Thursday, 22 October 2015

Autumn 2015 Talk Series: 'Knowing Right from Wrong'

A series of 7 evenings looking at different aspects of the moral life, Thursdays 7.30-8.30pm, in the parish hall

All talks will be by our parish priest, Fr Dylan James, who lectures on moral theology at Wonersh Seminary
The talk series will be preceded by a film evening on marriage

Audio and powerpoints slides of talks will be available online as the talks are given

Film: “Marriage: God’s Design for Life & Love”, from St Anthony’s Communications (43mins)
7.30pm Thursday October 22nd

(1) Post-Vatican Two Morality: What Changed? From legalism, through chaos, to virtue
7.30pm Thursday Nov 12th

The slides of the PowerPoint presentation can be viewed/downloaded here

(2) Sin and the Pursuit of Happiness
7.30pm Thursday Nov 19th

The slides of the PowerPoint presentation can be viewed/downloaded here

(3) Natural Law: How human reason can discern the truth
7.30pm Thursday Nov 26th

The slides of the PowerPoint presentation can be viewed/downloaded here

(4) Marriage and Sex
7.30pm Thursday Dec 3rd

The slides of the PowerPoint presentation can be viewed/downloaded here

(5) Contraception and Natural Family Planning
7.30pm Thursday Dec 10th

The slides of the PowerPoint presentation can be viewed/downloaded here

(6) Environmental Ethics
7.30pm Thursday Dec 17th

The slides of the Powerpoint presentation can be viewed/downloaded here

Sunday, 18 October 2015

Ransom for Sinners, 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

Mk 10:42-45; Isa 53:10-11; Heb 4:14-16
Today all our Scripture readings focus us on the death of Christ, He who died for our sins.
Our first reading gave us a short excerpt from the lengthy ‘Suffering Servant’ prophecy of Isaiah. That prophecy refers to the “man of sorrows” (Isa 53:3) who takes our trials upon Himself, who “offers His life in atonement”(Isa 53:10), and, “By His sufferings shall my servant justify many, taking their faults on Himself”(Isa 53:11).
And in the Gospel, the Lord Jesus referred to His coming death as being “a ransom for many”(Mk 10:45), or “redemption for many”, translating the Greek “lytron anti pollon”.

A “ransom” –this might seem an odd word to use, but if we ponder it, it tells us much about ourselves, and much about God.
The word “redemption” that we use in English comes from the Latin redemptio, which renders the “Hebrew kopher and Greek lytron which, in the Old Testament means generally a ransom-price”(Catholic Encyclopedia, Redemption).
What this tells us, what the Lord is telling us in saying that He is our “ransom”, is that we are in NEED of being “ransomed”. We are being held in “captivity”(CCC 407; Council of Trent), we are in “slavery to sin”(CCC 601 c.f. Jn 8:34), and a debt needs to be paid to set us free.

Theologians debate about WHO this debt must be paid to. Jesus is paying a debt, but paying it to whom?
Is it being paid to the Devil, since sin means the world is under his “domination” (CCC 407; Council of Florence (cited in and we are his “captives”? No. God is all powerful and does not NEED to pay Satan anything.
The debt God is paying, it would seem, is being paid to Himself: to His justice, to His honour.
A debt is owed, a payment must be made, and so He steps in and makes the payment to Himself.

If this debt involves the DEATH of Christ, in suffering on the Cross, then the payment must be for something COLOSSAL, namely, our sins.
Our sins against the infinite and Almighty God cause an infinite offence, a dishonour that we finite creatures cannot pay. Our sins “are punishable by death”(CCC 602 c.f. Rom 5:12, 1Cor 15:56).
The Lord did not NEED to save us by paying this debt, but it was FITTING that honour be remedied. Only an infinite person could pay an infinite debt (ST III q1 a2 ad2um), and so God came from Heaven to earth to pay this debt, a debt He essentially pays to Himself.
He didn’t NEED to pay, but it was “fitting”(Heb 7:26) that honour be satisfied, and so He did.

It is easy for us to forget all this because, as all the recent popes have repeated, we live in an era that has lost its “sense of sin”.
We live in a world where people think of themselves as independent, not as dependent on God. And we forget that actually our whole lives BELONG to HIM. He has given us everything, and yet we so frequently behave as if He was hardly there. And so, every neglect, every indifference, every lack of love, every transgression of His commandments, all racks up a debt we cannot pay.
And if we say this somehow doesn’t apply to us, that you are I are “decent” people not “sinners”, then why does the Lord repeatedly say in the Scriptures that He came to die for us? He claims that we need saving from our sins. And so, as Scripture says, “If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar”(1 Jn 1:10)

So, what this talk of “ransom” tells us about ourselves is: Our SINS have racked up a debt.
And, what this talk of “ransom” tells us about God is: He loves us so much that He has come to pay this debt Himself.
To close by quoting our second reading: Christ has come as our “supreme High Priest”(Heb 4:14) who sacrificed Himself so that we might approach “the throne of grace”(Heb 4:16) with “confidence”.

Sunday, 4 October 2015

Divorce and Remarriage, 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

Mk 10:2-16; Gen 2:18-24
For the next three weeks, bishops from across the world are gathered in Rome for a special synod devoted to the family. Marriage and the family, as we all know, are rather broken realities in our modern society. Divorce is a much more common phenomenon today than it was when our Lord spoke against it.
I’ve not spoken about this in the 8 years I’ve been here, so its about time, and I want to reaffirm a few things today:
First, that the Lord Jesus meant what he said about remarriage after divorce being adultery;
Second, that such a second marriage bars someone from receiving Holy Communion;
Third, that this is necessary in order for children to have a stable environment;
Finally, that marriage is still a good worthy of being pursued, even with the challenge that such commitment involves.

I want to start with the words in our first reading from Genesis that, “it is not good that man should be alone”(Gen 2:18). These words indicate a desire for union that is written in our nature, a yearning to not be alone that is satisfied in many things: in prayer with the Lord, in human friendship, but it finds a particular physical completion in the exclusive loving union of marriage. Thus we heard the Lord Jesus quote that phrase from Genesis about a husband and wife becoming “one body”(Mk 10:8; Gen 2:24).

All love involves giving of ourselves. We give our time, our energy, and more. Marriage is that unique self-gift where someone gives their EVERYTHING to someone, in a mutual self-gift that brings many rewards.
But, once you have given yourself to another, in totality, for life, you cannot then take back that gift. If your wife become sick, you are still married, still given to her. If she becomes poor, she is still your wife. If she is unfaithful to you, she is still your wife. If she goes off, she is still your wife.
Now it is true that sometimes there are reasons a couple have to separate, either temporarily or permanently. Often there is an innocent party left behind, with much suffering.

But even if you separate and civilly divorce, nonetheless she is still your wife in the eyes of God. As Pope Francis said last week, there is no such thing as “Catholic divorce” (plane interview, 28/9/2015).
If we look at Scripture, as quoted on the insert sheet in the newsletter, it says very clearly what a separated or civilly divorced spouse is called on to do: “remain single or else be reconciled to” your spouse (1 Cor 7:10-11).
You are not then free to give yourself to another, because you have already given yourself to your spouse –even if she no longer appreciates that gift, even if you no longer live together.
You are not then free to commit yourself to another, because you are already committed.
If you have said “till death do us part” to one woman, you cannot say that to another while she still lives.
Thus Jesus says, “The man who divorces his wife and marries another is guilty of adultery” (Mk 10:11).
Thus the Church says that a person who remarries (while their spouse is alive) commits a public act that bars them from receiving Holy Communion (Catechism 1650; 2384). Bars them until they amend this aspect of their life.

How shall I conclude? By acknowledging that this is a very hard teaching. Every walk of life has its cross to carry, but this call to “remain single (1 Cor 7:11) rather than remarry can be a heavy cross.
This said, a romantic union in marriage is not the only way to fulfil the desire spoken of in our first reading, the desire to not “be alone”.
And, faithfulness to God, faithfulness to the vows made, will bring with it strength and grace, and ultimately all faithfulness to God is rewarded, not just in heaven but in this life too.

The joys of marriage are only possible because of this hard teaching about commitment. A union that didn’t claim to be for life would be a very much lesser thing than marriage, it wouldn’t really be the “one body” union the Lord Jesus speaks of. If this lifelong commitment is abandoned then what is being abandoned is the beauty of marriage itself. And with it, a stable environment in which to raise children. And thus the Church tells us that the Lord meant what He said.