Michæl McFarland Campbell

Always telling the story

Archive for July, 2022

Let’s be warriors of the truth

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Some thoughts on the readings for the Eucharist on the Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time in Year C. The readings are: Ecclesiastes 1:2; 2:21-23; Psalm 90:3-6, 12-13, 14, 1; Colossians 3:1-5, 9-11; and St Luke 12:13-21.

Faith in Christ has consequences

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I regularly hear from friends who are not Christian that they think Christianity is nothing but an empty list of dos and don’ts. They seem to believe these lists come from an irrational thirst for power and domination and that the standards we seek to uphold limit personal freedom. Christians know this to be untrue. 

St Paul explains the real reason behind the moral teaching of Christianity in the Second Reading at the Eucharist today. Because Christians have come to know and believe in Christ, they strive to live according to a demanding moral standard. Having experienced His love, power, goodness, and grace, we want to emulate Him. 

By knowing Him, we know what the universe looks like. Without Him, without Christ, human life is meaningless. It is like chasing after the wind, “vanity of vanities”, as we read in the First Reading today. Without Christ, everything we do here on earth would end when we die. There would be no lasting value. It would be like the mark your toe leaves in the water when you dip it in the sea at the beach. 

Jesus came to earth. He suffered and died for our sins. He rose from the dead. And He ascended back into heaven to give us a chance at a lasting value. Our lives are now plugged into eternity through faith in Christ, “hidden with God”, as St Paul puts it. 

Everything we do is linked to salvation history. Before Christ, we were shipwrecked on a desert island with no escape, dying. Life was vanity. But Christ came to rescue us. As long as we cling to the wood of His Cross, we can rest assured that He will bring us home to his glorious, everlasting Kingdom. That is why we should strive to avoid anything that would separate us from Christ. We should avoid anything that could break our friendship with Him by violating His command to love God and love our neighbour. I hope that the Anglican bishops meeting at the Lambeth Conference remember these two commandments of the Lord. Love God. Love your neighbour. 

Our faith in Christ has consequences for our life. If we let it, it gives us a friendship that will last into eternity. 

Oil and water, darkness and light, the Penitential Rite

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Soldiers who jump out of aeroplanes wear a parachute because if they do not, the laws of physics will cause them some damage. They do not argue with it. They adjust their behaviour to deal with it. 

Our lives should be similar. If we want to stay spiritually healthy, we must adjust our behaviour according to the moral law God built into the universe. We have to follow the commandments and the example of Christ. Selfishness and sin go against that moral law. They separate us from a healthy relationship with Christ. Oil and water do not mix, no matter how hard we try. Darkness and light do not mix, no matter how hard we try. Friendship with Christ—and the happiness that comes with it—cannot grow if sin is poisoning the soil of our souls. We have to repent. We have to use a parachute. 

That is one reason why every Eucharist begins with a penitential rite. After the greeting, we call to mind our sins, ask God for His forgiveness, and implore His mercy. This is our parachute. This is when we turn away from everything in our lives that damages our friendship with Christ. 

Only then can our minds be open to hear God’s word in the readings and the homily and to receive His strength in Holy Communion. 

Our faith in Christ has consequences for our life. 

Being warriors of the Truth

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When St Paul makes his list of sins that put our friendship with Christ in danger, he focuses on one in particular: self-centeredness. He is saying that we need to pay special attention to it. He writes: “Stop lying to one another, since you have taken off the old self with all its practices.” We are reminded that lying, deceiving, and manipulating the truth are sins. They unravel God’s plan for human society and endanger our friendship with Christ. 

God, the author of all truth, has given us the capacity to know and communicate the truth to build healthy relationships. When we abuse this gift, obscuring the truth for our own selfish reasons, we make ourselves enemies of God and friends of the Devil, whom Jesus called “the father of lies”. 

And at times, every one of us does it. We have learned our communication skills partly from a media culture. A culture full of expert spin doctors who do not hesitate to put a questionable spin on what they say or don’t say to further their agenda. Advertisers do it, reporters do it, screenwriters do it, and sometimes, we do it. We spin the reports we make at work or school, the explanations we give to our spouses, and the permissions we seek from our parents or superiors. 

So much spin is going around that many people have become permanently dizzy. They have concluded that truth doesn’t even exist. 

Jesus does not want us to go through life being dizzy. He wants us to see clearly so we can love deeply and truly. 

Today, let us renew our friendship with Christ. With the strength he gives us in Holy Communion, let us confidently embrace the consequences of that friendship once again. Let us not be mercenaries of spin but warriors of the Truth. 

Written by Michæl McFarland Campbell

July 31st, 2022 at 9:15 am

Posted in Sunday Relections

Celebrating the most important day of our lives

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Reflection on the Readings for the Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time: Genesis 18:20–32; Psalm 138: 1-3, 6–8; Colossians 2:12–14; and St Luke 11:1–13.

The primacy of grace and the power of Baptism

Photo by Dayvison de Oliveira Silva: https://www.pexels.com/photo/priest-wiping-baby-head-during-baptism-ceremony-6263087/

The two most important days of our lives are days that most of us do not remember. The second most important day is the day that we were born. Of that day, we remember nothing. We may have heard stories about it from our parents or grandparents, but each of us remembers nothing. The first most important day is the day that we were baptized. Most of us have no recollection of that day either.

Yes, I did get those days round the right way. Our baptism is more important than our birth. The natural life that we received at birth was destined to peter out in a few years, because our human nature was mortally wounded by original sin. Like a fan after you unplug it from the socket, it was just spinning by momemtum. It was unplugged from the source of life, God.

When we were baptised, we were plugged back in. We were filled with supernatural life. God adopted us forever as members of his family. This is why baptism is praised so highly by St Paul in the Second Reading. By baptism, he writes to the Colossians, we were buried with Christ who died for our sins, and we were raised with Him who rose to give us eternal life (cf Colossians 2:12). Baptism is the beginning of our eternal life.

The most amazing thing about it is that we didn’t do anything at all. The most important event in our lives is not something that we did. It is not a personal achievement. Rather, it is something that God did for us: it was God touching our souls with the grace of Christ.

As St Paul writes, we were dead. We were sinners. We were completely helpless, unable to plug ourselves back into friendship with God. God, however, came to our rescue. Wholly on his own initiative, working through the love of our parents or our friends, and through the ministry of the Church, He brought us back to life in Christ.

The fountains of Rome

Photo by Jennifer: https://www.pexels.com/photo/the-famous-trevi-fountain-in-rome-italy-at-nighttime-5383170/

The greatness of an individual Christian does not come from his or her own natural talents and achievements. No, it comes from the much higher life of friendship with God that Christ won for us and that God freely gives us at baptism — the life of grace.

When I visited Rome, I saw many architectural wonders, but one of the most memorable was the fountains of the city. In the seventeenth century, the Church commissioned Gianlorenzo Bernini and his disciples to design a series of monumental fountains to decorate the most important plazas of the city. These fountains, like the Four Rivers in Piazza Navona, the Triton fountain in Piazza Barberini, and, of course, the Trevi fountain, turn the ordinary and abundant elements of water and stone into something of supreme artistic beauty. The fountains do not sit immobile and static in their piazzas. No, they erupt in dynamism and spectacle.

The Trevi fountain is huge, but it remains hidden until you are immediately in front of it. It completely took me by surprise. It overwhelms you when you turn the corner of a narrow street.

The Four Rivers fountain amazes by the sudden appearance of a large granite obelisk that seems to hover weightlessly above the basin of churning water.

These fountains were not designed for tourists. They were designed to enhance the experience of Christian pilgrims who came to Rome to renew their faith. Their amazing transformation of simple stone and water into magnificent and awe-inspiring masterpieces encourages Christians to trust in the power of the grace of God. That is the grace that transforms our fallen, limited human nature into something divine, making us into children of God, and citizens of heaven.

Each of us, as Christians, is meant to be for the world what Bernini’s fountains are for the city of Rome.

Celebrating our baptismal day

The Parish Church of St Patrick, Kilconriola (Ballymena) where I was baptized. Photo: Michæl McFarland Campbell

I am sure that most of us celebrate our birthdays. I know that I do. I know that it is good that we do. Life is a precious gift. A gift that none can give to themselves. It is right to thank God for that gift. It is right to celebrate and appreciate it. It is right to remember that we owe our lives to others — God first, and our parents second.

But just as we celebrate our birthdays, do we celebrate the anniversaries of our baptisms?

I know that I do, but I suspect that many do not. Surely we should all celebrate this as the most important day of our lives? Perhaps we should have baptism parties just as we have birthday parties? The eternal life we received from God on that day is worth much more than the natural life that we received from our parents. It was just as much a gift as our natural life.

Certainly, we did nothing to earn such a great favour from God. Surely that is all the more reason to thank Him for it, to celebrate the day we received it?

In the world of self-help, we can fall into the heresy of activism, thinking that we can make ourselves perfect by our own power. We can’t. We all need the grace of God. He is always willing to supply it. We, unfortunately, are not always willing to take it in. Perhaps, if we start celebrating our baptisms with more energy, the supply lines will be widened.

Today, as Christ comes to us in Holy Communion to strengthen that supernatural life that we received in baptism, I’ll thank Him for all His gifts, more especially that of grace, the gift which alone gives real hope to life.

Written by Michæl McFarland Campbell

July 24th, 2022 at 5:37 pm

Posted in Sunday Relections