Sunday 31 May 2015

God with us.

At prayer meeting the other day a newcomer, a middle aged man we’d never met before, said he was about to celebrate his 30th Wedding Anniversary. We all congratulated him.

He said like all marriages, his had its ups and downs, including arguments and silent treatments, but overall it was OK. For their 25th Anniversary he took his wife to Paris. He said the last five years were the happiest of his marriage.

“How will you celebrate your 30th?” he was asked.

“I’m returning to Paris to bring the wife back!”

Absence makes the heart grow fonder – they say. But this joke takes it to extremes.

Sometimes, wrongly, we feel God has ignored us. He is not listening. Abandoned us even. So we give Him the silent treatment. Stop praying. Stop going to church. And eventually we may drift away.

If only we stop and think. When we feel distanced from God it is only because we have moved away. He has not left us. He is always there. Just a prayer away. Ready to welcome us back in His arms with love and forgiveness.

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

Tuesday 26 May 2015

Gadgets Gadgets Gadgets

It's amazing how many electronic gadgets we have around us these days which didn't exist only a few years ago. Like cellular phones for instance, musical recording devices like MP3 players and similar instruments, tablets, electronic readers instead of books and so on.

I friend of mine is really mad about gadgets. He has a device which opens his garage door just as he approaches his house. Somehow, the garage door detects his car approaching and opens automatically and switches the garage lights on. Very impressive.

When he gets home all he needs to do is tap his hands and the lights come on. One tap lights on. Two taps the curtains are drawn shut. Three taps they are open. Four taps the fire is on in the fire place. It's great fun when there's applause on TV.

He also has a small device always stuck in his ear. I asked him what it was and he said it's his cellular phone. He says "Call Vic" and the device somehow dials my number and he talks to me without using his phone. He is often seen walking in the street talking to himself; or to someone else on the other end of this contraption in his ear.

The other day we went to the zoo as a family. His family and mine. It was a pleasant day throughout until we approached the ostrich enclosure. The ostriches are in an open area with a barrier separating us from them.

I don't know whether it was a floating ostrich feather or high pollen count but suddenly my friend started sneezing violently. He shook his head forward and the device flew out of his ear and into the enclosure.

Immediately ... an ostrich arrived from nowhere and swallowed the device.

There was nothing else to do but go home.

For the next few days, every time someone phoned my friend they heard a loud SQUAK in their ear. They thought his secretary had just sat on a cactus, or had some other misfortune whilst answering the phone.

Friday 22 May 2015

Desperate Prayers

I hope you find these thoughts about prayer of some comfort.

Wednesday 20 May 2015

HELLO ... How may I help you?

Travel Agent Lady: Hello ... how may I help you?

Me: Oh hi ... I'd like to book a room in a good hotel in Aberdeen for about a week.

TAL: Certainly Sir, when will that be?

Me: Now, right now ...

TAL: You'd like a room starting today, Sir?

Me: No ... no ... I'd like to book the room right now.

TAL: I understand ... and when would you like to stay in Aberdeen?

Me: Next month ... the week starting the 12th. I'll be staying for the whole week.

TAL: Do you have a preference of hotel Sir?

Me: No ... I don't know Aberdeen that well. I want a good hotel, not just a bed and breakfast.

TAL: Yes Sir. I have one available which I am sure will be suitable. May I have your name and address please Sir? ... ... ... And a telephone number where we can contact you? ... ... ... Thank you Sir. Will you require a single or a double bed room?

Me: Oh double bed ... a large bed. And make sure there's a TV too.

TAL: Yes Sir ... all rooms have a TV, telephone, Internet access, as well as adjoining bathroom and several other facilities. I'll be sending you a hotel brochure Sir. Meanwhile, I need a name for the other guest staying with you, Sir. Will that be Mrs M...?

Me: No ... no ... my wife will not be with me.

TAL: So it's just you, Sir?

Me: No ... me and Maurice.

TAL: Maurice ... That's the other guest ... May I have Maurice's surname please Sir?

Me: Just Maurice ... he has no surname ... Just Maurice and I will be staying for a week.

TAL: I understand Sir ... That's a double room for a week commencing the 12th of next month for yourself and Maurice. Will there be anything else Sir?

Me: Eh ... yes ... does the hotel have room service? Can we order beakfast and other meals to be delivered to our room? We'd rather stay in the room most of the time.

TAL: Yes Sir. There will be a menue in your room and you can phone your order which will be delivered at any time day or night. Some guests prefer to have a meal at all hours, like two in the morning, for example. This hotel will deliver any meal you wish to your room at any time for you and Maurice to enjoy.

Me: That sounds great ... One more thing. Will they also deliver bones?

TAL: Bones, Sir?

Me: Yes... raw bones, for Maurice.

TAL: I don't understand Sir.

Me: Maurice prefers raw bones before his performance.

TAL: I still don't understand Sir.

Me: We're in Aberdeen for the sheep dog trials. We're coming incognito. We'll enter the trials in the last possible moment. That's why we'll stay in the hotel room for as long as possible. Maurice is a champion sheepdog, and any news of his entrance in the show will affect the betting odds, you see.

TAL: Yes Sir ... I see clearly now ... (deep breath) ... I understand.

Saturday 16 May 2015

What does God want?


Many people spend their lives in prayers. Rosaries recited times on end. Preferred prayers and litanies from Saints. Novenas repeated ad infinitum. Or even just talking to God (with little listening perhaps) and asking Him over and again for our needs and wants.

But … apparently, this is not enough.

Others spend their lives reading about the Saints and other learned books about Christianity and our Faith?

Is this enough … or not yet?

Others attend Mass regularly, perhaps daily, take Communion, go to Confession and do as the Church teaches and commands.

Are we getting there … do we have a pass to Heaven or not yet?

Some people immerse themselves in good deeds. They do good works in Church. Attend Committee Meetings, help with the day to day running of the place, clean the church and do whatever else is needed.
How is our score now? Enough good points to enter Heaven?

And then … there are people who visit the sick, the elderly, the prisoners … they feed the poor and the down-and-outs and spend a lifetime of generosity both in time and effort as well as in financial terms doing as Christ commanded.

Surely they at the very least deserve Heaven.

The thing is … we really don’t know, or have not been taught WHAT GOD REALLY WANTS.

Christ made His commandment clear:

Love God and love one another as I have loved you.

But is this really possible? Has He set us an impossible task?

How can you love someone who has wronged you and continues to do so?

How can you spend your time helping others less well off than yourself when in reality there are times when you’d rather be at home with your family doing something else more pleasant?

How can you keep up doing good deeds and sacrificing yourself for others when you feel that you owe it to yourself (so they tell you) to be happy and to have it all? Being selfless and always thinking of others seems so unachievable at times.

The real reality is that we cannot love like Christ.

Because He is Christ, the Son of God, and we are not.

He loved and forgave His enemies on the Cross; but this is a step too far for most of us.

We are humans and He is God. He lived and died and was Resurrected again as God.

He loved and still loves as God. And His mercy and caring for us are the fruits of the love of God.
We cannot, nor are we meant to, love one another as He has loved us.

So we satisfy ourselves with acts of devotions, prayers and “too much religiosity”. We try to be kind and charitable and forgiving towards each other – and often fail to reach the standard required of us. But we try again, and should continue to do so.

We aim, and perhaps fail again, to achieve Sainthood. For His sake, For His mercy. And for His love.
But I suspect that Saints are made and not born. We are born sinners and through our deeds and actions we strive to walk the road to Sainthood.

Only He, through His Grace, can make us Saints.

Our job is to take the first step, in Faith, in Trust, and let Him do the rest.

Wednesday 13 May 2015

What does God look like?

The Heavenly and Earthly Trinities” by Bartolom√© Esteban Murillo.
Murillo, The Heavenly and Earthly Trinities, about 1675-1682 
Photo © The National Gallery, London

We are told that God created us in His image, and for centuries people have assumed that God is a bearded man sitting on a cloud in Heaven looking down on us.

Artists over the years have painted Him as a human being, no doubt taking their clue from what the Bible said about us and His image, and also from the fact that Christ, His only Son, came down to earth as a human being.

But what does God really look like?

Is He a Spirit somewhere in the sky, or wherever? But the Holy Spirit has been depicted, and seen, as a dove and tongues of fire. Is that what God looks like?

It is worth remembering that although we are taught that God always existed, so does Jesus and the Holy Spirit.

Jesus did not begin to exist the day He was born on earth. He has always existed. When He was born on earth, this is when He took the shape of a human being, a baby, born amongst us. He is "Consubstantial to the Father". From Latin consubstantialem, of one essence or substance. He always was and is.

So although we accept, and many have seen, Jesus in human form, and the Holy Spirit has been seen as a dove, tongues of fire or bright lights, no one has actually seen God. And we cannot therefore assume that He looks like any of these.

In essence it does not matter what God looks like. Christ taught that He is a Father in Heaven to help those people listening to Him at the time to understand Deity in a form their minds can comprehend. 

What we need to concentrate on is that God is love. Unmeasurable love Whose desire is that we all one day will be united with Him in Heaven. He is mercy. He is forgiveness. He is goodness and patience. And all that one would wish from a caring Creator.

And that's what it means to be created in His image.

We all have the potential to love, to have mercy and pity for our fellow beings, to forgive, to be good and patient and caring, and everything else that we consider God, our Creator, to be.

Yet ... sadly yet ... despite being created in His image, with all this Godly potential, there are many it seems who live their lives with none of these qualities in their behaviour.

Sunday 10 May 2015

Of Church Mice And Church Men

I visited an old church in the countryside the other evening.

There was this historian giving a talk entitled “The influence of the Church in England from Chaucer to Henry the Eighth and Beyond”.

Given a choice between listening to that lecture and watching an important football match on TV I would choose the lecture every time. You know me, always willing to oblige and to please … Why is it that old fashioned marriage vows included the words “to love and obey”? Was there not a clause about football games in those vows? There should have been!

Anyway, the old historian did not disappoint. He lived up to my every expectation and went on and on giving us every minute detail about this most fascinating subject. He reminded me of one of the priests who visited our church recently; Father Ontoo Long!

He too went on ad infinitum reading his sermon from notes he must have typed on an old type-writer and stopping at every punctuation mark to add boredom to everlasting tedium.

I wondered as I sat there on those hard wooden pews which very soon numb the lower parts of your body … I wondered, if this historian stood side by side with Father Ontoo Long and they talked in unison would they put us to sleep in stereo?

My boredom was soon to be relieved by an unexpected distraction.

I noticed a few feet away just by the radiator standing against the wall a mouse crawling slowly towards me. He’d probably been disturbed by the historian’s monotonous voice, I thought.

The mouse stopped suddenly then ran back towards the wall. No one noticed him except me.

He then walked ever so slowly close to the wall towards the left of the radiator. Then he stopped again. Moments later he was joined by another mouse following a few feet behind. He too stopped and then the first mouse turned round facing the second mouse. They faced each other for a few seconds then the second mouse ran back towards the radiator followed by the first!

I bet those mice are married, I thought. Probably having an argument I shouldn’t wonder. Something like this:

Mr Mouse: Oh … why do we have to go to church every Sunday? That priest is so boring!

Mrs Mouse: We don’t go to church to see the priest. We go to meet God and to pray.

Mr Mouse: But God is everywhere. Why can’t we meet Him at home? I bet He’d love to watch the football match on TV!

At that point a sharp elbow dug deeply into my side and a harsh voice whispered “Stop snoring!”

Oh well … back to Chaucer and Henry the Eighth I suppose. Did they have church mice then?

Thursday 7 May 2015

Undress in haste

I needed some new clothes for work so I visited this large Department Store in town and started looking around. Pretty soon I found the perfect pair of trousers in varying colors. What would suit me best do you think? Dark blue? Black? Gray?

I took all three and proceeded to one of those cubicles where you can try your clothes on before you buy them.

The man in charge led me to a cubicle and asked me to press a little button if I needed any help.

I got in and tried the first pair of trousers … too tight. The second pair was too long in the legs. And the third was too tight and too short.

Why can’t they make trousers that fit exactly as the size it says on the label? Admittedly the three pairs of trousers were made by different manufacturers but the labels clearly said the same size on all three. And that is my size. The size I measured myself at home and the size of my current trousers which fit me perfectly well.

I proceeded to take off the last pair of trousers and pressed the little button as instructed.

Immediately, almost instantaneously, the male attendant turned up and I explained the situation to him. He took the items away and promised to get me bigger sizes.

I turned round to get dressed and … disaster!

The silly man had taken away the trousers I was wearing when I came into the shop as well as the other three.

So there I was. Trouser-less in a cubicle, and also minus my wallet and car keys which were in my trouser pockets.

I pressed the little button frantically again. Nothing happened. I pressed and pressed and still nothing happened.

Eventually the man returned empty handed.

“I’m sorry Sir; we don’t have any other sizes!”

I explained what had happened and he went away trying to retrieve my own trousers which he had put away with the other trousers to be sold in the store.

I waited for what must have been an eternity. Trapped in a store with no trousers to my name.

Eventually a female voice was heard to say, “Try these and we’ll see if they’re OK!” and a hand came in through the thick curtain and handed me two dresses. One pink and one light blue!

Almost instinctively, I don’t know why, I took the dresses and for a few seconds stared at them. It then occurred to me to look out of the cubicle and call the female attendant back.

Too late! She too had vanished in the store never to be seen again.

“Dear God … what do I do now?” I muttered under my breath.

Well, I suppose the Good Lord must have been listening because there, standing beside the socks rack, was our Parish priest.

In desperation, I tried to attract his attention without making a scene.

“Pssst … Pssst …” I uttered nervously as if calling a cat.

At this point I should tell you that Father Frederic is somewhat old and hard of hearing. He didn’t move one inch and continued looking at different pairs of socks.

“Psst … Psst …” I went again. No response.

“Father Frederic!!!” I said quietly yet forcefully enough that he might hear.

He stopped what he was doing. Looked around and saw no one calling him. Then he looked up to Heaven and made the Sign of the Cross.

“Over here … Father!” I said more forcefully.

He saw me hiding behind the curtain of my cubicle and approached me tentatively.

“I thought the Good Lord was calling me!” he exclaimed.

“No … it was me,” I replied still holding the two dresses, “I’m in an embarrassing situation Father!”

“Oh dear …” said my priest, “it is embarrassing. I didn’t know you liked to wear women’s clothes!”

“Hein? I DON’T!!!”

“No need to be shy about it my son. You really must resist the temptation … and you must come to Confession too.”

“Father … you don’t understand … These are not my clothes!”

“No of course not,” he interrupted, “they’re women’s clothes and you can rest assured that your secret is safe with me. It’s as if you told me about it in Confession. Come to think of it, this curtain is lovely and thick … we need to change the curtains in our confessionals!”

“Father let me explain … I need a pair of trousers!” I said as calmly yet as firmly as possible.

“What? You came here without trousers? You didn’t wear a dress in public did you? That’s rather foolhardy you know. What if a parishioner saw you … you’d bring the whole congregation into disrepute you know!”

At that point I think Saint Anthony must have stepped in and come to my rescue; even though I’d forgotten to pray to him.

The male attendant returned with my original pair of trousers, and my wallet, and car keys.

A week later at Confession Father Frederic whispered to me through the brand new confessional curtains “Are you sure you have nothing else to confess? Something pink and something blue … and worn by pretty ladies!”


Wednesday 6 May 2015

An appeal to your hearts!

I would like to appeal straight to your hearts dear readers.
Please spend some time watching this video first. Thank you.

Tuesday 5 May 2015

Pain, Hurt and Forgiveness

Many of us go through life carrying the pain and hurt caused to us in the past. This pain slows us down. It makes us stumble from time to time. It hinders our progress in our journey towards God.

It isn’t always easy to forgive. But that shouldn’t stop us trying. We can do so with God’s help.

We can ask Him to take away the pain caused to us. He can do that; after all He did take a lot of pain on our behalf when nailed to the Cross.

We can ask Him to heal the hurt. He can do that too; He did heal many people when He walked amongst us.

We can ask Him to teach us to forgive. He did forgive; just as He was dying.

As for forgetting; that isn’t so easy. The memories of our hurt will always be with us.

Jesus has not forgotten what we did to Him. He has the scars in His hands, feet and side to remind Him everyday.

And every time He looks at the scars, He forgives us once again.

So every time we remember our hurts, we too should forgive again and again.