Father Ed's Blog

A Catholic priest reflects…

Month: March 2015 (Page 1 of 2)

Tuesday of Holy Week

The Gospel today brings into focus the betrayal of Judas. Why did Judas betray him? After witnessing miracles, healings, the profound love, the  teaching- how could he do such a thing? How did his faith grow so cold as to lead him to choose the agenda of the world at the cost of estrangement from God?

Some have tried to argue Judas is misunderstood. That he was only trying to help Jesus believing the arrest would gain Jesus a fair hearing in court. Poor Judas made an error of judgment, he got it hopelessly wrong. But if true- why the 30 pieces of silver? No something more sinister than blunder is at work here.

Others argue Judas betrayed Jesus as part of a cunning plan. He was doing what Jesus required. They suggest the line ‘what you must do – do it quickly’ proves they were both in on it. Judas following orders for the sake of redemption. But if true- why the suicide? It will not do. Arguments like these are bunkum. We cannot get Judas off the hook.

The fact is Satan entered his heart. That is what scripture and tradition teach. He gave in to evil. He lost his faith. He turned from Christ. Chose the agenda of self over God. And this led to the destruction and chaos and to his loss of everything.

An unsettling truth for believers, which is why we create silly theories to soften the blow. It is uncomfortable to dwell upon Judas because, deep down, we could so easily be him. At times we are him! And if an apostle could fall so low – why be surprised when certain Cardinals today seem to have lost their zeal? When certain priests have brought such scandal on the church? When so many do put worldly agenda over fidelity.

We are, all of us weak and prone to sin. We only need to stop seeking grace, only need to drift a bit, and we cease to be children of Christ and  become children of this world. The honest Christian knows- nominalism and half hearted Christianity- this is the disease of Judas. And it remains a temptation to us all. For we delight in striving for the material silver of this world not the spiritual gold of the kingdom. And thus we repeatedly hang ourselves on trees of pathetic despair and self destruction.

Could Judas have saved himself even after this? Yes. I believe he could. If Judas had only trusted in the power of confession, if he had opted for the way of the prodigal son, he could yet have survived this. His greatest sin then was not betraying Jesus but losing all faith in the power of God’s mercy. Just a three day wait could have saved his soul!

And note that his deep regret and sorrow for his sins did not bring redemption. Only love of God and trust in his mercy can do that. the restoration of our relationship with him. But he no longer believed. Either in God, in forgiveness or in himself. Thank goodness others were different…

There exists an Eastern Orthodox Icon depicting two women embracing. One is Mary Mother of Jesus- she embraces the mother of Judas. For despite the pain Judas had caused her, Mary understands both women lost a child that day. And Mary realises that bitterness and hatred are not the answer. In forgiving Judas and his family, Our Lady brings healing on herself. She remains close to the will of the Father. She mirrors the other way to which we all must cleave. No matter what you have done- it is never too late to return to God via healthy confession and trust in the power of his mercy.

Monday of Holy Week

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Today’s Gospel recounts how Mary of Bethany tenderly anointed Jesus’ feet with expensive perfume; an act of loving devotion. Her behaviour scandalised Judas who felt the money would have been better spent on the poor. But Jesus chastised Judas explaining that Mary was in tune with grace. In fact she had just, unwittingly but necessarily, prepared his body for burial. Whereas his social concern was just a mask to cover his dwindling faith, his love for Christ was growing cold.

This text speaks powerfully to the 21st Century Church. For we live in an era when many, inside the Church and without, seem to value faith more for its social action than for any real devotion to Christ or fidelity to his word. Hence they are content with cheap ugly worship spaces despite living in lavish homes themselves. What matters is only what is done in the world and not within the sanctuary of God.

I wonder if many of those pushing for change in the teaching of the Church are like Judas. A people whose love of Jesus has grown cold to the point where a worldly agenda and political crusade now fuels their understanding of faith? Hence they seek relevance not to the scriptures or the teaching of the Church in all ages but rather to the thinking of the day as espoused by political elites. Could they do with spending time at the feet of Jesus simply worshipping him as Lord?

Charity will not be lost when such an exercise is undertaken. In fact it will be strengthened. It was not Judas’ concern for the poor which landed him in trouble. Jesus shared that concern. His  folly was in pretending that good works alone could paper over the cracks in his relationship with God. But far from holding him within the Church he no longer believed in, he actually became it’s enemy. His lack of faith leading him to work against God. A salutary warning to all who stop listening to his call.

Contrast this with Mary whose heart burst with love for Jesus. A love which led to subconscious actions that proved to be on message with the unfolding drama of Holy Week. Because she was close to Christ she was drawn into his life, his mission and his purpose on earth. It was her faith that held her close to Christ, close to the church and part of God’s plan.

At a time when the Church is strained by competing ideologies we do well to ask a simple but revealing question. Do your priorities in life and faith suggest adherence to Jesus Christ and his Gospel? Or do they suggest an adherence to the thinking of this world? Have you lost sight of Jesus?  Has your love for him  grown cold? Remember it is never too late to fall on your knees and rekindle that relationship. To return to his fold and be his. And this goes for us all, from the most recent convert in the pews to bishops and Cardinals too! All can love Jesus and all can lose that love as well. Our relationship with Christ is not a static thing- we have to work on it each day lest we lost sight of our goal and begin to work against him.

Palm Sunday

Today is Palm Sunday and the beginning of Holy Week. Today we recall in our liturgy and devotions the moment when Jesus entered Jerusalem on a donkey and was greeted by crowds of cheering, expectant people. A crowd that would soon turn on him and delight in his bloody execution. The significance of Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a donkey, and having his way paved with crowds waving palm branches, is a fulfillment of a prophecy spoken by the prophet Zechariah (Zech 9:9).

In Jesus’ day palm waving indicated that a great military leader was arriving in triumph. So the occupied people of the ancient city of Jerusalem were demonstrating a deep desire that Jesus should lead a mighty revolution and overthrow the Roman enemy. Of course Jesus did come to overcome an enemy, but it was not an earthly or political enemy.

And because his triumph would be over sin and death, a spiritual and not a worldly revolution, he disappointed the crowds. He did not deliver what the myopic crowd anticipated. And we begin to perceive why they so quickly turned against him. What a flop he must have seemed to those wanting violence on the streets. What a disappointment to those hungering for political revolution. If only they could have seen the truth. That this was God himself liberating his people from sin and death, a means to reconcile justice and mercy.

And it is highly significant that Christ came riding on a donkey, for the donkey was a symbol of peace; those who rode them proclaimed peaceful intentions. On Palm Sunday Jesus quite wilfully refuses to take the option of power and violence choosing love and humility instead. An example we should follow in life -seeking to live in peace and not violence, love and not hatred.

Happy birthday Tom

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Tom Davis is a member of Saint Anselm’s who entered the Catholic Church via the first wave of the Ordinariate. An able musician he not only sings in the choir at the 9:15am Mass but also stays on to play the organ, cantor and organise music for our 11am Mass. As deputy Director of Music he is greatly appreciated.

This evening he celebrates his birthday with a meal in town. I am babysitting but Hayley is there to present him with these wonderful spectacles she made and send me the photo! A happy birthday Tom and sincere thanks for all you do.

To recede or to proceed?

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When Jesus began his earthly ministry it led to change in the life and ministry of John the Baptist, who stated “I must recede that he may proceed”. This humble desire to sacrifice self became a foundational aspect of Episcopal life. So that the Pope even abandons his own name when elected. A new name is chosen for the life they will live solely for Christ and his Church.

This week I watched with fascination as the Church of England elected a new Anglican bishop designatethe wife of another Anglican bishop if you can believe it! And I was surprised at how the whole notion of the Episcopacy was downplayed in favour of personality. The Anglican Archbishop of York spoke like a child “yippee, yippee” (It gets funnier with each viewing!) Whilst Mr. and Mrs. Anglican Bishop said nothing whatsoever about the office they hold, about Christ, his church or the Gospel. Instead they jape about football and insist, “First and foremost we are just Frank and Alison” Really? Would the Queen say “first and foremost I am just Lizzie?!” 

I have no knowledge of Frank or Alison. They look like nice people. Doubtless they have the credentials the Church of England seeks in its ministers. I wish them well. But that video struck me as revelatory. Which is to say it showed us the fruit of modernist revisionism. Something which doesn’t just affect Anglicanism but every denomination and ecclesial situation where liberal values dominate. The result is faith dumbed down and secularised to the point of becoming ordinary. Christ recedes, self proceeds.

And to demonstrate this post is not centred on Anglican bashing but modernist bashing – I direct you to a thoughtful article on Fr. Longenecker’s blog in which he concludes that the abuse crisis in the Catholic church is itself a symptom of modernism. Yes all Christendom is enduring this crisis which could prove the undoing of many ecclesial communities, especially those lacking the safeguard of the magisterium. Pray the Catholic Church stands firm, for it too is battered and bruised and finds itself attacked by the very people who ought to defend it- its bishops, priests and people. An assault from within not without.

Loss of beauty

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Visit an ancient English Cathedral, most of which were constructed when England flourished as a Catholic nation under God, and you will see stunning tombs created by our forefathers to honour the departed. The one above is of King Henry IV and below is a tomb found in Worcester Cathedral. There are many other fine examples of these beautiful monuments.

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My favourite (below) is in Norwich Cathedral, if only because I went to school there and looked on it frequently as a child. It is, I am sure most would agree, a treasure. Even if the tombs there were defaced by the reformers. You can still see  bullet holes and broken noses on the statues. How like Isis those reformers behaved when they marauded through this land putting people to the sword and destroying our heritage. But at least much survived which we value today.

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What a travesty then, leaving aside the the political discussion of where he should have been buried, that the tomb now given to King Richard III is so unbelievably ugly. A sterile soulless slab – so evocative of the current age- that lacks any sense of dignity, beauty, faith or devotion. Is it not an absolute eyesore? Even I could have designed something better than that!! 0/10 for whoever came up with this one. And to think it most probably cost a fortune…

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Whatever happened to tolerance?

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This weekend an ugly scene took place at a hostelry in Kent. Nigel Farage, leader of the UKIP party, was dining with his family when a group opposed to his views descended on the pub and delighted in acting aggressively towards his family, including his young children. One then took to Twitter rejoicing in the mischievous publicity stunt.

The episode left a bad taste in my mouth and it has nothing to do with the political leanings of Farage or his detractors.  (Readers of this blog will know I feel disillusioned with all parties at present due to none valuing my Catholic faith). No, what troubled me was the protest itself. Because it smacks of a growing intolerance one detects within modern society. Where healthy respect for one’s opponent in life has diminished. It is as if we no longer value tolerance- which is deeply ironic given how that very word is bandied about by the new intolerants- those upholding the State religion of secular political correctness.  For them you have two choices. Sign up to their “truths” or be persecuted.

Consider Dolce and Gabbana, who admitted this week to upholding the traditional view that children are best served raised by mum and dad. An opinion that raised eyebrows because they happen to be gay. It was not enough for Elton John and the media luvvies to say they disagree and promote a different belief. That is to speak up for their view whilst tolerating the view of Dolce and Gabbana. No, they had to lash out hysterically even calling on people to stop buying D & G fashion items. That is to say they felt it would be acceptable to put Dolce and Gabbana out of business simply for daring to believe something different regarding children’s welfare. What is that but deep intolerance?

And there have been countless other stories like this in recent years. Nurses sacked for offering to pray with patients, florists and bakers put out of business for refusing to embrace the innovation of same sex marriage, etc, etc. All instances of deep intolerance from a new political class that will brook no views in life but their own. Who would push to the margins people of faith and those of a different political hue. That alarms me. That is not the Britain I know.

Back then to the deplorable treatment meted out to Nigel Farage. I happen to think people should be free to resist him firmly. They should have every right to  disagree with him publicly and vote for another. But what they surely do not have is the right to frighten his children and behave like thugs in the pub.So again we witness that intolerance which should cause any true libertarian to shudder. And it needs nipping in the bud before it turns into something even more ugly because even the flimsiest knowledge of history will tell us that such narrow intolerance always leads to unacceptible violence and suffering.

Quite simply we must rediscover our Christian values. Those that helped us understand why we should learn to live alongside people we profoundly disagree with. Be it Nigel Farage, Polly Toynbee- or any other!

Guest preacher

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I have a strong devotion to Saint Barnabas for several reasons. Firstly  because he was a great Saint whose courage, enthusiasm and zeal helped many find a welcome in the church. Most notably St. Paul. Secondly because I served at a Church under his patronage when in the Church of England- meaning I sent many a petition his way. But also because it was the Saint Barnabas Society who cared for my family in those crazy uncertain days between life as an Anglican minister and life as a Catholic priest.

This Sunday we have a guest preacher at Mass. Not Saint Barnabas – an appearance beyond my capability- but Father Richard Biggerstaff. He is the current director of the Saint Barnabas Society- our parish charity during Lent this year. And with good reason. For having supported me until ordination into the Catholic church, the society is now caring for Father Jack and his family. And there are plenty of others. The Ordinariate having placed a great burden on the resources of this charity which exists to help clergy and religious who desire to enter into unity with Rome.

So please bring some paper with a portrait of the Queen with you on Sunday as we will be taking a special collection at both services. You can also continue to donate via the special alms box which is situated on front of the sacrament throughout all penitential seasons.

Welcome to the Catholic Church

Healing society

I recently re-watched the film “Into the Wild”. Based on real life tragedy it tells the story of a young man, Christopher Mcandless, who battling mental illness set out on a journey of discovery. Disillusioned and hungry for purpose in life he dropped out of society with devastating consequences. It is one of those atmospheric and thought provoking films that stays with you long after the credits roll.

The film has a stunning sound track composed by Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam. And if you listen carefully to the song above, you will hear the heartfelt disillusionment of the protagonist. A bright but troubled  man who questioned what the point of Western Society was beyond the accruing of wealth. As the song puts it:

It’s a mystery to me. We have a greed with which we have agreed. And you think you have to want more than you need. Until you have it all, you won’t be free… Society, you’re a crazy breed I hope you’re not lonely without me

The striking thing about Mcandless, was this. He might have made stupid decisions. He might have suffered mental illness and anguish skewing his ability to reason. He may have been failed by those who could and should have helped more. But his premise was sound. His thinking clear in one regard.

Western Society has lost its purpose. Not only its moral compass, but  entire vision. Which begs huge questions that go unanswered whenever we are sucked into dancing to its tune. But those questions remain regardless becoming the cause of all the angst, confusion and destructiveness of our current age.  Witness the breakdown of the family, the industrial slaughter of the unborn, the massive rise in use of anti-depressants. None of which speaks of inner joy.

When did we lose our Christian vision? The one centred on the dignity of life? When were the foundations of the West, built on Judeo-Christian values, pulled down? And what are we putting in its place? What are we becoming in this sterile post- Christian landscape we inhabit? That is the major question as we ponder the twin threats of violent Islam and the new intolerant secularism. Neither of which values life or the freedom of personal beliefs.

For me the answer is simple. The Society which flourished and found  freedom in pursuit of Christian goals, will not again flourish or be free until it rediscovers its goals and central vision. The parasitic leaders of the present may delight in claiming intellectual supremacy over the church but what do they actually offer? The national debt spirals out of control, banks are emptied and little of the nations wealth finds its way back to the roots. Little wonder- for there is no longer a vision to feed- a goal for the future of the West- only a greed to fill personal pensions and pockets at the cost of the community.

All of which is to say that the cannibalistic self destruction of the Christian West – which we currently witness- is profoundly bad news.  Not only for Christians but for all who value freedom and peace. And the longer we ignore the big questions at the heart of modern society  the darker our short term future becomes. We must do something about it.

Which, for those of us who are Christians necessitates prioritising our faith and getting serious about mission and evangelisation. We can no longer afford to be CINOS (Catholics in name only) we need to rediscover our missionary zeal and get real about re-evangelising a nation that has lost its way. And we can only do that if, like McAndless, we dare step aside from the Society we inhabit and refuse to dance to its tune.

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