ST. KIERAN - CATHOLIC CHURCH, CAMPBELTOWN
Advent - His coming - let us prepare ourselves

Daily reflections

by Anthony Wood 17 Dec, 2017

“there stands among you – unknown to you – the one who is coming after me; and I am not fit to undo his sandal-strap.”

When a person believes that he is great just the way he is, that everything he achieves is due to his merit, he stops acknowledging God, and also thanking Him for the gifts received. In time he may recognise that he no longer needs God. However, when he then fails, makes a mistake, or experiences rejection he will remain in his own sadness and despair alone.

John the Baptist fully accepts the advent of Christ. He has no regret that his popularity may fade, that his disciples may leave to go with Jesus. Even when he has the chance to “shine” before the priests and Levites and acknowledge that he is a prophet like Elijah, he denies it. What’s more he directs all their attention to Jesus who is coming – the Messiah. Before Him he sets himself as lower than a slave, whose job was to undo the sandals of his master. Only a humility such as this can lead to complete joy. And not just when at the peak of fame, when successful, but also when you have get off the pedestal and let another finish the work you started.

by Anthony Wood 16 Dec, 2017

God speaks to us in various ways. He doesn’t always do it in the same way. Each of us has a different sensitivity, we each get something different. God knows us perfectly and knows in what way to speak to our hearts. Communication is a process, for which two are necessary. If we do not engage in it, then we may be like the Israelites who failed to recognise the arrival of Elijah. Alas, not only him, they did recognise the coming of the Son of God himself. Are we able to recognise Him? He comes to us many times. How many times do we miss Him, not even suspecting He is close by? An encounter with God with all its extraordinariness is not at all something unusual. He desires to be with us constantly. The Kingdom of God is after all among us (cf. Lk 17:21). We can now taste the joy of an encounter with Him. He is among us. Our task is to allow to transform us in a way which makes us able to encounter Him.

Lord, purify us, so that we will be able to see Your closeness and desire to remain in it.

by Anthony Wood 15 Dec, 2017

“Happy indeed is the man who follows not the counsel of the wicked; nor lingers in the way of sinners . . . .” so good in theory. What about in practice? Are we happy? Do we see our happiness this way, that it is those “whose delight is the law of the Lord and who ponders his law day and night”?

So why is there so much disappointment, frustration, testing, or good deeds which don’t come off? Have we already forgotten that is the Lord God who has the last word and judgement? Why are we constantly looking for confirmations – for our road, our decisions, leaving ourselves the gate open (so that we can . . . ).

It won’t be easy. Really, it will not be easy. But what other way is there for us Christians – chosen by God and choosing God? In the way of the wicked I am lost. In the way of the just God is known.

Prayer

Lord, open my eyes and ears to Your Word, and set in my heart courage to trust Your wisdom.

Jesus, true Divine Wisdom, help me to recognise the time of Your visitation and guide my footsteps to follow the way of Your wisdom.

by Anthony Wood 13 Dec, 2017

But those who hope in the Lord renew their strength,

they put out wings like eagles.

They run and do not grow weary,

walk and never tire.

It’s possible to see in holiness different aspects. Each of us come to it in our own individual and unique way. The holy, despite difficulties, misunderstanding, rejection above all trust in God, because through great humility they were wholly committed to Him. The prophet Isaiah today encourages us to have confidence. Trust, despite not understanding the events that come to meet us, even if their meaning remains undiscovered to the end.

Only the humble person, aware of their sinfulness, who knows the inadequacy of their spiritual life, can trust in this way despite everything. This humility and trusting leads to holiness. The desire to be praised, to be noticed and admired leads to holiness for show. This can be dangerous – especially for me – because it wounds Jesus if it is not for His praise but mine that speak. When I bend the truth so that I will not be disliked. Do I change my attitude if I fear my faith may be laughed at? Am I afraid of admitting I love Jesus? Fearing rejection and misunderstanding. Could Jesus be denied because my pride stops me from trusting completely?

In today’s gospel we hear Jesus addressing all those who carry heavy burdens, which is all of us at some time. He doesn’t say he will remove those burdens, solve all our burdens, explain everything. But He does promise to refresh us.

When I lack trust, feel threatened, or over-burdened, all I need do is make a sincere appeal to Jesus at any time. I will always emerge from such prayer refreshed and more capable, because He promised.

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by Anthony Wood 11 Dec, 2017

God forgiving sins is for us sometimes incomprehensible, uncomfortable. Because what precisely does this mean – he forgave? Our worldly standards are entirely different, let’s admit it, and the hardness of our hearts or the complicated relationships with others also don’t make things easier. Or do we decide to believe God, listen to His word full of power – this is a matter of our decision, our choice.

“Your sins are forgiven you” – “See the king, the Lord of the world, will come. He will free us from the yoke of bondage.”

The one who fell, lifts himself up. The one who was dependent on others, acts independently. The one stuck in a dead place – goes home.

by Anthony Wood 06 Dec, 2017

The mindset of Jesus in the teaching on the Sea of Galilee, when He heals the sick and feeds the hungry, teaches that Christians should not separate themselves from commitment to this world. He Himself responds in very specific to this need, which is written in our physical condition. The human being is one and any contradiction of the spiritual and physical sphere in us is unchristian. An ancient truth of Christianity says that grace builds on nature. If we forget this, then it will be difficult for us to see spiritual progress. Spiritualism is as unchristian as materialism. Each of us is called to build an internal harmony between what is physical and what is spiritual.

The Eucharist has been described as the "gift that heals," because in this sacrament, Jesus fills us His with strength, patience, endurance, hope, forgiveness, and renewed life in the Holy Spirit. He comes to us spiritually and physically. He showed us that separating the spirit and body means death, and that their glorious reunion is resurrection . . . . . He took our brokenness, that He might make us whole.

Prayer

Lord Jesus, You teach us to unite the reality of spiritual and material so that we can experience the peace there is in this harmony, whose perfect example is You yourself.

by Anthony Wood 05 Dec, 2017

“I bless you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth for hiding these things from the learned and clever and revealing them to mere children.” (Lk 10:21)

Today’s Gospel teaches us that one of the most important things to which we are called in our spiritual lives is awaking the child in us. This is not about being infantile or cheap sentimentalism. Each of us is called to this, that with the Grace of God we are born anew and form in ourselves an unlimited trust in God, the sort of trust in which a child, without fear entrusts himself to his parents. Only crossing this, as it may appear, simple boundary may result in the beginning of the true road leading to knowing God. He desires to reveal Himself to each of us and constantly seeks ways to reach us. Unfortunately, we are too often shut up in the chill of rationalism and don’t manage to open our eyes long enough so as to see Him. He doesn’t hide Himself from us, but if we do not renew in ourselves trust in Him, if we avoid understanding that the basis of our Christianity is the Divine childhood received in baptism, then it will be difficult for us to constantly hold Him in our spiritual sight.

Prayer

Lord, help us to keep You in sight everyday and to renew and build our truth in You. Let everything which is now an obstacle to knowing You, thanks to Your Grace, serve our development.

by Anthony Wood 01 Dec, 2017

How true it is, that we have reason, use it every day, and yet sometimes would prefer not to have it. Prefer not to understand. Then our consciences would be able to be calmed. Since I don’t understand the call, how can I follow him. Isn’t this a good excuse? Jesus exposes it in one word. Hypocrites! Someone understands, only they don’t want to understand. Refuse to repent, refuse to follow the way, and yet don’t have the courage to say: I refuse. And digs in, blind, in one place . . .

But the time comes closer. The time to strike is ending. Today Jesus says: open your eyes. You could miss what the key is. You could lose everything.

Open your eyes. Today. Because the kingdom of God is near . . .

by Anthony Wood 29 Nov, 2017

This passage of the Gospel reminds me of the figure of Samson, whose hair was cut and he became helpless. Jesus assures us today that not one of our hairs on our heads will be lost. In this He is not saying that that we will not be persecuted, that we will lose nothing, that we will be able to rescue everything and always be happy. He wants to tell us by this that we will always have the strength to fight, even if that fight is momentous. Of course it’s about our spirit and preserving faith. In this we will not lack the strength if we trust Jesus Christ. The Master does promise that we will always win and that nothing will be lost in this fight. Jesus promises that He will be our strength and that He will fight in us and this is our encouragement. A hair of ours will not be lost, means we will not lose strength like Samson, we will always be the strength of God. Would that we discover within us each day this strength of Jesus.

Prayer

Lord, we so fear being criticised for Your sake, being ridiculed and rejected by the world. Give us love and power and unwavering faith. We want courage and strength drawn only from You.

by Anthony Wood 28 Nov, 2017

While you were gazing, a stone broke away, untouched by any hand, and struck the statue, struck its feet of iron and earthenware and shattered them. And then, iron and earthenware, bronze, silver, gold all broke into small pieces as fine as chaff on the threshing-floor in summer. The wind blew them away, leaving not a trace behind. And the stone that had struck the statue grew into a great mountain, filling the whole earth.

The dream of Nebuchadnezzar, interpreted by Daniel . . . and an eternal message. We can add: equally eternally unacceptable. Because now we have great powers. Wealth. Authorities. Strength. We look on them as a great statue of gold, silver and iron, bewildered by its size and power. We don’t manage to see the fragility of this temporary power. A brittleness that will one day make it fall into ruins. Add will be nothing, of no use for greatness nor power.

We look at the power. We feel dazed. Fascinated. Admiration. Jealousy, if it is not ours. Pride, if it defines us. Terror, if it threatens us. And we entirely fail to see that of what we look on not a single stone will be left on another: everything will be destroyed. How could that be? Who could threaten us? Who could be victorious?

So many powers of this world have passed. So many overthrown by weak people. And yet we still believe in gold, silver and iron, forgetting history. Continuing to forget that in the hand of God is that stone, who is able to sweep away everything when the time of iniquity is completed.

Someone’s. Mine.

Take care not to be deceived . . . .

by Anthony Wood 27 Nov, 2017

A person who possesses something and thinks ‘this something I can give to God’, expecting gratitude, makes himself someone more important than God. A very similar situation occurs in our lives when we obviously fast, conspicuously go the church, are overtly praying, or when we obviously do not break some commandment or do something good with the conviction that I am better than other people, and also, that God should be deeply grateful to me for what I have done for Him. Then a person looks down on God, and God looks up at the rich man who throws his money into the treasury thinking to Himself: ‘This is our beloved God!’ God then thinks: Oh! My dear children, you are so full of pride, but even so I love you very much!

Prayer

Lord, make my heart very simple so that I can trust You to the end and entrust my whole being to Your hands. You are the defender of the widow and the guardian of the orphan. Do not leave me but lead me always to You.

by Anthony Wood 26 Nov, 2017

“Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you; or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and make you welcome; naked and clothe you; sick or in prison and go to see you?”

A moving question. Especially from the mouths of the blessed. Because here they stand before the Lord with empty hands, and He sees in their lives much that is good. Good which was perhaps a bit too obvious, to be called goodness. Good which was so natural that they did not even notice they were doing it. Well, there stood before a person who was in need of help . . . They didn’t see in them the face of their Lord. They didn’t see their see in their gesture in the category of a good deed. They simply saw the person. Only and until . . .

But the King sees.

Maybe those who deserved the words “with your curse upon you” so sought the Lord, that against His greatness no one else seemed worthy of being noticed. They could not – in the wounded, the hungry, the sick – see them wearing His Holy Face, the King’s Crown, the roughest diamond in gold. He could not, therefore, be in that person, full of sin. He could not be present . . .

They forgot that He Himself said “I shall rescue them from wherever they have been scattered during the mist and darkness. I myself will pasture my sheep, I myself will show them where to rest – it is the Lord who speaks. I shall look for the lost one, bring back the stray, bandage the wounded and make the weak strong. I shall watch over the fat and healthy.”

There isn’t any person who God would lose sight of. There isn’t any He would not seek out if lost. We must not forget them, condemn them as lost or smitten by God, and afflicted and despised and rejected .

But He despises no one, no one is rejected by Him. It is He who allowed Himself to be despised for our sake.

And until He returns in glory, let’s not forget this.

by Anthony Wood 21 Nov, 2017

The situation in the Gospel today is exactly the opposite from that which took place on Golgotha. Jesus died for sinners on a tree, in Jericho a sinner desires to catch sight of Jesus, ultimately finding life, because Jesus is Life. Maybe the Lord, when He looked up, felt a little like those people, who would stand beneath His cross. When Jesus looked up, He saw Zacchaeus on the tree and exactly like His Father, Who wept at the death of His Son, so Jesus wept at Zacchaeus crucified by his own sins, his own iniquity, and had pity on him. In order to be saved, we would have to be like Jesus, to Jesus on the tree, Jesus crucified.

Lord, You want today to stop at my home. Heal the eyes of my heart, so that I would be able to see Your presence in my brothers and sisters and accepting them, be open to your presence. Let salvation appear today in my concern and my neighbours.

by Anthony Wood 19 Nov, 2017

Jesus told his disciples this parable: “A man on his way abroad […] summoned his servants and entrusted his property to them. To one he gave five talents, to another two, to a third one; each in proportion to his ability. Then he set out.” Jesus clearly shows, that God does give His gifts to everyone equally. And this is not because He is unjust or that on is like more than another. Each has as much as they need to meaningfully, and even beautifully live. We often, in our daily lives, focus on how much we have, how mush we have received, and most of our energy goes on comparing ourselves to others, do they have more, or do they have less. After all our energy and time is owed to the development of what we have received. Only then are we able to achieves fullness (actualisation). What counts is the fullness, to which we have all been called. And fullness is happiness of holiness. To the joy of the Lord come the servant, who with gratitude, care and commitment engages with the gifts received. The barren servant is one who wastes energy comparing gift and talents.

by Anthony Wood 18 Nov, 2017

Every person has in their life some issue, in which they are totally helpless – in which only God can help.

Sometimes it’s a serious illness, sometimes unemployment. It’s persecution, war and other injustices and childhood wounds, which has person experienced. Because human commitment is not always enough, nor efforts to be assertive.

Today, Jesus asks me what I would do in such a situation: “Do you patiently and faithfully come to Me? Do you constantly seek from Me help, comfort and being heard?

The Israelites saw incredible miracles, and yet they turned from God. They turn from Him, when they had it good, when they “didn’t need” God.

Maybe I, too, remember Him only when I need Him?

Maybe in times of success I forget about being grateful and to Whom I owe this time of peace and grace?

The best prayer in times of a lack of faith and hope in difficult situations is to immerse yourself in thanksgiving, when I keep before my eyes all the good I have received from God.

How God must be saddened and hurt by my forgetfulness . . . .

“I stand at the door and knock; if any one hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.” (Rev 3:20)

by Anthony Wood 17 Nov, 2017

“Naturally stupid are all men who have not known God.”

Where is the Lord God and how can you know Him? After all He is invisible . . . Logical reasoning, often quite arduous, does not always brings results. And besides, it’s not always accessible to everyone. All that’s needed is one simple glance, so as to see the beauty of the world, its order or cycles of seasons. This all speaks in a comprehensible language, opening a person to the greatness and beauty of the Creator.

For everyone there is access to a simple knowing. Through it, as the book of Wisdom reminds us: “the grandeur and beauty of creatures we may . . . contemplate their Author.” Among the everyday bustle it is worth looking at this special “book of nature” and to see it even from the perspective of an evening walk in fresh air.
by Anthony Wood 16 Nov, 2017

Is there a difference between a wise person and an educated person?

You can have a lot of knowledge, you can have diplomas from the most diverse schools, and yet not be a wise person, that is a person in friendship with God.

Wisdom is a gift of God. It is inseparably linked to purity of heart. The purer the heart, the more wisdom within it.

The wisdom in the heart, the more there is goodness and love of God and other people.

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.”

by Anthony Wood 15 Nov, 2017

In today’s Gospel Jesus says, that faith healed the Samaritan. I think it could be said that gratitude also healed him. Thanksgiving brought the leper to faith, and thanks to faith not only his body received healing, but above all his soul.

When is the soul sick? When it has no hope. Hope for health, for work, for a roof over the head. Lacking hope slowly kills a person. Without hope you cannot be grateful.

If however in the heart of a person there is even a tiny dot of hope, he will always find a reason to praise God and thank Him. And thanksgiving and praise are like rain and sunshine – hope grows and encompasses ever greater areas of life.

“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thess 5:18)

Holy Spirit, let there be within me gratitude to the Father for the many gifts as they constantly act in my life.

by Anthony Wood 13 Nov, 2017

The attitude of the apostles is very interesting, who, when Jesus asks them to forgive, do not ask Jesus for patience, for generosity, for a lack of resentment, they do not ask that they be better people, that it be easier to forgive, they only ask for faith. They know that only the person who believes that much has been forgiven them, is able to forgive. If we do not believe we are first in debt to God, that we are forgiven more than we have to forgive, we will never forgive those around us. That’s why in the question of forgiveness the need is not for patience, or selflessness, or more goodness. We need faith.

God, Your Church is a community of saints and sinners. You accept both. Turn your gaze so that the world around us may be able to see not only what is wrong, but above all, what is good.

by Anthony Wood 12 Nov, 2017

What happened to the unwise bridesmaids, when the bride groom told them: “I do not know you”?

Were they left in the darkness and chill of the night with a small light from a flickering lamp, which the oil managed to supply?

Did they envy the wise bridesmaids? Maybe they cried bitterly over their own stupidity and lack of prudence.

And the wise bridesmaids – did they dance and rejoice in the presence of the bride groom? The unwise bridesmaids were, after all, their companions, shared their female conversations, shared feelings and emotions: the joys and sorrows of everyday life. Were they able to so easily and quickly forget about them? Cross out, erase their time spent together?

Yes, they were unwise, but maybe they were good, kind, cheerful, industrious?

I am not a wise bridesmaid. I am closer to the unwise, although I try to think ahead, plan, be prepared. However, I don’t always seek God. His absence I do not experience – as the psalmist says – “like a dry, weary land without water”.

However, I trust that the Lord will see this small grain of my attentiveness and longing for Him, because He is “in every thought of theirs coming to meet them.”

by Anthony Wood 07 Nov, 2017

Family, home, work. Around these three turn the reality of life. The rest is additional. From time to time luxury. Sometimes the unusual or a hobby. But you can always give them up and go back to what is important. Wondering, this way or that . . .

This idyll could continue to the end of our days, if we had not received an invitation on a certain day – to something more. To Someone greater than our plans, dreams, even ourselves.

What is needed is an internal freedom, a confidence, a simplicity, so as to believe that this invitation does not destroy our arranged lives, does not break our relationships, does not end our careers. This invitation of our already arranged life only enriches it, making it fuller.

by Anthony Wood 06 Nov, 2017

It is the happiness of climbing the career ladder and losing the rat race.

It is the happiness of a mother giving birth to a child and a mother giving her child to serve God.

It is the happiness of winning the lottery and looking on the miraculous reproduction of creation.

It is the happiness of the nourisher and the nourished.

You say I have nothing. Very good! Only empty hands can touch the face of the poor. Only the heart freed from the material is able to look on them with affection.

And if they need two denari, He himself will place them in your pocket. And you will be happy . . . and you will “really” be His disciple.

by Anthony Wood 05 Nov, 2017