Friday, 12 December 2014


Children dancing

There are always excuses to not do what we know we ought to do; not least when we hear the still small voice of God and refuse to respond to His invitation. In the Gospel reading for today (Matthew 11:16-19) Jesus exposes such excuses. He uses a song of children:
We piped to you, and you did not dance; we wailed, and you did not mourn.
The piping refers to a wedding, of dancing and music, which is alluding to Christ’s own ministry. The wailing refers to a funeral where there is public mourning and wailing, which is alluding to St John the Baptist’s ministry.

Jesus’ contemporaries refused to heed the call of John to repent of their sins, to mourn because of their disobedience, self-centredness and waywardness. They also refused to respond to Jesus’ call to celebrate the presence of the Bridegroom, the Messiah, and to learn how to love God and their neighbour. They refuse invitations to embrace the Kingdom of God.

How often do we make excuses to not hear God’s call? How often do we tell ourselves, I haven’t sinned that badly, I don’t need to pay much attention to my sins and find ways of dealing with them? How often do we fail to love God with our whole heart, mind and strength? How often do we give God our second best, or third best – “oh that’ll do”? How often do we look on our neighbour as someone who gets in the way, or someone to be used, or someone to ignore? How often do we make such excuses and just carry on in our own way?

Fr Ian

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Second conversion

Jose de Ribera - Repentance of St Peter

Mt 11:11-15

Jesus greatly extolled the virtue of John the Baptist saying, “of all the children born of women, a greater than John the Baptist has never been seen…” John was called by God to be the last prophet that would prepare for the coming Messiah. John exhorted people to repentance, to conversion. The preparation needed was an inner change that would reject sin and embrace belief in the promises of God. This call to conversion is an essential part of the proclamation of the Kingdom, and Jesus exhorted people to “repent, and believe in the gospel”.

Since I left the Church of England and entered the full communion of the Catholic Church, many Catholics refer to me as a ‘convert’. Although as Abbot David explained to us at our Reception, strictly speaking converts are those who convert from one religion to another, or, from no religion to faith. We were not changing our religion; we were being reconciled with the Holy See. Our baptism was valid and good, and after accepting all the Catholic Church proposes for our belief we were then entering into full communion. That was helpful to all of us entering the Catholic Church because it didn’t feel we were denying the good things of our life in the Church of England but embracing a more complete Christian faith. It wasn’t a new faith but it was fuller, more integrated and had a bigger vision than we had known as Anglicans.

However, without contradicting what I had said about converts, there is a sense in which all Christians are converts! Christ’s call to conversion, as the Catechism says (CCC 1427-9), continues to be at play in our lives. The major conversion is our baptism. The ongoing conversion of our lives according to the gospel is what the catechism calls the second conversion. The whole Church is about this and it is an ongoing purification throughout life, and if necessary on into Purgatory. It is cooperation with the grace of Christ in His Church, and most especially through the gift of the Sacrament of Penance.

St Peter, of course, is a very good example of this. For though he had professed Jesus as His Lord and Saviour, and the Son of the Most High, yet Peter denied his Master three times. After repenting with tears, he went on to give a threefold affirmation of love for Christ.

                …there are water and tears: the water of Baptism, and the tears of repentance. St Ambrose

So in this season of Advent especially, let us hear and take to heart the exhortation to conversion. Let us make use of the gift of the Sacrament of Penance, and remember we are all, in a sense, converts!

Fr Ian

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Freedom - a wonderful message for Christmas

This is a wonderful message. It is a message of faith and hope. As we see western society fall further and further from the Christian vision, and increasingly order itself in a godless way, it is very easy to think there is no hope for us or our children. This video is a beautiful reflection of the truth of our faith, and the real meaning of freedom.

Every blessing,
Fr Ian

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

The Church must reach out to seek the lost

Matthew 18:12-14  Parable of the Lost Sheep

Our Lord is often referred to as a shepherd. This particular parable alludes to the messianic prophecy of Ezekiel (34:11-31) in which God Himself would come down and shepherd His people, seeking them out and rescuing them:

Behold, I, I myself will search for my sheep, and will seek them out. As a shepherd seeks out his flock when some of his sheep have been scattered abroad, so will I seek out my sheep; and I will rescue them from all places where they have been scattered

The parable is understood allegorically by St Anselm and St Hilary of Poitiers (both Fathers of the Church). The lost sheep represent mankind who had strayed through sin. The 99 sheep on the hills are the angels of God in heaven. In the Incarnation, God the Son descended ‘from the hills’ (i.e. from heaven) to seek the lost souls of men and to rescue them through His death and resurrection. And so Christ restores men to grace and leads them back to the company of angels in heaven (see Heb 12:22).

This shepherding of lost souls to safe pastures continues in the Church, for Christ continues to operate through the Church, His mystical Body. As the parable reminds us, “it is not the will of my Father who is heaven that one of these little ones should perish.” (v.14) So too in the Church, we must never cease to reach out to the lost, and be ready to shepherd them and provide them with the grace won by Christ in our redemption. As we await our coming Saviour, we have been given the gift of time in order that the lost may be found.

Fr Ian

Monday, 8 December 2014

Full of grace

The Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of Mary

“Hail full of grace”, is a unique greeting for nowhere else in Holy Scripture does an Angel address someone by a title rather than a personal name. What is the significance of this?

First, of course, it draws our attention to the uniqueness of Our Lady. She is favoured above all other women and all men except her son.

Secondly, the title “full of grace” does not express the depth of St Luke’s phrase in Greek. He could have used the same phrase he uses for Stephen in Acts 6:8 (“And Stephen, full of grace and power…”) but Luke used in Greek a different word (kecharitomene), in English it too is traditionally translated as ‘full of grace’. But the word Luke used for Our Lady reveals that not only was she full of grace in that moment (as Stephen was), but that God had previously filled her with grace. She has been and is now filled with divine life. That is the depth of meaning of the Greek word used by St Luke here.

God had provided Mary with an abundance of grace to prepare her to be the Mother of God. So we can see that Gabriel’s annunciation points us towards the Immaculate Conception. For in the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of Mary we are taught that Mary was preserved from Original Sin and therefore was made to be like our ancient mother, Eve.

To understand the significance of this we must understand that Mary is the New Eve, the New “mother of all”. By Eve’s fall, and by Adam’s fall, sin entered the world, and through sin, death. So that all the children of Eve would inherit this fallen condition, this disharmony with God and His creation, and this inclination to sin that we call concupiscence. Mary alone, by the grace of Christ, was preserved from Original Sin and in the same state as the first Eve, so that she could become the “Ark of the New Covenant” the one woman capable of being the Mother of Christ the Son of God. The humanity provided by our Lady for Christ’s human nature was unstained by sin. How could it be otherwise? God could not become incarnate with a sinful human nature – it would be a contradiction. So Mary is the only woman able to be Mother of God.

However Mary still had a choice. Her free will had not been taken away. Yes she had been preserved from Original Sin by grace, but she still could sin just as Eve was able to sin. So in the annunciation the incarnation of God that would save humankind hangs upon the words of this young Jewish girl, Mary full of grace. Mary’s gives her consent. Mary’s fiat, her ‘yes’ crushed the Serpent who had obtained a ‘no’ from the first Eve. Mary’s Son would go on to comprehensively defeat the Serpent on the tree of the Cross. The first Adam had brought sin and death to the world by his cooperation in the Original Sin; the Second Adam would bring life and grace into the world through the New Eve’s full cooperation with grace, so that we too can be filled with grace and sin and death can be defeated in us.

So let us praise God for Our Lady full of grace, greatest of all creatures, and that we too might allow grace to fill our lives and give our ‘yes’ to God in all that we do and say. Amen.
Fr Ian

DAY NINE (Eve of Pentecost)