Called to mirror divine recklessness

Frances writes on next Sunday’s Readings :- Greco-Romans all understood life to be about personal advancement up the greasy pole to success, and frequently weren’t overly concerned as to how they achieved this feat. When one thinks of us modern westerners, especially member of both Tory and Labour parties at present, things don’t seem very different. The truly amazing thing about Jesus and the Christian message is that it works entirely differently, and Mark was at pains to point this out to the Christians of Rome.

Since we are made for divinity, we are really meant to model ourselves on Christ and therefore on the life of the Trinity. In our Gospel (Mark 9:30-37) we meet Jesus and the disciples at his second Passion Prediction, just after the Transfiguration: the revealing of his true identity. We find once again that the disciples have completely lost the plot, so much so that far from worrying about what he has just told them, they spend their time arguing as to which of them is the greatest! Yet if they/we truly believe Jesus to be God from God, the Son, then we might be inclined to focus on his self-gift of himself, not simply in his saving passion, but as gift – the ultimate gift of God to humanity. Jesus as God ‘has it all’. What we continually meet in him is the outpouring of himself to us. As the famous hymn of Philippians points out, he did not consider his equality with God something to be grabbed at – unlike ourselves – he emptied himself. When you have it all, all you can do is give it away in graced gift to others. This surely is what Jesus asks each and every Christian to do. It is not that we slowly become impoverished by this act of divine recklessness which we are called to mirror, but rather, like the members of the Trinity in their perpetual gift of themselves, we are ever filled, ever restored. Perhaps this is why Jesus used a tiny child as an exemplar of divine grace at its most abundant, simply because tiny children have little sense of belonging and ownership, they simply delight in the now, God-like.

Our Reading from Wisdom (2:12.17-20), a passage which clearly spoke volumes to Jesus, is all about the great contrast between those who eye others enviously and are full of resentment towards them, finding the generosity and mercy of some others so offensive they needs must destroy them. It could almost have been the job description of his enemies and a picture of his own life and the trouble he caused. Clearly the writer of The Book of Wisdom, probably a 1st century BCE document, composed in Alexandria, understood the concept of eternal life with God, and here in our passage explores the conflict such beliefs provoked between believers and non believers in resurrection to eternal life. As then, Jesus enemies were those whose minds and hearts were fixed on the things of this world and were contemptuous of other values and ways of life.

Our Reading from James (3:16-4:3), written again we should note for a Christian congregation who were clearly also very much members of the society of the time, be they Jew or Greek, since Palestine was heavily Hellenised by the 1st century CE, points powerfully to the wrong-footedness of the world they all, James included, inhabited. I think we have to get away from a narrow literalism about praying properly and then expecting to be rewarded by God, a view which only leads to anxiety and failure and is ultimately about our still being in control. The point he is making is not about our asking God to give us things – new cars or what you will – but to enter in prayer into conversation with the divine. Therefore the point is a far deeper one. You and I are in Christ here and now, already we are heirs with Christ to the Kingdom; already ‘partakers of the divine nature’. What we all have to reckon with is living like it. When we live of that fullness, Christ-like, we shall truly be divine and, like the martyrs, have nothing else to give or gain but our true identities. James, for all his tendency to prosiness has the capacity to really put his finger on the button, as he recognises that the real war is the one which rages within the heart and mind of every human being and most especially in that of the Christian.

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It is very difficult to be like Jesus

It seems strange to me that people think that Jesus was gentle and mild. Again and again we hear of him expressing very strong views against those who had got things wrong in their lives.  Sure, some hypocritical holy people certainly deserved his attack on them, but today in our Gospel (8:27-35) Jesus turns on poor Peter, when he gets things wrong, with a fierce “Get behind me Satan” which must have been hard to take, to say the least! It’s a reminder to us that when we get things wrong, we too should expect to hear Jesus saying similar things to us. God forgives us, of course, but that doesn’t mean that he lets us off the hook, or fails to makes us feel it when we go wrong.

Now we all know that we are called to be like Jesus as much as that is possible, but this is an area where it is so easy to go too far, isn’t it? We stand up for ourselves, or for the faith, in as strong a way as we can, and then find we have gone over the top into a totally unnecessary abuse of the person we are challenging. Sadly some Christians do this most of the time, going into abuse mode over anyone they disagree with, and putting people off the Christian faith in the process. In response these people who have rejected Christianity then dismiss all Christians as stupid and ignorant, and so the abuse goes on.

Those of us who are reasonable people then tend to move in the opposite direction, fearful of being accused of bigotry, we retreat into a kind of woolly liberalism where we never challenge anybody or anything. We also do so because we have been sucked into a common 21st Century view (at least in Europe) that religion and God are essentially private things and that everyone is entitled to their own personal opinion that should never be challenged. But opinions usually lead to actions, and we therefore know deep down, I guess, that our main reason for not challenging people is our own fear that we might find that we become unpopular in the process.

Jesus, inspired by some great texts from his Bible, the Old Testament – not least today’s 1st Reading (Isaiah 50:5-9) where it says “I am untouched by the insults… I set my face like flint” – never worries about what people think of him. For him the truth is the truth, and that is all that matters. And this is something we must remember too. The way of life we promote as Christians, the ethical principles, the moral values, we stand for are not just Christian. We believe that such things are true for all humans whatever their beliefs, for all have been created by God;  so that although we may disagree at times where the line should be drawn, we must all agree that there is a line, that some actions are absolutely right and others absolutely wrong.

This is really the same point that James is making in our 2nd Reading, isn’t it?  (James 2:14-18) Faith by itself is just our private thoughts and beliefs about God and the world. Faith to be real, to be alive, has to lead to public actions of one kind or another. Just having holy thoughts in our heads, and quietly coming to church is simply not enough. All of us have to not only be Christians but attempt to act as Christians in everything we do or say;  and to proclaim that what we believe is not just relevant for us, but for every single person the world over.

How then can we work out the right path? Perhaps we should look at the athletes for a few pointers. They are fiercely dedicated to their own success, and they know that this means stretching themselves hard, and risking all in the hope of winning. But they all know that they may also lose. What marks the true athlete is being ready to fail as well as to win, and to use failure as a learning experience. This applies, of course, not only to our attempt to proclaim and to live by the moral values of God whatever the cost, but also to the whole of our lives.

Like an athlete, Christian lives must be lived riskily. We must push ourselves, and others around us, always towards something better, a fuller and better life for all human beings. We must accept that life will bring failures, and times of suffering, and that we must approach such times as positively as we can – to use modern jargon – to see such things as challenges rather than difficulties – to treat everything that happens to us as a learning experience – to set our face like flint and go on, ever upwards and onwards.

 This is why Peter is told off so fiercely. He wants the easy road where the Messiah is simply a figure that brings glory and happiness without any need to face suffering or death. We love Peter for being like us and getting it wrong – again – but our aim must be to become more like Jesus, for every day we are called to take up our cross

Jesus shows power by throwing power aside

Frances writes on next Sunday’s Readings :-  It can be no coincidence that Mark (8:27-35) places Jesus’ first prediction of his passion and death at Caesarea Philippi. Built by Herod the Great in honour of Augustus, the self-styled ‘saviour’ of the known world, and seat of power of his son Philip Herod, this city reeked of power and world-wide influence. It is there that Jesus questioned his disciples about his identity, making clear that his power was not like that of worldly rulers. His style clearly shows that he wanted to demonstrate his continuity with the story of God and Israel, his ‘chosen people’, and to insist that he is God’s final word on that long journey of redemption. The upshot of his questioning is that Peter acclaims Jesus as the Christ, the one Israel was awaiting; but it immediately becomes clear that Peter, like so many in Israel, was thinking in worldly terms. This Christ or Messiah should be a warrior leader, strong and backed by a powerful army, powerful enough to throw the Romans out of Palestine. Jesus’ prediction of his terrible and ignominious death smashed through all their worldly fantasies, deliberately setting a completely different pattern of kingship, messiahship, based in the relationship of utter self-giving and impotence which is God’s way of being human in Jesus. God, who is always and entirely creator of the world and its continual sustainer, does not show his authority by throwing his weight around in the manner of earthly rulers, but acts precisely by throwing power aside. God who can truly compel offers humanity the ultimate gift – absolute freedom in which to choose to accept him or reject the gifts he offers. Perhaps only one truly so divine, so other, so powerful could act with such folly. Redemption is God’s great throw of the dice for a creation he ultimately trusts to recognise the truth.

Our Reading from Second Isaiah (50:5-9) indicates that this has always been God’s way. Written during the 6th century BC and the Babylonian captivity, it is part of that great collection of Suffering Servant Songs for which this writer is duly famed. In its original meaning, the Servant represented the nation, personified as it suffered for the failings and exile of its wayward people. Christian generations have naturally related these pieces of heartrending prose-poetry to the sufferings of Christ in redemption for the world. The best known is of course Isaiah Chapters 52-53 which we always read on Good Friday; but the dignity and humility of our passage also stands out as a vivid reminder of that long journey to God which will reach its culmination on Calvary with the crucified Christ; the story of God’s revelation to his people, the story of humanity which finds it near impossible to believe that God could do this for us, and in consequence remains so much in need of Christ’s redemptive action. Our poem wonderfully captures the persistence of the servant with face set like flint, and the need for continual review of the evidence amidst the certainty of God’s vindication of his Beloved.

This I think is the message we can find in James today.(2:14-18) What becomes clear here is that there is no room for armchair Christianity or perhaps put more prosaically Sunday only Christianity. It simply will not do to turn up on Sunday for the show, the Mass, swallow the sacrament, and then leg it until the next time. James is insistent that faith in Jesus is to be made visible and active where the believers’ everyday behaviour shows forth the Christian message by some works of mercy or by actions on behalf of others. Recent actions of the people of Germany towards refugees has amply demonstrated that their faith or at least Christian heritage has borne fruit; and perhaps the support offered by many British people in strong condemnation of our government’s refusal of asylum cases is even now demonstrating that a people largely indifferent to ‘politics’ has the capacity to be moved to respond when needs be. We carry within us daily the utter scandal of the cross, and celebrate it daily in our Mass; and it must be this that we live by, this that penetrates our souls daily. We cannot afford ever to be comfortable with our faith, for it was forged in the foolishness of God, in the scandal of the cross for a people he loved way beyond our deserving. If our actions in his name do not grate with the powers that be, then we will have failed to live as his beloved and redeemed children.

 

 

 

Prayer can be just sitting in the sun

Our 1st Reading and our Gospel today (Isaiah 35:4-7 and Mark 7:31-37) are all about the way God can open the ears of the deaf, but this is not just about those who are physically deaf. You see most of us are more than a bit deaf when it comes to communicating with God, and so the first thing we need to do when we pray is to ask God to do just that, to open our ears, our spiritual ears, to what he is saying to us. Then we need to avoid a hasty response, to be prepared instead to sit and listen and ponder, rather like Our Lady, who having heard from God that she was to bear Jesus in her womb “pondered these things in her heart”(Luke 2:19)

The problem is that we tend to think that prayer is talking to God, even talking at God, as if God were someone we want to complain to on the phone, only it takes ages to get through and then we are not sure that the person at the other end is really listening. But, of course, prayer is not like that at all. Prayer is much more like being with a very good friend. We don’t need to talk much, because  our friend – God – knows what we need before we ask; but we do need to listen, or we’re like a bad friend going on and on about ourselves, and not being prepared to listen to what our friend wants to share with us.

I would however go further than this, because although thinking of God as a friend is very important – Jesus said “I have called you friends”.(John 15:15) – it still leaves us thinking about God simply as a person, and nothing more. It’s because of this that I get people asking me, “How can God possibly listen to the millions of people who are praying to him at the same time?” The answer is that God is not like us, even though we are in some ways like him. He allows us, indeed wants us, to call him Father, to think of him as someone who cares, rather than some thing; but if we leave our thinking about God at that point, we are stuck when it comes to prayer, and particularly silent prayer – what we call meditation or meditative prayer.

This is why so many people find the idea of spending half an hour in silent prayer so hard. Let me put it this way. If I asked you if you found it hard on a sunny day to sit looking out at the sea for half an hour, or to sit in a beautiful garden for half an hour, or to go for a walk for half an hour, you would think me crazy. You might even exaggerate and say “I could spend all day sitting on a beach, looking at the sea”  – meaning that this kind of relaxation is something that you look forward to as a holiday treat, rather than as a burden. You might even say, especially if you have a busy life, that it gives you time to think through things.

Perhaps some of you who are nearer my age will remember the song from the musical “Salad Days”. They came to me the other day so maybe God was speaking to me through these words? The phrase I want to share goes like this (SINGS) “I sit in the sun, and one by one, I collect my thoughts and I think them over…” That, I thought to myself, is what prayer is like. So, as I said at the beginning, prayer isn’t thinking of endless words to say to God, but nor is it trying desperately to hear words from God. It is simply being with God, as one might sit in the sun and think things over. But what then should we do with these thoughts? How can we hear God speaking in the great mixture of thoughts that you and I have spinning around in our heads?

We need to be careful here not to turn prayer into a sort of terribly serious self-examination. Sometimes, just to sit and think and know that God is with me can be enough. Sometimes just letting my mind wander is the thing to do. I call it waiting on God, but waiting without desperately straining for some answer. The answer, the thought from God in the midst of all my thoughts, is probably much more likely to come when I am not desperately trying to hear it. But what do we do when that thought from God doesn’t seem to help. when we really need a clearer answer? What do we do then? How do we hear then what God might be saying to us?

Well If I am having a walk in the sun and see someone fall over, that’s easy. I might have two thoughts. One might be “I am too busy I will just walk on” and the other would be simply to run across to see if I can help.  We all know which one is from God, don’t we? On the other hand, If I am annoyed with someone and feel like really being rude to them next time I see them – and that happens doesn’t it – then I know that thought is not from God. But now it begins to get difficult, doesn’t it. I may know what God does NOT want me to do, but what does God want me to do in this or any other similar situation? How can I hear what he wants?  Should I just be meek and mild and put up with their stupid behaviour and say nothing? Sometimes that might be best. Or should I challenge their behaviour but just with a joke or some light remark? Maybe. Or should I actually show how angry or upset they are making me, without actually losing my temper? That can be a hard choice to make, but sometimes might be the right one – the one from God.

There is so much more I could say on how we can be helped to work out which answer is right, and some of this I will share next week, for this has only just touched the surface of how we may more easily listen to God ad hear what God is saying to us. There are ways to help us be more relaxed in the presence of God – from saying the Rosary to using practices that are now called “mindfulness”, as well as many other different recommended processes in which we practise the presence of God. The Church does not have one model of how to pray, for many Christians have prayed in different ways down through the Centuries and shared their ways with others. Above all, I would say, “Just sit in the sun with God.” That is a good place to start.

 

 

 

 

God responds when we reach out in faith

Frances writes on next Sunday’s Readings :- The question our Readings for today raises is ‘What does God want of us?’

In our Gospel, (Mark 7:31-37) we have previously seen Jesus perform miracles and debate with the scribes and Pharisees. We have watched the hostility between him and them grow over different interpretations of the Jewish law. Scribes and Pharisees tended to adopt a rigorist approach to the exercise of the law, insisting that it be fulfilled in all its detail if one were to be considered righteous or right with God; in contradiction to Jesus’ teaching and practice in which he was prepared to sit light on the law in relation to the needs of the sick, dead, outcast and unacceptable. Jesus performed great miracles which astounded the ordinary people and attracted them to his ministry, yet increased the hostility of the watchers from Jerusalem.

By the time of our Gospel passage, we see that Jesus has demonstrated his increasing break with hard-line Judaism by reaching out to foreigners, considered so contaminating that one should avoid all unnecessary contact. He heals the daughter of a pagan Syrophoenician woman, and then quite deliberately traverses a large tract of pagan territory, Tyre, Sidon and then the Decapolis – the area of 10 Greco-Roman cities on the right bank of the Jordan – before returning to Galilee. Indeed the healing of the deaf-mute is itself ambiguous; is he a Galilean or a pagan? What is clearly recorded however is the enthusiasm of the crowd. ‘He has done all things well, he makes the deaf hear and the dumb speak’. But Jesus had just previously quoted from Isaiah 29 in bitter condemnation of the scribes and Pharisees, who ‘Honour me with their lips but whose hearts are far from me’, and accused them of preferring human traditions to God-given commandments, so that we can appreciate that the gulf between him and his enemies was growing ever wider. It appears that the most important thing is that people, any people, reach out to Jesus in need and faith, and when such circumstances arise he acts with his God-given power and authority to respond. Jesus does not force himself upon people, especially those of his own race, but waits for them to reach out as he is continually stretching out his hands to others.

This surely is what our first Reading from First Isaiah is about (Isa 35:4-7). Written during the Assyrian exile in the 8th century BC, this passage is redolent with the needs of the exiles. Large parts of this work (Isaiah Chapters 1-39) are the prophet’s haranguing of a faithless Israel, one who in his words played the whore, rejecting the God of Israel for pagan gods. The invasion and exile were therefore to be seen in Isaiah’s time as God’s just punishment of his wayward people; and in our passage we see that despite all that has gone wrong, in the end the nation is to be rescued by God. Significantly, the wrong-doers, the faithless of Israel, those who rejected Yahweh in favour of foreign gods, are spoken of as ill, infirm. Israel’s God is always forgiving and generous and responds to needs as his people in their distress call upon him. So the exiles are spoken of as blind, deaf, lame and dumb, all those awaiting rejuvenation, new birth in a land where ‘Water gushes in the desert and the scorched earth becomes a lake’. The impression given is of a completely new life granted to the healed/exiled in a newly restored and fertile land. It is a picture of the relationship between God and humanity, one of harmony and hope, of God and mankind in true relationship, recognising each other and calling upon each other. God as he is all powerful chooses to relate to us when we invite him into our lives. He will not come in hostility or uninvited, but as welcomed, needed and wanted.

This was a message the writer of James (2:1-5) was at pains to get over to the Christians he was addressing. We know nothing about this author, and scholars think the work is late, possibly even third century; but what is clear is his concern for the good and Christian functioning of the community. He is aware of the tendency of Christians to act just like their pagan colleagues and friends, judging fellow Christians in terms of their portable wealth, expressed in jewellery and fine clothes, and rejecting the poor and badly dressed and treating them according to the world’s standards and not those of Christ Jesus. The fact that we are all equally valued and precious to God quite regardless of who we are and how we appear outwardly, significant or not, is something we must all be alert to. I once recall a friend who answered the door at a monastery to a very shabbily dressed man and was very sharp with him. But the man persisted, ‘I am expected’, he said. ‘Well, who are you?’  ‘I am the Prior of Bec’ came the response.

The true law is to respond to the needs of others

Frances writes on next Sunday’s Readings :- The compilers of our Lectionary for today seem to have made their choices through a series of scissors and paste jobs, so their real intention for the Church and its homily writers is difficult to see. What we do have to remember is that our interludes with passages from St John’s Gospel are now left behind and we are back studying Mark’s Gospel, (7:1-8.14-15.21-23) We have already noted in this Gospel that there was a plot headed by the Pharisees to kill Jesus in Chapter Three, and subsequently Mark has been at pains to help his largely Gentile Christian congregation in Rome understand why Jesus had courted such animosity. Consequently, he has shown us a Jesus who is a healer, reaching out to the needs of the poor and unclean in the countryside and away from controlling Jerusalem. There were many miracles and much teaching, and in our Gospel we see scribes and Pharisees from Jerusalem, that bastion of political and religious correctness, come down to Galilee to confront him. Greco-Romans knew all about power and control from the centre, and those in Rome itself were well aware of the spy networks, and the difficulties that involved.  Mark seems at pains to point out that Jesus, a devout Jew, was not opposed to following the law of Moses whenever he could; but clearly he was angered and outraged by the application of later laws which by then formed so much of Judaism as to exclude thousands from its correct practice. Was there perhaps a covert message of resistance being suggested in Rome, at the very heart of the establishment and its abuse of power?

Our foray into Deuteronomy (4:1-2.6-8) is surely precisely about this important point. The giving of the 10 Commandments to Moses by God was about a very basic code of honourable living, both in relation to each other and to God. The problem was that after the Babylonian exile of the 6th century, when Israel learned to live without Temple and sacrifices, her regard for the law, for a set of moral obligations by which to live devoted to God, meant that human-made laws multiplied and for some, especially those concerned with their writing – the scribes and those who argued for new and modified laws, the Pharisees – their vested influence became paramount; so that their understanding of the law dominated their thinking about God rather than being routes to holiness aiding the faithful. As we see time and time again in our different Gospels, it would be those clashes with these religious purists which would so enrage Jesus and secure his death.

Clearly Jesus was not antinomian for the sake of it; but his deep and enduring relationship to the Father required him to think and act with the love and charity which is supremely the hallmark of God himself. So we see Jesus entirely thoughtless of the defiling touch of lepers and the unclean, be they dead or foreign or just plain sick. He responds instantly to their needs, healing them frequently by his touch and therefore defiling himself. He will, for the sake of a change of heart on the part of a wicked man, eat in his house with his dubious friends, chat up foreign women, and defeat death itself. He lives out, in his life among us, the requirements of the Letter of James (1:17-18.21-22.27). ‘It is all that is good, everything that is perfect, which is given us from above; it comes down from the Father of all light; with him there is no such thing as alteration…’. Our author speaks of not just hearing God’s word but actively doing it too, and this for him is centred not on any elaborate laws needing to be fulfilled about ritual cleanliness etc, but rather care for others less fortunate than ourselves, the widows and orphans. The James of our passage does not indulge in any lengthy moralising, or the minutiae of the faith; for him it is all quite simple and straight forward – responding to the needs of others when and where they are manifest. Perhaps we need to live like this too and not hide behind a veil of carefully constructed Pharisaism, as is so easy to do. If our Gospel from Mark is a call for a radical questioning of prevailing political powers and systems, perhaps we too should be called to a questioning of their values, following the lead of Pope Francis.

 

I am a Catholic because of Jesus

Some of you will know that I didn’t join the Catholic Church until I was an adult. This means that I joined with my eyes wide open to all its faults and imperfections. So the present news about wicked priests, doesn’t come as a great surprise to me, even though it saddens and sickens me. I think it’s very important to think of the Church in two ways. In one sense, the Church is an imperfect human organisation. So like the BBC or the Houses of Parliament, or a Business organisation, it is a body of imperfect human beings, and sadly some of them are not just imperfect but downright wicked. But in another sense the Church, is the Church of God, the Church of our Lord Jesus Christ, and when we stand up and say “I believe in the Holy Catholic Church”, we are basically affirming our loyalty to that, the perfect Church of God, even though we belong to it in and through the imperfect human organisation.

One of the problems here is that many 21st Century people wrongly think of “belief” as a feeling, and they think that if they don’t feel right  about God and his Church then they should stop belonging to it. But “belief”, and even more “love”, are not about what we feel, but about what we choose to do. In our 1st Reading today (Joshua 24:1-2.15-18) Joshua says to the people “Choose today whom you wish to serve.”. He even offers them alternatives that might well have been very tempting, and then with their eyes wide open they have to choose.

Love is the same. Let me give you an example. When I prepare couples for marriage, one of the things I stress is that if their loving for one another is just a good feeling now, then it won’t last when they face babies screaming in the middle of the night or the yuckiness of dirty nappies! Nor will it last when there are conflicts and troubles that will make their relationship difficult. Then, love has to be not a feeling, but an act of will, choosing to love even when things are tough. The high standard Paul sets for husbands in our 2nd Reading, (Eph 5:21-32) that they must love their wives, “As Christ loved the Church and sacrificed himself for her”, just shows how hard marriage can be. Jesus chose to die on the cross; and we choose to follow that way in every aspect of our lives.

 Someone posted on Facebook the other day

“I’m not a Catholic because of priests.

 I’m not a Catholic because of Bishops.

 I’m not a Catholic because of the Pope.

 I am a Catholic because of God’s love.

 I am a Catholic because of Jesus.

 I am a Catholic because of the Mass.”

 It’s there in today’s Gospel isn’t it? (John 6:60-69) Most of Jesus’ disciples are shocked by what he is saying – that to be close to him is to be close to God the Father, and that we can be as close to him as he is to the Father when we receive him in Holy Communion. We may take this for granted, but it’s actually something almost too wonderful for words, and it is this that we choose to put our faith, in, despite the terrible failings of some priests.

 Notice too, the response of the few faithful disciples who are left. Jesus challenges them as he challenges us to make a decision, and they reply Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the message of eternal life, and we believe; we know that you are the Holy One of God.’ That’s a question for us too. Some people foolishly say that they can be loyal to Jesus without being part of the Church. I know one man who gave up on the Church and went to a Prayer Group, but then he found some people in the Prayer Group were imperfect, so he joined a smaller Prayer Group, but eventually he gave up on them too and decided to be a Christian all by himself. It’s nonsense isn’t it? Jesus didn’t say to his disciples “I cannot celebrate this Last Supper with you because the evil Judas Iscariot is present”, and even when Judas left, Jesus didn’t refuse them this great link with him because he knew they were all going to let him down and run away. No! God chooses to give himself to us in the full knowledge that all of us will fail him in some way or another. That’s the glory of our faith, that it doesn’t depend on us, but on God’s love.

 Someone said to me the other day that he had been doing various good things, and hoped that would get him to heaven. I replied “The only way we get to heaven is by honestly admitting our failings, and relying on God and his love and mercy.” As we face the terrible news about these terribly sinful priests, we all need to turn to God more fervently than ever, and let his love and mercy flow in us and through us to others.

May God have mercy on us all!