Monday, 16 September 2019

The Bible says this and this.... No! Why the Bible doesn’t ‘say’ anything!

If you have ever moved around in Christian circles you will have probably heard people begin a sentence with the phrase ‘the Bible says…’ People, Christians and non-Christians alike, frequently back up their arguments by saying ‘but the Bible says….’ Even those who have fallen away from the faith sometimes critique the Church or justify their own position with the phrase ‘the Bible says…(insert here whatever verse supports your argument)’

This phrase is deeply problematic, quite simply, because the Bible, does not ‘say’ anything.  It cannot ‘say’ anything because it’s a book. It can instruct, teach and inspire, but the Bible on its own does not speak. This is an often-misunderstood concept: the Bible does not speak!

Now, before you brand me a heretic and start preparing the stake and pyre, let me explain what I mean.

Let me be clear from the outset, the Bible is the inspired Word of God. It has one author: God, but many different writers. The Alpha course uses a good image to explain this idea: St Paul’s Cathedral in London is a famous architectural masterpiece. If you ask people who built St Paul's’, the answer you would typically get back would ‘Christopher Wren’. Yet Christopher Wren did not, to my knowledge, lay a single brick. He is the architect, the designer, the author even of St Paul's, but the work was carried out by many different individuals, all according to his plan. The same is true with the Bible, it is God’s Word, he is the author, but it is written by many people with their own understanding and perspective of the world.

The Bible is something that every Christian should have, read and use to pray with. In the Bible we discover the story of our salvation. In the pages of the Bible a love affair unfolds between God and his people, and God continues to speak to us through the Bible today. If we read the Bible prayerfully particular verses can ‘jump of the page’ as it were, and penetrate our hearts. God does indeed speak through the Bible. We should not be ignorant about the Bible. As St Jerome, the fifth Century biblical scholar, who translated the Bible into the language of the day (Latin!)  said, ‘ignorance of the scriptures is ignorance of Christ’.

The Bible is so important that at every celebration of the Eucharist and every liturgical celebration it is publicly proclaimed. Furthermore, at the end of the reading the reader proclaims, ‘The Word of the Lord’ and we all reply Thanks be to God. At a Sunday Mass, the first section of the Mass is devoted to the Bible: ‘The Liturgy of the Word’. Four readings are proclaimed: An Old Testament reading, a psalm, a New Testament reading and then a Gospel! Sometimes some of our Protestant brothers and sisters dismiss Catholics as being ignorant of the Bible, but really this isn’t the case. A Catholic has the Bible in his/her DNA. The very prayers of the Mass come from the Bible and simply by just turning up to worship at Mass we encounter more scripture than many other Christian communities use in their own worship services.

The Bible is vital, there is no denying this. The Bible is God’s Word and the Bible is true, but, and this is important, the Bible on its own does not ‘say’ anything and here’s why:

The Bible did not drop out of the air, it is not a magic book, rather, it is the Church’s book. The Bible emerged, by God’s providence out of the Christian community, and the Christian community is the Church. The Church reflected, prayed and decided what books were to be considered as inspired  texts and what books were not. This was an organic process, which occurred over a long period of time directed by the power of the Holy Spirit working in sinful human beings through the Church. We should not be surprised by this really, this is consistent with how God works - it’s basically his MO, his Modus Operandi! He partners with human beings. He doesn’t beam down from heaven and perform magical acts, rather, he enters his creation, works in and through it and redeems it. The Bible as we have it now was not even fixed as set collection of books until the fifth century. The common Bible amongst Protestant Christians of 66 books as oppose to the Catholic 73 books was not in fact standardised definitively until 1825 when the British and Foreign Bible Society made the decision that they would work only with a 66-book Bible.

The Bible then, is a collection of divinely inspired texts which grew out of the Church’s life and worship. The Church came before the Bible, it was not the other way around! The Bible cannot be understood apart from the living and sacred Tradition of faith in the Church. Everyone should read the bible, everyone can encounter God through the pages of the Bible, but the Bible should not be interpreted privately or individually without respect to the Tradition of the Church.

One of the big slogans of the Protestant Reformation was Sola Scriptura – Scripture (Bible) alone. This has been taken by many Christians of the reformation as the doctrine par excellence (incidentally not found in in the bible by the way!) The problem with this doctrine is that if you read the Bible alone it’s possible to read all kinds of contradictory things into the Bible. And, has been the case if you don’t agree with a interpretation you can simply find another bunch of people who do, or even start your own branch of a church. Up until the Protestant Reformation (which, by the way, was needed as the Church was in desperate need of reform, the tragedy was the split away from the Catholic Church not the need for reform itself) to be a Christian meant you were either Catholic or Orthodox, after the Solus Scriptura doctrine took hold, the last 500 years has given rise to thousands of Protestant denominations. This disunity in the Church is a tragedy for Christianity as it compromises our united witness and mission in the world.  

The Church’s teaching authority, guarded by the Pope and the bishops of the Church, articulates authentically what the Bible means. God has revealed himself both through Scripture and through Sacred Tradition, these two sacred realities both go hand in hand - you can’t have one without the other. To interpret Scripture without reference to the Church fathers and to the 2000 years of living Christian witness risks a certain arrogance. Some may argue that Scripture was corrupted by the Church, but this argument ignores the way in which God works in the world.  In fact, it was through God’s providence that the Christian community (the Church) encountered amongst other things Greek philosophy and Roman legislation and was thus able to use these wonderful gifts to understand and articulate more fully the divine revelation of Sacred Scripture.

Some Christians today claim that they must follow the Bible alone and seem to tie themselves up in knots trying to makes sense of obscure verses, whilst conveniently ignoring over verses which do not fit their ideas. No. the Bible must not be read and interpreted like this. In fact, I would argue that the Bible can be treated as an idol. A kind of idolatry or biblioatry! An idol in effect is anything that takes the place of God in our lives - that takes the rightful attention and worship owed to God alone. Some Bible alone Christians, risk falling into this trap with the Bible itself. The Bible is not God. It is the Word of God. To be a Christian is not to be a person of the book. To be a Christian is not even to be someone who is immersed in the Word. To be a Christian is to be someone who is immersed in the Word Made Flesh – Jesus Christ. God’s perfect and full revelation is Jesus Christ. The whole of scripture, anticipates, reflects upon, points to and culminates in the Word Made Flesh – Jesus Christ. And scripture cannot be understood apart from the Body of Christ: The Church!

What does the Bible say? Well, read privately irrespective to the Tradition it can say pretty much anything you want it to say, so in effect it says nothing.  Read, however, within the living Body of Christ (the Church) then God speaks! He speaks powerfully, he speaks eternally, he speaks his Eternal Word, his Merciful Word, He speaks Jesus Christ!

Postscript: Our image of God and our understanding of God is affected by how we read and understand the Bible. Reading the Bible apart from the Church’s living and Sacred Tradition can give us a warped image of God. A further danger of Sola Scriptura is a false understanding of God’s actions in the Old Testament and his actions in the New Testament. For more on this please listen to my latest  podcast episode: ‘Christ came to call sinners, Mercy is the supreme face of God’

Sunday, 1 September 2019

‘I’m sure God doesn’t mind Father.’ Well, I’m sure God does mind!

‘I’m sure God doesn’t mind Father.’ I imagine many of my brother priests have heard this phrase at some time or another. It’s one I have heard multiple times and is used by lapsed and faithful Catholics alike, in all kinds of circumstances.  There are a few words and phrases which really grate on me (if you have been reading my other blog posts you might have noticed this already!) and this, most certainly is one of them. What is more, it is not a phrase that I think should ever be used by anyone who calls him or herself a Catholic or a Christian, and here’s why:

The problem is with what is actually being said when someone says ‘God doesn’t mind’. To get to the heart of the matter it is necessary for us to go back to basics. To be a Christian is to profess belief in the Trinitarian God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. At the heart of our faith is the doctrine of the Incarnation. In the Incarnation, the eternal God enters his creation and becomes fully human. The Second Person of the Blessed Trinity becomes Man and shares our human nature in all things, but sin. In becoming flesh and dwelling amongst us God has entered our world. (cf. Jn 1:14) Furthermore, the Church teaches us that ‘by his incarnation the Son of God has united himself, in some way to every human person.’ (Gaudium et Spes 22) Put very simply, God is involved in our world and God has united himself to our world at every level.

It is also true to say that creation only exists because God who is love wills it. On a very basic level, to love is to will the good of another. Existence is a “good” so to will existence, whether that be the existence of a flower or the existence of a person is an act of love. This willing of creation into existence is an act of love, which flows out from the very nature of God himself. The pinnacle of creation is the human person, made in the image and likeness of God. God loves humans so much that he became one of us, died a cruel and shameful death on our behalf and through the resurrection has opened the doors to eternal life with him. To say that God does not mind about anything at all, however unwittingly, demeans God.  God is the supreme mind and he holds all things, at all time in mind. Scripture attest to this when St Luke’s writes, ‘are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God, and even the very hairs on your head are all numbered.’ (Lk 12:7) To say God does not mind is to say that God is indifferent or that something does not matter to God, everything matters to God!  The Christian faith is a faith in a God who is involved at every level of our lives, there is no part of our lives which God is not bothered about.

The deeper issue with this phrase, however, is the way in which it is regularly used. It is often applied to circumstances to justify some kind of lapsed or lukewarm behaviour. Missing Sunday Mass for no good reason, for example. (By the way, being ill is a good reason, having to work to provide for home and family is a good reason, car breaking down is a good reason…going to see family members, or deciding to have a Sunday off is not a good reason!) The phrase is also employed to justify a lack a reverence in Church: talking and treating the Church or the sanctuary like any other meeting place, lack of reverence for the great mysteries we celebrate, lack of reverence for the presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.  Often this lack or reverence manifests in not bothering to genuflect to the Blessed Sacrament or bowing to the altar, because ‘I’m sure God doesn’t mind, father!’

To say that God does not mind about these things is simply a denial of the basic tenants of our faith. God minds, because God holds all things in mind. But what is more, if we want to know what God thinks about these issues then we must examine the way in which we know anything at all about God. We know God, and we know what God wants of us because he communicates to us. He speaks to us and he revels himself to us. Revelation, through Sacred Scripture and Tradition as authentically interpreted by the Body of Christ (the Church), tells us what God is like and what he thinks about certain things. With respect to missing Mass on Sunday, it is hard to argue that God does not mind. Enshrined in the Ten Commandments is the Commandment to keep the Sabbath Holy. The Sabbath in Christian tradition becomes the Lord’s Day, the Day of Resurrection. Every Sunday we are first and foremost to celebrate the resurrection of Christ, worship him and appropriate this reality ever more into our lives. The Church teaches us that going to Sunday Mass, (worshipping God for all of one hour a week!) is the absolute bare minimum that we need in order to be able to live the Christian life – we need to do more if we can, but Sunday’s take priority. Furthermore, when Jesus was asked about which was the most important of the Commandments he said; ‘you must love the Lord your God, with all your heart with all you soul and will all your might, and love your neighbour as yourself.’ (Mt 22:37, Lk 10:27, Mk 12:30) The whole of the law, the whole of Christian life hangs on these two commandments, this is what God thinks on the issue! To people who decide freely not to come to Mass on a Sunday but who maintain that they are Catholics and Christians I ask you: How by keeping away from Sunday celebrations are you loving the Lord your God with all your heart your soul and might?

On the point of reverence, the argument runs in parallel fashion: we know how we are supposed to behave and what we are supposed to do because we are told clearly, by Jesus, through the teachings of his Church. The words and example of Jesus himself should be enough. It is notable that the only time the gospels record Jesus as really angry to the point of throwing furniture around is when he drove the money changers out of the temple. The temple was being used for kinds of profane activities and this was simply not good enough, due reverence was not being shown: ‘my house will be called a house of prayer, but you are making it a den of thieves’ Jesus says. (Mt 21:13, Mk 11:17, Lk, 19:45 cf, Jer 7:11)

How ever this phrase is used and whenever this phrase is used it is wrong, because God does mind. He minds because he loves us, he cares for us and interested in us, all of us. God loves us so much that everything we do and everything we are matters. God does mind!

Sunday, 18 August 2019

“That was a lovely Mass Father” Why I never have (and never will) celebrate a lovely Mass!

Not infrequently, as I greet people after Mass I am met with the saying: ‘that was a lovely Mass Father.’ Mostly, I just say thank you.  Sometimes I respond ‘Well, every Mass is lovely’ but usually that is  just met with something like; ‘but that was an especially lovely Mass.’ Most priests are familiar with this phrase and  whilst on one level, I am grateful and pleased that people have had a positive experience of the Mass, on another level  the phrase really grates on me.  Why? What does it mean? What makes some people experience Masses as lovely and others as not?

I guess my big problem is with the word ‘lovely’. Lovely is word I would use to describe a cup of tea, a slice of cake, a time with family and, at a push, a meal out. It is not a word that I would use to describe the source and the summit of the Christian Faith – the Mass.

The Catholic Faith teaches us that the Mass is indeed the source and summit of the Christian Faith. This is a bold statement. The Source: the origin and root of our faith. The Summit: the highest point of our faith. Its not until we get to the nuts and bolts of what is going in Mass that we begin to see how source and summit are indeed the appropriate terms for the Mass.

Firstly, the Mass is a sacrifice.  It is not any old sacrifice, it is the sacrifice of Christ.  At the heart of the Mass is the un-bloody re-presentation of Christ’s eternal sacrifice. This is a point that many Christian's and sadly not a few Catholic’s also don’t understand: The Mass is Christ’s sacrifice but this does not mean that every time Mass is celebrated Christ is re-sacrificed. Christ died on the cross once and for all. The Mass re-presents that one sacrifice. In effect, time and space collapses in the celebration of the Mass and we are present, by the power of the Spirit, at the foot of cross – at Calvary.

Secondly, the Mass is a meal.  It is not just any meal it is the paschal meal: The Last Supper. At every Mass we are not simply playing out events that happened in the past, but we are remembering them in such away as the one event is taken out of the past and experienced in our present. The Mass punches a hole through the fabric of time and space and we are partakers, with the disciples at the Last Supper.

Thirdly, heaven touches earth in the celebration of the Mass. Jesus is truly present to us in the Mass. He is present in his Word proclaimed from the Scriptures, He present in the Priest, He is present in the people gathered and he is most especially present, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity in the Eucharistic species: the bread and wine which is changed into Jesus. In Holy Communion Jesus feeds, us with his very self! We are not just in the presence of God, but God enters our bodies, feeds us and is intimately close to us. At every Mass the King of Kings and Lord of Lord’s comes personally to us to invite us into a deeper share of his divine life. The Mass is indeed the source of our faith because it is the sacrifice of Jesus, it is the summit of the faith because God comes to us. There is no way in this life to be closer to God than to come to Mass, this is why I don’t think ‘lovely’ truly cuts it!

What its more, this happens at every validly celebrated Mass. Every Mass: Ordinary Form or Extraordinary Form, sung or said, High or Low, with two or two million people – every Mass, full stop! To say that one Mass is more lovely than another doe not makes sense! To be fair, what I suspect is really being said is:  ‘I was particularly aware of God’s presence in that Mass Father’, or ‘this Mass was celebrated in such a way that enabled me to really appreciate the awesome mystery it is’ But ‘lovely Mass’ doesn’t really say this.

You see, every Mass is truly lovely, truly beautiful. Christ is present to us in every Mass, the problem is, so often, we are not present to Him!

Whilst appreciate the intended kindness of someone saying ‘lovely Mass Father’ I would love it if people would come out of Mass and say ‘Thank you for Mass, God is awesome’. I don’t believe I have ever offered a lovely Mass and never intend on doing so, an awesome Mass, A beautiful Mass, A glorious Mass perhaps (and that is every Mass!), but a lovely Mass? Just sounds a bit naff to me! 

Thursday, 15 August 2019

Happy Assumption Day....listen to my podcast here:

"The assumption necessarily follows on from fact that God became Man in the  womb of Mary. The fact that Mary’s very body housed God in a physical way meant that her body was truly hallowed and blessed. The corruption of death could not touch her body once life incarnate had filled it. Mary’s body, therefore, was preserved, the Ark of the New covenant is incorruptible as she enters now the heaven of her Son where we one day hope to follow." 

Sunday, 11 August 2019

My problem with ‘traditional’ Catholicism

I am a young Catholic priest; I have been ordained for just over nine years and have been a parish priest for close to a year. I am child of the Second Vatican Council - in so far as Vatican II Roman Catholicism is my primary experience of what it means to be a Catholic. I am in my mid-thirties which means that I was brought up to experience Mass in an average English suburban parish. It is this Post-Vatican II Catholicism that has nourished me, fostered my relationship with Jesus Christ and his Church, and it is in this context that I felt the Lord call me to serve him as his priest.

At seminary I studied, as did we all, the documents of the Second Vatican Council committing many parts of the constitutions (particularly Lumen Gentium and Sacrosanctum Concilium) to memory. In no way would I consider myself an alien to the Second Vatican Council – it is in my blood. This said, this does not mean that I accept every innovation that has occurred since 1969 in the ‘name of Vatican II’. I have studied the Council too-much to know that nowhere, for example, did the Council envisage the ripping out ornate altars, smashing statues and building bland spaces to worship God in. Nor does being a Vatican II Catholic mean never praying the rosary, never using Latin, poo pooing devotions and treating traditional piety with suspicion. Many of these things, happened immediately after the Council (and often in the name of the Council), but you won’t find them sanctioned in any of the documents. I can understand then, that as a reaction to this kind of reductional expression of the faith, a generation would fight back - trying to restore what was lost. The ‘baby’ was indeed ‘thrown out with the bathwater’ in the post Council period.  Here, however, is the problem – those who are reacting today threaten to throw the same ‘baby out with bath water’ by rejecting many of the authentic developments of Vatican II.  

It seems to me that in recent years there has been a rise in people claiming to call themselves ‘traditional Catholics’. The term normally refers to people who prefer (sometimes exclusively) the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite. (Extraordinary Form (EF) refers to the Latin Mass prior to the Missal of Pope St Paul VI often referred to as ‘The Old Mass’ or ‘The Tridentine Mass’.) It also refers to Catholics who prefer the aesthetics of the Mass and Church prior to the Second Vatican Council. (1962-65). What seems to be even more common is the large number of young priests who are coming out of seminary who seem to enjoy wearing biretta’s, dressing in copious amounts of lace, performing as much liturgy as possible in Latin and having a penchant for vestments designed for the EF Mass.

It would be too simple to write these young priests off as eccentric, mad, stupid or stuck in the past. Many of them are good men who have discerned a genuine call to serve God and his people. In the post-Council period it’s fair to say that the priesthood went through something of an identity crisis. Two of the major themes of Vatican II concerned the whole Church as the ‘Pilgrim People of God’ and the renewal of the Episcopate. Notably, what was left off the agenda was anything definitive about priestly identity.  Combine this with the sea of change that happened both from within and from outside the Church in the 60’s and 70’s and it’s not too hard to imagine how we can find ourselves in a situation where people are unclear about what and who the Catholic Priest is. This whole subject of priestly identity is a thesis in itself, but for our purposes it is sufficient to note that the unrest following the council effected the priesthood profoundly.

Move on a few years and a young man who feels called to the priesthood will understandably want to find out everything he can about priesthood and immerse himself in the life of priest. If he does this what role models does he have? What images can be found? If he is to  be inspired, then much of  the inspiration will be drawn from pre-Vatican II sources - quite frankly because there is nineteen hundred and fifty years of material to draw from prior to Vatican II! Furthermore, if no firm model of priesthood and few inspiring models of priesthood were held up by the Church following the 1970’s then it is unsurprising that a young man could very easily revert to a pre-Conciliar model of priesthood?  

Humans need identity and they need to express that identity. Ultimately our identity should be in Christ, but a person will express multiple facets of identity at any one time. If man is a priest, he will need to express that identity in various ways.  For some men, who are still discovering what priesthood means for them, (and in the absence of a favourable alternative) they seem to express their identity in traditional Catholic dress.

Having said all this, I am becoming more and more concerned at the incongruity of so called ‘traditional Catholics’ and ‘traditional Catholic priests’, whatever the argument, put simply, it’s all just a bit weird! I’m all for wearing clerical dress and visible signs of our faith, but in most cases (and in our own country) a grown man walking down the high street wearing essentially a black dress and large brimmed hat, to me just seems bonkers. It doesn’t mean anything to most people, and it doesn’t proclaim the gospel anymore than walking down the street in a hippo outfit would. If anything, it risks presenting the Church as odd, archaic and out of touch. Don’t get me wrong, its not that I think we should not be counter-cultural.  Nor do I think that wearing a cassock is always wrong (I have three!), but dressing like Fr Brown for daily business is, in my opinion, unlikely to win souls.

My biggest problem, however, with ‘traditional Catholicism’ is the name and underlying philosophy. You see, I have a confession to make: I am a traditional Catholic. I am a traditional Catholic because I am a Catholic. You cannot be a Catholic and not be traditional. The Catholic faith is built on Apostolic tradition. Part of being a Catholic means that you have received the faith and you in turn will play a part in handing that faith on. (Traditio (Latin) means to hand on.) The tradition is a living dynamic reality, handed on by the Church which is guided and animated by the Holy Spirit. The Church’s tradition is not static and dead but always developing under the guidance of her pastors and under the authority of the magisterium and the Vicar of Christ: The Pope. Those who try and portion off Church history and treat certain epochs as ideals or as ‘golden ages’, those who try and drive a wedge between pre-Conciliar and post-Conciliar Catholicism, those who attempt to politicise Papacies and talk about conservatives and liberals are not being truly Catholic and they are certainly not ‘traditional!’

I firmly believe that to be a Catholic is to be part of a beautifully rich living and dynamic tradition. We should not be afraid of development but nor should we be afraid of the past. We certainly should not wed ourselves to an age that no longer exists.  As members of the living Body of Christ we must seek communion and be willing to see the continuity that exists between Councils and Popes. Most of all we should, not allow ourselves to be distracted by nonsense but always have our eyes and our hearts fixed firmly on Jesus Christ who is our way, our truth and our life.

Homily Podcast: Are we ready for the Lord?

Listen to the most recent episode of my podcast: Homily for 19th Sunday Year C

Wednesday, 7 August 2019

Ordinary Grace - The Joy of Baptism

When someone is seriously ill and is in danger of death, the normal process for Christian initiation is dispensed with and any priest can Baptise, Confirm and receive someone into the Catholic Church. Yesterday evening I had the great privilege of doing exactly this for my step-grandfather, Ian. He is sadly, extremely unwell and we are not sure how long he has left. He was very emotional yet a deep joy and peace settled over the three of us (My grandmother, Ian and I) as we began the sacramental celebration.
 It was a strange going back to Peterborough hospital. Just over eight years ago, I rushed to the hospital from Norwich to be at the death bed of my paternal grandfather. One of the most beautiful and powerful moments of my priesthood was experienced that night as I anointed him and, gathered with my grandmother, father, auntie and uncle, we prayed my grandfather through his final journey to God. The parallels were not lost on me: I was heading to the same hospital, rushing across the diocese to see another grandfather and to minister to him, this time, however, was also different.   Apart from not driving through a snowstorm, I knew that Ian’s situation was slightly different. Ian and I had talked at various points over the years about his desire to become a Catholic. In recent years Ian, however, had suffered from dementia and struggled with deafness so it was difficult to envisage how he could join a traditional RCIA programme and prepare for baptism. Not being his parish priest, and not sure how to proceed, I confess to not being overly proactive in doing anything about it. Partly because I wasn’t sure how serious he was and partly because, as a busy parish priest, I live away from family and I don’t see them as much as I should.  

Image result for sacrament of the sick

It is with great joy and relief that God granted me the grace to baptise Ian. As he resolutely and enthusiastically professed his faith in Jesus and his Church he seemed to gain strength and peace. God works with what he’s got! Through the faith of my grandmother, mother, and I, God has reached Ian, and for that I am truly thankful. 

Reflecting on this experience, one is struck by both the ordinariness and extraordinariness of God’s grace in the sacraments. If you were an onlooker looking in, the whole affair would seem very mundane if not a bit archaic: a few words were said, water was poured, hands were laid in prayer, oil was used for anointing and what looked like bread was consumed. Yet what occurred in these ancient gestures, handed on and administered by the Church in the name of Christ was anything but mundane. New and divine life poured through Ian, yesterday as he was regenerated in the waters in baptism. He was strengthened and sealed with the Holy Spirit and nourished by the Bread of Life as Jesus entered him in Holy Communion. Yesterday evening my step-grandfather became part of the Catholic Church, he was grafted onto the Body of Christ and became a member of the People of God. He enjoys a relationship that cannot be destroyed by death, indeed our prayer is that as he died in with Christ in the waters of Baptism, he will share with Christ in the joy of his resurrection. 

The sacraments are not simple rituals or gestures but privileged moments of grace. The transformation that took part in Ian was tangible and the atmosphere at the end of our visit significantly different to that at the beginning. Sometimes I think, even for a priest, it takes moments like this to remind ourselves of the power of sacraments and the great gift of the priesthood. 

Yet we shouldn’t be surprised that God works through the apparent ordinariness of the sacraments. It’s basically his M.O! Two thousand years ago God became Man as Jesus Christ. People then, as they do now, failed to recognise the glory and power of God, they could not see past the sublime humanity of Jesus. If people passed the stable in Bethlehem, what did they see? The God who keeps all thing in being or a teenage mother and a newborn baby? In fact, for thirty years or so of Jesus, by all accounts, lived an ordinary life. Even during the three years of his earthly ministry, few if any people truly recognised that Jesus was God made man. Few people knew then as now that when they saw Jesus they saw the fullness of God, who loved them, created them, and sustained them. Jesus’ very earthly life was one that combined the ordinary with the extraordinary.  Only with eyes of faith does the ‘veil lift’ and we see the glory of God. The word become flesh and dwelt amongst us (Jn 1:14) Eternity and time, Word and Spirit, Glory and Flesh coincide in the person of Jesus Christ. The incarnation – the en-fleshment of God, is God’s way of working, and the sacraments are a continuation of this profound and beautiful truth. 

Today is the 7th August 2019, Ian has been a Catholic for a day now, please pray for him, my grandmother and my family as he continues his journey in this life in the joyful hope of being with God in the next.