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Thought for the week

Just for a change today, I have a couple of visual aids. Some of you have seen one of them before, during our Bible studies.

A veil and a stool!

Thirty years before I was ordained, I probably wouldn’t have been able to be ordained. Not because of my working-class background or my then lack of formal education (though they were still a barrier in my own day) but because I am epileptic. Now probably there are quite a lot of you who don’t even know that I have that condition. That’s because it is fortunately controlled by modern drugs, pills that I have to take every day. Thirty years or so before I was ordained, epilepsy was a bar to ordination. It was still at that stage thought of as a mental illness. Not long before that it was a sign of madness and people who suffered from it were routinely committed to asylums. A shockingly short period of time before that it was seen as demon possession. This is surely what is being described in the second half of our gospel passage today.

This little story reminds us of the importance of the recognition of time and culture in our understanding of Scripture. This cultural gap leads us— or should lead us - to be cautious about how we gain our understanding of everything from the Mass to human sexuality. We Catholics are not biblical fundamentalists. But nor should we ignore God in our decision making. We do not wear the veil. Rather we set the biblical record alongside the tradition and authority (the magisterium) of the Church and the reasonable minds God has given us. Scripture, Tradition and Reason. The three-legged stool.

We are told in the first part of the Gospel that the disciples woke from sleep to see the Glory of God in Jesus. They saw that Jesus was the culmination of the law of Moses and the prophecy of Elijah.

The reason I am able to be standing here before you today is that the good old C of E grew into an enlightened view of my condition. This was subject to the law of the Church, informed by Scripture - Jesus’ authority over the condition, and further informed by the knowledge gained by science and God given reason.

As we consider the many ethical issues before us in these days, it is all too easy to say, ‘love is all you need.’ Jesus was and is the perfect expression of love. But here, in this Gospel, Jesus sets himself in the context of the mountain of God’s presence, and either side of him, the Law and the Prophets.

The next time you have a moral decision to make, remember:

• Don’t decide based just on what you have always done before

• Don’t decide based only on what your situation in life seems to constrain you to do.

• Remember to include God and his claim upon your life.

In other words, be sure to sit on the stool and not wear the veil.


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