Archive for May, 2016


AMDG                         

How to Manage Anxiety during Exam Time

anxietyAs students all over the world enter exam season – are we putting them under too much stress?  Exams and anxiety go hand in hand, we all want to do well when we face a test.  Jesus’ ultimate test was when he was in the Garden of Gethsemane and we are told that he sweated blood as he prayed before his arrest.  This is no exaggeration – sweating blood  is a medically acknowledged phenomenon, Hematohidrosis,   that has been observed in times of great stress.  It is probably no surprise that it is recorded in Luke’s Gospel because Luke was a physician! Hematohidrosis was recorded happening to a girl in London during the Blitz  and has also been observed in people awaiting execution.  A sign that,  in Jesus Christ, God fully entered the human experience and is no stranger to whatever we have to go through.

managing_test_Although I hope no-one is sweating blood as they revise for their exams – it is good to think about managing anxiety, so that is it becomes productive rather than crippling. It is all about getting things into perspective… On Judgement day God isn’t going to ask you how you did in your exams – he will ask you how you loved.   Jesus is a sign of the fullness of God’s love for us, whatever life throws at us with Him we are never alone – and he has experienced all that we have.  We can hand over to him our worries in prayer…. during revision… even at the start of an exam (before we start panicking!).  Just the simple act of lighting a candle when you start a revision session, and keeping it in your sight – is a prayer and helps us to keep things in perspective.  When we sit down to answer the exam paper – spending a minute in quiet prayer – centering ourselves with deep breaths – offering the next hour or so to God – means that when we start looking at the questions we are less likely to panic.
This a beautiful prayer, written by Fr Adrian Porter SJ, from the Jesuit Institute
Candle
Lord,
as I prepare for this examination,
let your strength and your wisdom be present to me.

May I revise my work thoroughly.
May I understand what it is I have to know.
May my memory be reliable and orderly.
May I be calm and focused on the task ahead.
May I know & feel the love & support of my family & friends.
And may you, the author & creator of all things, enlighten me.

Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Trinity

AMDG       Homily given in the Holy Name Manchester, 12pm,        22nd May 2016

rf_detail_176_0There is an assumption that every preacher dreads Trinity Sunday – how can we speak about the inner nature of God?  How can we talk intelligibly of this ultimate mystery?  Human Language always fall short…..  but I think that this is an unhelpful attitude because God desires for us to know Him.  In Jesus Christ, in the incarnation, in the second person of the trinity – we see that God longs for us to know Him, God longs for us to grow in discovery of Him.  This is the great adventure of life …..  Knowing God …… moving closer to that ultimate mystery of being .

As we grow in knowledge of God, that desire to know is transformed into a desire to love God.  Knowing becomes loving, curiosity leads us to adoration. I consider the best place, not the only place, but the best place to go on this journey of knowing and loving God, is here in the Catholic Church.  If the fundamental task of every human being is to know, love and then serve God than the Roman Catholic Church is the best place to live that adventure as we have so many wonderful guides who have gone before us.

Pedro-Arrupe-at-prayer11Fr Pedro Arrupe, who was the General of the Jesuits about 40 years ago, talks about this adventure in a beautiful way –  “Nothing is more practical than finding God, than falling in Love in a quite absolute, final way. What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination, will affect everything. It will decide what will get you out of bed in the morning, what you do with your evenings, how you spend your weekends, what you read, whom you know, what breaks your heart, and what amazes you with joy and gratitude. Fall in Love, stay in love, and it will decide everything.”

This striving to know God has led to the formulation of the doctrine of the Trinity.  The Church Father, Tertullian, provides us with the first recorded use of the word Trinity in the third century.  God is One and Three: He is not an eternal solitude; rather, he is an eternal love that is based on the reciprocity of the Persons, a love that is the first cause, the origin, and the foundation of all being and of every form of life.

295px-Kircher-Diagram_of_the_names_of_God

Athanasius Kirchers – Names of God in Oedipus Aegyptiacus

But nowhere in Scripture do we find God calling himself the “Trinity.”  However the Trinitarian understanding of God is not something that we have figured out by ourselves.  If we ask ourselves “Is this the way Christ spoke?” looking at the stories from the Gospels, we can confidently say – yes.  We recognize that we he often spoke of the Father – doing his Fathers business, being with his Father, in today’s Gospel        ‘Everything the father has is mine’  and also of sending the Spirit – ‘when the spirit of truth comes’ Today – On Trinity Sunday, we praise God for who he is not merely for the wonders that he has worked.   The names that we give to God, names like “All Good” or “Perfect Being,” contain truth but are not complete. Knowing God’s name is an essential part of that journey of our life.  And we see how God reveals his nature through the life of Jesus.

So God is three persons – but one substance – consubstantial as we say in the Nicene Creed.  This unity is engendered by love, Trinitarian unity, is a unity more profound than the unity of any building stone, it is a more profound unity than in a material sense.   This is why unity is so important – and when we damage that unity – through Gossip, through attacking other Catholics,  through criticising the Pope, whether through our words or what we write online,   even when we refuse to attempt to understand those who are different from us – we are working against that divine unity.

This love than cannot keep to itself, this love which flows out, that breathes the Spirit, is Communio-logodynamic not static.  God in the Trinity is closer to us than our heart beat, and we are called to share in this community of Love. When we look at our community, formed from people from all over the world – who have travelled to study and teach here, to live in this rainy city of Manchester – the ‘communio of the Trinity’ is our touchstone.   In a culture that is stretched by globalization and blighted by individualism, we are called to offer a witness of community and in beautiful way of koinonia, of communion. This reality does not come ‘from below’ but is a mystery which, so to speak, ‘has its roots in Heaven,’ in the Triune God himself. We express that communion, sacramentally every day – but also through our living together, our eating and celebrating together, the work we do for the poor.

The more we love like this and the more we share our lives – the closer we come to living this mystery of self-giving and reciprocal love that God offers to us in his very being.  If you can help us build up this community you are helping is to contemplate the very heart of God.

idiotsinviteR2WAMDG
This week I had  two experiences that provided a very important juxtaposition. The cold, grey, elitist world without God where the weak are trampled on, and a vibrant, love filled world where the weak are cherished and God is at the center…..   On Monday night I was debating a very pleasant Humanist Minister on Ummah TV ( A Barelvi Muslim Channel).  The worldview that the ‘Humanists’ offer is limited by a hyper-rationalism….  which not only is misleading but is also dangerous.  This was put into perspective very powerfully on Weds night when I attended a screening of a new film called ‘The Idiots’  which tells the powerful life story of Jean Vanier and his life among the disabled.  The life of Jean Vanier and the work of Larche paints a powerful picture to why we need to resist ”scientism” and the ‘Humanist’ world view.
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preview_become_weaker_wide_quoteThe film – first.  As a young Canadian naval officer he was invited to live in a house for the disabled by a French Priest. This changed his life and since then he started the L’arche movement which currently has over 130 communities in 32+ countries, including a recently opened home in Bethlehem. Awarded the Templeton prize of £1.7 million last year, Vanier is recognised by many as a living saint, in fact his parents have the process towards beatification already open. But his experience of embracing the weakness of the most vulnerable in our society has a prophetic role in a society which is attempting to eradicate weakness through genetic engineering, pre-natal screening, creating the perfect baby etc.  What is beautiful about the film the Idiots – it is never patronising, it never glosses over the reality, but the joy and the love is palpable.  Here is link to their website where you can see a teaser for the film …  The Idiots – R2W Films .  Hopefully it will be on general release soon.
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maxresdefault (1)On Monday night  I was on a Muslim TV Channel debating with a ‘humanist’.  A charming gentleman but I challenged him over his hyper-rationalism.  The problem is that it is over-reductionist.  A technique that was revolutionary in the science lab – and had amazing results and great discoveries … now has now been applied to the much more complex world of Human Existence. Rationalism has developed its own extremism which in the US is referred to as ‘Scientism’….   Many great errors and disasters have come from an excessive faith in pure reason.    The French Revolution which brutalised French society with the pretense of recreating a new Society based purely on reason, Social Darwinism influenced the Nazi desire to create the Master Race, Communism socially re-engineered a new generation ‘The Soviet Man’ .  I know here in Manchester the students talk about an orthodoxy in life sciences which for example promotes (unchallenged)  the weeding out of Down Syndrome Babies.
This is is why we need Jean Vanier – the Prophet of Weakness.