Sunday, 21 January 2018

Hard Sun, 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

1 Cor 7:29-31; Mk 1:14-20
The last couple weeks I’ve been watching a new Sci Fi series on the BBC called “Hard Sun”.
I’ll spare you the details, but it’s about the world being ended in a disaster by a catastrophic sun event (currently unspecified).  In the TV series, the world isn’t going to end for 5 years: not today, not tomorrow, but you know its ending in 5 years.
The drama of the TV series is about how people might react to the certain knowledge that the world is ending.
I’m not recommending the TV series to you, because it’s basically rubbish (my sophisticated analysis), but it provides a moment to for us to consider today how we SHOULD react to knowing that the world will end.
Despair?        Indifference?                        A last blow-out indulgence of gluttony?

As Christians, we have a rather significant angle on this. 
As we heard in our second reading, from St Paul to the Corthinians, “The order of this world is passing away”(1 Cor 7:31).
As the Lord Jesus revealed, repeatedly, when He returns, He will return in glory and judge (e.g. Mt 25) and transform this world.
As the book of Revelation describes, “there will be a new heaven and a new earth… for the order of the past [will be] no more”(Rev 21:1, 4).
On one level, a major part of this is obvious to any man of reason: every time I look in the mirror and examine my receding hairline, I think, “The order of this world is passing way”. But we, in addition, have a particular Christian grasp of this fact.
But, how should we FEEL about that?

One reaction is despair, to be so rooted in this world that the thought of it ending brings unquenchable sadness.
Another reaction is self-indulgence, to grab pleasure while you can, to live just for yourself, because we take the wrong practical conclusion from St Paul’s warning, “the time is growing short”(1 Cor 7:29)

A completely different reaction is to decide to live what time is left by the values we have thus-far FAILED to properly live:
Generosity, kindness, self-sacrifice; 
Giving my time to prayer, being more frequent at weekday Mass, and so forth.

The Christian teaching that, “the order of this world is passing away”, is a crucial part of the Lord’s call for us to live with our heart set on ANOTHER world.
There is much in world that is a “vale of tears”(Ps 84:6),
            and to live as if this world was ALL there was to live for, is the greatest sadness.
One event, beyond all others, should change our sense of which world we are living for, namely, meeting the Lord Jesus.
In the Gospel text we heard today, Simon, Andrew, James, and John, were all busy about the affairs of THIS world: they were fishermen, mending their nets, working in their boats.
But then THE LORD came and called them, “Follow me” (Mk 1:17).
He said practically nothing about what He was calling them TO, but, as I noted last week, they had already spent time with Him, they had already encountered something NEW in Him.
And so they left their nets, and accepted the call to “Follow” (Mk 1:17) Him.
They stopped looking to the world they had, but to WHATEVER lay ahead in the Lord.

One day this world will end, maybe by an explosion of the sun, as on the BBC TV series,
maybe tomorrow or next year,
But it will definitely end -and that’s a GOOD thing!
            There is much good in this world, even with its tears, but something BETTER is available.
If WE accept that “the order of this world is passing away”,

THEN we should be ready to live a new life, whatever following Him involves.

Sunday, 14 January 2018

5 minutes prayer a day, 2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

1 Sam 3:3-10.19; Jn 1:35-42
We heard in our first reading about how God called to Samuel, and something that you and I need to remember is that, right now, the Lord is calling out to you and me. He has something to say to you, now. Something that is relevant to your time and place. Maybe a message of consolation, of strength in your pain. Or maybe a message of direction, advice to persevere or advice to stop.
The problem, however, is that we so easily fail to hear what God is saying. And, on this point, today’s readings give us some useful indicators.

Samuel had the voice of the Lord speaking to him from heaven, speaking more directly than you or I are ever likely to experience. And yet, Samuel wasn't able to recognise the call of the Lord.
Samuel was, it would seem, a good boy: He did his master’s bidding. He came running to him.
But, he didn't recognise the call of the Lord.
Why? The text we heard gave the reason why, “Samuel had as yet no knowledge of the Lord”(1 Sam 3:7).
Now, let us recall, Samuel was a Jew; son of devout mother; he lived in the Temple. And yet he didn’t “know” the Lord. Just as you are I can be Catholic without really “knowing” the God that our faith gives us access to.
And, if we do not really know the Lord then we cannot recognise His voice calling to us.
And how do we get to know Him? By spending time with Him.

On that point, moving on to today’s Gospel text, the text does not yet have the Lord issuing His call, “Follow me”(Jn 1:43) –that call is recorded in the next verse, and what is recorded in today’s account is an important preparation for that call.
In today’s account we heard about how disciples of St John the Baptist went to Jesus and asked Him, “Rabbi, where do you live?”(Jn 1:38). Now, they weren’t just curious about whether He had a flat or a bungalow! They wanted to know HIM.
And they knew they had to spend TIME with Him to know Him.
And, having spent time with Him, having gotten to know Him, they were ready to hear and accept the call to “follow” Him that He then gave them.

I began by saying that the Lord has something to say to you, something relevant for you today, in your current circumstances. And, like Samuel, we can struggle to “know” the Lord well enough to able to hear His call.
Well, the point is this: there two things I am recommending to you today to address this: (1) prayer, and (2) reading the Gospels –the Gospels being the part of the Bible that most directly tells us about the Lord, so that might “know” Him.
Let me be more specific still, and suggest to you a daily pattern to follow (one that many of you already use, and a good number of you do even more than this):
(1) daily reading a paragraph of the Gospels, and
(2) then spending 5 minutes in prayer: silent, private, talking to God and listening to Him.
And inside today’s newsletter is a list of 7 excerpts from the Gospels, to take you through each day this coming week, so you can make this week the start of something new.

5 minutes is short enough that every single person here should be able to achieve it.
But I’d also assert (and I think I can say I witness this in many people) that 5 minutes a day can be enough to start you out on a new trajectory.
A new trajectory that can start you on a path such that you might hear what the Lord is calling out to you –just as Samuel was eventually able to say, “Speak Lord, your servant is listening”(1 Sam 3:10).

Saturday, 13 January 2018

Wonersh: Online Resources for Moral Theology

This page is under construction, and was started 14/01/2017

The links below are offered to supplement the 3rd year Moral theology course offered at St John's Seminary, Wonersh, by Fr Dylan James.
Note: In almost every case, the non-online bibliography of printed texts for the course are preferable to the web articles below.

Recommended Audio Course (also on DVD):
Romanus Cessario OP, Elements of Moral Theology

Works sympathetic to Pinckaers and the approach followed in our course:
Craig Stephen Titus, Servais Pinckaers and the Renewal of Catholic Moral Theology (Journal of Moral Theology vol 1 n.1 (2012)) pp.43-68
Servais Pinckaers, The Pinckaers Reader: Renewing Thomistic Moral Theology (Google Book edition
Servais Pinckaers, The Place of Philosophy in Moral Theology
Anon, Returning to a Morality of Happiness

Michael Kane, Servais Pinckaers: Returning to a Thomisitc Morality of Happiness and Beatitude (2011)

Wikipedia, Servais-TheodorePinckaers 

A work critical of Pinckaers, but nonetheless seeking to be rooted in Thomism:
John Cuddeback, Law, Pinckaers, and the Definition of Christian Ethics (Nova et Vetera, Eng ed, vol7 n2 (2009)) pp.301-6  

Just War
Paul Griffiths and George Weigel, Just War: An Exchange (2002),
The above text is the recommended seminar reading for the lecture on Just War theory  
G.E.M. Anscombe, War and Murder, in Walter Stein (ed.), Nuclear Weapons: A Catholic Response (London and New York, 1961)
An articulate critique both of pacifism and of nuclear war  
William Saunders, Just War for Modern Time 
William Saunders, The Church’s Just War Theory
Russell Shaw, Just War in the Modern Age (2017) 
Colin B. Donovan, What is Just War? 
Lawrence Mary, Catholic Teaching Concerning a Just War

Mortal Sin
G.E.M. Anscombe, "Morality", in Faith in a Hard Ground: Essays on Religion, Philosophy and Ethics (Chapter 13) (Google Book edition)
Mark Latkovic, The Fundamental Option. A Faithful Student’s Guide to a Competing 20th Century Moral Theory (2016)

Germain Grisez, The Distinction Between Grave and Light Matter, in Christian Moral Principles, Chapter 16 (online) 
John Harvey, The Pastoral Problem of Masturbation  
St Thomas Aquinas, Whether Charity is Lost through one Mortal Sin? (ST II-II q2 a12) 

Germain Grisez, Conscience: Knowledge of Moral Truth, in Christian Moral Principles, Chapter 3  (online) 
Irish Bishops Conference, Moral Theology: Recent Developments, Implications (2004) 
Thomas Berg, What is Moral Conscience? (Homiletic and Pastoral Review (2012)) 
Mark Latkovic, Forming a Catholic Conscience (2000)
Mary Lowery, I. Freedom and Conscience, in Handout Notesfor Moral Theology, Christian Marriage, and Catholic Social Thought (2007).  Note, especially, section "e. Good and Bad Conscience"

Co-operation in Evil
Seido Foundation staff, Morality of Cooperation in Evil 
Helen Watt, Co-operation in Evil, -old link
Charles O’Donnell, How do you Avoid Prescribing the Morning After Pill? (Catholic Medical Quarterly Volume 61.3 (August 2011)), pp.7-9