My July Column – Getting it Wrong Full Text

Which one is the Muppet?

Which one is the Muppet?

Getting it wrong

Since my last column it seems many things have gone wrong. The big issue was the referendum on the E.U. and what we were told was going to happen. We were told that the Remain camp would win by about 52% to 48%. The reverse was the real outcome. We voted by 52% to 48% to leave the E.U. and take back control.

Those who supported Remain were very unhappy. Those who supported Leave were not so happy either. Lots of things we were told would happen turned out not to be. Let’s take a look at what we were told. The Prime Minister told us that he would remain in post to see us through the exit from Europe if we voted for that. The day after he announced his departure – after his summer holidays, that is. He got it wrong.

We had been promised that £365 million that went to the E.U. each week would be saved and could be spent on the NHS. Now is seems that was a mistake. They got it wrong. We would take back control of our borders and cut out immigration. It seems we got that wrong as well. However we would have experienced charismatic political leaders to negotiate our terms for leaving the E.U.

Sadly, it seems that they have found it impossible to accept the job, possibly as a result of internal squabbling. Surprisingly, some of those who voted to leave didn’t expect to win, thinking everyone else would vote to stay. They got it wrong.

I saw a comment from one prominent Leave politician saying we should hire some experts from Asia to negotiate our exit. This was the man who said we should disregard experts. It seems he got it wrong. The same man then stood up in the European Parliament and told all the other M.E.P. s that they had never held a proper job. He was surrounded by scientists, prominent businessmen, entrepreneurs and others who held very senior posts. He just got it wrong.

Getting it wrong is more common that we like to think. I was listening to the news this morning and heard that Southern Trains is going to cut out hundreds of trains because they have been unable to get people into London on time for work. They didn’t explain how having fewer trains will help people get into London. They will just have fewer trains arriving late. I think they got it wrong.

Fortunately, as Catholics, we can have confidence that we got it right. We joined the right Church and if we go to Mass on Sundays, get to confession (just before we die) and avoid a criminal lifestyle then we are assured a place in Heaven. I’ll avoid telling the story of Ian Paisley being shown round Heaven by Saint Peter, coming on a high wall with “Silence!” notices displayed. “What’s in there?” He asked. “That’s where the Catholics are. They think they’re the only ones here.”, came the answer.

Sadly, I think we Catholics do get it wrong – often. All too often we are presumptuous. We assume that having declared ourselves to be on God’s side He will be on our side too. We can go about our business knowing that God is looking after us. We have done our bit and now it is up to God to keep his side of the bargain.

Many Catholics recognise that Jesus showed us good examples to copy and spend their lives in good works to earn a place in Heaven. The more we do here on Earth the higher the place we will have in Heaven. This is not a new idea. In Mark’s gospel we see James and John, the apostles, ask Jesus about their place in Heaven.

James and John, the sons of Zebedee, approached him. “Master,” they said to him “we want you to do us a favour.” He said to them, “What is it you want me to do for you?” They said to him, “Allow us to sit one at your right hand and the other at your left in glory”. “You do not know what you are asking.” Jesus said to them. “Can you drink the cup I must drink, or be baptised with the baptism with which I must be baptised?” They replied, “We can”. Jesus said to them “The cup that I must drink you shall drink, and with the baptism with which I must be baptised you shall be baptised, but as for seats at my right hand or my left, these are not mine to grant; they belong to those to whom they have been allotted”.

Mark 10: 35, 40

This is a curious passage and it raises many questions. James and John have given up everything to follow Jesus. They are willing to face whatever befalls them for His sake. They expect to be rewarded in Heaven and are asking Jesus how they will fare. Jesus recognises their sacrifice but tells them that what they do will not earn them a high place in Heaven. They got it wrong.

When we do good works here on Earth to earn a high place in Heaven – we get it wrong. We are not promised a high reward for our work. I wonder who those people are, to whom those places are allotted. Jesus does not tell us. It is worth remembering that we do not know the mind of God.

Does this mean that we don’t need to do any good works to get into Heaven? We can find the answer in Luke’s gospel.

“Which of you, with a servant ploughing or minding sheep, would say to him when he returned from the fields, “Come and have your meal immediately”? Would he not be more likely to say, “Get my supper laid; make yourself tidy and wait on me while I eat and drink. You can eat and drink yourself afterwards”? Must he be grateful to the servant for doing what he was told? So with you: when you have done all you have been told to do, say, “We are merely servants: we have done no more than our duty.”

Luke 17:7, 10

So there you have it. We are no more than servants and do good works because that is what we have been told to do. We are not earning a high place in Heaven – we got that wrong. We can only get to Heaven by the mercy of God. Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross is the outreaching hand of God’s mercy to pull us into Heaven.

Just as an aside, I wonder about this idea of sitting in Heaven on Jesus’ right hand or left hand. Think about the saints you know. Saint Anthony never gets a minute for people like me asking him to find things they have lost (and making a few pounds for the poor in the process). Saint Pio is constantly bombarded with requests and Saint Rita seems to spend hours finding parking places for my wife.

If these great saints are kept busy in Heaven what lies in store for the rest of us lesser beings? It doesn’t sound like an easy time, but it might be fun.

My July Column – Getting it Wrong

Which one is the Muppet?






My July column is published today in the Scottish Catholic Observer. How good are we at getting it right? I think that we get it wrong far more often than we think. Read my column this weekend.

If you are too late and the papers have all gone then you can get the complete text here next week.

Mirror , Mirror on the wall

One sleepy morning last year, while shaving I looked in the mirror. I usually look in the mirror when shaving but this time was different. I didn’t recognise the face I was looking at; not at first anyway. The face staring back at me in surprise was a much older version of myself. What’s happened to me?

Of course it was my realface, not the one I remembered from years before. I was not in the habit of looking at my whole face in the mirror, just the bits I was shaving before I hurried out to work. This was different, a revellation. I was not the person I thoiught I was. This was what other people saw when the looked into my face, and I had no idea.

This sudden reflection on who we really are is a good thing – usually. It makes us stop and consider what’s really going on rather that the rosy assumptions we had held. In a way the Brexit campaign and the referendum has been like looking into that magic mirror that shows us who we really are.

We have long applauded ourselves for being a tolerant, welcoming people. We are reasonable, logical and honourable. Unlike some other, hot bloded, excitable or even devious peoples we are the good guys.

Well the Brexit campaign opened my eyes. What I saw was a campaign of lies and deception, welcomed by many who wanted to punish an uncaring Tory government and by many who harboured racist views. I saw a referendum promised as part of a srategy to hold the Tories together being allowed to tear the nation apart in the cause of a power struggle in the Tory party.

They are to blame. The whole box and dice of them. But they were able to do it because we are not the people we thought we were. Boris, Brutus (sorry, I meant Gove) and co. knew that. They played on the weaknesses of our character to achieve their aim and thirst for power.

They are to blame but we are at fault. We are not the nice people we thought we were.

Just fitting the Flux Capacitor into the DeLorian

Well, that’s it we are on our way! Where to you ask? Back, back to the future, where things were and will be again, rosy and wonderful. Back to the future of the good old days.

video here

Yes, the vote was decisive and we are about to set off into the future on a journey to the past. I’ve been told by those who know these things that things were great in good old Britain before we went into the E.U. Food was cheap, beer tasted better and we were living the life of Reilly.

Mind you that’s not quite how I remember it. I remember a post war Britain where rationing still determined what you could eat. I can still remember the day I was able to go into the shop at the end of the street and buy sweets without my mother bringing her ration book.

I remember a selective schooling system where only the few could get a full secondary education. I remember my dad going to work onChristmas day because it was not a holiday. I remeber people could be forced to work long hours for low pay. I remember when people died of industrial diseases and accidents at work.

So I’m going off to revisit the past now that we can dispense with these pesky E.U. directives. Just as soon as I can hook up my Flux Capacitor into my DeLorian and get it up to 88 miles per hour I’ll be back in a flash. By the way, anybody know where my nearest Plutonium retailer is?

You, on the other hand, will just have to wait till the negotiations have completed and we get out again – back to the future of the past.

Will you go out with Boris and his pals?

We are nearly there. Thursday is the day when we will choose whether to go out of Europe with Boris and the guys in the band or stay and get on with business. What will you choose to do?

Boris tells us that we should go because we will be able to rule without the interference of the ‘Brussels bureaucrats’ who interfere with our freedoms. They neglect to say that the EU has brought us more freedoms than this government ever did. They would love to rule us unhindered by ‘human rights’ (how can they make that sound like an offence?) and working time directives that stop employers forcing people to work unsafe hours.

Lets have a look at the boys;

GoveHere’s Michael Gove. Remember Michael as Education secretary? He instigated a programme to remove schools from local, democratic control to be responsibel only to the Education secretary, himself.

He would be a great champion of  our democracy, unhindered by European ‘interference’.


IDSIan Duncan Smith, the man who has pushed through reforms to the welfare system that took millions away from the poorest in society, is he your cup of tea?

Everything was going well until he fell out with the P.M. and decided to change his story about the reforms. Watch out he doesn’t do the same after he takes us out of Europe.


HowerdMichael Howerd, a man with ‘something of the night’ about him, according to another Tory M.P.

Where did he ever take the Tories? Are those a safe pair of hands?

I’m not convinced that he is all that he pretends to be. I don’t think I’d go into a dark alley with him.


nigel-farageNigel Farage, hail fellow well met? The kind of guy you would have a pint with down the boozer? Well, he has never appeared in my local.

Is that because he is a former commodities broker? One of the financial types who made such a great job of the economy a few years ag? We’re still paying for that. He might deny that his campaigning is racist but I think that would be hard to prove. Is he your type?

BorisThen there’s Boris himself, a man who see’s  himself as the one who pulls the strings. If we all vote his way and trott out of Europe forever then he will be well placed to take over as leader of the Tory party. That will make him prime minister.

It’s difficult to know what that would mean for the country as Boris is prone to changing his mind about policies to fit the current trend.

Can he be trusted? I think I’d prefer the guy on his right.

This could be a fateful year for the democracies; just imagine Boris is P.M. and we are an island again. Donald Trump is President and the U.S.A. is on the skids. Scotland has another indyref and opts out in despair. I can just imagine the complaints from ISIS, “Hey, stop wrecking the world – that’s our job!”

Well if you do decide to leave then remember you asked for it. The complaints desk here will be closing down for good. The rest of the world might just be in too bad a state to be able to help in any way.