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.