Saturday, 16 March 2019

"They are only rules" (Ember Saturday of Lent)


Ember Saturday of Lent

(a day of prayer and fasting)
Deuteronomy 26 : 16-19  ;  Ps 119: 1-8 ;  Matthew 5 : 43-48
WE BESEECH thee, O Lord, graciously to hear the prayers of they people: and of thy great goodness turn aside from them the scourges of thine anger; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.



Since becoming a Catholic one thing I have heard said by long-standing Catholics, more times than I know, is “they are only rules”. There seems to be a widespread opinion that rules are not the sort of thing that God is interested in. And that if one breaks a few rules here and there that it doesn’t really matter that much. Very often this is being applied to moral matters or liturgical matters.

It is of course a very convenient position to hold because it gives one permission to disobey rules when one wishes to do so.

Perhaps it is a reaction against legalism in the past? It may also be to do with our society’s increasing emotionalism where people are more concerned with feelings than reason and logic. So people are concerned with whether someone has been offended by an action more than if the action itself was actually morally wrong. It may also be the influence of Easter religions and philosophies. Or a combination of all these things!

In the reading from Deuteronomy today, the Lord exhorts the people of God to keep all His commands and ordinances with all their heart and soul. He commands them to walk in His ways. These are not therefore rules which one can sit lightly to. God requires obedience. And obedience leads a person to walk in His ways. This is the point. It is not legalism but the way in which we train ourselves to walk in the divine way.

In the Gospel, Christ makes incredible demands of His disciples. We are to not only love those who love us back, but to love even those who are against us. But that is not all! We are to be perfect as the Heavenly Father is perfect! If it weren’t our Lord Himself teaches this, we might think the person saying this was mistaken. How on earth can we be perfect as God? The simple answer is that we can’t make ourselves perfect, but God can!

It is of course grace which enables us to become what God wills for us. And grace itself is the very life of God poured out for us. The more we are filled with grace, the more we cooperate with it, the closer we come to perfection as God wills.

So the important question must be, how?

Part of the answer is that we must walk in His ways. It is not about legalism it is about training ourselves. We must learn obedience with humility. We want to find reasons to not obey rules and commandments often because deep down we do not want to let go of our independence, we do not want to humble ourselves before God.

We are called to live Christ’s commandments (which includes His words, commands and actions) because it is the path to the perfection of charity.

 Psalm 119
Beati immaculati
BLESSED are those that are undefiled in the way : and walk in the law of the Lord.
2. Blessed are they that keep his testimonies : and seek him with their whole heart.
3. For they who do no wickedness : walk in his ways.
4. Thou hast charged : that we shall diligently keep thy commandments.
5. O that my ways were made so direct : that I might keep thy statutes!
6. So shall I not be confounded : while I have respect unto all thy commandments.
7. I will thank thee with an unfeigned heart : when I shall have learned the judgements of thy righteousness.
8. I will keep thy ceremonies : O forsake me not utterly.

ALMIGHTY and everlasting God, who hatest nothing that thou hast made and dost forgive the sins of all those who are penitent: create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we, worthily lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness, may obtain of thee, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

 Fr Ian is a catholic priest of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham in England. He is by papal dispensation married. He lives in a former convent with his wife and children in Devon, near the sea.




Friday, 15 March 2019

Renewing the heart in Lent (Ember Friday in Lent)


Ember Friday of Lent
(a day of prayer and fasting)

Ezekiel 18 : 21-28  ;  Ps 129  ;  Matthew 5 : 20-26

Let us pray

WE BESEECH thee, O Lord, mercifully to have compassion on thy people: that they, who by thee are enabled to serve thee in all godliness, may ever be comforted by thy gracious and ready help; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever One God, world without end. Amen.




In today’s gospel reading (Mt 5:20-26) taken from the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus reminds us that His Way is not the easy way. It is tempting to think that it would be better if our religion were less demanding and easier to practice – and sometimes we even try to make it so.
Although our Lord demands much, He also shows us the Way to fulfil those demands. In the Sermon on the Mount, He points us to where the key to this fulfilment is located: the heart. It is from the heart that our motivation, ideas, and thoughts emanate. So renewing the heart is a key part of the gospel message, hence why He calls us to repentance and belief.

So we must consistently examine our hearts. From this examination we must give thanks to God for His grace in the good virtues we show, and we must confess and ask for forgiveness for the sins we have committed; not only that, but our relationships with others must come from the heart. If we even harbour anger against a brother or sister we must be reconciled. If we are filled with lust towards a brother or sister, then we must confess the sin - it is adultery in our Lord’s eyes. If we harbour anger we must deal with that even if we haven’t expressed it.
It is at the level of the heart that we must work, and perhaps the most important part of that work is confession and thanksgiving. This Lent why not examine your hearts more often than you would usually and also make a point of regularly thanking God for His goodness and His grace at work in your life?


Let us pray

O LORD who for our sake didst fast forty days and forty nights: give us grace to use such abstinence, that, our flesh being subdued to the Spirit; we may ever obey thy godly motions in righteousness and true holiness, to thy honour and glory; who livest and reignest with the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

ALMIGHTY and everlasting God, who hatest nothing that thou hast made and dost forgive the sins of all those who are penitent: create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we, worthily lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness, may obtain of thee, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen. 


Fr Ian is a catholic priest of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham in England. He is by papal dispensation married. He lives in a former convent with his wife and children in Devon, near the sea.




Thursday, 14 March 2019

Knocking on the door (Thurs of Lent 1)


Thursday of the First Week of Lent



Esther 4:17  ;  Ps 138  ;  Matthew 7:7-12



Let us pray



O LORD who for our sake didst fast forty days and forty nights: give us grace to use such abstinence, that, our flesh being subdued to the Spirit; we may ever obey thy godly motions in righteousness and true holiness, to thy honour and glory; who livest and reignest with the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.





Knocking on the door

When you visit someone and they do not know you are coming, how many times do you ring the bell, or, knock on the door, before turning away? Is it once? Or do you keep on ringing for a minute? Five minutes? How often do you return to try again? Perhaps it depends on how urgent it is you see the person?

In our Lord’s teaching about prayer one thing is very clear. It is not that we need to attain a certain psychological state. It is not that we need to have a type of feeling. One thing is clear, we need to persevere. We need to have the drive to pray and to continue in prayer.

In the gospel today our Lord assures us that if we ask, we shall receive. We should note here that He does not say “we shall receive it straight away.” But He asks us to trust our Heavenly Father to give us what we need. If a child asks his father for an egg, would the father give the child a scorpion? Of course not! So much more, our Lord tells us, will our Heavenly Father give us what we need. So in prayer we need to have buckets full of perseverance born of trust in the Goodness of our Heavenly Father.

So then if God does not seem to answer our prayer straight away, what is happening? Well first we must trust there is a reason. We need to persevere in trust. We do not need to have a reason. The Father does not need to explain Himself to us! But we need to continue trusting that our Father hears us and will, when the time is right, answer our prayer.

For us, of course, we want instant answers: if google will answer our queries within seconds why not God? Of course we do not entrust to google what we bring to God in prayer! And we also need to keep reminding ourselves that God sees the overall picture so knows precisely when an answer to prayer is needed. We need to trust that.

I think one very helpful understanding of prayer is from St Paul, that it is a “groaning”, for he tells us that if we cannot pray as we ought, the Holy Spirit will pray for us with groans too deep for words. In prayer we may need to get to that stage where we can only groan! Our Father may want us to persist in prayer until all we can do is sigh, or groan. (Romans 8, esp. v26)

So let us ask today for the gift of perseverance in prayer – and let us pray that the Holy Spirit will indeed pray for us in sighs too deep for words. And let us be filled with confidence in our Heavenly Father who will indeed answer our prayer when it is best to do so. Amen.



Let us pray

ALMIGHTY and everlasting God, who hatest nothing that thou hast made and dost forgive the sins of all those who are penitent: create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we, worthily lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness, may obtain of thee, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen. 



Fr Ian is a catholic priest of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham in England. He is by papal dispensation married. He lives in a former convent with his wife and children in Devon, near the sea.


Wednesday, 13 March 2019

A humbled contrite heart (Ember Wed of Lent)


Ember Wednesday of Lent
(a day of prayer and fasting)

Jonah 3:1-10  ;  Ps 51 ;  Luke 11:29-32

Let us pray

WE BESEECH thee, O Lord, graciously to regard the devout prayers of thy people: that they, who by abstinence do mortify the deeds of the flesh, may by the fruit of good works be renewed in the spirit of their minds; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever One God, world without end. Amen.



Contrition
“A humbled contrite heart, O God, you will not spurn.” Ps 51
We frequently hear about the value of positive self-esteem and confessing our worth today, but how often do we hear about the value of confessing our faults? Even the word ‘sin’ is hardly ever mentioned outside of Christian circles. And amongst Catholics in this country, there has been a radical decline in the use of the Sacrament of Penance. Of course the two things are related. The less aware we are of our ‘sickness’ (i.e. sin) the less likely we are to call on a doctor (i.e. sacrament of penance).
The Ninevites responded to the preaching of Jonah and repented, and the Lord forgave them. Many of the Jews of Jesus’ time thought that they were good by virtue of being children of Abraham, and did not need to repent. Jesus told them that they would be judged by the Ninevites, for He was greater than Jonah, yet they did not repent. Christ continually exhorted people to “repent and believe.”
In response to sin there can be two extremes: over-scrupulous and un-scrupulous. If previous eras were characterised by over-scruples, our present era is characterised by insensitivity to sin.
God has made us good in our being, but we are not entirely good in our lives, choices and actions. Made in the image of God, this image was marred by original sin and all the sin we choose to participate in. We are ontologically* good, but not morally good. Usually we get things muddled, for we think we are ontologically worse than we actually are, and we think we are morally better than we actually are! The problem is that we measure ourselves against the standards of the world rather than the standards of our Lord!
Contrition is “sorrow of the soul and detestation for the sin committed, together with the resolution not to sin again.” (CCC 1451) Let us pray this Lent that we may be given a contrite heart that we may be astounded by the knowledge that we are made in the image of God (ontologically good), but also be grieved to the heart that we have marred that image by our sin, though also filled with hope and joy that the Father chooses to heals us through His Son in His priests.

Note: * ontology is the study of being, so to be ontologically good means we are good in our very being or existence (God made us good). This can be in contrast to our moral state, that is, the choices we have made. Though created good in our being, we have the freedom to choose the good or the evil. So human beings are always ontologically good no matter what moral choices they make. By confession we acknowledge the incompatibility of our ontological goodness and our sinful choices.
Let us pray

O LORD who for our sake didst fast forty days and forty nights: give us grace to use such abstinence, that, our flesh being subdued to the Spirit; we may ever obey thy godly motions in righteousness and true holiness, to thy honour and glory; who livest and reignest with the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

ALMIGHTY and everlasting God, who hatest nothing that thou hast made and dost forgive the sins of all those who are penitent: create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we, worthily lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness, may obtain of thee, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen. 


Fr Ian is a catholic priest of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham in England. He is by papal dispensation married. He lives in a former convent with his wife and children in Devon, near the sea.


Tuesday, 12 March 2019

The perfect prayer (Tues of Lent 1)


Tuesday of the First Week of Lent



Is 55:10-11  ;  Ps 33  ;  Mt 6:7-15



Let us pray



O LORD who for our sake didst fast forty days and forty nights: give us grace to use such abstinence, that, our flesh being subdued to the Spirit; we may ever obey thy godly motions in righteousness and true holiness, to thy honour and glory; who livest and reignest with the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.





 
The perfect prayer of the perfect Pray-er
“The Lord’s prayer is the most perfect of prayers … In it we ask, not only for the things we can rightly desire, but also in the sequence that they should be desired,” thus said St Thomas Aquinas in his Summa Theologica (also CCC 2763). And St Augustine said, “Run through all the words of the holy prayers, and I do not think that you will find anything in them that is not contained and included in the Lord’s Prayer” (also CCC 2762).
If we seek to renew or re-invigorate our prayer then returning to the Lord’s prayer is the most important thing for us to do because it is the perfect prayer given to us by the perfect Pray-er. We learn to pray by going to our Lord’s school of prayer.
In our Lord’s school of prayer He wrote just one textbook with just fifty-five words in it.
He did not give us psychological techniques but the actual words of a prayer; a prayer, though, not to be just repeated mechanically.
When someone begins to play an instrument they begin by learning to read music. First they play the music mechanically. One note comes after the other. But as time goes on the music begins to flow. It is no longer a mechanical procedure, it now becomes something of beauty.
We must pray this prayer not just with our words. We must pray this prayer not just with our words and our minds. We must pray this prayer with our words, our minds and our hearts.
One of the key things to understand here is that we will only truly understand the words with our minds when we also will them with our hearts. When we desire and want what God’s wants, what God wills, then we will understand His word in this His prayer.
One of the best places to reflect more deeply about the Lord’s Prayer is the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Access it for free online or use the copy you have at home. There is a wealth of reflection on this perfect prayer by the perfect pray-er.
See CCC 2777 - 2865
Fr Ian






Let us pray

ALMIGHTY and everlasting God, who hatest nothing that thou hast made and dost forgive the sins of all those who are penitent: create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we, worthily lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness, may obtain of thee, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen. 



Fr Ian is a catholic priest of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham in England. He is by papal dispensation married. He lives in a former convent with his wife and children in Devon, near the sea.


Monday, 11 March 2019

We are what we choose (Mon of Lent 1)

Monday of the First Week of Lent


Lev 19:1-2,11-18  ;  Ps 18  ;  Matthew 25:31-46

Let us pray

O LORD who for our sake didst fast forty days and forty nights: give us grace to use such abstinence, that, our flesh being subdued to the Spirit; we may ever obey thy godly motions in righteousness and true holiness, to thy honour and glory; who livest and reignest with the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

The Last Judgement by Michelangelo



Today we hear the Parable of the Final Judgement (Matthew 25: 31-46). It begins:

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘When the Son of Man comes…’
Jesus is talking about the end of chronological time. He is talking about the moment that heralds in eternity. Eternity is qualitatively different from chronological time. At the end of time there is no chance for us to be anything other than what we are.

The trouble with talking about this parable is the modern dislike for the idea that God judges us at all. In the mind of modern man it seems to imply that God has a list of rules and if we disobey these rules we will be punished. Of course this image of God is a faulty one.

So what is divine judgement like? What our Lord says is that it is like a shepherd separating sheep from goats. What are we to make of that though? I think the key to understanding what our Lord is saying is actually quite simple. Sheep are what they are! Goats are what they are!

This is not predestination, rather, once we have reached the end of time nothing can change in us. Then we are who we are. Chronological time is God’s gift to us. Time is God’s gift for us to change. Time is the divine gift for us to freely make the choice for eternity with God.
Finally what our Lord reminds us is that what we choose is revealed by our actions. Remember St James exhorts us to be doers of the Word and not hearers only.

So in this time of Lent think about time – remember you are using God’s gift of time, the time in which we become who we are through our choices, through what we do and think. The choices we make, and most of all the choice whether to use the grace given to us or not, will determine who we are at the end. God forgives and God can heal the wounds of sin, but we must choose whether to cooperate with His grace or not.  At the end of time we get what we chose – that is Judgement!

 Let us pray
ALMIGHTY and everlasting God, who hatest nothing that thou hast made and dost forgive the sins of all those who are penitent: create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we, worthily lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness, may obtain of thee, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen. 

Fr Ian is a catholic priest of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham in England. He is by papal dispensation married. He lives in a former convent with his wife and children in Devon, near the sea.

Sunday, 10 March 2019

Jesus in the wilderness (First Sunday of Lent)

First Sunday of Lent

Let us pray


ALMIGHTY and everlasting God, 
who hatest nothing that thou hast made and dost forgive the sins of all those who are penitent:
create and make in us new and contrite hearts,
that we, worthily lamenting our sins and acknowledging out wretchedness,
may obtain of thee, the God of all mercy,
perfect remission and forgiveness;
through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen


The Temptation of Christ by Simon Bening

One of the first things to understand about Lent is that in this season we consciously unite ourselves spiritually with Christ fasting in the wilderness.

In one of the prayers that the priest prays during mass in Lent, he says:

“By abstaining forty long days from earthly food, he consecrated through his fast the pattern of our Lenten observance and by overturning all the snares of the ancient serpent, taught us to cast out the leaven of malice, so that, celebrating worthily the Paschal Mystery, we might pass over at last to the eternal paschal feast.”

Our work in Lent is no less than this casting out of the ‘leaven of malice’, the temptations of the devil, in order that the celebration of Easter may bear real fruit. We dare to attempt this, knowing that Christ has gone before us, and has given us, through the Church the grace to do it.
“For we have not a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Heb 4:15).

Fr Ian is a catholic priest of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham in England. He is by papal dispensation married. He lives in a former convent with his wife and children in Devon, near the sea.

DAY NINE (Eve of Pentecost)