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A person who is lonely at Christmas needs help; but the greatest help would be for him to believe that Christ was born into our world at Christmas not for mankind as a group, but in order to transform and make joyful each beloved individual - including that person who is sad, whether from loss of faith, or grievous sin, or bereavement, or other reasons.
It is true that our prayers are sometimes granted when we pray in Jesus' name for a sick person to be made well again; yet even more important than good health is Eternal Salvation. That should be the other aim of our intercessions - and one of the reasons for requesting the powerfully effective sacrament of the Sick, for ourselves or for sick people we know.
We must never forget how powerful are the sacraments. Death is the 'cut-off' point: the moment in which we lose our ability to decide for God, or against Him. There are few death-bed conversions. Usually, as people live, so they die, either loving God or focussed upon their own desires. This is all the more reason for asking a priest to anoint a sick or dying person. Christ, through this holy sacrament, can free from sin someone who was about to fall into Hell.
We should all be aware that actions have consequences. Everyone deserves to be reminded of these truths: Life ends. There is either Heaven or Hell, in the end, for each of us. That is what every priest and Bishop should say, when he is asked to speak about salvation - even to children. Like adults, children who have reached the age of reason should be encouraged to recognise right and wrong actions, and to form their consciences in accordance with the teaching of the Church.
There are Governments in this world which send out aircraft and armies with the sole intentions of destroying people and nations. God cannot bless all their actions, but only those which are in defence of good, and really necessary and reasonable.
Christ suggests that when we have to deal with a person who is angry, abusive and unwilling to listen to reason we try to act with pity and charity; but if such a person refuses to be helped, we can picture ourselves as being with Jesus in the boat, as the demoniac once shrieked amongst the nearby tombs. Like Jesus, we should remain calm and patient.
Some Catholics wonder why other Catholics look so light-hearted and joyful. There can be several reasons; but a main reason is because those who have had their sins forgiven have a peaceful conscience, and look forward to the joys of Heaven. Those who cannot be bothered to go to Confession, or who persuade themselves that they do not sin, do not receive such happiness and peace.
Christ is God-made-visible. He spoke the truth. His Church speaks the truth today. A priest is asked to hand on the truth as well as to show charity. The truth is plain for all who want to know it; and priests are wrong who distort or contradict truth for what they call 'pastoral' reasons.
We must not be made despondent by our minor distractions in prayer, or our tiny failings. As sure as miners find what they want in a mine, we can mine spiritual treasure from our little faults, by using each as a reason for prayer. If we are distracted, we can make an act of humility. If we have neglected some good, we can make an act of gratitude for all God's gifts. If we find it hard to forgive, we can praise God for having forgiven us our sins.
It is not irrational, to conclude from what we see and know, that there is a Divine Creator of all that exists. We can look at the order in the whole universe, and the wondrous development of an embryonic human being who becomes a fully-grown adult, who thinks and reasons - and who can choose, guided by his 'in-built' conscience, to do good or evil.
There are still many people who have not yet heard the Gospel preached. It is true, as the Church teaches, that it is possible for a person not baptised to be saved. However, this is far less likely than many people suppose, for the simple reason that many non-Christians have committed grave sins - as Christians have - but have never repented. Many have refused to join the Church, or mocked her, or mocked her priests; and of the rest, how many have followed the promptings of their conscience, for a life-time, until death, to do good and to avoid what everyone should know is evil? Only God knows.
It is a cause for joy that there are greater signs of goodwill amongst leaders of various religions than in earlier centuries; yet when our Bishops know that Christ is the only Saviour, and that no other religion, in itself, is salvific, (though individuals may be saved, in them, for special reasons), it is unwise to confuse the Faithful by programmes and meetings that give the impression that it doesn't matter what religion we practice and that each is but another route to Heaven.
Saint Paul warned us that the faithful are 'certain to be attacked'. This harm can be emotional, spiritual or intellectual instead of physical; but we can be wise and prudent as well as patient and uncharitable. It is not wrong to avoid the trouble caused by those who are simply malicious, or unpredictable and unwilling to respond to kindness or to listen to reason.
Every priest needs a spiritual advisor, 'brother' or director. The spiritual life of a priest can suffer for many reasons; yet on examination, a life is seen to resemble a church which simply needs some cleaning and re-decoration, or might even resemble a church whose foundations have been almost destroyed by termites, and need completely replacing, if the church is not to collapse.
God's choice of a man for the Priesthood is forever. God does not change His mind about a man to whom He had given great gifts, at Ordination, for the sake of the Church - though a man might disqualify himself from active service for various reasons.
The truth about suicide is that there are grave consequences wherever a person decides to kill himself, and succeeds. Whatever the reason for the act, or the degree of culpability of that person, there is no way back. Suicide is like stepping onto an underground train to travel into darkness, then finding the doors are locked, and there is no way out.
People who make decisions about war and peace should think first of all about the people involved. People are more important than land, although nationhood is important, and it is not wrong to defend a homeland and its borders in a reasonable manner. But it is always important to keep in mind the just treatment of human beings.
We should be able to defend the Faith. It is not superstition. We believe in things Divinely revealed, but our faith is not unreasonable. God's beauty, power and laws are discernable in nature - including our nature and conscience. There is historical evidence for Christ's life; and His friends were transformed and made brave by His Resurrection. We have two thousand years of evidence - despite sins and mistakes - that Catholicism elevates society, marriage, government, education, treatment of the sick, and children, and brings peace, and hope of Heaven.
God looks on us with gladness whenever we pray for victims of oppression, whether for people in danger of injustice or death for political or religious reasons. God sees those forgotten millions whose bodies are dumped in mass graves, just as He sees the tragic sight of abortion, by which millions of tiny babies have been killed in the wombs of their own mothers, usually at her request.
If we could pierce the Heavens, we would still not 'understand' all about God. If we search the Sacred Scriptures, we can find out why Christ came to earth, but we cannot find out everything about the Mind of God in Eternity. He is far above us. We can draw reasonable conclusions about His plan, however. We need not say, 'Christ would have come to earth had man not sinned'. The freedom, through which man sinned, was always part of God's plan; so the sin was always foreseen.
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