The letter can be seen here
‘If you love me, you will keep my commandments (my word, my teaching). And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate (Councillor, Paraclete) to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him.’ If you look for just one guiding inﬂuence in the life of Jesus of Nazareth it would be his adherence to what he believed to be the truth. The Bible is full of warnings against deceitfulness and lying. ‘Proclaim the greatness of our God! A faithful God, without deceit, how just and upright he is.’ ‘Keep your tongue from evil, your lips from speaking lies.’ ‘Bread gained by deceit is sweet, but afterward the mouth will be full of gravel.’ ‘Jesus then said to those Jews who believed in him. If you remain in my word, you will truly be my disciples and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.’ ‘God is Spirit, and those who worship him must worship in Spirit and truth.’ When I lie I spew the Spirit of God from my mouth together with my lying words. It is disgusting to listen to many of our so called leaders; political, civil and industrial, especially in recent years. We are fed on a diet of deceit and barefaced lies. Innocuously it is called spin but is deceit and lying and meant to cause confusion and misinform. When someone is brave enough to speak truth they are showered with ridicule and abuse. The world does not know, or want to know, Jesus of Nazareth, because they no longer want truth or to hear the truth. ‘And this is the verdict, that the light came into the world, but people preferred darkness to light, because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come toward the light, so that his works might not be exposed. But whoever lives the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be clearly seen as done in God.’ I cannot do much about the lying and deceitful ways of many of the leading ﬁgures of our various institutions but all of us can create an oasis of truthfulness around ourselves. This is lighting the lamp and placing it on the lamp-stand, ‘where it gives light to all in the house.’ Those who are honest with themselves will recognise the light of truth and will be affected by it. Our Pope Francis is a light on a lamp stand enlightening not only the Church but the whole world. Strangely enough the greatest opposition to the light he brings comes from within the Catholic Church itself. When we have something to hide we do not like the light. When our status and privileges are threatened we do not like the changes that truth may bring. The prince of darkness has many servants. Some willingly so, many not even aware of their slavery. ‘Jesus said I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’ For Jesus of Nazareth light, truth and fulness of life are one and indivisible.
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When using their vote, people are encouraged to consider where their candidate and party stands on issues including refugees and asylum seekers, leaving the EU, protecting life, religious freedom and prison reform
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‘Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me.’ The world contains great joy and great sorrow. There is great love and great hate. There is great health and great illness and pain. There is great hunger and great abundance. There is great good fortune and great misfortune. How does one reconcile this suffering with a totally good God. It is true that much of our suffering and pain results from ones own actions and words and much from the actions and words of other people. Even if I can blame myself or others for a lot of my suffering there still remains a lot of suffering which I cannot blame on anybody. So where does this leave me? It leaves me with the very same problem; Why does a totally good God allow suffering? Why did the Creator create a world where suffering is endemic? Over the years I have read everything I have come across on this subject. All are helpful to a greater or lesser degree on a theological and intellectual level. Not very useful on a practical, ‘ad hoc’, here and now situation. At this stage in my life I think that the answer must come from within, on two levels. Firstly, the person best qualiﬁed to bring comfort is one who has suffered the same type of pain or grief. One who actually feels the pain and grief of the sufferer. This ability is a precious gift to those who have actually suffered and grown with the experience, and should be recognised and used to bring comfort and acceptance to others. This is a ministry which many of you possess without realising it. Anyone of you who have undergone or are still undergoing, pain and grief, and still hold to your faith and trust in a totally good God, have a great potential to bring comfort and healing to those presently experiencing pain and grief. Not so much by what you can say to them but rather by your compassionate and understanding presence. By sharing in their pain and loss. Secondly the person them self who is suffering, must try and reach into them self and hold tight to their faith and trust in the total goodness of their God despite what they are going through now. For example; After Jesus was tempted for forty days in the wilderness and was exhausted, and again in the Garden of Gethsemane when he was overcome with dread of his approaching execution, we are told that angels came to comfort and strengthen him. Here, Angels can be taken as symbols, meaning that Jesus received comfort and strength from his total belief and trust in his God. It was his belief and trust in the total goodness of God and that his total wellbeing was safely in God’s hands, that gave him comfort and strength to live through this pain, grief and distress. This is what I mean when I say that the answer to pain and grief must come from within. From within the comforter and the sufferer. It must come from my God who dwells within me. How else could the early Christians face or even contemplate being torn to pieces by wild animals in the colosseum for the amusement of the crowds. How else can a parent survive the death of a child and yet believe in a totally good God. How else can one survive the long drawn out pain and death of a lifelong marriage partner and yet trust in one’s God. So when all is said and done we are left with the mystery of God and the apparent contradiction between perceived reality and the words of Jesus – ‘Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me.’
“I have come that they may have life and have it to the full.” Like most of Scripture the above statement has meaning on a number of levels. Firstly it means that my life here on this physical earth is never full or complete. Can never be full and complete. All life here on earth can never be permanently sustainable. It is limited and circumscribed. It is fragile and changeable. Can swing from great to terrible. As the years go by It is subject to an ever greater need for healing. Permanent and deﬁnitive healing and fulness of life is not possible in this physical world. The life of Jesus of Nazareth was subject to the very same laws and restrictions during his whole life here on earth. For him fullness of life only came with death and resurrection. Permanent and deﬁnitive healing only came through death and resurrection into the Eternal Life of God. This is the gift he gave us. So too for you and I. Fulness of life, permanent and deﬁnitive healing will only come to us with death and resurrection into the eternal life of God. That is our destiny. That is why we were created and born. Secondly my life here on earth can have a certain direction and fulness or can be directionless and empty. Some young, unattached people, and not so young, unattached people can boast of their freedom. They can, up to a point, do what they like, when they like. But a time comes when this much vaunted freedom seems to pall, seems empty and pointless. There is something missing. It is only when their inward focused attention and self-centred concerns begin to look and focus outwards that life begins to bring a certain fulness. It is often when they commit themselves in love to another person and begin a family that their life begins to ﬁnd fulness and meaning. The very sort of life they avoided in the past is the very thing which brings satisfaction, fulness and meaning to their life. So fullness of life is possible, up to a point, even here in this physical world. Strangely enough it comes, not from self-satisfaction but from selﬂessness. Not from acquisitiveness but from sharing. Not from freedom to do whatever I like whenever I like but from the freedom to serve the needs of others. Is this not embryonic Christianity? Is this not the ﬁrst step in understanding the message of Jesus of Nazareth? Christianity is recognising all people as my immediate family – especially orphans and refugees. John 4. ‘Jesus said to them. My food is to do the will of him who sent me.’ John 6. Jesus said ‘I came down from heaven not to do my own will but the will of the one who sent me.’ How strange it is that even here on earth fullness of life only comes from looking after others, from service to others and not, as one would expect, from just looking after oneself.
For many years I was plagued by the ogre of obligation. Religion for me was a plethora of obligations to be fulfilled. This attitude and belief was nurtured by those plagued by the same ogre. I now believe that this is the devils greatest tool for denigrating God and destroying the peace and joy which worshiping God should bring. It presents God as a demanding taskmaster who punishes for noncompliance. Nothing is further from the truth.
The root of the problem seems to be anthropomorphism. That is attributing to God our own human attitudes and mores, as for instance equation God with our own kings, emperors, rulers etc.
Within our church (and all churches and religions, as in politics and all social organisations ) we have the people who believe that members must be compelled and required to do the right thing in all aspects of life by passing laws which must be obeyed under pain of punishment. This is what I mean by the ogre of obligation. It deprives a person of freedom by instilling the fear of punishment for non compliance. One can see the point of this when you consider aspects of life like traffic laws etc. but when it comes to God, where the whole point and aim is to love God and our neighbour it is totally inadequate and counterproductive not to speak of insulting. How can you legislate for love? How can you compel love? How can you demand love under pain of punishment?
1 John 4. ‘There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment, and so one who fears is not yet perfect in love. We love because he first loved us.’ Rom. 8. ‘For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received a spirit of adoption, through which we cry, Abba, Father! The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ.’
In the secular world love is commonly downgraded to physical intercourse, or love of another’s bank account or power or fame. But the love of which we speak here is appreciation, admiration, trust, mutual support, liking, friendship, steadfastness, honour, gratitude etc.
This is the love one hopes for from a marriage partner, from one’s children, from one’s friends and relatives. This is the love that God hopes for from his beloved children. It cannot be legislated or demanded or required or compelled. It is spontaneous, it is genuine, it is truth, it is persistent. So you can see how inappropriate it is to set up obligations when it comes to our relationship with our God. You can see how inappropriate it is for me to even think of obligation in my relationship with my God. Obligation under pain of censure poisons my relationship with my God just as it would poison my relationship with my marriage partner or my children. True religion (no matter which brand) is built on the realisation of what my God has done for me, and appreciation of God’s goodness, faithfulness and love. This gives rise to a sense of gratitude to my God. Then all my religious practises ( be it mass, prayer or sharing my good fortune with the needy) flow from this ever increasing sense of gratitude and hopefully (with God’s help) will evolve into genuine love.
Another way of looking at it is that an obligation is only an obligation if I do not want to do it. I have to be compelled to do it under pain of some punishment for non-compliance. For example I can only oblige you to run a marathon if you are not willing to do it freely. If you are willing and want to run a marathon I cannot oblige you to do it. The obligation fades away in the face of your willingness to do it.
So doing something because I am obliged to do it only proves that I do not really want to do it. Gratitude and love cannot exist under these circumstances.