RCIA – Sin and Forgiveness – 8/2/18

Catholics and Sin                                          6th February 2018

Youtube clip – The Servant King by Graham Kendrick

Have a look at the cartoons in the book “How to Survive being Married to a Catholic”.


  1. Do people see sin as just a bit of fun or do they deny that there is any such thing as sin?
  2. How does breaking God’s law harm human beings?
  3. What can help us as we make choices in our lives?
  4. What is your understanding of sin and how it affects daily life?


Definitions of Sin

Bad thoughts, bad words, bad deeds

Can be called;  Self  Inflicted  Nonsense


Why do we commit sins?

There is something fundamentally wrong within us, a state of sin, which causes us to commit sins?


Consider Romans 7; 15-25

Does it sound a bit like there’s a war going on?  What is the answer?  Read on Romans 8; 1-4


Being prepared to change and to be changed

Quote – Helen Roseveare’s book – Living sacrifice p60 (recognising sin in yourself and doing something about it).  On this page of the book Helen is a missionary doctor in Africa and one day she had collected a charity parcel of clothing which had arrived “for the Africans” and she took a pretty dress from it for herself.  Then she was convicted that this was wrong and put it back.  She then saw the delight in an African lady on receiving this same dress.  She had learnt a lesson and God provided for her own needs in other ways.  See this youtube clip for some of her testimony.


Coming before God with open hands

Quote – As bread that is broken – p37 letting God look in our hands, take things out  and put things in.

Jesus is the answer

His blood is for forgiveness, dealing with our sins.

1 John; 1-7 …the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.


The cross is for deliverance, dealing with our sin, our inward state.

Romans 6; 6  We know that our former man (our old nature) was crucified with Him so that the sinful body might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin.


Our response

Acknowledge Jesus as Lord

Accept what he has done for us

Repent and Follow Him

Surrender to His will for us even if that is a lifetime’s work



Prayer (from the book God for Grownups)

We live in a society which calls itself Christian but often appears to live in the opposite way.  It is a world which, at times, puts possessions before people, success before justice, stength before depending on each other and upon God.  We pray that the Spirit of God will fill us with a power which frees us from fear, complacency and prejudice.

Lord Jesus, show us how to be open to new influences and to walk in new directions.

Show us how our failure to love affects others as well as ourselves.

Remind us to try to respect everyone and not just those who love us.

Help us to be aware that we can make tomorrow better than today.

Your power finds its strength in our weakness, without which we can do nothing.



Forgiveness – called to be different and to make a difference

Matthew 6: 9-13 The Lord’s Prayer vs. 12 “And forgive us our trespasses (sins) as we forgive those who trespass (sin) against us.” and then in verses 14-15  “Yes, if you forgive others their failings, your heavenly Father will forgive you yours; but if you do not forgive others, your Father will not forgive you your failings either.”

Luke 23: 34  “Father forgive them; they do not know what they are doing.”

Matthew 18: 21-22  Then Peter went up to him and said, “Lord, how often must I forgive my brother if he wrongs me?  As often as seven times?”  Jesus answered, “Not seven I tell you but seventy seven times.  (other translations seventy times seven)

Matthew 18: 23-35  The unforgiving servant  vs. 35  “And that is how my Father will deal with you unless you each forgive your brother from your heart”.


1) From these verses which of the terms below best describes what we are being asked to do.

a) an instruction     b) a request      c) an option      d) a command

(Clue – Jesus often says things in such as way that they are commands.)


2) Rate the importance of our forgiving those who have wronged us

Not important   1 – 2 – 3 – 4 – 5- 6 – 7 – 8 – 9 – 10    Very important


3) Rate how easy or difficult it is to forgive others

Easy   1 – 2 – 3 – 4 – 5 – 6 – 7 – 8 – 9 – 10    Difficult


4) In the Scriptures above, when we are asked to forgive, is the emphasis on the one doing the forgiving or the one being forgiven.  (Is this fair?  After all who’s been wronged here.)

Examples of challenging situations

Discussion after each

 1)  The Amish shootings in October 2nd 2006



2) Julie Nicholson whose daughter died in the bombing in London 7th July 2006



3) You tube clip “Corrie Ten Boom, How to forgive”


Other Scriptures on the call to be different theme

Matthew 6: 38-48  vs. 4 Love your enemies

Matthew 5: 13-16  Salt of the earth and light of the world


 Some Theology

The Doctrine of final judgement enables us to forgive others freely  (ref book  Systematic Theology – Wayne Grudem

 As everyone ultimately has God for their judge they do not need us to judge them. (my words)

When we have been wronged , we can give into God’s hands any desire to harm or pay back the person who wronged us, knowing that every wrong in the universe will be ultimately paid for – either it will turn out to have been paid for by Christ when he died on the cross (if the wrongdoer becomes a Christian), or it will be paid for at the final judgement (for those who do not trust in Christ for salvation).

This thought should keep us from harboring bitterness or resentment in our hearts for injustices we have suffered that have not been made right.

In this way we are following the example of Christ…..Systematic Theology – Wayne Grudem


Catechism of the Catholic Church 

  1. “And Forgive Us Our Trespasses, as We Forgive Those Who Trespass AGAINST US”

2838 This petition is astonishing. If it consisted only of the first phrase, “and forgive us our trespasses,” it might have been included, implicitly, in the first three petitions of the Lord’s Prayer, since Christ’s sacrifice is “that sins may be forgiven.” But, according to the second phrase, our petition will not be heard unless we have first met a strict requirement. Our petition looks to the future, but our response must come first, for the two parts are joined by the single word “as.”

and forgive us our trespasses . . .

2839 With bold confidence, we began praying to our Father. In begging him that his name be hallowed, we were in fact asking him that we ourselves might be always made more holy. But though we are clothed with the baptismal garment, we do not cease to sin, to turn away from God. Now, in this new petition, we return to him like the prodigal son and, like the tax collector, recognize that we are sinners before him.133 Our petition begins with a “confession” of our wretchedness and his mercy. Our hope is firm because, in his Son, “we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”134 We find the efficacious and undoubted sign of his forgiveness in the sacraments of his Church.135

2840 Now – and this is daunting – this outpouring of mercy cannot penetrate our hearts as long as we have not forgiven those who have trespassed against us. Love, like the Body of Christ, is indivisible; we cannot love the God we cannot see if we do not love the brother or sister we do see.136 In refusing to forgive our brothers and sisters, our hearts are closed and their hardness makes them impervious to the Father’s merciful love; but in confessing our sins, our hearts are opened to his grace.

2841 This petition is so important that it is the only one to which the Lord returns and which he develops explicitly in the Sermon on the Mount.137 This crucial requirement of the covenant mystery is impossible for man. But “with God all things are possible.”138
. . . as we forgive those who trespass against us

2842 This “as” is not unique in Jesus’ teaching: “You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect”; “Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful”; “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.”139 It is impossible to keep the Lord’s commandment by imitating the divine model from outside; there has to be a vital participation, coming from the depths of the heart, in the holiness and the mercy and the love of our God. Only the Spirit by whom we live can make “ours” the same mind that was in Christ Jesus.140 Then the unity of forgiveness becomes possible and we find ourselves “forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave” us.141

133 Cf.  Lk 15:11-32,  18:13.
134  Col 1:14;  Eph 1:7.
135 Cf.  Mt 26:28;  Jn 20:23.
136 Cf.  l Jn 4:20.
137 Cf.  Mt 6:14-15;  5:23-24;  Mk 11:25.
138  Mt 19:26.
139  Mt 5:48;  Lk 6:36;  Jn 13:34.
140 Cf.  Gal 5:25;  Phil 2:1,5.
141  Eph 4:32.

The Lord’s prayer

 Our Father, who art in heaven,hallowed be thy name;

thy kingdom come,

thy will be done

on earth as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread,

and forgive us our trespasses,

as we forgive those who trespass against us;

and lead us not into temptation,

but deliver us from evil.




RCIA Notes – The Trinity and the Holy Spirit – 30/1/18

The Trinity                                                                        30/1/18


Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!
Early in the morning our song shall rise to Thee;
Holy, holy, holy, merciful and mighty!
God in three Persons, blessed Trinity!

Catechism of the Catholic Church

ccc237 – The Trinity is a mystery of faith in the strict sense, one of the “mysteries that are hidden in God, which can never be known unless they are revealed by God.”  To be sure, God has left traces of his Trinitarian being in the work of creation and in his Revelation throughout the Old Testament.  But his inmost Being as Holy Trinity is a mystery that is inaccessible to reason alone or even to Israel’s faith before the Incarnation of God’s Son and the sending of the Holy Spirit.


Genesis 1: 1-2,  In the beginning God (Hebrew – Elohim, a plural noun) created the heavens and the earth.  The earth was formless and empty, and darkness covered the deep waters.  And the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters.

Gen 1: 26,  Then God said, let us make human beings in our image, to be like us.

(God loved the Son and the Holy Spirit so much that he wanted a bigger family).


ccc253 – The Trinity is One.  We do not confess three Gods, but one God in three persons, the “consubstantial Trinity.”  The divine persons do not share the one divinity among themselves but each of them is God whole and entire:……

ccc254 – The divine persons are really distinct from one another.  God is one but not solitary.”  “Father,” “Son,” “Holy Spirit,” are not simply names designating modalities of the divine being, for they are really distinct from one another: “He is not the father who is the Son, nor is the Son he who is the Father, nor is the Holy Spirit he who is the Father or the Son…….


When we look at each other we see one person and one being.

When we consider God, he is three persons and one being.

This is outside our experience and we struggle to get our heads around it.

ccc243 – Before his Passover, Jesus announced the sending of “another Paraclete” (Advocate), the Holy Spirit.  At work since creation, having previously “spoken through the prophets,” the Spirit will now be with and in the disciples, to teach them and guide them “into all the truth.”  The Holy Spirit is thus revealed as another divine person with Jesus and the Father.

Numbers 11: 25 – And the Lord came down and spoke to Moses.  Then he gave the seventy elders the same Spirit that was upon Moses. And when the Spirit rested upon them, they prophesied.

John 15: 26 – “When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father–the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father–he will testify about me.”

John 14: 16-17, And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you.  He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world cannot receive him, because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you know him, because he lives with you now and later will be in you.”
John 16: 7 – “But in fact, it is best for you that I go away, because if I don’t, the Advocate won’t come. If I do go away, then I will send him to you.”

 God; the Father above us, the Son alongside us, the Holy Spirit within us.


 The Holy Spirit

 YouTube hymn – Holy Spirit, we welcome you

No 873 in our hymn book

Opening Prayer

Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of Your faithful and kindle within them the fire of Your love.

Send forth Your Spirit and they shall be created.

And You shall renew the face of the earth.

O, God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit, did instruct the hearts of the faithful, grant that by the same Holy Spirit we may be truly wise and ever enjoy His consolations.  Through Christ our Lord.  Amen


Catechism of the Catholic Church

687 …Those who believe in Christ know the Spirit because He dwells with them.          John 14: 17

689  It is Christ who is seen, the visible image of the invisible God, but it is the Spirit who reveals Him.

The Holy Spirit shows us Jesus.

We come to the Father, through the Son, in the Spirit.


Let’s have a look at that first Pentecost.

Acts 2: 1-12 and 37-41

At what point is the Church born?

  • In the upper room
  • When they go out into the street
  • When they preach the word
  • When people respond to the word
  • Are these all links in a chain


What enables this to happen?

What transforms fearful disciples into bold witnesses for Christ?


The Fruit of the Spirit

Galatians 5: 22 – But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.

How do we feel about the fruit of the Spirit?



worth having


The Gifts of the Spirit

Isaiah 11: 2 – The Spirit of the Lord shall rest on him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.  His delight shall be in the fear of the Lord.

  • wisdom – knowledge
  • understanding – piety
  • counsel – fear of the Lord
  • fortitude

How do we feel about these gifts of the Spirit?


Now let’s look at the gifts of the Spirit mentioned by St. Paul in

1 Corinthians 12: 4-11

  1. a word of wisdom

2. a word of knowledge

3. faith

4. healing

5. working of miracles

6. prophesy

7. discernment of Spirits

8. tongues

9. interpretation of tongues


How do we feel about these gifts of the Spirit?


The gifts or charisms are for a purpose.

ccc 799 – Whether extraordinary or simple and humble, charisms are graces of the Holy Spirit which directly or indirectly benefit the Church, ordered as they are to her building up to the good of men and to the needs of the world.


A note about tongues

Tongues can cause people some problems.

It is important to realise that there are two kinds of tongues:

  1. A message given in tongues (unintelligible language) which is interpreted by another member of the congregation. It is a particular gift given to some.
  2. Tongues which is a personal prayer language and gives praise to God. It is a universal gift, potentially given to all.


St Paul in his First Letter to the Corinthians refers to tongues as a gift to be exercised carefully as worship in the Corinthian church was becoming chaotic.  1 Corinthians 14: 4-5, 18-19 & 39-40


Paul says “strive for the higher gifts”, 1 Cor 12 vs 31, remembering that they are to build up the church, 1 Cor 12: 27-31.


The twelfth chapter ends with “I will show you a still more excellent way”, and then we are into chapter 13 and that great passage about love (a fruit of the Spirit).

That is to say that the more excellent way is love, also translated as charity.



In summary so far the Holy Spirit

  • Convicts us of sin leading to repentance and reconciliation
  • Shows us Jesus
  • Gives us consolation
  • Dwells within us
  • Bears fruit
  • Gives us gifts to build up the Church


1 Cor 6: 19 – Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God.


We receive the Holy Spirit at baptism.  John 3: 3-5

And we continually look to the indwelling and outpouring of the Holy Spirit in our lives.


Jesus, having risen, ascends to heaven in order to send the Holy Spirit.

John 16: 7, 15: 26 & 14: 25-26


As it says in the Creed

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son, who has spoken through the prophets.


Jesus in human form was only able to be present in one place at a time; through the Holy Spirit Jesus is able to be present always and everywhere.

In the mass Father Neil asks God the Father to send his Spirit to change the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ, making Jesus present wherever mass is said.


As St Peter said in Acts 2: 16-18

“This is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; yes, and on my menservants and maidservants in those days I will pour out my Spirit and they shall prophecy.”


Catholic Charismatic Renewal, which has always had an emphasis on the Holy Spirit, celebrated its 50th anniversary last year.  In Britain there are a number of Charismatic Renewal weekend conferences.

These events look something like this;

YouTube clip Celebrate Conference




See you next week – D&SCE

D&SCE – Death and Second Comings Excepted.

In the Mahabharata it says that the greatest mystery is that “one day we will die and yet we live each day as if we were immortal”.

So some friends of mine and I started putting D&SCE after things when we discussed future appointments.

The Catholic Church often asks us to consider the four last things; Death, Judgement, Heaven and Hell.

We also need to remember that Jesus said he would return.  As we say in the “Mystery of Faith;  “…until you come again.”  So D&SCE is matter of which comes first.

At this point in this set of blogs on the Revelation to John I think it might be useful to have a look at what the Catechism of the Catholic Church (ccc) has to say.

ccc673 to 677 with their scripture references give us a sequence of events or a framework on which to place the things we read about in the Revelation to John.

This sequence is as follows (ref http://www.ewtn.com/expert/answers/endtimes.htm);

  1. The full number of the Gentiles come into the Church.
  2. The “full inclusion of the Jews in the Messiah’s salvation, in the wake of the full number of the Gentiles” (No. 2 will follow quickly on, in the wake of, No. 1).
  3. A final trial of the Church “in the form of a religious deception offering men an apparent solution to their problems at the price of apostasy from the truth.”  The supreme deception is that of the Antichrist.
  4. Christ’s victory over this final unleashing of evil through a cosmic upheaval of this passing world and the Last Judgement.

The Catholic position would then be, if I’ve got it right, that the Church will go through the tribulation, suffering the persecutions of the Antichrist but not the wrath of God in the form of seal, trumpet and bowl judgements.  The Church being made up of the fullness of the gentiles and the full inclusion of the Jews.

The rapture, when Christ gathers His own, living and dead, is therefore post-tribulation.

The other issue which is controversial is over the matter of the millennium which is mentioned in Revelation 20.  Some hold that this refers to a literal reign of Christ on earth and physically occupying the throne of David in Jerusalem.  This view was rejected by the Catholic church early on as it was presented as a Kingdom of earthly pleasures.  St Augustine combated this view of millennarianism, of chiliasm from the Greek.  The main objections were that:

Christ reigns now in eternity – 1 Cor 15: 24-27 & Rev 4 &5.

His, reign established as a seed, is found already in the Church.  ccc668-669

His kingdom will have no end, as it says in the Creed.

His kingdom is not of this earth – John 18: 36.

I’ll borrow a summary of the various positions on the millennium from the New Living Illustrated Study Bible.

Premillennialism – The current age between Christ’s first and second comings will end when he returns to inaugurate a literal 1000 year rule on earth with His holy people, after which Christ will execute the final judgement and inaugurate his eternal kingdom.

Amillennialism – 1000 years represents the current age between Christ’s first and second comings, in which Christ reigns spiritually with His people.  At the end of this age, Christ will return, execute the final judgement and inaugurate his eternal Kingdom.

Postmillennialism – During the current age following Christ’s first coming, Christ will establish through the Church an age of peace on earth, represented by 1000 years.  Then Christ will return, execute the final judgement, and inaugurate His eternal kingdom.

Of these positions the Catholic Church’s position could be described as Amillennial, though it is not a term that the Church uses, but with these observations. 1) In Revelation 20 the word millennium occurs six times and therefore means something important, though metaphorical and figurative rather than literal.  Therefore seeing this as a metaphor is not to deny that the term has profound meaning.  2) Christ’s reign, and kingdom, now, is more than just spiritual, it is actual.  His reign is real now and reaches beyond these events into eternity.  What we see in part, we will see in whole.

Have a look at ccc668-682 for the Catholic Church’s overall position on the endtimes.

Contained within this is the rejection of millennarianism including modified forms of the same. ccc676

This came as a bit of a shock as I had spent 12 years with a Pentecostal Church whose endtimes view was dispensational premillenniallism.  Eyebrows were raised in Catholic circles when I talked about a millennial reign of Christ.  Eventually I was told it was heresy, although some took the softer view of saying it couldn’t safely be taught.

So it has taken me a while to get my head around the Catholic view.  I do find it to be far less messy than the premillenial view with it’s coming of Christ for the Church, which is then removed from the earth before the tribulation, before the actual second coming which occurs at the end of the tribulation.  I also find it less troubling in my Spirit and it doesn’t give me a headache either – peace reigns, just as Jesus does.

There are also three schools of prophetic interpretation; Preterist. Futurist and Historicist.

Preterist looks at the events in Revelation as largely applying to the events which occurred in the Holy Land in the first century.  I.E. number of the beast 666 being Caesar Nero and the events including the destruction of the Jerusalem temple in 70AD.

The Futurist view holds that most of the events in Revelation are yet to come.

The Historicist view is that the events described in Revelation apply throughout Christian history from John to the Second Coming of Christ.

How then to classify the Catholic view?  Well, in some Catholic discussions I’ve heard a preterist view, in others a futurist view and still others a historicist view, and sometimes all thee in the same conversation.  For instance, when we consider the antichrist (a word not found in the Revelation of John but in the first letter of John 2:18 & 4:3) we can see that there have already been a number of people who were antichrist; Antiochus IV Epiphanes (Book of Maccabees), Nero, various other Roman emperors who persecuted the Church, Hitler.  But they were not the endtimes antichrist, they would merely be forerunners or types.

So the Catholic view then is more multilayered in line with “the things that were, that are and are still to come“.  Indeed within the loose framework in the beginning of this blog we really need the future events to unfold so we can then say “so that’s what it means” rather than being distracted by constructing scenarios.  This implies an alertness within an expectant faith that Jesus will come back and He could come back at any moment.




Revelation Chapters 2 & 3 – Letters from Jesus to the Seven Churches of the Ancient World written down by John

First thing – read Chapters 2 & 3.

Notice the pattern; Ch 2 vs 1, vs 8, vs 12, vs 18, Ch 3 vs 1, vs 7, vs 14 – “Write this letter to the angel of the church in ……..”

Now, it is often said that the word of God comes to us through a human filter, i.e. the prophets, apostles, evangelists, St Paul etc, who strove to put into words the things that God was showing them.  But here is revelation by dictation.  Jesus is speaking and John is writing it down as secretary.

The names of the churches are given in an order where they follow a route a messenger would travel with the letters.  From Patmos to Ephesus (or Miletus and on to Ephesus) then on to Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, Laodicea.  Check it out if your bible has maps in the back or in a bible atlas.

The significance of seven again, God’s number of completeness, a complete picture of churches then and perhaps now.

Each letter has a similar structure.

Write this letter to ………..  This is the message from the one………..  I know………..  But I have this complaint against you…………  Anyone with ears to hear………..  To he who conquers (overcomes, is victorious)…………

The last two points are reversed in the last four churches.   Significance, I don’t know other than some distinction between the first three churches and the following four.

It seems that each church is getting a report card which says what is good and what is bad.  There is encouragement, commendation, and there is chastisement, but the latter with a view to remedial action.  One church Jesus has nothing bad to say.  One church Jesus has nothing good to say.  The others have commendations and then comes the “but”.  The church that is struggling and suffering is actually doing well.  The church that thinks it is doing well is not.  This reminds me of my old school reports where I was surprised to have done well in a subject I found difficult and then been shocked when I had done badly in a subject I thought I was good at.  Humility would seem to be the order of the day.

In summary the churches fall into categories;

Ephesus – a loyal but tired church

Smyrna – a suffering church

Pergamum – a compromising church

Thyatira – an overly tolerant church

Sardis – a dead church

Philadelphia – a weak but obedient church

Laodicea – a lukewarm church

(categories from the New Living Translation Study Bible)

People have sought to take these as types for all churches over the whole world and at any time or age.  We might also apply it to ourselves.  Am I tired, suffering, compromising etc.  But I would not want to label anyone as spiritually dead, though we might say – have I cooled, am I just going through the motions, do I need a fresh touch from God, a fresh anointing, a time of rest and restoration.  A time, perhaps, to take encouragement and chastisement and renew our focus on Jesus, to be on fire rather than lukewarm, to be Christ-centered and turn to Jesus.  It is very easy to become lukewarm and Jesus’ reaction to this is quite shocking –“I will spit you out!”  (from the letter to the church in Laodicea).  Then comes one of the most comforting passages in the bible – Chapter 3 vs 20, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock.  If anyone hears my voice and opens the door I will come in and we will share a meal together as friends.”  This passage is often used in appeals and outreachs, which is quite right, but in context it is addressed to a lukewarm church.  Where is Jesus in relation to that church?  Outside, knocking to be let in!  I would suggest that it only needs one person to let him in and renew that church.

Another way people have tried to apply these chapters is vertically through time rather than horizontally within a time, these churches representing the church down through the ages.  But this approach doesn’t really work because the categories are too broad and sweeping.  For instance, and I’m borrowing from Chuck Missler’s book “Learn the bible in 24 hours”;

Ephesus – the apostolic church founded by the apostles, a vibrant growing church full of the Holy Spirit.

Smyrna – the persecuted church which is a growing and spreading church.

Pergamum – the married church, under Constantine Christianity becomes the official religion of the roman world and inevitably compromised by its association with the secular power.

Thyatira – the mediaeval church, thought by some to be corrupt, though we have to remember there were many great reforming movements during this time, when we think of Saints such as Benedict and Francis etc.  There was also often a tension between church and state which could be constructive in relation to the Christian life.

Sardis – the denominational church of the reformation.  But this is the church said to be dead – Oops, a bit harsh methinks.

Philadelphia – the missionary Church.  Perhaps we might look to Methodism and Pentecostalism and also Catholic Charismatic renewal.

Laodicea – the lukewarm or apostate church, an “anything goes” church, a church of the end times or perhaps the affluent western church.  Again too harsh and universal a statement, but perhaps a warning.

These applications are just too sweeping and general.

No, it is more likely that each letter has a concrete application to the church it was originally addressed to, as well as a more general meaning to all churches everywhere and at all times.  If the cap fits – wear it and if it doesn’t – don’t.

But never mind all this, read it for yourself and see what you think.  Ask the Lord to show you what he wants you to see in it.

In bible study there is Exegesis – extracting the meaning from the text, and there is Eisegesis – imposing meaning on the text which isn’t really there.

For instance, when we look at the letter to the church in Philadelphia chapter 3 verse 10 says “Because you have obeyed my command to persevere I will protect you from the great time of testing that will come upon the whole world to test those who belong to this world.”

Does this mean that these believers, who persevere, will be removed from the world before the Great Tribulation starts?  Are they raptured, snatched away before the tribulation starts?  (Tribulation – seven year period or persecution, troubles and difficulties, characterised by the rise of the antichrist, when the wrath of God in a series of judgements is poured out on the world.)  Or does it mean that whilst facing persecution they will be spared the wrathful judgements of God in a similar way to the Israelites being spared the plagues that fell on Egypt as divine judgements in Exodus Ch 7-12.   The text does say “protect you from” not “remove you from.”

Exegesis or Eisegesis, we’ll consider these matters later.  we should be careful about reading a lot into a little.

Good reading, and don’t worry the overall message of Revelation is “Jesus wins!”

Footnote – “to him who overcomes…”  How do we overcome?  How are we victorious?  By not reacting to all those things, and people, who try to wind us up.  By remaining calm, always responding with love and with our eyes on the Lord.  By taking up our cross daily and following Jesus, looking to heaven our eternal destination and the blessedness which God gives us in our daily walk.  Not always easy but in so doing our everyday life becomes a series of small victories as we persevere.


The Revelation to John Chapter 1 continued, “from threes to sevens”

Verse 9 “I John”  – John is a prisoner of the Romans on the Island of Patmos.  This is in the Aegean sea between Turkey and Greece and was a Roman penal colony.  John is there for being a Christian and preaching the good news of salvation through Jesus Christ.

Verse 10 “in the Spirit on the Lord’s day”  What a great verse!  John in dire circumstances is in the Spirit on the Lord’s day – Sunday.  A reminder that God is bigger than our circumstances.  So when we go into Church let’s be in the Spirit on the Lord’s day.

Verse 11 “Write what you see in a book and send it to the seven Churches”.  John will be shown things visually and he must write them down while they are fresh, describing all that he sees as best he can.  The seven churches are named (we shall come back to these later).  They are in Asia Minor (Turkey) and are the fruit of the apostles, particularly Paul’s, labours in preaching the good news.  Seven is God’s number of spiritual perfection, as in the seven-fold Spirit mentioned previously.  Seven Churches representing a complete picture of the Church then and all Churches down through time.  A message for then and for now.

Verse 12 “Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands”.  Seven churches – seven lampstands

Verse 13 “and in the midst…..one like a Son of man.  Have a look at Daniel 7:13-14.

Verse 14-15  A description of the risen glorified Jesus; mighty, awesome, powerful.

Verse 16 “in His right hand he held seven stars, from His mouth issued a sharp two-edged sword and his face was like the sun shining in full strength”.  Have a look at Hebrews 4:12 and when you pick up your bible think, “this is my sword”.  Have a look at Exodus 34: 29.

Verse 17-18  Note John’s reaction and the reassurance he receives from Jesus.  Cue for a song from youtube.

Verse 19  “Now write what you see”  Keep writing John – don’t miss anything.

Verse 20 Explanation of the sevens.  Seven stars – seven angels of the seven churches.  The seven lampstands, in heaven in the presence of God, are the seven churches.  What great news – just as we have guardian angels so our churches have an angel and our churches have a presence in heaven as well as on earth.  Reminds me of those big candle stands we have in church as well.  Glimpses of the church in heaven from the church on earth.  The Mass – a bit of heaven on earth.  This just gets better and better!


The Revelation to John – Chapter 12 vs 1

“Now a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman, adorned with the sun, standing on the moon, and with the twelve stars above her head as a crown.”

I know I’m making a bit of a jump ahead, but there is a reason for this.  On the 23rd September 2017 there was a planetary alignment in the constellation of Virgo, the Virgin or the Woman.  The moon, the sun, Jupiter in Virgo and the planets Mercury, Venus and Mars in Leo just above her head.  Along with 9 stars of the constellation of Leo this makes 12 stars above her head.  Lots of speculative stuff appeared on the internet and there are loads of clips on Youtube.  You might think you had entered the Christian Loony fringe or the Christian Twilight Zone.

For balance there is a good clip on this youtube site;

which shows that the fit to the woman in Rev 12 is not that good.

There is also considerable debate over who the woman in Rev 12 is.  Is she Our Blessed Lady, is she the church or is she Israel?

Still one other factor of interest to us Catholics is that this alignment, although it has occurred before, has occurred this time in September 2017, one hundred years after the appearances of Our Lady of Fatima.

What do I make of it?  At best I would call it a “coincidental pointer” encouraging us to look at and prayerfully ponder Rev 12.  At worst it would be a “huge distraction” if we were to spend too much time on it or read too much into it.  Hmmm!

I’ll get back to the second half of chapter one next time.

The Revelation to St John – Chapter 1

I thought I would have a go at the Book of Revelation, the very last book of the bible, from a Catholic perspective, according to my understanding of what that is, as well as covering some of the other views as well.

Background.  Tradition holds that John the Apostle wrote the Book of Revelation while he was a prisoner of the Romans on the Island of Patmos.  There is some scholarly argument over this but I will go with it being John the Apostle.  John was the only Apostle to die a natural death in old age.  The letter may have been written around 60 AD, the time of the persecution under the Emperor Nero, or  90 AD, the time of the persecution under the Emperor Domitian.  If the earlier date is correct this may explain why there is little eschatology in the Gospel of John as it had already been covered in this letter.  For instance the Olivet discourse in Matthew Chapter 24 & 5, Mark 13 and Luke 21 is not in John.  John has a little bit in his Gospel in Chapter 14.

Now to get on with it…

First task – READ Chapter one

Verse 1 – Whose revelation is it?  Jesus (Hence my heading the revelation to John rather than of John).

Verse 2 – Whose testimony is it?  Jesus

Verse 2 – Who bears witness to this revelation?  John

Verse 3 – There is a blessing here and it is a three-fold blessing on those who READ, those who HEAR, and those who KEEP.  (This pattern of three crops up many times.)

Verse 4 – Who is the letter to?  The seven churches that are in Asia.  They are named in Chapters 2 & 3.

Verse 4 to 6  A Trinitarian Greeting

From the Father – who is, was and is to come

From the Holy Spirit – the seven spirits who are before his throne, some translations say seven-fold Spirit.  Note the seven, God’s number of spiritual perfection.  Seven days of creation – seven gifts of the Holy Spirit in Isaiah 11: 2 (Don’t worry if you can only find six, it is seven in the Septuagint – the translation of the old testament by the Alexandrian Scholars from Hebrew into Greek about the third century BC).

From the Son – from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the first born of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.

Can you see all the ‘threes’?

Cue for a song from YouTube


Verse 5  The essence of the good news, the Gospel, of Jesus Christ.

Cue for another song,

Verse 6 – The Common Priesthood of the Faithful,  Catechism of the Catholic Church CCC1546, of the Baptised – CCC1268 & 784, The Vocation of the Laity CCC897 & 898.

Verse 7 – When Jesus comes again how many will see Him?  Clue- every means every

Verse 8 – Spot the ‘threes’ again.

As a little aside you can see how the book of Revelation lends itself to praise and worship.  It is essentially Liturgical.  On this theme I would recommend Scott Hahn’s book “The Lamb’s Supper, The Mass as Heaven on Earth”.

Well, that’s enough for now.  I’ll continue soon and at this rate I think it’ll take a while to get through all 22 chapters.

God bless you

Plug for a little gem of a BBC TV series – Broken

Broken stars Sean Bean as the Catholic Priest Father Michael Kerrigan, a priest full of self doubt but who loves the Lord and wants to serve God and his community.  The series is written by Jimmy McGovern and has some gritty realism around contemporary issues.  When I first watched it I wondered how it would treat things Catholic.  I was pleasantly surprised.  It reminds me of all those priests and nuns who quietly work in parishes all around the country.

It reminds me of those statements fairly average Christians make such as;

I am not perfect, God hasn’t finished with me yet.

I am not Christ, merely his representative and a poor one at that.

For all my faults and failings, I still love the Lord.

God is bigger than our circumstances.

Sean Bean does an excellent job of portraying Father Michael, who tries to do good and be there for everyone, but is only human at the end of the day.  He tries to help people in need, resolve conflicts through discussion and achieve social justice.  He remains true to his vocation, even if he bends the rules a bit.  He strikes me as the kind of priest about whom there would be “Letters to the Bishop”.  Some priests regard letters to the Bishop as a badge of honour, it shows you are challenging your congregation – this is something Father Michael does with humility.

The series is still available on BBC I-player for another 15 days or on DVD if you prefer.

Here’s a trailer from youtube.

Big Picture Bible Course – Session 12 End Times

The Big Picture Bible Course

Session 12 End Times

 Christ has died,

Christ is risen,

Christ will come again.


Revelation 1:8 “I am the Alpha and the Omega” says the Lord God, who is, who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”


Opening Prayer

Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of Your faithful and kindle within them the fire of Your love.

Send forth Your Spirit and they shall be created.

And You shall renew the face of the earth.


Let us pray


I believe in one God,
the Father almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all things visible and invisible.

I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ,
the Only Begotten Son of God,
born of the Father before all ages.

God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made,
consubstantial with the Father;
through him all things were made.
For us men and for our salvation
he came down from heaven, and by the Holy Spirit
was incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and became man.

For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate,
he suffered death and was buried,
and rose again on the third day
in accordance with the Scriptures.
He ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory
to judge the living and the dead
and his kingdom will have no end.

I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son,
who with the Father and the Son
is adored and glorified,
who has spoken through the prophets.

I believe in one, holy,
catholic and apostolic Church.
I confess one baptism
for the forgiveness of sins
and I look forward to the resurrection of the dead
and the life of the world to come
. Amen.



The study of the end times (eschatology) is a fascinating field of bible study and therein lies a problem.  It can be so fascinating that it can distract us from the job at hand of being witnesses for Christ in the world and workers for the harvest.

It can cause anxiety for those of us with family members and friends who don’t know God, though that should be a spur to evangelism.

We should be reassured that the overall message of the end times is “Jesus wins.”


Trying to work out all the details can give us a real headache.

In the DVD David Payne said how the opening and closing chapters of the Revelation of John, are quite easy to understand but the middle ones were more of a struggle.  Another way of studying those chapters is to look at what is happening in heaven and how it relates to the Mass.

For instance we see an altar, a throne, white robes, lampstands, incense and a Lamb that seemed to have been slain.

We hear that great song of praise;

“Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God the Almighty” Rev4:8

From which we have;

Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God of hosts,

Heaven and earth are full of your glory,

Hosanna in the Highest.

Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord,

Hosanna in the highest.

(also combining Isaiah 6:3 and Matthew 21:9)

Scott Hahn’s book  “The Lamb’s Supper – The Mass as Heaven on Earth” takes this approach.

Scott Hahn has also contributed to the notes for the Ignatius Catholic Study Bible – New Testament (Revised Standard Version)


In trying to understand what will happen during the end times we have the Catechism of the Catholic Church as our guide.  In the Big Picture Bible Course book there are more references to the Catechism than for any other of the sessions.  I would suggest that that would be the basis of a really good bible study as each Catechism reference has scriptures associated with it.

Just listing these by number we have CCC 1042, 670, 997, 1021, 1023, 1024, 1030, 1033, 1042, 1060, 681, 682, 1059, 1405.

There is a whole section on “From thence he will come again to judge the living and the dead” from the creed; CCC 668-682.


“Critique of the Course” and “What next?”

In starting Big Picture Bible Course what I had in mind was that it would;


  1. Introduce us to the bible.
  2. Help us get to grips with finding our way around the whole bible.
  3. Help us to grow in confidence in looking up bible references.
  4. Help us to see connections across the bible.
  5. Make us notice things in the Liturgy of the Word during Mass.
  6. Help us to pray the bible, pause and reflect as we read.
  7. Inform our minds, warm our hearts and enable our spirits to soar.

I hope it has done all that.

We might also consider;

What worked and what didn’t.

What was helpful and what wasn’t.

How helpful the course book was.

How useful were the things it asked you to do.

How much input you would like from the leadership, Father Eddy, myself and the table hosts.


Its approach involved a lot of jumping around the bible.  Was this useful or would a more systematic, beginning to end, approach be helpful?

There is another course available which is a more from Genesis to Revelation (systematic) course which is also produced by the Bible Society and lasts eight weeks.



The BPBC was produced by Café (Catholic Faith Exploration) and the Bible Society.  Café have produced materials for another course on the Holy Spirit called the Gift which we could run in the Autumn.  It lasts six weeks.



What should we do next?

i.e.  Parish bible study groups following the lectionary.




BPBC discussion session 11 Church

The Big Picture Bible Course

Discussion Session 11 The Church and Introduction to Session 12 End Times

Opening Prayer

Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of Your faithful and kindle within them the fire of Your love.

Send forth Your Spirit and they shall be created.

And You shall renew the face of the earth.

Let us pray

Prayer for Christian Unity

O Lord Jesus Christ, when you were about to suffer,

you prayed for your disciples to the end of time,

that they might all be one,

as you are in the Father, and the Father in you.

Look down in pity on the many divisions among those who profess your faith and heal the wounds which the pride of man and the craft of Satan have inflicted on your people.

Break down the walls of separation which divide one party and denomination of Christians from another.

Look with compassion on the souls who have been born in one or another of these various communions and bring them all into that one communion  which you set up in the beginning: the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.


Blessed John Henry Newman




The importance and difference of the word “Church”

The first occurrence in the bible is in Matthew 16: 18 after Peter’s declaration of faith.

“Now I say to you that you are Peter (which means rock) and upon this rock I will build my church and all the powers of hell will not conquer it.


The Greek word used in Matthew is ekklesia which means a called out assembly.  Called out of the world.  Called to be in the world but not of the world.


The word church is not used by the other Gospel writers but occurs throughout the book of Acts, the letters of Paul and the book of Revelation.


In the Old Testament the emphasis is on the temple as a place of worship and sacrifice.  The word synagogue as a religious meeting place for Jews is used in the New Testament as well as the temple.


Jesus chooses a different word for his followers and the emphasis is on a people of faith, living stones, rather than a building.





The Church is a sign of Christ in the world.

The Church hands on Christ’s message of love and forgiveness.

The Church is a community of people on a voyage of discovery.

The Holy Spirit gives the Church its life, motivation and heart.

The Holy Spirit remains faithful to the Church.

The Church endures, perseveres and prevails.


The Church is a called out assembly – ekklesia.

  • The Church is the body of Christ. A people working out their salvation in “fear and trembling”.  Philippians 2: 12.
  • The Church is a vessel or vehicle of salvation, rather like Noah’s Ark.
  • The Church is the only society on earth that exists for the benefit of non-members. Quote – Archbishop William Temple
  • The Church is one, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic.


Session 12 End Times

Let’s have a look at the Overview in the book and then we’ll watch the DVD.

I see there is a reference to Matthew 25: 31-46.  You might also want to read the whole of Matthew 24.