Friday, 5 April 2019

Knowing where He comes from (Fri of Lent 4)

Friday of the Fourth Week of Lent

Wisdom 2:1,12-22 ; John 7:1-2,10,25-30


ALMIGHTY and everlasting God, who hatest nothing that though hast made and doth 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.



Knowing the Person

Jesus said, “You know me, and know where I come from?” (Jn 7:28)
Amongst the Jews there were two traditions regarding the birth of the Messiah: that he would grow up in obscurity and be manifested to the world as an adult, or, that the Messiah would come from Bethlehem according to the prophecy in Micah (5:2). In fact the Messiah fulfilled both these expectations – His heavenly origin in the Holy Trinity is unknown to His hearers, and He was born in Bethlehem!
Who is Jesus? It is important for us to know the answer and from where He comes from. Unlike the founders of the world’s various religions (Mohammed, Buddha etc) Jesus offers us the unheard of gift of sharing in God’s very life. So, if Jesus does not come from God, of what value is the promise?
So we need to discover who Jesus is because it is through knowing Him that we come to salvation. And this is not just about learning by rote the church’s formulae of who Christ is (although that is a good start) but also internalising them and making them our own. We need to know the person of Jesus Christ in our hearts and minds.
This is why it can sometimes be better not to talk too much with someone who is beginning to come to faith. They need to find internally who Jesus is before they can develop and grow. We need to respect that inner journey. We need to pray for it to develop certainly, but too many words can be off-putting. What can be much more important is whether they see the truth of Jesus Christ in His followers!
So for each of us we need to ask deep within ourselves: who is Jesus for me? Does He come from the heavenly Father? Does He have the life of God to share with me? Do I respond to Him believing these things? What is holding me back from shaping my life based on this fundamental truth?

Psalm 34
Benedicam Domino
I WILL alway give thanks unto the Lord : his praise shall ever be in my mouth.
2. My soul shall make her boast in the Lord : the humble shall hear thereof, and be glad.
3. O praise the Lord with me : and let us magnify his Name together.
4. I sought the Lord, and he heard me : yea, he delivered me out of all my fear.
5. They had an eye unto him, and were lightened : and their faces were not ashamed.
6. Lo, the poor crieth, and the Lord heareth him : yea, and saveth him out of all his troubles.
7. The angel of the Lord tarrieth round about them that fear him : and delivereth them.
8. O taste, and see, how gracious the Lord is : blessed is the man that trusteth in him.
9. O fear the Lord, ye that are his saints : for they that fear him lack nothing.
10. The lions do lack, and suffer hunger : but they who seek the Lord shall want no manner of thing that is good.
11. Come, ye children, and hearken unto me : I will teach you the fear of the Lord.
12. What man is he that lusteth to live : and would fain see good days?
13. Keep thy tongue from evil : and thy lips, that they speak no guile.
14. Eschew evil, and do good : seek peace, and ensue it.
15. The eyes of the Lord are over the righteous : and his ears are open unto their prayers.
16. The countenance of the Lord is against them that do evil : to root out the remembrance of them from the earth.
17. The righteous cry, and the Lord heareth them : and delivereth them out of all their troubles.
18. The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a contrite heart : and will save such as be of an humble spirit.
19. Great are the troubles of the righteous : but the Lord delivereth him out of all.
20. He keepeth all his bones : so that not one of them is broken.
21. But misfortune shall slay the ungodly : and they that hate the righteous shall be desolate.
22. The Lord delivereth the souls of his servants : and all they that put their trust in him shall not be destitute.

GRANT, we beseech thee, almighty God, that we, who for our evil deeds do worthily deserve to be punished; by the comfort of thy grace may mercifully be relieved; through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.


Thursday, 4 April 2019

Witnesses to the truth (Thurs of Lent 4)



Thursday of the Fourth Week of Lent


Exodus 32:7-14 ; John 5:31-47




ALMIGHTY and everlasting God, who hatest nothing that though hast made and doth 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.


Carracci's St John the Baptist - the prophet witnessing to Christ



Witnesses to God


In Jewish legal tradition one needed two or three witnesses to sustain a claim. Jesus brings before his Jewish opponents His witnesses. First His miracles testify to who He is. Secondly John the Baptist testifies to who He is. Thirdly the words of the Bible (the first five books of Moses) testify to Him.

The witnesses to God continue to be the same today. God speaks to us through miracles and events which reveal the glory of God. God speaks to us through ‘prophets’ - those who speak His word. And God speaks to us through Sacred Scripture.

Jesus rebuked those who believed they possessed the truth just by having the Bible, but did not believe in Him whom God was sending them. God instructs us when we listen to what God’s servants teach us. But how do we know whether they are His servants? Jesus says that those who love the truth recognise those who speak the truth. We must love and pursue the truth and not be swayed just by what others think: the passing fashions of thought.

One of the great dangers of the internet, of social media, and of the blogosphere is that we can end up being swayed by passing fashions of thought, and the truth gets lost amongst the terrabytes of opinions at our fingertips. Nothing should be preferred to the living sources of our faith, the real witnesses to the Truth. It is easy to spend much time surfing blogs for opinion on the latest thing, but we should spend more time with God’s Word in Scripture and immerse our minds on reliable witness statements. The most accessible and comprehensive of sources the Church provides for us is the Catechism of the Catholic Church – let us ask ourselves whether we make enough use of this great gift to the Church, or do we prefer passing fashion and opinion?



Psalm 106

Confitemini Domino

O GIVE thanks unto the Lord, for he is gracious : and his mercy endureth for ever.

2. Who can express the noble acts of the Lord : or shew forth all his praise?

3. Blessed are they that alway keep judgement : and do righteousness.

4. Remember me, O Lord, according to the favour that thou bearest unto thy people : O visit me with thy salvation;

5. That I may see the felicity of thy chosen : and rejoice in the gladness of thy people, and give thanks with thine inheritance.

6. We have sinned with our fathers : we have done amiss, and dealt wickedly.

7. Our fathers regarded not thy wonders in Egypt, neither kept they thy great goodness in remembrance : but were disobedient at the sea, even at the Red sea.

8. Nevertheless, he helped them for his Name's sake : that he might make his power to be known.

9. He rebuked the Red sea also, and it was dried up : so he led them through the deep, as through a wilderness.

10. And he saved them from the adversaries' hand : and delivered them from the hand of the enemy.

11. As for those that troubled them, the waters overwhelmed them : there was not one of them left.

12. Then believed they his words : and sang praise unto him.

13. But within a while they forgat his works : and would not abide his counsel.

14. But lust came upon them in the wilderness : and they tempted God in the desert.

15. And he gave them their desire : and sent leanness withal into their soul.

16. They angered Moses also in the tents : and Aaron the saint of the Lord.

17. So the earth opened, and swallowed up Dathan : and covered the congregation of Abiram.

18. And the fire was kindled in their company : the flame burnt up the ungodly.

19. They made a calf in Horeb : and worshipped the molten image.

20. Thus they turned their glory : into the similitude of a calf that eateth hay.

21. And they forgat God their Saviour : who had done so great things in Egypt;

22. Wondrous works in the land of Ham : and fearful things by the Red sea.

23. So he said, he would have destroyed them, had not Moses his chosen stood before him in the gap : to turn away his wrathful indignation, lest he should destroy them.

24. Yea, they thought scorn of that pleasant land : and gave no credence unto his word;

25. But murmured in their tents : and hearkened not unto the voice of the lord.

26. Then lift he up his hand against them : to overthrow them in the wilderness;

27. To cast out their seed among the nations : and to scatter them in the lands.

28. They joined themselves unto Baal-peor : and ate the offerings of the dead.

29. Thus they provoked him to anger with their own inventions : and the plague was great among them.

30. Then stood up Phinees and prayed : and so the plague ceased.

31. And that was counted unto him for righteousness : among all posterities for evermore.

32. They angered him also at the waters of strife : so that he punished Moses for their sakes;

33. Because they provoked his spirit : so that he spake unadvisedly with his lips.

34. Neither destroyed they the heathen : as the Lord commanded them;

35. But were mingled among the heathen : and learned their works.

36. Insomuch that they worshipped their idols, which turned to their own decay : yea, they offered their sons and their daughters unto devils;

37. And shed innocent blood, even the blood of their sons and of their daughters : whom they had offered unto the idols of Canaan; and the land was defiled with blood.

38. Thus were they stained with their own works : and went a whoring with their own inventions.

39. Therefore was the wrath of the Lord kindled against his people : insomuch that he abhorred his own inheritance.

40. And he gave them over into the hands of the heathen : and they that hated them were lords over them.

41. Their enemies oppressed them : and had them in subjection.

42. Many a time did he deliver them : but they rebelled against him with their own inventions, and were brought down in their wickedness.

43. Nevertheless, when he saw their adversity : he heard their complaint.

44. He thought upon his covenant, and pitied them according unto the multitude of his mercies : yea, he made all those that led them away captive to pity them.

45. Deliver us, O Lord our God, and gather us from among the heathen : that we may give thanks unto thy holy Name, and make our boast of thy praise.

46. Blessed be the Lord God of Israel from everlasting and world without end : and let all the people say, Amen.



GRANT, we beseech thee, almighty God, that we, who for our evil deeds do worthily deserve to be punished; by the comfort of thy grace may mercifully be relieved; through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.


Wednesday, 3 April 2019

Is he a megalomaniac? (Wed of Lent 4)


Wednesday of the Fourth Week of Lent


Isaiah 49:8-15 ; John 5:17-30


O GOD, who knowest us to be set in the midst of so many and great dangers, that by reason of the frailty of our nature we cannot always stand upright: grant to us such strength and protection, as may support us in all dangers, and carry us through all temptations; 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.




What is it like to be divine? 

We are privileged to hear in today’s Gospel our Lord revealing something of the relationship between God the Father and God the Son. Our Lord is responding to opposition amongst the Jews to what He is saying about His own equality with the Father.

The accusation “making himself God’s equal” is an accusation of some sort of megalomania, or we might say, “delusions of grandeur”. But our Lord is keen to emphasise that His relationship with the Father is not that of a wayward son drunk with power, but a relationship of both complete unity and also hierarchy. In God the Trinity there is both perfect unity and equality, but also hierarchy. As with much of our understanding of the life of God in the Trinity it is tricky to get our heads around it. We tend to try to project our own experience on to God which always results in dodgy theology. We tend to think equality and hierarchy are opposite and we have to choose between the two. We see this for example in politics with communism/socialism and feminism essentially rejecting hierarchy as something intrinsically wrong.

Our Lord does not project human ideas onto God of course, but is revealing to us the way the relationship is. The Son does nothing independent of the Father but does the Father’s will. The Father loves the Son and reveals to the Son everything the Father does. Just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so the Son gives life to anyone He chooses. Judgement has been given to the Son by the Father. And so those that honour the Son, honour the Father. And those that refuse to honour the Son refuse honour to the Father. The Father is the source of life and has made the Son the source of life. And because the Son is incarnate, because He is both divine and human, the Father has made the Son judge. Though as judge the Son judges as the Father tells Him to!

The inner life of the Holy Trinity as revealed by God the Son is also our goal as Christians, for we are called to divine life which is heaven. And so because the Church on earth (Church militant) is those journeying towards this divine life, the Church is structured both with hierarchy and with equality of communion. But this is a necessary part of preparing for heaven. Of course the Church militant gets it wrong* and we can develop the Church structure to make it closer to the divine life (especially through greater holiness), but nevertheless we cannot restructure the Church in order to fit in with modern ideas.

The Father has made the Son our judge because the Son knows what it is to be human. Judgement is not to do with a fearful figure wagging his finger in our direction, but as much about the truth of our deeds judging us and also showing to what extent we were willing to cooperate with the grace our Saviour brings us through His self-giving on the Cross.

So let us continue our Lenten journey in the secure knowledge of God the Son’s giving of Himself for our salvation, and that our work is to cooperate with all the grace He is pouring on us, grace that is life for us.



* Our Lord warned the Apostles against “lording” it over others – though they were high up in the hierarchy of the Church they were to consider themselves servants. And this has been echoed recently by our Popes, not least, Pope Francis. Authority and power are given not to “lord” it over others, but in order to be able to serve them, more specifically, to bring them grace and order. That does not mean the hierarchy is greater than the laity, nor that the work of the hierarchy is more important than the laity. This is where clericalism comes in – trying to make the laity like clerics is clericalism. But for the Church to function well the laity need to be the laity, served by the clerics.



Psalm 145

Exaltabo te, Deus

I WILL magnify thee, O God, my King : and I will praise thy Name for ever and ever.

2. Every day will I give thanks unto thee : and praise thy Name for ever and ever.

3. Great is the Lord, and marvellous worthy to be praised : there is no end of his greatness.

4. One generation shall praise thy works unto another : and declare thy power.

5. As for me, I will be talking of thy worship : thy glory, thy praise, and wondrous works;

6. So that men shall speak of the might of thy marvellous acts : and I will also tell of thy greatness.

7. The memorial of thine abundant kindness shall be shewed : and men shall sing of thy righteousness.

8. The Lord is gracious and merciful : long-suffering and of great goodness.

9. The Lord is loving unto every man : and his mercy is over all his works.

10. All thy works praise thee, O Lord : and thy saints give thanks unto thee.

11. They shew the glory of thy kingdom : and talk of thy power;

12. That thy power, thy glory, and mightiness of thy kingdom : might be known unto men.

13. Thy kingdom is an everlasting kingdom : and thy dominion endureth throughout all ages.

14. The Lord upholdeth all such as fall : and lifteth up all those that are down.

15. The eyes of all wait upon thee, O Lord : and thou givest them their meat in due season.

16. Thou openest thine hand : and fillest all things living with plenteousness.

17. The Lord is righteous in all his ways : and holy in all his works.

18. The Lord is nigh unto all them that call upon him : yea, all such as call upon him faithfully.

19. He will fulfil the desire of them that fear him : he also will hear their cry, and will help them.

20. The Lord preserveth all them that love him : but scattereth abroad all the ungodly.

21. My mouth shall speak the praise of the Lord : and let all flesh give thanks unto his holy Name for ever and ever.



ALMIGHTY and everlasting God, who hatest nothing that thou hast made and dost forgive the sin 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.


Tuesday, 2 April 2019

A long time to wait (Tues of Lent 4)


Tuesday of the Fourth Week of Lent

Ezekiel 47:1-9,12 ; John 5: 1-3,5-16

O GOD, who knowest us to be set in the midst of so many and great dangers, that by reason of the frailty of our nature we cannot always stand upright: grant to us such strength and protection, as may support us in all dangers, and carry us through all temptations; 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.





Thirty-eight years is a remarkably long time to wait for healing. St John Chrysostom comments that this perseverance of the paralytic should serve as an example to those who give in too easily when their prayers are not immediately answered. Despite his circumstances, and difficulty of entering the water in time, the man still has hope.

Thirty-eight years is also the time the Israelites sojourned in the desert after the rebellion at Kadesh, before they went through the waters of the Jordan into the Promised Land.

For many of the Fathers of the Church, this passage also alludes to baptism. At Bethesda the sick waited for the opportunity for bodily healing to take place whenever the waters were disturbed (they believed it was because of an angel), but water can heal the disease of the soul too. The waters of Baptism heal the soul and are much more abundant than the waters at this pool. In Baptism it is not an angel that descends but the Holy Spirit that descends to hover over the waters for the new creation. Jesus also later tells the man to make sure he sins no more. We do not know the sin of this man but it is clear his sins had been forgiven through the healing of Christ. In Baptism all our sins (both original and personal) are forgiven.

After waiting thirty-eight years the Israelites entered the Promised Land through the waters of the Jordan, it was not the end of their journey, but the beginning of a new phase in which they enjoyed the benefits of living in God’s Land that He promised, but also had to strive to live God’s ways obediently and with gratitude. The paralytic man healed by Jesus now began a new life striving to be free from sin. Though healed through Baptism, we still have work to do and must struggle not to sin again. The healed man was told to “arise”, “take up your bed” and “walk”. We too are bidden to not just remain where we are but to rise up with joy, to have mastery over our flesh and walk the way of the Cross that our Lord and Saviour has walked before us. And, as our Saviour said, we are to strive to sin no more.

Psalm 46

Deus noster refugium

GOD is our hope and strength : a very present help in trouble.

2. Therefore will we not fear, though the earth be moved : and though the hills be carried into the midst of the sea;

3. Though the waters thereof rage and swell : and though the mountains shake at the tempest of the same.

4. The rivers of the flood thereof shall make glad the city of God : the holy place of the tabernacle of the most Highest.

5. God is in the midst of her, therefore shall she not be removed : God shall help her, and that right early.

6. The heathen make much ado, and the kingdoms are moved : but God hath shewed his voice, and the earth shall melt away.

7. The Lord of hosts is with us : the God of Jacob is our refuge.

8. O come hither, and behold the works of the Lord : what destruction he hath brought upon the earth.

9. He maketh wars to cease in all the world : he breaketh the bow, and knappeth the spear in sunder, and burneth the chariots in the fire.

10. Be still then, and know that I am God : I will be exalted among the heathen, and I will be exalted in the earth.

11. The Lord of hosts is with us : the God of Jacob is our refuge.



ALMIGHTY and everlasting God, who hatest nothing that thou hast made and dost forgive the sin 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.


Monday, 1 April 2019

Asking for help (Mon of Lent 4)


Monday of the Fourth Week of Lent


Is 65:17-21 ; John 4:43-54


O GOD, who knowest us to be set in the midst of so many and great dangers, that by reason of the frailty of our nature we cannot always stand upright: grant to us such strength and protection, as may support us in all dangers, and carry us through all temptations; 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.





Asking for help

Jesus returns to Galilee from Jerusalem and returns to Cana, the site of His first Sign (changing water into wine). Now a court official approaches him petitioning healing for his son who is dying.

Though the Lord God knows our need He desires we ask for help. Why? He desires that we reach out to him. He desires we establish, maintain and deepen a relationship with him. He desires us to know that we are not autonomous.

What is a good way to petition God for our needs? The first step of the prayer of petition is in fact a prayer asking for forgiveness. We need to make our hearts pure and our intentions righteous, before we ask for something. We need the prayer of the tax collector: “God be merciful to me a sinner.” (Lk 18:13) It is with a humble and trusting disposition that our prayers can be heard in the first place. This disposition is necessary both for preparation for Mass and for personal prayer.

Also our hearts need to be filled with hope – we need to be searching for God’s Kingdom to come. After a humble and contrite disposition we need to petition first for the Kingdom of God, asking for what is necessary to welcome it and what we need to cooperate with the coming Kingdom. By doing this we align ourselves with the whole mission of the Church, and unite our intentions with the apostolic community.

Then in humble trust and within the whole mission of the Church we make our particular petitions known to God. Every need we have can be brought to God. Both St James and St Paul exhort us to pray at all times and by this they mean for us to bring all our needs to God in prayer.

Finally we must remember that perseverance is often necessary in order to prove our trust. Like the persistent widow we often must ask over and over again.

When our prayer is pure and humble, when it is aligned within the apostolic mission of the Church, and when we are willing to persevere to show our trust in our Father’s care, God will answer our prayers as is most expedient for us.



Psalm 30

Exaltabo te, Domine

I WILL magnify thee, O Lord, for thou hast set me up : and not made my foes to triumph over me.

2. O Lord my God, I cried unto thee : and thou hast healed me.

3. Thou, Lord, hast brought my soul out of hell : thou hast kept my life from them that go down to the pit.

4. Sing praises unto the Lord, O ye saints of his : and give thanks unto him for a remembrance of his holiness.

5. For his wrath endureth but the twinkling of an eye, and in his pleasure is life : heaviness may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.

6. And in my prosperity I said, I shall never be removed : thou, Lord, of thy goodness hast made my hill so strong.

7. Thou didst turn thy face from me : and I was troubled.

8. Then cried I unto thee, O Lord : and gat me to my Lord right humbly.

9. What profit is there in my blood : when I go down to the pit?

10. Shall the dust give thanks unto thee : or shall it declare thy truth?

11. Hear, O Lord, and have mercy upon me : Lord, be thou my helper.

12. Thou hast turned my heaviness into joy : thou hast put off my sackcloth, and girded me with gladness.

13. Therefore shall every good man sing of thy praise without ceasing : O my God, I will give thanks unto thee for ever.



ALMIGHTY and everlasting God, who hatest nothing that thou hast made and dost forgive the sin 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.


Sunday, 31 March 2019

Two Sons (4th Sun of Lent)


Fourth Sunday of Lent


Joshua 5:9-12 ; 2 Cor 5:17-21 ; Luke 15:1-3,11-32


O GOD, who knowest us to be set in the midst of so many and great dangers, that by reason of the frailty of our nature we cannot always stand upright: grant to us such strength and protection, as may support us in all dangers, and carry us through all temptations; 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.




Two Sons


We are fed today with possibly what is the literary highpoint of gospel writing; what we call generally the Parable of the Prodigal Son. Unfortunately by calling it that name, we reveal a lot about ourselves, because by prioritising one of the sons and side-lining the other, we kind of say that really the parable is about the very wicked son; and the other son, well, he's just a bit grumpy. In fact the parable is the parable of the two sons. Both sons represent immature ways of relating to God (to quote the Pope emeritus). It is very important that we realise that both are wrong; both are sinful but in very different ways; both are immature but in very different ways.

The first son thinks he knows best. He doesn't want to hang around at home wasting his time, so he commits a dreadful sin. He dishonours his father; he demands his inheritance there and then: he effectively says, “I wish you were dead!” This is an incredibly wicked thing to do and would have seemed even more wicked at the time of Jesus. It would have been the height of disrespect. And then, he travels to a foreign land and his life then dissipates in dissolute living, until eventually he has nothing. His fall is very great, but it has the virtue of shaking him up and brings him at last to his senses. He now realises his sin. The first son exemplifies the folly of rebellion. He is immature through rebellion. He goes against his father to the very extreme, and then falls, and then repents.

The second son, who has remained at home and who has not disrespected his father, who has been obedient, who has not lived a dissolute life, who has worked steadily at home, is nevertheless equally immature in his relationship with the father. His obedience is childish. He thinks himself superior. He doesn't remain at home out of love, he remains at home to be different to his brother, to be better than his brother... And we can see that he has become filled with pride. When his brother returns, he is not pleased at his brother's repentance (unlike his father). The elder son is envious. He is sorrowful at another person's good. He is immature. He is full of his own merits.

We call the parable the prodigal son because, partly at least, we would rather not hear the second part about the elder son. In fact, the elder son, despite the fact he has not sinned in obvious ways, he has not sinned in lurid or scandalous ways, he has not publicly humiliated himself, despite all this, he is in fact in a much more difficult, sinful position. He doesn't believe he needs forgiveness! This is an immensely dangerous position to be in.

It is clear now that this parable is a warning to the religious, to those who practice their religion meticulously, and to any of us who are careful not to cause scandal … but are doing it out of childish obedience.

This parable is perhaps the highpoint of gospel literature not least because it announces the truly astounding love of the Father. The Father's love is greater than our wretchedness – the parable portrays this very, very beautifully, with wonderful detail. The bit which I love is when it says “while he was still far away, his father saw him and was moved with pity...” - an extremely moving and touching detail. The father sees him coming and goes out to meet him. You can sense in this the enormous compassion and eagerness of the father to have his son return home.

The Father's love though, is greater also than our own merits. For us to enter into a mature relationship with God we need to appreciate that we can do absolutely nothing to earn His love for us. Very beautifully the father says to the elder son, “My son you are with me always and everything I have is yours.”, and this is despite the atrocious things the elder son says. One of the things the second son says is: “all these years I have slaved for you!” How could it be slavery? It was slavery in the elder son's heart! But tenderly the father draws him out of his anger, pride and envy, and says “all I have is yours”. To enter into a mature relationship with the Father is not loss of freedom (i.e. slavery) but in truth the greatest freedom of all.

As we grow in maturity in relationship to our heavenly Father, we grow to love obeying Him and His commands, it gives us delight, in fact, it gives us joy. Today is Laetare/rejoice Sunday and we rejoice because we know our Father in Heaven. Our Father has created us out of free, unselfish, love, and has created us to be free – that is with a conscience that suffers when we get lost, and is joyful when we return.

The world has twisted our notion of freedom – that somehow we express our 'freedom' when we rebel and do our own thing, and sees obedience as a slavery, as the elder brother did. What the world has done is to mix up freedom and licence. Often the world is talking about licence to sin, rather than freedom! Christ Himself reveals to us that freedom is found through obedience to the Father who loves us, and whom we freely and lovingly obey, and do so in joy. And that is where freedom is, in the joy. It is not in the knowledge that I can chose to sin if I want to! Sin is always slavery, is always misery and suffering in our conscience (however well it is hidden), and is far from freedom. To be free is to be in a mature relationship with the Father as His adopted sons and daughters, delighting in doing what He asks of us, delighting in lively virtues growing in us, and not being afraid. That is freedom and that is living in love and that is what causes us to Laetare/Rejoice.  



Psalm 34

Benedicam Domino

I WILL alway give thanks unto the Lord : his praise shall ever be in my mouth.

2. My soul shall make her boast in the Lord : the humble shall hear thereof, and be glad.

3. O praise the Lord with me : and let us magnify his Name together.

4. I sought the Lord, and he heard me : yea, he delivered me out of all my fear.

5. They had an eye unto him, and were lightened : and their faces were not ashamed.

6. Lo, the poor crieth, and the Lord heareth him : yea, and saveth him out of all his troubles.

7. The angel of the Lord tarrieth round about them that fear him : and delivereth them.

8. O taste, and see, how gracious the Lord is : blessed is the man that trusteth in him.

9. O fear the Lord, ye that are his saints : for they that fear him lack nothing.

10. The lions do lack, and suffer hunger : but they who seek the Lord shall want no manner of thing that is good.

11. Come, ye children, and hearken unto me : I will teach you the fear of the Lord.

12. What man is he that lusteth to live : and would fain see good days?

13. Keep thy tongue from evil : and thy lips, that they speak no guile.

14. Eschew evil, and do good : seek peace, and ensue it.

15. The eyes of the Lord are over the righteous : and his ears are open unto their prayers.

16. The countenance of the Lord is against them that do evil : to root out the remembrance of them from the earth.

17. The righteous cry, and the Lord heareth them : and delivereth them out of all their troubles.

18. The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a contrite heart : and will save such as be of an humble spirit.

19. Great are the troubles of the righteous : but the Lord delivereth him out of all.

20. He keepeth all his bones : so that not one of them is broken.

21. But misfortune shall slay the ungodly : and they that hate the righteous shall be desolate.

22. The Lord delivereth the souls of his servants : and all they that put their trust in him shall not be destitute.



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 out 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.