The 2nd Sunday of Advent

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I’m sure there are still some people in the world who still think God is rather like the father who says to his daughter: “Janet, go and see what John’s doing, and tell him to stop it!”  They think of God as some sort of supernatural spoilsport, an ethereal policeman, ever on the prowl to see if we’re doing something we shouldn’t be doing.  Perhaps, even in the Church, there have been times when God has been presented primarily as a God of wrath, ready to wreak vengeance on the sinner.

And yet this image of God is a far cry from Saint John’s insistence that God is Love.  And there can be little doubt which of the two views is the correct one.  As we approach Christmas, we are reminded once again that the God we worship is the God of Love.  “God so loved the world that he sent his only begotten Son.”  In our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, the love of God is made manifest to us – it’s revealed to us – in human terms, in ways we can readily understand.

And so, far from trying to catch us out in order to punish us, God watches over each one of us with constant loving care, just as a loving father should.  As Christians, we are united to God through his Son.  And because we are united to Our Lord we can, in a very real sense, call God our Father.  God truly is our Father and we are his adopted children.  And how else could he look after us but with loving care and concern?

But this shouldn’t mislead us into thinking that we can simply sit back and leave everything to God.  We are sometimes tempted to do this when we run into difficulties.  We want God to come to our rescue and get us out of an awkward situation, or to solve all our problems for us.  But God’s care for us isn’t to be thought of as some sort of insurance policy, to be drawn on only when things go wrong.

Part of our dignity as human beings is that we can cooperate freely with God in his plan for humanity.  We must use the intelligence and the talents he has given us to face our problems squarely, and be ready to make informed choices and decisions.  And just like John the Baptist, we must play our part by working actively to prepare the Way for the Lord.

But there’s another mistake we can make when things get tough.  We can go to the opposite extreme and imagine that God no longer cares for us.  We may be tempted to say: “If God really cared for me he wouldn’t have allowed this difficult situation to arise; he wouldn’t have allowed this illness; he wouldn’t have allowed the death of someone I love.”

It’s always difficult to come to terms with suffering, our own or other peoples.  And it’s impossible to explain it away.  But we can be certain that the presence of suffering in our lives doesn’t mean that God has deserted us and withdrawn his love from us.  We only have to look to Our Lord’s life to be assured of that.

God’s plan for each one of us is that we should enter into glory through being united to his Son.  But if this is to happen we must grow more and more like Our Lord in our Christian lives.  And that’s why suffering is an inevitable part of every Christian’s life.  Can we expect God to deal with us any differently than he dealt with his own Son?  We can’t doubt that the Father was constantly with Our Lord during his life on earth, and with him even more closely at the hour of his passion and death.  How can we possibly doubt that he is also with us, and especially in times of suffering?

God has a plan for each one of us.  He loves each of us as though there was no one else to love.  And each of us has a special place in God’s plan, each of us has a task that only we can perform.  To do it we must be ever open to God’s Will, ever open to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit moving within us.  In his loving care God is leading us, step by step, to the fulfilment of his plan for us.  And so let us pray today, and every day, that we will always co-operate faithfully with him.

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First Sunday of Advent

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One of my oldest friends, who used to work with recovering alcoholics, told me that one of the most common reasons for drinking to excess is to counteract the feeling of depression.  People who abuse alcohol generally feel sad, or find it difficult to talk to other people, and alcohol has the effect of raising their spirits and making it easier for them to live with themselves if they live alone, or to live with others when they are in company.  The only trouble is that the effects of alcohol are short-lived and can lead to even greater depression and still more drinking.  No wonder Saint Luke, in today’s gospel, warns us against drunkenness and debauchery.  The wrong use of drink, drugs and other unhealthy pursuits, makes people insensitive to the finer and more precious things in life.

Part of the painful process of growing up is learning to control our moods.  Alcohol and drugs are just some of the many ways in which people attempt to exercise such control in their lives.  But they are the wrong ways for, in the end, they are doomed to failure.  If we are going to successfully control our moods, it is essential, in the first instance, to accept them as part of ourselves.  Moods of helplessness, fear, depression, or even exhilaration, are an essential part of our humanity as we grow in our understanding of the problems and sufferings of ourselves and of others, and we are drawn to unite ourselves with those who need help.

Believe it or not, the Church too has her moods.  They are an essential part of her personality as she grows in the life of Christ.  The Church’s mood of desolation in Lent and Holy Week, gives way to exhilaration at Easter.  And then at Pentecost, with the coming of the Holy Spirit, there is the mood of confidence, coupled with a certain apprehension at the Church’s renewed responsibility to bring Christ to the world.

Today we begin the season of Advent.  And the Church’s mood is set for us in the readings of the Mass: and it is a mood of expectation; something is going to happen.  What that ‘something’ is can only be described in symbols; and “the signs in the sun and moon and stars” to which Our Lord refers, feebly reflect the splendour of that day when the Son of Man will “come in a cloud with power and great glory”.  Something is going to happen.  God is coming.  And for many people in our world today, people who have ignored or rejected God, this can only mean the ‘bewilderment’ and ‘fear’ which Our Lord speaks of.

But for Christ’s followers the truth that God is coming brings neither ‘fear’ nor ‘bewilderment’.  Rather it brings ‘confidence’.  We can “stand with confidence before him” because we have anticipated his coming.  We have made the necessary preparations.

God’s coming in grace is primarily what we look forward to in Advent; and it’s not accompanied by terrible signs.  On the contrary, it is the gentle and quiet action of God as he not only looks lovingly upon us, but actually shares his love with us.  The word grace means ‘gift’, and it is the gift of God’s own life we receive during this season of Advent.  We might compare it with the smile that wins our confidence and draws from us a smile in return, even when we are in the worst of moods.  We may resist it; for God’s smile is resistible, such is the power of our free will.  But the penalty for resisting is to remain in our misery.  If we have only the confidence to allow God’s smile to win us to himself, only then will we become a new person.Advent is the time when we prepare to receive the gift of God’s grace.  It is the ‘gift-giving’ season, completed in our own sharing of gifts at Christmas.

But perhaps we are not in the mood for such a celebration.   Some people may prefer to remain in a state of dis-grace, using alcohol or drugs to keep them ‘high’.  Or maybe we are unwilling to soften our heart of stone and love our neighbour as Christ has commanded us – not just in word but in deed.  If we are unwilling to put into practice the basics of our faith, then how can we hope to change ourselves, and hold our heads high when the Lord comes?

Such attitudes miss the whole point of this season of Advent.  We cannot hope to change ourselves.  We cannot overcome our dis-grace by our own efforts alone.  We need to be alert to those moments of grace, and especially to those high-points of God’s coming in prayer and in the liturgy and in our celebration of the sacraments together.

We need to be alert at these moments for, because of their very quietness, we are liable to overlook their significance, just as the birth of our Saviour was overlooked at Bethlehem.  As the gospel warns us, we must “stay awake”, we must remain vigilant.  And then we will be changed, not by our own power, but by the power of God; and we will, in the words of the second reading, begin “to make more and more progress in the kind of life that we are meant to live”.

And in our everyday living our moods will continue to remain part of us.  But they will begin to coincide with the Church’s moods.  And they will begin to bring us security and happiness, not only in this life, but also in eternity.

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Christ the King

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Once again we stand at that liturgical crossroads at the end of the old and the beginning of the new.  The Solemnity of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ the Universal King anticipates the end of the current liturgical year.  Today we anticipate the ultimate resolution of all the world’s trials and tribulations, its questions and concerns.  Our Lord promised that He will come again at the end of time, and today’s Solemnity reminds us that He might come for some of us before He comes for us all.

The autumn season and the end of the liturgical year coincide with the message that the world as we know it is passing away.  Today’s feast challenges us to make sure that our priorities are in sync with these eternal realities.  What things will really matter when Christ comes again?

You may have heard the story about Saint Francis of Assisi who was out in his garden hoeing a row of runner beans when he was asked: “What would you do if you knew the world would end today?”  His calm, considered reply was: “I suppose I would finish hoeing this row of beans.”

His response speaks of two things: firstly it speaks to the value of the material work we are called to do.  This work is consistent with and, in some ways, tied to the larger question of eternal salvation.  The work we do each day is not merely to turn a profit or to pass the time—our work has eternal significance.  It matters.  It also matters how we do that work.  If our work, even hoeing a row of beans, is important enough to persevere with until the end of the world, then it needs to be approached with a kind of reverence and respect.

Saint Francis also speaks to the need for a proper and anticipated preparation for the End Times.  If one of us were to reply to the same question Saint Francis was asked, I imagine most of us would immediately run to find a priest and go to Confession.  If our inclination is to do this then the implication is that we are not quite prepared for those last days.  Such a response points to a pressing need for greater readiness and preparation.  Today’s feast reminds us that because “we know not the day nor the hour,” it would be wise to prepare ourselves now and get ready.

The theme of preparation is carried into the Season of Advent which begins next Sunday.  As every beginning has an end, so also every end implies and expects a new beginning.  Winter gives way to Spring.  2018 will give way to 2019.  Life gives way to death.  Death gives way to eternal life.  Flower gives way to seed.  Seed gives way to new growth.  So also in the liturgical year, the end gives way to a new Advent, a new beginning, a new time of preparation for a new birth.

And so this is a time of beginnings and endings, and through it all we are called to be habitually in a state of readiness.  As the Scouts and Guides drummed into some of us when we were children: Be Prepared.  Saint Francis could be calm about getting on with the hoeing of his beans because he was already prepared for his end and he was at peace with that preparation.  He may not have left his hoeing to prepare for the end, but the truer reality is that he didn’t start hoeing until he was prepared for that end.  For us, the tendency to drop the hoe and run to church and find a priest for that last minute confession, is very possibly a sign that we were not yet properly ready to take up the hoe in the first place.

After the spiritual preparation of Advent and when Christmas arrives we will take up another very important work: the Work of God – Opus Dei – the work of worship and praise, the work of coming to the manger, the work of following a star.  And for this we must also be prepared, and the four weeks of Advent are provided for this spiritual preparation.  When Christmas arrives and we remember that we have not yet been reconciled with our neighbour, we are encouraged to leave our gift and seek that reconciliation.  This is the work that precedes the work of worship, because without it our worship is just lip service; this is the work of Advent that precedes the joy of Christmas.

May your Advent work of preparation for Christmas produce for you many wonderful spiritual fruits that will bring you abundant joy and blessings when Christmas arrives.

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33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

As dead leaves falling from the trees signal the approach of winter, theChurch, on this Sunday every November, invites us to pause momentarily forserious thought.  Today the Churchdirects our attention to the end of the world, to the Last Judgement, and to theLord’s Second Coming in glory.  Every agehas its share of false prophets, of scare-mongers predicting doom and calamity,so we may not take easily to such a message. It is apt to release within our minds, great surges of fear about punishment,destruction and death.  And yet Scriptureis not meant to frighten or threaten, but to give consolation, hope and encouragementin life’s difficulties.  The great truthof the Gospel is that God’s love has triumphed over the power of evil and willput all things right.  God is on our sideand he will see us through the present troubles.

The readings for today’s Mass seek to focus our minds on an overall view of life’s purpose so as to encourage us to live on a more spiritual level.  If we do this then we have nothing to fear when life draws to a close.  We are on an earthly pilgrimage and have within us deep-seated longings for a better world.  At the end of our pilgrimage we hope for everlasting happiness and for a bright dawn to emerge out of our present darkness.  What is important for us to remember is that our own death spells the end of our particular world.  We have achieved all we are going to achieve.  At the moment of death life’s mission is accomplished and we go forward to meet Christ face to face.  Now we all know that death can jump out at us at any time and we have to be prepared for that encounter.  While we can’t avoid a sudden death, we can take steps against an unprepared death by living each day carefully and by keeping God ever in our sights.

Nowadays we seldom hear talk of Hell.  Hell has become almost a forbidden conversational topic and yet the reality of it all is, as Our Lord states, that it is entirely possible for us to shipwreck our lives, to completely turn our back on God and not be called into his presence on the Last Day.  Hell is best described as eternal separation from God; Hell is a calm and deliberate rejection of God’s mercy.  Now we may argue that surely no one can hate God so much so as to choose eternal death over eternal life.  And yet the possibility is there and God will always respect our freedom in this as in all matters of personal choice.  We will have no one to blame but ourselves for preventing God from drawing us into eternal life.   If we don’t respond to his call in this life it stands to reason we won’t do it in the next.  Where we will stand when Christ comes to judge the world will depend on the way we are trying to live now.  Being his friend at the moment of our death will not be a matter of luck.  We are what we are.   Christ comes to us each day offering us his life and inviting us to stay at his side.  The call he makes at death is only the final call in a whole series of approaches that he makes to us throughout our lives.  And so, in a way judgment is happening all the time.  And as I say, if we are deaf to his call now while we are alive, then we will be deaf to his call once we are dead.   It’s foolish to think we can reject him and ignore him in this life and then expect him to gather us into his arms once we are dead.  Right now is the time to choose life over death, now is the time to choose goodness over sin, so that God will recognize us as his children when we come face to face with him seated on the awe-full throne of judgment. And so, the fact of the matter is that if we are carrying God in our hearts wherever we go, and we truly seek to do his will, and live our lives in the way he has asked, then heaven won’t come as a surprise.  Rather it will be the full blossoming of the world we have been building for ourselves all these years.   And so today it makes full sense to pause and to do some spiritual stocktaking.  We can all check what our relationship with God is like and where our hearts and our values and our priorities lie.  We are all people with a glorious future; let’s not spoil it by refusing to live good and upright and holy lives.

32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

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As a nation we remember today all those who died in the two World Wars.  We remember those who died bravely and those who died tragically, those who died as heroes, and those who lie in the earth unknown.  We often, and quite rightly, speak of those who made the ultimate sacrifice in defence of their country, and who safeguarded the futures of their families and friends from foreign domination.  Today I would like to speak about the importance of self-sacrifice, and to do so in reference to the example we just heard Our Lord refer to in what He taught us about sacrifice in the Parable of the Widow’s Mite.

The true value of the widow’s gift wasn’t known by the people around her.  If we think, in particular, of those men and women who gave their lives in the Second World War, they didn’t know the full effect and value of the sacrifice they made.  They knew they were involved in a terrible war, but they didn’t know the even larger significance of it.  When they died, neither they nor the Allies knew the true horror of the Nazi atrocities, of the millions killed in the gas chambers, of the millions in England who would have been killed if the Nazis had won the war.  They didn’t know just how much they saved us from, and so their sacrifice has a value far beyond the one they realised.

The same must be said of any sacrifice, any good deed, and this is what Our Lord was teaching about the Widow’s Mite.  The value of her offering wasn’t the money; after all, it was just a penny.  The value of her offering was that it was her everything.  She gave not from her surplus, she gave everything she had.  And what gives this value is God, the God who watches over all our deeds, who accepts all our sacrifices, our works of mercy, our prayers, and indeed our very lives: the God who uses and accepts them as prayers.

God wants each of us to offer ourselves to him, to offer our lives as a living sacrifice, because in him our lives acquire a new supernatural value, one beyond what we can know and see with our own eyes.

Many of us can get discouraged from time to time over the effort of our lives, or over the way that there seems to be so little gain for the good works we try to do.  We can come to think that it’s not worth bothering about being good.  Why should I continue to be nice to that person when they never change, when they’re never nice to me?  Why should I be the only person at work or school who doesn’t use foul language, or the only person who refuses to be dishonest in business?  Why should I continue to pray when nothing ever seems to change?

Such discouragement is natural.  But the lesson of the Widow’s Mite is that there is more to life than the natural, more than we can see.  If we judge ourselves only by what we can see then we will grow discouraged, we’ll think that there’s no point.  But there is more to life.  There is God, and the value He puts on our works.  He accepts them as offerings to Him, and in the cosmic balance these offerings change the Universe, a bit like the Butterfly Effect theory I spoke about last week.  Small actions can have huge significance, which we may not initially see, but which develop in the future.  All our deeds, both good and bad, have an effect we simply do not know, in the long term.  And there is heaven too, the eternal glory and merit that will be assigned to our deeds and our lives.  If we forget this then we forget the true meaning of our life, and what gives true meaning to our actions.

The widow who gave her last bit of food to share it with the Prophet Elijah didn’t know what lay in store for her.  But she had faith to do good anyway, and God transformed her offering into more than enough food.  God transforms our offerings too.  He said that we will be repaid as much as a hundredfold for our generosity.

We can see today that the ultimate sacrifice paid by those brave men and women who gave their lives for their country had a great value, but it’s full value will only be completely disclosed in heaven.  Their sacrifice was greater than the ones most of us encounter daily, but the same truth holds.  We must never let ourselves be discouraged over what can seem like small and inconsequential effects of our good deeds: there’s an eternal value and effect that transcends what we can see.  And so, it is worth being good.

They shall not grow old as we that are left grow old.  Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn, at the going down of the sun, and at the rising we will remember them.

 

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31st Sunday in Ordinary Time

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The scribe we’ve just heard about gets an unusually good press.  Our Lord compliments him, because the scribe asks an honest question: which is the first of all the commandments?  And, in answer, Our Lord recites the opening words of the Shema, the prayer recited by pious Jews each day.

In the accounts by Matthew and Luke the scribe is portrayed as out to trick Jesus.  Although Mark’s version of the story is placed in the middle of several other incidents in which the scribes and the Sadducees dispute with Jesus and try to trick him, this particular scribe is in complete contrast to the others.

Perhaps this is so because Mark is trying to highlight the importance of the Great Commandment to love God and one’s neighbour.  The compliment paid by Jesus to the scribe—you are very close to the Kingdom of God—is also highly exceptional, and again highlights the importance of this incident to Mark’s readers.

Try to imagine the scene in the temple where Our Lord and the scribe would have been standing; all around them there would have been the preparations for the sacrifices going on.  They would have heard and smelled the animals and seen the smoke from the sacrificial fire wafting around.  So, for a scribe to point out that these holocausts are unimportant is a bit unusual to say the least.  To most of his hearers the scribe’s remarks must have sounded like the worst sort of heresy.

I looked up this passage in several biblical commentaries, but none of the authors I read seemed to find it quite so striking as I did.  They point out that several prophets said pretty much the same thing.

Now, whether I’m the only one who finds this strange I don’t know, and it certainly doesn’t matter, and at my age I’m certainly not going to write a thesis on it.  But the point was made, and with the benefit of hindsight we know that Our Lord’s own sacrifice, which was not very far off, is the definitive sacrifice which would bring salvation to the whole world, and as such would automatically render the temple sacrifices utterly redundant.  This is underlined quite strongly in today’s extract from the Letter to the Hebrews.

The final words of Jesus to the scribe—you are very close to the Kingdom of God—are obviously spoken with authority, because after that no one dared to question him any more.

There’s a lot to think about in this particular Gospel passage, but perhaps the thing we should hang on to is the Great Commandment.  Our first duty is: to love the Lord our God with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our mind and with all our strength.

Our Lord is telling us that no part of us is exempt from loving God.  Loving God is not an easy thing to do, and it’s not an obligation that can be filled by merely coming to Mass when we feel like it or muttering a few prayers now and again.

The Great Commandment is an obligation that should occupy us all the time, every moment of the day, and with all our attention and energy.  And if you think about it, what we owe to God demands nothing less.

And we shouldn’t think of this as something burdensome that we must do for God.  Instead, think of what God has done for us.  He gave us the gift of life itself; he forgives our sins; if he withdraws his attention from us for a single moment we would cease to exist.  And he gives us the greatest gift of all; he freely gives us the life of his only Son for our salvation.

The scribe was close to the Kingdom of God because he understood these things.  He understood what was due to God; he understood that in the face of such love our whole lives belong to God.  He understood that it is only in using our whole energy to live the way God wants us to live that will bring us the greatest joy and fulfilment.

On a slightly different note, on Friday we observed the Commemoration of All Souls; and during November we think particularly about our loved ones who have died.  Throughout the world Catholics pray for the dead and visit the cemeteries and graves of their families and friends.

We pray for the dead to aid them on their journey to full union with God in heaven.  And this isn’t because we don’t think that they will get there without our prayers, or because we doubt the love and mercy of God.  We pray for them as an expression of our love, and because we know that prayer is the most powerful force in the world.  In prayer earth and heaven are united; in prayer the Kingdom of God is brought nearer to its culmination; in prayer we ourselves are transformed and become more like Christ.

It is our firm belief that there is a very thin veil between earth and heaven; and that our loved ones are very near to us.  Heaven and earth are closest of all in the celebration of the Mass, where we are united with Christ.  Even though to outward eyes what we do at this altar might seem rather mundane, the belief at the very core of our faith is that on this altar heaven and earth actually meet.

And at this privileged meeting place with God we earnestly intercede for all the dead.  We do so full of joy and in hope and eager anticipation that the promises of God will, in due time, be fulfilled.

The Kingdom of God is indeed very close, closer than we can ever know.  It was close for the scribe in today’s Gospel; it is close for us; and our prayer is that it is already a reality for our loved ones who have died.

May the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

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30th Sunday in Ordinary Time

The healing of Bartimaeus is the final healing miracle recorded in St. Mark’s Gospel.  Shortly after it Jesus enters Jerusalem to the acclamation of the crowd that we commemorate on Palm Sunday.  Our Lord begins his brief ministry in Jerusalem which is marked by controversies over his authority, and which in their turn leads inevitably and speedily to the events of his passion and death.

St. Mark uses this incident in Jericho to teach that Jesus is truly the Messiah. This is why he makes a point of recording that Bartimaeus addresses Jesus as the ‘Son of David’.

It’s unusual for Mark to record the name of the man involved and the precise location of a particular healing, but he does it here.  He does so because this is a turning point in the Gospel story and Mark wants to pinpoint the location and record the name of the man as a way of highlighting the authenticity and the importance of the event.  He wanted this moment to be remembered.

But why is this event so significant?  It’s important because of the double meaning involved: Bartimaeus regains his sight because he recognised who Jesus really is: the Son of David, the Messiah.

After healing Bartimaeus Our Lord says that it is the man’s faith that has saved him.  Note the word saved; Our Lord doesn’t say he was healed or that he recovered his sight.  No, he was saved.  And as a result, he immediately followed Jesus along the road, he became a disciple.

The place where this miracle took place is also important.  Jericho is only fifteen miles from Jerusalem and Jesus is approaching the climax of his mission.  In Jerusalem Jesus will face opposition and controversy which will inevitably lead to his persecution and death.

This ‘way’ that Bartimaeus follows is the way of suffering.  Bartimaeus has become a disciple, and the true disciple of Christ follows his master even along the way of suffering.

In St. Mark’s Gospel, apart from St. Peter’s confession, and the recognition by the demons, Bartimaeus is the only person who addresses Jesus with any kind of Messianic title.  Mark uses the irony of the fact that it’s a blind man who recognises Our Lord’s true identity, and he uses it to bring the account of Our Lord’s ministry, before the entry into Jerusalem, to a suitable conclusion.

St. Mark is telling us that the blind see more than those who have sight.  It’s a great affliction to be blind, but perhaps the very lack of sight can distance a person from the glamour and the seduction of the material world.  Perhaps a blind person can get a better perspective on what is really important in life.

We frequently judge other people in terms of their physical beauty and appearance and often ignore the true beauty that lies within.  The media and the advertising business are constantly glamorising people.  Celebrities are groomed to have a certain look.  They go to great lengths to look immaculate.  Cosmetic surgeons have never had it so good.  Appearance is everything.  If it weren’t like this then Hello magazine and others like it would soon go out of business.

And not only people, but things too.  Everything has to look good to be considered worth buying—quality counts for little or nothing.  In fact, real quality in a product is a handicap for the salesmen and the advertising industry, because if a product lasts for a long time and is reliable then there will be only one sale, but if it only lasts a short time before conking out then there will be repeat sales.  I’m convinced that kettles and toasters have a chip inside them which makes them stop working a week after the warranty expires.

We live in a material world.  But faith is not something material; in order to find faith, we must quite literally leave the material world behind, or to use St. Mark’s analogy, to see beyond it.

In Our Lord’s time beggars commonly spread their cloaks on the ground to catch the coins thrown down to them by passers-by.  When Our Lord called Bartimaeus he threw off his cloak, jumped up and went to Jesus.  By this simple action, St. Mark tells us how Bartimaeus threw aside material things and went straight to Jesus.  He didn’t pause to collect the coins and put them somewhere safe, they meant nothing to him now.  His eagerness is further highlighted by the fact that he jumped up—no slowly getting to his feet with stiff joints after sitting so long by the side of the road.  No, he leapt to his feet and left his material possessions behind on the ground.

We need this kind of sight, the sight that comes from faith; the sight that sees what is really essential.  We too need this faith to call out when others tell us to shut up.  I’m sure you will have noticed the further irony of the very people who told Bartimaeus to shut up, these people quickly change their tune when Jesus calls him to come near.  Now they patronisingly tell Bartimaeus to have courage when he was the one who had courage all along.  They were the cowards afraid to commit themselves to Jesus.

The man who is blind can now see, the beggar now has riches beyond compare because he recognised Jesus.  This is the Good News.  This is a cause of joy for us all because it means that the world as we see it is not the real world; this world, in which the selfish and the greedy rise to the top, is only a superficial world.  It’s a bit like being in The Matrix.  This world, in which looks are more important than the beauty that lies within, is a shallow world and a false world.

To see the real world doesn’t require sight, it requires insight, it requires faith.  This is the world that counts.  This is the world in which we believe.  This is the world which lasts forever.  This is the world in which we can be at one with God.  This is the world in which we place all our hope.

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