18th Sunday of the Year A

There are times in all of our lives when we need to be left alone – not necessarily out of selfishness or escapism, but to recharge, solitude is necessary to absorb the impact of a traumatic event. To be left with family alone in a time of bereavement, to have the space to be away, to shed a tear when no-one is looking. We often hide our grief from public view, we are too self-conscious and it is nobody’s business to see our tears and our momentary vulnerability. We in turn all value the need for friends and colleagues to grieve.

This is the mood as the news of John the Baptist’s awful death must have shaken the disciples who now turn their loyalties and hopes in Jesus. John had predicted his own death saying of Jesus that ‘He must increase, I must decrease’. The disciples’ time with John is over. Now, with Jesus they seek to be alone to cope with their grief. Jesus knows, and perhaps the disciples suspect, that a similar fate awaits Jesus too.

But even at the time of bereavement and a funeral we know there is a time to withdraw and leave the family by themselves. At a removal we often depart the mortuary chapel to allow the family to close the coffin on their loved one for the last time.

In the Gospel Jesus and His disciples are given no time for any of the above. As they try to get away, the crowds press even closer and make demands on Jesus to heal their sick. How mercifully selfless Jesus is in forgetting His own cares and putting others first!

But interestingly, after some time the place of solitude is experienced as ‘a lonely place’ and hunger rears its head as appetites return. Jesus is concerned for their material bodily needs as well.

The feeding of the crowds of the loaves and fish is an anticipation of Jesus feeding us in the Eucharist, and the Eucharist is the foretaste, promise and pledge of heaven.

St Paul, in the Second Reading, beautifully describes how nothing in the visible or invisible world can form a barrier to Jesus’ love for us. People may pledge: ‘Nothing will ever come between us.’ Many human friendships, relationships, marriages often begin on this hopeful note, but these can fail as people drift in and out of ours and others’ lives. If we are lucky we have been able to sustain certain relationships with others through thick and thin. St Paul experienced much hardship in his own life, but there was one constant in His life, one person who would and could not ever let him down – Our Lord Himself.

For us this loving relationship with Jesus Christ is sustained by the vital communication we call the life of prayer and by reunion which we call Reconciliation and Communion. When we receive Jesus in the Eucharist we are strengthened in the midst of the sorrows, trials and sicknesses of life. We encounter Jesus the Healer who nourishes us with His Body and Blood. Only Jesus has the answers we seek, as the crowds knew who followed Jesus. He healed them and fed them. Each time we approach Jesus and receive Him in Holy Communion we too are healed and nourished at the deepest level of our being. This is what we know from the experience of faith, and perhaps a reason to explain to others who have lapsed form their faith why we continue to go to Mass on Sunday.

Happy are those who are called to His supper!

The Feast of St James the Apostle: July 25th

He was the son of Zebedee, the brother of John, a fisherman from Galilee, one of the 12 apostles, one of the inner circle of three who were the only ones to witness the raising of Jairus’ 12 year old daughter, the Transfiguration of Jesus and who were specially called to ‘keep watch’ in prayer at Gethsemane. He became the first bishop of Jerusalem and was also the first of the Apostles to die a martyr’s death – by beheading. St Paul called him a ‘pillar of the church’. His relics are traditionally associated with the famous Spanish pilgrimage site of Santiago de Compostela. St James’ Gate in Dublin – associated with Guinness Brewery – was the setting off point for pilgrims to Santiago in the Middle Ages. The pilgrimage route or ‘Camino’ to the place where his relics lie is also known worldwide and it is on many a Christian’s wish list to walk the pilgrimage.

St James letter is in the New Testament and contains important themes. We would do well to read it today: these themes include: keeping a positive attitude, the importance of doing and not just listening, letting faith be seen in what we do, taming the tongue, handling quarrels and pride, using money properly, the importance of patience, praying and anointing the sick.
In today’s Gospel we see that while James’ mother wants to out in a good word for her sons so that they can have the best places in the kingdom. How often mothers in the past have been intercessors with prospective employers to get their sons and daughters a job, by having a good word with them. We see that her perception of the kingdom is a business firm or a lucrative organisation where fame and fortune and notoriety and glory await her sons. She is thinking in purely worldly terms, probably because her two boys have left the fishing trade behind them and she may be concerned for her own welfare in her advancing years. The qualification for the kingdom, on the other hand, is to consume the cup of suffering that Jesus will drink in His Passion, and we see that James will end up being the first of the apostles to die for Christ. He is providentially within earshot of Jesus’ words at Gethsemane: ‘Father let this cup pass me by, but not as I will, but as you would have it’.

To be a disciple therefore is to face up to the cross and to suffering. Like James at the moment of his calling, we cannot see what lies ahead, but are willing to do as Christ asks. How often as a disciple, looking back over the years, I could not have predicted some of the scenarios and situations of difficulty I would find myself in. But Christ has given me the strength to endure them.
Little did the wife of Zebedee would get her wish – but at what cost – and to know that her sons would achieve worldwide fame and remembrance as disciples and Apostles who would become the foundation of the Catholic Church.

16th Sunday of the Year A

We have all heard the expression ‘be careful what you wish for'...you just might get it, and have to live with the consequences.

You might also have heard the expression; ‘if you had three wishes, what would you wish for?’ But what if you had only one wish? You could not undo it with a second wish. You would have to put a bit of thought into the one thing you might truly desire that is presently beyond your reach.

For some us our single wish would be for money or a long cruise. But we know that eventually the money would run out and we can’t take it with us. We know ‘money isn’t everything’ as the saying goes, and that there are some things that money cannot buy like love and happiness. There are some non-material things worth having.
Today in the First Reading, Solomon prays for discerning judgment. For this God rewards him for wisdom beyond renown, so much so that his name is to this day associated with wisdom above all others. When I was growing up with all my brothers and sisters, petty squabbles would often arise. We might plead our grievances to Mum who unsure of what side to take in our disagreements, would exclaim, ‘oh to be like Solomon’!

The phrase ‘pearls of wisdom’ may also well originate in the Gospel today when the man buys the pearl of great price in the parable. In fact there are four images of the kingdom of heaven today – the treasure hidden in a field, the pearl, the dragnet and the householder.

We too need to pray for wisdom and discernment, between what is truly worth having and what ought to be discarded; what should take priority in my life, and what I truly can do without.

The Gospel tells us that there is something worth sacrificing everything for and that is a place in heaven.

Like anything we strive for in life, we have to be convinced that it is truly worth striving for, and that it is not impossible. We know that it requires sacrifices of us. The goal must be perceived to be worth the effort to keep us motivated and focussed especially in times of discouragement if we are to persevere.

We are challenged today to put God and His kingdom first in our lives. That is a crucial decision, not simply a consumer choice.

The goal is beyond sight, it involves an element of risk, of letting go of the safety and comfort where we are and long-ingrained habits. It involves first and foremost the renunciation of all things that impede us from the goal, and that may be for many the giving up a sinful lifestyle.

Jesus makes it quite clear that there is only one divine decision to be made on judgment day – whether we are judged to be just or wicked, and whether we therefore belong in heaven or hell. The fact that judgment day is at some distant indeterminate day must not be a source of false comfort that precludes the urgency or immediacy of a decision one way or the other.

We know there are times when we need help making up our minds or coming to the right decision. The Church in its doctrines gives us wisdom of Tradition to know and understand the truths necessary for our salvation, the Spirit gives us wisdom in the sacrament of Confirmation, and finally Our Lady, Seat of Wisdom can help us. Helpful too on a daily basis is the Serenity Prayer in which we pray for wisdom.

It can be prayed thus:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change (in my life)
The Courage to change the things I can (in my life)
And the Wisdom to know the difference

14th Sunday of the Year

Come to me all you who labour and over-burdened and I will give you rest, says the Lord.

For everyone there is a burden to carry, and not just our own, but the burdens of others on top of our own. These burdens take many forms and for convenience I have alphabetised some of the possible crosses we carry
A for anger at someone or at something,
B for brokenness we experience within
C for criticism
D for depression
E for emotional disturbance
F for family or fears
G for guilt
H for hurts and humiliations
I for illness
J for jealousies
K for kin
L for loneliness
M for moods
N for needs
O for obsessions
P for past problems
Q for quarrels
R for restlessness of spirit
S for sorrows
T for trials
U for upsets
V for vexation
W for wrongful words
Y for yearnings

These burdens can often serve as obstacles but perhaps too how we deal with them, they may serve as stepping stones to the Lord and to ultimate freedom He offers.

There is something worth considering too – have you or I been the source or cause of any of the above in the lives of others? Do I seek to make amends and carry my fair share where necessary?

Furthermore, am I aware of any of these burdens on the lives of others and do I make any effort to alleviate or ease them?


The Lord Himself offers Himself as the ultimate solution to all our problems, the answer to all our questions, the relief to all our worry and fear, and most importantly of all the forgiver of all our guilt and shame we feel for our sins.

There is also an alphabet of remedies or cures that we can take on as the cure and relief on a daily and weekly basis
A for adoration, B for the Bible, C for community, D for direction, E for Eucharist, F for friendships, G for generosity, H for humility and honesty with ourselves, I for Integrity of life, J for Jesus Christ , K for kindness, L for love, M for meditation, N for nature, O for Our Lady, P for penance, Q for quiet, R for rest and retreat, S for surrender, T for trust in God, U for understanding, V for virtue, W for work