The Holy Family

The Holy Family

Today’s readings offers much tried and tested wisdom about the trials and experiences associated with living with other family members. The readings are quite ancient by modern standards but contain timeless wisdom. We realise that the commandment to ‘honour your father and mother’ is actually quite all-encompassing about mutual relations between parents and children and that the commandment works both ways – parents are to rear their children in such a way that will not lead to brooding resentment.. The reading from the book of Ecclesiasticus describes reverence and respect for parents especially as they get older. It is appropriate today as we hear all too often of parents being dumped in nursing homes, or of neglect and carelessness and ‘the burden’ that older people are to society and to family finances.

Relations among parents and children can become tense, tetchy and fragile. When children grow up they can only grow distant, especially as they crave independence and space and time for themselves.

As parents grow needier and infirm in old age it can involve financial dependence and pressure on a family. It can result in conflict between grown-up children as to who among siblings will carry most responsibility as well as who carries the financial burden of care, time and accommodation.

These are concerns that face all families sooner or later. The horror stories of neglect are rare enough in my experience. Each family is different. I wonder about the popularity of ‘soap operas’ on TV. Each family has enough drama and happenings from year to year.

The model of the family is of course the Holy Family. While Jesus, Mary and Joseph are put before us as the ideal, they were also quite real, flesh-and-blood people. They were not without earthly concerns – great and small: misunderstandings, the possibility of separation, problems with accommodation, travel expenses, flight from persecution, were in fear of their lives, emigration, refugee status, exile - all in Jesus’ infancy alone. Later they were to know loss, separation, bereavement. But all was not gloom. The joy of betrothal, pregnancy, the wonder of childbirth, child-rearing, being reunited after separation, and even celebrating a wedding.

And yet for all that they were an intensely private family. They went about their trade and domestic duties and fulfilled their religious obligations as observant Jews. And we know little about thirty of Jesus’ thirty-three years that were spent in Egypt and Nazareth. We are left in the dark.

But they were God-centred, and as we reflected on the Fourth Sunday of Advent last week, in times of doubt, God intervened and showed them the way and they readily obeyed.

It is in how we cope when things go wrong in family situations that can often strengthen family ties in a time of crisis. It is especially faith-filled families in my experience who find the strength and the resilience to cope. Where there is prayer, there is God-given strength to endure whatever comes.

May Jesus, Mary and Joseph help us to find the inspiration and strength to face what lies ahead and may they help us to live in charity, generosity and peace with one another.

Christmas day

Thinking about CHRISTMAS

[When I lamented about ‘Christmas’ and its commercialisation
I was struck by another helpful abbreviation.]

C is for the Crib and the real Cause for Celebration;
H is for Happiness - ‘Hosanna in the highest heaven’.
R is for the Redeemer and His Revelation
(Recalling us to renew our Reconciliation).
I stands for the divine Infant’s Invitation - to
See for ourselves our sinful Situation.
T is The Lord born in Time of Tribulation.
M - Mary and the Magi lost in Meditation;
A for the Angels, calling us to Adoration;
S the surprised Shepherds greeting in salutation
Our Saviour, the one who offers us the best hope of Salvation.

Fr John McCarthy, CC , Cobh

Fourth Sunday of Advent Year A

The Gospel each Sunday of the coming year is taken from St Matthew. St Matthew’s chief aim was to present Jesus as the fulfilment of the Old Testament. Therefore in many of the Gospel extracts this year we will encounter references like the one we read today: ‘this was to fulfil the words of the prophet..’

It is helpful to know this when we read the Gospel for the coming year each Sunday that Matthew’s slant as it were is to present Jewish to would-be Jewish converts. There are dozens of references to prophecy.

It is therefore typical of Matthew to present us with the words of the prophet Isaiah that we read also in the First Reading this Sunday. The Church has carefully chosen these readings to align them with the Gospel according to Matthew.

The virgin is with child and will give birth to a child named Emmanuel, a name which means ‘God-is-with-us’ (Isaiah 7:14).

St Matthew's infancy narrative is also described as telling things from Joseph's point of view (as opposed to Mary's perspective in Luke) and as an obedient Jew cognizant of Jewish Law and custom.

Let's have a closer look at St Joseph and how applicable his dilemmas are to us:

We have all heard the expression ‘if you want to make God laugh tell Him your plans.

How many days are we just about coping? How many times, I wonder, do we go to bed at night truly satisfied that we accomplished everything we had set out to do that morning?

Often a day does not turn out as planned. There are upsets, unexpected twists, disappointments and adjustments which may be unforeseeable. It is good to have contingency plans, and to qualify our expectations according to what God might want for us. Sickness or a sudden visit to the hospital, an unexpected death of someone, a traffic jam or even bad weather shatters our schedules and our comfort.

We know in our hearts that we cannot see ahead, that we cannot plan for every contingency or for everything that might put our plans astray and yet we live as if we are in total control. It is not that we begrudge others what is urgent but what is amazing is that we never cease to be surprised that things just won’t always go our way.

I wonder therefore about St Joseph and his plans. To me he is the saint for people who are struggling to cope with whatever life throws unexpectedly at them.

What HAD Joseph planned for himself? If we imagine for a moment that he had thought that he would marry Mary, settle down with a trade and steady income; that if God blessed him that he would have children who he would raise up in the Jewish faith and who would follow him in the family profession; that he might be fortunate to live to see grandchildren; and that he would never have to travel very far except to Jerusalem; then we know with the benefit of hindsight that he would have been completely off the mark. Everything important in life - marriage, childbirth and home - took an unexpected turn. He had to cope with unique situations, never to be repeated and never to be experienced by any one else - ever.

He had to learn to cope with unforeseeable changes to his plans but he was prompted and guided by God - who he obeyed without question - in extreme situations of danger and crisis.

Therefore, maybe it is not so much what I set out to do that is of most interest to the Lord, but how I cope when things do not go according to my plans.

It is not only in the faithfulness to the many little things that occupy me that interests Him but how I prioritize them and how promptly I can leave aside what I consider important so that I am ready and willing to turn to a more pressing immediate need of another.

This does not mean that God is ‘playing games’ with us, but rather that He may be challenging us to see how much we realistically think we can accomplish by our own efforts alone.

Maybe God is not just calling me to fidelity in small things but sanctity is in how I handle crises that may be or not be of my own making. He may want me to see today how when things go wrong how I might be inclined to apportion blame and accept none; how I might give into rage and impatience; how I might blurt out something I may instantly regret (but may not be willing to acknowledge that I may be wrong or that I jumped to conclusions). Maybe humility and honesty is the way after all that God is calling me to live this day, and to greater trust and surrender to His will no matter how things turn out.

There are no recorded words of St Joseph – maybe he was a man of few words in reality, but we definitely are not! Maybe it is his silence rather than any words of wisdom that speaks volumes. His silence is his eloquence. May we learn to qualify our plans and projects and lives to God's will more often. May we follow his example in patience, understanding, and endurance. May he lead us to share in the constant company of Jesus and Mary which he had the privilege to enjoy in his earthly life because he silently, promptly and perseveringly obeyed what the Lord required of him at every given moment.

3rd Sunday of Advent Year A

3rd Sunday of Advent Year A

Opinion polls are a common feature of daily life and will be more so in the run up to the General Election.

Who is the greatest man who ever lived? There was a famous boxer in the 1960s and 1970s who was a household name whose catch-call cry was ‘I am the greatest’. It was showmanship, entertainment, a challenge, a trick.

Jesus, in fact, tells us who it was - John the Baptist. We light two candles in his honour.

To be described as the greatest man alive, ‘born of women’ is some compliment when it came from Jesus. But to be in the lowest place in heaven is alright too and even better! It is in fact far greater than the loftiest position on earth.

The evidence for the coming of Jesus was predicted 600 years before in the First Reading this Sunday in Isaiah – ‘the lame walk, the blind see, lepers are cleansed.’ This is the sign that John the Baptist believed in and what he wanted his followers, more than himself, to hear and to understand. It was for their sake he was posing the question. John would soon go to his death in the knowledge that his work was done. This ‘greatest man who ever lived’ was destined for imprisonment, rejection, and beheading for proclaiming the truth of God’s law.

Jesus response to John the Baptist is the summation of His Mission and ministry. Jesus in effect tells us that there are 7 signs of the Kingdom that are also terms and conditions that apply to us if we are to enter even the lowest place in heaven! What are these ‘7 habits of highly effective’ Christians?

'The lame walk, the deaf hear, the blind see, lepers are cleansed, the dead are raised to life, the poor have the Good News proclaimed to them, and blessed is the man who does not lose faith in me.'
What has that statement got to do with you and me? There can be in all of us a spiritual paralysis, a spiritual blindness, a spiritual leprosy, a spiritual death, a need to hear the Good News, a need to persevere in faith.

1. Healing from moral and Spiritual paralysis is not just about laziness but negligence and delay tactics to avoid or to put on the long finger doing what we know to be right. We must ‘do the right thing’ rather than suiting our own convenience; to take initiative, to ‘do good, avoid evil’ in all the choices we make, from the little to the great. But we lack the right motivation. I heard recently that the average gym makes 30% of its annual income on people who back out of their exercise plans. Intentions are good, but change is difficult – there are no short-cuts to lasting change and improvement.

2. Healing from moral and spiritual blindness because we may have a wilful blindness to avoid the truth (because we lack humility) about ourselves – denial about moral failings, often obvious to others, but it suits us not to see them. It is a failing to make a true moral inventory of ourselves. It is failure to admit to God, ourselves or to others the truth about ourselves. We are afraid to come out of the dark and into the light of truth. . The 12 step programme of AA is worth getting our hands on and replacing the word ‘alcohol’ with ‘sin’

3. Healing from moral and spiritual death - the state of mortal sin We need to confess any grave sins as a matter of urgency. is the state of our souls in sin? –un-confessed sin, if we have been longer than a year away from confession for example, if we are hardened and oblivious to the need to seek God’s forgiveness –unlike a toothache or back-ache which finally prompts us to action because the pain is too much to bear, our consciences remind us less and less. What state are we in?

4. Healing from moral and Spiritual leprosy – is the state of our souls in sin? –confession is not a once-off because our tendency to sin is always present. We are in need of ongoing therapy, care, examinations, check-ups. How many illnesses go unnoticed or are not checked in time due to lack of vigilance?

5. Healing from spiritual deafness. We are guilty of deafness to the voices prompting us to see our true state and the need to improve. We may be also guilty of deafness to the cries of those around us. We may have listened less than we have been prepared to speak. We may have ignored those crying out for someone to give them our time to listen. Have we taken the time to listen to what God may be wanting to say to us – in prayer.

6. Hearing the Good News.
Most of all we need to hear the Good News and to take on a role in proclaiming the Good News by our encouragement, our advice, the witness of our lives, and taking on a concrete role in catechesis and evangelisation.

7. ‘Blessed is the man who does not lose faith in me.’
Worldly fame, notoriety, reputation, status, position, authority, ambition and power – all distract us and indeed fall well short of what God wants of us and what He is prepared to give us if we do not lose faith. These are testing times and people are losing faith in politicians, in banks and all in those who hold positions of trust and authority. But we must not lose faith in Jesus. The key word here is perseverance. More and more we realise that faith in God is something that we must take as a personal decision and take deeply personally as well.

A life marked by faith is not a sprint or a race but a marathon, a long distance where hurdles and obstacles lie in our path, where discouragement and disappointment can test our inner resolve, and which often ends for many people in a steep climb of suffering. But with our eyes on the goal, undeterred by mockery or criticism or worried about what bystanders say about us, Jesus will bring us to eternal life. We can learn from athletes who develop daily habits and keep a diary of what they have accomplished. They know Rome wasn’t built in a day, but day-by-day. Our daily habits must include prayer and the sacraments and self-examination of conscience and daily resolve to improve our prayer and our actions. That way we do not lose faith.

The Season of Advent therefore provides with opportunities to see, to hear, to be raised up, to walk, to be healed, and to renew our faith, hope and our resolve in following Jesus, who, in the words of Isaiah 'is coming to save us'.

Solemnity of The Immaculate Conception

Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception

Today’s Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of Our Lady is most misunderstood. It refers to Our Lady’s own conception in her mother’s womb- the womb of St Anne. It is celebrated today and 9 months from today – September 8th – it is Our Lady’s birthday. It has nothing to do with Jesus' conception – March 25th and Christmas follows 9 months later on Dec 25th of course. I was amazed when people came into me after Mass a couple of years ago and they were happy to have the misunderstanding cleared up for them. Perhaps the Gospel passage of the Annunciation confuses people. But in tht Gospel we hear the words fo the angel, which apply to the teaching: 'nothing is impossible to God.

It was wonderful to be in the Holy Land where these words of the angel were uttered -to visit Nazareth and pray at the spot where Mary said her 'yes' to God.

The Immaculate Conception is not in the Bible of course, but is a long-standing tradition in the Church, but only infallibly declared in 1854. The doctrine became accepted universally through the apparitions that occurred in Paris in Rue de Bac in 1830 to Sr Catherine Laboure and literally billions of Miraculous Medals have been struck since then. We are, in our Lady’s words, to wear the medal with confidence, to receive the necessary graces from heaven that will enable us to get there.

I mentioned that the doctrine was declared an infallible teaching in 1854. Four years later Our Lady herself appeared to St Bernadette, and said ‘I am the Immaculate Conception’. Bernadette was poor at Catechism and claimed her head hurt when she tried to learn the answers off-by-heart. She was slower than other girls younger than her. But Bernadette faithfully repeated these words of Our Lady to her parish priest, which convinced him of the truth of what Bernadette was claiming to see at Lourdes. Heaven confirmed the Church’s proclamation through a humble, barely literate 14 year old French peasant girl.

We are reminded that Jeus said: 'Blessed are the pure in heart, they shall see God'. Mary is the purest virgin. We likewise are called to purity - of intention, of mind, of body and soul. Let us prepare for Christ's coming by purely receiving him. Let us avail of the season to go to confession, and restoring purity of soul where needed to receive Him worthily, as Mary did.

Let us resolve to wear the Miraculous Medal wth confidence, praying often throughout the day, 'O Mary, conceived with out sin, pray for us who have recourse to Thee!'

2nd Sunday of Advent Year A

Picture shows snow in Israel's Golan Heights and thawed water flowing towards Galilee.

Second Sunday of Advent Year A

This week we all have a deeper appreciation of the power of nature to bring everything to a standstill. We only have to look out our windows at the snow and ice. Our televisions show us the hazards and problems associated with the cold weather. We have come to realise that we are not that well equipped in Ireland to deal with a hard freeze, and we have to be so careful on our roads and event the pavement.

It makes us wonder, how do people cope in colder climates? Did Jesus ever see snow? It is hard to know for certain if Jesus may have ever touched snow, or played in it with his childhood friends but certainly He saw it in the distance from the Sea of Galilee in wintertime.

On a recent visit to the Holy Land, I learned that the country of Israel is dependent on snow each year to replenish much needed fresh-water. It thaws and melts and flows from the mountains in the north of the country straight into the Sea of Galilee and on to the River Jordan. Besides the strategic location of the mountains known as the Golan Heights, there is something sacred about this fresh flowing water for the Jews as it is considered to have come straight from God, and was not contaminated by human hands. It was this understanding of the water of the Jordan River that John used to encourage repentance and the immersion into the water with the confession of sins. This was done to ensure that the Jewish people were in a state of readiness to receive their long-awaited Messiah. They were to wash themselves clean, externally and internally.

John urges sincere repentance, and now that the opportunity is ours. We must be sincere. It must not be outward show and empty ritual as it was for the insincere Pharisees and Sadducees. It must be accompanied too by appropriate fruit – charity, forgiveness, generous self-giving, purity of mind, attitude and disposition towards our neighbor, almsgiving, self-forgetfulness with our time and talents. John was readying the people for Jesus. For us, this state of readiness is a state of grace, when we washed clean anew in the sacrament of Reconciliation.

Today 2000 years later John’s voice of repentance is proclaimed in every Catholic Church throughout the world, urging repentance as we prepare for the coming of Christ at Christmas, and reminding us too of His Second Coming, where He will come to judge the living and the dead. John uses graphic imagery. Ultimately we will be one thing or another – a fruit-bearing tree or wheat bearing the proper fruit at the appropriate time, or a fruitless tree or chaff that is useless. And ultimately too we will be in one place or the other, finding a place in the barn of heaven or cast out into the fire that will never go out, in the fires of hell.
As three weeks remain and the Christmas shopping list is seen to, what better present to give Jesus as we prepare at Christmas – which after all is His birthday – than to give ourselves over to the Lord’s mercy and present Him on Christmas Day with a clean human heart.

‘We wait in joyful hope for the coming of our Saviour Jesus Christ’.

1st Sunday of Advent

‘It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness’

A candle represents hope, guidance, a beacon.

Things are never so dark and cold as the next four weeks. The days are still getting shorter – the darkness deepens. Now we need the light. All over the Catholic Church – in every Catholic church you will walk into this weekend, all over the planet – you will see the same sight – one lit candle, an incompleteness, a waiting, an expectancy.

We are called to be lights to each other, especially the poor, the less well off, the lonely, the depressed, the discouraged, those with few supports, those struggling to make ends meet. As the darkness of economic gloom and political uncertainty surround us, we are unsure of where to turn. It is constant to hear of economic woes. Now we need hope more than ever.

Advent can be compared to pregnancy – for a long time, when you hear that someone is expecting, there are no immediate or discernible outward signs, yet slowly but surely, life is forming and growing in the inner recesses of the womb, and later, visible signs of growth and movement become apparent to all.

So it is today – it is just the beginning. Now we can begin the four week preparation for the coming of the Christ in 4 weeks time. As always the secular milestones have already been passed – the turning on of Christmas lights, the playing of Christmas tunes, the Toy Show on the TV. But when you walk into a Catholic Church anywhere in the world in the next 4weeks – there is no audio-visual reminder of Christmas in the music or the decorations or the colours. Here there are no ads. Things seem bare, yet there is expectation.

Using the letters of ADVENT, we can now sum up today's readings:

AD = Arise from Darkness, Act Decently – involves a change of heart and a change of behaviour. To arise from darkness – St Paul tells us that there are certain sins that are happen under cover of darkness – crimes of passion, drunkenness, promiscuous behaviour, license (no limits or restraint), wrangling, jealousy.In the pure light of day – we would not be seen doing certain things in public view. . Instead we are called to Decency.

VE = We hear the Voices of Encouragement especially from the prophet Isaiah – come let us go to Jerusalem - We likewise must be a Voice of Encouragement to others to come before the Lord. We will also hear the voice of John the Baptist when we light the second and third candles, and the Voice of Mary as we light the fourth.

NT = Now is the Time. this is a phrase we also hear from St Paul today. The alarm clock is ringing and there is no snooze button (that great invention!). This is no to dally and turn over in the bedclothes, the sun is up, the day has arrived. Now is the Time to put the old ways behind, especially immoral actions of drunkenness, dishonesty and debauchery St Paul refers to.

Let us truly celebrate the season of Advent by turning to the Readings and pondering their message of hope. Let us patiently wait – let us not jump the gun – let us ponder, pray, reflect and anticipate. Let us stand ready, repentant and converted.

Christ the King

Christ the King

There is an air of finality in today’s Gospel – we are commemorating the last Sunday of the year in the Solemnity of Christ the King; we are at the end of another Church year before embarking on our advent journey next Sunday in the run-up to Christmas. The 5 weeks to Christmas include this last week of Ordinary Time and the 4 weeks of Advent.
The kingdom of God that Jesus inaugurated or established is not a kingdom of geographical or historical boundaries. It is not closed or confined to a specialised distinct, qualified group of people – it is open to everyone. Jesus is Universal King.

But what is this kingdom? It is among other things a kingdom of mercy.

One of the great events in life is reconciliation and forgiveness. It is one thing to know the joy of forgiveness and the clearing up of misunderstandings, but there is a certain poignancy and power in being reconciled with someone as they are about to die – TO BE AT PEACE. It is a tremendously sensitive time for all concerned if there is division, conflict or long-standing unresolved grievances or misunderstandings.

Forgiveness – not only seeking it but graciously granting forgiveness - is an important characteristic and quality of anyone wishing to be included in Jesus’ kingdom. It is a gift to be able to forgive and we need God’s help, but it is also an absolutely necessary requirement for entry into Paradise. Even the fact that it is at the eleventh hour, you could say is not too late. I have personally known many situations where a long-term silence between brothers and sisters has been broken, and parties reconciled at a late hour, which has brought indisputable peace and healing and allowed someone to let go and die peacefully as well as healing of memories for those left behind. The sad part is that it might take a terminal illness for people to see the shortness of life and the pettiness sometimes that has allowed hatred or resentment to fester beyond control or reason.

The Good Thief – as he is known, not only recognised in Jesus the Son of God with the authority to forgive, he clearly saw the injustice performed against Jesus, as well as having the humility and honesty of the just sentence and punishment his own sins deserved. Yet he has confidence and trust at the hour of his death in Jesus’ mercy. The Good Thief is in heaven. You could say, strange as it may sound, that he was the first saint! But he was also the first person, crucially, with Mary at the hour of his death, as we pray in every Hail Mary ‘pray for us now and at the hour of our death.’ She was praying for him, because at Calvary she became his mother too.

Let us avail therefore of Jesus’ mercy while we have the opportunity. We are members of His Kingdom only insofar as we seek and readily give forgiveness. Jesus said at the beginning of his public ministry – ‘Blessed are the merciful, they shall obtain mercy.’ If we have ever been present at the death of someone – we have often used the expression afterwards - ‘they died as they lived’; they die in keeping with their values, integrity and beliefs. Jesus is mercy – it is His greatest attribute. Now Jesus proves in deeds that he dies as He lived, and in His last gasping, valuable breaths on earth expresses His one dying wish – His desire to show mercy to those who seek it, and that we should do likewise.

‘Jesus remember me when you come into your kingdom.’

Angels, saints and nations sing
Praised Be Jesus Christ our King
Lord of life earth sky and sea
King of Love on Calvary

33rd Sunday of the year C

Sermon on the 33rd Sunday of the year C

One of my favourite programmes on the television is one known as ‘Reeling in the years’. You may be familiar with it. It amazes me how much I have forgotten or headlines and events I barely understood, now become clear. I look back at the fashions, I remember the hairstyles and the clothes and the popular music.

One of the things that struck me is the number of wars, civil wars, acts of terrorism, assassinations and the like. The other is the large number of natural (as well as man-made disasters). The floods and earthquakes and famines and other natural disasters predicted by Jesus in the Gospel seem to come true as prophesied each year. When the programme is made about 2010, it will surely be remembered for Haiti, for the floods in Pakistan, and Haiti is in the news again.

What are we to make of today’s Gospel with its doom and gloom?

The Lord was prophesying many things that have taken place sonce - the destruction of the Temple; interrogations, betrayals, arrests, trials, martyrdom of Christians down the centuries, even betrayals and family division. a reeling of the years for any deacde and any year in the last 2,000 would throw up these events as well as natural and man-made disaters.

So, why the Gospel passage now, today, anyway? The timing of the Gospel is meant to convey a number of ideas to us:

• That as we approach the end of another year in the Church’s calendar, we realise that all good things do, after all, come to an end! Life is short, we can’t live forever, what is here today is gone tomorrow.

• That as the light fades and the darkness deepens in November; all lights seem to go out, but Christ the Light remains.

• From time to time some Christians are caught up in an apocalyptic frenzy of ‘end times’ – that the end is nigh. Sometime you will see people in Cork carrying billboard/ads saying the end is nigh. In the year 2000, a number of people were afraid of Y2K, and that all the computers would come to a standstill, and that social anarchy and food shortages would result.

• Even in time of St Paul, people ‘downed tools’ in the certain belief that the world was going to end soon. Paul’s advice is firm – stop interfering, go on quietly about your business. They were not be spend their days in idle speculation.

There is another aspect to the times we live in – it is all the more challenging to be a committed Mass-going believing Catholic. It requires a personal commitment to remain faithful. There is so much negativity and cynicism. Some of us at times, even within our own family circle, are questioned about our commitment. There may even be family members who you left behind today at home, who despite your best efforts and encouragement will not be coming to Mass today.

What should be our attitude? None other than the words of Christ: ‘your endurance will win you your lives'.

There are occasions when you may be challenged to stand up for the truth of what we believe in. A conversation, a remark, a kind gesture, a word of encouragement, a simple explanation, in charity and gentleness, can be the difference to somebody’s faith and salvation. We do have an obligation to study our faith, to ask questions of somebody in the know, to read the Catechism, but also to pray for the right words at the right time to convince someone. But most of all our witness by our behavior and by our consistency between what we say and what we do. We must never under-estimate the power of gentle, good example to those who are searching for the answers and the truth.

It is in times of darkness – like the doom and gloom of the present – that the light is needed. We are called to be that light in the darkness to others – and the source of that light is Christ Himself.

All Souls Day

All Souls Day
Commemoration of all the faithful departed

No doubt many of us associate the Holy Souls with the expression we may have heard in a time of pain – ‘offer it up for the Holy Souls’! My mother often said to us often, if we were without money: ‘Pray to the Holy Souls in Purgatory, because that’s where all the bank managers go!’

The doctrine of Purgatory may seem at first glance a rather distant teaching in our minds. It seems a bit remote in our understanding and maybe we question its relevance.

Maybe we can look at it from the following two stories:

First, there is the story of the man who kept going to confession month after month, and kept repeating in confession the exact same sins. After a number of months of repeating himself, he got annoyed with himself and made an audio cassette for the priest and said ‘here Father, are the sins. I will save you the bother of hearing me again and of me repeating them and wasting your time now. Listen to them later and give me absolution and forgiveness now!’

The other story concerns the man who wondered what monks in a monastery do all day. On asking the abbot, his reply was ‘we fall down and we get up again, we fall down and we get up again.’

Most of us can relate to these two stories as they apply to our own moral and spiritual lives. Despite our best efforts we continually fail, and repeat sins, mistakes, compulsions, as if they were addictions. They differ in all of us. – and may perhaps be our temper, gossip, lack of charity in thought, dishonesty, impurity, laziness, and so on. I suspect that most sins committed by regular penitents are sins of weakness rather than malice. It is a consequence of our fallen human nature, of Original Sin. But we must not be discouraged and keep trying our best. These failings keep us humble. Many of the saints had afflictions too.

I imagine that just as there is a patron saint for all of us, there is a patron soul or souls. Purgatory is a place of purification, a place where people are purified of their imperfect love, expressed in imperfect choices or preferences for temporary pleasures that failed to supply happiness sought.

Think of the sins that appear or have appeared more than once in the recent past. There is a soul or souls in Purgatory who had the same difficulty. They persevered in the struggle but, while obviously repentant, did not yet merit heaven at the time of their death. So it may be for us.

But praying to the Holy Souls and for them is not simply devotion, but a spiritual work of mercy. They are helpless but require our assistance and in turn can intercede on our behalf. And moreover, they can identify with our struggles. They can look after our needs here on earth. Let is make ot a resolution to pray for them often this month, and always on Saturdays.

May they rest in peace. Amen.

Solemnity of All Saints

Solemnity of All Saints – 4P,3M,1H

Today’s Solemnity of All Saints kicks off the month of November with a high note. While we are commemorating all the faithful departed tomorrow (All Souls) we are reminded today that heaven is our goal. We remember, in the words of the Eucharistic Prayer, ‘those who have gone before us marked with the sign of faith’. We think of those men and women who were an example to us of faith and virtuous living.

The Gospel today is of the Sermon on the Mount. To recall it, I use the mnemonic 4P,3M, 1H, to remind myself of what you and I are called to be - in God's sight.

The 4 P s are Poverty of spirit, Purity, Peace, Patience (amidst persecution)
The 3 Ms are Meekness, Mournfulness (detachment from the world), and Mercy
1H for Hunger (and thirst) for what is right.

These are not simply states of mind, but the dispositions we should be cultivating in our prayer, as well as attitudes in our daily living, in our conversations, in the performance of our daily duties, of concrete actions and things to strive for, of our nightly examination of conscience.

We are called to be saints, i.e., the best version of ourselves pleasing to God. We are challenged to imitate them in their virtues but with God's help and their example, our lives will change when our habits change. The 8 Beatitudes together make a Programme of Holiness and wholeness.

31st Sunday of the Year C

The story of Zacchaeus

The story of Zacchaeus, so beloved by children, is our Gospel today. The city of Jericho is ideally located as a great commercial centre, and therefore like tax collectors everywhere, Zacchaeus ‘followed the money’. In so doing his heart was corrupted and hardened by greed and extortion. He became isolated, feared, despised and ridiculed. He had cut himself off from God through his covetousness and he ruptured his loving relations with others. He was left to his own devices. Yet like the Prodigal Son, he came to his senses. There was a spark of ingenuity and curiosity, a faint flicker of life and hope in his heart. And so, probably unassisted he climbed the sycamore tree to see Jesus for himself.

It is an extraordinary moment of grace and conversion. Out of the thousands of Jews making their way to the Jewish festival of Passover at which 2-3 million would attend, it is all the more extraordinary that this individual encounter could happen. Jesus picked him out of the crowd. He is probably the least likely person in all of Jericho to be converted, as he is described not just as any tax-collector, but as the chief tax-collector, skimming off the profits from the already ill-gotten gains of his underlings.

Just as Jericho was at a crossroads geographically, Zacchaeus is at a crossroads in his life.

The encounter with Jesus not only restores him to God, but he makes just and generous reparation for his sins and resolves to be charitable and lavish to the poor with his money on an ongoing basis.

For most of us conversion is not just a once-off event in our lives where suddenly ‘we saw the light’ but an ongoing struggle to battle the same sins and faults which we have to repeat to our confessor. Why? Because I suspect, we have not uprooted the source of all our personal sins, which is our pride. We need however to purge it not simply by combating it head on, but by practising in real ways each day preferential love for the Lord Jesus. Zacchaeus’ sin of avarice, or love of money, was supplanted by a higher love, that of love for Christ. When our love grows cold, or lukewarm, it is sadly the opportunity for the old weeds to re-emerge. We need to re-kindle our love through ongoing repentance, and intense prayer in which the Holy Spirit can freely act within us, directing our thoughts, words, actions and particularly our desires, once more to the Lord. It is in attentive, persevering good habits of prayer that we realise that we can re-find the Lord again and again.

Finally, as Zacchaeus’ conversion came about in his decision to ascend a tree in Jericho, we realise that the Lord mounted the Tree of Life in Jerusalem for Zacchaeus’ salvation and ours too.

It is in recognising what the Lord has done, He who had ‘no greater love’ for us, that in deep prayer before Him on the Cross our hearts and lives meet and the moment of encounter can happen for us too.

The effects of this graced personal encounter with the Lord Jesus can endure and bear fruit in our lives by repentance and by our changes in attitude in the exercise of justice towards all.

PS The city of Jericho is not far from the photo at the top of this page!

Mission Sunday

Mission Sunday 2010

We pray today for the approximately 2000 Irish missionaries around the world today.
If you have heard any good news lately, then you want to spread it around – someone expecting a child for the first time, the birth of a first grandchild, the engagement of someone, the announcement of a wedding date, a successful job interview, the appointment to a permanent job, and so on. Like the story of the Chilean miners recently, the world was gripped by this good news story, a break from the recession, job losses, spiraling debt, corruption in high places which we are so tired of hearing about. The good news distracts us, cheers us and uplifts us.

Good news we hear too can concern love. When someone who is in love – you can see it in their eyes, their face lights up at the mention of the name of the loved one. The attitude of someone in love changes their perspective, their outlook on life, their attitude and their mood. They have found life’s purpose and meaning.
Today is about both of these – Good News and Love. Spreading the knowledge and love of God is the call of mission. Missionaries not only spread the Good News of Jesus, but the joy that this knowledge brings. Jesus is a Person who makes a difference in the life of the missionary and the witness of their love sets others on fire to know what their ‘secret’ is.

Going back to the rescue of the Chilean miners for a moment, we see their rescue, their joy, their tears of gratitude at being delivered form the pit. This is the joy we should feel at the rescue that we have received from the darkness of sin and evil. Christ is our rescuer.

The pity is that so many of us are indifferent to this and that so many more are ignorant of it.

The Gospel teaches us today of the urgency of the message of salvation. Missionaries are reminded that it is God’s work they are carrying out; that God will provide; that lightness of foot is better accomplished by detachment, and more terrain can be covered in a shorter time. A greater impact can be made by these ‘terms of employment’. We must all strive not to be unduly distracted by worry, and anxiety over worldly goods that may harden our hearts and may get in the way of effective preaching of the saving message of the Gospel.

We are called to mission, but we cannot give what we do not have. Do WE believe that Jesus Christ is worth knowing and loving? That it is worth the effort to try to get to know Him better and to love Him and to fall in love with Him? That life is all the more worth living because we are loved by Him? And that message is likewise to be passed on to all people to hear?

Finally while we may never go on the missions ourselves we are called a great mission in life of making Jesus better known and loved among our own aswell.

29th Sunday of the Year C

The theme of the readings this Sunday is quite clear - pray without ceasing.

Moses is the model of intercessory prayer in the Old Testament, and indeed, his arms outstretched in the Reading today pre-figure the intercessory prayer of Christ on our behalf on the Cross.

We are to pray persistently, at all times, in the hope that we will be heard. The plight of the Chilean miners prompted many people throughout the world to pray that they be brought to safety. They themselves never lost hope, and they did not forget to thank God as they reached the light of day. They all wore T-shirts with the phrase 'Gracias, Senhor', 'Thank the Lord' and with the name 'Jesus' on their sleeves. Their persevering prayer was heard.

We are left with the mystery and the question of God demanding that we pray. Why should we, if God knows what we want and what we need?

St Augustine, writing in the fifth century, tackles this question, in 'A letter to Proba':

We pray to one who, as the Lord himself tells us, knows what we need before we ask for it. Why he should ask us to pray, when he knows what we need before we ask him, may perplex us if we do not realise that our Lord and God does not want to know what we want (for he cannot fail to know it), but wants us rather to exercise our desire through our prayers, so that we may be able to receive what he is preparing to give us. His gift is very great indeed, but our capacity is too small and limited to receive it. That is why we are told: Enlarge your desires, do not bear the yoke with unbelievers.
The deeper our faith, the stronger our hope, the greater our desire, the larger will be our capacity to receive that gift, which is very great indeed.... The more fervent the desire, the more worthy will be its fruit. When the Apostle tells us: Pray without ceasing, he means this: Desire unceasingly that life of happiness which is nothing if not eternal, and ask it of him who alone is able to give it.

28th Sunday of the Year C

The grateful Samaritan leper

One in ten – is a statistic we hear from time to time. It is a bad stat today that only one in 10 people cured by Jesus took the trouble to thank Him. Does it point to my lack of gratitude? Am I grateful only 1 time in 10? For all that I have received, how often have I thanked Him? Am I more usually asking for more and more of God, more conscious of what I lack without acknowledging what I have or what I have been given? Have I taken the time to reflect on answered prayer and indeed on unanswered prayer when maybe what I was I looking for and didn’t get was in not in my best interest to receive in the first place? I am not much of a Country and Western music fan but one of the more intriguing titles of a song that I heard is ‘I thank God for unanswered prayer!

The story is obviously about gratitude – for what? A cure from leprosy, the great social stigma of the time, a contagious disease that placed one on the margins of society. We note in the Gospel that it is on the edge of town, not the centre, as the lepers were literally marginalised. There was a false notion among the Jews that leprosy was punishment for personal sin committed by oneself or a member of the family and that it was somehow deserving. At the same time there was sometimes the possibility of a cure, of a remedy, hence there was a stipulation in the Jewish Law that a healed person would go to the priest with a sin offering of a lamb or a kid, and the blood sprinkled on them as an external ritual of their cleansing. Then they would be re-admitted to Jewish society and worship. Life would be normal again, they were truly free.

The Samaritan was part of the crowd, but not lost in it.

He was able to come alone to Jesus. I think that this is the crucial part of the story – not only was he grateful and praising God at the top of his voice for all to hear, he had the courage of his convictions to stand apart from the crowd and to go it alone, no matter what the others may have thought of him.

The Gospel says something more. The healed leper stood apart and had a personal encounter and relationship with the Lord. I think that each of us can learn from this. At Sunday Mass we are part of the congregation reciting the prayers and learned responses of the Mass, but at Communion time we have the opportunity to make the decision to come before the Lord individually in person in Holy Communion. This is the highlight of our day, and our week, to have this intimate meeting, conversation, and encounter with Christ the healer in Holy Communion. Do we adequately reflect on what is happening and what I can do to open myself to in my reception of Jesus in the Host? Do I receive out of habit and routine, or is the most important thing to happen to me today – when I can be alone in my thoughts and prayers, in praise, adoration and thanksgiving at this marvelous encounter and meeting with my Lord in intimacy, telling Him exactly what is going on in my life, unknown perhaps to others? When I can tell my Lord what my worries, concerns, anxieties are, when I can tell Him face to face that I love Him and that I am sorry for the times I have let Him down. There is no part of my life that doesn’t concern Him. When I can open myself to hear His words of comfort, healing, strengthening me and re-assuring me that He is always there for me, that He will never abandon me, and that He is with me always. Then I can ask Him what it is He wants of me and how I can best please Him in the carrying out of my duties ,and where I may have blind spots in my life in failings and faults I have not admitted to myself, and where I may be neglectful regarding others’ welfare. Week by week, day by day, the Lord can change me and open my heart to love Him and my neighbor more. I know people who go to Mass every day, and who tell me that a day without Mass is not the same for them. Somehow the day is incomplete without this life-giving encounter. In Communion Jesus nourishes me and gives me strength to continue and to persevere and to face whatever lies ahead. These are the assurances the Lord gives me if I am prepared to make the Mass and the reception of Holy Communion not simply as habit, or something to tick off the checklist of my day or week, but the most important thing that can happen to me. The early Christians persecuted for their faith, found the Eucharist the source of their strength.'Only for the Sunday we would have been lost'.

The Lord said to the healed man – ‘go your way’, at Mass we hear ‘Go the Mass in ended’ – we must return to our business, our lives, our journeys, but the Lord is at our side. The healed man’s life was changed utterly because he made the effort to draw closer in a relationship of love to Jesus – let us draw closer to him in loving prayer and communion; let us tell Him that we love Him – to one of the saints He said – ‘tell me that you love me, that is what I most long to hear.'

HOLY LAND - More homilies


We are delighted to be here where the words ‘Hail, full of Grace the Lord is with you’ were uttered by the Angel Gabriel. How many millions, if not billions of times have these words been repeated and echoed by countless generation of Catholics throughout the world.

After the Crucifixion this is the scene most commemorated in sacred art.

It is hard to visualise but this was street level, 2,000 years ago. This scene of the Annunciation is etched into our minds – recited and commemorated in the Angelus Prayer which we recite at 6.00 am (12.00 noon & 6.00 pm)
This event is commemorated in every Hail Mary, and the 1st Joyful Mystery of the Holy Rosary. Behold the handmaiden of the Lord, be it done to me according to your wish, or 'Thy will be done.'
‘How this can come about’, not why, Mary asked. The angel assured her and us: ‘Nothing is impossible to God.’

We have the benefit of hindsight vision, but for Mary this was a crucial first step in faith not knowing what lay ahead. She would never see the angel again. Yet the fact and proof of the virginal conception of Jesus in her would soon become evident.
A good way to pray with the Gospels is to highlight or underline the promises of Christ and to follow it with the prayer to Mary: ‘Pray for us that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.’

‘Blessed is she who believed that the promises made her by the Lord would be fulfilled ‘(Elizabeth at Ein Karem)

This is like ‘once upon a time’ – when the appointed time came. Each of us has a vocation via baptism. We need to ask Mary to give us Faith, Hope and Trust, not knowing what lies ahead, to ask what is God’s will for me?
Our angel assures us: 'Do not be afraid. With God, all things are possible.'


“Master, it is wonderful for us to be here”

We see and have seen the beauty and grandeur of this country. But in particular, right through the Sacred Scriptures, the hills and mountains have been the point of encounter where God reveals Himself in a splendid, glorious way to His people. To Moses at Mount Sinai, to Elijah at Mount Carmel, and the Temple at Mount Sion which of course points to the hill of Calvary.

Moses and Elijah were here. God gave Moses the 10 Commandments of the Jews. Elijah was one of the greatest prophets of the Old Testament. Their teaching and their mission, the intercession of Moses, the prayer of Elijah calling down fire from heaven - are fulfilled in Christ. Christ is about to accomplish is passion – his passing from death to life for us.

While Moses and Elijah represent the Old Testament, Peter, James and John represent the New.

There are a number of threes – The Trinity, represented by the Father’s voice, the Son, and the Spirit in the mist; Moses Elijah and Christ; Peter James and John

We add our voices to Peter, because we are lost for words.

We are admonished by the Father “Listen to Him”.
The words of Jesus in the Gospel (of Luke) are to be listened to and heeded.

The struggle with sleep is also our struggle with vigilance, temptation and lethargy, as at Gethsemane. But here the disciples stayed awake and witnessed Christ in glory - the reward for ‘staying awake will be ours too.


What we have seen and heard.
A number of years ago, I was visiting Fr. Patrick in Belfast and with another friend went to a place called the Odyssey with a cinema, bowling alley shops, hotels and science museum called W5 means, five ways we ask question, W being the first letter of each of 5
Where Christ walked – his first steps in Nazareth, his steps in the wilderness, Galilee, the Way of the Cross. The locations have come alive in our minds, St. Peter at Gallicantu.
When this happened
What he did – with the stone water jars, - in the Sea of Galilee, etc
Who Christ is –what kind of person.
But a visit to the Holy Land is so much more than a closer look at a biography – rather we are called to relate with Him – Who He is and more importantly for each of us personally ‘Who He is for me’.
We have heard the invitation to come.
Now we must go tell everyone the Good News – to come see for themselves.



Thursday, September 16th

‘Let us go the Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us.’

These words uttered in joy and amazement on the Shepherd’s Field not far from here, have been repeated and followed down the centuries by countless pilgrims. Isn’t it astonishing and wonderful that we too have heard and can say “Let us go to Bethlehem!” Did we ever think, any of us, that we would see this day and come to the precise spot where Jesus was seen with human eyes for the first time?

This is appropriately our first Mass of the week – where it all began – as we begin our pilgrimage of faith and joy. Jesus, Mary and Joseph were here.

The joy of Mary and Joseph was now increased. We must remember that we look back with hindsight, but Mary and Joseph had told no-one at this point that Jesus was born and now visitors came in and told them about angels singing in the skies! Everyone who heard it was astonished! (as we read in the psalm today - ‘The skies proclaim his justice’ and ‘light Shines forth’)

The shepherds were the poor (illiterate) unskilled, lowly, humble and looked down on, yet those on the margins were the first to hear this great news! The shepherds were to come to the Shepherd of all mankind, and of all of us, as he would later refer to Himself, as the Good Shepherd and ‘those who belong to me listen to my voice.’ The shepherds of the lambs see the Lamb of God.
Mary’s heart not only swelled with love and pride but joy at what was being said of her son.

We like Mary are called to ‘treasure all these things and hold them in our hearts.
Am I in need of re-assurance, hope, joy, fulfilment – that God will bring and fulfil his promises?
Am I called to spread the Good News?
Am I called to lift up the broken-hearted? To reassure others? To be a light to others?
Am I good at meditating, pondering, reassuring the word of God in my heart?
Let us glorify and praise God!

Generations have come and more will follow to come to this hallowed spot. We celebrate Christmas in a little over three months time – but to have come here is to realise that ‘Emmanuel’ born for us means ‘God is with us’. On Christmas day all of us will remember these moments! “God is with us”. God is with you. God is with me.
As we leave this beautiful joyful tranquil spot, let us ponder, treasure, glorify and praise God for what we have seen and heard. Let us repeat to others what we have been told about Him.

Let us let others know the joy we celebrate and possess. That God is with us, with me, with them – in joy and sorrow, in good times and bad.


It is appropriate to be here ona saturday. This week in the Holy land,we are sharing unique once in a lifetime experiences. we have seen the places associated with the following mysteries of the Rosary
• Visitation
• Institution of the Eucharist
• Gethsemane
• Scourging
• Crowning
• Carrying of the Cross
• Crucifixion
• Resurrection
• Ascension
• Coming of the Holy Spirit
• Assumption
We can visualise and it helps to meditate better on the Rosary, stations, Gospel readings.

The mysteries of the rosary parallel the mysteries in our own lives.
We are moved by
- Joyful mysteries (of Life)
- Birthdays, Christenings, meetings (reunions)
- Sorrowful Mysteries (of life)
- Anguish, suffering, betrayal by friends, abandonment, loss, suffering, physical pain, separation condemnation, (relief from this), taunts mourning, watching loved ones die.

- Luminous Mysteries- God gives us illumination
- This week we undergo illumination, enlightenment, conversion, change, guidance, direction in our vocation, and meaning.

but we must believe that the Glorious mysteries are NO LESS REAL.
- Glorious Mysteries (in faith)
- Resurrection
- Ascension
- Coming of the Holy Spirit
- Assumption
- Coronation

Where Mary has gone, we hope to follow.

26th Sunday of the Year C


Every day, countless times without even giving it a second thought, we come across the letters WWW or world wide web. We see it on advertising, hear it on the radio, see it on trucks and lorries and license plates in traffic, and it has become an indispensable aspect of communications, finance, networking with friends and how we do business.

Today’s Gospel is also about WWW, but of a different kind altogether. The parable of the rich man and Lazarus provides us with a startling unjust situation and one that provokes our consciences. The three W words being referred to are Wealth, Waste and Want. These 3 W words are always with us.

It may be hard to believe but we are a wealthy country – overall. We have a ranking of 15th at least in world rank, but I am not really sure how the system works. We have our share of billionaires and millionaires. The question is what we do with our wealth, how to invest it properly and provide for loved ones. The danger for all of us is how we readily rationalize our spending on luxuries and comforts without distinguishing needs from wants.

The second W word is waste, and this is a sin of wealthy countries. But we all need to watch out for this one as individuals too – reckless, extravagant spending without moral reference has got our country into a heap of trouble. But even on a domestic scale we are told that 25% of our perishables end up in the bin. We can remedy that by better management in the kitchen. In fairness many businesses admirably do provide for the poor with their leftover food.
Waste has led to the third W of want.

The parable is an indictment of global proportions – of the wealthy First World’s crazy spiral of waste on arms and saving financial institutions and the spectacle of the poverty of millions searching through bins in alleyways. The parable reminds us that there is a final reckoning. We are to pay for the measure of our neglect, indifference and carelessness.

When making my tax return what % goes to charities – can I increase it?
Have I made my will and if so have I consulted someone close to me to ensure it is equitable?

There is accountability for our stewardship of the world’s resources and our property which we can’t take with us anyway.

Finally, we can counter the three Ws with the 3 As – or Triple A, in the spirit of the Serenity Prayer.

Lord, grant me a sense of Appreciation for the things of this world that I have,
A sense of Awareness of the things of the world that others lack
And a real spirit of Almsgiving to help make up the difference.

24th Sunday of Ordinary Time Year C

The lost coin, the lost sheep, the lost son

We have had this parable in Lent is it may be familiar to us that we have heard it recently.

We all have family secrets that we are slow to tell outside of the family. A child born out of wedlock, abuse of one kind or another, a difficult marriage, a mental breakdown, mental illness, a child gone astray in the big city, in trouble, an addiction, a gambling problem, bankruptcy. If you have ever used expressions like ‘don’t let the neighbours know; ‘ don’t let the word get out around the parish’; ‘we’ll be disgraced’ you know what I mean. Up to recently at least as a society we did not do well in coping with a member of a family who got into trouble. We exported the trouble, found an institution at home or a discrete relative abroad, pretending it didn’t exist, or put another slant on it why a family member wasn’t coming home for Christmas. These are the skeletons in the closet.

A wise old priest once said to me ‘you never really know what’s going behind closed curtains.’

When we think of the fictional family in the parable – a father and two sons – we don’t know what the neighbours knew, but we do know that word got about so that the older brother got wind of how the brother was carrying on with women abroad.
There is no mention of a mother and so the family seems a bit incomplete and you can only speculate what things would have been like had a mother’s influence been included in the story.

It was an insult to a father for a son to ask his share of the will before the father’s death – as the younger son he was entitled to a 1/3 share, which he then squandered.

The older son would be entitled to a 2/3 share – the lion’s share – and yet he was resentful.

Resentment – literally means ‘to feel again’. I recently heard it defined as ‘poison you drink in the hope someone else dies from it’.

The resentful angry older brother who never put a foot wrong feels hard done by at the soft treatment the idle son is getting. If you are an older brother or sister you feel aggrieved at lenient treatment of a younger sibling. You think ‘I never got away with that’ or that ‘they are getting off lightly!’It seems unfair, and yet the Father says effectively – ‘let us count our blessings’. It does not seem a fair or satisfactory answer and we are puzzled.

Do we identify therefore with the joy of God’s forgiveness or with the older son’s hardness at the spoilt younger brother’s ‘getting away with it’ as a seeming double standard?

The lesson for each of us is realising how much we all are in need of God’s forgiveness. We have all been forgiven, many times. Let us rejoice that God wants to forgive wrong-doers and that he gives everyone the chance to turn back to him in good time to be home for dinner - the banquet of heaven - which awaits.

We are called to model ourselves on the father in the story and whole-heartedly forgive injuries and wrongs.LET US REALISE THAT WE WILL BE FORGIVEN IN THE MEASURE THAT WE ARE FORGIVING.

23rd Sunday of the Year

23rd Sunday of the Year

We have all heard the expression ‘terms and conditions apply’. What seems like a fantastic offer has hidden charges and costs, but we are drawn by large loud lettering. I am always on the look-out for bargains and offers, but am afraid that I can be sucked occasionally into buying what I don’t really need after all. I console myself with the thought ‘At least I saved money.’

Whenever we made a purchase growing up, our parents would always ask whether, and expect us to tell them, that there was an offer, a discount, a deal, a sale. ‘How much did you save?’ The thought of paying full price was foreign to us.
Every January Mum and Dad would head up to Dublin for the annual outing – where and why? The January sales! You can get a lot of 75% off deals in January for the following Christmas. And yes, I have loyalty cards, fobs and vouchers. I am enticed by sale signs, buy one get one free – things I hadn’t planned on buying at all!
When the first grandchild was born we wondered who or which side she would take after. To our relief the first full word she could read unassisted at 4 was a sign in a shop as they were out driving. She shouted out, look Mom, that sign says ‘FREE’. Yes, she’s a McCarthy.


Jesus offers us something today. There are no hidden costs, extras, surcharges, taxes, or penalties or interest for late payments. To all, it not an exclusive offer, it is open to everyone – the possibility of being a follower which will take us to eternal life. The cost is clearly laid out – carrying the cross.
Jesus uses very challenging and seemingly offensive language. To follow him means to hate? That can’t be right! Hate my family?

The term to hate is really about 'preference’. We must prefer to follow Jesus, especially if there is a conflict of interest. It means family ties, ties of flesh and blood, commitments must all be seen in the light of Jesus. It means proper planning and priorities. Jesus uses the examples of a foolish person who builds without proper planning, or a wise king who sues for peace when he knows he is outnumbered. We might have heard of the expression ‘fail to prepare, prepare to fail’!

There was once a man who went to a psychiatrist. His life was a mess, his business, his finances, his marriage were coming apart at the seams. There did not seem to be enough hours in the day to accomplish everything he planned and keep everything afloat, and nobody was happy with him, and he was deeply unhappy himself. The psychiatrist told him to make a list of all the things that were to be done, and then re-write the list in the order of priority - from the essential and the immediate e.g., his married life, his children, his job, money – to put them in the right order of importance – to things that could wait. The psychiatrist would not take money right then but told the man send me a check to the value of how much this advice is worth to you. The man’s life had totally changed and he sent a check for $25,000 six months later!

I must put my life in order – God’s will first in all things that I plan in my life in my family life, married life, career, finances, spending, relations in the community, my time.

Finally to sum up, the great offer, the great bargain as it were is the offer of eternal life in exchange for the Cross. Christ says, carry the cross, and ‘Come after me’. Jesus uses the word ‘COME’ which can mean ‘Christ offers me everything’ or ‘Christ offers me eternity!’

22nd Sunday of the Year


Today's readings are all about the importance of humility. Here is a prayer on humility I find challenging.

O Jesus! meek and humble of heart, hear me.
From the desire of being esteemed, deliver me, O Jesus.
From the desire of being loved,
From the desire of being extolled,
From the desire of being honored,
From the desire of being praised,
From the desire of being preferred to others,
From the desire of being consulted,
From the desire of being approved,
From the fear of being humiliated, deliver me, O Jesus.
From the fear of being despised,
From the fear of suffering rebukes,
From the fear of being calumniated,
From the fear of being forgotten,
From the fear of being ridiculed,
From the fear of being wronged,
From the fear of being suspected,
That others may be loved more than I, O Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be esteemed more than I,
That, in the opinion of the world, others may, increase and I may decrease,
That others may be chosen and I set aside,
That others may be praised and I unnoticed,
That others may be preferred to me in everything,
That others may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should,
O Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

This is a tricky prayer, isn’t it? It was composed by Cardinal Merry del Val who was secretary to Pope St Pius X in the early twentieth century. We read in 'Pope Bendeict XV, The Unknown Pope' by John F Pollard (Geoffrey Chapman, London, 2000) that the poor cardinal was given an opportunity to pray this again to himself after the conclave failed to elect him and elected the cardinal sitting next to him in the conclave (Cardinal Della Chiesa) as Pope Benedict XV instead of him to succeed Pope Pius X.

The hardest food to eat is humble pie!

This opposing virtue to pride is a tricky thing to grasp and possess. Humility comes from the Latin word ‘humus’ meaning earth. So we should be humble indeed as the ground we walk on, but we balk at the idea of people walking all over us! Humus (sorry, biology lesson alert) is an essential part of any fertile soil if anything is to grow. It consists of dead organic matter, and a dark soil is rich in it. Farmers and gardeners love to see it. So if we stretch the metaphor a bit, it provides fertile ground for the seed. And how often is the Kingdom of God compared to a seed?

Humility does not sit well with our modern culture that celebrates high achievement, success, getting ahead, winning, and the highest points for college. It applauds the elite. We don’t want to lose out. We want to be ‘up there in lights’ too. There seems to be, in the words of the Queen song, ‘no time for losers’.

Our humility however is a necessary requirement if the Kingdom of God is to grow within. The problem is that humility has all sorts of negative connotations that it is a word we shy away from and prefer modesty instead.Humility can be misunderstood as self-abnegation, self-abasement almost to the point of loss of identity. It seems to conjure up images of submission, slavery, loss of personality and even loss of one’s dignity. By this standard it frowns on self-confidence.

Humility is the recognition of the unvarnished truth about oneself. It is really about an accurate self-portrayal. I shy away from the phrase 'a healthy self-image' because really we are created in the likeness of God. We are not to ‘image’ ourselves!

It is at once the recognition of our strengths and our limitations. It is knowing our need for God’s grace and the duty to apply God-given talents.

There are plenty of people to place us in a box and put us down to discourage us, in order to make themselves appear the stronger and the better. God knows that we are good at doing it to others in case they should rise above their station. It is a peculiarly Irish inclination to scoff and to mock others in case they should succeed or get ahead! Our problem therefore is more often lack of self-confidence rather than an overflow of it.

Humility is not doing nothing. It does not excuse me from playing my part in building up God’s kingdom. But apart from knowing my role, I must more especially know my place! We must avoid excuses for doing nothing because others seem more skilled and qualified. We must avoid unfair comparisons with others that lead us to the conclusion that we are of less worth than others.

Humility is the key to God’s favour. There are plenty of Bible quotes to back this up:

Isaiah 5:21 -Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes and clever in their own sight.
Proverbs11:2 - When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom

Micah6:8 -He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.

God says that ‘I am drawn to the humble and contrite man who trembles at my word’, (Isaiah 66:2)

‘The Lord has looked upon his lowly handmaid…the Lord exalts the lowly’ (Mary’s Magnificat: Luke 1:52)

Humility is imitation of Christ himself: ‘Christ was humbler yet, even to accepting death, death on a cross’ (St Paul: Philippians 2:8).

I prefer the term ‘surrender’ – to conform my will to God’s. I must acknowledge the talents - be they 1 , 2 or 5, that He has given me, and not worry about who has less or more. I think that the Lord is hitting at the peculiar variation of pride which is vanity. We may desire more notice, attention, notoriety, fame, and being the centre of attention. We displace God from his throne and crown ourselves in the process. It may cut at the heart of my egoism that others gain more influence; I feel aggrieved perhaps that I may be losing out if I am competing for another’s attention or affection and fail to gain either, and lose out to another competitor. I must submit and accept humiliation in these situations, because God looks for a humble heart. People may be oblivious to our hurt pride but it is a painful and necessary lesson. We need to grow up.

If I have humility then I recognize that I am not the centre of the universe, and that life is not about me. I am prepared to acknowledge the achievements and good in others and I know that I am not and cannot be first in everything, the best at everything I do and am not the centre of attention. Most importantly I recognize and allow for what God wants to do in me and through me. All the glory belongs to Him.

To sum up, the Lord wants us to realise that humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.

Fatima Sermons


The three Rs
On our pilgrimage we have reflected on the importance of our baptism by renewing our baptismal promises; we have reflected on our Lady’s Assumption, which is our destiny too, ultimately; we have celebrated the Sacrament of Reconciliation; and today we reflect on ‘vocation’.

I recently had the rare privilege of baptizing one of my nieces. Strange as it may sound, not only is she my niece, but in baptizing her she became my sister!
St Paul in his letter to the Corinthians reminds us that baptism in Christ removes all ethnic, racial and social distinction – we are all one in Christ and equal in dignity. We become one family as adopted sons and daughters of God the Father and we become BASIC = Brothers and Sisters in Christ.

This sense of our unique value, dignity and worth is something we need to reflect on and a pilgrimage allows us time out to do so. We should allow no-one trample on our dignity. There are times when we are made feel worthless, undervalued and irrelevant. We may feel these things readily anyway, but others are quite willing to put us down there. We may struggle for a long time with confidence and self-esteem, but only in Christ can we begin to feel or experience either.

We need to remind ourselves that we are irreplaceable, unique individuals, are people of worth who are unconditionally loved by God. We have to tap into that well of love which is the Holy Spirit; and we tap into this great reservoir by prayer.

It is only when we have made this decisive step that something strange and unexpected happens, slowly but surely – we recognise that indeed we are all alike in this respect. If God has created me to know love Him and serve Him in this life then He has created others – indeed everyone to share in this common calling. Indeed I must therefore recognize this value dignity and worth of everyone around me (even if they are unaware of this fact for themselves).

We are in baptism all members of one body, mutually dependent on each other. No part of this Body is insignificant. To paraphrase Pope Benedict: ‘each of us is willed by God, each of us is loved by Him, each one of us is necessary.’

If you injure one part of your body through a cut, a bruise, a break, we often say ‘I injured myself’. Your ‘self’ has nothing to do with it, you could argue, but it is true! When a part of the body is injured, the rest of the body compensates and comes to the rescue of the body to help out. Indeed invisibly the immune system and circulatory system sends nutrients, chemical pain killers etc to the injury, and drains away the waste and dirt. So it is that the members of the Body of Christ bring healing and reparation (repair) in Christ.

This forms the basis of why Our Lady came to Fatima. She asked the children, and asked the world through them, to convert Russia, and world peace. She could have gone to Russia, but instead was sent by God when to another part of the Body of Christ – Portugal – to ask the children and us to convert Russia through our prayer, penance and personal reform. In this way, the Body of Christ is helped and repaired and healed.

One final point – we all share in a common mission, and in the Spirit have different gifts and callings. The disciples are sent from place to place to spread the Good News of the Kingdom; others through the generous support and hospitality support that one mission.

Maybe three ‘R’ words can help to sum up what I have been saying:
My we Rejoice in our dignity;
May we Recognise the dignity of others;
May we Respond to God’s will and call to build up His Body, the Church.



Christ with us on the way

The theme of our pilgrimage is Christ be beside me. This is not merely a wish, prayer or a desire; it is also a reality.

I remember teaching Leaving Cert boys about the heart, a topic they liked because they could carry out a dissection! Each year they would express their disappointment and their surprise that the heart was not a Valentine shape! But one boy remarked that ‘it is like there’s a piece missing!’

That comment has remained with me all these years. He was right; there is a piece missing. The human heart was made to love and to be loved. We are not filled or fulfilled until we have learned the meaning of love and that we are loved in return.
It is a great blessing to find a friend, a faithful person who we can confide in, trust, depend upon, who accepts us, who listens, is compassionate, someone who you can laugh or cry with.

We can rely on a friend, and they can rely on us. It is mutual. Friends spend time together, share fears, worries and anxieties, in an atmosphere of trust and loving concern.

It will be different for all of us: for those who are called to marriage, this friendship is exclusively spousal, for priests and religious it is friendship with Christ; for single people it is friendships. But often we make friends outside of immediate family.

Yet whatever friendship we have, is only a shadow (like the hymn) of the friendship Christ wants to share with us. That friendly relationship is called prayer, or a prayer-life.

We can go further. Sometimes we need to listen and reflect on what a friend may be advising us. There may be friendly, helpful, careful correction. We need also their second opinion on certain matters. This is where we can apply these rules of friendship to the Gospel. Christ our companion and friend who walks with us wants us to listen to His words and teachings on the Gospel.

The leper rejoiced and became a disciple at the feet of Jesus, like Mary and the disciples at his feet. The ten lepers were healed but only one became a true follower. Because he was grateful, he drew closer.

Of course love is two-way. It is not about receiving love but loving generously, prepared to give time and make sacrifices.

It is up to each one of us to develop and cultivate this relationship with Christ. It is a personal decision we have to make on our own. One day we shall meet Christ face to face, alone. We need to be comfortable with that fact.

We need to close the distances that may have arisen from time to time in our relationship with Christ. Like the many encounters in the Gospels Christ waits for an opportunity, an opening.

Pope John Paul II used one phrase quite often, from Vatican II, that ‘Christ fully reveals man to himself’. We think of the woman at the well or the rich young man, who Christ called and challenged and who knew their inner hearts. Our encounter with Christ may not be as challenging or as dramatic, but it needs to happen. Christ knows us but he can also help us to see us as we really are. Christ invites His followers – us - to ‘come’. That word COME can be an acronym for the words ‘Christ offers me everything’ or 'Christ offers me eternity’.

Christ is there for us. He is on the road. We think of the Footprints passage that reminds us of the one set of footprints for the difficult times Christ carried us. He has always been there for us even if we have not been aware of it or if we have ignored Him. He is with us right now, and there is no longer any reason to be afraid, because He is constant – He will be there in whatever lies ahead.

‘Christ yesterday, today and forever.’


Christ nourishes us

How often do we meet a friend for coffee, lunch or dinner? The food or the places are considerations but only because we want to treat our friend or find a place where we can comfortably talk. Sometimes we deliberately choose a place where we can have a more private conversation. In recent years cafes have enjoyed great popularity as places to meet.

This year the Church celebrates the Year of St Luke – the Gospel according to Luke is read most Sundays of this year. One of the things we notice in Luke is Jesus’ willingness to share a meal with everyone! There are at least 12 occasions where Jesus is sharing a meal – Simon’s mother –in-law’s house; at the house of sinners and tax collectors’; twice at the homes of Pharisees; with Martha and Mary; the multiplication of loaves and fish; with the women disciples who provided hospitality and support; at the home of Zacchaeus; at the Passover; at Emmaus; and even eating grilled fish after the Resurrection. Clearly sharing a meal provides opportunities to practice hospitality, and generosity as well as developing friendships and getting to know one another a bit better. Jesus also used these occasions for divine teaching.

It is worth noting that the word ‘companion’ comes from the words ‘ cum panis’ – the Latin for ‘breaking bread with’. We eat with a companion. [We also drink together and ‘drink to something’ as befits the occasion.]

Jesus taught us to pray for our daily bread which of course includes the Bread of Life.
There are perhaps six ways of looking at the Mass
(1) Communion – intimacy – not only are we spending time with him over a banquet - He is the source of nourishment. This sacred banquet of the mass or the Eucharist is where we are nourished at the table of the Word and the table of the Eucharist. There are two courses, as it were! We are not only fed, but we are nourished and sustained. We are eating the right things! We are fed by Christ’s Body and Blood, by the Host himself! We are intimate with Him, there is a oneness in Holy Communion, which only makes sense when we are reconciled with Him.
(2) Remembrance gift- just as we have keepsakes and mementoes in our homes, this parting gift of Christ is Himself in the Eucharist.
(3) Commemoration -We are not only commemorating, restoring or sealing our friendship we are commemorating and re-presenting the great rescue of our Redemption. He said ‘do this in remembrance of me.’
(4) Proclamation – this is our emancipation proclamation – we are proclaiming the death of the Lord’ every time we celebrate Mass. We also want it to be known that He is risen. It is ‘the mystery of our faith.’
(5) Pledge – it is a promise of what will be and what that our friendship will last forever. As we think of the three shepherd children united once more in heaven, we think of the unity Christ promises us all in everlasting life. The Mass is the promise of immortality. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood HAS eternal life ad I will raise them up on the last day.
(6) Mission - As we are strengthened and renewed so we are called to go forth and continue the mission of evangelization and example, of charity. To ‘love one another’.

21st Sunday of the Year

The narrow door

In a monastery in Alcobaca, Portugal there is a door that separates the dining-hall or refectory from the rest of the building. Monks in the Middle Ages had to enter through a single narrow passage. If any monk was too plump, he had to fast until he fit through. It is a memorable sight and tourists in this now disused monastery are invited to give it a try!

Jesus uses the imagery of a narrow door today. He answers the question ‘how many will be saved?’ with ‘how’ we are saved.

‘Try your best to enter by the narrow door.’ Admission to heaven like admission to anything has a cost. We are familiar with the need for appropriate dress or qualifications to enter many things. Certain qualities are necessary for membership of any club; admission or access can be denied; knowing the owner of the establishment is not sufficient; it has to be earned on merit.
Heaven requires certain terms of admission.

It is about making the necessary sacrifices. Presumption does not get us there; statements at the door such as ‘we know the owner’; he’s from my town’,’ he knows my people’ are simply not good enough. The Jews (Pharisees) felt that they could qualify by association. Jesus however makes it quite clear that salvation is open to all without distinction or preferential treatment but that all must find entry by the narrow door for heaven – and all must pass the same test.. Why the narrow door? It is the service entrance – humility and service – and suffering – as entry requirements.

In this Gospel Jesus is on His way to Jerusalem to face His Passion death and resurrection. So the timing of this teaching is important for us to realise that the entry requirements entail imitation. But the road has a happy ending.

I think there are three things that are required of us: prayer, daily duty and sacrifice.

The first thing is perseverance in assiduous prayer, especially the daily rosary – for starters.

Secondly, I think we can sanctify our day by each day being faithful in little things – punctuality, discipline, diligence, honesty, reliability, integrity in speech.

Thirdly, accepting with submission the sacrifices that are unforeseeable that God sends us through others. Like the children of Fatima, God uses these for our and others’ salvation. I use the word “CATCH” to stand for what I sometimes experience, and indeed what all believers in Christ experience especially when they stand up for the truth:

C is for Criticism
A is for Anger
T is for Trials and Temptations
C is for Contradictions (things not going my way)
H is for Humiliation

What is required therefore for my sanctification is quite simple, but quite testing: how I handle any criticism, not complaining, bickering, or arguing, or flying off the handle, not having everything my own way, putting up with others, patient listening, being tolerant of others, and having the honesty and humility that others likewise have to put up with my faults.

The first reading speaks of people coming to Jerusalem with oblations in clean vessels. Only the pure of heart will see God in the heavenly Jerusalem. Let us try our best one day at a time the way of loving service, humility and surrender to God’s will for our station in life, all the while constantly praying to the Mother of God to pray for us ‘that we made worthy of the promises of Christ’.

The Assumption of Our Lady

The Assumption

Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Assumption of Our Lady

A number of years ago I was visiting friends in Northern Ireland and they took me to an amazing place called the Odyssey which is a massive complex of cinemas, restaurants, a bowling alley, an ice rink and other attractions found under one roof. I remember however that what caught my eye was a large neon sign that aroused my curiosity. It was a large W5. It was a science museum and I quickly found out that W5 stands for 5 of the words, beginning with ‘W’ that can start a question –Who? What, When, Where? Why? ( There are other W words such as which, whenever, whatever, whoever, wherever!) I think it is a good way to approach this dogma and this event.


That is an easy one! This applies only to Our Lady, the Virgin Mary, the historical person of the ordinary maiden of Nazareth in Israel.


The definition, in the words of Pope Pius XII, goes as follows.
‘By the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, and by our own authority, we pronounce, declare, and define it to be a divinely revealed dogma: that the Immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory.’What we are celebrating therefore is a singular event – the Assumption body and soul of a human creature, a privilege of grace, into the presence of Almighty God. It is a staggering event and privilege that a lowly creature should enjoy the singular favour of sharing in the Vision of the Creator of all, the beginning and the end of all. This privilege will not be shared by the members of the Church, the People of God and the Body of Christ until the general resurrection of the dead. Where she has gone, we hope to follow. It is our common destiny. Today’s feast is therefore about the ‘happy ever after’ of Mary whose story began ‘once upon a time’ in Nazareth in the Gospel at today’s Mass.


This is a good quiz question. The answer is Ephesus (modern day Efes) in Turkey. What is interesting is that this was then a stronghold of worship of the female goddess Artemis (or Diana) in that part of the world, and many artefacts of that pagan worship still remain. It was here in the heart of paganism that Mary settled with St John the Apostle. As Christianity gradually grew and paganism declined, worship of the mythical goddess Diana was replaced by veneration of Mary. And it was at Ephesus in 431 AD that Mary was declared Theotokos, Mother of God’. Pope John Paul visited Turkey in 1979 and Pope Benedict has recently visited Ephesus.


This is also an interesting point, and while I am open to correction on this I think that the timing of the Declaration of the Assumption as dogma in 1950 was meant to coincide with the anniversary of the date of the event of the Assumption in 50 AD. It was thought that Our Lady lived to be 63 years of age, and Christians would recite 63 ‘Hail Mary’s in honour of each year she lived. So the early rosary had 63 beads. Somehow in the evolution of the prayer as we have it today, the 150 Hail Marys match the Psalms, yet the 3 Hail Mary’s at the beginning of the Rosary remained for some reason.

This brings us back to 50 AD. If Our Lady was a teenage girl when she conceived Jesus she was 14(?) and was ended her earthly life at 63 in 50 AD.


The answer is love. Mary was preserved free from Original Sin, was not guilty of personal sin, lived a virtuous life, and only ‘the pure in heart can see God’, according to the Beatitude on the Sermon on the Mount. It is a logical extension and consequence of Mary’s pure love and indeed of God’s love for her that she enjoys the special privilege. But her role as intercessor reminds us of her humanity and is also a wonderful aspect of the genius of God’s loving plan in appealing to each of us to respond to His call to Himself via the universal appeal of motherhood, that we more confidently and willingly approach Him through her intercession.

St Fulgentius puts it this way:
'The Mother of God is "the Ladder of Heaven". God came down to earth by this Ladder,that men might by Mary climb up to Him in heaven.'

19th Sunday of the Year

This Sunday’s epistle from the Letter to the Hebrews is a wonderful summary of the characters that feature in the Old Testament. This passage taken from Chapter 11 - worth reading in its entirety - as well as the testimony of Peter in Acts 2 and 3 and Stephen's witness in Acts 7 combine to give us a good introduction to the Old Testament (and its fulfillment) to anyone who wants to know more about Scripture.

The key is faith. ‘Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe’, Jesus said to doubting Thomas (John 20:29).

Faith does not come readily or easily. I am sometimes surprised when people say “Father I don’t know if I believe it all’. I think what they are really saying is: ‘I believe, but at times it’s an effort’. What may have challenged them is the presence of so much relativism and skepticism in today’s culture. There are few things on TV to encourage us, and there are few people we know who believe convincingly, it seems, who will bolster our faith, so that our own personal faith is constantly challenged. Crises and scandals have done their share to shake our resolve. Sadly too the reaction to the scandals has shown up some peoples’ shallow understanding of the nature of the Church that they think we can go back to the drawing board and jettison the Pope and the hierarchy!

We make a mistake if we think that faith comes and stays easily. Faith is a gift, thank God for it! But it is like the bridge built by the engineer. Heavy loaded trucks were driven along it to see if the bridge specifications were right. So it is with God.

We see some people whose faith is tested beyond all reason! We wonder how they do it, how do they cope? I will never forget the man I met in New York. A father of 10 children, 3 of his children committed suicide (so-called ‘copycat’ suicides) by standing in front of fast-moving trains. How he has kept his faith, I will never know. Yet he was a daily Mass-goer, said his prayers out of a thick prayer book bulging with devotional prayer cards, and proudly wore his scapular and smiles through the tears. We can all think of personal tragedies and hardships that have greatly challenged people we know who are strong believers. I admire parents of special-needs children who are people of strong faith and are always willing to lend a hand in the locality, often volunteer without having to
be asked.

The 'faith of our fathers’ who faced ‘dungeon, fire and sword’ was in every single case a personal decision in the most trying circumstances.

Similarly all those saints and martyrs we admire had free-will. They had to make a choice. The people of the Old Testament had their own difficult choices to make too. But we must remember WE HAVE HINDSIGHT. We know now all that they had to face. They did not. And so it is for us. We do not know what lies ahead. That is where courage, grit and determination come in. We can seek the help of the Holy Spirit who has given us the gift of courage at Confirmation. We can call on Him to give is the grace of perseverance and fortitude. He will help us to overcome doubts, difficulties, and above all our fears. So faith is a personal decision for you and me also. And our lives are not over yet. We have not yet reached the summit, but we can take a momentary look at the view and see how far we have come, even if we have stumbled and delayed or strayed along the way. God urges us on even further.

We have helps to faith. Prayer and the sacraments, the example of fellow-believers, the lives of the saints and spiritual reading, short prayers we can say aloud or in silence at any time, the teaching of the Church, a Father-confessor or spiritual director who knows us. All these are helps to salvation. And all these are helps we should resort to in order to be vigilant and keep our lamps lit as alluded to in the Gospel. In the Book of Life may our names be added to the list of those who had faith and persevered to the end (Revelation 20:12).