Friday, 12 April 2019

Why blasphemy is so serious (Passion Friday)


Friday of Passiontide


Jeremiah 20:10-13  ;  John 10:31-42




WE BESEECH thee, Almighty God, mercifully to look upon thy people: that by thy great goodness they may be governed and preserved evermore, both in body and soul; 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 Blasphemy? Why so serious?


Jesus was accused of blasphemy which was punishable by stoning. It was a serious crime then and it is for us today also a very grave sin. Sadly it is all too common for us to hear people uttering blasphemous words and sentiments in everyday speech; we need to be very careful indeed about our own speech with this regard because we can easily put ourselves out of a state of grace.

Because of its gravity and because it is so common, we need to be clear what the sin is and what to do if we commit it.

You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain. Ex 20:7; Dt 5:11

Blasphemy is a sin against the love of God and opposes the second commandment. It is any uttering against God. This uttering can be silent and within, as well as audible. And it does not affect the gravity of the sin whether others can hear it or not. Any words of hatred, reproach or defiance against God are blasphemy. It can be speaking ill of God. It can be failing to respect God in one’s speech. And of course blasphemy is misusing the name of God, not least in a curse.

Blasphemy also extends to language against Christ’s Church, against the Saints, and against sacred things or places. It is also blasphemous to use God’s name to cover up criminal practices, to reduce people to servitude, to torture persons or put them to death. Blasphemy is contrary to the respect and honour due God and His holy name.

Blasphemy is intrinsically a grave sin. Some sins are intrinsically grave, and this means that whatever the circumstances are, and whatever the motives for sinning are, it is an act which in and of itself is gravely sinful. We cannot talk our way out of it!

So blasphemy’s intrinsic gravity means that if we commit that sin knowing it is sinful and we were not pressurised* into it, we have committed mortal sin. By this sin we have cut ourselves off from God, turned away from Him and destroyed charity in our heart. In the state of mortal sin we can only be brought back by a new initiative of God’s mercy – that is, through the sacrament of Penance. In the state of mortal sin we may not receive the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar without bringing condemnation on ourselves and committing sacrilege.

If we realise we are a blasphemer we need to repent as soon as possible and we need to get to confession regularly until we have driven the habit out of our system.

We live in a time and place where God and His Holy name is regularly profaned, but for those without faith there is ignorance to defend their action. For those of us with faith, we have no such defence. God’s Holy name is for salvation not for cursing – by profaning His holiness and His sacred name we curse no one but ourselves.



See also the article in the Catechism: CCC 2142f.

* Pressure can come for example from peers or from bad habits. If we have laid down a habit of blaspheming over a long period of time while the first times we blasphemed might have been mortal sins, now because of the habit, the sin though grave is not a mortal sin. However recourse to the sacrament of penance is the best course of action after committing blasphemy.



Psalm 18

Diligam te, Domine

I WILL love thee, O Lord, my strength; the Lord is my stony rock, and my defence : my saviour, my God, and my might, in whom I will trust, my buckler, the horn also of my salvation, and my refuge.

2. I will call upon the Lord, which is worthy to be praised : so shall I be safe from mine enemies.

3. The sorrows of death compassed me : and the overflowings of ungodliness made me afraid.

4. The pains of hell came about me : the snares of death overtook me.

5. In my trouble I will call upon the Lord : and complain unto my God.

6. So shall he hear my voice out of his holy temple : and my complaint shall come before him, it shall enter even into his ears.

7. The earth trembled and quaked : the very foundations also of the hills shook, and were removed, because he was wroth.

8. There went a smoke out in his presence : and a consuming fire out of his mouth, so that coals were kindled at it.

9. He bowed the heavens also, and came down : and it was dark under his feet.

10. He rode upon the cherubins, and did fly : he came flying upon the wings of the wind.

11. He made darkness his secret place : his pavilion round about him, with dark water and thick clouds to cover him.

12. At the brightness of his presence his clouds removed : hail-stones and coals of fire.

13. The Lord also thundered out of heaven, and the Highest gave his thunder : hail-stones and coals of fire.

14. He sent out his arrows, and scattered them : he cast forth lightnings, and destroyed them.

15. The springs of water were seen, and the foundations of the round world were discovered, at thy chiding, O Lord : at the blasting of the breath of thy displeasure.

16. He shall send down from on high to fetch me : and shall take me out of many waters.

17. He shall deliver from me my strongest enemy, and from them which hate me : for they are too mighty for me.

18. They prevented me in the day of my trouble : but the Lord was my upholder.

19. He brought me forth also into a place of liberty : he brought me forth even because he had a favour unto me.

20. The Lord shall reward me after my righteous dealing : according to the cleanness of my hands shall he recompense me.

21. Because I have kept the ways of the Lord : and have not forsaken my God, as the wicked doth.

22. For I have an eye unto all his laws : and will not cast out his commandments from me.

23. I was also uncorrupt before him : and eschewed mine own wickedness.

24. Therefore shall the Lord reward me after my righteous dealing : and according unto the cleanness of my hands in his eye-sight.

25. With the holy thou shalt be holy : and with a perfect man thou shalt be perfect.

26. With the clean thou shalt be clean : and with the froward thou shalt learn frowardness.

27. For thou shalt save the people that are in adversity : and shalt bring down the high looks of the proud.

28. Thou also shalt light my candle : the Lord my God shall make my darkness to be light.

29. For in thee I shall discomfit an host of men : and with the help of my God I shall leap over the wall.

30. The way of God is an undefiled way : the word of the Lord also is tried in the fire; he is the defender of all them that put their trust in him.

31. For who is God, but the Lord : or who hath any strength, except our God?

32. It is God, that girdeth me with strength of war : and maketh my way perfect.

33. He maketh my feet like harts' feet : and setteth me up on high.

34. He teacheth mine hands to fight : and mine arms shall break even a bow of steel.

35. Thou hast given me the defence of my salvation : thy right hand also shall hold me up, and thy loving correction shall make me great.

36. Thou shalt make room enough under me for to go : that my footsteps shall not slide.

37. I will follow upon mine enemies, and overtake them : neither will I turn again till I have destroyed them.

38. I will smite them, that they shall not be able to stand : but fall under my feet.

39. Thou hast girded me with strength unto the battle : thou shalt throw done mine enemies under me.

40. Thou hast made mine enemies also to turn their backs upon me : and I shall destroy them that hate me.

41. They shall cry, but there shall be none to help them : yea, even unto the Lord shall they cry, but he shall not hear them.

42. I will beat them as small as the dust before the wind : I will cast them out as the clay in the streets.

43. Thou shalt deliver me from the strivings of the people : and thou shalt make me the head of the heathen.

44. A people whom I have not known : shall serve me.

45. As soon as they hear of me, they shall obey me : but the strange children shall dissemble with me.

46. The strange children shall fail : and be afraid out of their prisons.

47. The Lord liveth, and blessed be my strong helper : and praised be the Lord of my salvation.

48. Even the God that seeth that I be avenged : and subdueth the people unto me.

49. It is he that delivereth me from my cruel enemies, and setteth me up above mine adversaries : thou shalt rid me from the wicked man.

50. For this cause will I give thanks unto thee, O Lord, among the Gentiles : and sing praises unto thy Name.

51. Great prosperity giveth he unto his King : and sheweth loving-kindness unto David his Anointed, and unto his seed for evermore.



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.


Thursday, 11 April 2019

Blasphemer or Messiah? (Passion Thursday)


Thursday of Passiontide


Genesis 17:3-9  ;  John 8:51-59




WE BESEECH thee, Almighty God, mercifully to look upon thy people: that by thy great goodness they may be governed and preserved evermore, both in body and soul; 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.

 


Blasphemer or Messiah?


Jesus scandalised the Pharisees by eating with tax collectors and sinners. He spoke against those who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and said, “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” Jesus scandalised them when He suggested that the mercy He showed to sinners was that of God’s own attitude to sinners; by sharing the table of sinners he was admitting them to the messianic banquet. Perhaps even more did He scandalise them by forgiving sins. Only God can forgive sins, so either Jesus was blaspheming, or He was speaking the truth and was God.

Only if Jesus is truly divine can He justify such claims that would otherwise be scandal and blasphemy. So all who listen to the Gospel must decide, is Jesus insane/wicked or is He divine – there is no other option if we take the evidence seriously.

Jesus’ divine identity was gradually revealed in what He said. When He said, “He who is not with me is against me”, this could only be taken seriously if Jesus was divine. Similarly when He said, “something greater than Jonah… greater than Solomon”, and something “greater than the Temple” was there. His reminder that David called his Messiah his Lord, was also revealing the Messiah as being divine. But then we come to the gospel of today (Jn 8:51-59) and Jesus then makes it quite plain: “Amen. Amen. I say unto you, before Abraham was, I AM.” “I AM” was the divine name revealed by God to Moses at the burning bush.

Thus the Sanhedrin had to make a stark choice: was this man the Messiah God, or was Jesus a blasphemer deserving death? They made their choice and Jesus became the victim.

We too must make this choice. We make this choice when we accept the Christian Faith as our faith. But we must also make this choice in the moral decisions of daily life. When we choose to sin, we choose to go against the Way of Christ, and we thus make Him out to be a liar. Sin is an anti-Christ action, and in that sin we are identifying with the Sanhedrin who condemned Jesus. When we resist temptation, we affirm that Jesus is God the Saviour.



Psalm 105


Confitemini Domino

O GIVE thanks unto the Lord, and call upon his Name : tell the people what things he hath done.

2. O let your songs be of him, and praise him : and let your talking be of all his wondrous works.

3. Rejoice in his holy Name : let the heart of them rejoice that seek the Lord.

4. Seek the Lord and his strength : seek his face evermore.

5. Remember the marvellous works that he hath done : his wonders, and the judgements of his mouth.

6. O ye seed of Abraham his servant : ye children of Jacob his chosen.

7. He is the Lord our God : his judgements are in all the world.

8. He hath been alway mindful of his covenant and promise : that he made to a thousand generations;

9. Even the covenant that he made with Abraham : and the oath that he sware unto Isaac;

10. And appointed the same unto Jacob for a law : and to Israel for an everlasting testament;

11. Saying, Unto thee will I give the land of Canaan : the lot of your inheritance;

12. When there were yet but a few of them : and they strangers in the land;

13. What time as they went from one nation to another : from one kingdom to another people;

14. He suffered no man to do them wrong : but reproved even kings for their sakes;

15. Touch not mine Anointed : and do my prophets no harm.

16. Moreover, he called for a dearth upon the land : and destroyed all the provision of bread.

17. But he had sent a man before them : even Joseph, who was sold to be a bond-servant;

18. Whose feet they hurt in the stocks : the iron entered into his soul;

19. Until the time came that his cause was known : the word of the Lord tried him.

20. The king sent, and delivered him : the prince of the people let him go free.

21. He made him lord also of his house : and ruler of all his substance;

22. That he might inform his princes after his will : and teach his senators wisdom.

23. Israel also came into Egypt : and Jacob was a stranger in the land of Ham.

24. And he increased his people exceedingly : and made them stronger than their enemies.

25. Whose heart turned, so that they hated his people : and dealt untruly with his servants.

26. Then sent he Moses his servant : and Aaron whom he had chosen.

27. And these shewed his tokens among them : and wonders in the land of Ham.

28. He sent darkness, and it was dark : and they were not obedient unto his word.

29. He turned their waters into blood : and slew their fish.

30. Their land brought forth frogs : yea, even in their kings' chambers.

31. He spake the word, and there came all manner of flies : and lice in all their quarters.

32. He gave them hail-stones for rain : and flames of fire in their land.

33. He smote their vines also and fig-trees : and destroyed the trees that were in their coasts.

34. He spake the word, and the grasshoppers came, and caterpillars innumerable : and did eat up all the grass in their land, and devoured the fruit of their ground.

35. He smote all the first-born in their land : even the chief of all their strength.

36. He brought them forth also with silver and gold : there was not one feeble person among their tribes.

37. Egypt was glad at their departing : for they were afraid of them.

38. He spread out a cloud to be a covering : and fire to give light in the night-season.

39. At their desire he brought quails : and he filled them with the bread of heaven.

40. He opened the rock of stone, and the waters flowed out : so that rivers ran in the dry places.

41. For why? he remembered his holy promise : and Abraham his servant.

42. And he brought forth his people with joy: and his chosen with gladness.

43. And gave them the lands of the heathen : and they took the labours of the people in possession;

44. That they might keep his statutes : and observe his laws.



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.


Wednesday, 10 April 2019

Two kingdoms (Passion Wednesday)


Wednesday of Passiontide

Daniel 3:14-20,24-25,28; John 8:31-42



WE BESEECH thee, Almighty God, mercifully to look upon thy people: that by thy great goodness they may be governed and preserved evermore, both in body and soul; 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 two kingdoms

Many people today who have heard of Jesus think He is a good chap. “He did lots of good things for people, didn’t he?” they might say. Indeed our Lord did many good works. He healed the sick, He taught the ignorant, He forgave sinners, and He restored lepers. This much most people are willing to accept as evidence of a good man. (In acknowledging this much they are of course conveniently ignoring that He also raised the dead, He exorcised demons, He disturbed as well as comforted, He angered some people until they hated Him, and He also claimed to be divine!)

Christ’s good works were not done however because He was a nice chap. They were signs. His mission was not to eradicate earthly evils: hunger, injustice, illness and death. Jesus performed messianic signs. He came not to abolish all evils on earth, but to free men from the greatest slavery, sin, which thwarts them in their vocation as God’s sons and daughters. The slavery of sin is the root cause of all forms of human bondage (Jn 8:34-36).

We need as Christians to appreciate that there are two kingdoms. One kingdom is of injustice, hunger, illness, misery, bondage and death – this is the kingdom of Satan. The Good News is that there is another kingdom – the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God is justice, generosity, health, blessed happiness, freedom and life eternal. The kingdom of Satan enslaves and it does so through sin. People cannot just merely choose not to do unjust things etc.; they are enslaved into thinking that some things are good when they are actually evil in God’s eyes. They are also enslaved by habits of thinking and habits of deed which cloud their vision and make it difficult to change.

So Jesus performed messianic signs pointing to another reality, but He called on people to repent, and He forgave sins. In some cases He performed exorcisms which freed some people from the domination of demonic powers.

It is therefore no good just battling against injustice, or hunger, or any particular evil, because if one does not go to the root of the problem they will continue to spring up over and over again. The battle we wage as Christians, in Christ’s name and in Christ’s power, is against the principalities and powers of the kingdom of Satan, and it is against sin. We Christians work most of all to free others from their enslavement to sin, and consequently their blindness to what is actually evil.







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.


Tuesday, 9 April 2019

Sin is death (Tues of Passiontide)


Tuesday of Passiontide


Numbers 21:4-9 ; John 8:21-30




WE BESEECH thee, Almighty God, mercifully to look upon thy people: that by thy great goodness they may be governed and preserved evermore, both in body and soul; 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.





Sin is death


Our Lord says in our gospel today, to the crowd following Him, “You will die in your sin.” (Jn 8:21,24) Sin is not just doing something bad. Sin is, also, to enclose ourselves in on ourselves – to be wrapped up with ourselves. Enclosed in on ourselves in our own petty problems and relying only on human wisdom, we refuse to open ourselves to the horizons of God. This leads to death. A life closed to God is no real life at all.

In Holy Scripture people are divided into two camps: those from above, who seek God’s ways, and those from below, who seek limited human goals. Sin is to refuse to allow oneself to be born again from above, as Jesus told Nicodemus (Jn 3:3). The Jews, Jesus was speaking to, did not believe in Jesus. Jesus’ life and Jesus’ message reflected a world of transcendent values and goods – values and goods beyond this world. This did not attract them. Speaking any more with those Jews who did not believe in Him would have been a waste of time. They were closed; they were locked in on their sin.

In this part of the Gospel Jesus gives witness to His own divinity by using the expression “I AM” seven times. This was how God designated Himself before Moses, and thus Jews called God “Yahweh”, that is, “He who IS”. Jesus claims for Himself “I AM” which is a claim that should not be applied to any creature. Jesus IS. But the fullest expression of who Jesus IS will be when He is “lifted up”, that is, in His Crucifixion, His Resurrection and in His Ascension.



Psalm 102

Domine, exaudi

HEAR my prayer, O Lord : and let my crying come unto thee.

2. Hide not thy face from me in the time of my trouble : incline thine ear unto me when I call; O hear me, and that right soon.

3. For my days are consumed away like smoke : and my bones are burnt up as it were a firebrand.

4. My heart is smitten down, and withered liked grass : so that I forget to eat my bread.

5. For the voice of my groaning : my bones will scarce cleave to my flesh.

6. I am become like a pelican in the wilderness : and like an owl that is in the desert.

7. I have watched, and am even as it were a sparrow : that sitteth alone upon the house-top.

8. Mine enemies revile me all the day long : and they that are mad upon me are sworn together against me.

9. For I have eaten ashes as it were bread : and mingled my drink with weeping.

10. And that because of thine indignation and wrath : for thou hast taken me up, and cast me down.

11. My days are gone like a shadow : and I am withered like grass.

12. But thou, O Lord, shalt endure for ever : and thy remembrance throughout all generations.

13. Thou shalt arise, and have mercy upon Sion : for it is time that thou have mercy upon her, yea, the time is come.

14. And why? thy servants think upon her stones : and it pitieth them to see her in the dust.

15. The heathen shall fear thy Name, O Lord : and all the kings of the earth thy majesty;

16. When the Lord shall build up Sion : and when his glory shall appear;

17. When he turneth him unto the prayer of the poor destitute : and despiseth not their desire.

18. This shall be written for those that come after : and the people which shall be born shall praise the Lord.

19. For he hath looked down from his sanctuary : out of the heaven did the Lord behold the earth;

20. That he might hear the mournings of such as are in captivity : and deliver the children appointed unto death;

21. That they may declare the Name of the Lord in Sion : and his worship at Jerusalem;

22. When the people are gathered together : and the kingdoms also, to serve the Lord.

23. He brought down my strength in my journey : and shortened my days.

24. But I said, O my God, take me not away in the midst of mine age : as for thy years, they endure throughout all generations.

25. Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth : and the heavens are the work of thy hands.

26. They shall perish, but thou shalt endure : they all shall wax old as doth a garment;

27. And as a vesture shalt thou change them, and they shall be changed : but thou art the same, and thy years shall not fail.

28. The children of thy servants shall continue : and their seed shall stand fast in thy sight.



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.


Sunday, 7 April 2019

A no-win situation (Passion Sunday)


Fifth Sunday of Lent – Passion Sunday


Isaiah 43:16-21 ; Philippians 3:8-14 ; John 8:1-11


WE BESEECH thee, Almighty God, mercifully to look upon thy people: that by thy great goodness they may be governed and preserved evermore, both in body and soul; 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.





A no-win situation?


When the woman caught in the act of adultery was brought before Jesus by the Pharisees and the Scribes, they were not seeking legal advice from Jesus, they were setting a trap. If Jesus authorised capital punishment then He could be reported to the Romans – the Jews were not permitted to administer capital punishment. If Jesus forbade the stoning, He could be discredited as a false messiah because He contradicted the Law of Moses, which made adultery a capital offence (Lev 20:10; Dt 22:22). 
So Jesus’ response is a way of thwarting their trap: “He who is without sin cast the first stone.” He neither authorises the stoning, nor does He forbid it. The genius of His response is of course that He turns the tables on the Pharisees. They have now been trapped in their own snare. Although the Pharisees might well have regarded themselves as sinless (as Saul had done, see Phil 3:5-6) they knew that if they had condemned the woman to stoning the power of Rome would have fallen on them. So the Pharisees walk away because they are frightened, and thus they have been made to look like sinners, which they didn’t believe was true, but Jesus knew was true!
The Pharisees’ actions are a warning for those who are tempted to condemn others and bring the full weight of the consequences on that person. They also warn us that we need to be more sensitive to our own sin (which we can truly do something about) than other’s sin. The Lord is merciful and so must we be. However we must be under no illusion that adultery (and all the sexual sins that come under that heading) is a grave sin. Jesus does not condemn the woman, but neither does He condone her sin. She is forgiven rather than condemned. By the action of Christ, by grace, she is made ready to be able not to sin again, which is what Jesus exhorts her to do.

This mercy of Christ to desire forgiveness rather than condemnation is what He offers us all in the Sacrament of Penance. Our imagination tells us sometimes that confession is condemnation, but that is a lie. Our Lord is merciful and so the Church’s Sacrament dispenses Christ’s mercy to all of us who are sinners and who are repentant. Let us repent and receive that mercy as often as we can, that we may have the grace to sin no more.

Psalm 126
In convertendo

WHEN the Lord turned again the captivity of Sion : then were we like unto them that dream.
2. Then was our mouth filled with laughter : and our tongue with joy.
3. Then said they among the heathen : The Lord hath done great things for them.
4. Yea, the Lord hath done great things for us already : whereof we rejoice.
5. Turn our captivity, O Lord : as the rivers in the south.
6. They that sow in tears : shall reap in joy.
7. He that now goeth on his way weeping, and beareth forth good seed : shall doubtless come again with joy, and bring his sheaves with him.

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.