Door to door

M-11243 Jesus at Heart's Door

The other day, I was just relaxing at home when I heard a knock upon my door. It was my mother who got to the door first and opened the door to Jehovah’s Witnesses. They greeted her with the standard greeting of who they were and what they were doing in the area. I poked my head around the door just as they asked the question if we had ever seen or read their watchtower publications. I said I had and my mother then explained that I am discerning my vocation to the Priesthood. They were now intrigued. At this point my mother left the scene and went back to reading the paper.

The one man then asked me, “do you think we are in troubling times?” I replied, of course we are have you not seen the news? He then went on to quote from 2 Timothy 3 :1-7 “But know this, that in the last days critical times hard to deal with will be here.  For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, haughty, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, disloyal,   having no natural affection, not open to any agreement, slanderers, without self-control, fierce, without love of goodness,   betrayers, headstrong, puffed up with pride, lovers of pleasures rather than lovers of God,  having an appearance of godliness but proving false to its power; and from these turn away.  From among these arise men who slyly work their way into households and captivate weak women loaded down with sins, led by various desires,  always learning and yet never able to come to an accurate knowledge of truth.” He then went onto reaffirm his statement to which I agreed. He then said but we could see this coming from what the bible says. I then went on to explain that  ‘It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority.’ (Acts 1:7). He then was a bit stumped. 

The man then changed the subject in that we all need to repent as we can all turn away from God. Look to Genesis with Adam and Eve and the fall of man. Everyone will follow them in denying God and turn away from Him. Look at Peter in the Passion. But then I then asked him what his beliefs on free will were. He said that we all have our own will given to us from God that we can choose to obey him or not. I then asked if that goes against what he said. He took a moment to think about it. But I didn’t give him much time to reply because I said to him, “Have you considered my servant Job.” He then looked at me perplexed and then it twigged that I was on about what God said to the Devil. “One day the heavenly beings came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them. The Lord said to Satan, ‘Where have you come from?’ Satan answered the Lord, ‘From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.’  The Lord said to Satan, ‘Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man who fears God and turns away from evil.’ Then Satan answered the Lord, ‘Does Job fear God for nothing? Have you not put a fence around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But stretch out your hand now, and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face.’ The Lord said to Satan, ‘Very well, all that he has is in your power; only do not stretch out your hand against him!’ (Job 1:6-12) Job, even after all the devil does to him does not turn his heart away from God. The man again didn’t have an answer and so he decided to leave. 

Just before he left he said to my mother that she should be proud of me and being strong in faith and that the Holy Spirit is with me. He then finished by saying that we all believe in the same God. I then just said, well we don’t. He looked at me surprised and then said “oh you mean about your worship of Mary.” I said, “No! firstly we do not worship Mary we venerate her. And secondly we differ in that you deny the divinity of Jesus as God.” He looked at me and then said, I hope that we meet again soon.

The way that the JW’s and Mormons evangelise is only effective to people who either don’t know their faith or don’t know how to defend their faith. The best way to start learning is by going to Mass. Here you hear God’s word and receive knowledge from the priest in his homily. Also you receive God in the Holy Eucharist which Is Jesus fully present in the host. Who Can turn their back on the real presence?

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Branching off a little

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We all remember the hymn; ‘This is my body’, sung at mass mostly for the offertory or communion hymn. The verse that often sticks out in my mind is “Filled with my Spirit, how you will grow. You are my branches, I am the tree If you are faithful, others will know, you are alive in me”. And I also got thinking where is this in the bible? So I went and looked it up and found it in John chapter 15.

In the previous chapter the disciples are asking Jesus about the way to the Father. Jesus responds and comforts them in reminding them their mission and the promise of the decent of the Holy Spirit. So in the next chapter, Jesus tells the twelve the relationship between Himself and God the Father. “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener.” (John 15:1). With the promise of the Holy Spirit’s decent unto the apostles and the references to God the Father we can see the early doctrine of the Holy Trinity.

In the next few lines Jesus then explains the doctrines of Heaven, Hell and Purgatory. Yes Purgatory. “He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you.” (John 15:2-3) God will cut down those who do not bear fruit. I remind myself of how powerfully Pulp fiction made of the quote from Ezekiel 25:17 “I will carry out great vengeance on them and punish them in my wrath. Then they will know that I am the Lord, when I take vengeance on them.” That needs not much explanation that God will take those who have not produced any fruit to Hell. But in the next part Jesus explains purgatory. For every branch that doesn’t bear fruit, He prunes. In other translations it means that He cleans. Where else can God do this? In confession with a truly repentant soul but if that is not the case then the only other place can be Purgatory. We are not worthy to stand in the presence of God but due to Christ’s death and resurrection we are made worthy and it is up to us to merit our righteousness by our true repentance. Finally Jesus states how we get into heaven. It is because He has talked to us and we accepted His word. We are saved through faith … By Grace. “No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.” (John 15:4) We must be with Jesus who sends us His grace and love so that we may be a witness to Him throughout the world.

It clearly states in this passage about Catholic doctrines on Purgatory and saved by Faith through Grace but it doesn’t stop there. Tradition is mentioned in this Bible chapter; “If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” (John 15:10-11). It does clearly state that we must keep Jesus’s commandments. But the protestant would say, but all we have to follow is the ones in the Bible. But John points out later in his Gospel “But there are also many other things which Jesus did; were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.” (John 21:25). There is so much more to following Jesus just by what He taught in the Bible. The apostles we Primary witnesses to the Truth and have passed on the commands and teachings of Jesus throughout the ages to this present day. People say that the Church is outdated and we need to change. All we have to remember is this, Jesus taught us the ways to salvation and creating a relationship with God. We are just stewards on eternal mission of God’s saving plan. Pope Benedict put it perfectly in his Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum “What earlier generations held as sacred, remains sacred and great for us too”. Even though this is in terms of Liturgy it remains the same with traditions and with the teachings of Jesus.

Take me to Church

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For most people my age, it will be hard to get up on a Sunday morning and go to church. Crawling out of bed with a hangover and not being able to eat because of the hour fast before Eucharist. Then you have to sit in a very uncomfortable pew for an hour whilst, usually, an old priest delivers a sermon on a topic that you don’t really care about or know anything about either.

But for me it is a completely different matter. For me going to church isn’t about going to a building but to Mass and more importantly to Jesus Christ made present in the Blessed Sacrament. When you enter the building you know that you are entering some place that is special due to the beautiful stained glass, the lovely flowers, the statues of the Saints and the lingering smell of incense that gives the place a holy aroma.

When you dip your hand into the Holy water and make the sign of the cross you are doing to things. One is to remind yourself of baptism. It is through this Sacrament that you are brought to new life in Christ and become a member of his one church. The Second reminder is that through the cross we have been made righteous. That is the symbol of God’s saving grace. And it is to the cross that we return every mass as the sacrifice of Calvary is made present in the Eucharist. The reason that we see a corpus on the cross in a Catholic church and not a bare one is the same reason again, to remind us of where we are. Most protestants say that we should use a bear cross because we worship a risen saviour. But we must also venerate a crucifix because God’s salvation is still on-going that Jesus will always be nailed to that same Cross for our sins.

The Homily may seem a bit boring and an added extra to an already long service but it is integral into the liturgy. It is through the preaching of the early church fathers that we get our understanding of the faith. Though you may feel that what the priest or deacon is saying doesn’t apply to you, still pay attention for they are telling us the good news and if we understand it then we can all go out and tell others.

The main part of Mass is the Eucharist and that is the most important part of any Christians life because made present before you is the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. We shouldn’t want to hide away from Him. We shouldn’t have to feel so unworthy to receive Him. But because of our nature we all do and always prostrate ourselves before God and ask for his unending mercy.

Getting up every Sunday just to fulfil your obligation shouldn’t feel like a chore or a tradition that was forced upon you by parents but a willingness to enter God’s glory and worship the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the whole world. To quote Psalm 42  “And I will go to the altar of god, to God, the joy of my youth.”

‘Et introibo ad altare Dei: ad Deum qui laetificat juventutem meam.’

Temples of the Holy Spirit

holy-spirit-11The main question we must all ask ourselves is do we look after our own bodies? Do we exercise or eat healthily? Do we drink too much or abuse our own skin? Forget religious beliefs for a second, and remember that taking drugs is illegal and can damage the live of the taker and the lives of those closest to them.

I have a friend who was a great poet and free-style rapper. He was a really gentle soul and always smiling. Met him at uni here in Aberystwyth and lived together in student accommodation. I knew he had a cheeky dabble occasionally with drugs, but one night he messed with the wrong crowd and took something which completely messed him up. To see him transform from a happy-go-lucky guy to one of complete paranoia. I heard him crying one night and went in to see if he was alright, but as soon as I entered he got more hysterical and shouted “Pawb yn Gwybod!” meaning everyone knows. He then went missing for a long while. God bless the people who we lived with who helped looking for him. Eventually we found him and that night he had to stay in my room so that he felt comfortable and if something did happen in the night then I could be there to calm him down. The next day his mother came and collected him and he subsequently dropped out of uni. From having such a great time and lifestyle to it all being taken away in an instant because of drugs. We all have stories that scare and disturb people from not doing things, but unless you’ve been in that position then you’ll never know. But it is up to us to listen to the horrors and not take drugs. Remember what our teachers and parents taught, “Just Say NO!”

The Catholic Churches teachings on drugs, from the Catechism, states “We must take reasonable care of our own physical health and that of others but avoid the cult of the body and every kind of excess. Also to be avoided are the use of drugs which cause very serious damage to human health and life” (Catechism Compendium P141) Here it states that we must first of all look after our bodies for otherwise we would not be alive. Its common sense. Secondly it adds that drugs are harmful to ourselves and our lives. The YouCat explains more “Using drugs is a sin because it is an act of self-destruction and thus an offense against the life that God has given us out of Love. (YouCat P 213) From this we remember 1 Corinthians 6:19 “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God? You are not your own.” The one thing I add to this is that we should remember the words that Jesus taught us “You should love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:39) I cant imagine my friend would wish the way he has been on anyone.

Fr Stephen Wang puts it another way, “Some people believe that it is OK to use illegal ‘recreational’ drugs in moderation. But for Catholics it is wrong to use illegal drugs simply because they are illegal that is the Catholic understanding of how we should respect and obey the just laws of our country.” (A Way of life for young Catholics P58-59) The other thing to consider with drugs is that they can become an addiction and that is also bad. To be addicted means to be wholly dependent on it.  This is bad when thinking about how we should not be dependent on earthly things because all we need to do is to ask our father in heaven who always gives to those who ask.

To Conclude, I bring up the recent death of a student in Aberystywth who has died due to taking MDMA. Overdosing on drugs is dangerous and taking stuff that you do not know what it is can be deadly. It’s a sad thing to hear but that is the effect of drugs in the society.  I Pray that peoples understanding of Drugs through society, by what the Church teaches and by listening to those who have been affected that people will stop doing drugs and focus not on earthly things but those in heaven.

Putting the Mass back into Christmas

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Not long to Christmas, can’t wait. For most it is the idea of buying gifts and preparing the food for the Christmas feast. For others it’s the idea of spending time with loved ones that makes this season so great. For me it’s a combination of them both which is in the form of the Mass. And there is nothing better than hearing the nun’s down LLantarnam Abbey belting our Hark the herald angel sing as mass is finishing on Christmas eve.

Preparing for the feast is similar to the Christmas meal, you need to prepare the vegetables and cook the meats at the right temperature. Spiritually you must prepare for Christmas that is what the season of advent is for. To prepare, is to spend time in prayer and to be ready to receive the coming of Christ again at Christmas. This is before the mass.

To spend time with loved ones is again like the mass. Pope Francis said in February “The liturgy is God’s time and space, and we must put ourselves there in God’s time, in God’s space, without looking at our watches. The liturgy is precisely entering into the mystery of God; bringing ourselves to the mystery and being present in the mystery.” In the mass we heard God’s word and eat God’s word incarnate. But we must also do what Jesus asked his apostles and his whole church, “Could you not stay awake with me one hour? Stay awake and pray that you may not come to the time of trial.” (Matthew 26:40-41). The mass usually lasts one hour, and so fulfils our duty to Christ to stay attentive for just one hour.

Thirdly we must present our Gifts to God this Christmas. We could all put a few more pence into the collection bag or buy Fr Neil a nice bottle of wine as a present. But when Christina Rossetti wrote in her hymn “In the Bleak mid-winter”, she captures perfectly what we should be giving at Christmas, “What can I give him, poor as I am?  If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb; if I were a Wise Man, I would do my part; yet what can I give him:  give my heart.” This is what we do at mass, when we offer ourselves to the altar and place our burdens and sins onto Christ who bears them at Calvary.

Everyone knows the popular phrase of, let’s put Christ back into Christmas. But I feel as Catholics we should do more, bring the mass back into Christmas. For if we do this we are certain to fulfil the first statement, because Jesus is the main focal point of each mass.

As Advent drew to a close in 2013, Pope Francis asked Catholics to imagine themselves as Mary. During Advent’s final week, “the church is like Mary: She is awaiting a birth,” Pope Francis said. Like Mary, believers should say of Jesus and mean with all their hearts: “Come! I want to see your face.” What other way can we do this? None other than coming to Mass this Christmas.

Enjoy the Bible

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If you can’t find the funny side of what you hold dear, then it must be hard to find anything funny at all. The Bible for instance has a sense of humour. It doesn’t defer from the message of salvation but adds to it to keep people reading, but that is just an opinion.

In the Old Testament you find a lot of funny stories. Those pesky Israelites who kept getting things wrong.  In the book of Judges, the Israelites turn from God so many times. At the start of quite a few chapters it says, “The Israelites did what was evil in the sight of the Lord.” So when I was reading it I was like Oh no. Not again. Don’t they ever learn. Even though it seems a comical way to look at it, the message is quite clear. Yes they did evil in the sight of God, so many times, but God gave them the means to turn back to him and He welcomed them back with open arms. This is a strong look into what the sacrament of reconciliation is like.

If you read chapter 3 of Judges you may find one of the funniest deaths written. We read about Ehud and the death of King Eglon of Moab. Israel had, once again, been naughty in God’s eye and so God strengthened King Elgon to oppress Israel for 18 years. Until God saw that they were truly repentant, He send Ehud to deliver Israel. The one thing we know about Eglon, he “was a very fat man.” (Judges 3: 17). So when Ehud went to make tribute to the king, he said to Eglon that he had a message from God. Eglon asked the servants to leave whilst he listened to Ehud’s revelation. Next Ehud drew a sword and plunged it straight into Eglon’s belly. He thrust it so deep that he couldn’t draw it back. Ehud left the room and locked the door. The servants saw this ad thought that Ehud locked the door so that the king could relieve himself! How strange. They then waited outside until they go embarrassed before entering to find the king dead. From this Israel took strength and conquered Moab and “had rest for eighty years.”  (Judges 3:30)

A quick look into the New Testament now. Look to 1 Timothy 2:12 where it says “I permit no women to teach or to have authority over a man.” Basically what Paul is saying is that he wants women in a certain place. This verse, I feel, says something about women Clergy. For most protestant pastors or vicars dare not teach on Mathew 16:17-19, (Peter the Rock and the institution of the Papacy and Apostolic succession), so it must be really uncomfortable for a women vicar to preach on this verse. It doesn’t make sense. In Saint Pope John Paul II letter, ORDINATIO SACERDOTALIS, he reminds the Church that, “She holds that it is not admissible to ordain women to the priesthood, for very fundamental reasons. These reasons include: the example recorded in the Sacred Scriptures of Christ choosing his Apostles only from among men; the constant practice of the Church, which has imitated Christ in choosing only men; and her living teaching authority which has consistently held that the exclusion of women from the priesthood is in accordance with God’s plan for his Church.”

On a lighter note we find in the Old Testament, that we must not mess with Elisha or Bald people. For in 2 Kings 2:23-24, we see what happens when we do. Elisha was on his way to Bethel when some young boys came out of the City to jeer at him. They were saying “Go away Baldhead! Go away Baldhead!” When Elisha looked at them, he cursed them in the name of the Lord. “Then two she-bears came out of the woods an mauled 42 of the boys” (Verse 24). Now if Douglas Adams was looking for the Ultimate question in the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, and the answer is 42 he should look to the bible. How many young men can two she-bears attack if you annoy a Bald-headed man?

If you look at Deuteronomy and Leviticus, they are full of strange rules and laws. Some are really bizarre. For example, look to Deuteronomy 25:11-12 it clearly states that “If men get into a fight with one another, and the wife of one intervenes to rescue her husband from the grip of his opponent by reaching out and seizing his genitals, you shall cut off her hand!” The writer then adds, “show no pity.”

As you can see that the Bible can be a funny bunch of books to read sometimes. If you want to find something that helps your relationship with God then you will defiantly find it in the Bible, but the Bible has small snippets of humour to keep you smiling whilst you do it. For this is what Shakespeare did in his Tragedies, he wrote comedic parts to keep his audience entertained. For example, the porter in Macbeth and the gravediggers in Hamlet. The Bible is similar it offers Spiritual Entertainment.

Behold the wood of the Cross

Last weekend we celebrated the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. As Christians we always remember the way that Jesus brought for us salvation. It seems funny to be glad in such a painful manner of death, but it was through that Agony that Jesus redeemed us. “For the sake of His most sorrowful passion, Have mercy on us and upon the whole world!”
The Cross is the symbol for Christianity because of the reasons I have already mentioned. It is a continual reminder of the greatest sacrifice on Earth.

But when you come into a Catholic Church you see a Crucifix. Many protestants say, why should we put Jesus up again on the Cross, for we do not worship the God of the dead but of the living and that Jesus’ sacrifice was once for all time. That is true, we do all worship the God of the living and that Calvary was once and for all time, that is why Jesus is placed upon the Cross. It is a reminder that the power of Christ’s death on the Cross is eternal and is still carrying on today.

The Sign of the Cross is a way we remind ourselves as well. We make the Sign of the Cross in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. When we do this we recollect that God is in our mind when we touch our heads, He is in our hearts when we touch our chest and all around us when we touch each shoulder.

Through Christ’s death on the Cross we are freed from sin and saved from all distress. We look to John 3: 16-17 where it says “16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” We are saved from death thanks to the Cross. We must always remind ourselves this.