Michæl McFarland Campbell

Always telling the story

Archive for October, 2023

Love for God and neighour cannot be separated

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Reflection on the Sunday readings for the 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A), Sunday 29 October 2023. Exodus 22:20-26; | Psalms 18:2-3, 3-4, 47, 51; | First Thessalonians 1:5-10; | St Matthew 22:34-40.

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The ‘law and the prophets’ that Jesus refers to in today’s Gospel (the Old Testament) were considered by the Jews to contain the absolutely unique self-revelation of the one, true God to His only Chosen People. Possessing this revelation made ancient Israel more privileged than all other nations and peoples. Therefore, when the Pharisee (like all Pharisees, he was an expert in the ‘law and the prophets’) asks Jesus to identify the greatest among the 613 commandments of the Old Testament, he is really challenging Jesus to give an interpretation of the entire history and reality of the Israelite nation. We can imagine Jesus fixing His eyes on those of the questioner, wondering how sincere the question really was.

St Matthew does not tell us how the Pharisee reacted. However, we can imagine his surprise, if not downright shock. Although Jesus had been asked to name one commandment, he listed two. Shrewd Pharisees would have noticed this. In listing two commandments, Jesus pointed out that you cannot separate loving God from loving one’s neighbour. Yet, that is exactly what many Pharisees did daily.

God is our Creator and our Saviour. His Love is both universal and personal. He loves every single human so much that He gave Jesus’ life on the Cross to pay the price for each person’s sin, to open the gates of heaven to every single person who is willing to follow Him. Therefore, if we truly love God with all our heart, it would be a contradiction no treat our neighbours — those very people God loves and for whom Jesus suffered to save — with sincere and self-sacrificing respect. The old saying applies above all to God: A friend of yours is a friend of mine.

Rescuing the abandoned in ancient Rome

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In ancient Rome, Christians used to use Catacombs for their burial places. These Catacombs consist of miles of underground tunnels and chambers painstakingly carved out of the unique tufa soil on the city’s outskirts. Tufa is a mixture of normal topsoil and elements from volcanic ash and lava. As long as it is not exposed to the air, it shows no special characteristics except that it is remarkably soft and easy to dig. When you excavate into it, exposing it to the air, it gradually becomes almost as hard as rock. It was the perfect environment to create a vast network of underground cemeteries, chapels, and hiding places.

We can still visit these Catacombs today. When we do, we notice that in addition to the normal graves, there are thousands of little horizontal niches dug into the walls of the passageways. Two or three feet long, less than a foot high, two or three feet deep, these niches are much too small to serve as a burial place for a fully-grown body. Recently, archaeologists discovered what these niches were used for.

In ancient Rome, when Christianity was still a minority, outlawed religion, it was common practice for pagan women to abandon by exposure unwanted or crippled babies. There were special clearings outside the city used for just this purpose. As Christianity spread, Christian women started going out to these clearings to rescue the unwanted babies, convinced they were loved by God and created in His image. Some of the babes would die from exposure before or soon after being rescued. When that happened, the Christians would bury these babies in the little niches in the Catacombs.

In this way, at great cost and inconvenience to themselves, they actively lived out Christ’s commandment to love.

A secret weapon for Christ-like love

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In today’s world, aren’t we all very busy? Sometimes, we even feel much too busy to take the time to reach out to our neighbours in need. It is very possible, however, that at the end of our life, we will see things quite differently. But in the midst of our busy-ness, we can make an effort to love God by loving our neighbour, precisely in the way we interact with the people around us. A true follower of Jesus should always remember that people matter more than things. We should never be too busy for a kind word or a sincere smile.

Those of us who really are super-busy can also use a secret weapon that allows us to do more in less time, to fulfil both of Jesus’s two great commandments in one action. It doesn’t add anything at all to our to-do-list or calendar. It is so simple we might be tempted to shrug it off when I tell you — that would be a big mistake. What is this secret weapon? Praying for others.

When we pray for others we are exercising both loves at the same time: we show our love for God, by talking to Him and expressing confidence in His goodness and power; and we show our love for our neighbour by caring about them.

Each one of us should have a list of people for whom we pray regularly — family members, coworkers, orphans, politicians, Christians suffering persecution… We should keep our list somewhere we will have a chance to use it. Perhaps near the windscreen of our car, or the counter where we fold our laundry, perhaps near the sink where we wash the dishes… it is said that the Pope keeps his on his kneeler, where he does his morning and evening prayers.

Praying regularly and sincerely for others is the secret weapon for loving God and loving our neighbour. Let’s promise to use that weapon well this week.

Written by Michæl McFarland Campbell

October 29th, 2023 at 8:59 am

God is good, patient, and merciful…

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Reflection on the readings for the 27th Sunday in Ordinary time (Year A): Isaiah 5:1–7; Psalm 80:8–19; Philippians 4:6–9; Matthew 21:33–43

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Today, God reminds us that all good things in life have come from Him. Many people get angry at God and ask why He allows bad things to happen. Fewer people are humble and honest enough to ask themselves a much more important question:

Why do good things happen, why is there any good in the world at all, where did it come from?

We ought to think more about the answer to those questions.

The readings today paint the picture of a vineyard or a garden. Gardens are environments carefully created by gardeners in order to enable plants to be healthy and reach maturity, bearing abundant fruit.

God sees our souls as gardens of virtue. Just as God supplied the vineyard with air, sunlight, water, soil, the wall to protect it, and the tower to guard it, so He supplies each one of us with life, talents, opportunities, family, sacraments, knowledge, conscience, and the guidance of the Church. There is no good thing we an think of that does not owe its origin and existence to God.

One of the best things God gives us is His mercy, His patience.

Today’s readings how how many chances God gives His tenants to do the right thing, to fulfil their duties, to do what they were put there to do. When they do not do what is right, God sends three different messengers, including His own son. In justice, however, He did not need to send any. He could have evicted the selfish stewards right away. But God is patient with our sin and selfishness. He keeps giving us more and more chances, many more than we deserve. He never gives up on us, even though we occasionally give up on ourselves.

The boundless mercy of God is the best evidence of His immense goodness.

The anthropomorphic mistake

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One common characteristic of many natural religions that humans have developed throughout history is anthropomorphism. This is a fancy word for saying that without the help of God’s revelation, people tend to think that God (or the gods, if we’re talking about paganism or polytheism) is just like us, only bigger and stronger.

We are all familiar with stories from ancient Greece in which the false gods got into arguments, tried to trick each other, and committed adultery — it was as if they were just like humans, only immortal.

Christianity put an end to anthropomorphism — we now know that although humans are made in the image of God, God is not made in the image of man.

God is unlimited in his knowledge, goodness, wisdom, and power — He’s not just bigger and stronger than us; He is on a different level altogether.

And yet, our fallen human nature still has a tendency to think in terms of anthropomorphism. One such mistake we often make is thinking that God loses his patience with us, just as we lose patience with others (or ourselves).

We think that since we run out of mercy, giving mercy takes a huge effort for us; well then, it must be that way for God too. Not at all. God’s mercy is unlike a giant eye-dropper in heaven, reluctantly and jealously dispensing forgiveness and love in little bits, drip by drip. That is often how we do it. But God’s mercy is more like a waterfall, a rushing mountain spring, an ever-flowing fountain. The only thing that will make us die of thirst is our self-centred refusal to drink from this fountain — just like the stewards in today’s parable.

God’s mercy and goodness is always ready to come into our lives, always. We just have to open the door.

The path to surpassing peace

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The more deeply we know this truth and are convinced of it, the more joyful we can be. Joy is the emotion that comes from having or possessing a good thing. Most of the joys of this world are fragile and passing, because the good things of this world are fragile and passing. But God’s goodness, His selfless interest in and unconditional love for us, is never-changing, stable, constant, and eternal. The more we are aware of it and lay claim to it, the more joy we will experience and the more constantly we will experience it, coming gradually to discover what St Paul describes in today’s second reading as

the peace of God that surpasses all understanding.

Philippians 4:7

How can we deepen our knowledge and conviction of God’s limitless goodness?

St Paul says we must become people of prayer: offering to God all our worries; thanking Him for all our gifts; and contemplating all the good and noble things that God has done and with which He has surrounded us.

The society around us, our own selfishness, and the devil try to clog up our minds with complaints and problems, so that we lose sight of the bigger picture.

Only by consciously lifting up our hearts and minds to God, every day, throughout the day, do we gradually come to root our lives in the deep, rich soil of God’s goodness.

How is our prayer life? Does it consist merely of saying prayers? Does it include heart-to-heart conversations with Christ? Does it include time to reflect on God and His plans through reading the Bible and other spiritual books?

Today, as we renew our faith in God’s boundless goodness and mercy, let us also renew our commitment to being Christians worthy of our name — Christians who love Christ enough to spend some time with Him in personal prayer, every single day.

Written by Michæl McFarland Campbell

October 8th, 2023 at 11:24 am

Haemoglobin is finally above 10! Hurrah!

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Wednesday saw the routine of ‘monthly bloods’ taken and sent off from the dialysis unit. In recent months, the most worrisome result has been the Hb or Haemoglobin level that has been recorded. Back in May and June, it hit a bottom point of 6.2. This week, however, it came back as over 10. This level means that I am back much more towards the normal level, and I am definitely feeling a lot better. 

I also received both an appointment letter and a reminder letter (printed the same day) from the Haematology clinic at the Midlands Regional Hospital at Tullamore for the last day of October. Whilst part of me wants to say, ‘Look, I’m well again — do I need to come?’ I will attend because it will be interesting to see what they have to say. For my part, I have a feeling that the Hb was low because of the failing fistula, and now that it has been settled down, it isn’t taking Hb away any more. We shall see. 

Originally published on HIVBlogger.com

Written by Michæl McFarland Campbell

October 7th, 2023 at 10:27 pm