Michæl McFarland Campbell

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Sunday in hospital: feeling low but also feeling good

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It’s been a relatively quiet day in the hospital today. With no visitors, it has meant that I have had to find other things to do. This morning I attended a church service online via Zoom. They were talking about Christian meditation. It was great to hear them mention the Jesus Prayer,

Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.

Now, I know a slightly different version:

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.

At the end of the service, in the general chitchat, I mentioned that it is possible to use this prayer when walking, think of particular people and their intentions, or pray for the neighbourhood where you find yourself. I first heard this idea from Fr Richard Peers, now Dean of Llandaff.

Today, while feeling pretty miserable for myself, I took myself off for a little walk (only within the confines of the hospital). But I found myself praying the Jesus Prayer as I walked and later as I sat in the Healing Garden. I think it helped me. I hope it helped others too.

The Healing Garden in Midlands Regional Hospital at Tullamore.

Perhaps you will try it yourself. Tell me if you do.

Originally posted at https://hivblogger.com/2023/09/10/sunday-in-hospital-feeling-low-but-also-feeling-good/

Written by Michæl McFarland Campbell

September 10th, 2023 at 7:30 pm

Christ is interested in our hearts every day of our life

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A reflection on the readings for the Twenty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C), Isaiah 66:18–21; Psalm 117: 1, 2; Hebrews 12:5–7, 11–13; and St Luke 13:22–30

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Many Jews at the time of Jesus thought that salvation was based on external factors, like race and ritual. Many Jews, in fact, believed that only Jews could actually live in communion with God. The non-Jewish peoples, so they thought, were destined to be second-class citizens in the Kingdom of God. Others believed that you not only needed to be of the Jewish race to win God’s favour, but you also had to follow even the most minute details of the Law of Moses, as well as the many ritual practices that had grown up around that Law.

Jesus takes the opportunity of the question about whether or not many people will be saved, to correct those wrong ideas. He explains that in God’s Kingdom there will be people from all four corners of the earth—just as Isaiah had prophesied, and as we read in the First Reading. So race had nothing to do with it. He also explains that many who `ate and drank’ with the Lord—in other words, many who followed all the many external rituals that governed Jewish eating and drinking at the time—will be excluded from God’s Kingdom. So exterior rituals aren’t the ticket either.

But if race and ritual are not the keys to salvation, what is?

It’s the heart.

Salvation does not depend primarily on external appearances, but on friendship with Christ, and that is rooted in our hearts. The people in His parable who were excluded from the heavenly banquet complained that the Lord had actually taught in their streets. But the Lord answers them, `I do not know where you are from.’ In other words, they are strangers to Him. Maybe they did let Him into their streets, but they never let Him into their hearts.

Heart to heart

a statue of the sacred heart of jesus
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St Margaret Mary Alacoque was a French nun who lived in the 1600s. She was privileged by God with a series of visions in which Jesus appeared to her and revealed His Sacred Heart. He explained to her that his love for sinners was so great that whenever they ignored it or didn’t accept it, he felt as much pain as if someone were driving a thorn into his physical heart.

The Sacred Heart devotion that we see around us, and have heard about, traces its beginnings to those apparitions.

During one of them, St Mary asked our Lord a curious question. She asked Him to tell her who among his followers in the world at that moment was giving His heart the greatest joy. His answer was even more curious than the question. He did not mention any of the famous preachers, or bishops, or even the pope. He did not mention any of the great intellectuals, or aristocrats, or missionaries. He did not even mention someone who was later canonised. No, He told her that the person giving His heart the most joy was a little-known novice instructor in a small convent in the European countryside—someone who was instructing novices how to become good followers of Christ.

What matters to Christ is not drama and fireworks and great achievements; what matters to Christ is the humility and love that are in our hearts.

St Teresa of Calcutta once said, `If you try, you will find it impossible to do one great thing. You can only do many small things with great love.’

Following Christ is a matter of the heart: His heart reaching out to ours and hoping for a warm welcome.

Judging right

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Understanding that Christ looks first of all at our hearts can help us follow one of the most difficult commands that Jesus gave us.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus commanded His disciples: `Do not judge, and you will not be judged.’

It is not for us to pass judgment on our neighbours, because we cannot see into their hearts.

Only God can see the human heart through and through. Only God knows all of the experiences that have gone into the formation of someone’s personality. Only God knows all the hidden motives, the real reasons, and the mixed intentions behind human behaviour. Psychologists and sociologists have been trying to catalogue those things for the last hundred years, and they have only drawn one firm conclusion: the human heart is an unfathomable mystery.

Every one of us wants to be a faithful follower of Jesus Christ. He wants the same thing—that is why he created us. To follow Christ faithfully means to walk in his footsteps. And even to the very end of His life, Jesus refused to pass judgment on sinners. He warned, he instructed, he encouraged, and he exhorted, but even when His hypocritical, self-centred, arrogant enemies nailed Him to a Cross—even then, He prayed. `Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.’ How much more should we, who cannot see those depths, do the same!

This week, when we say the Lord’s Prayer, we will promise to forgive our neighbours just as we want God to forgive us. When we do that, let us really mean it.

Written by Michæl McFarland Campbell

August 21st, 2022 at 8:30 am

Posted in Sunday Relections

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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

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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

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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

Christian success comes from the Grace of God

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Reflection for the Solemnity of SS Peter & Paul, 29 June 2022. Readings: Acts 12:1–11; Psalm 34:2-9; 2 Timothy 4:6-8, 17–18; St Matthew 16:13–19.

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Photo by RODNAE Productions from Pexels

Christ chose St Peter as “the rock” upon which He would build His Church. But this is the same Peter who denied our Lord three times the night Jesus was arrested. He denied Him before the rooster crowed when being questioned by a servant girl—hardly the dependability you expect from a rock. It is said that St Peter wept for this sin at least once every day for the rest of his life, until there were two pale tracks down the skin of his face.

Christ chose St Paul to be the Church’s first and greatest missionary. Yet, St Paul started out as the leader of a violent persecution to crush the infant Church just after Christ’s Ascension. Christ chose him to announce the Gospel all over the ancient world, planting Christian communities in dozens of cities for almost thirty years. Paul was not chosen for his great public speaking or charismatic leadership. The Bible tells us that his critics despised him because “His letters are brawny and potent, but in person he’s a weakling and mumbles when he talks.” (2 Corinthians 10:10 (The Message)

How did these two men, so flawed, so human, become the two unshakeable pillars of the Church? What transformed them into saints, martyrs, and makers of history?

Put simply, it is the Grace of God. The same grace that has kept the Church growing for twenty centuries: the same grace we all received at baptism. On today’s Solemnity of SS Peter and Paul, God wants to remind us that our success and fulfilment as Christians depend more on His Grace than on our efforts.

What a relief that is!

The paintbrush and the gardener

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One modern spiritual writer has expressed this truth by using the image of a painter. If you see a beautiful painting, you praise the painter for his genius and skill. Never would you praise the paintbrush. The paintbrush was just an instrument of the artist’s genius. Our lives are meant to be God’s masterpieces, but He is the great artist; we are like paintbrushes in His hands. We are unique paintbrushes, able to choose to jump out of the artist’s hands or move in a direction contrary to His will. We do that by giving in to selfishness and sin. Nevertheless, all the saints agree, they are but paintbrushes in the hands of the greatest artist in the world.

St Theresa of Avila expressed this truth using the image of a garden. She said the soul is like a garden, the plants in the garden are all the virtues: humility, patience, faith, hope, courage, and so on. All of these plants were planted by God Himself. Our job is to water them with prayer, to fertilise them with self-sacrifice. Watering and fertilising plants would have no effect, however, unless God Himself gave life to the seeds that He had planted there.

Making better use of confession

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Admitting our need for God, and for the Grace of God is part of the virtue of humility. Humility is hard for every one of us, especially when we live in a culture that promotes self-sufficiency.

We’re surrounded by voices promising us success and peace of mind through new consumer products or new self-help techniques. Underlying all of this self-help-centred popular culture is that true success in life can be achieved solely by our own efforts. Of course, none of us really believes that. We know that only Christ can give our lives meaning. Although we have to do our part to follow Christ, His Grace is the real force behind fulfilment. As we live in this modern, self-help culture, it affects us, just as polluted water affects all who drink it.

God has given us a perfect antidote to the self-help-mentality pollution: the sacrament of confession.

Confession is a supply depot for God’s Grace. It never runs out, and it’s free. When we prepare for confession, the Holy Spirit helps us to see our sins, our failures, our weaknesses, so that we never forget our need for God. By going to confession, we give the virtue of humility an incredible workout. Most importantly, through sacramental absolution, we receive not only forgiveness, but also renewed strength to overcome our selfishness and live more Christ-like lives.

Saints Peter and Paul knew that without the Grace of God, they could do nothing. For that reason, God was able to work wonders in them and through them.

Going regularly to confession, every two weeks, or every month, is a wise and easy way to follow in their footsteps. I, like everyone else, should really get back to it.

Written by Michæl McFarland Campbell

June 29th, 2022 at 8:00 am

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Security: placing it in God not ourselves

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Some thoughts for the Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C), Sunday 26 June 2022.

Following Christ means transferring our security

In today’s Gospel we read that Our Lord Jesus Christ is travelling to the city of Jerusalem for the last time. Along the way, He meets three men who have heard His call in their hearts. These encounters teach us three tough lessons about what it means to follow Christ. However, I’m only going to concentrate on one of them.

To follow Christ, we have to transfer our sense of security. We have to relocate it from ourselves to God. We have to unlearn our lifelong lesson of relying on ourselves for success and happiness. We have to learn to rely wholly upon God, plugging all our efforts in life into His Grace.

This is what Our Lord Jesus Christ means when He says that,

Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man has nowhere to lay his head.

St Luke 9:58 RSVCE

Christ is trustworthy, but He is not predictable. When we follow Him, we have to agree to go one step and one day at a time. He refuses to give us a full route map in advance. When we follow Him, we have to stop pretending that we can keep our lives under control all by our own efforts. In accepting the friendship of Christ, we agree to follow Him, to put our lives under His leadership.

We know by looking around us that foxes and birds have the security of their instincts and natural habitats. Christians, however, are on an unpredictable adventure. We simply do not know where God will lead us. We do not know what He may ask us to do. When we join Christ’s army, we have to hand him a blank cheque.

Elisha’s example

The prophet Elisha gives us an eloquent example of this transferal of security in the First Reading. When Elijah comes and calls him to become his successor as Israel’s prophet, Elisha goes back home to tie up loose ends. And he really ties them up. Elisha was a farmer, where his whole livelihood, his whole way of life, was linked to the farm. This was how he made his way in the world. Up until the time of his calling, this was the source of his security.

But, when God makes His will known, Elisha doesn’t hesitate to break completely with that former way of life. He doesn’t just leave the farm behind. He actually slaughters the most important farm animals and burns his most precious tools. In so doing, he offered them to the Lord as a sign that from now on he will depend on God for his livelihood and his happiness.

Not everyone is called to serve God in this way, not everyone is called to consecrate themselves completely to the Church. But all Christians are called to make a spiritual offering to God of our oxen and our ploughs, of those things, talents, or activities that we tend to depend on instead of depending on God.

God can only fill our lives with the meaning and fruitfulness we long for if we put Him first, trusting that He will lead us better than we can lead ourselves.

Resurrecting the Morning Offering

Each one of us wants to make this transfer of security from self to God. That is why we are at Mass. We know that we need God. We know that only by depending more fully on Him will our lives take on the meaning and fruitfulness for which we all long.

But how do we do it? How can we become more faithful followers of Our Blessed Lord, more hope-filled disciples, more stable and authentic Christians? This transfer of security from self to God is a virtue. It is the virtue of hope. Like all Christian virtues, this one was planted in our souls like a seed when we were baptised. It is already there. We just have to help it grow. We do this by exercising it.

One of the most effective ways to exercise this virtues is by practising the long-standing tradition of beginning the day with what is called a prayer of “morning offering”. Like all exercises, physical, mental, or spiritual, it is better if it is done regularly. Daily, if possible.

This is a prayer that we say before the day begins — maybe right when we get out of bed, maybe after showering, before we go to breakfast. It’s a short prayer, but everything is put in perspective:

Thanking God for the gift of another day;

Asking God for guidance and protection;

Renewing our commitment to accept and do whatever He asks of us as we continue on the adventure of following His unpredictable path.

This week, let’s resurrect this wise tradition, so we can all exercise more energetically this great virtue of hope, a virtue that foxes and birds don’t need, but that is absolutely essential for us.

Today, Jesus will come to us once again to assure us of His all-powerful Love. When He does, let us assure Him of our trust. Nothing will please Him more.

Sample morning offerings

A modern version

O eternal and ever-blessed Trinity, Father Son, and Holy Spirit, with all the angels and saints, I adore you. From the bottom fo my heart I thank you for all the favours and benefits you have bestowed upon me, but especially for having preserved me during the night, and for giving me this day to serve you. I wish to live only for you, for greater honour and glory, and for the salvation of souls. O good God, preserve me this day from all sin and all occasion of sin.

O loving God, I begin this work day by offering everything I am and do to you. Help me accomplish all the day’s necessary tasks, to be wise in making decisions and earnest in completing my work. Let nothing distress or overwhelm me. Help me to depend on you for the energy, wisdom, and courage I need to do an honest day’s work. And then help me to let go of any concerns and anxieties. Amen.

A traditional version

O Jesus through the most pure Heart of Mary, I offer You all my prayers, works, joys, and sufferings of this day, for all the intentions of Your Sacred Heart, in union with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass throughout the world, in reparation for my sins, and in particular for the intentions of the Holy Father the Pope. Amen.

Written by Michæl McFarland Campbell

June 26th, 2022 at 7:30 am

Posted in Sunday Relections

Joy is the certainty of being loved

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Reflection on Readings at Mass for the Fourth Sunday of Easter (Year C): Acts 13:14, 43–52; Psalm 100:1-3, 5; Revelation 7:9, 14–17; St John 10:27–30.

I realize of course that joy is not expressed the same way at all times in life, especially at moments of great difficulty. Joy adapts and changes, but it always endures, even as a flicker of light, born of our personal certainty that, when everything is said and done, we are infinitely loved.

Francis, Bishop of Rome, Joy of the Gospel.

The reading from the Acts of the Apostles today, tells us that the Apostles were filled with joy. Joy is the hallmark of Christianity. Joy is the gift of Eastertide: 50 days of celebration. Fifty days to allow the joy of Christ’s Resurrection to truly sink in.

We all have moments of suffering, sometimes they seem to last for more than fifty days. Joy, however, is possible in every situation. Joy comes from the certainty that we are infinitely loved.

Our Lord Jesus Christ tells us that in the Gospel today. He says,

My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish.

St John 10:27–28 NRSVACE

Then, in one of the most wonderful lines in the whole of Scripture, He says,

No one will snatch them out of my hand. What my Father has given me is greater than all else, and no one can snatch it out of the Father’s hand. The Father and I are one.

St John 10:27–30 NRSVACE

Joy is the certainty of being loved. We are loved by God Himself, Whose Love cannot change, Whose Love cannot let us down. Ever.

Our Lord does not promise an easy life. He does not say, “You will never have problems.”

Our Lord does not promise us success as we understand success. He promises that no one can snatch us out of his hand. He is God. He is one with the Father, in Him we are safe. In Him we are loved. This is the great lesson for today. Joy is the certainty of being infinitely loved by God.

The ultimate proof of God’s Love

We see around us the news of many children in our towns and villages making their first communion at this time. It was the same over a hundred years ago in northern France when a little girl made her first communion.

She had prepared for it, looked forward to it with excitement, and the day finally came. That little girl described the first time that she received our Lord in the Eucharist,

I felt that I was loved, and I said to Jesus, “I love you and I give myself to you for ever…” It was a fusion: Jesus and I were no longer two, I had vanished in him as a drop of water vanishes in the ocean. Jesus alone remained.

She ended her description of her first communion by recalling the joy she felt that day, the same joy she experienced every time she received Christ in the Eucharist.

Today, that little girl is one of the most famous saints in the Roman Catholic Church, St Thérèse of Lisieux. She illustrates that joy frlows from the certainty of being infinitely loved by God. E

Every time that we receive the Eucharist, we receive a living reminder of God’s Love for us. We too can say,

I know that I am loved. I know that certainty brings a joy that nothing can take away, because I am safe in the hands of Jesus.

The greatest gift

Imagine if we could hae a daily meeting with Queen Elizabeth II or with Tom Daley. We would probably consider it a tremendous gift. It would be. However, there is an even greater gift: the chance to receive God each day in the Eucharist.

The Curé d’Ars used to say that if we want to be saints, we need to receive communion often. Our Lord Jesus Christ left us this gift as his real presence. When we receive communion we receive God himself. We are united to Him in a way that surpasses anything else.

So, during the rest of Eastertide, why do we not consider attending daily Mass, where possible? If that is not possible then make sure we do attend the Eucharist each Sunday.

Joy comes from the certainty that when everything is said and done, we are infinitely loved by God. The Eucharist makes that Love present, here and now. We can see it. We can touch it.

As we receive Christ in the Eucharist today, let us all thank Him for His amazing Love for us. Let us ask Him to help us to love Him more and more each day.

Written by Michæl McFarland Campbell

May 8th, 2022 at 8:22 am

Posted in Sunday Relections

Freely give what you have been given: the gift of Divine Mercy

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Reflection on the readings at the Eucharist on the Second Sunday of Easter Year C (Divine Mercy Sunday): Acts 5:12-16; Psalm 118:2-4, 13-14, 22-24; Revelation 1:9–11, 12-13, 17-19; St John 20:19-31

The gift of Divine Mercy

Today, as we conclude the Octave of Easter and then continue on into the rest of the fifty days of Easter, we celebrate the gift of divine mercy. We find that it is easey to forget that we do not have a right to mercy. Mercy has been freely given to us by the Lord.

In today’s first reading from the Acts of the Apostles, we read of the power of healing flowing from St Peter and the faith of the people who sought him out. St Peter over the readings during the Octave has been the first to tell us that the power comes from Our Lord Jesus Christ, not from him. Today, we read that people are trying to fall under St Peter’s shadow to be healed. It is likely that St Peter would admit that he is but a shadow of the Lord. However, our blessed Lord uses him to heal those who seek him, just as those who seek forgiveness and healing through the sacraments draw close to our bishops and priests, knowing that it is the Lord who heals and forgives through them.

In today’s second reading from the Revelation of St John the Divine, St John has a vision of Our Lord holding

the keys of Death and of Hades

Revelation 1:18 NRSVACE

The Lord is not revealed by name, but reveals himself as “the first and the last” (Revelation 1:17) to St John who is imprisoned on the Isle of Patmos for giving witness to Jesus. His keys represent His authority: specifically, to bind and to loose. If we ask Him to liberate us, He will, but we do have to ask Him. Our Lord’s mercy is the key to liberation from our sins.

Our Blessed Lord did not have to forgive St Thomas for his lack of faith in the Gospel, just as Adam and Eve did not have to receive mercy after the fall. That fall condemned all their posterity (all of us) to separation from God for ever. We did not commit the Original Sin, nor was the Lord obliged to forgive it or to redeem all of us from its effects. However, in appearing to the Apostles, the Lord’s message is one of peace and reconciliation, not one of condemnation. In today’s Gospel, He empowers His Apostles to be instruments of His mercy. When a bishop or priest absolves a penitent from their sins, that mercy and power come from Jesus. Instead of remaining in doubt and regret about whether we have truly been forgiven, the Lord has given us sacraments that in faith we know bring us His forgiveness. When we were baptized, we also had our sins wiped away.

All these means of healing and mercy are gifts freely given by the Lord. We do not have to receive them, but surely we would be fools indeed if we did not seek them out.

Jacob Marley’s Chains

In A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, the ghost of Scrooge’s business partner, Jacob Marley, appears to him to encourage him to change his greedy ways. The chains that now bind Marley forever are weighed down with

cash-boxes, keys, padlocks, ledgers, deeds, and heavy purses wrought in steel.

A Christmas Carol

When Scrooge asks the ghost why he is fettered, Marley replies,

I wear the chain I forged in life… I made it link by link and yard by yard; I girded it on of my own free will, and of my own free will I wore it…

A Christmas Carol

Marley goes on to say that Scrooge’s chain has been much heavier than Marley’s for years.

Our sins reflect the things to which we are attached, just like the chains of Marley’s. What do we think ours look like? There is but one person who can free us all from those chains: Our Lord.

Freely give what you’ve been given

When the Lord sends out the disciples at the start of His public ministry, He tells them

You received without payment; give without payment.

St Matthew 10:8, NRSVACE

Today, we remember the peace and reconciliation He gave them without paying, and the ministry of peace and reconciliation for others that He asked them to carry out without pay as well.

We were freely given the gift of mercy. Let us give it freely as well, whether it is asked of us or not.

Written by Michæl McFarland Campbell

April 24th, 2022 at 9:30 am

Good news travels fast: let’s spread the news of joy

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Some thoughts for the First Sunday of Easter. Readings: Acts 10:34, 37–43; Psalm 118:1-2, 16-17, 22–23 ℟ v.24; Colossians 3:1-4; John 20:1-9

℣ Christ is risen, alleluia!
℟ The Lord is risen indeed, alleluia!

Joy is the best response

We were created for joy. We never hear someone say,

You know, this whole joy thing is not for me. I wish I had a little more misery in my life.

We are created for joy, but we come to realize that it’s not something we can just buy at the local supermarket. Thinking about the most joyful moments of our lives, is it not true that they were a surprise?

Today’s Gospel gives us an idea of the surprise of discovering the empty tomb. St Mary Magdalene had been there at the foot of the Cross. She had see Jesus die. Crucifixion was not a joke. Being such a horrible way to die, even the Romans eventually outlawed it. So it was, that St Mary Magdalene was not expecting an empty tomb. She knew that Jesus had really died.

So, when she sees the empty tomb, she does not know what to make of it. So she runs and tells St Peter and St John. Both of them run to the tomb. St John beats St Peter to the tomb, he looks in, and then waits for St Peter, the first among the Apostles. St Peter enters the tomb, and then St John follows him in.

What they saw surprised them. We should really say that what they did not see surprised them. The body of Jesus was gone. The burial cloth was there, but the body was gone. The Greek actually says that the burial clothing was lying there in its folds. It was as if the body of Jesus had just evaporated and left the clothes lying there as though there were a body. But a body there was not.

Imagine the surprise. What has happened here? We are told in the Gospel that St John saw and believed. He believed that Jesus had risen from the dead! The surprise must have overwhelmed him. But as he began to believe, he was filled with joy.

Joy is the best response to Easter. Who could have ever imagined that death could be conquered? That is the meaning of Easter. Our deaths are not the end. Just as Jesus rose from the dead, we will rise from the dead. Body and soul, we will live forever.

Suffering does not have the last word. Death does not have the last word. No. The Love of God, given to us in Jesus Christ, the Love of God has the last word. This is why the response to today’s Psalm is

This day was made by the Lord, we rejoice and are glad.

On Easter Day, we also are surprised by the presence of the Risen Jesus. We, too, are filled with joy.

When we realize the gift of Easter, joy is the best response.

The Saint of joy

The St Philip Neri, the founder of the Congregation of the Oratory, was known as the Saint of Joy. His antics were legendary. On one occasion four Polish nobles came to visit him. He welcomed them and started to read a book of jokes to them. Every so often he would stop laughing to remark,

You see what wonderful books I have, and what important matters I have read to me!

They went away grumbling about this charlatan who pretended to be a saint. He would also go around Rome with large white shoes on his feet, or dressed in a marten skin cloak, or have his beard shaved off only on one side, or get a haircut in church while Mass was being sung. When he was being criticized by others for his supposed ignorance, he made sure to mispronounce some Latin words during the Mass while they were present. He once said that

a cheerful and glad spirit reaches holiness much more quickly than a melancholy spirit.

St Philip Neri, was a man who had been surprised by the incredible Love of Christ. He realized that joy was the best response.

This day was made by the Lord, we rejoice and are glad.

Tell your story

The Easter story is the most wonderful story ever told. But it is not simply a story told for fun, it is a story that also happens to be true.

Think about how fast good news spreads.

If I really believe that Jesus died for me and for each person, do I not want to tell others?

If I really believe that Jesus rose from the dead at Easter, do I not want to tell others?

If I really believe that Jesus is alive, and wants to fill our lives with healing, freedom, and joy, do I not want to tell others?

Our faith, Christianity, spread because Christians told their story. In our own time, people will come to find joy in Christ if we tell our own story about finding that same joy.

Today, as we receive the Body and Blood of Christ, we know that He wants to be both our strength and our joy. After we receive communion, in church or at home, let us take a minute and ask Him, “What is my story?”

Surely every one of us will remember one moment when we realized that our life was different because I know Jesus Christ. Can we share that moment with someone else?

Someone else in this world is waiting to hear that story. Someone else is waiting to experience the joy of Easter.

Regina cæli, ora pro nobis.

As it is Easter, let us join in praise by singing the Regina Cæli:

Joy to thee, O Queen of heaven, alleluia;
He whom thou wast meet to bear, alleluia;
As he promised hath arisen, alleluia!
Pour for us to God thy prayer, alleluia!

℣ Rejoice and be glad, O Virgin Mary, alleluia!
℟ For the Lord is risen indeed, alleluia!

O God, who, by the Resurrection of thy Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, hast brought joy to the world: grant we beseech thee, that, through his Mother the Virgin Mary, we may obtain the joys of everlasting life; through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.

Written by Michæl McFarland Campbell

April 16th, 2022 at 8:12 pm

The constant battle to stop our frustration

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Some reflections on the readings at Mass on the Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C), 1 Samuel 26:2, 7–9, 12–13, 22–23; Psalm 103:1–4, 8, 10, 12–13; 1 Corinthians 15:45–49; St Luke 6:27–38. Read them here.

Our in-built identity crisis

Photo by Clement percheron from Pexels

Each one of us has an in-built identity crisis. It is a constant thing. It’s impossible to get rid of it. And we will have it with us until the day we die. In today’s Epistle, St Paul explains what it is. In the first part of the First Epistle to the Corinthians, St Paul is writing about the resurrrection of the body, since some of the Christians in Corinth were saying that there was no such thing. St Paul says that we will be resurrected on the Last Day. The reason, he says, is because as Christians, we have received Christ’s own spirit into our souls.

At our baptism, God planted the seed of eternal life in the very depths of our souls. Ever since then, He has been nourishing it with His Grace. Through every reception of Holy Communion, every Confession, and through all the other Sacraments, as well as in many other ways, He has been feeding and encouraging the inside of our souls, this supernatural life. This supernatural life, the inner tendency to be more and more like Chirst, is transforming us from the inside out, like leaven does in a mass of dough.

The tendencies of our fallen nature are still at work in us, at the same time that God’s Grace is at work. The catechism calles these tendencies “concupiscence.” We still have the first Adam—our fallen nature—even though we have also received the second Adam—our Christian nature. We have the earthly tendencies of self-indulgence and self-centredness, but we also have heavenly tendencies of self-giving, self-sacrifice, and heroism. This is why we so oftewn want to do the right thing, but doing the wrong thing seems so much easier.

Our lives, therefore, are a constant battle, a struggle to resist the old, fallen-nature self and encourage the new, redeemed, Christian self.

St Maximilian Kolbe’s famous phrase

St Maximilian Kolbe

This is our permanent identity crisis. Waging this constant battle is the adventure of following Christ.

St Maximilian Kolbe had a clear understand of this battle. He was the Franciscan priest who was martyred in Auschwitz during World War II. One of the other prisoners had been condemned to execution, but St Maximilian offered to go in his place, since the condemned man had a wife and family.

Before the War, St Maximilian had founded a community of almost 700 religious brothers in Poland. They formed what was called the “Knights of the Immaculate.” They created a state-of-the-art media complex that included a printing press, radio station, college, and an airfield. Their most popular publication was a magazine that had more than a million subscribers worldwide.

St Maximilian suffered from chronic tuberculosis, which slowed him down but never stopped him. He used to tell the members of his community that when he died and went to heaven, he would be able to help them more than he was able to here on earth. Why? Because in heaven he would be able to use both hands to help them; here on earth, he could only use one hand.  He had to use the other to keep himself from falling.

That’s what our lives are like. We are always beset with temptations, difficulties, and problems. We are always on the verge of betraying our Lord through selfish, evil thoughts, words, and deeds. Within us, we bear God’s Grace, but it is mixed together with our fallen nature: the old Adam and the new Adam are fighting it out within our hearts.

Defusing frustration

Photo by Ivan Samkov from Pexels

This truth can help us overcome one of the great enemies of happiness: frustration. A certain amount of stress and frustration in life is natural. It will always be there. But when it becomes the dominant tone of our lives, it actually interferes with God’s action in our soul.

Frustration is a function of expectations. It comes about when our expectations are out of sync with reality. When we expect to be able to do a thousand things in one day, but in reality we can only do a hundred, we become frustrated. When we expect other people to be perfectly capable of doing exactly what we want them to do, and then in reality they fall short, we get frustrated. When we take on one hundred commitments expecting to have enough time to fulfil them all, but in reality we only have time to fulfil fifty, we get stresed out.

Unless we remember that each one of us has a built-in identity crisis, that we are only on our way to perfection, but we are not there yet, our expectations will always be out of sync with reality. 

If we do remember this lesson, if we remember that the seed of grace is growing inside this very imperfect garden of nature, we have a much better chance of keeping our expectations in proper perspective.

The Christian thing is to be idealisitic and realistic at the same time. This makes us wise, like the saints. It makes us energetic, but at peace.

Today, and throughout this week, let us thank Christ for teaching us this lesson. Let us ask him to help it to sink in. When we receive Him in Holy Communion, let us renew our confidence in Him, let us recommit to following Him energetically, but always with the interior peace He wants to give us.

Written by Michæl McFarland Campbell

February 20th, 2022 at 4:30 am

Posted in Sunday Relections