18th Sunday of the Year

If you have ever stopped and asked yourself ‘what is it all for?’ then today’s readings are for you.

Every once in a while when we stop and think and get out of a busy time in our lives, holiday time for example, we are forced to stop and think. Sometimes a period of rest (and even retirement) can take getting used to. We are so compulsively busy and want to fill our days with activity that having time on our hands can make us edgy. Yet when we stop, where are we? Sometimes we can be gripped by feelings of loss, feelings of a sense of confusion, of losing our way. Often we can keep ourselves busy and engrossed in work and projects, in order to avoid the ultimate questions of existence such as: what is my purpose? Why am I here? Life itself is short, we often hear, and what is it all about anyway?

The things we consider important may not be so. We get lost in the detail that we forget the meaning of what we are doing. It kills us to think that what we have been concerned with may not have been all that important in the greater design of things, and that we are economically expendable. All retired or even, increasingly, unemployed people sadly, have come to this gloomy realization ‘that I can be done without and that I will soon be forgotten in the workplace’. Fulfillment in work has been taken from us and has been given to another. It can lead to frustration, bewilderment, and even disillusionment.

Escapism is the great danger. One of the ways in which we try to cope is actually to avoid the hard questions of life. We try to hide and run away from truly engaging with others and living the vocations to which we are called. The constant temptation to turn in on self. Because of Original Sin we are inclined to selfishness and we need God’s grace to overcome that selfishness in all of us. We become accustomed to suiting ourselves. To amass enough of the world’s earthly goods so that we are self-sufficient, without having to trouble or to be troubled by anyone else, is the rich man’s folly, Christ tells us in the Gospel parable today.

Hedonism is another danger. To live for the passing pleasures that the world can offer. Happiness and pleasure are mixed up. The things that offer happiness prove elusive and unsatisfying. St Paul refers to this as ‘earthly life’ - without Christ. The Christians in the first century found it difficult to break free from temptation to fornication, impurity, guilty passion; evil desires greed, telling lies. Twenty-first century Christians are beset with the same temptations.

Wealth and possessions do not give happiness and we have all come to the realization that they are passing things and of dubious value. Ecclesiastes refers to a busy active life without ultimate meaning.

There are therefore 3 possibilities, only one of which can give us lasting happiness and eternal salvation

1. A carefully planned, profitable but anxious life, concern only for sound economically prudent savings and investments (or ‘bigger barns’), careerism, where money is our rule of life.

2. An ‘earthly life’ of giving into our base impulses to satisfy our baser cravings –giving into the deadly sins of avarice, anger, lust and living an immoral life- where pleasure is our rule of life

3. ‘Life hidden with Christ’, in other words, ‘interior life’ of prayer, reflection, spiritual reading, charity in speech and generosity with our time and resources – all of this is making ourselves rich in the sight of God. ‘Looking for the things in heaven’. Salvation therefore must be earned and are the wages or ‘pay packet’ we should be concerned about most of all. Procrastination is not an option, Jesus warns you and me.

The challenging question we have to ask ourselves is –how many hours am I putting in?

17th Sunday of the Year

The Lord’s Prayer

Every once in awhile we are bombarded by ads or promotions of a new product that is supposedly the secret to all our problems, that is a superior brand, that is the end to our worries. Good marketing grabs our attention with some cleaning product that can now clean ‘those hard to reach places’, those 'difficult to remove stains’,etc. Without the brand we are now made to feel that we are missing out, inadequate; we haven’t lived; or we are deficient without this holiday, this food, this accessory, this upgrade - just what we always wanted but we didn't know that till now!

If there is one thing we are always conscious of, it is what we lack! Sometimes it is things, such as money, property, but we are more impressed by people who seem to have it made!
Clever marketing also entices us to buy a book with all sorts of nuggets of wisdom about how to succeed in business or relationships, in love, in investment, in communication, in personality, in balance, in finding the key to happiness.

Maybe there is someone we know who we admire. He or she is a prayerful person and a person of integrity. We want to know the secret of their success, their happiness, their peace. Today’s Gospel shows us the disciples intrigued by Jesus’ form of prayer. They want to follow his example because they are impressed and touched by the great lengths he goes to in order to pray by himself to the Father, that he has a life and habit of praying, and of course that it has a direct bearing on His personality and his mission.

The answer Jesus gives them and us is the Our Father.

The Our Father is about 4 P words


(1)People – we are God’s People – we are His chosen people, or more specifically, His children. We are called to recognize that we are called as children to pray for one another. The prayer is not about me but about all of us. It challenges me to realize that I am not simply praying on my own behalf, but opens my eyes to recognize that my needs are also common to the needs of all people! It opens my eyes to see that if God is my Father then others are my brothers and sisters and I ought to treat them accordingly.
Therefore we use the terms ‘our’, ‘us, and ‘we, not my, mine or me! We say: ‘Give us, forgive us, lead us.’

(2) Peace: It is about peace with others – peace within myself too - in doing God’s will, and furthering His Kingdom (which is one and the same thing!). Peace with others implies mutual forgiveness as well as seeking divine forgiveness. It is also said that ‘in God’s will is our peace’.


We seek protection in times of temptation, not that temptation will never happen but that we will be given the strength to endure whatever comes our way. The sure way to repeated sin is through pride and presumption that we have freed ourselves by our own efforts alone. We pray for protection against ‘the wickedness and snares of the devil.’


‘Thy will be done in all things’. Trust to believe that ‘God will provide’ for all our needs, and that nothing is too small for His concern for our welfare and that of others.
The daily bread – that we live for today and not for an uncertain tomorrow, and that we take the opportunities to serve him and not to help ourselves without his aid.

Let us pray in the words Our Saviour gave us...

16th Sunday of the Year

Martha and Mary

It is interesting to note how brothers and sisters in a family can be similar in appearance and be readily identifiable from their parents; yet how they differ! People might express surprise when they find out you are a brother or sister to someone they know well, and suddenly make the connection with you. They might say ‘you are not a bit alike’!

It is interesting to note how personalities and tastes and temperaments differ under the same roof. How some people can be described as ‘explorers’ (adventurous, wanting to socialize at parties, see the world) and those who are ‘settlers’ (I’d rather stay at home, order a take-out, watch a movie on TV). [They usually marry each other!]

Comparisons are odious. We hate the phrase as we grow up: ‘why can’t you be more like your brother/sister?’ At school, if you had an older brother or sister, teachers may, intentionally or not, compare you (usually unfairly) with an older sibling, and expect you to measure up to their abilities or achievements. You are not seen for who you are as a unique individual with your own quirks. You may feel constricted, in a strait-jacket by this measure.

All our lives we will be compared one way or the other. We have to accept that and work on our own uniqueness! One of my favourite books is ‘The temperament God gave you’ and you learn to accept certain things about yourself and other’s points of view or alternative ways of seeing things and acting. People will have to accept us too!

Martha and Mary are presented to us as different contrasting personalities. Martha is the active, about -the-house type, expresses her opinions readily, complains, sees all that there has to be done and stresses about it. Mary is silent, recollected, seemingly passive, a listener. Martha complains that Mary should be helping. Jesus rather, praises Mary for getting her priorities right, for ‘choosing the better part’. Martha, it seems, had lost sight of the bigger picture. She focused more on the WHAT of life than the WHY. Martha had lists of things to be done and would mentally cross them off, Mary had one thing on her mind: ‘today the Lord and Master is coming to visit; I will listen and learn and keep Him company’. Whereas Martha was concerned about short-term soon-to-forgotten priorities and jobs to fill her day, Mary achieved more because she has her eternal end in sight and acted on that perspective.

I have always had one difficulty with this story though. It seems unfair! Martha was trying to do her best after all! I remember growing up that if guests came to visit, that we would all be expected to help out in the kitchen to get things ready or set the table or clean around the house. We would be quickly reminded to help out and to do our share of the work if we were seen to be slacking.

Maybe the problem though is that Martha did not know when to stop. The unique opportunity of having Jesus as her guest was lost sight of. She kept on working and would lose the meaning of the present moment. How often we lose sight of what we are doing at a given moment because we are too focused on ‘what’s next’? We need more recollection and repose, like Mary, who chose the better part’.

We need more interior life.

15th Sunday of the Year C

The Good Samaritan

This Sunday’s Gospel is that of the Good Samaritan, the most well known parable of Our Lord.

The parable effectively challenges the three Cs in our lives that we all treasure and are slow to relinquish: comfort, convenience and control.

The great shame is that 2 out of 3 people failed the test of charity, and guess what – they were so called professional religious. To paraphrase Martin Luther King: The Levite asked "If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?" But then the Good Samaritan came by. And he reversed the question: "If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?".

A measure of our love of neighbour, and of commitment to others is our readiness and the speed with which we relinquish the three C’s. Someone who we can look to in the Gospels is the Mother of Jesus: ‘Mary went with haste’ to visit her kinswoman Elizabeth. Interesting.

Maybe in contrast, we use phrases like: ‘I’ll do it tomorrow’, ‘later’, ‘when it suits me’,’ when I have nothing better to do’, ‘on a rainy day’, ‘one of these days I must..’

How do we get off the sofa? How do I break the bad habit of procrastination?

I have a suspicion that anyone who imitates the Good Samaritan not only reaches into their heart and into their pocket like he did, but into their memory. He - although a fictional charcter in a parable - had experienced hardship for hgimself. Any Good Samaritan has known suffering, and perhaps has experienced compassion also. Is there someone in my life who has come to my aid, when others I expected to help me let me down? It is by entering into a spirit of solidarity that we find the motivation to act, even a little.

Have you ever been impressed by the generosity of someone who will make do with less so that others might benefit? I bet they were not terribly well off to begin with. It is one of paradoxes of life that the poor – or those who were poor once - are more generous than those who are always rich. And yet in their generosity, God does not forget the poor who give out of their needs.

Finally, in a given situation of need, there are 4 options available to us: to do NOTHING, which is not a Christian option, to do SOMETHING which is better than nothing, but is too vague, to do EVERYTHING, which is not always possible, but even the Good Samaritan knew he couldn’t do that, or to do ANYTHING we can, which is what the Good Samaritan did.

The response of the Good Samaritan was not a one-off, a cop-out to do something now to salve his conscience and then forget about it, but he committed himself to follow-through later when he could.

This week, Jesus says: ‘Go and do likewise’.

14th Sunday of the Year

Whatever house you enter, say to those living there: ‘Peace be with you’…

The disciples are called to be ambassadors of peace. Jesus’ life and message is fundamentally about peace and reconciliation. Jesus is our Mediator who restores us to the Father. Jesus began His preaching ministry with the great Sermon on the Mount when He declared: ‘Blessed are the peacemakers..!’

The Hebrew word for peace is 'Shalom;' and Jesus died us in the City of peace-'Jeru-salem'.

At Mass we 're-present' Christ's sacrifice of reconciliation on the altar. After the Eucharistic Prayer, attention turns to reconciliation among ourselves.

We pray the Our Father: 'forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us'. We also hear: ‘My peace I give you, my own peace I give you’; [recalling Jesus words: 'a peace the world cannot give, that is my gift to you’]. We hear the words: 'Let us exchange the sign of peace’. We cannot truly worship and be pleasing to God or expect our prayers to be heard unless we are reconciled: ‘if you are at the altar, go be reconciled with your brother first’. At the end of Mass we hear the dismissal: ‘go in peace'.

We are called to be a source of peace and not tension or division. We all strive for peace of mind, heart and spirit, to go about our business in peace. We are all too aware of conflict in the world but maybe it is closer to home in family life or in marital situations of constant bickering and arguing, infidelity, separation, divorce, mutual isolation. Maybe there is a brother, sister or other relative from whom you are estranged. Reconciliation is difficult. Harsh words were spoken, mistakes made, deliberate hurt happened, meanness and anger and fault-finding led to a breaking point. We must ackowledge our faults.

I am always astonished at how hurtful and personal couples can be who are on the verge of separation or have gone their separate ways. Maybe I am an idealist and I hate and run away from conflict and do everything I can for a quiet life, but I wonder how things are allowed to get that far. I often see or hear also about conflict between in-laws and the man or woman who married into a family is often living out a difficult balancing act of divided loyalties between spouse and family.

Realistically there are situations that will linger for a long time and may never come to a satisfactory conclusion any time soon. What we are called to today is to know our role: that is to bring peace in the home and to be a source of unity and peace and if possible, reconciliation. We must mind our speech; we must listen more than we speak. If there is a delicate situation seek counsel from a trusted friend or even a priest. Keep the lines of communication open with the offended or offending party. Pray the Serenity prayer often.

The Gospel is ultimately a message of the restoration of peace - reconciliation of God and man through the Passion, Death and Resurrection of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ [think of the line from Christmas carol: ‘God and sinners reconciled’ –from ‘Hark the Herald Angels sing’].

We cannot give what we do not possess, so maybe we should look at ourselves and ask if we are at peace. How often after Mass and after a prayer or a brief visit to a church do we find relief, peace or a resolution to a worry or problem or even just enough strength to cope.

Only when we have attained some level of peace - especially through Reconciliation – can we help reconcile others to God and to one another.