I have a big problem with the story of Abraham’s sacrifice on Mount Moriah, and I know I am not alone. Richard Dawkins for one calls it a ‘disgraceful story’ with overtones of abuse. Soren Kierkegaard in his work ‘Fear and Trembling’ tackles the tale by imagining four ways in which Abraham experiences the event, including the kind of perpetual trauma and unease he would have about his understanding of God forever after, and what about poor Isaac? But even Kierkegaard does not understand Abraham, he says he can only admire him!
Sometimes it is good that we move out of the confines of our own tradition and discover what other Christians do. This is particularly important in seasons such as Lent because it might help us sharpen up our own attitudes. Because our Middle Eastern communities are now participating in a Lent that makes them real sharers of the sufferings of Christ, I felt that we could learn a little more about their customs and spiritual tradition to help us reflect on Lent. These are our sisters and brothers, part of the great Church of Christ, suffering for their belief in Jesus, modern confessors of the faith!
This Lent, Archbishop Samir Nassar, the Maronite Archbishop of Damascus, has sent us Meditations on the Stations of the Cross in his capacity as Episcopal Shepherd of the Syrian Commission for the Family. They are deeply moving and I hope that you will appreciate them and encourage the Parishes to pray them in solidarity with the Persecuted Church. Syria has now entered a 5th year of continuous war .. there is nothing more to say .. and in presenting us with the Stations of the Cross the Archbishop of Damascus.
Later this year, Pope Francis will release a much anticipated encyclical on care for creation. In preparation for the encyclical and Easter, the Ignatian Solidarity Network are offering a Lenten reflection series. Authors from around the world have written short reflections from their experiences of caring for creation and the day’s readings. These daily reflections examine our faith and how we practice environmental stewardship. Writers for the first five days were: John Shea, SJ, Brian O'Donnell, SJ, Kathy O’Keefe, Garrett Gundlach, SJ and
When I was a child (as St Paul would say!) I never lost a sense of wonder and excitement of seeing a rainbow and trying hard to find where it touched the ground! I never did manage to be in that magical place which I imagined would be filled with all those colours. I never thought much of the crock of gold story; I just wanted to find the end of a rainbow. Later on, of course, as I did my theology in the story of God’s covenant with Noah, the sign of the bow took on a different meaning, but I’m afraid I didn’t really think much about it until much later on.
I am often asked as bishop what the answer is to all the problems we face today. People wonder how we, in such challenging times, can live the vocation of marriage and the family; the call to ordination or the consecrated life; or the apostolic life of a lay person in the world? The answer is always before us, if only we have the eyes of faith to see! Jesus Christ Himself truly present: awaiting us in the Holy Eucharist and in Confession, the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Christ wants to give us every grace we need, if only we turn our hearts and minds to Him.
The Cardinal Hume Centre in Westminster works with homeless young people and families to help them overcome poverty and homelessness and reach their full potential. The words of Cardinal Basil Hume give guidance and purpose to the work of the Centre. His pragmatism and prayerfulness are still the roots of the Centre and his Benedictine values, are what makes it such a special place. Throughout Lent the Centre are publishing Cardinal Hume's weekly Lenten Reflections. They say: "By sharing some of his words with you, we hope that you will find
Let’s start with Paul’s exhortation to us in 1 Corinthians, it’s a reminder of what we should be, especially as Lent begins for many of us this week, (I say many, because some of our Eastern Christians follow a slightly different calendar and so start on the 23rd February). It’s a simple mantra: imitate good models of faith, give glory to God by what we do and say and pray. Don’t be offensive, try to be pleasant; don’t be selfish, think of others! Easy? No, it’s a tough call!
I must admit, I don’t often feel like Job, fed up with work, wondering if things will ever change, fretting over the unremitting problems of life. I do, as I get older, wonder where time goes, in some ways the days, months and years are like that swiftly moving weaver’s shuttle he mentions! But then I suspect I am lucky, the black dog days, though they happen, are more than compensated for by the enjoyment, fun and delight of being alive and with others. Something I am very thankful for.
God certainly makes news, because the media loves to pick up on religious themes, sometimes in a sympathetic way but quite frequently to critique ideas and practices of faith. Of course the more provocative the statement concerning religious matters, the better the story, especially if it generates a heated debate. In the western media this often occurs when those who challenge religions worth or place in human affairs are called upon to comment about such things as sickness, suffering and the existence of benevolent God.
In his diary written in the Warsaw Ghetto, Chaim A Kaplan wrote this entry for October 2nd 1940: Again: everything is forbidden to us; and yet we do everything! We make our "living" in ways that are forbidden, and not by permission. It is the same with community prayers: secret minyanim in their hundreds all over Warsaw hold prayers together and do not leave out even the most difficult hymns.…Near the main synagogue some side room is chosen with windows facing the courtyard, and there hearts are poured out to the God of Israel
In their joint declaration of November 30th 2014, Pope Francis and Patriarch Bartholomew mentioned the ecumenism of suffering: ‘…we can say that there is also an ecumenism of suffering. Just as the blood of the martyrs was a seed of strength and fertility for the Church, so too the sharing of daily sufferings can become an effective instrument of unity. The terrible situation of Christians and all those who are suffering in the Middle East calls not only for our constant prayer,
Listening to the reading from the Prophet Jonah we cannot fail to be moved! God saw the sorrow and repentance of the people of Nineveh, and spared them in this story. Today IS ignored the cries of the people in Mosul and destroyed the existence of the Christian community! The irony cannot be lost on us; now people claiming to do this in God’s a name are destroying Mosul/Nineveh! But in Jonah’s story the big difference it is about coming together not rending asunder.
I believe the publishing this week of the cartoon of the prophet
Mohammed on the cover of Charlie Hebdo was ill-judged, badly timed and a huge mistake.
Yes the publishers have every right to say what they want and publish what they like but that does not mean they should do so in every case. Why seek to offend when you could befriend? Is it necessary to use your freedom to insult others if you are serious about building a peaceful, just and diverse society?
How does God speak to us? Perhaps in our dreams, to comfort, encourage and enlighten us, like Jacob and Joseph discovered. Or, do we hear the Lord’s voice in the still spaces of the night like Samuel? For people of faith it seems very natural that somehow we do connect and communicate with the One who loves us more than anything. After all, as Paul wrote to the Corinthians, our body is a Temple of the Lord where the Holy Spirit dwells; in each other we recognize the icon of Christ.
I have been a priest in London for over 40 years now. For many of those years Irish people in London lived in the shadow of IRA and UDA Terrorism. It was a very difficult time to be Irish in London. Airey Neave an MP was blown up in his car in the car park of the House of Commons. One of our Pimlico parishioners just happened to be walking past Chelsea barracks when the IRA bomb there went off and he was killed. We had bombs in the City of London, in Guildford, in Birmingham and people were angry that these terrorists could so cold-bloodedly kill innocent people.
The baptism of Jesus is a wonderful feast, in the simple words of Mark’s Gospel we see the Christ who was promised descend from Jordan’s banks into the waters and the heaven’s torn open to reveal Jesus as part of the Trinity, with him the voice of the Father and the descending spirit unite them all in love. Jesus’ baptism was literally a watershed in his life. From it all his mission flowed, until that day when the veil of the Temple rent in two as he gave his life up for us on the Cross and rising from death revealed the Resurrection.
Of all the nativity festivals, the Epiphany is perhaps the most colourful and yet, at least in Anglo-Saxon cultures, the most neglected, it is really eclipsed by the earlier Christmas feasts and the celebration of the New Year, it is the full stop at the end of the holidays! Here’s our chance to reclaim this feast as a purely religious festival. One idea might be to make it a day of hospitality, welcome and ecumenism. The readings for the feast point out that the ‘Magi’ represent the world beyond faith confines, beyond our denominational securities.
Christian devotion to Mary the Mother of Jesus goes back a very long way, well before the Council of Ephesus in 432 where she was defined as Theotokos, the ‘God bearer’ or as the Orthodox theologian Nicholas Zernov translated - ‘the one who gives birth to the one who is God’. However, the early ways in which Mary was venerated aren’t clear to us, except that it was always in the context of Jesus, and that’s important because it links Mary clearly with the incarnate Christ, the Son of God born of Mary, in time, as one of us.
As we see the departing skirts of the old year make their exit we look back on the previous 12 months with a whole stew of emotions. Gratitude for gifts received; New friendships born, or old ones strengthened. Mountains climbed and achievements celebrated. Fears not realised. Or just gratitude for the gift of life, health, family, friends, faith. But for some, in that stew there will be relief that a year of turmoil has passed; They have known bereavement – the loss
I was trawling though writings and sermons about the Holy Family, partly out of interest but mainly curiosity and what I found was, as one might expect, a pretty hefty statement about the wonderful influence of Joseph and Mary on Jesus - the inference being that somehow they lived a domestic life rather akin to the ‘best’ model of what one might call the official ‘Christian’ life, one of harmony, loving synchronicity between husband and wife, obedience from children who are brought up in a ‘safe’ environment!
Pope Francis celebrated Midnight Mass in the Vatican Basilica on Christmas Eve to mark the Nativity of the Lord and in his homily spoke of how much the world needs tenderness today.“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined” ( Is 9:1). “An angel of the Lord appeared to [the shepherds] and the glory of the Lord shone around them” (Lk 2:9). This is how the liturgy of this holy Christmas night
In his Midnight Mass homily at Westminster Cathedral last night, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster, urged Christians to return to the crib and the rule of love because ‘the compassion of Christ is for everyone and his law of love is universal’.
Reminding us that the birth of Christ is the ‘hinge of human history’ in which ‘a new vision is born’, the Cardinal described the kingdom of God as one which is ruled by love, ‘an affront to the power-seeking regimes of our world’ today.
For those of us brought up in Christian faith or who have close contact with it, the feast of the Saviour’s nativity needs little explanation, it is ingrained in the very fabric of our lives, but it is worthwhile to pause awhile and feast our hearts and minds on the immensity of love pouring into the world through the celebration of this festival. The liturgical texts and readings are so rich, yet so familiar, we know them well, but for us familiarity does not breed contempt, it generates a deep yearning
"Loving Father, Help us remember the birth of Jesus, that we may share in the song of angels, the gladness of the shepherds, and the worship of the wise men. Close the door of hate and open the door of love all over the world. Let kindness come with every gift and good desires with every greeting.