Archive for December, 2010

St. Joseph, Husband of Mary

Over Christmas lunch, with the other monks who live locally, conversation turned to a recent BBC TV programme called “The Nativity”. For me, it is not often possible to watch TV, but one elderly monk recommended it as, ‘one of the best presentations he had seen’ of the Christmas story. That was good enough for me, and so, using the ‘BBC I-Player’ over the past three days, I have managed to watch all four episodes, each lasting half an hour.  I found them absorbing. 

Of course, the story is so very well known to a good proportion of the lay population, and to we religious; firstly, there are the accounts of the Nativity in the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Luke, and then, secondly, one must add the many years of contemplations of these accounts throughout decades of repeated Christmas liturgical celebrations to arrive at anything like a summation of one’s knowledge of the subject. The totality of this experience may lead one to disagree with, for example, the interpretation of Mary that was inculcated into this TV series; yet such programmes certainly make one reflect – and further contemplate – the story surrounding these age-old events.  I believe this to be even more the case, for anyone who has been given the grace to visit the Holy Land.


Art Pictures (1) the Nativity (Martin Schongauer 1475-80) and (2) St. Joseph with the Child Jesus (Guido Reni c. 1635) 

As always, there are the age-old questions. For instance, take one aspect – how did St. Joseph cope with the challenge God put before him? He is portrayed by Matthew’s gospel as a God-fearing, just man, who found himself on the ‘horns of dilemma’, whether to follow the set, cultural, pattern of his fellow God-fearing Jews, or to follow the direct inspiration from God – this under-pinned and strengthened by his respect and growing love for Mary. In the final analysis, he acted against his own judgement, because he followed the advice given by an angel. His role in the events surrounding the birth of Jesus is crucial, because had he not taken Mary, his betrothed, into his house, it is likely she would have been killed. She was pregnant before marriage, and the punishment for an adulteress was death. And, what about Mary – how could she explain what actually happened? 

In the film, Joseph is a young and attractive young man, utterly in love with Mary; he is portrayed as rather stubborn, a man who did not readily yield to advice from his wife, and only comes to believe that Mary is to be the Mother of a divine child, at Bethlehem, when Mary was about to be confined.  The drama makes us aware of the struggle Joseph had, and again this is quite helpful – not so much as regards the accuracy of the portrayal of the struggle, itself – but as regards the fact Joseph felt, and had to deal with, that inward turmoil.   There is a strange passage in St. John’s Gospel that makes me wonder if the illegitimacy – from the human point of view – of Jesus, was a continuing ‘back-drop’ question in his public life: 

They answered him, ‘Abraham is our father.’ Jesus said to them, ‘if you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing what Abraham did, but now you are trying to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. This is not what Abraham did. You are indeed doing what your father does.’ They said to him, ‘We are not illegitimate children; we have one Father, God himself.’ (John 8: 39-41 and continue reading) 

One other point, among many, comes to mind. In the film, we are presented with THE most important intervention of God, in the history of mankind, and yet the events appear so mundane and ordinary. The people of Bethlehem and Nazareth simply continue to go about their own affairs, unaware of the greatness – the enormity – of what is happening in their midst. That phenomenon is also very much akin to our own experience, in today’s world. Each day, momentous events happen amongst the hum-drum of our daily lives: and again God is wont to ‘intervene’ – to enter into the situations we are in, and does so when we turn to Him in loving acceptance and when we are proactive in the doing of his will.  This is so in the little details of our lives, especially, in the relationships we have with others, but also in everything else as well – in the time we turn to Him with love in our hearts, in the time we pray, in the time we turn away from self-will, and so forth. A baby was born, in squalor, to the indifference of most people and the hostility of others, and that was the most important event in the long history of the cosmos. The Pope, in his recent publication called ‘Verbum Domini’, (on the ‘Word of God’), writes the following in a section called, ‘The Cosmic Dimension of the Word’: 

When we consider the basic meaning of the word of God as a reference to the eternal Word of God made flesh, the one Saviour and mediator between God and humanity, and we listen to this word, we are led by the biblical revelation to see that it is the foundation of all reality. The prologue of St. John says of the Divine Logos, that “all things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made” (Jn 1:3); and in the Letter to the Colossians it is said of Christ, “the first born of all creation” (1:15), that “all things were created though him and for him” (1:16). 

Yes, our lives are very precious, and in all the everyday experiences we have, we can find God.  May our ears, our hearts, our minds be attentive to all God is doing for us, and may we follow St. Joseph – an essential actor, in the real sense – in ‘The Nativity’, the real story of how the ‘Word Became Flesh’.  He is THE model for all fathers, whatever the circumstances occurring within our families today.

A Happy and Holy Christmas

A Happy and Holy Christmas to all who may read this blog

  A Modern Nativity Scene  

The Christmas Story conjures up such a scene of domestic love, with Joseph, Mary and the new born baby – a scene that is quite ‘ordinary’ in one sense – and so it is, but at the same time, ‘mind-bogglingly’ amazing to think that here is pictured the ‘dawn’ of our ‘redemption’. Of course, in reality, it must have been a pretty difficult time for them, and therefore, reflecting on the two main protagonists, Joseph and Mary, the love they had for each other must have been very strong. They had gone through so much – so many problems – before arriving at Bethlehem; both knew that what was happening to them was in the hands of God, whom they loved and obeyed, but there were massive problems involving close families and the rest of the small community in Nazareth over Mary’s ‘unexplained’ pregnancy.  But, they trusted in God, for He had arranged the whole adventure, and it would not be too fanciful to expect them to be alert to the prophecy, in the Prophet Micah, about Bethlehem:

 “But you (Bethlehem) Ephrathah, the least of the clans of Judah, from you will come for me a future ruler of Israel whose origins go back to the distant past”. 

It is possible, even within serious difficulties, to remain trusting, loving and even cheerful. I know a fairly young parishioner, who is seriously ill with cancer, and the weaker and more debilitated he becomes, so his spirit seems the stronger. He puts this down to the power of God, not really being able to explain it.  In fact, there may be no other reasonable explanation. 

To wish somebody a ‘Holy Christmas’ must mean that God is involved. Recently, I met another young man who is not sure of God’s existence, largely because he feels that God is ‘remote’. What a pity that so many do not know God as their close friend – a friend who intervenes, and helps us in the detail of our lives! Such is the invitation we have from God, if we make a choice to believe in Him, and to do His will. The ‘Good News’ is that, if we sometimes fail and fall, not following his will, God can reconcile us to Himself when we turn back to Him; trust me, the good that comes out of that experience, can be stronger than the evil that we fell into, when we turned away from Him. How foolish it is that Christians do not take advantage of their faults, failures and weaknesses – the ‘sludge in the heart’ – by turning their faces back once more to God and crying: ‘Help’! ‘Mercy’ would have nothing to do, if there were not those who keep ‘Mercy’ working in answer to their own weaknesses. God is all Love and Mercy, and he cannot let us experience Him as a close friend, if we think we don’t need Him when, in fact, we all do. This is the positive side of a negative experience; the worst thing possible – the unthinkable – happening to me, is not ill-health, but the loss of my relationship with God, and that means, by sinning, to turn away from Him; forgiveness is the key that opens up that intimate relationship with God, once more. All this is written in the Scriptures, and the ‘Benedictus’ puts it this way: 

“You (John the Baptist) shall go ahead of the Lord to prepare his ways before him, to make known to his people their salvation through forgiveness of all their sins.” 

Knowing Jesus is our salvation. ‘Knowing a person” means not just intellectual knowledge, but is so much more concerned with our very human instincts, our innermost feelings – our whole being. According to the Scripture, we know the person of God through the forgiveness of our sins. This is why a person once said to me, that after celebrating Reconciliation, they felt they ‘floated’ as they walked home. Please be assured, there is nothing remote about this; it is something intrinsically personal and essentially intimate. 

A text received from a priest friend in Dublin, as these words are written, says: 

“I wish you and the family joy: the joy of looking forward to meeting old friends; the joy of being with people who love you and care for you and whom you love and care about; the joy of realising that there is a God who believes in you and who cares about you, and who loves you very much! Have a pleasant and happy Christmas. 

This text almost completes the ‘circle’ of this blog, for it brings us back to the homely love of family, with the Holy Family as our model.  However, there is one further connected thought that I wish to put to you and this concerns our Holy Father, the Pope. 



A Christmas Card from the Vatican

Finally, in wishing everyone a Happy Christmas, it is worth knowing that Pope Benedict will be doing “Thought For The Day”, at 7.45 am, on Radio 4, during the “Today programme” – the first time a Pope has ever done this. The Christmas card above has come from the Vatican, and so I share it with everyone. It shows the Holy Family and seems to point to the Holiness of God, by means of the reverence in the postures of Mary and Joseph, the person holding the Cross of St. George, St. Dominic with his sign in Latin that says: “Fear God whose hour is coming” as he sees the devil over his shoulder, the shepherds, and even the angels in heaven. Pictured here is the origin of our Redemption and God is very close. God bless us all at Christmas!

Christmas Cards

 At Christmas time, it is such an enjoyable thing to make contact with people you have not seen, or spoken to for ages. Memories of time spent together, with people who are still friends, flood back into the heart, and yet, God has arranged things in such a way, that, regrettably, it is impossible to spend time with these people any more; time has ‘moved on’, life has ‘moved on’, people have ‘moved on’. 

All of we individuals lead our lives at a pace which suits us, our needs, our personalities; we all have a different pace of personal life, and that, in itself, is neither a positive nor a negative. That’s the way it is in our temporal – our secular lives – if you like! But, in the terms of Christian life, all that counts is the ‘Love’ that we build into our lives, whether they are busy, or ones that are more ‘laid back’ – I think today’s young would use the word ‘cool’. Under God’s ordnance, every life, each and every one of billions, past, present and future, is unique in its entirety. Take, for instance, our Saint Thérèse of Lisieux.  She lived a life that was obscure and ‘lost’ in an enclosed Carmelite monastery of nuns. Yet, she is better known than almost all of her contemporaries, who were ‘dashing about’ from ‘pillar to post’, ‘fulfilling’ their vocations as teachers, business men or women, mums and dads, priests or whatever! But, just why is she so well known – and loved? The answer, I think, is because she lived, as best she could, the ‘ideal’ that God had put before her, and that included doing ‘with love’ every little task that God asked of her, within that obscure life. She wrote her biography ‘The Story of a Soul’, only because she was asked to write it – not for spurious recognition, or vain glory. Thus, Saint Thérèse is not only better known than most of her contemporaries – she also has a continuing influence so many, many years after her death, over one hundred years ago, because of her writings.


(1) Saint Thérèse of Lisieux (2) Cardinal, Francis Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan 

Another contemporary ‘hero’ of mine is the Vietnamese Cardinal, Francis Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan, who died just eight years ago. During his life, he spent 14 years in a Communist prison – on the ‘face’ of it, totally inactive – yet those years led to the production of a beautiful book, ‘The Road of Hope’, consisting, essentially, of one thousand little thoughts, ‘smuggled’ out of his prison, to encourage the Catholic faithful in Vietnam, who were being deprived of their beloved pastor. He, too, is still a massive influence on people today. Just to quote one of these sayings, (No. 487); “You must discover that you can – and indeed have the duty – to sanctify yourselves in and through marriage” – a most helpful thought, as we approach the family feast of Christmas.

Shopping for Christmas Cards – or any kind of shopping, for that matter – is not something that occupies much of my attention. I have some lovely cards, purchased from our Piety Shop, and these I am sending, with joy, to many of my friends. On the receiving ‘end’, however, our postman delivered one the other day, addressed to me, and one specially chosen for its suitability, I am sure! 

It pleases me to publish the card in this blog; from a twelfth century illuminated Psalter in the British Museum, it shows the three wise men – on their horses – as typical ‘English nobility’, of that period. All three are pointing up to the ‘Star of Wonder’ they had been following. Now, that illustration must have been done by an unknown, 12th Century monk, and I can picture him in my mind, working diligently away in a cold monastic cell, with great love and joy, his ‘purpose to fulfil’. Study his work and you will get the feeling that those ‘Three Wise Men’ are joyful, and expectant, because they have the ‘Star’ to follow – something of great importance giving direction to their lives. I dwell on all this and, in my heart, know that we need that ‘Star’, the ‘Star’ pointing to the all-embracing ‘Love’ that God has for each one of us.  I also know that we, all of us, are invited to follow – doing God’s will – in our own way, and with ‘Love’, whatever our circumstances. As we follow, we, too, will feel the same joy and even excitement in our hearts – led by Love – responding to Love. 

Inside the card there is a reflection from Chiara Lubich that I would like to share:


“I think Christmas never grows old,

because it is deeply human,

as well as a divine mystery.


God, in becoming man, raised us all

to the dizzy heights of the divine;

at the same time he allows us to come close to it,

disclosing its mystery to people in ecstasy.


Christmas means the warmth of the family,

the amazing phenomenon of motherhood,

the continuity of life through fatherhood.


Christmas means, for the Christian and for all –

besides the dawn of the Redemption –

the day in which humanity rediscovers itself, its true self,

because it is grafted into God.

For me the word ‘ecstasy’ (poem para.2 above) refers to those who are able to go beyond – to transcend – their own worries, pre-occupations or self-centredness, and let the Mystery of the Divine enter their hearts in wondering contemplation. Unless you are ‘outside’ yourself, that will not be possible; take a ‘step back’, and have a good look at yourself, and you will see what I mean. As we journey onward towards Christmas 2010, may we share something of this joy – this pure delight in God. Christmas cards are not all ‘hum-bug’ as ‘Scrooge’ would have it – they can have a positive and quite wonderful effect – on senders and receivers!

The Immaculate Conception

“Remember O most loving Virgin Mary, that it is a thing unheard of that anyone ever had recourse to thy protection and was left forsaken…. …”

 (part of the Memorare, a famous prayer calling on Mary,

Mother of God, to intercede for us). 

“Mary Immaculate, Star of the Morning, chosen before the Creation began”, has been a phrase that has ‘rung’ through my heart for some time. It ‘echoes’ words of the author of the ‘Letter to the Ephesians’, used as the second Reading in the Mass for the Immaculate Conception – words that refer to all Christians: “Before the world was made, he chose us, chose us in Christ to be holy and spotless and to live through love in his presence … …” (Eph 1:4)


Mary Queen of Heaven with the Baby Jesus in St Mary's Narthex Leyland

Picture of Our Lady, Assumed into Heaven, in the Narthex of our Church

Come with me as I explore this concept of Mary a little – try to take things a little deeper. In doing so, we have to bear in mind that, from the logical point of view, it is beyond (our) understanding to say that, from the moment of conception, Mary was completely free from sin. How can that be – except by a miracle from God? That is the ancient teaching of the Church, however, and one that links with two other teachings: firstly, that Mary is truly the Mother of God, or ‘Theotokos’ – which means ‘God-bearer’ (Council of Ephesus 431 AD), and secondly, that she was assumed, body and soul, into heaven at her passing from this world (Decreed in 1950, but taught from about the 3rd Century AD). In themselves, each of these teachings defies human logic, but, within them, there is a certain consistency. If Mary is, truly, the Mother of God, then it is surely – at the very least – a fitting thing that she should always be free of any taint of sin, for God and sin cannot ever mix! Also, her bodily ‘assumption’ is also fitting, because being taken up to heaven – body and soul – implies that bodily death had no hold over the ever-sinless ‘Theotokos’.  Sin is the cause of our death.  In the Garden of Eden, before the sin of Adam and Eve, we were created by God to live for ever; death – the death that you and I must face – was, and is, the fruit of that ‘Original Sin’. We must face it – Mary too faced it, but in a different way! What it was like for her we do not know. Her body was taken up to heaven with her spirit because that part of creation was sinless. So there is a consistency in those three teachings.

What does all this mean for us, normal human beings, fragile and sinful as we are? We are called to be free from sin by the power of God, and this is achievable, at least from time to time, when we are truly one with God. St. Paul to the Romans wrote: “If because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.” (Rom 5:15) In the present moment, we can be truly sinless through the gift of God’s grace because, when we repent and are sure our sins are forgiven, then we are His, and sin has no claim on us. We can – so long as we are friends with God – be ‘immaculate’ like Mary, and, if we keep responding to God’s gift of grace, then this can become a ‘habit’ and we then ‘remain’ in God. How wonderful, for we are free to be truly ‘loving’ people when we are free of sin. Driving the lesson home, and relating all this to our world, I suppose this is what a saint – what sainthood – means: somebody who recognises that he, or she, is dependent for all virtue on God, and who manages to remain sinless, frequently; should separation from God occur then he, or she, can repent and begin again, in union with God. For God always wants us to ‘yield’ Him our sins.  Sin is the only ‘thing – if you can call sin by that word – for which God, himself, is not responsible. Through his Son Jesus, God has taken away sin by means of the Cross and glorious Resurrection of Jesus. When we ‘give’ the Lord our sins, Jesus rejoices, because then we are acknowledging the reason why he became man, and lived among us.

I am aware that many of these ideas underlie the design of the Church of the Theotokos, at Loppiano. Certainly, they provide the architectural foundation for this very beautiful modern church pictured below:



   Photos of Theotokos Church Loppiano  

1) The Inclined Plane and 2) Its ‘prow’ to where the inclined plane leads 

It’s very carefully designed features are truly fascinating; here, I want to focus on just one – the roof. This is specifically designed to show how Mary, THE perfect disciple of Jesus, can be considered like an inclined plane that reaches from heaven to us on this earth – and vice versa!

Mary was – and is – a creature like us: she was born in the ordinary way of all human beings: by the Fathers of the Church, she is called, ‘the perfection of all creation – so perfect that, unlike any other part of creation – she has no trace of sin. She comes, so to speak, from creatures like us, from the earth, from the ground reaching upwards. In a totally different way, Jesus, born of the Holy Spirit, not by man, in the womb of the Virgin Mary, is from above. Yet, He takes his body from this perfect part of ‘our world’ that is Mary: every child grows within the womb of the mother taking sustenance from the mother and so did Jesus. In this very special way, Mary is the conduit – the connection – between our world and God’s. Thus, the teachings of Chiara Lubich – the one who originated this idea of Mary, as an inclined plane, reaching from heaven to earth – are in full unity with the Fathers of the Church, and the teachings of the Church. The Church at Loppiano is built with this sloping roof for this very purpose – to demonstrate in concrete, tile and glass – that curving path that has ‘MARY’ ‘stamped’ all over it – analogous I suppose, to Dorothy’s ‘Yellow Brick Road’ in the ‘Wizard of Oz’, but with the name of ‘MARY’ etched on every brick.

Maybe now we can understand, more clearly, why Mary is so important, and why she helps us if we ask her to intercede to God for us.

Blogger recipients may have noticed that the blog site has changed since last week. It is possible to go directly to the new site by using – but there is also a direct link from the Parish’s main site: – just click on ‘Fr. Jonathan’s Blog.   Before going any further, I would like to thank Tim, who looks after our website, for the hard work he has put into getting this ‘up and running’, and Socius, who is a companion with me, in writing these blogs. It is truly amazing how people are so generous with themselves and their time, given freely for the Church and the Kingdom of God. Within the new blog site, we now have a facility for people to comment on the blog, in addition to them being able to read its content; you will see also many other things of interest within the site’s pages – ‘twitters’ and links to other websites, including some to the Vatican, itself – the wonders of modern technology!   The ultimate idea of all this is so that, hopefully, we can share our thoughts, and ideas, to the mutual benefit of Parishioners and people beyond our boundaries. Many such already share in the blog – some from as far away as Australia. Those who already receive the blogs, automatically, should now be transferred to a system that sends them a newsletter informing them of new additions to the site. There they should be able to read at their leisure. The old site is now no longer accessible.  



‘We three’ have had a lot of fun – and hard work, getting the new blog site set up, but now, there are also ‘Twitters’!  Pope Benedict has said that the Church – Priests in particular – should be ‘up to date’ with modern methods. I wonder if Pope Benedict ‘twitters’? It would be good to have a daily thought from him; he seems to have so much wisdom to impart   

Pope Benedict XVI


Freedom, fun and hard work – I suspect they go well together – that they are very much intermingled. There is often a great deal of fun, mixed with people who are working hard together, and when somebody is having fun, they are also, essentially, free.  Time passes quickly when hard at work, when having fun, and freedom is so important in all of this.   

Manual Workers Making Steel


Freedom – liberty, lack of restrictions, that certain independence, a sense of choice and free will and freedom from fear – all of these – is associated with Advent. The very first antiphon, at Mass, for the first Monday of Advent reads:  

“Nations, hear the message of the Lord, and make it known to the ends of the earth: Our Saviour is coming. Have no more fear.”  

In the Benedictus, the prayer of Zecheriah, John the Baptist’s father, he says:  

“He (God) swore to Abraham our father to grant us, that free from fear and saved from the hands of our foes, we might serve him in holiness and justice all the days of our life in his presence”.  

Freedom does not come automatically and it is not to do with the self-dominated attitudes of ‘cutting all ties and just following my own desires’. In fact, that course of action leads to the deprivation of other peoples’ freedoms and on to slavery.  In any examination of complex and difficult concepts, it is helpful, I find, always to look at the ‘opposite of something’ as this often helps us to understand more clearly. In our Rite of Baptism, when talking to parents, the priest uses that ‘un-popular’ word ‘responsibility, when he reminds them that: “You have asked to have your child baptised. In doing so, you are accepting the responsibility of training him / her in the practice of the Faith”. Now this may sound like a constraint – the Church telling us what to do – once again. In fact, it is quite the opposite! At Baptism, the parents invariably answer: “We do”, without hesitation, when asked if they clearly understand the ‘responsibility’.  

To look at this another way, we can picture all those many parents who feel sad, disappointed and without a purpose in life, when they discover they cannot have children! Do such people feel they have lost an aspect of their freedom? Not necessarily!  The choices we have made appear to limit us, but actually, they are the way in which we find our freedom. We all need a context in which to live.  

The worst enemy of our human existence is fear. God takes fear away: and that is a message of Advent.  

The Nativity and the Second Coming of Jesus

The Nativity by Rogier van der Wayden (1400 to 1464) and the Second Coming of Jesus by Jean Cousin the Younger (late 16th Century)  

In our today’s way of thinking, we do not picture Jesus coming to us just at Christmastide, or, indeed in terms of the certainty of His ‘Second Coming’; rather, the Messiah, himself, is with us now, today and everyday, throughout the whole of our lives.  

Now follows a story told by Father Ambrose at Mass, last Sunday.  With acknowledgement to him, I now repeat the ‘tale’, because of the apposite lessons it contains:  

Tintern Abbey - The Interior


A famous monastery fell upon hard times.  Once it had teemed with young monks, so that the church rang with prayer and singing, but now it was nearly deserted.  Visitors no longer came there to pray and seek spiritual guidance.  Only a handful of elderly monks shuffled disconsolately about its silent and gloomy cloisters.  

       Now in a hut, in a nearby wood, there lived a holy old rabbi.  The monks had a very high regard for him and felt sustained by his prayerful presence.  One day the abbot went to visit the rabbi and opened his heart to him.  The rabbi received him warmly.  It was as though he had been expecting him for a long time.  

       They sat down and talked for some time, each shedding tears at having discovered one another.  Then they sat on in silence.  Eventually the rabbi said: ‘You and your brothers are serving God with heavy hearts.  You have come to me seeking a teaching.  I will give you a teaching, but what I am going to say, I will say once, and only once.’  

       Then the old rabbi looked at the abbot and said:  ‘Tell your brothers that the Messiah lives among them’.  The abbot could scarcely believe what he had heard.  He wanted to ask many questions, but the rabbi said: ‘Go now.’  And the abbot left without even looking back.  

       The next morning he called the monks together and told them that he had received a teaching from the old rabbi, that he would say it once, and no one was to repeat it, or ask questions.  They looked at him full of expectation.  Then he said: ‘My brothers, the rabbi said that the Messiah is among us.’  On hearing this, the monks were overcome with surprise and joy, and they asked themselves: ‘Could it really be true?  Could Br. John be the Messiah?  Could Br. James be the Messiah?  Could I be the Messiah?  

       They were deeply puzzled, but no one asked any questions of the abbot.  As time went by, the monks began to treat one another with a deep and genuine reverence.  There was a gentle, warm-hearted, human quality about them now which was hard to describe but easy to notice.  They lived as men who had finally found something.  And yet they prayed and read the Scriptures as if they were still looking for something.  

       People soon noticed that something unusual had happened in the monastery, and visitors began to stream to it.  From far and wide they came to be nourished by the prayer and charity of the monks, and young men were soon asking to join the community.  And once more the church rang with prayerful music, and the cloisters filled with life, so that the monastery became a centre of faith, hope, and love for all who lived in that part of the world.  

Yes, the Messiah has come.  He lives within us and empowers us to live as he lived.  Each one of us can make a real difference.  All our words and actions can spread love – or argument and jealousy.   We must turn away from anything of which we would be ashamed, remembering that God sees and knows us, through and through.  Every day, we draw nearer to the time of our death and the end of the world.  We must be ready for that great moment, for God’s judgement is completely just – and final. He loves us and longs for us to be with him for all eternity, where we will then exist in perfect freedom.