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Chris' monthly reflections

April 2024

Trust, surrender, receive, believe


The film ‘Good Will Hunting’ is a wonderful story, which tells of a young man who is a mathematical genius. Apart from that he’s one of the most dysfunctional people you could meet. He finds himself in trouble and is placed in the care of a psychotherapist who challenges him to go deep within himself and to face his brokenness and his pain.

There’s a wonderful scene in which the psychotherapist finally breaks through and he holds Will who cries away the hurt and pain that had been locked inside him for years. The psychotherapist keeps repeating the words over and over again ‘It’s not your fault.’ It was a moment of transformation.

I remember thinking to myself, ‘That’s what God’s like for us if we allow God to be’. However, it seems to me that too often we’re like those first disciples locked in rooms full of fear and anxiety.

We don’t trust God enough with our wounds and brokenness or that God will hold us with compassion and love. The risen Jesus came amongst those first disciples into their locked room. I don’t know what rooms you keep tightly locked, but the risen Jesus is already there waiting for you to recognise him. There is no pain within you, no brokenness that God doesn’t know and can’t handle.

The Gospel accounts of the resurrection trying to show us a new kind of presence that can come through closed doors, even the doors of our hearts. Most of us, locked in our rooms of insecurity and fear, try and keep God away. We wear our masks, and we play our religious games. We fill ourselves with Scripture and Dogma, trying to appear to have it all together. Anything rather than face our pain and allow the Lord to open the locked rooms within us, but our brokenness and pain can be for us what it was for Jesus, the source of life. Don’t be afraid of it or hide from it. You can’t experience Easter Day without Good Friday.

The invitation we’re given is to come before God trusting God with our weakness, brokenness and vulnerability and to expect that the father’s gaze of love will touch us. That’s when we’ll finally understand that we don't have to have it altogether to be loved. We simply have to trust and believe in the power of love, the same love that raised Jesus from the dead and into which we are absorbed with all our wounds and brokenness. The love which transforms us deep within.

And we are witnesses to all of it. The truth that makes sense of all that goes on in our lives, the meaning of the pain that we all experience. Don’t keep the secret to yourself, go and tell the world to trust in the God who wants to hold us and love us into wholeness.

March 2024

Lent - an invitation to trust


Many years ago, I came across a man called Ged who worked with people who had disabilities.

Like many Geordies, he was full of ‘joie de vivre’ and energy. However, I discovered that his life had been tragically marred by abuse. Much of his way of thinking, particularly about himself, was twisted and broken. Three marriages and several other failed relationships hadn’t helped the situation. Each broken relationship added to his pain. From early on in his life, he had rejected God. He just couldn’t believe that God loved him, although he never doubted that God existed. Trust was the most difficult area for him to cope with.

Then, he was diagnosed with an aggressive cancer and something – I think the action of the Spirit – happened within him. The healing that he had always desired began to take place. He could never say why, just that he knew. He forgave people who’d damaged him so badly and he learned how to trust. He died aged 54, a healed, whole, free man who finally knew that God can be trusted.

One of the sicknesses within modern society is our inability to trust. The presumption is that everyone is on the make, always looking after number one. There is no-one to be trusted other than oneself. That makes society very individualistic and isolates people one from another. With that philosophy it becomes very difficult to trust God in any real way. We might well say our prayers and do religious things but trusting God is more than that. Trusting God is about opening ourselves up to the power of love which prompts the way in which we live our lives. It’s about knowing that God is the very source of all that we are and all that we do. It’s about falling in love with God so that God motivates our every moment and everything else fades into insignificance.

I often think a huge conversion is needed within all of us if we’re to really know the living God. We have to be prepared to let go of our image of God and allow God to reveal Godself to us. It’s somehow in the letting go of these images and standing naked before the face of God that we discover the God who can be trusted above all things. We don’t do it, because it’s scary to let go and realise that we’re not in control of our own lives or our own destiny.

Lent is a time to ask ourselves the question: are we prepared to trust God’s love, which is eternal or are we going to put our trust in the material world? Do we think that our desire for power and wealth and immediate fulfilment is going to satisfy?

This Lent, let’s open ourselves to the transforming spirit which cuts through the games we play and faces us with the overwhelming love of God and let’s place our trust in that, just as Jesus had to.

February 2024

Vulnerability, the way of discipleship


Just recently, I was invited to a meeting to share the silence. When I arrived, there was a circle of people sitting. As we came in, we were given name badges and then we sat down. A bell was rung and the chatter stopped, and then each person introduced themselves and when that was done, a song was played and we entered into the silence together.

As time went on, one man began to weep. He did not say why but others reached out to him and held his hand in the silence, and I felt a shift take place within as I realised that this was sacred ground, and even without words, his vulnerability was leading us deeply into the mystery of God.

The experience of Jesus shows us a vulnerable God, a God who is ultimately broken and weak, a God who suffers, a God who is a lamb. Somehow God is revealed as broken, vulnerable compassionate and ultimately loving. We are invited to experience his way of loving, that way of vulnerability. Vulnerability compels us beyond ourselves. Whenever we see real pain and brokenness, most people find a depth of compassion within that causes them to want to act for the one who is broken and in need. I am sure that is why when our television screens and newspapers are filled with images of traumatised people, most of us want to try and heal the trauma.

I’m reminded of the words from Matthew’s Gospel: ‘whatsoever you do to the least of these, you do it to me’. When we reach out to the broken and the needy, we are reaching out to the God who suffers in our midst. Through the doors of our centre come many suffering people. We meet those desperately seeking asylum, those who have no language to communicate their need other than the pain in their eyes. We meet those caught in the trap of addictions of many sorts. We meet the lonely and the frightened and the poverty-stricken. Vulnerability pushes us beyond the safe boundaries we create for ourselves to minister to them, and to the God who lives in us.

So, I ask you what sort of God have you discovered, the God of law or the God who can be found in brokenness and vulnerability? Are you open enough to the spirit to allow the spirit to change your image of God so that you can witness to a God who stands with us in our brokenness and need and brings us life?

January 2024

How great is our God?


Several years ago, I met a wonderfully free man called Ken. He was in Ireland at a conference I was speaking at. He told me that he had been a Carthusian but left the monastery because of the hard nature of some of the priests and brothers who lived there. He now spent most of his time living in a hermitage behind a Franciscan friary.

He worked in a wood shop producing gifts for the friars to sell and in return they looked after him. He said that once a year he broke out for a charismatic binge and then went back to his silent way of living.

One night he shared his image of God, and it was beautiful. He talked of the grandeur of the skies that he looked into each night through the windows of his hermitage. He talked of stars and the moon and the sun and spoke of the beauty of wind and rain and clouds. He shared of wilds animals that he watched in the forest and people he had met down the years. Then he said he saw God in everything and yet that God is always more than we can imagine, because love, which is at the kernel of God’s nature is more than we can ever know.

The invitation of God is to live in that free place of love poured out and received which always means to live in a world of abundance and open horizons. The love of God has been poured out and is breathtaking to behold in the wonder of creation. That love means we are forgiven freed saved. The heart of God is love flowing out and there is nothing we can do to earn it. We’re invited to simply fall into grace and know the truth of love.

The truth of love that Jesus brings smashed apart the petty provincialism of the Jews. The God that Jesus was imaging for them was a God who was bigger and more than they could imagine. Jesus’ God was a God who wasn’t limited by the Jewish code of law and that of course threatened the whole covenant and way of living of the Jews. Sadly, we can be just as small minded as we decide how God works and within whom God works.

God is bigger more than we can ever expect. God is at work all around us if we have eyes that see. As we enter this New year will we open ourselves to the power of grace? Will we live in that free place where God is constantly surprising us? Dare we have the courage to believe in the greatness of God because it will change our lives.

December 2023

The Prophet Isaiah and Advent


Every year at this time I have a wager with a friend of mine. ‘How soon will it be till we hear the first Christmas song wafting through our shopping arcades and garden centres?’

It seems as though the season of Advent is swallowed up in tinsel and wrapping paper and the season of waiting and hoping and anticipating doesn’t seem to capture our imagination.

So, during Advent we use readings from the prophet Isaiah who is a prophet of hope and the advent season is all about hope. There are three different people who wrote the book of Isaiah. 1st Isaiah was written about 750 BC, before the exile and is contained in chapters 1-39.  During the exile another person wrote 2nd Isaiah, named the book of consolation, chapters 40 - 44. After the exile another writer wrote 3rd Isaiah, chapters 45 – 66.

During Isaiah’s time there were a lot of wars and the temptation for the small kingdoms of Israel and Judah was to form alliances with Egypt, or Syria, or Assyria.  Each time the people are tempted, Isaiah says ‘No, trust in God – hope in God’.

We find in Isaiah, the expectation of an ideal person who’s going to get the people out of the mess they’re in.  In chapter 9 we read, ‘The people who walked in darkness has seen a great light... a child has been born to us.’ This child is the ideal Israelite who will set God’s people free. Isaiah calls him wonder-counsellor, mighty God and the eternal father. These names combine all the great Jewish heroes, Solomon, David and Moses. We’ve taken those words and applied them to Jesus, but all Isaiah sees is that one day a perfect Israelite will come to turn the people back to God.

Isaiah becomes filled with the concept of ‘forever’. For the Jew time is now, life when it ends, ends, but Isaiah has experienced God’s overwhelming and everlasting love. It’s a new breakthrough in consciousness, to imagine the love that could be forever.

Isaiah’s vision is full of a wonderful imagery of the future when he says on the second Sunday of Advent that the kingdom of God will be a place of peace. We have imagery of animals who are natural enemies becoming playmates and friends. It’s a vision where there is no more prejudice, hate, and selfishness! It takes new eyes to see that in the middle of sinfulness, something glorious is happening. That’s the vision of the Isaiah. He or she had the eyes to see what God was saying.

The season of Advent is a space where we can recognise the coming of our loving God. In Advent God comes to us in the darkness of our lives and of the world. The kingdom of God is at hand and a new day is dawning and our loving God draws near to us.

November 2023

Grace abounds


Jo was a young woman I met many years ago. I was teaching a course at the university alongside an Anglican priest and Jo was on the course. The course was designed around people’s experience of the transforming power of the Spirit.

Jo was the first to tell her story. She told us of her early life when she was badly treated by her parents. There was some physical abuse from her father, but her mother’s silence on the matter was just as hard to bear. In school she was difficult and obviously troubled, but not too many questions were asked about what was happening at home She was just seen as a difficult child, and the more school complained about her behaviour, the more she was beaten at home.

By the time she was fifteen Jo was pregnant and was placed in a mother and baby home. The nuns who ran the home were, in the main, kind women who did their best. There was one sister in particular called Sister Frances, who was kindness itself This nun used to pray with the girls each night if they wanted to pray, but Jo never did. Her experiences had led her to not believe in God at all and certainly not a good God.

One night when close to her time, Sr Frances asked her if she would like some prayer and Jo terrified at the thought of giving birth said yes. She smiled as she told us that when the prayer began, she felt herself flooded with a warmth of love that turned her life around. She was no longer afraid. Jo said she wanted to help others find what she had discovered that God is love and that love is enough.
It’s that love which means you are welcome in the heart of God. You have a place there. God delights in you. Whoever you are and whatever you are, you are welcome. Whatever you may have done in your life, you are welcome. Whether you are black, white, catholic, protestant, Moslem, Hindu, believer or non-believer, bad guy, good guy, you have a place in the heart of God. Philip Yancey in his book ‘What’s so amazing about grace’ says, ‘categories of worthiness do not apply.’ Wonderful words that I know in my guts to be true and which I hope are the bedrock of my life. The desire of my heart is that everyone should know that there is nothing you can be and nothing you can have done, that will stop God loving you.

That is the scandal of grace; that love is freely poured out, does not condemn and requires nothing in return. It is the reality of who God is unconditionally loving and compassionate. The Bible is the most outrageous collection of books ever put together because it slices like the finest meat cleaver through all our attempts to be sanctimonious and respectable and worthy. It is a love that says you are precious in the eyes of God so let go of the need you have to control God by your good works or your piety and simply open yourself to love.

October 2023

God never gives up


Throughout my life I have been lucky enough to be blessed with the gift of some wonderful people. One of them was a priest called John Carr.

Jack was from County Cork; a big gruff Irishman who had hands like shovels. He had been a boxer and car mechanic in Ireland and continued with those activities when he came to England. He also had a remarkable intellect. He swore and drank whiskey and always had a foul-smelling pipe in his mouth, but I loved him dearly, despite being a bit frightened of him.

When I stopped going to Mass, I think my mum must have been worried and she had a word with Jack. He turned up one Sunday night. My mum went to the kitchen to make some supper and Jack, in his usual blunt way, turned to me and said in his gruff Irish accent, ‘Well, I believe you have stopped going to Mass.’ I wanted the ground to open up, but I decided to justify my actions. So, I told him I didn’t believe in God, that church was boring, and I’d given up on it all.

Jack took a deep draw on his pipe, blew out the smoke which made me cough, and stared at me with his piercing blue eyes. I got a bit nervous and kept watching those shovel-like hands in case they lashed out at me. Then he said to me with a smile playing around his lips: ‘so you have given up on God, have you?’ It’s just as well that God will never give up on you’. He then picked up the Sunday paper and ignored me for the rest of the night. There it was the truth of the Gospel. God never gives up on us and even when it seemed as though the people of Israel had given up on God there was always another chance for them.

Ultimately, that’s what the resurrection is all about. God’s eternal promise to humanity that whatever we do God hasn’t given up. Since Vatican II, theologians have talked about the final option reminding us that when we meet God face to face and experience such unutterable love why would we ever reject that love? So, could those who’ve committed horrendous crimes be with God for all eternity? Of course they could. Why? Because there’s always more in God.

Sr Nancy Keller had a clarion cry as she travelled around the world. It was to remember that there’s always more in God.  I met her in Rome a couple of years ago for the first time in many years and, with her bright sparkling eyes, she looked at me and said: ‘Don’t forget that even if we never meet again, there is always more in God.’

September 2023

Peace will come


My mum’s dad was called Robert French. Bob, as he was known, came from Dublin. His father married a Catholic and it appears was disinherited because he lived in the Liberties, a poor area near the city centre of Dublin, where many of the political activists lived and worked.

I have no idea of the truth of this story, but Grandad Bob appeared in England just after the Easter uprising and there were tales around the family of a shooting and a desperate escape from Dublin. He was a complex man who had many foibles. He once made my mum chip off her nail varnish on a Christmas morning because he didn’t approve of painted ladies. No Christmas dinner was served until he had examined her hands and deemed her fit to sit at the table.

My grandmother was controlled by him. Every night at 10pm he would stand up, wind the clock and say to her ‘Come on Kate, up the stairs, time for bed’, whether she was ready or not. He was given to fits of melancholy and occasionally he would lose his temper and become extremely violent. That violence was always lurking in the background and though it did not happen too often, I was told that it was frightening when it did.

I’m often aware that violence lurks just below the surface in many people. We can be so violent not just in our actions but in our language and in the way in which we treat one another.

If we read the Bible from beginning to end what we have is a progressive revelation, or maybe it is a progressive realization on our part, of the loving non-violence of God. This is a revelation that ends in Jesus who reveals a God of radical non-violence. Even his death on the cross is a teaching on non-violence. That I think blows our minds.

Those who are really listening will hear the call to reach out to the outcast and the hated one without violence, simply with love. Martin Luther King once wrote, ‘Violence is impractical because it is a descending spiral ending in destruction for all. It is immoral because it seeks to humiliate the opponent rather than win his understanding: it seeks to annihilate rather than convert. Violence is immoral because it thrives on hatred rather than love. It destroys community and makes brotherhood impossible. It leaves society in monologue rather than dialogue. Violence ends up defeating itself. It creates bitterness in the survivors and brutality in the destroyers.’

Let’s pray that we might allow the spirit to free us from the violence within that we might treat every person with the dignity they deserve as children of God.

August 2023

Love is the only way


My great aunt Lizzie had a hard life. She was rejected by her family in the 1890’s because she had a child outside marriage. She eventually married a man called John Sloan Barclay and they settled in Bootle. Lizzie gave birth to six daughters one of whom died at the age of ten. The five girls who were left were all diagnosed with mental health issues and so home life was hard.

Lizzie hardly ever got any time to herself. One day a neighbour found her crying on the front step and told her to go and put on her best hat and coat and go into town. Lizzie went and began to wander down Bold Street. John Sloan Barclay was very generous, and one thing Lizzie didn’t lack was money. She decided a new pair of shoes was the order of the day, so she went into a shoe shop and began to look around.

A little boy aged about ten was standing outside the shop peering through the window. He was a typical Liverpool street urchin, barefoot, no coat and blue with the cold of a dank November day. Lizzie noticed him and was moved with what I would call compassion. Lizzie came out of the shop and took the boy back in. She asked the shocked assistant to get half a dozen pairs of socks for the boy. Lizzie then bought him a pair of shoes. Lizzie left that shop having bought herself a new pair of shoes and found a new song in her heart. She left behind a very surprised assistant and a delighted little boy.

We are to love, because God has first loved us. We are to allow the lavish love that we have received to pour out from us in word and action that makes a radical difference in the world we live in. When you read Matthew’s Gospel, which is the Gospel we’re reading in church on a Sunday, you discover in it an invitation to radically follow Jesus because of love. It is in this Gospel that we have the beatitudes and the invitation not to judge, but to love our enemies and do good to those who hurt us. These are hugely radical demands, but we can respond because God has first loved us.

I think it’s so hard for most of us to believe in a God whose justice is in fact unconditional love. We’re much more comfortable with having to earn love. We don’t know what to do with a God who breaks the rules and loves everyone without exception. We certainly don’t know what to do with the invitation for us to do the same for others. Matthew’s Jesus invites us to open our hearts to this God and then to follow, knowing that we can trust God with our lives, whatever may be thrown at us.

July 2023

The Indwelling God


Brenda was a woman I met in the parish in Southport where I was parish priest. She was at Mass most days, in the SVP and helped in the sacristy. She was very tall and slim, always dressed exquisitely and her nature was generous and kind. She wasn’t a living saint. Brenda had no nonsense about her and was not beyond the sharp word especially if a person was not doing what Brenda thought they ought to!

When the nuns left the parish, Brenda and her friend Betty took over the sacristy. Each morning at 8.30 sharp Brenda would arrive in the house for her morning cup of tea, having already opened the church and worked solidly for an hour.

As the years went by, she became frail and developed dementia. She eventually settled in a nursing home. One day I went along to the lounge, where Brenda was sitting with another woman. The other woman’s dementia was more advanced than Brenda’s and she was obviously upset about something. Brenda had her arms around this woman and was stroking her hair and as she did that, I could hear her whisper, ‘it will be alright, God’s within you’.

Richard Rohr the American Franciscan writes, ‘unfortunately, we are not very well acquainted with God within. We have mastered the theology of God’s transcendence but have failed to embrace God’s immanence’. 

In other words, we’re not able to come to terms with the truth that God is closer to us than the very air we breathe, that God is within. Many of us have grown up with a theology that sees humanity as poor and needy, and which pays lip service to the truth of the God who lives within us.

It takes a lot of prayer and reflection to have the courage to let go of false ways of seeing ourselves and God. Paul showed how much he understood the truth of the indwelling God when, in his letter to the Galatians, he cried out, ‘it is not I who lives, but Christ who lives in me’. 

What might all that mean in our lives? I think it means that we can reveal the face of God in everything we do and are. It means that our ordinary human existence is holy. That is an extraordinary revelation. We are Temples of the Holy Spirit.

To be a Temple of the Holy Spirit is all about change. Our hearts are to be compassionate; our lives broken for others. It involves letting go of our judgmental attitudes and our condemnation of our brothers and sisters. It means thinking of others before ourselves.

God is within each of us and our ministry is to help others recognise that truth by the way in which we live, speak and act.

June 2023

The Spirit and forgiveness


At one of our Come and See conferences several years ago we invited Gee Walker to come and be with us. Her witness was incredible as she led us int the very real mystery of forgiveness.


Gee’s son Anthony was killed in Huyton simply because he had a different skin colour. Gee shared with us the pain of losing her son but then she said some extraordinary words. She said of her son’s killers: ‘I have to forgive them.  I can’t hate. It’s because we don’t just preach it, we practise it. I forgive them. I have got to forgive them. My family and I still stand by what I believe – forgiveness. It will be difficult, but we have got no choice but to live on for Anthony.’


Those words had an incredible effect on everyone gathered. Can we really forgive those who hurt us?

We’ve just celebrated Easter and Pentecost, two great feasts within the Church. You may remember that after the Resurrection, the disciples were in an upper room frightened out of their lives, worried about what the Jews would do to them. Jesus came amongst them breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’.

This is John's Pentecost scene. Everything happens for John on the first day of the week. It's the kairos moment. The Spirit is given and it's all about forgiveness. When are we going to believe that we are forgiven? When we allow the spirit to be breathed on us. Can you imagine what it would do for us to believe that we have been forgiven in Christ and the freedom that would bring? When we know and believe that we are loved then our sinfulness no longer matters. The forgiveness of sin is about a relationship of love. Our hope in the Resurrection is that God will be God, that God will be the kind of lover that we understand. He was for Jesus and so will be for us.

The power of forgiveness is then given to all disciples. We have limited the experience that John wants us all to have to priesthood, but our Sacrament is a celebration of what we live. Without forgiveness there is no real life amongst the Community. How do you forgive? When the Spirit is breathed upon you. So, are you known for the forgiveness that lies in your heart? Are you seen to be always leading the way in the area of forgiveness? What’s your reaction to those who hurt you or hurt those close to you? What about those who commit atrocities against the whole of society?

There is no answer to these questions but the Spirit of God. Allow the Spirit to be breathed into you and let forgiveness reign in your lives. It won’t be an easy journey, but it will bring new life.

May 2023

Because He lives...


Many years ago I met a woman called Anne. She and her husband John had been faithful churchgoers all their lives until age and infirmity got the better of them.

John who was the love of Anne’s life died. Intelligent, articulate and crabbed Ann wanted physical proof of the things of God and was blind to the God who was all around her and died pretty much despairing. So sad that she couldn’t see the God who was with her constantly.

In John’s Gospel as we do in all the other accounts we discover after the crucifixion the Disciples are frightened, gathered together trying to find comfort and help from one another and Jesus came and stood among them.

John is trying to show us a new kind of presence. It's a presence that can come through closed doors and is among. It's a presence outside space or time and his greeting to them is Shalom a word that for the Jews promises fulfilment. It’s John’s way of showing us that in the presence of the risen Lord we can find complete fulfilment. Because he lives we can find true and lasting fulfilment.

Then he shows them his hands and his side. The risen Jesus is still the wounded Jesus. It's a symbol of humanity. We enter into eternity in our wounded state. Jesus brings his wounded humanity before the Father and trusts in the Father’s love. That's what we do, and the father’s gaze of love will bring us to wholeness and peace.

Then we will finally know that we don't have to be perfect to be loved. We just have to trust and believe in his love. Our hope in the resurrection is that God will be God, that God will be the kind of lover that we understand. It was true for Jesus and so will be for us. Because he lives, we know God can be trusted.

The resurrection of Jesus is an invitation for you and I to really trust in God’s love and to believe that we will follow the Lord. There is no need to be afraid of your sin, your wounds or your brokenness. God’s love is enough. Because he lives forever, we too will live forever in his love.

April 2023

The Kingdom of Peace


In my sitting room, I have a footstall that was given to my mum by a French lady called Mrs Ganley who was well into her eighties when I was a child. Married an English man before the First World War, she had a heart that had been gentled through her life’s experience and was a warm, open person who had time for anyone.


After her marriage she had two children very quickly. Then her husband was tragically killed in a farming accident. Mrs Ganley rolled up her sleeves and got on with life. She took any job she could to make ends meet. It would have been so easy for her to become bitter and angry, but actually the opposite happened. She became more and more loving. Her door was always open and anyone was welcome not just people who were part of her Catholic ghetto. She was suspicious of nobody and accepted everyone. Her son ran a farm in Lancashire, and she would often arrive with a couple of children and a tired mother, because they needed a break.


Every Palm Sunday I’m drawn to chapter 12 of John’s Gospel where we have Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem. Why did people gather as Jesus entered Jerusalem? Maybe some of them felt that they were on the verge of liberation from the power of the Romans. Jesus does something powerful; he finds a young donkey to show that he doesn’t enter Jerusalem triumphantly but peacefully.


The donkey is a symbol of peace, fulfilling a prophecy of Zechariah who says that the Messiah will banish all the instruments of war, Jesus the humble king of peace sits on a donkey and will bring peace to the whole world.


It's at this point in John’s story that some Greeks ask "to see" Jesus. They represent the entire Gentile world who, along with the Jews, were being invited to allow the Kingdom of peace to reign. That peace will begin when he is lifted up from the earth, through that self-giving love, which will give new life and bring people together. We, too, are called to love as he did and to allow the violence within to die, in order to bear fruit and be messengers of peace, just as my old French friend did.


The challenge is to become counter cultural so that the kingdom of love and peace will reign within us. Don’t ignore the challenge of this week we call holy because it’s a week that can lead us into a life of deep peace.

March 2023

Open your eyes and see


I have been very blessed to meet Jimmy McGovern, the playwright, on several occasions. He is a very humble, self-effacing man who sees that he is called to highlight very difficult situations. It was my encounters with him that made me help to write a Lenten series around his programme ‘Broken’.


In Lent 2019 we ran this series in a middle-class area. There were some people who got it immediately but there were others who felt that the scenes Jimmy and his scriptwriters had written did not really show modern Britain. They were shocked when I told them that the stories were all based on factual incidents. They could not believe that in Britain today, those scenarios were a reality.


The whole series was a real challenge to open our eyes and see and in many senses that captures what Lent is all about. We are invited to open our half-shut eyes and really see the presence of the risen Lord everywhere, even in difficult places and messy situations. That has to mean that we work on ourselves, taking times of silence where we face the attitudes within that stop us seeing. These periods of silence are an invitation to the spirit of God to transform us. Our times of fasting and abstinence are not just times when we observe our Lenten duty. They are experiences where we heighten our awareness of ourselves and the things within that we need to let go.


One of the main calls of the Gospel is to serve and I guess in order to serve, we have to open our eyes and really see. Two things have to happen. Firstly, we have to face ourselves and let go of all we hide behind that stops us seeing. Secondly, we have to put down our rose-tinted spectacles and see the world and its people as it is, and not as we want it to be. Anything else is a betrayal of the calling we are given, to live in our glorious messy world as servants of the Good News.


Lent is a time the Church gives us each year to face ourselves, to journey, to deny, in order to see. Let’s pray for the courage this Lent to do what we have to do in order to open our eyes and see the presence of Christ everywhere and to serve him, maybe even in the poorest of the poor.

February 2023

Revealing God's love and grace


Norah was an elderly woman that I met when I was a deacon. In her late seventies, she was the sort of woman who could easily fade into the background. She was, seemingly, insignificant. I met her most days at Mass but apart from a beaming smile and a quick hello, I didn’t get to know her at all. So I decided to visit her and found out a little about her life.


Like many people in Vauxhall, she had been born the area and lived within a square mile all her life. She and her family lived in one of Liverpool’s famous courts and she used to beg in Scotland Road’s markets.


Eventually the courts were demolished and Norah moved into a tenement block with her parents. The tenements were eventually demolished and Norah, by herself now, was rehoused in the flat that I was sitting in. She seemed to have very few needs and was content in her life. She filled her day by ‘helping out’ she said.


As I got more used to the area, I began to visit several community projects, food banks, nurseries, credit unions, pensioners clubs and wherever I went, I met Norah. These were the ‘few things’ that Norah ‘helped out’ at. I discovered she was one of the main people behind the credit union. She had founded the mother and toddler group and the pensioners group. In her quiet, deprecating way she had not really wanted me to know what she did in case I thought she was blowing her own trumpet.


One day I was in the mother and toddler group and Norah was on the floor with a couple of babies crawling over her. I sat down next to one of the mums who was at pains to tell me that she didn’t really believe in God. Then her eyes filled up and she nodded at Norah and said to me, ‘but if I did, I would find God in that woman’.


You see, the face of God can be found in the most ordinary of people. These people may well have had an ignominious start in life. They may well have nothing much to show for their years on earth other than, and this is everything, a depth of compassion and love which has its roots in God. Our lives, if we want them to, can be a revelation of the mystery of Christ and the love he pours out on the world. We are called to serve and in serving to reveal the face of God. Let’s pray for the courage to get involved in the world and be channels of God’s love and grace.

January 2023

God of the new beginnings


Here we are at the start of a new year, a time that always fills me with new hope. What will this year bring? Where will I meet God? Many years ago I met a young guy called John. John had lived a pretty tough life. Virtually on the streets from a young age he had learned how to survive. He’d been in prison and when I met him he was due to go down again for fraud. I remember saying to him ‘John, ask God to help you.’ He looked at me with a tear in his eye and said ‘I am too bad for your God.’

So, I watched this young man whose life was such a mess break down and weep. He was unable to hear the call he was being given to trust God with the mess of his life. He felt too bad about himself and that was the biggest barrier to opening up to love which could transform him.

There is nothing in our lives that is a barrier to keep God away unless you allow things to be a barrier. God is simply waiting for us to open ourselves to the power of love and to stop pushing God away. God is waiting for us to realise that God never gives up on us. There is always another chance. That is the Good News. Jesus has shown us the heart of God, compassion, mercy, love flowing out towards us, made flesh in the body of Jesus so that we can look and say ‘that is who you are, you are the God who transforms the messiness of human life through the power of love.’ All it takes is that we trust and believe in it.

Sadly, we think it’s about what we do and how good we are. But in reality, it’s all about the goodness of God and not about our pathetic attempts to be worthy. The twelve step processes understand it. It is faith in God that makes real God’s saving power in our lives. The challenge is never to wait until you’ve got it all together before you let God in but simply to know that, in your mess and with your mess, God can do anything.

So, the kingdom is about life in the here and now. It exists in so far as we are willing to allow a revolution to take place within us. It exists in so far we are prepared to stop being religious people with our temptation towards self-righteousness and intolerance and become like Jesus prepared to give everything away for the sake of others. It exists, when we know in the depth of our being, that God is the God of the new beginnings, the second chance, the all-embracing forgiveness that knows no end.

December 2022

Non-violence the way of God


I’ve been working recently with a man who is so afraid of the anger that lies within him, so afraid that it will burst out and do some real damage. He’s afraid of the violence that lurks within him threatening to break out. That struck a chord with me because I know there are times in my life when anger bubbles just below the surface and it frightens me. Yet to follow Jesus is to follow a path of non-violence.


The Bible from beginning to end, is a progressive revelation, or maybe it is a progressive realisation on our part, of the loving non-violence of God. This is a revelation that ends in Jesus who shows a God of radical non-violence. Even his death on the cross is a teaching on non-violence. That blows our minds. We are so violent not just in our actions but in our language and in the way in which we treat one another.


It was Ghandi who said, ‘non-violence is not a garment to be put on and off at will. Its seat is in the heart, and it must be an inseparable part of our very being… if love or non-violence be not the law of our being, the whole of my argument falls to pieces… belief in non-violence is based on the assumption that human nature in its essence is one and therefore unfailingly responds to the advances of love… if one does not practice non-violence in one's personal relations with others and hopes to use it in bigger affairs, one is vastly mistaken’.


The God whom Jesus reveals is free of all violence, and so for those of us who follow Jesus, non-violence has to be one of the cornerstones for our lives.


Thomas Merton wrote that “meekness” is the biblical word for non-violence. Throughout Luke’s Gospel, we find many passages which deal with non-violence. It is one of the evangelist’s major themes. Jesus’ death is itself a teaching on how to attack violence by taking it into himself and triumphing over it by love. In a few weeks we will celebrate the birth of a child vulnerable innocent non-violent. Could it be that non-violence is the gift of the Christ child?


We, as his followers, are to live non-violently too. To live in his Kingdom demands non-violence.


The Kingdom of God, where compassion, love, mercy and forgiveness reigns is not at the top of many people’s priorities. So to live in it is to be radically different than those around us. If we are honest, much of the world’s way of living is violent, as politically we attack one another or enter into wars with one another. Where does the Gospel point us? I think it invites us towards being transformed within that we may spread the Gospel of non-violence, captured in the birth of a baby at Bethlehem.

November 2022

What can separate us from the love of God?


Some months ago, a friend who has mental health issues invited me to a concert at the Philharmonic Hall. It was hosted by an organisation called Life Rooms which provides a safe place for people with mental health issues to gather and do various courses to enhance mental health. My friend was taking part in this concert and wanted her mum, me and a few friends to go. I was not prepared for the emotional roller coaster that happened within me as I listened to these extraordinary people share deeply, not only about their issues, but also about their giftedness.

The second half of the concert left me an emotional wreck. Each of the participants shared why a particular song had impacted them. My friend used the song, ‘Another day in Paradise.’ She told how she had wandered through life thinking everybody else was living in paradise and that she would never experience it. My heart broke as I listened to her talk about the amazing turn around in her life; she now knows that she tastes paradise because of the drugs that control her mental health issues and through the love of a God who had never left her. She knows that whatever has happened in her life; breakdown, depression, voices in her head, hospitalisation, suicide attempts - nothing can separate her from the love of God.

Psychologists tell us that us deep within, all of us are either guilt based or shame-based people; we carry the guilt of not being Good enough. We have a deep sense of shame about who we are. Some of us live life hating ourselves and rejecting that within us that we see as weak or immoral or bad.

The problem is that we will not believe who we are, God’s beloved children. I think most of the journey in faith is about discovering who we truly are. We have to discover that God really does love us, that we are children of God despite what has happened in our lives. That is our true identity. Guilt and shame will not help us know that. Only Jesus can do that. Thank God that is what Jesus has done.

It is when we realise that we are God’s beloved son or daughter that life takes on a new meaning, and we know that God will never abandon us, and that love is all around us and within us. Nothing can separate us from the love of God.

October 2022

I will sing of the goodness of God


I was recently in a local prison and met a long-term offender who both sold and took drugs. His story was typical of many of the prisoners as he shared the inadequate parenting that he had received. He began to believe the lie that he was no good and gave up on himself.

Every week our team would go to the prison and share something of the love of God. I watched as this man began to respond to what he heard, so much so that by the end of the month his heart had been softened. He had begun to hear the good news of God’s love for him. He began to read the Scriptures and prayed each day. He discovered that God is good, and it changed his life.

Some while back I heard a song the chorus of which repeats ‘You’re a good, good father. It’s who you are. It’s who you are and I’m loved by you.’ If only we knew that truth in the depths of our hearts then we would give thanks because of the goodness of God.

Do you really know the truth that God desires you with all the desire of a lover for the beloved? Do you know that you are the apple of God’s eye? Do you know that God is good? The Scriptures want to take you to that place where you know it’s true and all the suffering and the shame that dogs our hearts and minds can finally be put to rest as we let the essence of God fill our soul, our mind, our being.

God is good and if we take time to reflect and pray and look at the Scriptures, we will discover that goodness and know that it is always present sustaining us and guiding us. Take time to look back in your rear-view mirror and see how good God is.

So give thanks for the goodness of God poured out upon us. Give thanks for the desire of God to be with us always. Give thanks with a heart full of gratitude that God is not distant and scary or capricious and nasty, as some would have us believe. Give thanks that God is good and has chosen to let that goodness overflow into this magnificent, wonderful world.

September 2022

The power of the Word


I was not always very happy when I was at the seminary. Much of what I was taught seemed irrelevant to me. I also found some of the seminary lifestyle difficult to handle. I had been catapulted into a profound experience of God some years earlier. For me it was hard to equate what went on in the seminary with my experience of a God who brought extraordinary life.

The one thing I did love were the lectures and courses about the Scriptures and I drank in every word, loving the scholarship and the reflective aspects of the lectures. What I knew with all my heart in those early days of my faith journey was that these Scriptures are the Word of God and can fill us with power, the power to live out our lives in service.

I remember reading the stories of the miracles in El Paso where a group of middle-class Catholics met each week for a bible study on the forthcoming Sunday's readings. They were impacted by the invitation Luke gives that when we give a party, we should invite the poor, the crippled, the lame. This led to miracles happening on the Mexican/US border, the sweeping aside of class barriers, the reaching out in love to feed the poor and the broken, and the multiplication of food.

Every time we read the Scriptures, God will speak - challenging us, comforting us - and we will be drawn into an experience of God where we know that He is alive and with us. For most of us who are Catholic, when we think of the presence of God we think about the Eucharist. We talk of the 'real presence' but the truth is that God is as really present in the Scriptures, and in people, as God is present in the Eucharist. Every time we read the Word we enter into the presence of God, that indescribable sense of relationship where another is walking with us and entering into the reality of our lives.

It is extraordinary how the Word calls us into an encounter with the living God. Somehow through praying and reflecting we can meet and experience the power of the God who set ancient peoples free, the God who became flesh in Jesus, the God who transforms individuals and peoples.

The Word invites us to find meaning in life, to discover what it means to be a human being. The Word invites us to become people who are in love with God, in love with life because in our lives we discover the presence of God, in love with each other and in love with the world that we live in. So read the Word each day and let it become a living force for you.

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