Sunday, 30 August 2015

The Fear of God


Father Ignatius waited until the congregation sat down and then he started his sermon.

“We often read in the Bible about people fearing God, and the fear of God. And that’s an issue which I would like to address today.

“What is meant by the fear of God?

“Do we fear that unless we obey Him and do as He commands He’ll send thunder and lightning from heaven and destroy us and our cities? Like in Sodom and Gomorrah?

“Or perhaps He would allow illness and terrible things to happen to us because we failed Him in some way or other?”

The priest stopped for a few seconds to gauge the mood of the congregation; and then continued.

“There are, of course, many kinds of fear. If a tiger were to suddenly enter this church we would all fear for our lives and we’d run out from every available exit. Most of us would even forget to genuflect as we rushed out of the building.”

The congregation laughed.

“But that is not the fear I speak of …

“If we believe that our God is a loving, caring fatherly God, whose only wish is that some day we all join Him in Heaven; then what is there to fear?

“Our fear is not, and should not be, a fear borne of the possibility of punishment and retribution. A fear that, unless we do as He says, we’ll end up in hell and eternal damnation.

“That is not the fear that God wishes for us. After all, He gave us the choice to love Him or not.

“Sadly, many do not either love Him or fear Him. And they seem to be thriving all right! He has not punished them or turned them into pillars of salt! In His loving nature, He has allowed them the luxury to choose as they wish.

“So … what fear is there for us then, who proclaim to believe in Him and to love Him?

“It is the fear of hurting Him.

“I repeat … the fear of hurting Him. Just as when we have a loving father or mother who do the utmost for us; and they set their standards and values to teach us how to grow up as decent, kind human beings. We, their children, follow their rules, through gritted teeth perhaps, just because we love them and do not want to hurt them.

“That’s the kind of fear we owe our God, our Creator and our loving Father in Heaven. The fear of hurting Him. The fear of disappointing Him by our behavior. A fear borne out of respect for Him; a fear nurtured by true love given to Him freely just as He has loved us.

“Not a fear of what He might do to us. But a fear of hurting someone who loves us.

“Remember … even the devil fears God. But he fears Him in a different way. He fears Him because he knows Him very well. The devil certainly knows God better than any of us does; because he has met Him face to face.

“And yet, having been close to God and experienced His love, the devil chose to disobey and strike out independently on his own. He thought he could do better than love and follow his Creator.

“And God’s loving nature let him go. He did not punish him and destroy him once and for all. He just allowed him to walk away free out of Paradise.

“It is that very act of rebellion by the devil which resulted in death for all of us. We were not destined to die, but to share Paradise for eternity with God. But the devil in his destructive, impudent rebellious nature has upset what was meant to be and his sin resulted in us undergoing death.

“God our Creator favors life. He created life.  In order to redeem us and save us from death, He loved us so much that He sent us His only Son, Jesus, so that we may have life, and have it to the full.

“All we have to do to receive this eternal life is to accept Jesus as God’s only Son, our Savior, and to fear the possibility of ever hurting Him again by our behavior.

“God will never send us to hell. It is we who choose to go there by our way of life; and by choosing the devil instead.”

Friday, 28 August 2015

A hell of a question


There are times when children ask us questions which make us stop and think. Our answer needs to be well thought out and considered before our mouth is engaged into action.

Father Ignatius was at the local Catholic School for his usual Catechism class. This is what happened when a ten years old girl asked him her question.

“Father … is it OK to pray for those people in hell?”

The priest took off his spectacles and cleaned them of imaginary dust in order to gain some thinking time.

“Why do you ask?” he said gently.

“Well …” she hesitated, “we pray for the souls in purgatory so that God forgives them and they go to Heaven.

“Why don’t we pray for those in hell? They were bad when they were alive but now they are dead they are in hell for ever. I feel sorry for them!”

“It’s good of you to feel sorry for them,” replied the priest, “it shows a charitable spirit … it shows you’re very kind and considerate.

“But we must remember this. No one goes to hell by mistake.

“As you say, these people were bad when they lived and they had plenty of opportunities to be good and to do what God asks. They had many chances to repent and ask God to forgive them and to do good. But they disobeyed, time and again, and they turned their back on God.

“God is merciful and He forgives … but He is just too. Those who are in hell have sent themselves there by their behavior.”

Another child raised his hand and asked a question.

“But Father … Sister Josephine when she was here yesterday, she said that Jesus told us to love our enemies. He said to God to forgive them when they put Him on the Cross.

“The people in hell are the enemy of God. Why does God not forgive them? Does He not love them?”

Father Ignatius prayed silently for inspiration before answering.

“Of course He loves them” he replied after a short pause, “God loves everybody because they are His creations. I suspect He even loves those in hell and He is very sad that they are there.

“But there are times in life when people put themselves out of God’s loving nature.

“Let me explain it another way.

“Suppose your parents bought you a puppy for your birthday. You love that puppy very much and you play with him every day. But as he grows up he becomes a little threatening and he growls at everyone. One day he bites your hand. And he continues with this bad behavior to the point where you can’t come near him in case he bites you again.

“For your own safety, and that of others, your parents decide to take the dog away and put him in a Dog Rescue Shelter where he’s looked after by other people.

“It’s the same with us. God loves us all when we’re born and we’re babies. But as we grow up, some people turn against Him and become bad. No matter how often these people are told to do good they never ask God to forgive them and they continue to do bad things all their life.

“When these bad people die they go to hell because of what they have done … God still loves them. Just as you love your dog in the Dog Shelter!

“In fact I believe God grieves for those in hell. He’d rather the place was empty and we were all with Him in Heaven. But some people put themselves in hell by their bad behavior.”

“So do we pray for those in hell or not?” asked the original questioner.

“There is nothing wrong with praying,” Father Ignatius replied, “God will listen to your prayers, as He does all prayers, and will respond in an appropriate and just way. When you pray, say to God how sorry you are that there are people in hell, and ask Him to help you be good all your life.

“Every one of us, young and old, like me, must always pray that we do not give God reason to grieve by behaving badly and ending in hell.”

Thursday, 27 August 2015

Under sedation

Today we took the dog to the vet. He was put under sedation so that the vet could check him out properly and take any necessary X rays.

We picked him up after he was awakened from sedation. He was a little unsteady on his feet and a bit groggy. The vet said he'd be like that all day.

Anyway, as long as he doesn't drive any vehicles like fork lift trucks, or work near machinery he'll be OK I suppose.

We gave him the best food available and the best of attention. He ate the steak earmarked for me and I enjoyed a tin of dog food on toast.

This whole episode led me to think, as I often do ...

I wonder how many Christians there are under sedation.

You know ... going to church on Sunday, say the odd prayer every now and then, and all is OK ... they see themselves destined for Heaven one day.

Is it really as easy as that? I asked myself, but did not answer.

What about "Not everyone who calls me 'Lord, Lord' will enter the Kingdom of Heaven, but only those who do what my Father in Heaven wants them to do." Matthew 7:21

How many people are there just hoping that by doing the least possible, and by ignoring poor Lazarus at their gate, they will still end up in Paradise.

Sleep-walking into hell more like!

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

God's Protection

I saw an interesting nature programme on TV the other day. A wolf cub had been injured in the wild and abandoned by its mother. He was all alone, frightened, hungry and defenseless. Left there he would soon perish.

The TV crew and resident vet tried to capture him and send him to an animal hospital where he could be treated and looked after until he is strong enough to be released in the wild once again. Every time they approached the wolf cub he bared its teeth and attempted to bite his benefactors. Eventually, he was caught and taken to the hospital where, within weeks, he was well again.

When things go wrong in our lives we too tend to behave like that wolf. We are angry, we’re concerned, frightened even - about the future and about what's happening to us.

And we go on the attack. We believe that God has abandoned us, just like that she-wolf abandoned her cub. We blame Him for what's gone wrong, and we rebel against Him.

When we behave like that, we shut off a channel of communication with God.

When God is temporarily put aside, He doesn’t stop loving us; but we block His influence to do good in our lives.

Like the wolf cub, every time God tries to help us we bare our teeth in anger. Our behaviour is futile and un-productive.

The wolf did not realize that by being caught he’d soon improve his hopeless situation. But we should know better, and trust our Lord rather than lash out at Him without thinking.

“I will be with you always, to the end of time.” Matthew 28:20.

Monday, 24 August 2015

Life with God


Is your life exciting or is it mundane?

Not many of us spend our lives mixing with celebrities and enjoying the material luxuries that this world offers. For most of us life is a simple routine of work, bringing up the family, and a little leisure when we can fit that in. Some people can’t even afford this routine lifestyle, especially if money is short; they have no job or are in poor health.

Compare that to our spiritual life.

Is it barren and completely distant from our Creator? Or do we walk daily hand in hand with Jesus by our side?

How many times during the day do we pray silently, and thank our Lord for all He has done for us?

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in Heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.” Matthew 6:19-20.

Friday, 21 August 2015

Heaven

Although Heaven is mentioned often in the Bible there’s only one instance where we have a glimpse of a description. In John 14:2 Jesus says: In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you.

I suppose Jesus used this description because He wanted an example that His listeners could relate to. They were used to seeing palaces and mansions so He described Heaven as a building.

Some time ago, I came across another description of Heaven. This priest said in a sermon that when we die and meet God, He will sit us on His lap like a little child and He will show us our life all over again. Just like a movie. There, we will see all the good and the bad we have done. All the opportunities we missed when we could have helped others less fortunate than ourselves, all the hurt we have caused by what we have done or said, whether intentionally or not. And there, on His lap, will be our own Heaven or Hell.

Now imagine it is really so … Imagine seeing your whole life as a movie …

Imagine you are now a Film Director … what an opportunity you have to make sure your movie will have a happy ending !!!

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Guess who's in Heaven?

Johnny said to Father Ignatius, “Father, I had a funny dream the other day!”

“I could do with a good laugh,” replied the priest, “tell me about it.”

“Father, I dreamt I was in Heaven and Graham, my worst enemy, was there too!”

“What’s so funny about that?” asked the priest.

“Father, you don’t understand,” continued Johnny, “Graham is an evil conniving cheat who’d sell his own mother if he could make a fast buck! He’s the last person I’d expect to see in Heaven.”

“Well, let’s assume this is not a dream,” continued Father Ignatius as the two men walked round the church grounds, “Let’s say it’s for real.

“You died and went to Heaven, and there, sitting on a cloud playing the harp is your old nemesis, Graham.

“What do you feel about it?”

“As I said,” protested Johnny, “the man is evil. I’d probably warn St Peter in case Graham cheats him out of his catch of fish!”

Father Ignatius smiled. “Would you think that God made a mistake in letting him in?” he asked.

Johnny hesitated and did not answer.

“Do you remember the parable about the rich man who had a vineyard?” asked the priest. “The rich man hired some people early in the day to work in the field. Then again he hired more people a bit later on. And again in the afternoon, and also one hour before the end of the working day.

“The rich man in this parable represents God and the vineyard is Heaven. God is the only one who decides who is to enter Heaven.

“We have no say in the matter. Although we often pretend to know more than we actually do. You’d be surprised how many people there are ready to serve God in an advisory capacity.

“The different times of the day represent when certain people get to know God and to follow His word.

“Some people do so early in their lives and get to love Him and obey Him throughout their lives. Others get to know God later in their lives; and some only get to know God at the end of their lives just before dying.

“Of course, the temptation is there to ask why should I be good all my life when I can suddenly say sorry and accept God at the end. But there is no guarantee that this will happen is there? And God knows whether a final acceptance and repentance is genuine or not. Or just an insurance policy cashed in at the last minute to avoid the other place.”

“Does it matter?” interrupted Johnny, “Does it matter if the final repentance is genuine and the individual is truly sorry for what he has done, or whether it is a final act of despair to avoid going to hell?”

“Good point,” replied the priest wisely, “but one best left for God to decide since He owns the vineyard and we have no say in the matter.

“The fact remains, that when you see Graham in Heaven you should rejoice that at some stage in his life he found God and was deemed worthy by the Almighty to enter Paradise.

“As for you, who has been called to work in the vineyard early in your life, your job here on earth is to be an example to others so that they may see in you something worth following, worth knowing and worth loving. As a good Christian, you should be the recruitment officer for God and lead others to Him”.