12th Sunday of Ordinary Time

12th Sunday of the Year
‘They shall look on the one whom they have pierced.’ [Zechariah 12:11, First Reading].

Who are they?


All of us without distinction ‘male, female, Jew and Greek, slave or free’. We all share in the responsibility of the sins of the human race but we all share in the hope of our redemption as well – we are one in Christ.

While there are laudable attempts to promote unity and peace through the UN and other world bodies, all of us are one only in Christ.

There is a multiplicity of ethnic groups, languages, cultures, but the human heart is the same wherever you go. There is a universal ‘cri de coeur ‘for happiness, peace, fulfilment, satisfaction and ultimately, love. The heart’s deepest longing is for God, the beautiful psalm 62 tells us. Only He can satisfy every human longing and emptiness. To be loved and to experience God’s healing love is better than the satisfaction that comes with an overflow of food or drink. It is to have true secure knowledge of one’s present and guaranteed future happiness. He alone is the source of our joy and praise.

This is not a pipe-dream or an escape from real problems that we may presently endure. We must carry our cross as Jesus commands in the Gospel, but how often we can find refuge as ‘cross-bearers’ in a cross or crucifix for consolation, answers and meaning. Truly we too ‘look on the one whom [we] have pierced.’ How often do we gather once more the strength to get off our knees before the crucifix and resume the tasks and once more pick up the crosses that await us? How often have we gazed on [Him] in the sanctuary (psalm 62) at the Crucifix or the tabernacle, ‘to see your strength and your glory’. We have pined for God, the Psalm says, ‘like a dry, weary land without water’ looking for comfort, solace and strength to endure, or even to cry out silent tears of frustration, loneliness, desolation or abandonment that no-one else sees, hears or knows about.

Yet there is hope. In losing our lives, we save them. In suffering there is salvation, in death, resurrection. There is an old saying, ‘no cross, no crown, no thorn, no throne.’ Salvation comes at a great cost to ourselves; ‘We must endure many hardships before we enter the Kingdom of God’ (St Paul/Acts). But just as we are called to carry our cross behind Jesus ‘to places we would rather not go’, so our frequent mediations on His Passion remind us that despite our many falls along the way, we too can experience the comfort and consolation of His Mother, and of the many Veronicas and Simons, as well as of compassionate women who have come to our aid.

There are many timeless traditional devotions that enliven our faith, strengthen our resolve and inflame our love to carry our cross daily after Him. Many find consolation in praying the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary, the Divine Mercy chaplet, the Stations of the Cross, the Seven Sorrows of Our Lady, meditating on the Seven Last Words of Jesus, and even simply reading and pondering over the Passion narratives in the 4 Gospels, and of course, above all, celebrating the Eucharist.

The concluding prayer today reminds us that sharing in His Body and Blood; we pray that the Lord renews His life in us assuring our redemption and eternal life with Him.

11th Sunday of Ordinary Time


As a boy I had no earthly ideas why there were so many popular songs about love and heartache and could not fathom why my older sisters played them on the record player so often. All I remember was it was hard not to secretly like the lyrics you heard even though they were so ‘soppy’! Later I would understand them better.

The universal and enduring appeal of sad love songs must say something about the human heart. Regrets and mistakes, wanting to turn the clock back, a longing to correct mistakes in a friendship, relationship or marriage, and nostalgia for lost irreplaceable joys are deeply felt by many people.

Today we can look at our relationship with God in a similar way. The sacrament of confession is also better called the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

One of the lovely phrases from Pope Benedict’s recent Prayer for the Year for Vocations was the prayer of hope that many priests will be ordained to ‘spread the joy of God’s forgiveness’. As a priest it is hard not be moved by a genuine act of repentance and by a heart-felt confession. The joy and gratitude (and sometimes tears) of someone who been reconciled to God is one of the great and moving moments of a priest’s ministry. To witness a life-changing moment of grace in someone who may have been away from the Church for a long time is truly a joy to behold and to be a part of. To be God’s instrument of healing and restoration is very humbling and gratifying. Truly there is more rejoicing in heaven over one repentant sinner than 99 righteous ones who never strayed.

Today’s Gospel reading is so moving.

From this account involving one woman we realise that there were many other women who were disciples – Mary of Magdala, Susanna and Joanna. Luke’s Gospel has been called the Gospel of women because so many women feature in it and he is careful to name them (also in Acts). After relating this incident of the woman who comes to Jesus for healing and forgiveness, it is as if Luke telescopes out from this healing and loving action to show us that this was one of many encounters of Jesus that we can surmise must have taken place in the course of Jesus’ ministry. Luke takes time over this meeting but many more encounters and life-altering episodes involving female disciples are left to our imagination and wonder. We see that women are caring, appreciative, grateful and generous providers of Jesus and His disciples.

As the Year for Priests draws to a close, I think we should turn our attention to the support of priests. Every priest I know can think of women parishioners and friends who are equally compassionate, caring, understanding, hospitable, and unassumingly generous in their appreciation and welfare of priests who strive to follow in Jesus’ footsteps. Perhaps it is a result of a confession, a healing or liberation, or a priest took the time to listen to them or a priest helped them through a sickness or bereavement of a family member; or they are grateful for the joy of forgiveness. They do not forget, and they are ever-faithful. [I think too of the many women religious who are a rock of support and prayer to priests.] They are the unsung heroines of the Kingdom of God. They are priests’ spiritual mothers, sisters and daughters. They are the backbone of the Church.

May God bless all Christian women with a rich reward for their faith and kindness. I think particularly of the members of the St Joseph’s Young Priests’ Society who quietly go about their voluntary work fund-raising for the education of seminarians at home and abroad. Truly, they will receive a prophet’s reward in the Kingdom of God!

Corpus Christi

Corpus Christi

One of the first words a little child learns is ‘tata’. Parents ask their children: ‘what do you say [for the present]?’ It is mortifying for parents of older children when they are let down by their children’s failure to say a simple ‘thank you’ for a gift from a relative or friend. A parent feels embarrassed and it reflects poorly on them, they feel, that they have failed to pass on this lesson of good manners to their child.

Have you ever had the disappointing experience of going to the trouble of buying an expensive present, only for it be tossed aside? Or that the recipient has no inkling of the time and trouble you took to get them something you felt they would really appreciate? Or they expressed a wish for something and their response at receiving it finally is underwhelming and an anti-climax?

I shudder to think that I may well be guilty of showing a lack of appreciation to those who went to great lengths on my behalf to purchase a gift, or that I may have made some glib remark at receiving it which, while meant to be funny, may have fallen flat.

Further, I may be guilty of forgetting to get someone a present and feel terrible at leaving them out of things quite by accident.

It is hard to make up for these slights and personal injuries and hurt feelings, even if they were completely unintentional. We can excuse children but it is harder to excuse or forget instances involving ourselves or acquaintances who ought to know better. We have to let go of trivial grudges though and forgive others lest we inflate things out of all proportion and it sours relationships.

We all have ‘horror stories’ of weird or thoughtless presents! One of my favourite cringe stories is of a newly-married couple who received a wrapped wedding gift from relatives. On opening the gift they saw a card enclosed in the box which had been addressed to the donating couple from a third party who was the original donor of the present. The thoughtlessness was greatly resented!

We must practise not only giving well but receiving well. I remember not long after I was ordained being overwhelmed by people’s generosity, and the constant influx of Mass offerings was something completely new and unexpected. I asked my confessor, ‘how do I avoid the sin of avarice?’ He said: ‘be a generous giver, and a gracious receiver.’

We may have heard of the expression ‘an attitude of gratitude’, and it is a good one to develop. Gratitude counteracts feelings of envy, resentment at the sight of others’ blessings as well as ridding us of monotony, or self-centeredness. It helps us to be appreciative but also to be generous. One of the best habits I learned at home was to send ‘thank you’ cards as soon as possible. I haven’t always remembered though and I regret my forgetfulness. Which brings me to another piece of advice drilled into me worth recalling: ‘we always make time for what we consider to be important’.

How grateful then are we to God?

We have so much to be thankful for: health, happiness, holidays, family, faith, education, nourishment, nature, talents, as well as friendships and fond memories.
But today we honour and remember above all our most treasured gift: the real Presence of Christ - the gift of His Body and Blood in the Eucharist. We can extend and apply all I have said above to examining ourselves for our gratitude (or the lack of it) for such a great gift. We take for granted the possibility of weekly and even daily reception of the Eucharist that the old adage about familiarity could be a danger. Haste, lack of preparation and appreciation for this great gift are things we need to watch out for and be careful to avoid.

Corpus Christi gives us the opportunity to give honour, praise and adoration as well as reparation to Jesus for our indifference and lukewarmness in the past to His gift to us of His very self. ‘The Eucharist is certainly a social event, that is, an ecclesial event, but it is above all a personal encounter with Jesus Christ.’ (Pope John Paul II, Corpus Christi Sermon 1999). Eucharist is the Greek word for ‘thanksgiving’ – in the Spirit, through Jesus to the Father.

To sum up, do I cultivate a sense of gratitude in my life for all the blessings I have received? Can I develop and deepen my time and habits of gratitude above all when I receive the flesh and blood of the Son of God who offers me eternal life?
‘How I can thank the Lord for His goodness to me? I will raise the cup of salvation and praise the name of the Lord’ (Psalm 116:12-13).

Leaving Cert Graduation Mass

Homily at Leaving Cert Graduation Mass
May 25th, 2010

Don’t worry!

Our readings chosen today have the common theme: ‘don’t worry’! That is easier said than done.

There are three possible states we are in as you face your exams.
One extreme – the opposite of worry, is carelessness. I remember hearing about someone who set up a webpage ‘www.lazy.com’ and when you opened it all it said was ‘I couldn’t be bothered’!

Most of us are at the other extreme – we are in fact worried, anxious, fearful. And believe it or not once your exams are over you will find other things to worry about: points, college places, where you will end up, will you make friends and so on. All of us have worries: the future, money, work, health, family and so on. Your parents and teachers are worried about your performance and your results.

What Jesus is asking us to do is a third scenario: not to worry. Of course we are rightly and charitably concerned about others and about ourselves, but we can overdo it especially about ourselves.

We all have a tendency to exaggerate our own importance. One of the great put-down lines in the series ‘Frasier’ is put to annoying Niles, Frasier’s younger brother ; ‘Copernicus just called, you’re no longer centre of the solar system! It’s like the old joke ‘how many teenagers does it take to change a light-bulb?’ ‘One; he/she puts up his hand holding the light-bulb, they keep perfectly still, and the whole world revolves around them.’

Of course we must be concerned about our lives, and our welfare and while ‘nothing is impossible to God’, we have work to do. It is like the story of the lottery ticket. A man prayed each week to win the Lotto, and yet he never won a thing. After he died, the first question he put to God was: ‘why didn’t you answer my prayer?’ and the Lord answered ‘look, I can do a lot of things but you could at least have made it easy for me to grant your petition by buying a ticket!’ We have to play our part; we can’t be passive spectators of our own lives.

One of the best bits of advice in this regard I ever got at your age was ‘Have you done your best? If the answer is ‘yes’ then I was told ‘you can’t do anymore. No-one can do more than their best.’ So, we have to do our best and hand the rest over to God. It means surrender; it means handing over control to God. It isn’t always easy – it requires faith and trust. We think we are in control, but we are not. The volcanic ash cloud has taught us that much – we are at the mercy of nature; to ‘acts of God.’ It is humbling to think we do not have mastery over everything that will happen to us. We have to learn and re-learn this important life lesson. But a wise friend of mine has a prayer she says every morning: ‘Dear God, I know that there is nothing that will happen to me today that you and I can’t handle together.’ Another simpler way of putting it is ‘we have to let go and let God’.

One last point: the theme we have chosen all year is ‘This is our school’. In years to come you will be frequently asked, ‘what school did you attend?’, and of course your answer will be ‘Colaiste Muire’. Never forget who ‘Muire’ is – Our Lady and Our Mother. As some of you may know, I go to Fatima, Portugal each year on pilgrimage. This year it so happens that I will be there the week you get your exam results - I will be praying for you! But the word ‘FATIMA’ also reminds me of the phrase I would like you to remember too: ‘Faith and Trust in Mary Always.’

Trinity Sunday

I am basing my few words this Sunday on Roublev's famous icon of the Trinity, a copy of which is on display in the church and a copy of which which I am giving to each parishioner on a prayer card.

You will see that the Trinity is represented by three angels - as the icon is also believed to be about the three angels who visited Abraham and Sarah at the Oak of Mamre in the Book of Genesis. Neverthless, certain important features of God as Three Persons can be gleaned from the icon.

Contemplation of the icon of Roublev (15th century) is worth the effort. It tells us something through the language of the heart that words cannot express. There are many aspects to this icon. It looks like a snapshot of the relationship that exists between the Three Persons.

We see that the Three Persons are equal in appearance and stature.

We see that the Father is on the left and the Son in the middle, the Spirit on the right.

We see the right hand of the Father commissioning or sending forth the Son and the Spirit- likewise the Son and the Spirit appear with heads slightly bowed; yet they retain their equality with the Father, as they each hold a sceptre of authority.
The tree behind the Son reminds us of the Cross at Calvary.

The two fingers of Jesus pointing outward refer to His divinity and His humanity.

The table in the icon has four places and so the fourth side of the table facing the front of the icon is meant for us – we are invited into this loving relationship with God as Three Persons. The psalm this Sunday reminds us ‘you have made [man] little less than a god! (Psalm 8)

At the centre of the table is the Eucharist – the Body and the Blood of Christ (served from the one chalice in the Orthodox tradition) – and we are invited through the Eucharist to partake in the heavenly banquet ’Blessed are those who are called to His Supper’.

The colour blue –signifies divinity –the amount of blue exposed or revealed in the icon in each Divine Person correlates to the measure in which they have been revealed to us – the Father is a mystery, and while 'no-one has seen the Father’(John 1:18); ‘to have seen Me is to have seen the Father’(John 14:9), Jesus told Philip at the Last Supper. The Spirit also has a large amount of blue exposed, because we have received the Spirit : ‘the love of God has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit that has been given to us (St Paul to the Romans 5:5 in today’s epistle).

Behind the Father is a house - reminding us of our heavenly home.

Contemplation on the icon stirs our minds and hearts to ponder on the central mystery of our Faith – one God in Three Persons. We can ‘look forward to God’s glory’, (Romans 5:2). It reminds us, in the wrds of St Paul elsewhere, ‘to fix our gaze on heavenly things, not on things on earth.' (2 Cor 4:18)

Contemplation is an important aspect or rather type of prayer. The Catechism of the Catholic Church has much to say on it (CCC nn. 2709-2719) that is worth reading. ‘In this prayer we still meditate but our attention is fixed on the Lord himself’ (2709); ‘contemplative prayer is a communion in which the Holy Trinity conforms man, the image of God, to his likeness’ (2713); ” it is silence, the ‘symbol of the word to come’ or ‘silent love’ “(2717).[It is Trinitarian:] ‘ in this silence, unbearable to the outer man, the Father speaks to us in his Incarnate Word, who suffered died and rose; in this silence the Spirit of adoption enables us to share in the prayer of Jesus.” (2717)

Contemplation lifts our hearts amidst the reality of the toils and sufferings of life, bringing patience,perseverance and finally hope to journey on to our ultimate goal (Romans 5:5).

Pentecost Sunday

Have you ever wondered about your lucky number?

Seven is most people’s number. In common parlance to be the seventh son of a seventh son is to be lucky indeed.

Yet in the Bible 7 is a sacred number and it appears time and time again. It is not luck, or a charm or a superstition, but a convenient and indeed sacred way of marking time because the Lord rested on the 7th day. Other sevens include: the Ark of the Covenant was carried seven times around Jericho before the walls fell; David was the 7th son of Jesse. In the Gospel, Peter asked:'How many times must I forgive my brother? Seven times?', and the Lord answers - as if to say, more perfectly, 'seventy times seven'; Jesus multiplied 5 loaves and 2 fish; he multiplied 7 loaves among 4000 people; seven men of good repute were chosen in the Acts of the Apostles to serve as deacons, and so on.

In the Church we believe that there are 7 sacraments; seven gifts of the Holy Spirit; seven deadly sins.

'Pentecost' comes from a Greek word meaning 50th - today 7 weeks have elapsed since Easter, or seven time seven days.

It was a Jewish festival 50 days after the Passover and the giving of the Law to Moses. It is tied to a Jewish feast. 49 days (7 weeks, or “a week of weeks”) after the second day of Passover, the Jews celebrated the Feast of Weeks (Shavuot). Passover celebrates the freeing of the Jews from slavery; Shavuot celebrates their becoming God’s holy people by the gift and acceptance of the Law; and the counting of the days to Shavuot symbolises their yearning for the Law.
From a strictly practical point of view, Shavuot was a very good time for the Holy Spirit to come down and inspire the Apostles to preach to all nations because, being a pilgrimage festival, it was an occasion when Jerusalem was filled with pilgrims from many countries.

Each of us has received 7 gifts from God - the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

Do we know them?

They are Wisdom: Understanding; Counsel; Fortitude; Knowledge; Piety; Fear of the Lord.

They were given to us on Confirmation Day. But do we use them?

I often think that they are like our muscles - they need to be used, flexed, put to work. Otherwise they go limp, become flaccid, useless in us. If we think of taking up a new sport or form of exercise, we are stiff and sore after our first attempt. I will never forget how sore I was after my first try ever at water-skiiing! I was sore the following day in places I never thought possible. But it became easier with regular practice. It is the same with the Holy Spirit's gifts - we must value them and exercise them, but we must first pray that they may bear fruit in us through the practice of a virtuous life.

Come Holy Spirit!

Ascension Day

Today’s feast is the Ascension of Jesus into heaven, 40 days after his death and resurrection. 'Where He has gone, we hope to follow' (Preface of the Ascension).

The Ascension reminds us of our calling, our identity and our destiny.
Have you ever thought about what we say about those who have gone before us who have died? Have you ever thought about what people will say about us when we die? I have often heard it said of someone ‘they must have gone straight up.’ We think of saintly people, people of peace, prayer, faith, devotion, integrity, kindness, who never had a bad word to say about anyone. ‘They went straight up, or else there’s no hope for us’! We are inclined to pray to them rather than for them. We think of Mother Teresa of Calcutta, or Pope John Paul II – we couldn’t imagine a heaven without them, and we count on their intercession.

We think too of the words and expressions we use in attempting to explain death to a young child, who can’t understand why a grandparent has died and can no longer be seen. We explain that they have gone to heaven. We all struggle to come to terms with the death of a young person; it doesn’t seem fair when their lives are cut short, and we who were born before them, outlive them. Life is short and mysterious.
Sometimes we say of someone who has died: ‘they have gone home’; ‘they have gone to their heavenly reward’ or we say ‘they have gone to a better place’; ‘they are at peace’; ‘their sufferings are at an end’, or ‘it was an ease to them’ or ‘God took them’. We just cannot explain death to our own satisfaction, but we can accept and let go of someone because we find some comfort in statements such as these. But such understandable sentiments should never distract us from our obligation to pray for them: 'It is a good and wholesome thing to pray for the dead that they may be loosed from their sins' (The Second Book of Maccabees 12:46).

Christian funeral rites help us to try to make sense of death. At a funeral Mass we hear the words:
‘Open the gates of paradise to your servant and help us who remain to comfort one another with assurances of faith.’

One of the pieces of Scripture often read at the graveside in the Rite of Committal is from St Paul who tells us: ‘Our true home is heaven, and Jesus Christ whose return we long for will come from heaven to save us.’ (Philippians 3:20).

So heaven is our true home, where Jesus has gone to prepare a place for us. I remember once when comparing life to departures at the airport terminal, where we are all waiting for our flight to be called; someone ruefully said to me: ‘well Father, you’re alright, some of us are already on the tarmac!’

The second implication of the Solemnity of the Ascension is: what do we do now that Jesus has gone from our sight?

Like the disciples in Bethany that day 1980 years ago we too are called to be His witnesses.

A witness gives evidence in public to a fact and an event; is prepared to take an oath to that end; and some witnesses have died preserving the integrity of the truth of their beliefs. (Martyrs mean 'witnesses' in Greek). We have an opportunity each day through words, actions, example, behaviour, appearance, conversations, standing up for what is right, what is true, what is pure and honourable, unafraid of the consequences – for the right to life, the sanctity of marriage, chastity, honesty and unafraid to be identified as a Christian. We are called to be witnesses to the fundamental truths of our Faith.

It is by our persevering efforts to pray and live out our call to be His witnesses that we merit heaven: 'he who honours Me, honours the one who sent Me', Jesus said.

The promised Holy Spirit enables us, empowers us with His gifts of fortitude and courage to do this. We collectively re-await His coming at Pentecost next Sunday to renew us in our efforts. In the meantime let us pray continually praising God in company with Mary and the saints to help us usher in what Pope John Paul II called ‘a new springtime of Christianity.’
6th Sunday of Easter

The scene is the Last Supper – the night of Jesus’ betrayal and arrest. It is the last opportunity He has to speak at length with His disciples and so it does not surprise us the he leaves the best till last.

This Sunday’s Gospel contains hints to prepare us for the next 2 Sundays – Ascension and Pentecost – Jesus at the Last supper with his disciples tells them of his imminent departure from them and His return to the Father; and of the promise of the Spirit who will lead them to all truth and who will remind them of all He Himself taught them.

Have you ever had the experience of visiting someone in hospital you knew who was terminally ill? I have often had this experience with parishioners and more recently with a friend who died recently - I never knew which visit would be my last. It is this kind of atmosphere that is the context of Jesus’ words in the Gospel today. Jesus is saying, ‘I am going away, but I shall return.’ In effect He is saying ‘I am not going to be around much longer but there is something I want you to do for me and there is something I want you to have.'

They are His parting words and His parting wishes. His disciple John – under the influence of the Holy Spirit - has preserved these words for us as they are meant for us too and for all posterity.

Jesus has 3 things to say:

The first thing is that He is about to leave them.

It seems appropriate as at this time of the year actually priests are being told of their moves to other parishes. Another priest of the parish was told this time last year so all the priests are on the alert for the telephone call –maybe!
I remember not long after my arrival a parishioner gave out to me (not for the last time) – I don’t remember who – said ‘Father, if you hadn’t come, Fr X wouldn’t have left!’ So it was all my fault and I was under no illusion that in this person's mind I would never live up to my predecessor’s reputation.

The second thing he has to say is that he asks us to do something for him.

When someone is on the point of death we are conscious of any favour they might ask of us, and of course of any parting gift they might want us to have as a keepsake.
Jesus asks us to love Him and to keep His word. The Spirit helps the Church to remain true to His teaching so that the Church faithfully transmits and is faithful to the Word of God and that the Spirit is the guarantee of our certainty. Jesus asks us to be faithful.

The third thing he has to say is that He has gifts for them.What are your most cherished items, heirlooms?

I remember one day noticing an ornate pair of china vases on our mantelpiece at home. I had never seen them before. They belonged to my great grand parents and had been handed on to my grandmother and mother. My mother said – ‘do you think they would have lasted while I was rearing ye?’ They have survived for another generation to keep and admire and pass on. They are the most valuable heirlooms and are 120 years old. Another cherished item is the baptismal shawl that 50 of us members of the family have been baptised in. My most cherished item is a chalice. At ordination I received a gift of a chalice from my Parish Priest which he had used and which had belonged to his uncle. It dates back to the 1920s. I hope I can hand it on to another priest at the end of my days.
Items like these are cherished, kept intact, perfectly preserved, unbroken, and now of greater value, materially and sentimentally.
What is Jesus passing on?
He is sending us the Spirit. The Spirit is like a guarantee that we insist on when we buy something, something that is from the manufacturer! But the guarantee of the Holy Spirit is of lasting value, without an expiration date, forever – our salvation, eternal life.
He gives us peace, 'a peace the world cannot give'. We all strive for peace. The peace Jesus gives us through the Spirit is freedom from anxiety, uncertainty and confusion. The Spirit gives us certainty and therefore Hope. We restate these words very Mass before the sign of peace.
Let us seek Jesus – only in him through constant prayer can we obtain the peace we all seek.

Know Jesus Know Peace, no Jesus no peace!