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If I were to show you this paper, what would you see?  (Holds up a sheet of paper with a dot on it)

 

A black dot?  Or a big white sheet of paper with a small dot on it?  For several years now, since I have been associated with St. Sophia’s Church in Galston, I have prayed in those benches – in the same way as I pray in these benches.  Of course, when you spend an hour of prayer sitting in the one spot, there are various distractions I have.  One of the St. Sophia’s distractions is to look at the dampened walls with the flaking paint and the stains on the Sanctuary wall and the side walls.  As I say, there have been plenty of distractions and many times I have thought to myself – like so many before me – “What can be done to repair this?”  Yet the overriding thought I have had is that St. Sophia’s is a glorious building.  It has a tremendous history of donation from the Marquis of Bute in the 19th Century and has been an outstanding place of worship (it is the one building that stands out as you come down the road past the entrance to Loudoun Castle) for almost 130 years.  As I say – with several periods of prayer in these benches, there have been many moments to reflect; and my reflections here led me to reflect on the wider picture of life ….

 

 

 

Either you see the black dot in the centre of the page or you see the big white sheet of paper with a small dot.  Either you see the damp patches as the dominant story or you see an outstanding place of worship.  The theme of today’s Epiphany story is about LIGHT and DARKNESS.  Either you see the light that Christ of Christ or you see the darkness of King Herod.

 

 

 

Whether Matthew wanted it to be so, Herod stands in today’s Gospel as a symbol of all that is evil in the world.  Herod had ruled ruthlessly for over 40 years straddling the era of the birth of Jesus.  His power was seen most spectacularly in the great building projects he undertook – including the building of the Temple in Jerusalem.  He was famous for being lavishly wealthy but perhaps more famous for his cruelty throughout his Kingdom, even towards his family.  The dark clouds in the story further gather when Herod seeks the advice of the “chief priests and the scribes;” they will be the ones who, later in the Gospel, will be among some of the main opponents to Christ. So we can either focus on the darkness of Herod and think to ourselves how much evil there is in the world, how many tyrants still exist and how much work needs to be done to get rid of sinfulness.

 

 

 

…. Or we can concentrate on Christ and the LIGHT that He brings into the world.  Matthew’s big theme is that Christ came to make disciples of ALL THE NATIONS.  Christ came to bring Hope to all peoples, to bring love instead of hate, to bring justice where war and violence once existed.  So many people down through the ages – our own families included – have recognised that it is better to base ourselves not on the darkness of Herod but rather on the Light of Christ.

 

 

One last thought …. This week 14 Scots enter seminary for the first time and begin their journey towards the priesthood.  14!!  This is on the back of 5 men being ordained for Motherwell Diocese last year.  It’s not the only sign of growth in the Church: women and men in our community take Communion to the sick and housebound.  You serve the homeless and the needy.  Teachers help the young find purpose in life.  Parishioners help one another through the time of bereavement.  In the last years we have been through some very tough times as a Church.  We can either concentrate on the small dot, the moments of darkness and say we will never recover.  Or we can look towards the big white picture, these moments of growth, these signs of Christ’s Light and say WE STAND AS PEOPLE OF HOPE FOR A NEEDY WORLD.

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