Wednesday 29 March 2017

Growing Old - Disgracefully

Let's start this subject with some Groucho Marx quotations:

"A man's only as old as the woman he feels.

Age is not a particularly interesting subject. Anyone can get old. All you have to do is live long enough.

Although it is generally known, I think it's about time to announce that I was born at a very early age."

As we get older we all tend to lose control. Some lose control of their hair. Some lose their teeth. Whilst almost all lose control. Period.

As you get older other people tell you what to do, or should do. The doctor calls you in for a regular check up and gives you advice on what you should eat or not eat and what medicines you should take. And as a good old person you have to comply.

Why should you? If you're not going to have that tasty treat you enjoy so much, or that favourite drink you enjoy, then when will you? Once you're gone it'll be too late to miss that favourite food you like.

Another way of losing control is when your relatives start giving you advice you do not ask for nor have any inclination to follow. Like how to look after yourself. How to dress and how to behave in public. How to do this and that.

Now I know that at this stage you are all probably guessing how old I am. Indeed some of you have written in asking this directly. What an impertinence. I have responded politely in Latin, or was it Aramaic?

To give you a clue let me tell you that I remember when Adam was a young lad looking for his lost rib.

I mean ... what a story that was! God had just created the whole universe and what is in it in six days and then He needed a rib to create a woman. Tells you how complicated women are. And what was He really thinking? He saw Adam happily going around naked in Paradise so He created a woman to change things for ever.

Anyway, back to what I was talking about. One thing about getting old is that your mind tends to wander and you're too tired to catch up with it. This is especially frustrating when you are writing a story or a book. Your mind has finished the novel before you have written your first word. Particularly difficult when you use the old style quill to write with, as I do. I sharpen a goose's feather and then use it to hit the keys on my keyboard.

Now, what was I saying? Oh yes ... Being told what to do. Like how to dress. Why shouldn't old people dress as they want? It's their own fashion I suppose.

A friend of mine always wears an old pullover with large holes in it. He says he likes it and over the years he has grown fond of it. He also wears dark green corduroy trousers which he keeps pulled up to his nipples using red braces as well as a belt to be extra secure. He has teeth like the Ten Commandments - all broken; and wears a flat cap pulled right down on his head. I guess in his way he is a sex symbol for women who do not care!

But then in his defence, why should old people not wear what they want?

What is really wrong if an old man wears two differently coloured socks? And you women, if you don't wear socks, why not wear different earrings just to be individually fashionable? Why do you have to conform? Why not wear a bra on your head like they did in Olde Englande years ago?
I once went out shopping wearing my underpants on my head. Mind you, I had difficulty that day putting my legs through my hat.

You see, as you get older you get a little forgetful and easily confused. Like squeezing the canary on your food instead of a lemon.

I went to visit an old lady the other day. Much older than me, she was. As we sat there reminiscing about the previous day I noticed, embarrassingly, that she had a suppository sticking out of her ear. I told her about it. She replied: "Oh goodness me ... I wonder where I put my hearing aid?"

So to remedy any shortcomings, as you get older why not become more adventurous? You know you want to. You've been waiting all your life to do something new and exciting and getting away with it.

If like me, you're a Catholic, go to Confession and ask the priest, "Have you heard any good gossip lately?"

Put a stick of celery through someone's window and shout, "The Triffids have landed. The Triffids have landed!"

Or put a carrot on your shoulder and tell people you are a vegetarian pirate.

Or poor cream on your shoulder and tell them your parrot had diarrhoea.

How about you stick a cigarette in your ear and say you hear that smoking is bad for you.

Put some cake, custard and jelly in someone's handbag and say, "Don't trifle with a woman's affections!" (For those young ones who don't know what a trifle is look it up on Google. For those old ones who don't know what Google is ask a young one to tell you).

When you wake up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom; and you don't know what time it is. Just open a window and beat a drum, or blow on a trumpet or bagpipes. Someone is sure to shout: "Who's making all that **** racket at three in the morning?"  (I bet you'll remember this next time you wake up in the middle of the night).

An old friend of mine took his grand-mother to the Antiques Roadshow last year and tried to sell her. She was so old that her Birth Certificate was written in Latin.

And that's another thing ... behaving disgracefully. You can get away with it when you're old you know. Like when I am on the bus and have eaten an orange or banana or a chocolate bar. I don't know where to put the peelings/skin/wrapper; so I casually drop it in the woman's bag sitting next to me. I've never been caught out. But if I do, I'll just tell her I thought it was my own bag.

One more thing ... go to a restaurant and whilst you're eating cough violently to attract attention and then put a pair of those joke chattering teeth on the table.
Or hide some coleslaw or mayonnaise salad in a paper bag. Cough violently in the bag and then proceed to eat the coleslaw. Always a winner this one. I have been thrown out of numerous restaurants without paying as a result.

Or send the dog's urine instead of yours to the hospital for testing. That should confuse the doctors!

I often send a friend of mine to give a blood sample instead of me at the hospital. They never check. They just take the card and take a sample of your blood for testing and then advise your doctor of the results. The last time this happened my doctor told me I was pregnant.

So there you have it. As you grow older take back control. Don't let society pigeon hole you into their categories just to satisfy their statistics and calculations.

Wear your underpants on your heads as a sign of protest. That should certainly get you noticed.

Sunday 26 March 2017

Praying/Speaking for/to the dead.

This Blog has never shied away from controversial topics. My intention is not to upset or offend my loyal and supportive readers, but to open to discussion certain subjects which have often crossed our minds and perhaps left us guessing.

As a Catholic, I realise that not all my readers are of this Faith; and I welcome them because sometimes what they say gets me thinking and helps me re-assess my position. That is why I have always allowed anonymous comments on my Blog; even though at times I have received rude comments. I have deleted such comments so as not to offend my polite and much appreciated audience.

Some anonymous comments have suggested that as a Catholic I am not a Christian. This has left me puzzled and amused because I always thought I was a Christian; albeit the current Pontiff, Pope Confusion, has perhaps succeeded in obfuscating what our religion stands for. But let's not go there in case he reads my Blog and he'll send round the Spanish Inquisition.

One more thing; I always welcome comments and discussions here, and I pray for all who take the trouble to write in, including anonymous abuse. So the illogical logic to this is that if you are in need of a prayer send in a rude anonymous message!

OK ... preliminaries over, let's get on with today's topic.

We have all had relatives or friends who have passed away; parents, siblings, uncles and aunts and so on.

My question is: Where are they now?

We believe in eternal life after death. So where are our relatives?

Are they in Heaven with God? Or are they in a Waiting Room somewhere reading out of date newspapers and magazines until the final resurrection?

I know the Catholics and other denominations believe in Purgatory. A Purification Centre, like a car wash, where our sins are washed away. But let's not go there right now, (metaphorically as well as literally - I'm not dead yet!).

So ... my first question is where are they now?

Now, assuming that their fate has already been decided by God at the moment of death, and assuming that they are in Heaven, (let's not discuss those who are in the other place for now), my next question is:

Can they hear us when we "speak" to them? Or have they somehow lost the sense of hearing or are too busy learning to play the harp?

You can see where I am going with this.

In the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, the rich man somehow manages to communicate with Abraham. So from this, I guess, that when we "speak" to our dead relatives they somehow hear us. You know what I mean? After a difficult day we sit down and tell our dead parents how we feel. Or when we visit their graves we somehow remember them and tell them how we're doing?

If that were not so, then I ask my third question:

Why bother visiting the grave?

They are dead and gone. By placing flowers or candles by the grave side it will hardly matter to them. But we do these things. Why do we do so unless we believe that somehow, they are looking down upon us from above?

Are you confused yet? Because I know I am.

Next we come to the controversial matter, (SPOILER ALERT) of praying for the dead. Catholics do it all the time, you know!!!

Why do we (Catholics) pray for the dead? Surely their fate has been decided by God on death; or else they are in the Waiting Room reading magazines.

Will our prayers in any way influence God to change His mind?

Surely if He has judged them, will He say, "On second thoughts, come into Heaven because Vic has been praying for you and you know how he goes on and on!"

Now some people believe that the whole idea of praying for the dead and offering Masses for them is a Catholic ruse in order to get money from the faithful.

NOTE TO POPE: I am quoting peoples' beliefs. It doesn't mean I believe it. So hold back the Inquisition please.

Where does this idea of praying for the dead originates anyway? 

Praying for the dead dates as far back as the Old Testament. In the Second Book of Maccabees, Judas and his soldiers prayed so that the sins of their dead comrades may be forgiven. (II Maccabees 12:39-45).

In the New Testament, we read that Paul prayed for Onesiphorus, who had died, that “may the Lord grant him His mercy on that Day!” (II Timothy 1:18).

There is also evidence in the catacombs under Rome that the Roman Christians gathered there to pray for their fellow followers of Christ who lay buried there.

By the fourth century prayers for the dead were already a longstanding custom.

So there seems to be a Biblical connection, if we call it that, about praying for the dead.

Let's now look at another angle.

When I pray for you, (or you for me - and boy do I need it?), I am putting in a good word for you with God. I am asking Him to help you, be with you, at a time of need.

Now I presume He is listening; and sometimes, in His time and in His way, He responds to my prayers, (and yours), and we are grateful for the outcome.

So my final question:

When I pray for a dead relative; is it possible that He listens to me and He has pity and mercy on that person because I asked Him to?

Or is He putting His hands on His ears and saying, "La la. Lalla. La la. I can't hear you. It is too late for those who are dead. Your prayers are a waste of time and effort!"

Over to you.

What do you think?

Anonymous comments welcome.

Saturday 25 March 2017

Much Ado About Mary

Once upon a time there was an old priest who became rather forgetful and tired of giving sermons at Mass on Sunday.

He used to write down his sermons and then read them at Mass; but more often than not he used to forget bringing his sermons to church; so at sermon time he had nothing to read anyway.

He reasoned that if he had to write down his sermons in order to remember them, then how could the congregation be expected to remember them after leaving church.

With such impeccable logic he decided to do something about it.

One Sunday morning at Mass he announced: “I’m getting old and forgetful. I really can't be bothered anymore with writing sermons I instantly forget. So from now on there will be no more sermons at Mass!”

His congregation was very disappointed and some even complained to the Bishop.

The Bishop called the old priest in for an explanation. Somewhat pensively the old priest explained that he could no longer remember what to say in his sermons, and even though he prepared sermons in writing, he often forgot to bring his writing to church, which meant he had no sermon to deliver.

The Bishop sympathised with the elderly colleague and said: “Here's something you could try. Next time you have to give a sermon say in a loud voice ‘I have an announcement to make!’

“This will ensure you have everyone’s attention. They will hang on to your every word.

“Then say just as loudly ‘I have fallen in love with a woman’.

“Now this will certainly have them all listening very carefully and remembering your every word.

“And then calmly tell them about the Virgin Mary, and all the good she did for us. It will be easy. Just speak from the heart of your love for Our Lady”.

The old priest was overjoyed and the following Sunday he stood proudly at the lectern and said loudly:


And sure enough everyone sat up in their pews to listen very carefully. The old priest then continued just as loudly:


As the congregation stirred in their seats the old priest went on:

“I can’t for the life of me remember her name …”

Many non-Catholics perhaps don't understand our devotion to Mary, the Mother of God, and often believe that our love for her is wrong and somewhat sacrilegious. They quote bits of the Bible like: 
"Christ said ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one goes to the Father except by me.’

Or Paul message in his letter to Timothy when he says, "there is one God, and there is one mediator who brings God and mankind together, Christ Jesus."

To pray to Mary, or any other Saint for that matter, must seem like idolatry or blasphemy to many.

I suppose I understand this viewpoint on the surface of it. But let's consider it some more.

When someone is ill, or in some difficulty, we often pray for them and ask God to come to their aid. This is right and proper and it shows our charitable loving intentions on our part; it shows our generosity of spirit and caring.

Prayers are the greatest gifts we can give to or receive from someone. God loves to hear our prayers on behalf of someone else.

When we pray for others we are mediating for them. We are saying "God ... you know our friend X is a good chap really. He is not well right now. Please help him." Or words to that effect.

When we pray to Mary and asking her help we are doing no different. We are asking her, or any other Saint, to put in a good word for us with God. We are not worshipping her, but asking her to mediate in the same way as we do ourselves when we pray for someone.

It is significant perhaps that Christ's first miracle, turning water into wine at the Wedding in Cana, was indeed done through the mediation of His Mother. She was a guest there. She was not in charge of proceedings. She noticed that wine was running short and asked Her Son to help. Is this a clear signal from Christ Himself that there is nothing wrong in asking Mary to mediate or intercede for us?

When we light candles in front of Mary's statue, or place flowers, this is not idolatry. We are not worshipping the statue made of stone, or whatever material. The statue is a mere representation of what Mary might look like; it is to help us imagine who we are praying to. It is no different to us having a picture of our loved ones in our wallet or purse, or on our desk at work. We don't love the picture, but the individuals it portrays. It is a reminder of our loved ones. When we place flowers or light a candle by the grave of a loved one, again we are doing this as a sign of respect and love. It does not mean we worship the individual buried there.

A number of people, including Catholics, have miss-understood what it means to place flowers or light a candle by the statue of Our Lady, or any of the Saints. Indeed, many, perhaps naively, but certainly wrongly, do end up "worshipping" and kissing the statue. This is wrong and it is time the Catholic Church reminded its followers of this fact. I have lit many a candle in my days, but in no way am I worshipping a piece of stone or marble!
 Let's look at this another way.

God chose Mary to be the Mother of His only Son. He obviously had, and still has, high regard for her. Do you think that when I get to meet God face to face He will punish me for daring to love Mary? Or Joseph? Or any of the other Saints?

When we pray to Saints we do not worship them. We merely ask them to mediate for us. To put in a good word for us with God. Just as we do when someone asks us for a reference for a job, or club membership.

And God knows ... we need all the help and good words we can get!

I know I do. So please pray for me. It won't do you any harm and might do me a lot of good.

Thanx and God bless.

Tuesday 21 March 2017

Much Ado About Laughter

Groucho Marx said, outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend, and inside of a dog it's too dark to read.

MUCH ADO ABOUT LAUGHTER is a book of short humourous stories and anecdotes, some heard here and there over the years, others originating from the deep recesses of my mind. Already published on this Blog, they have been selected by me and my loyal readers as amongst our favourites to hopefully make you smile when life is dark and miserable, or even when a bright light shines inside your dog.

My English teacher always said never split an infinitive. So he will not be happy with “to hopefully make you smile”; but then, he never smiled either, and he did not write a book like this did he?

He also told me once “Your grammar stinks!” Which was very hurtful I think, especially since my grandma always smelled of lavender perfume and eau de cologne.

At last MUCH ADO ABOUT LAUGHTER is available from HERE

Sit down, relax and get ready to smile. With some stories selected by you, our loyal readers, this book is so funny that even the author bought a copy – someone has to!

This is what the critics say, (what do they know anyway):

A book that even Shakespeare could not have written.

A book that's talked about in all the good talking circles.

A book with as many pages as there are between its covers.

A book that did not have to be written - but it has!

A book with a beginning and an end.

And now, for your amusement and delectation, here are 2 minutes of superlative musical composition to delight your auditory faculties as well as your visionary senses whilst simultaneously providing informatory material about the now printed manuscript in question.

A 2 minute trailer advertising MUCH ADO ABOUT LAUGHTER

From the moment I picked your book up until I laid it down I was convulsed with laughter. Someday I intend reading it. (Groucho Marx).



Monday 20 March 2017

Saint Joseph

On the left side of St Vincent church, right in front by the Altar, just by the Sacristy door, there’s a large statue of Our Lady. On the right side of the altar, hanging on the wall, there’s a picture of St Vincent, the Patron Saint of the church.

Mother Superior found in the Convent, in an old storeroom, a large statue of St Joseph and the baby Jesus. It was exactly the same size as the statue of Our Lady.

She suggested to Father Ignatius that the statue be restored and put on the right of the Altar, and for the picture of St Vincent to be moved elsewhere in the Church.

On the appointed day the beautifully restored statue of St Joseph was put in its rightful place on the right side of the church and Father Ignatius led a short prayer meeting for all involved. A few nuns from the convent were there, as well as the restorer and a few helpers, and Mrs Davenport the priests’ housekeeper.

After leading the prayers Father Ignatius said a few words.

“I’m so glad that Mother Superior suggested we put this statue here to honor St Joseph; and I thank her for her kindness and generosity in donating the statue which was found in the convent.

“I’d like us to think for a while about St Joseph as an individual.

“Here we have a man, often depicted in pictures and statues as being a little advanced in age, we don’t know really how old he was when he met Mary … but she always looks much younger doesn’t she?

“Anyway … here we have a man intending to marry the young lady he loves and no doubt start a family which he will look after by way of his job as a humble carpenter.

“When one day he finds out she is pregnant. I don’t know about you … but I’d feel really hurt and cheated if it happened to me. How could she? And I trusted her so?

“Aren’t these the thoughts that would cross your minds … Peter, Ken and Mark?”

He looked at the three young men in the little prayer group and they smiled coyly.

“And I’d bet if it happened to you you’d run a mile in the opposite direction … wouldn’t you?” he asked them.

They did not reply.

“Oh … but there’s more …” said the priest, “not only did Joseph’s girlfriend promise him that she did not cheat on him … no, wait for it. She tells him that she is carrying the Son of God. Yes … she is pregnant by the Holy Spirit and she’s carrying the Son of God.

“Now in those days it would have been a great scandal to have a baby if you’re not married. You would have been ostracized by your family for a start for bringing shame upon them.

“Chances are you would have been stoned to death too …

“But to say that you’re carrying the Son of God from a Virgin pregnancy would have been blasphemy of the highest order. Either that, or people would have thought you’d lost your mind … simply gone mad and left to suffer the consequences.

“Yet, despite all these risks to her good name and indeed to her safety Mary had the courage and the Faith to trust in God and say ‘Yes’ when the Angel visited her. We should always be grateful for her saying ‘Yes’.

“Can you imagine? An Angel appeared to her … if it was me I’d probably fall off my chair with fright at the sight of such a visitation.”

They all laughed.

“And can you imagine poor old Joseph? His head must have been really spinning in a daze … and without the benefit of a Guinness or two!

“First she tells him she’s pregnant, then she says it’s a Virgin birth and the baby is the Son of God.

“Over to you three young men … what would you do in such circumstances?”

He paused for a second or two and did not give them time to reply.

“But the Angel appeared to Joseph in a dream … we don’t know if it was the same Angel Gabriel, but never mind. And like Mary, Joseph too has great Faith and he believes what he is told. He stays with Mary and raises the young infant as any good father would. And for this too we should be always grateful.

“I am very pleased to have the statue of St Joseph and the baby Jesus here and that of Our Lady on the other side of the Altar over there. The Holy Family on either side of the Altar reminding us of Faith in God and parental responsibility.

“I would like now to read you a short prayer to St Joseph. This prayer is said to be over 1900 years old. It was found in the fiftieth year of Our Lord Jesus Christ. In the 1500's it was sent by the Pope to Emperor Charles when he was going into battle. It is a novena to be prayed for nine consecutive mornings for anything you may desire. It has seldom been known to fail.

“O St. Joseph whose protection is so great, so strong, so prompt before the Throne of God, I place in you all my interests and desires. O St. Joseph do assist me by your powerful intercession and obtain for me from your Divine Son all spiritual blessings through Jesus Christ, Our Lord; so that having engaged here below your Heavenly power I may offer my Thanksgiving and Homage to the most Loving of Fathers. O St. Joseph, I never weary contemplating you and Jesus asleep in your arms. I dare not approach while He reposes near your heart. Press him in my name and kiss His fine Head for me, and ask Him to return the Kiss when I draw my dying breath. St. Joseph, Patron of departing souls, pray for us. Amen.”

Thursday 16 March 2017

Rich Man Poor Man - How about you?

“There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.

“The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. In hell, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’

“But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’ Luke 16:19-31.

I am sure you all know this parable by Jesus. The story continues that the rich man asks Abraham to send Lazarus to go and warn the rich man's family to mend their ways. And this request too is denied.

So ... what have we to learn from this parable in today's modern times?

These days we have people so rich that they treat their pets better than many poor people are treated. Years ago I knew a couple who had a little dog. You know the kind ... a little bijou type dog like a small poodle or such like. They liked that dog very much. So much so that they put a plate full of best cuts of ham, or other meats, on the table and then they would lift the dog on a high chair and he would eat at table with them.

The first time this happened I was astounded. I said nothing of course; but somehow I felt bad that the dog was fed the best meat one could buy when there are so many folks going hungry.

For all I know, maybe this couple were very generous in life. Maybe they gave a lot of money to charity, or looked after the down-and-outs in the local homeless shelter. But somehow, seeing that dog eating expensive meats that I could not afford made me feel bad.

What do we learn from the Lazarus story?

How much should we give to charity? What is enough? Or not enough?

In another parable Jesus tells us of the poor widow who gave her last pennies in the collection plate. He says that her gift was worth more than that of rich people, because she gave until it hurt.

What does give until it hurts mean for us these days? Is it OK to give to charities so much that it begins to affect our family and our loved ones? Is it acceptable that our children should go without something because we have been generous towards the poor? Where do you draw the line between your family not having something at the expense of a poor man having a good meal for the first time in ages.

I once was having a meal with a priest. There were many of us round the table. I was young and perhaps foolish in what I thought or said. I asked him, "Father, is it OK for us to be having such a feast here; when there are so many people starving in the world?"

He was a wise man. He smiled and said, "There will always be starving people in the world. I know the temptation is to give all you have to the poor to the point of you going without. But if you did that, then you too will be poor and relying on others for charity. What you should do is give to the poor as much as you can afford, and thank God that you have plenty for yourself, and trust Him that He will look after the poor. You are God's instrument in life to give to those less well off than yourself."

I suppose the lesson to be learnt here is that we should not deny things for ourselves and our families. There's nothing wrong in working hard and being well-off. Indeed, Christ encourages people to work hard in the parable of the servants given talents which they increase in time.

But in our riches, we need to remember those less well-off than us; and to give them "enough" as much as we can.

What is enough? Or not enough?

This is something you will have to discuss with God when you get to meet Him.

Tuesday 14 March 2017

The Baked Beans Dilemma

Every so often I like to have a full English breakfast. Beans on toast, fried eggs and tomatoes, sausages and bacon as well as mushrooms.

So there I was last Saturday preparing breakfast for the family. The eggs were frying happily in the pan whilst the sausages and bacon were under the grill. The mushrooms and tomatoes warming gently and the toast just popped out of the toaster.

I opened a can of beans, poured it in the pan and ... to my surprise, it was all tomato sauce. I looked deep in the pan ... just tomato sauce. I stirred in a spoon and  ... success ... I found one bean. Just one bean. The whole can was filled with tomato sauce and just one bean.

I looked under the lid in case the other beans were hiding there. But no ... none were to be seen.

I read the label in case this was a new economy brand of beans with fewer beans to cut costs. But no ... it seemed a normal can. The ingredients said "65% beans, 20% tomato juice, 10% water." It did not say what the remaining 5% was made of.

I read the instructions again, in case they expected me to plant the bean and grow more beans like in the story Jack and the Beanstalk. But no ... all it said was heat gently in a pan for a few minutes. Do not let boil.

So ... what do I do next? Breakfast is almost ready. The family is gathering round the table. I search the cupboard for another tin. There was none. This was the last one.

I hear singing from the other room, "Why are we waiting? Why are we waiting?"
What do I do in this situation? I can hardly serve beans on toast with no beans? Or cut the one bean into tiny portions to serve everyone?

What would you do?

I quickly picked a packet of frozen peas from the freezer and poured a generous portion into the beans sauce and turned the heat on.

Et voila ... baked peas on toast.

The family complained that these were not beans. I told them they were a new kind of green beans especially imported from Greenland where everything is green.

They did not believe me. They said these were peas in a tomato sauce.

I think education is a bad thing. People should believe what I tell them not what they have learnt.

Saturday 11 March 2017

Forgive Forget Reconcile - NONSENSE

Matthew 5:43-48
Jesus said to the disciples, "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven ..."

A more modern interpretation of the passage above is that we should forgive, forget, and reconcile with (love) our enemies.

Easier said than done.

God knows that, and He understands when, often, we cannot achieve this commandment to the letter.

Let us analyse it a little further.

Forgiveness is an act, a positive act, not a feeling. We cannot say I feel I have forgiven him, therefore I have. We must decide to forgive, whether or not the other person has sought forgiveness or even cares whether we have forgiven him or not. We decide, deep in our hearts, that we no longer bear any ill-will towards that person. No longer do we want revenge, punishment or retribution of any kind. We have totally forgiven them once and for all - and ... here is the difficult bit: WE CAN PROVE IT TO GOD SHOULD HE ASK US TO.

So ... we have dealt with the first bit of the equation. We have truly forgiven.

The second bit is forgetting. This is almost impossible. God created us with a memory and short of hypnotism or some accident or action that leads to loss of memory, we will remember.

The deeper the hurt done to us, the more we will remember. The slightest thing will trigger that memory. A song perhaps, a picture, visiting a place, something someone says ... and we will remember once again the hurt done to us. We may resent the hurt done to us. We may become bitter and perhaps angry. This is natural and we should not reproach ourselves about it. God knows about these feelings because He created us this way - with a memory that brings back to life the bad times in our lives.

Let us use these bad memories to forgive once again. Let them be a trigger to decide once more to forgive the one who hurt us. Let them be an opportunity to pray for that person and hand them over to God. To ask Him to take care of them and to get them to know Him better.

The final bit of the equation is to "love" or reconcile with our enemy. The one who hurt us.

As an ideal state, this is worth pursuing. But let us not fool ourselves. There are times when this is impossible, or indeed it is imperative that we do not reconcile with the one who has hurt us.

Let me explain.

As human beings one of our basic instincts is to protect ourselves, and our loved ones, from danger and from evil. Again ... God created us this way.

There are times when to reconcile with the one who hurt us puts us, or our loved ones, back into a situation of danger.

Let's look at an example scenario:

Imagine a case of divorce. Is it really possible that the couple reconcile again to the extent that they live together again as husband and wife as before ... as if nothing had happened? To live together without the slightest doubt, suspicion, fear or feelings that led to the divorce in the first place?

Let us raise the stakes a little.

What if the actions of one of the spouses had created havoc in their life as well as yours? What if that action repeated itself over and over again with not the slightest intent or effort to improve the situation. Is it still possible for you to reconcile totally knowing full well that the chances are there will be a repeat of that action, putting you and yours in danger? Would it be the prudent thing for you to do? To reconcile totally and keep your fingers crossed and hope against hope?

Let us raise the stakes some more.

What if the actions of your spouse had hurt badly someone you love? Your parents for instance, or your offspring? What if to reconcile and return back to your spouse would mean hurting these people once again; or indeed put them in some danger? Would you still reconcile totally?

I think I made my point.

To forgive that individual who hurt us is a decision that we can make; and we can forgive them again and again every time the memories come back to haunt us. God asks no more than that.

But to reconcile totally and go back to a situation as it was before is not always possible.

God does not ask for that. He does not ask us to put ourselves and others in danger for the sake of "loving our enemies".

We can easily love them from a distance. We love them in our hearts in as much as we pray for them and re-affirm again and again in our hearts that we have forgiven them.

Christ did say to His disciples that at times they should leave certain places and shake the dust from their sandals.

He did not say return there again and put yourself in danger of being attacked, arrested or killed.

When some of His followers could no longer accept His teachings when He said, "whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood lives in me, and I live in him"; they got up and left Him. He did not call them back and attempt to explain. He just let them go. He forgave them and let them go.

That is what we are asked to do ... some times ... to those who have hurt us. To forgive them ... again and again ... and let them go.

Sunday 5 March 2017

Christ's Temptations

Why was Jesus human? Why was He tempted by the devil?

When Jesus came to earth He came as a human to share humanity with us so that we can accept Him and learn from Him. He was born a human baby, vulnerable, and tiny as all babies are. He grew up a human and shared every emotion we share as human beings.

His very humanity is a very important factor in understanding Jesus; the Son of God.

Let's consider a different scenario of this Son of God coming to visit us here on earth.

Imagine for a minute if He had arrived as a God (which He was/is). Imagine if He suddenly appeared out of nowhere in a flash of lightning and thunder. Imagine if He came on earth like a superman or such other fictional hero. With obvious powers like flying, super strength, X ray vision and so on like we see in the movies.

How do you think we humans would have reacted?

The people of the time would have been in total awe of Him and would have obeyed and followed Him out of fear or wonderment.

Hardly free choice - is it?

So God decided that His Son would come to us as a human. He humbled Himself as a baby born in poverty in a stable. Grew up with the poor and the down and outs - not as a king.

As a human He felt every emotion that we feel. Sadness at the death of Lazarus, pity for the ill and poor ... etc.

As a human He also experienced temptations.

In the desert satan tempted Him: If you are God's Son jump from this temple, turn these stones into bread. Why don't you worship me?

How often does satan tempt us too?

Are there not times when, perhaps like a bright light in our head, we suddenly stop and ask ourselves: "Is this all real? Is there really a God out there? Jesus? Life after death? Can all this be true and do I really believe it?"

I hope these temptations don’t cross our minds too often. Because satan is always there; ready to put these and other thoughts in our minds to lead us astray.

The closer we come to God the harder the devil works to lead us away from Him. No point in tempting those who do not believe is there? Satan is too clever to waste his time on them. Instead he lurks in the shadowy corners of our minds ready to pounce at our moments of weakness. When we're ill perhaps, tired, overworked, confused, sorrowful, doubtful and lacking hope. That's when satan moves in and furtively plants the seeds of doubts and confusion in our minds.

And that’s why Christ had to be tried and tested by satan. In order to share our experiences, but, most important, to be an example to us all on how to fight back these temptations.

Through prayer.

Every time He was tempted Jesus prayed to His Father.

He was tempted again before He was arrested. He asked: "Can all this pass me by?"

Then, in prayer, He obeyed His Father and said: "Not my will, but Yours."

What an example for us all to emulate.