November 7, 2018

Father Terry writes:     

I sometimes wonder how disabled people feel about biblical references to such handicaps.  Blindness is often used in scripture as an image for those who refuse to believe.  Similarly, those who will not listen to the message of God are said to be deaf.  Campaigners for the disabled have made us rightly aware of how our attitudes towards the disabled can make them feel worthless.  So today we might feel uncomfortable sometimes about the way scripture uses disability.  And yet, we need to move beyond notions of political correctness to grasp the deeper meaning of scripture.

Often, in the Bible, the message is that those who are inwardly closed off cannot see God's will or hear God's message.  These people can 'see' and 'hear' in the normal way, but are impervious to God.  By contrast, the disabled, despite their difficulties, often prove to be the most open to Christ.  It is the blind beggar Bartimaeus who becomes a follower of J...

November 7, 2018

Father Terry writes:     

When James and John approached Jesus trying to wheedle promotion out of him, they were simply acting out the kind of fantasy that all of us indulge in from time to time.  How wonderful it would be, we think, to have  the top job!  Imagine all that power and prestige.  Imagine, however, of how Jesus must have felt at that moment.  I wonder if he had his head in his hands and was tempted to despair.  These were men who had walked alongside him, who had heard him teach about God’s love for us all.  They had listened as Jesus made his call for repentance and inspired his listeners to be like yeast, salt, light, making the world a better place out of humble love for others.  Yet after they still thought of the kingdom as a chance to grab power and wealth and to lord it over others (Mk 10.35-45). 

The reply that Jesus makes is sobering.  In effect, he tells them that they will drink a cup of suffering and pass thr...

June 4, 2017

We are all familiar with the figure of the conductor of an orchestra. The conductor, waving a baton, speeds up the music or slows it down. The conductor signals to individual instrumentalists that they should begin to play now. The conducting can alter the emotional tone of the music, bringing out different emphases.

There are many images that can help us understand the work of the Holy Spirit. One of them is to see the Holy Spirit as co-ordinating and encouraging the whole human symphony. The sound of our different lives can be discordant or harsh. The Spirit draws us towards harmony. As players we are often tempted to do our own thing, to toot our trumpet as it were, regardless of others. The Spirit takes us in a different direction. Each person is like an instrumentalist who has to learn to listen to the others, to join his or her contribution in the right way to those of the others in the orchestra. We have to work with others to weave together our music in such a way that it makes...

May 28, 2017

Should a Christian be ambitious?  Can a Christian be ambitious?  We are deeply suspicious of ambition.  We link ambition with unpleasant characteristics such as selfishness, ruthlessness, egoism.  Often we think it is not right to be ambitious.  And yet, when we think further about it, we realise that ambition is important.  I find myself uneasy, as I am sure you do, when young people at school or college show no ambition.  If you were am employer you would want your new employee to show some ambition.  In lots of ways we need to have hopes, dreams, aspirations, aims, goals.  It is quite natural to want to get ahead in life.  It encourages us to develop our gifts, to nourish our talents and to enhance our skills.  Without ambition surely the world would never progress.

But what about the negative features that can so easily accompany a sense of ambition?  How can we guard against these?  Well, think for a moment of the Ascension.  The As...

May 14, 2017

Jesus says:  ‘I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life’ (John 14.6).

     The Way

To follow Jesus is to be on a journey.  You cannot be a Christian and expect to stay as you are.  You have to expect that over a period of time your outlook will change your and your priorities will be challenged.  There is a difference between being a tourist and being a traveler.  If you are a tourist you can go to an exotic locale and come back unchanged.  If you are a traveler, on the other hand, you will be formed by your experiences.  You will have learned to see things differently.  If Jesus is the way then we are travelers, or I suppose more accurately, pilgrims.  We will expect that the journey with Christ will widen our horizons, open our eyes, engage our compassion, shake our complacency. 

     The Truth 

Our world is strangely uncomfortable with the whole idea of truth.  Our culture is happier with the idea of the world as a h...

May 7, 2017

    On this Sunday we have the gospel of the Good Shepherd, and the Catholic Church often turns its thoughts to vocations.  All of us have a vocation. We are called to holiness. This is our commissioning through our baptism. Now, I sometimes think that I have only to use the word ‘holiness’ for people to run a mile. Holiness is associated either with ‘holier than thou’ on the one hand, or with impossibly high standards of conduct on the other. Well, let’s think about it from another angle. In Galatians 5.22-23 St Paul gives us a list of the fruits of the Spirit, which grow out of our life in Christ. These are love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Which of us would not want these for ourselves? And this is holiness, in everyday terms that we can understand. Moreover, it is a holiness within which our other vocations can make sense. If you are a husband or wife or parent, you would want these gifts to help you in those roles. If you...

April 30, 2017

The ransom that was paid to free you … was not paid in silver or gold, but in the precious blood … of Christ (1 Peter 1.18-19)

Sometimes religious language is difficult. It does not come easily to people today. Younger people, who want everything instantly (think Wikipedia) are particularly impatient. So what are we to make of this language of ransom from our second reading, which is taken from the first letter of Peter?

Well, strangely enough, the terrible evil of ransom has begun to stalk our world once more. Pirates off the coast of Somalia even in the last month have resumed their attempts to hijack ships and hold their crews to ransom. Until the world’s navies mounted a campaign a few years ago, this used to be very lucrative. Ransom is still a reality in several countries in Latin America, where families will hear that their loved one has been kidnapped and a terrible fate awaits unless a ransom is paid. It is one of the many forms of extortion practised by Islamic State. So, if we...

April 23, 2017

I once mentioned to a farmer’s wife how the resurrection was a challenge to our faith.  Christian teaching about resurrection teaches us that death becomes new life in which we are completely transformed, including our bodies.  What that could mean was beyond our understanding, I said, and I did not know how to speak about it.  She listened and then chuckled.  No, she said, she did not find it hard to believe at all.  Every spring she and her husband ploughed bare fields and scattered seed.  Who could believe that these tiny things would become a field of waving corn?  And so, she said, she had no trouble in believing in a wonderful transformation of the body in which we would live in a new and eternal way in God’s presence, through the work of Christ.  If humble corn seed could change in that way, surely God could do even greater things with us who were made in his image.

She was right, of course, and I found it a very helpful analogy.  And as I thoug...

April 10, 2017

After El Alamein, the first significant victory for the Allies in World War II, Churchill said:  ‘This is not the beginning of the end.  But it is the end of the beginning.’  He meant that from that point onwards, the tide would turn.  I always think of that when we come to Palm Sunday.  This is the event that marks the end of what Jesus has begun, his earthly ministry.  Because of the adulation that greets his entry into Jerusalem, the authorities will be alarmed, and they will begin decisive action against him. 

Jesus, who knew what was in anyone’s heart, understood this perfectly well.  We get no hint of him being impressed by the acclaim of the crowds.  We know know that from this point onwards everything will accelerate towards that moving last supper with his companions, leading to betrayal and execution.  The whole life of Jesus is the great initiative of God reaching out to us. God does this through being among us as one of us.  But the apparent def...