ST. KIERAN - CATHOLIC CHURCH, CAMPBELTOWN
November, month of the Holy Souls: let us pray for them

Today's reflection

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

It was the 5th century BC – the Judeans had long since returned from Babylonian slavery and rebuilt the Temple of Jerusalem. However, to the celebration of worship there crept in routine, and to the service of the priesthood various forms of abuse. The rising indifference and negligence of the priests had the effect of reducing the zeal of all the people – tithing was withdrawn, and spiritual scepticism and moral relativism spread. There were frequent mixed marriages – often with pagans. So it’s difficult to be surprised at the words of the prophet Malachi aimed at the priests:

you have strayed from the way; you have caused many to stumble by your teaching. You have destroyed the covenant of Levi, says the Lord of Hosts. And so I in my turn have made you contemptible and vile in the eyes of the whole people in repayment for the way you have not kept to my paths but have shown partiality in your administration.

Similarly, Christ reminds the scribes and Pharisees:

They tie up heavy burdens and lay them on men’s shoulders, but will they lift a finger to move them? Not they! Everything they do is done to attract attention.

It seems that we could listen to these words calmly – because they do not affect us. It is a warning and teaching addressed to priests – let them bow to it. But is it really true? Didn’t Saint Peter write to all Christians: “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.”   (1 P 2:9)

We make many declarations in speech, and we expect our words to be respected; or does the placing of our actions against them reveal a great rift between them? Are we cautious so we don’t hear these poignant words of the Lord: “You must therefore do what they tell you and listen to what they say; but do not be guided by what they do”? We still have listen to the truth of the word, even when spoken by imperfect people, because who is perfect?

We are to serve the word of God, and each other, because:

“Have we not all one Father? Did not one God create us?”

“The greatest among you must be your servant.”

by Anthony Wood 05 Nov, 2017

Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the man who humbles himself will be exalted.

God knows the people we are. We don’t have to pretend before Him. He loves us as we are. With that, which in us is good, beautiful, and weak and sinful. So, why in us is there this pretence? Creating ourselves into someone we really are not? We want to be seen as holier, more pious, better. We expect to be noticed, appreciated, praised, recognised. We would like to take the first place, be at the head. And maybe we don’t always have the courage to do it, but somewhere in the heart there is such a desire.

There has to be a search for the truth about ourselves, and pretence is fake and false. Jesus encourages us to silence, humility and modesty. This is not easy, because it demands a willingness to be undervalued, rejected, disliked, ridiculed. Accept the fact that I will be unnoticed and unappreciated. But it’s worth the risk. Then the invitation to take the first place will be a true recognition of my value – because it will be made by God.
by Anthony Wood 05 Nov, 2017

I would willingly be condemned and be cut off from Christ if it could help my brothers of Israel, my own flesh and blood.

The Pharisees constantly sought weaknesses in Jesus. For their own power they wanted to prove Him a liar and blasphemer. They put Him to the test, to catch Him out in some mistake. They snooped around, followed Him, to find even the smallest of His imperfections. They fell into a certain kind of obsession which led they into a spiritual blindness. They weren’t able to recognize His miracles, His care and love, to recognize the foretold Messiah. They had to be right. Acknowledging God in Jesus meant defeat for them.

When I don’t want to recognize and rejoice in someone else’s goodness, success, or beauty, I behave like these Pharisees. I evaluate negatively when someone does not fit into my imagined model. I am miserable that something is better in someone else. I seek weakness so that success can be called failure, suspect impure intentions, because I love too little – and to love too little means I will not see the goodness, the miracles, and the love of God.

When I do love, then I can see heaven coming to earth, then I can see there is ONE WORLD, and what I see as imperfect will be perfected in myself and others.

by Anthony Wood 02 Nov, 2017

Today’s liturgy of the word reminds us that the Lord of life is Jesus, that eternal happiness awaits us, without pain, suffering, without sin. Jesus raised the son of the widow of Nain, he raised his friend Lazarus from the dead, and then was resurrected, finally overcoming death. Opening the way to heaven, bringing us the hope of eternal happiness. To us it is left, whether we want to take this road.

Our everyday choices, struggles with temptations, defects, deciding the direction we will choose. And though in the heart there is the desire to follow Jesus, to be faithful to Him, too often we fall. Thanks to the victory of Jesus over sin, we can purify ourselves in the sacrament of confession. However, we can’t reverse the consequences of sin, that is the wound inflected on ourselves and on others, and God Himself. Their purification can take place in purgatory, or here on earth in a way known only to God. We can support this purification with prayer, or gaining an indulgence.

Souls, which the Church today and in the following days commends to us are those being purified through the painful longing of purgatory. God shares His mercy with us, that we can assist them in their purification with our prayers and offering indulgences.

by Anthony Wood 02 Nov, 2017

The desire for happiness is instilled in us by God himself. He wants us to be happy, promises us eternal happiness, free from troubles and suffering. The way to achieve this is the way of holiness. A person so craves happiness that they sometimes hitch onto its substitutes. They identify it with success, career, prosperity, prestige. These things can bring happiness, but in a fleeting and transient way. They can be lost within an instant, and then there’s emptiness which leads to brokenness and depression, or blaming God for it.

Today’s words about the happy are surprising. Can you be happy when poor, humble and persecuted. It depends which hierarchy of values we profess. Jesus in the beatitudes contrasts wealth, desire, comfort, egoism, pride, vanity with the poor, the gentle, mercy, purity of heart, craving justice, accepting insults. This is to make the listener check the values they hold as most important.

True happiness come from friendship with God. When we place God first in our lives then even in suffering, deprivations and rejection we can be happy. Many of the saints are examples of this.

by Anthony Wood 31 Oct, 2017

It grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air sheltered in its branches.

Every person baptised into the community of the Church become responsible for it. From this community we draw many fruits, many opportunities to receive the sacraments, to approach God and to connect with Him. God has granted each us different gift so that we would and are able to serve this community.

In the parables of the yeast and the mustard seed Jesus shows what sort of power gives witness in the world. Comparing it to a small seed. No spectacular action is expected. It can be unnoticed, or criticised, or even unwanted. Undertaken, however, out of love and for the sake of Christ they will bear fruit sooner or later. It’s not necessary that we must see them. And though this is very difficult, it is worth trusting Jesus.

by Anthony Wood 30 Oct, 2017

He laid his hands on her. And at once she straightened up.

Jesus freed a woman from infirmity, and the people rejoiced at the wonderful acts of Jesus. However, not all of them. There were among them those who were outraged merely because it was on the Sabbath. Blind to love and good, the Pharisees multiplied the letters of the Law to prove that right was on their side, they were unable to share in the joy of the woman and other witnesses of the miracle. One the contrary, the tried to discredit the wonder of this event.

Jesus came into the world to liberate from that which enslaves man. Just as the woman was freed from the spirit of infirmity, just as I am freed from sin every time I ask Him. I have become so accustomed to the fact that God forgives my sins that this no longer raises joy within me. Certainly, for different reasons than the Pharisees, but as they I become blind to the goodness which I experience from God. But behave as though I take it for granted. Forgive me Lord, lift me up.

Hide me now

Under Your wings

Cover me

Within Your mighty hand

When the oceans rise and thunders roar

I will soar with you above the storm

Father, You are King over the flood

I will be still and know You are God

by Anthony Wood 29 Oct, 2017

Master, which is the greatest commandment of the law?

The evil, which we sometimes experience from others, manages to wound us deeply, and can persist in us. The experience of this harm or of injustice does not prevent us from ourselves hurting others. It does not free from doing this. Lacking sensitivity to others, being too focussed on ourselves, proving our lack of love. The love, of which Jesus so often reminds us.

From my youngest years I have known of the commandment to love God and my neighbour. And yet it is still difficult for me to give of this love and direct it each day. Every sin of mine leaves in me its trace. Wounding me, and weakens my ability to love. Do I really care about loving God and those placed on my road? Do I even love myself? I probably wouldn’t be able to if I didn’t have confidence above all things that God loves me.

by Anthony Wood 28 Oct, 2017

We are not here alone. We are here among those who surround Jesus, among disciples and apostles. This “great multitude of people” wants the same as we do – to be in the presence of God. We were all called by name. We can see other disciples of Jesus, but we also can be recognised as such. We are able to praise God for the miracles among all these people around us. We can confidently entrust ourselves to their prayers.

Saint Paul calls us “citizens like all the saints, and part of God’s household” – in faith we at home among our own.

by Anthony Wood 27 Oct, 2017

Our weakness – when we don’t do good, which we desire, but evil, which we don’t want. What was to be so good and it turned out as usual. Bitterness, frustration, even anger because of this. Then, the whole game becomes one of appearances, making it seem that everything is in hand. A person doesn’t want to see the signs, doesn’t want to recognise it, lost in the fog. Wants everyone to believe everything is alright, including themselves.

Saint Paul is struggling with this demon (acedia) – “It takes advantage of a weakness of the body so as to affect the soul.” It can lead to inaction, despair. Worse of all an indifference to contemplating God.

All this is known to God. He knows our hearts, our desires. He knows.

But do we acknowledge He knows? Are we really able to admit to ourselves that He knows? He knows of our honest sorrow and our hypocritical blindness. Of our desire for good and being imprisoned by evil. In this relationship we must hide nothing. Before God we can stand totally exposed, like Paul. Even today. Let Him see, call, liberate.

“Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!”



[1] Jean-Charles Nault, The Noonday Devil , 26.

by Anthony Wood 25 Oct, 2017

A man interviewed for two jobs, was offered both, and now had to make his choice. Both companies offered warm working conditions (Lk 12:49; Mt 5:22).

The first company is called Sin Ltd. (Rm 6:12-13, 20). Job responsibilities for the first few years feature variable hours, with lots of "working" from home. Pay for the early part of his career is in the form of a great deal of pleasure. Pay in future years is deferred lump-sum payments of guilt, self-hatred, and shame. At first the boss is lenient, but later will be a stern taskmaster. The retirement package features grinding of teeth (without dental coverage) and eternal damnation (see Mt 22:13; Rm 6:23).

The second company is named Righteousness Ltd. (Rm 6:13, 19). Job responsibilities for the entire career feature much labour in the field (Mt 9:37; 20:1ff). Travel is required, sometimes without lodging (Lk 9:58), and often without a travel allowance (Mt 10:9-10). Future years will feature large increases in responsibility (Mt 25:21) and the expectations of ever-increasing productivity (Lk 12:48). So much discipline is involved that the employees are actually called "disciples" (Acts 11:26). Nonetheless, employee morale is very high, even overflowing with love and joy. The Boss seems like a "hard Man" (Mt 25:24), but is tender and forgiving toward employees who regret their mistakes (Ps 103:12). The company's retirement package features endless joy and bliss in heaven (see Mt 25:34).

Which job offer do you think the man will accept? Which one would you choose?

by Anthony Wood 24 Oct, 2017

“Sin reigned wherever there was death” – we hear about it, see it, experience it. We can really be dismayed at our defencelessness before evil, this pervasive destructiveness, the pain of death. So, confidence in the face of the dominion of death is not easy; at times it can seem impossible. And yet we hear today that grace marks out its reign on that same principle as death: “grace will reign to bring eternal life thanks to the righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

Perhaps this seems merely as some verbal puzzle, a rhetorical figure. Yet these words affect us directly: our hope for joy, for heaven, to meet Him.

What governs us? Sin or grace? What do we allow to reign? . . . if sin wounds, grace heals, sin destroys, grace renews, if we receive God – grace lets us know God.

Prayer

Lord, You are faithful even when we fail. Help us to remain ever faithful to You and to not shrink back when we encounter evil. May we always live in Your grace and be ready to meet You when You call us on the day of judgment.

by Anthony Wood 21 Oct, 2017

If anyone openly declares himself for me in the presence of men, the Son of Man will declare himself for him in the presence of the angels.

Faith and good works should go hand in hand. This is true. Prayer alone is not enough. But isn't this sort of act also a declaration for Christ before people? Isn't it also expressed in public prayer?

Among the signs concerning salvation - to believe, to feed the hungry, to give water to the thirsty, to clothe the naked, to welcome newcomers, and a few others - is also this: to declare yourself for Christ before people. Of course, enemies of faith will turn on this. Jesus does not forget such a public confession. Even if the faith of such a person is not filled with glorious deeds . . . .

Prayer

I do not ask, Lord Jesus, that my faithfulness to You be put to the test. And I know that without it, I am weak. But when the moment comes, when confessing You will cost me, give me courage, not to deny You. So that You do not have to be ashamed of me . . .

by Anthony Wood 20 Oct, 2017

The question about how to become a saint is very important one. It's not about how to be canonised - that, among all this, is the least important. The question of how to become a saint is so very essential, because it deals with what will happen to us for eternity.

What, considering this, do we need to do to be saved?

For sure prayer is important. Prayer, the key element in our hearing God, building our relationship with Him, knowing His will for us, and reminding us that we are not alone with our problems and worries.

Also necessary is the need to work on ourselves - each of us has various weaknesses, commit many sins, some notoriously. Every sin distances us from God and that's why it is so important to struggle with them.

Certainly the so-called "good deeds" are important. That is all the acts that bring good, joy and hope.

Very important is love - love of God, love of brothers and sisters. The love which is to be the main motivation of our actions.

It is very easy to say all this, but putting it into practice in life is very difficult. And it is very easy to come to the conclusion that holiness is something inaccessible for the average person.

Especially since all these "ingredients for holiness" are not enough. It is not enough to pray well, to struggle with sin, to perform good deeds and even to love enemies. In order to become a saint there is one more - very important ingredient. An ingredient which gives the hope that despite our weaknesses , difficulties with prayer, committing those same sins and a definitely imperfect love - among all this we need hope.

For:

The grace of God is necessary for salvation . . .

 

May your love be upon us, O Lord, as we place all our hope in you.

by Anthony Wood 19 Oct, 2017
' Alas for you lawyers who have taken away the key of knowledge! You have not gone in yourselves, and have prevented others going in who wanted to.'

Exactly. Not making use of it, they jealously guarded the key, preventing others entering. What can this mean?

When it comes to the lawyers, it is sure that they have misinterpreted the Scriptures to the point of attending to the insignificant details of the law. Not only did they overlook its spirit, but that may be the Messiah is more important than the law, who turns their conceptions upside down.

And when it comes to us? Well what . . . There are among us those, who in their interpretation of Christianity put forward one matter and ignore others to form a caricature of the true Gospel. O "forget" that the ruler is be the servant. Likewise the family ruler. Does running rampant in your own environment and covering yourself in the will of the "ruler" of God bring anyone to the Gospel? No, rather they are offended. And then surprised that people reject Jesus . . . not noticing that they stands in the road to Jesus, that they themselves prevent an encounter with Him . . .

Alas, you lawyers . . .

by Anthony Wood 18 Oct, 2017

Sometimes we have the impression that being faithful to God protects us – that being in grace we will not ne entangles in evil, prayer enables us to emerge from temptation victorious. And perhaps we right. However, our lives are often not quite that simple, we don't know everything about ourselves . . . In today's reading we find a description of the advice given to disciples, as Jesus he "sent them out ahead of him, in pairs". I am always struck by that number - "in pairs" because though we may see ourselves as too weak, we have another beside us. We accompany each other on the road – we are more in need of each other than we are of a purse, haversack or sandals. Our hands can do more, our voices about the Kingdom are powerful.

And – when we are together - even wolves do not frighten us.

by Anthony Wood 17 Oct, 2017
 "Oh, you Pharisees! You clean the outside of cup and plate, while inside yourselves you are filled with extortion and wickedness. Fools!"

Exactly! Those Pharisees were foolish. They were so entranced by what was external that they stopped paying attention to the inside. How could they be led into such a state?

Hmmm . . . . . The usual way. After all, closer at home we can see that pharisaic care for appearance. In this: what people look like and what they say. And where is the truth? For myself, do I slip into my own opinion of whether they are making a proper and good impression? The truth often recedes into the background. As long as on the outside everything looks OK.

Prayer

Help us, O Lord, to see the truth. Of myself and of others. Especially for those who I am inclined to regard as far from perfect. It is entirely possible that inside they are purer than I think by looking at their external appearance . . . Help us, O Lord, to see the truth.

by Anthony Wood 14 Oct, 2017

I return to my house - these words are spoken by the evil spirit, and he thinks of the man who first got rid of him but did no fill the space within his soul with God, he left it empty. Satan always, as an attentive listener to the Gospel, turn everything upside down, makes God someone evil, makes a person the wrongdoer, and it's not true. The truth is what Jesus proclaims - a message of love, mercy and joy. An evil spirit, even when it quotes the Gospel, does what is against the Gospel. This is why we cling to Jesus Christ the comforter and defender.

In the name of Jesus Christ, evil spirits of resignation, lethargy, doubt and hardness of heart, depart and do not return.

by Anthony Wood 14 Oct, 2017

" It is useless to serve God; what is the good of keeping his commands or of walking mournfully before the Lord of Hosts? Now we have reached the point when we call the arrogant blessed; yes, they prosper, these evil-doers; they try God's patience and yet go free."

It is useless to serve God - say the Israelites. It's not worth repenting. Rain of gold does not fall from heaven. Blessed are those who live contrary to God. They are happy! This is an experience that we also don't want to have . . .

How many times does it turns out that the best way is to live dishonestly. They have everything. Not just money. But also success and human respect. And whoever strives to live honestly, is awkward. They lose . . . 

You say harsh things about me, - says the Lord . Indeed, what sort of argument is this? Are you with me, because you count on profit? For protection? You try to bribe me with your repentance to support you in your plans? Is this love or bargaining?

I do not bargain with you. Are you trying to bribe me?

For the day is coming now, burning like a furnace; and all the arrogant and the evil-doers will be like stubble . . . But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness will shine out with healing in its rays.

Do not be afraid. You will not be lost. You will gain more than you would expect. But I want your love and trust.

I cannot be bribed.

by Anthony Wood 11 Oct, 2017