself today
The power of God to hold and lead,
His eye to watch, His might to stay,
His ear to hearken to my need.
The wisdom of my God to teach,
His hand to guide, His shield to ward,
The word of God to give me speech,
His heavenly host to be my guard.

Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me.
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

I bind unto myself the Name,
The strong Name of the Trinity;
By invocation of the same.
The Three in One, and One in Three,
Of Whom all nature hath creation,
Eternal Father, Spirit, Word:
Praise to the Lord of my salvation,
Salvation is of Christ the Lord.
                                   Amen.

Homily for the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Homily (Sermon) - Mary, Taken Body and Soul.

The Readings for the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary:
First         Apoc 11:19; 12:1-6,10
Psalm     Psalm Ps 44
Second   1Cor 15:20-26
Gospel   Luke 1:39-56
Notes:  Different readings for vigil & day. This homily is for the day.
[These readings can be found, with the reading for the vigil, at www.universalis.com for the next few weeks.] 

On most Sunday's we are treated to readings from the Old Testament, the Psalms, the New Testament and the Gospels. Today we didn't have and Old Testament reading instead we heard  a reading from the book of the Apocalypse. So it might surprise you then to learn that in preparing to speak to you today, I have spent considerable time reading the old Testament. All our readings today have their originals and much of there symbolism rooted in the Old Testament, and it's important for us to understand this, if we are going to understand and believe in the promise made to us today.

The promise is simply this, that Death is not an end for us, but the start of something new. Mary in so many ways is an example to us, and today, as we commemorate the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, is no different. When Mary's life on earth came to an end her body did not decay. Instead, her Son, Jesus Christ, assumed her into heaven, body and soul. Mary was the first, Jesus loved his mum, why shouldn't she be the first. But the promise to us, is that she won't be the last.

So lets take a closer look at how this promise was won for us, but from Heavens point of view as John describes in his Vision, from the book of the Apocalypse.

Readings from this book can often seem confusing as there is a huge amount of symbolism and today's no exception. In the very first line we hear Heaven opens to reveal the Ark of the Covenant. The Ark symbolises Gods love and promises to Israel, and it would normally be kept behind two curtains in the temple and only seen by the high priest. The fact that it is revealed to all, tells us God is about to show his glory and keep those promises and not just to Israel but to every nation... To us.

Next we see a pregnant woman, clothed in the sun, standing on the moon, surrounded by twelve stars. It's easy today, particularly if your familiar with the images on a miraculous medal to see this as Mary, and I don't want to disagree with that, but it's also more than that. The images used here have been used in the bible before, in the psalms and the Song of Solomon to describe the bride of God. And as we think of the Church as Christ's bride, so the Jewish people thought of the nation of Israel as the Bride of God. So this women also represents the bride of God, the people of Israel, who are about to produce the saviour of us all. After the birth she may also represent our Church, as she is protected by God in the desert.

Next appears the Dragon, the bible has linked this image previously with chaos and Satan, in the books of Isaiah and the psalms. It's seven crowned heads, symbolise complete power over all the kingdoms of earth. The dragons tail then drags a third of the stars from the sky. This image of the stars being dragged from the sky can also be found in Daniels vision of the end of time. The stars represent all of us, and it shows how easy it is for any of us to fall to the temptations of Satan.  The dragon then waits to destroy Christ as he is born, but the Dragon is defeated as God snatches the child to heaven. That victory is Christ's passion, resurrection and ascension. We have just seen Christ's victory over Death, told from Heavens point of view.

Next we heard Paul telling the Corinthians of this victory. He uses similar language, that Christ must be king and place all his enemies under his feet, the last being death itself. Paul goes on to  describes Jesus as the first fruits, and this needs a little more explaining, because it means more than just being first. Every year at passover Jews would bring the first shelf of barley to the temple. The law of Moses says, it should be harvest from common ground, not prepared soil. That the priests prepared this barley in a strict way and have it milled it into flour then baked into bread to offer to God. This bread was the first fruits, and before these first fruits were offered, no harvesting of the rest of the crop was allowed. The connection between Christ as First Fruits and Christ as our Eucharist is strong. Christ gave up his life, defeated death and became our Eucharist, and through partaking in that Eucharist he promises us life with him.

Our Gospel reading is a favourite of mine. Mary's visit to Elizabeth, and the wonderful prayer Mary said in response to Elizabeth's welcome. And once again we can find the origins of that prayer, the Magnificat, in the old testament. It's based on the prayer of Hannah, who's story is told at the start of the book of Samuel. Hannah had not managed to have children and prayed to the lord for a child, the Lord listened and Hannah conceived a child by her husband, she dedicated the child to God. And he grew up to be the prophet Samuel who consecrated both Saul and David as kings of Israel. Mary was a young girl, un-married and pregnant, she had just said yes to the Lord, she had agreed to his will and to become part of his plan. As Mary prayed the Magnificat she was thinking back to those who had served God before her. Leaning from them, following their example. And that in itself is a great example for us to follow, if we are going to say yes to the Lord when he asks us to be part of his plan.

We are called to look back and learn from John and Paul, from Daniel from Samuel, from the law of Moses, and today particularly from Mary.

If we follow Mary's example today we should know our scriptures, draw wisdom from them to help us in our everyday life and reflect on them in our prayer. We should praise God, thank God, ask God for his help, for ourselves and others. Mary has given us many prayers, from the Magnificat to the Rosary. Let us look to Mary for our example as we accept the challenges of life as a follower of Christ today.

But let us also take encouragement from Mary as we remember today's promise, Mary was the first taken body and soul to heaven, but she won't be the last.


Homily Index

Accepting You for You!


Accepting You for You!

There’s a time to stand back,
When we should listen,
Enjoy the love of our friends,
Accept the truth they bring,
Ignore the lie that destroys
Would deny your true beauty,
The loveliness that makes you
So very special,
And unique,
A person I truly treasure,
Whose hand I want to hold
As honestly; honourably I look
Gaze deep into your eyes
See mirrors reflecting your beauty,
An important truth I must share,
And want you to enjoy; believe,
Please
Never doubt how special you are,
Your love; gentleness is a beacon,
A treasure no one else can own,
So my dear friend please love
Yes; love yourself ‘cos you are you,
Accepted,
And let our two hearts agree as one.
Patrick R.
August 2012.

Let Life Live


Let Life Live.

There are thoughts that inspire us,
Compel us to seek right and truth,
Challenge every one of our follies,
Questioning demand answers,
What if?
Maybe,
Perhaps there is a better way,
An end to absurdity of absurdity,
Bestial cruelty of war for its own sake,
The pathetic pathos of being best,
The greatest,
The most powerful,
The richest poor man,
And without due care for others,
Living; no existing in personal Hades,
We ignore the rights; needs of friends,
Our mutual yearning for love
And acceptance,
Reassurance we belong in community,
Valuable; valued with part to play,
So why? Why?
Why are we so blind; so deaf and dumb?
Each of us has been given a tongue,
Eyes to see; a heart to know and feel,
Share the suffering of our fellow men,
And from our abundance; our plenty,
The place where our barns are full
Overflowing,
In true humility and gentleness of spirit
Abandon all of the old ways,
Embrace the new,
And share the love that God has given,
With all that we meet and know.

Patrick R.
July 2012.

Would you let children look at porn?


The internet is full of porn, photo graphs, video and stories. It's very easy to find, just tap a couple of words into Google and your away, millions of pages of it. If Googles filters are turned off, you can discover some very dark pornography as well. I few years ago I was preparing a presentation about Christ's victory over Satan and I was looking for some images of the devil to put into the presentation. What I found then was some stomach churning horrible images and I hope that no children ever stumble across images like those, and that my friends is the reason for writing this article today.

The UK government is currently consulting to gauge opinion on the best way to protect children from harmful online material. You have a chance right now to think and act if you want to. You only have until September 6th, that's one month from today, to complete the consultation document and upload it.

How do you feel about an unrestricted internet? Is this a good thing or a bad thing?

It does allow anyone to access anything whenever they like. Freedom of information is a gift and one I personally greatly enjoy. I can say what I like on this blog, and anyone with a computer can read it. I can access information from both sides of a debate and get the latest news and if I wanted gossip from around the world.

On the other hand, there are people out there selling pornographic images and videos, or giving them away and making money from the advertising. It's my choice as an adult if I want to access this. I may not like these images, I may not want them there, but I understand why people look at them, and many other people are perfectly happy that these images are available.

However, they are just as available to children, and I feel very strongly about that. As a kid in school I remember looking up sexual words in a dictionary in the school library with friends trying to understand what all the fuss was about. I hate to imaging what I would have found if I had the same access to IT and the internet that most modern kids have.

It's possible to filter adult content centrally, your broadband provider would then automatically filter porn unless you opted into receive adult content. These adult content filters, which are already used by mobile companies, also filter more than porn, for example they filter gambling and other over 18 content. Some reports I have read say this is easy and free for internet service providers, but having worked for one, I would disagree. There will be a small cost to them, and a couple of difficult projects, but these types of filter are not rocket science, and I believe should be put in place. As a small aside, please spare a thought and a prayer for those people employed to put these filters in place, some of them, always volunteers, have to review the images caught by the filters to make sure they work and continue to work correctly. While some people may joke about having a great job where you get paid to look at porn, in my experience no one doing this job was happy or comfortable doing it and no one did it for long.

So if you feel that you have an opinion and are living on the UK, please take a look at the government consultation here : Department of Education - Parental internet controls - Consultation

Or if you want a little help, this is a very helpful site that provides some background and an easy way to complete the consultation, click here: www.SafeOnline.org.uk

Please think about how children, maybe your children, will be effected by seeing pornography. Once you have thought, I hope you decide to act.
Thank you. John.

[Additional: You may be interested to know that as soon as this article was posted on my blog, Google started to filter the adverts they display. They don't show any adverts against this post or the homepage when this post is there. It shows that their filters work and they use them as I am sure they are picking up the word porn. Good for Google.]

The Hiding Place - Corrie ten Boom

Image linked from Amazon

I have just finished reading 'The Hiding Place' by Corrie ten Boom. It's a wonderful witness to God, and while sometimes a difficult book to read, just because of the nature of the world Corrie lived in during the second world war, it was for me and uplifting read.

Corrie lived in Holland, in a small and respected watchmakers shop. She had a strong Christian upbringing and the scenes in the book where she describes the wisdom of her father are amazing. This Christian preparation is what allowed Corrie and her family to make the decision God would want them to make as the world went so horribly wrong during the second world war. And it's her families Christian faith that allows God to use them powerfully for good when everything in the world seems bad.

I want to tell you all about her story, about ants and flees, about heavy suitcases or bottles of vitamins, but if I do I'll start to spoil a true story I really hope you will take the time to read. I will be constantly remembering examples from this book as I prepare my homilies and it will go on my book shelf next to 'The Screwtape Letters' and 'He is Risen' as a source major influences in my personal Christian journey. This book has made a difference to my life, somehow it's made my world a bit more spiritually focused, a bit easier to deal with, a little bit closer to my Lord and God.

Homily 19th Sunday Ordinary Time Year B - Big Picture

Homily (Sermon) - Time to look at the Big Picture

The Readings for Sunday 12th August 2012  or the 19th Sunday of Ordinary Time Year B:
First 1 Kings 19:4-8
Psalm Psalm 33
New Ephesians 4:30-5:2
Gospel John 6:41-51
[These readings can be found at www.universalis.com for the next few weeks.] 

Sometimes you have to look at the big picture. Take a few steps back and take everything in. I guess we all kind of get that, we are here in church this Sunday because we, through our relationships with Christ, have glimpsed heaven, have glimpsed that big picture. But, don’t we all to quickly forget that beautiful heavenly vista and start complaining about the fallen world around us.

Both Paul and Jesus, in today's readings, are dealing with people caught up in the details or “Real Life”. Elijah on the other hand has been powerfully doing the Lords will and has been persecuted for it, in his fear and tiredness he also misses the big picture and an angel is sent to strengthen him.

Before I talk a little more about what the world calls “Real Life” and what we as Christian know to be Real and True and Life, I want to point out a that we are privileged at the moment to be hearing scripture each Sunday in order. Over the passed three weeks and in the next two weeks we are hearing most of chapter 6 of John's gospel. Over the passed five weeks and next two we are hearing a good portion of Paul's letter to the Ephesians. Why don't you take the opportunity to look at a bigger picture, you could read all of Paul's letter to the Ephesians in 15mins one evening before going to bed. You could also read Chapter 6 of John's Gospel in 15mins. It's in chapter six that John tell us of Christ as the Eucharist. It's an important part of our faith and well worth reading as a whole. Making time for meeting our Lord and God, in the reading of scripture, is important and you won't regret it I promise you.

So, back to today's readings. Our world isn't an easy place to live. We might be worried about friends and family, our health, exam results, how we are going to pay the next bill that arrives. Worry is very human, I tend to worry when I am not in control of any situation, and worry leads to selfishness, and it's in selfishness that we bicker and complain, lose our tempers, raise our voices and call each other names. It's natural, it's human, it's understandable, it's Not justifiable. We are called to be better than that, to aspire to more than that. We are called to love our neighbour. That means not getting selfish when we worry, not putting ourselves first, but continuing to put others at the top of our priority list, and by others I mean everyone, not just those you are close to.

But if we do this what should we do with our worries, our fears, our grief and despair. How do we manager the bad things in this world? The simple answer is we give them to our Father, we give them to God. If they are to heavy for us to carry he will carry them for us, and if we are to weighed down by them he will carry us also.

Prayer, simple prayer, is the answer. Talk to God, tell him your worries, He will understand. Pour out your anger and pain, He will understand. He understand because he has felt them to, on his knees in a garden the night before he died Jesus poured out his worries, fears and pain to his father.

Christ came to our world so we might know our Father. We saw our Father  in Christ, saw His love for us, we saw Him die for us, we saw Him in glory after His resurrection. Because of Jesus, we can, every moment of our lives, turn to our Father for support and comfort.

In our secular world we are often challenged by “Real Life”, the daily grind we often find ourselves in. But when we have tasted the bread of life offered to us by Christ Himself, we can look at all our brothers and sisters around us, and see the beauty of their immortal soul. We can draw strength from the certain knowledge that the “Real World” around us is temporary, and that our encounters with Christ, the Bread of Life, are just a taste of the eternal truth, just a taste of the everlasting life, just a taste of what is real.

This week look beyond the detail, look beyond the world you live in, look beyond your troubles, I ask you this coming week, to eat well of the Bread of Life, to give your troubles to God, and be excellent to one another.



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