Monthly Archives: March 2015

Fourth Week of Lent: “God so loved the world”


I went to the evening mass in Westminster Cathedral and was struck with renewed force by what is arguably the most famous passage in the Bible, from John 3:14-21:

“Yes, God loved the world so much that He have His only son, so that everyone who believes may have eternal life.”

As I heard and read these words, with incomparable force, I believed then. Later the old doubts returned about one intelligence being able to create the whole universe.

But I can understand why people who read these words have been hit by immovable faith to dedicate their life to Jesus’ teaching.

This is Laetare Sunday – “Rejoice” Sunday – anyway, an opportunity to rejoice in these words.


I was discussing John 3 with a friend today. He reminded me of one of the episodes in the Gospels when the father of a sick child asks Jesus to help my unbelief. I looked it up; it is in Mark 9:24.

“And Jesus said to him, ‘If thou couldst believe all things are possible to him that believes’. And immediately the father of the young child crying out said with tears, ‘I believe. Help mine unbelief.’”

This should be my motto.

TUESDAY – St Patrick’s Day

I like these words from the first reading today:

“Everything will soon come to an end, so to pray better keep a calm and sober mind.” (1 Peter 4:7-11)

Everything will soon come to an end – why worry very much? We do but why when we know everything will soon come to an end. We ponder too little day by day on that end.


The main event today for us was not the budget but having forty colleagues around to hear the Chief Whip – a great deal of preparation needed but giving parties is always fun. I didn’t even have time to go to Mass. A Martha rather than a Mary day.

“The Lord is kind and full of compassion.” (Psalm 144)

THURSDAY – St Joseph

A strange man, for most of the Gospels he is either largely silent up to the Presentation, or absent altogether after. But he makes the single most important decision in history. He does not turn Mary away.

Behold, a faithful and prudent steward whom the Lord set over his household.


I spoke in the budget debate yet said much the same thing I had said in all the previous ones.

In the evening I went to the Stations of the Cross in the Cathedral. This service never fails to move, especially when the vast crowd is still at the death of Jesus.


I was most struck by the words of the priest. That Jeremiah and for that matter Jesus had resonance in their message precisely because they were powerless. That evil to flourish always needs power. That is not the power, the effect, the title that matters but the message.

“I for my part was like a trustful lamb being led to the slaughterhouse.” (Jeremiah 11:18)

Third Week of Lent: “You have the message of eternal life, O Lord”


We were given a lecture at Mass about how young people after a certain age don’t go to church. But it is no point telling that to the half of ten per cent who still do go.

We have to concentrate not on the practical but the spiritual message.

Today’s Psalm 18: “You have the message of eternal life O Lord. The law of the Lord is perfect. It revives the soul.”


I had a question on Marriage Tax Allowance. Apparently over four million people might be entitled. But the pounds and pence don’t matter: it’s the nod towards commitment.

Today is the story of Naaman the Leper. I like it because he cures himself unwillingly by such a simple thing – bathing three times in the Jordan.

“My father, if the prophet has asked you to do something difficult, would you not have done it?”

All the more reason then when he says “Bathe and you will become clean.” (2 Kings 5:1-15)


I spoke at the Royal College of Defence Studies to budding generals on our future in Europe.

The reading from Matthew 18 is about forgiveness:

You must forgive your brother, “not seven, I tell you, but seventy-seven times.”

European history sadly is riven with the opposite. Forgiveness – an easy exhortation, so difficult to carry it out.

We had a meeting with the Archbishop of Canterbury in the afternoon. As the others rushed off to vote, I urged him to put pressure on Government to leave faith schools alone from the “British values” crusaders.


We had a debate on the Ukraine and Russia’s membership of the Council of Europe. What would expulsion achieve? Just another twist to a war without end. Seek compromoise.

The Pharisees didn’t compromise. Where did it get them? But…

“Do not imagine that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets.” (Matthew 5:17)


I led a debate which I had procured through the Backbench Business Committee on the future of faith schools and British values. It was a relief to calm down afterwards at Mass. Why impose on schools a set of “values” composed on the back of a plain-packaged fag packet by officials when we have the glories of the Torah, the poetry of the Koran, the mysteries of the Bible to hand?

“Listen to my voice then, I will be your God.” (Jeremiah 7:23-28)


We went to a marvellous RAF-led service of remembrance for the Afghan War at Lincoln Cathedral. They do these things well. We will pass over what the Afghan campaign has really achieved.


I went to our local church. Psalm 47 is one I can remember.

Omnes gentes plaudit: “Clap your hands, all you people.”

A joyous psalm, at last.

Second Week of Lent: God is our hope and our strenth


We went to Mass in the small church at Osgodby. The reading from Genesis 22 reminded me of the Easter Vigil spent every year at Downside Abbey.

“God put Abraham to the test, ‘Abraham, Abraham,’ he called. ‘Here I am’ he replied. ‘Take your son,’ God said, ‘your only child Isaac whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah. There you should offer him as a burnt offering.’”

I often wonder what Abraham thought and at his obedience. Now he would be considered a raving lunatic.

I thought of the reading at Downside followed by peerless singing of the psalm:

“Preserve me God, I take refuge in you.”


The reading today is a familiar one from Luke 6:36-38.

“Do not judge and you will not be judged yourselves, do not condemn and you will not be condemned, grant pardon and you will be pardoned.”

But in my mind, remembering all the personal attacks made on people in the media, I turned around the words.

“Do not fear being judged by others, and you will not judge yourself. Do not fear being condemned by others and you will not condemn yourself. If others do not pardon you, pardon yourself.”


I went to a memorial meeting for Allan Williamson, Father of the House of Commons, who served for forty-six years. Peter Tapsell, the present father, spoke before me. He has been there for over fifty years. And his successor Gerald Kaufman was there. He has been an MP for forty-five years. 150 years of service between the three.

What a contribution they have made, none of the three ever made it beyond junior ministerial office. Allan Williamson like me as Minister of Consumer Affairs managed to ensure a mark on the beer glass. I tried to get the froth excluded and failed – a missed achievement but words and ideas are more important than power.

“You must therefore do what they tell you and listen to what they say, but do not be guided by what they do.” (Matthew 25:1-12)


As I was listening to the readings of today’s Mass, I was thinking or I heard the priest tell us: Don’t worry about what you do or achieve. Do God’s will or it is God’s will.

This of course has been always the anaesthesia of religion but it is comforting for all that it’s God’s will that matters for you, not your own.

“Should evil be returned for good, for they are digging a pit for me. Remember how I stood in your presence and plead on their behalf.” (Jeremiah 18)


Today is the reading from Luke 16 about the rich man and Lazarus and the sobering message that the rich man actually never did anything nasty to the poor man. Just ignored him as we ignore the poor at the door of our churches. However often we are told this story, we forget it. But as I walked home for two hours in the spring darkening, the welcoming lights of the cottage appearing through the mellowing Lincolnshire wold, my mind was on the present, empty of all save soothing tiredness and orangeing twilight.


After the Cathedral Council we all went off to Eucharist in the Cathedral. At the West End the new statue of Mary is there. Brooding, not a saccharine statue but more like a grim-faced or quizzical Russian icon. The words of the Anglican communion sometimes undistinguishable from the Catholic in unity.

“Here comes a man of dreams…” (Genesis 37)

Earlier, I had visited our little village church and reached Psalm 45: “My heart is indicting a good matter.”


I ran again to our church and reached Psalm 46 in the Prayer Book: “God is our hope and our strength.”

If only we could remember that for more than a few minutes after reading it.

As I read the story of the Prodigal Son today I am filled with profound emotion and tears well in my eyes. Here indeed is the truth, and the word of a true God.

“He was lost and now is found.”