07 April 2018


I am writing to correct a grave misunderstanding.  On the 13th of April, 2014, I wrote:
I was quite disappointed when 2000 rolled around.
I have been informed by a very important person who was born in that year - on the 27th of December, to be precise - that she was quite hurt at my being disappointed.  How could the most glorious year of our time be a disappointment, given such an illustrious birth?

And of course it could not.  As I went on to explain:
Oh, OK, I wasn't really disappointed.  But it is true that for one born in the first half of the twentieth century, there was a magic about the idea of "the year 2000."
I had grown up with expectations around the figure '2000'
Only the first day I went back to work - Wednesday 5 January, 2000 - I took the same old diesel 'bus; wore the same baggy clothing; worked in the same buildings of concrete and steel.  For those not born in 1942, my disappointment may be surprising.  They had not seen futuristic drawings of 2000, with people in skin-tight clothes, commuting by personal helicopter, working in sweeping-line skyscrapers.
I only wished to correct this deeply concerning misunderstanding.  I wept to think I had caused someone to believe I was disappointed at the year of her birth.

We all do experience disappointments - and often ones that are far more serious than my, admittedly, light-hearted comments above.  Some are of great moment indeed.  All reflect our view of time - at least, they do so if we truly believe that '... all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28).  For what we want is the good that we have conceived - and we want it now.

This is natural.  It is very natural.  Our calling is supernatural.

28 January 2018


We have just bought a new car ... well, newer - 14 years old instead of 18 years old (or the 'other' car, which is 26 years old :-)).

We've been looking for most of a year for a car that would have certain features that we hope will help Susan in her paper run.  Rather remarkably, Tuesday five days ago - the 23rd of January - we happened across one sitting by the road with a 'for sale' sign on it.  Things have moved fairly rapidly and yesterday we bought it.

Bought it, of course, by increasing debt.

Someone once asked me how we can be certain we are doing God's will.  "In the sense that you mean it," I responded, "we cannot."

I did hedge a bit.  I said that God does, when He wishes, grant the preternatural grace (I hope I have the terminology correct!) of 'infused knowledge.'  He makes you to know something without having had to learn it.  Normally, we do our best to make a reasoned prudential judgement - aided, we hope, by the gifts of the Spirit - and we act - we act in faith.

We do this all the time.  Most of the time we scarcely concern ourselves about the will of God - not, at least, regarding each and every action of our day.  We eat our breakfast; we go to work; we read a book.  Yes, we do make an act of the will regularly to choose God's will always - a fiat.

But the matter comes to our consciousness in a striking way when the matter is one of some thousands of dollars - we do stop and think: "do I really need this?"

The "am I in the will of God" that we would love to have is something we could clutch to our breast; hang in front of us as - dare I say it? - a kind of shield between us and God.  "I know God wants me to do this or that.  He told me.  I am safe."

And I don't have to lean on Him every moment.

This is not given to us, and, for those of us who are far from holiness, it would be disastrous.  It would become an idol.  What I know is:
31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek all these things; and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well. (Matthew 6:31-33)
But what if I really am not depending on Him?  What if I choose out of self-will.  That, too, if I face Him and acknowledge it, will uphold me:
28 We know that in everything God works for good[d] with those who love him,[e] who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)
We walk by faith, not by sight.

21 January 2018


I am astonished.  Not only did Jesus give His life that I might be saved from my sins; rise from the dead that I might live eternally; ascend into Heaven that He might send me His Holy Spirit; He wants to be with me, bodily, whenever I am able to come to Him.

To be sure, the Church commands me to go to Mass at least on Sundays and 'Holy Days of Obligation' - of which there remain, in New Zealand, only two (Christmas, and the Solemnity of the Assumption - and to receive Communion at least once a year during the Easter Season.  This command is to encourage the friendship between me and Him.

For I do not naturally seek this friendship.  It is precisely nature that does not draw me to friendship with God.  By nature, I am His creature.  By nature - if I were not a fallen creature - there would be no enmity between me and God.  But - by nature itself - I am not drawn to friendship with God.  It is strictly supernatural that God and I can be friends.

That supernatural life which He has put in me, by baptism and faith, seeks not only to worship Him as creature to Creator, but - astonishingly - it draws me to His friendship.

That is why I go to Mass whenever I can.  I am fortunate.  I live in a country where Mass is regularly available.  Many are unable even to go to Mass on Sundays as a regular practice - for there is no Mass they can get to.  I have St Patrick's of Pukekohe a twenty-minute walk away (being lazy, of course I drive :-)).  I have working conditions that enable me to walk to St Patrick's Cathedral at lunch most days.

He is waiting for me whenever I go.  He gives Himself to me in the Eucharist.  My own nature does not draw me - at times rebels at the tedium - for Mass is not exciting.  Mass is love.  Mass is communion with God.

13 January 2018


“Why does this man speak thus? It is blasphemy! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” (Mark 2:7)
I cannot - I argued yesterday - be forgiven if I will not forgive.  By the same token, I cannot forgive unless I am forgiven.  Why is this?

For that it is so, I know quite well, even if I find it difficult to explain.  The cause, it seems, is that forgiveness is holistic.  It is not forgiveness to say that I do not hold against you the wrong you did me - and go my way, indifferent to you.  This is to say that you are not important to me - not important enough even for me to be angry.

Forgiveness and anger must often go together.  You have hurt me - perhaps deeply.  I am angry - angry at your own misbehavior; your lack of love and care for me; your action against yourself in doing something 'like that.'  I am angry because I love you and forgive you - and I want us to be one.

But when I myself am not forgiven - let me be very plain here and say 'forgiven by God' - I bear my own guilt.  I wish to hide myself from the very One Who is all my good and all my bliss.

And you - you are either forgiven by Him and at one with Him Who is (if I am not forgiven) against me.  You are on His side.

Or else you, also, are fleeing from Him - we cannot be one with one another without being one with Him (Francis Thompson: The Hound of Heaven):
I FLED Him, down the nights and down the days;
  I fled Him, down the arches of the years;
I fled Him, down the labyrinthine ways
    Of my own mind; and in the mist of tears
I hid from Him, and under running laughter.        5
      Up vistaed hopes I sped;
      And shot, precipitated,
Adown Titanic glooms of chasmèd fears,
  From those strong Feet that followed, followed after.
      But with unhurrying chase,       10
      And unperturbèd pace,
Deliberate speed, majestic instancy,
      They beat—and a Voice beat
      More instant than the Feet—
‘All things betray thee, who betrayest Me.
Confession.  This priest - this man who is himself a sinner like me - he places the stole - the yoke of Christ - across his shoulders to hear my own confession.  He is the Hand of God reaching out to touch me, to comfort me, to reassure me that I am forgiven.  God may, indeed, be angry with me - particularly if my sin is grievous.  Hence penance.  Hence, if need be, Purgatory.  I first learnt of Purgatory from C. S. Lewis, in my first year as a Catholic:
Our souls demand Purgatory, don’t they? Would it not break the heart if God said to us, ‘It is true, my son, that your breath smells and your rags drip with mud and slime, but we are charitable here and no one will upbraid you with these things, nor draw away from you. Enter into the joy’? Should we not reply, ‘With submission, sir, and if there is no objection, I’d rather be cleaned first.’ ‘It may hurt, you know’ - ‘Even so, sir.’

12 January 2018

That they may all be one

20 “I do not pray for these only, but also for those who believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one; even as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. John 17:20-21
We pray what we call "The Lord's Prayer" - if we are Catholic, we pray it 6 times whenever we say the Rosary; once when we go to Mass.  We pray, in particular, "...forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us."

That prayer is - or ought to be if we listen to what we are saying - daunting.  We ask for forgiveness as we forgive those who trespass against us.  We are, in fact, asking for the same sort of forgiveness we give others.  Indeed, our Lord gives us this prayer in Matthew's version together with precisely this warning:
“And in praying do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Pray then like this:
Our Father who art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy name.
10 Thy kingdom come,
Thy will be done,
    On earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us this day our daily bread;[b]
12 And forgive us our debts,
    As we also have forgiven our debtors;
13 And lead us not into temptation,
    But deliver us from evil.[c]
14 For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father also will forgive you; 15 but if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.  (Matthew 6:7-15)
Trespasses ...  There are, of course, big deals.  The woman who is raped has been trespassed against.  Those who love her have been trespassed against.  These are terrible things to be told to forgive.  Yet, for most of us most of the time, it is the tinny squeaky rhythmic sounds coming from the earphones of the person on the train; the thoughtless sarcasm of the family member; the car on the motorway dodging dangerously in front - these are the trespasses that must be forgiven.

If I do not forgive these trespasses, neither will mine against my Father be forgiven.

Why is this?  Is it that God could, if He chose, forgive me whilst I am not at one with my neighbor?

God is absolute unity of Being - and His Being is love.  God is a Trinity of Persons Whose mutual love is infinite.  There can be no slightest disunity in God.

And we are called to be united with that awful unity of love - all of us are called.  It is not that God arbitrarily wills that we forgive - forgive absolutely and love without reservations everyone who trespasses against us (and who is there who does not in some way trespass against me?); it is that the unity of love to which we are called just is that forgiving-and-being-forgiven state.  To the degree I am other than absolute in loving you and seeking your good, to that degree I am outside of that unity - outside of God.

God grant that each of us may respond to the grace given us that enables us to forgive - to be one.

10 January 2018

He taught as one having authority

28 And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, 29 for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes. (Matthew 7:28-29)
 Jesus's teaching was astonishing - and, to many, offensive.  For did not say to His hearers, "Moses taught you ... but <i>I</i> say..."?  On occasion, indeed, He sought to call witnesses to His authority:
12 Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world; he who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” 13 The Pharisees then said to him, “You are bearing witness to yourself; your testimony is not true.” 14 Jesus answered, “Even if I do bear witness to myself, my testimony is true, for I know whence I have come and whither I am going, but you do not know whence I come or whither I am going. 15 You judge according to the flesh, I judge no one. 16 Yet even if I do judge, my judgment is true, for it is not I alone that judge, but I and he[c] who sent me. 17 In your law it is written that the testimony of two men is true; 18 I bear witness to myself, and the Father who sent me bears witness to me.” (John 8:12-18)
Not as the scribes!

We have, still today, His authority.  When His Church speaks to us, we have heard the voice of authority:
16 “He who hears you hears me, and he who rejects you rejects me, and he who rejects me rejects him who sent me.” (Luke 10:16)
As those who heard the Sermon on the Mount, we should also be astonished.  The Church does not call any witness to her teaching but Christ's.  We should be astonished; God grant that we be not offended.

09 January 2018

His fame spread throughout Galilee

21 And they went into Caper′na-um; and immediately on the sabbath he entered the synagogue and taught. 22 And they were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes. 23 And immediately there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit; 24 and he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.” 25 But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” 26 And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying with a loud voice, came out of him. 27 And they were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying, “What is this? A new teaching! With authority he commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.” 28 And at once his fame spread everywhere throughout all the surrounding region of Galilee. (Mark 1:21-28)
When I was, oh, about 16, I think, disaster - a consequence of my own behaviour - threatened.  Although I had never had any religious upbringing, never even been to church - I prayed, frantically, "Oh, God, let it not happen!!  Let it not be!!  Oh, God, please, God, please, please, please!!"

Even pagans pray.  Everyone prays when in need.  There are, it is said, no atheists in foxholes.

I have been a Christian for 48 years.  I still pray like a pagan.  "Grant this; give that."  To be sure, my prayer is more often for others now; it is more often for spiritual benefits.

Ah, well, Our Lord Himself taught us to pray for our daily bread, it is true.  But His fame has spread throughout the world now.  And we are unable not to respond, for we know what He can do.

What is certain, nevertheless, is that many of those who remarked with astonishment, "With authority He commands even the unclean spirits" were amongst those who, at His words about eating His flesh and drinking His blood, "...drew back and no longer went about with him." (John 6:67) - some - God forbid! - may have been amongst those who cried "crucify Him!"

I do not know precisely what has prompted me to write these thoughts, except that I know it is not enough that I know of His fame; I know of His power; I know of His goodness and I go to Him for what I long for.  He wants my love, my obedience, my submission to the Cross that He bears daily for me.  I do not always pray like a pagan.  He answered my desperate prayer at age 16.  He has answered my prayers since.  I do pray, and often, that I will be changed into His likeness, be made one who follows Him, one who, like Simon of Cyrene, helps to bear His Cross - that I will, one day, be one who shares His Resurrection glory.