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This Sunday we celebrate the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist. Do you remember why Zechariah had been struck dumb?They made signs to his father to find out what he wanted him called. You remember why Zechariah had been struck dumb? The beginning of Luke’s Gospel tells the story. Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth were exemplary people, living a good and holy life in the hill-country of Judea. They would have liked to have had children but had not been able to do so. They still prayed for a...
A window left slightly open - Photo by bady qb on Unsplash
No one can make his way into a strong man’s house and burgle the property unless he has tied up the strong man first. Only then can he burgle his house.  If Satan is the Strong Man, then Jesus Christ is the burglar who robs the house. The Lord steals back from the Evil One those who have been ensnared by his wiles. Jesus immobilises the Enemy. The Redeemer ties up the Strong Man.  The Saviour rescues the victims whom the Devil has kidnapped.  We are the beneficiaries of Jesus’...
Sheep on the mountainside
Some people, even some Christians, wonder whether being a Christian really matters and whether having a Church and a priest and people going to Mass every Sunday really makes any actual difference in the world. I admit that I occasionally have those doubts myself. But then I think of the flocks of sheep that I have known without a shepherd.You see, I once saw an actual flock of sheep without a shepherd. It was in the Rupununi in South America. I don’t know how it had happened, but a group of...
Photo by Josh Calabrese on Unsplash
When I was a teenager, I grew up in Wimbledon – a village in South London that is famous for only one thing – every June there is a tennis tournament that attracts players and spectators from all over the world. It’s supposed to be the oldest tennis tournament in the world – I’m not absolutely sure if that’s true. But it is certainly the most prestigious.And I remember particularly the first day I went there. It used to be that if you lived locally, you could walk up in the evenings, when most...
An older man listening
An old friend of mine is a cardiologist - a specialist heart doctor. In fact, he is probably the most respected specialist heart doctor in his country. After a stellar academic career, he became at 43 the youngest professor of cardiology in his country’s history. Through his research, he has introduced new techniques and better treatments which have saved the lives of many hundreds of patients. And he is also a good man - a man of great prayer and personal holiness – rather more so than is...
Young girl with tear running down her face
“I bless you, Father, Lord of heaven and of earth, for hiding these things from the learned and the clever and revealing them to mere children.”I have a friend – a good and holy Jesuit who is also a world-renowned Biblical expert. I’ll call him Fr John Smith. And his particular expertise is in Biblical languages – he is supposed to know many of the languages which existed in Palestine in Old Testament times, which is not bad at his current age of 92!But, to tell you the truth, he is also an...
A rifle, from unsplash by Thomas Tucker
The Monthly Intentions of the Holy Father are our way of sharing his concerns and taking these into our own hearts and prayer. Sometimes these concerns can be uncomfortable, even challenging. That is because they must be about real-life issues and these can often be complex and awkward. Our Christian faith is no better than superstition if we restrict it to safe topics or only with a restricted range of concerns, deemed appropriate. This month’s First Intention of the Holy Father is one such –...
JPII Statue in Mexico by Jorge Zapata on unsplash.com
Some people will have just one vivid memory of the 2nd April, 2005. It was the day Pope John Paul the Second died – the greatest and best shepherd of our lifetime. That is the only thing that most people remember about that day.But the other thing that I remember from that day is that it was also the day I heard of the death of Dennis, the greatest church leader I have ever met personally. (Admittedly, I never met the Pope.) Not one, but two very great shepherds died that day.Our Holy Father’s...
Schindler's Factory in Krakow Schindler's list installation from wikimedia commons
‘Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?’ that is, ‘My God, my God, why have you deserted me?’Tertullian, writing in the 2nd Century, says that the blood of the martyrs was the seed of the Church. And, since he was there at the time, I guess we have to take his word for it.One thing that only occurred to me recently: martyrs are only canonized with hindsight, and usually a few hundred years after the event. In any culture, at any time, there are only a very few people with the integrity and foresight to...
Bread and Flowers from Unsplash
“I am the resurrection and the life. If anyone believes in me, even though he dies he will live, and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” [John 11.25-26]Most Jesuits, in fact I think most people who have done the Spiritual Exercises, will tell you that the most difficult time is the three days which Ignatius asks us to spend in company with the Lord in the Tomb – the distance from Good Friday to Easter Sunday.It is a cold, hard, lonely silent place, sitting in...

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