Newsletter for Sunday 28 February 2021

26 Feb

The Glory of Christ Revealed

Our Lord in today’s Gospel (Mark 9:2-10) climbs Mount Tabor with Peter, James and John and is transfigured before them. His face shone as the sun and “His clothes became dazzlingly white, whiter than any earthly bleacher could make them.”

The fact that each year we read an account of the Transfiguration so close to the beginning of Lent is because it is a pre-figuring of Our Lord’s Resurrection. The Church is trying to show us that all our efforts of prayer, fasting and almsgiving throughout Lent will help us to share in His Resurrection, when, if we remain faithful, our mortal bodies will one day be raised up in glory to be like His. The Transfiguration is also a revelation of His divinity. This is not just God coming down to earth as a spirit. JESUS is revealing His divinity, His glory and His power in His own humanity.

In the vision He is also conversing with Moses and Elijah. Then a voice from the cloud above says, “This is My Son the Beloved. Listen to Him.” God is revealing to Peter, James and John that JESUS is no mere prophet. He is far greater than Moses or Elijah. He is the Son of God by nature. And once that revelation is completed, “then suddenly when they looked round, they saw no one with them any more but only JESUS.”

While the Transfiguration announces Our Lord’s divinity and Resurrection, it also prepares the three Apostles for the scandal of the cross. St Ephrem (306-373) says, “He took them up onto the mountain in order to show them His kingship before they witnessed His Passion, to let them see His mighty power before they watched His death, to reveal His glory to them before they beheld His humiliation.” The three Apostles who witnessed His glory in the Transfiguration were the same three who witnessed His agony in the Garden of Gethsemane. So to strengthen them, they had a foretaste of His Resurrection.

We have here then the story of two mountains: Tabor and Calvary. They will have to descend from the Mount of Transfiguration in order to climb Mount Calvary. And that’s where we are heading this Lent. We go now to Calvary so as on Easter Sunday we can celebrate the glory of His Resurrection.

Fr Paul Gillham, IC

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Newsletter for Sunday 21 February 2021

19 Feb

Temptations are a Gift

Every year on the First Sunday of Lent we hear one of the Gospel accounts of Our Lord going into the desert for forty days where He prayed and fasted and was tempted by the devil. We commemorate this with the forty days of Lent. Our Lord, by being tempted provides us with the encouragement we need, that with His help, we can face and overcome temptation.

Although it might sound an odd thing to say, God allows us to be tempted because we all need to be! One of the reasons He allows it is because it shows us what our weaknesses are. As a result we are humbled and realise we are not as strong as we would like to think. If we weren’t tempted we would probably become full of pride thinking we had overcome the sin.

We can also make satisfaction for our sins through temptation. It’s not very pleasant being tempted and it can even become a real suffering when we have to struggle and fight against something we know is sinful. This in turn purifies us, and by struggling against it we win the graces necessary to overcome it, and thus grow in holiness. We become more confident in God’s help and we come closer to Him because we realise that without Him we can do nothing (John 15:5).

To overcome temptation we need to prepare for it, particularly through prayer and the regular reception of the Sacraments of Penance and Holy Communion. We should avoid the near occasions of sin, that is people, places and things that could lead us into sin.  Also avoid idleness because as the saying goes, “The devil finds work for idle hands.”  St Alphonsus Liguori (1696-1787) tells us, “As soon as we become aware of a thought that has an evil look about it, we must dismiss it immediately. We must, as it were, slam the door in its face denying it admittance into the mind, without stopping to decipher its meaning or intention. We must shake off such wicked suggestions as quickly as we would shake off fiery sparks that landed on our clothes.” Also foster a devotion to Our Lady because she continues to crush the head of the serpent and there is no one Satan fears more than her. We should also invoke St Joseph as “Terror of Demons” because his purity, his humility and his obedience terrorises the devil.

So always remember, temptations are an opportunity to prove our love of God and to become holier by resisting them. God never allows us to be tempted beyond our strength (1 Corinthians 10:13). By our perseverance we will make great progress along the narrow path that leads to eternal life.  

Fr Paul Gillham IC

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Newsletter for Sunday 14 February 2021

12 Feb

Suggestions for Lent

This is the final Sunday before Lent begins. Ash Wednesday is this week and we wouldn’t want to begin Lent without a firm idea of what we’re going to do to help us grow in the spiritual life. Lent is a very special season so let’s not let it go to waste. We are called to repentance and to deepen our relationship with Christ. So if you haven’t done so recently, the best way to begin is by making a good examination of conscience followed by Confession, as being in a state of grace is the starting point of any personal renewal.

We Catholics are in the habit of giving up something we are fond of for Lent. This is a good practice because it helps us to become detached from the things of this world. However, very often we begin with the best of intentions and then after a few days we find we have lapsed. If this is the case, don’t just give up. Start again afresh. Be realistic about what you’re going to give up – remember it’s for 40 days – and it’s best not to choose something you know is going to make it difficult for the people you live with or is going to make you bad tempered!

But let’s try and go deeper in our relationship with Our Lord. If possible, try to get to Mass an extra time in the week. I know this may be difficult for some, particularly at this time, but if you can, make the effort. We’re also going to be having Stations of the Cross each Friday evening after Mass, and there is Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament every Saturday morning from 10.30-12.30pm. Drop in for a quarter of an hour. This would be especially good for those who don’t normally do these things. Pray the Rosary every day and say the Litany of St Joseph and other prayers to him in this special year.

Some might like to take up some spiritual reading. You may gain a Plenary Indulgence every day for reading the Scriptures prayerfully for half an hour. You could read in conjunction with a good Catholic commentary. Or you might read the life of a favourite saint or the writings of a saint, or watch a good religious film such as “Jesus of Nazareth”, “The Song of Bernadette” or “The Chosen” all of which are free on YouTube. You can think of others. Then use the free “Walk with Me” booklet which has a meditation for each day.

Never forget the Spiritual and Corporal Works of Mercy. Pray every day for the Souls in Purgatory. Have Masses offered for them. You might wish to give alms to worthy causes such as Aid to the Church in Need or CAFOD and some of our local charities. Pray for someone who is driving you up the wall or who is far from God.

These are just a few ideas and no doubt you will have your own thoughts. Let us pray that these Lenten days will be grace-filled for all of us. May God bless us all throughout this holy season.

Fr Paul Gillham, IC

 

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Newsletter for Sunday 7 February 2021

5 Feb

What God Teaches Us Through Suffering

Facing difficulties is part of life and sometimes they can cause us much anxiety and distress. We might question God and even whether He really exists. In today’s First Reading Job expresses how we can all feel at times (Job 7:1-7).

“Is not man’s life on earth nothing more than pressed service, his time no better than hired drudgery? … Months of delusion I have assigned to me, nothing for my own but nights of grief. Lying in bed I wonder ‘When will it be day?’ … my eyes will never again see joy.”

Job thinks he is never going to be happy again, and it is true that suffering can make us feel like our troubles will last for ever. But this is not really the case and neither did it turn out to be so for Job. He did find happiness again, and in abundance. As Psalm 30:5 says, “Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.” And this is even the case with death, because if we are faithful we will have eternal joy in Heaven.

So why does God allow us to suffer in this life? Of course there is a certain amount of mystery involved but we can give some possible reasons. Certainly, when we are confronted with problems, it can cause us to change for the better. If everything goes according to our plans we can be tempted to forget about God altogether, whereas in our sufferings we may be prompted to turn to Him. The trials of life can also make us stronger and better people. You may find inner strengths and talents you never knew you had.

Problems and sufferings can even be a blessing in disguise. Sometimes when I’m stuck in traffic on the M25 for over an hour or miss the train, I like to think maybe God is protecting me from something harmful ahead. Without these hassles I may have been involved in a serious accident, but through the delay I’ve been saved from it. Or a serious health problem can prevent someone from committing a habitual sin which might otherwise result in their being eternally lost. So God can turn our sufferings to a greater good. Also our sins and the sins of others need atoning for, and millions of souls out there need converting. It’s much easier for us to atone for our sins in this life than in Purgatory by offering our suffering to God as a penance. The saints tell us the sufferings of Purgatory are far more intense than the greatest sufferings on earth. Then the sufferings and the trials of life that you offer for the conversion of sinners may obtain their repentance, and at the same time you receive the merit for a great act of charity.

So God permits us to suffer for a reason. We won’t necessarily know now what that reason is, but in the end we have to accept that God knows what is best for us. So when you pray for something, allow Him to say either “now” or “later”. Either way you benefit – from the healing now, or your faith is strengthened because you have placed all your trust in Him and left it to His Providence.

Fr Paul Gillham, IC

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Newsletter for Sunday 31 January 2021

29 Jan

JESUS the Exorcist

Last weekend at Mass I mentioned that one of the primary themes of Mark’s Gospel which we are reading this year is the idea of JESUS as exorcist. In today’s Gospel reading (Mark 1:21-28) we have the first of those stories with Our Lord setting a man free who is possessed by an evil spirit. As Our Lord approaches the man, the evil spirit cries out in a panic, “What do You want with us JESUS of Nazareth? Have You come to destroy us? I know Who You are: the Holy One of God.” And JESUS says, “Be quiet! Come out of him!” And the man is immediately set free. This is an important incident because one of the signs of the coming of the Messiah would be that He would overthrow the devil and drive out demonic forces (Genesis 3:15). And this was the first of many such encounters in the Gospel.

It is very popular today to deny the existence of the devil, but the Gospel teaches us that he and the demonic world are very real indeed, and being fallen angels they want us to share in their eternal damnation. Sceptics also like to say that stories of possession in the Bible are nothing more than cases of epilepsy or psychological disorders which at the time were mistaken for something more sinister. There is no doubt Our Lord, Who is God, believed in the reality of Satan and the evil spirits, and He would certainly be able to tell the difference between demonic possession and physical or psychological disorders. In fact, he cured them all. The frequent exorcisms He performed are a sign of His power over evil and a proof of His authority to set people free. He has overthrown the power of sin and death and He wants us to share in that victory.

Genuine demonic possessions are very rare, so we should never worry about it, but we all suffer from temptations. Pope Francis says we shouldn’t approach the devil or talk to him because, “like a rabid chained dog, he’ll bite if you try to caress him. His proposals are nothing but lies, but we fools believe him.” Things such as horoscopes, Ouija boards, clairvoyants and fortune tellers are dabbling with evil and we must have nothing to do with them. Neither is there any such thing as “white” magic.

We are in this special Year of St Joseph who is invoked as “Terror of Demons”. St Joseph’s fatherhood has power and the two greatest people that ever lived on this earth, JESUS and Mary, subjected themselves to him. Now in Heaven, St Joseph’s intercessory power is a serious threat to the kingdom of darkness. The lily he holds in his hand (see St Joseph’s statue in the church) is like a sword of purity which will slay every form of filth and darkness if we invoke him. In the words of Fr Donald Calloway, an authority on St Joseph: “one word from his mouth routs the forces of darkness as an axe levels a field of trees.”

St Joseph, Terror of Demons, protect us.

Fr Paul Gillham, IC

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