Christmas Day 2012

So now that we have stopped, we breathe a sigh of relief. All the shopping and tidying and wrapping done now!

At the Gaelscoil during the week I had a word game with the children to remind them of the true meaning of Christmas. The children were very good to come up with words that began with the letters of the word ‘CHRISTMAS’ – words associated only with Christmas.

C is for Crib, Christ and for celebration

H is for Hamper, Ham and Holly

R is for reindeer and religion

I is for Ivy but in the Gaelscoil they said ĺosa in fairness!

S is for Santa

T is for Turkey

M for Mary Manger and Mass

A was for After Shave!

S for Shepherds and star and Son of God

But there are other questions we can ask about the word such as ‘how many letters in the word Christmas?’ The answer of course is 9.

And what is the middle letter? S is the middle letter of Christmas

What letter is repeated? There are 2 S letters in Christmas

The S is important!

S is for Saviour but we tend to put him instead of the centre of Christmas we put the words of Santa and shopping there and put the Saviour and Son last!

But just as the Saviour is at the centre of the crib, and the S reminder of the star at the centre above it so we need to put Christ back at the centre of our celebrations and our lives. He is the real centre - Everybody is looking at the baby in the crib, He is not out to one side or in the corner, but that is where we out Him, not just at Christmas but every day of the year!

As the years go by the S of Santa is replaced by the S of Style and Shopping and in the  season we have we quickly allow the S of Sales to take over after St Stephen’s Day! Or as someone said to it is the ‘spending’ that is prominent!

But the S we all struggle with however over the passing of years is that of self – selfishness or self-centredness. We wonder where the 'magic' of Christmas is gone. Perhaps it is because the S of the 'Saviour' is no longer centre-stage.

We must put back Christ at the centre of our lives, at the heart of things!

Someone once said, ‘where our hearts are there our bodies follow’. As I reflect now and over the 12 days of Christmas, and ponder over Christmas past, and where the spirit of Christmas may have gone, let us ask ourselves - what have we set our hearts on - what have you or I set my heart on – things, self, others, or God? Let us once more go to the crib – yes even between shops! – and, in a child-like manner, tell Jesus, simply that we love Him, because that is what He most wants to hear.


Third Sunday of Advent

Gospel                                                                               Luke 3:10-18
When all the people asked John, ‘What must we do?’ he answered, ‘If anyone has two tunics he must share with the man who has none, and the one with something to eat must do the same.’ There were tax collectors too who came for baptism, and these said to him, ‘Master, what must we do?’ He said to them, ‘Exact no more than your rate.’ Some soldiers asked him in their turn, ‘What about us? What must we do?’ He said to them, ‘No intimidation! No extortion! Be content with your pay!’
A feeling of expectancy had grown among the people, who were beginning to think that John might be the Christ, so John declared before them all, ‘I baptise you with water, but someone is coming, someone who is more powerful than I am, and I am not fit to undo the strap of his sandals; he will baptise you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing-fan is in his hand to clear his threshing-floor and to gather the wheat into his barn; but the chaff he will burn in a fire that will never go out.’ As well as this, there were many other things he said to exhort the people and to announce the Good News to them.

The messenger and the message are the focus of this Sunday in Advent

A man I knew who had a serious alcohol problem, and was quite notorious, got a wakeup call from his doctor. He said 'if you do not stop drinking now, you will cause irreversible liver damage, and you will have a short time to live.’ He had a choice, not an easy one, but he choose to live without alcohol for the first time in his adult life. [He became quite adept at computers as a substitute for that empty time.] But he is alive. He could have chosen to criticise or ignore his doctor and seek a second opinion! It was a case of change – or else. Fear was the motivator.

WHO AND WHAT AND WHY - Who are the messengers in my life and what is the message I need it hear? WHAT NEEDS TO CHANGE IN MY LIFE? WHY must I change?

WHO is John and what is his role?

John the Baptist makes it quite clear that there must be change in our lives - A change of heart is called for.

Someone who tells us bad news we would rather not to hear even and especially if it is the truth, someone who criticises us...we would rather criticise them and accuse them of their so called higher moral ground. IT IS EASY TO SHOOT THE MESSENGER.
'A feeling of expectancy had grown among the people'

The Baptist is as it were a rabble-rouser - a supporting act at a concert we may not remember afterwards. But what does a supporting act do but gets the crowd settled, ready, prepared, in the right frame of mind, and we might say to ourselves well I didn't come to see this act but he or she reminds me that the main act is going to be so good. There is an air of expectancy and excitement and enthusiasm and a heightened receptivity when the main act appears. Political parties do the same here and in America at a convention or ard fheis- in other words, someone who is a good orator, who starts from scratch and who ends with the crowd ready to be on their feet when the party leader appears.

John is all these things, and every year in the Advent season. We are to honour him and his message with these two Sundays of his message the approaching Messiah and the readiness for his coming



Four simple words for all of us today are: WHAT MUST WE DO?

Who needs to change? I do.  What needs to change in my life?


 Am I ready? If you have visitors coming for Christmas day or St Stephens’s day then you are thinking already of having the house ready and enough food to be cooked and what needs to be bought.  Certain things must be tidied up; we can no longer put certain household tasks on the long finger. Change of layout and lie of the land in the house furniture, tables etc this is a temporary change and layout however but God is looking for more permanent change and not a seasonal one.

But it is easy to lose sight of the real visitor - Christ. Let us get ready for him by a change of heart.

To sum up we need to ask ourselves two questions

1.   What are the implications of not changing?


'His winnowing-fan is in his hand to clear his threshing-floor and to gather the wheat into his barn; but the chaff he will burn in a fire that will never go out.’

Wheat in God's house implies salvation, whereas the chaff to be burnt implies eternal damnation It is necessary for us to amend our lives now



*From avarice to generosity

*From selfish hoarding to sharing with the hungry from our excess

*Contentment with our pay and just taxation, without extortion

We must repent - and undergo a change of heart that involves justice, charity and almsgiving from a generous heart. Lives must change.

Why? Christ is coming with his reward to sum up so we must repent and live just and generous lives to be worthy of a place in God’s kingdom
‘What about us? What must we do?’ BECOMES what about me? what must I do?

Second Sunday of Advent

Initial response by the Irish Catholic Bishops Conference to the Report of the Expert Group on the Judgement in A,B and C v Ireland


A society that believes the right to life is the most fundamental of all rights cannot ignore the fact that abortion is first and foremost a moral issue.

As a society we have a particular responsibility to ensure this right is upheld on behalf of those who are defenceless, voiceless or vulnerable. This includes our duty as a society to defend and promote the equal right to life of a pregnant mother and the innocent and defenceless child in her womb when the life of either of these persons is at risk.


By virtue of their common humanity the life of a mother and her unborn baby are both sacred. They have an equal right to life. The Catholic Church has never taught that the life of a child in the womb should be preferred to that of a mother. Where a seriously ill pregnant woman needs medical treatment which may put the life of her baby at risk, such treatments are morally permissible provided every effort has been made to save the life of both the mother and her baby.

Abortion, understood as the direct and intentional destruction of an unborn baby, is gravely immoral in all circumstances. This is different from medical treatments which do not directly and intentionally seek to end the life of the unborn baby.

Current law and medical guidelines in Ireland allow nurses and doctors in Irish hospitals to apply this vital distinction in practice. This has been an important factor in ensuring that Irish hospitals are among the safest and best in the world in terms of medical care for both a mother and her unborn baby during pregnancy. As a country this is something we should cherish, promote and protect.

The Report of the Expert Group on the Judgement in A, B and C v Ireland has put forward options that could end the practice of making this vital ethical distinction in Irish hospitals. Of the four options presented by the Report, three involve abortion – the direct and intentional killing of an unborn child. This can never be morally justified. The judgement of the European Court of Human Rights does not oblige the Irish Government to legislate for abortion.

Other aspects of the Report also give rise to concerns. These include, but are not limited to the fact that:


·      The judgement of the European Court of Human Rights permits options on this matter of fundamental moral, social and constitutional importance that are not offered by this Report. This includes the option of introducing a constitutional prohibition on abortion or another form of constitutional amendment to reverse the ‘X-case’ judgement


·      The Report provides no ethical analysis of the options available, even though this is first and foremost a moral issue and consideration of the ethical dimension was included in the Terms of Reference.


·      The Report takes no account of the risks involved in trying to legislate for so-called ‘limited abortion’ within the context of the ‘X-case’ judgement. The ‘X-case’ judgement includes the threat of suicide as grounds for an abortion. International experience shows that allowing abortion on the grounds of mental health effectively opens the floodgates for abortion.


The Report also identifies Guidelines as an option. It notes that Guidelines can help to ensure consistency in the delivery of medical treatment. If Guidelines can provide greater clarity as to when life-saving treatment may be provided to a pregnant mother or her unborn child within the existing legislative framework, and where the direct and intentional killing of either person continues to be excluded, then such ethically sound Guidelines may offer a way forward.


A matter of this importance deserves sufficient time for a calm, rational and informed debate to take place before any decision about the options offered by the Expert Group Report are taken. All involved, especially public representatives, must consider the profound moral questions that arise in responding to this Report. Abortion is gravely immoral in all circumstances, no matter how ‘limited’ access to abortion may be.


                                        Waiting takes on so many forms in life

Throughout our lives we spend a lot of our time waiting. Time SPENT waiting can sometimes seem a waste of time or an inefficient use of it - spent doing nothing but waiting takes many hours of our lives when added up. Such waiting can take the form of torturous or eager and excited anticipation such as waiting for someone’s arrival or return at an airport, waiting in company or waiting alone, waiting in silence, in anticipation; waiting in a particular location such a church can give rise to  totally different moods and contexts – i.e., one’s mood of excitement waiting for the bride to arrive, or in contrast, the feelings going through you as you wait for a hearse.

On a typical social evening, time is punctuated by different waiting times. Waiting to be seated, waiting for one’s order to be taken, waiting to be served, waiting for the next course, waiting for someone else to finish eating, waiting for someone to stop talking so that we can start and get our say, and provide a better anecdote or a final say on the matter. Then there is the waiting to pay the bill, waiting for the credit card to be validated, waiting for someone who has gone to the bathroom, waiting to leave, waiting for someone to get ready, or waiting in traffic. On other occasions we are left waiting in a doctor’s surgery or at a dentist for a tooth extraction, where the waiting makes the imagination wander to exaggerated heights, or we are awaiting for a return call or text (happy 20th birthday text messaging SMS!) or the results of an exam, NCT etc

These we get used to over time. We learn as children to wait our turn, to develop patience! A child waits for Christmas or a birthday party, an outing or a holiday, the end of a school day, week or term. When relatives call you realise that you are no longer the centre of attention, that the conversation doesn’t really interest you unless it is about you! You must wait silently and pateintly until spoken to. I wonder if any studies have been done on the patience levels among older and younger siblings  – that as adults are we patient in proportion to where we came in the pecking order. Or as the youngest did we get our way more, or did we have to give in more?
‘Wait your turn’ is all very well but what if there is only one bathroom? I can’t wait can be said sardonically or enthusiastically, can take on different emphasis and meaning if you’re leaving in the car for a family member to go to Mass, or when a child says it at the back of car, you had better pull over fast!

Perhaps if you have gone to an unenjoyable movie, that was overhyped - you really get tired of it and ‘cannot wait’ for it to end.

Then when waiting is over, there is the relief or excitement that may follow.

What immediately follows?

Living in the present moment, forgetting what you have sacrificed, given up, forgetting time, just being and ‘enjoying the moment’ be it pleasant and relaxed company after a meal, scenery, solitude, entertainment, whatever it may be  - just a warm feeling of not wanting the moment to end. These are tasters of heavenly bliss, where time doesn’t matter. They may come unexpectedly. We forget about our cares and worries, even about what we want. And then they’re gone, and we want them back. We want to re-live the experience, or strive to re-create them, all these fleeting moments. It’s why we wait so much on so many occasions. It is why things are ‘worth the wait’, why we go to great lengths and sacrifice convenience and comfort at airports or lines of traffic, because we want a moment or moments like we had before. 
But we are realistic, and often moments or situations fail to live up to the promise. Maybe we just tried too hard. These times we have striven for are sometimes called a feeling of nirvana, or are called ‘heavenly’ – and explain in part the popularity of the feelings people associate with ‘retail therapy’ or such things as a beauty treatment or a massage. Chemically they can be explained by the release of ‘feel-good hormones’ like serotonin or dopamine in the brain. There is a sense of well-being or togetherness or ‘actualisation’. But why won’t they last - these moments of inner satisfaction or restfulness or, the latest buzz word, ‘mindfulness’? We want them to last forever for ourselves. We even want to share these feelings with others. These all point to what heaven must be like.

Advent teaches us that that all of life is, in fact,  a preparation – and not a case of living passively, in idleness, waiting to die, like some people do, or waiting anxiously for release from pain or waiting for answers.

Our individual and communal waiting therefore must be something commemorated and honoured more, and that is why Advent is so important – the spiritual significance of Christmas is never lost on us if we make the effort to celebrate Advent really well – in anticipation, and in some kind of Lent-like restraint before ‘letting loose’, as it were, in all the excitement that is so wonderful. We can truly celebrate the feast after the fast.
Therefore we realise that there is a lot more to life than passivity. There are, it is said, two kinds of people – those for who life happens to them; and those who happen to life. We are called to be the latter.

And while it is crucial to pray more deeply and well in silence and reflection in the Advent season in anticipation of Christ’s birth re-commemorated, we are called from solitude to service.
Advent is the season of waiting in joyful hope! But it is an important reminder that a life of service to others is in fact purposeful waiting. We must all wait some time longer for the Lord to return to take us with Him to His Father’s house. But in the meantime let us at last begin to live – to TRULY LIVE and to LIVE TRULY in joyful service of one another.

What are you and I waiting for?!

Presentation of Our Lady

We are all called by God to be the best version of ourselves

Blessed Edmund Rice, who founded the Presentation Brothers became this in his own life –  the best version of himself – the whole person and a holy person – complete, lacking nothing. We are called to be likewise but it does not mean we will ever be perfect! No-one is! We all need to work on being better than we are right now.

To create the kind of school and school atmosphere this year as a community – and our own class atmosphere – that Blessed Edmund Rice would be proud of,  is to be giving to be generous with our time as he was.

So where do we start?

There is a big billboard ad on the right hand side of the road as you leave Cobh –just after the Bramley Lodge – advertising the 2013 BMW cars already.

Now you all know what a BMW is and this is not an ad for BMW!

I want to change those letters around and from BMW to BWM

What do the letters BWM stand for – Beginning With Me!

The second reading gives us an example of where to begin BWM

What kind of person am I at the moment?

Can I identify with the Second Reading?

Here it is again in part

A reading from the letter of St. Paul to the Ephesians.

'Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God who has marked you with your seal for you to be set free when the day comes.
 ....Never have grudges against others, or lose your temper, or raise your voice to anybody, or call each other names, or allow any sort of spitefulness....'

In class, at home, even my feelings at times, do I feel the following: anger, temper, resentment, revenge, hatred, spitefulness, loud, lashing out?

There is a story of a woman who used to buy her husband’s shirts – when asked what his collar size was, she couldn’t give it in inches, but she put her hands together in a choking gesture and said: ‘oh, about this size!’

Anger is the easy way out, and there is a very short lived sense of satisfaction in shouting someone down or insulting someone, being nasty, by word, or even text.

That’s not the version of ourselves we are proud of!

If you have ever been on the receiving end of a nasty word, I bet you remember it doesn’t go away that easily! But we have to remember that we might have been on the giving end.

So it is not the Christian way, it was not the way of Blessed Edmund Rice

Instead, what version of myself can I be, does God want me to be, that I am capable of being? Well think again of BWM – I am asked by God to be GENEROUS, SYMPATHETIC AND READY TO FORGIVE.

The second reading continues with these words:

Be friends with one another, and kind, forgiving each other as readily as God forgave you in Christ..

Beginning with myself, I can be the best version of myself.

The hardest word in Christianity – to be a true Christian is a two letter word....AS

Follow Christ by loving as He has loved you – completely. Forgive us our trespasses ...AS we forgive those who trespass against us; Love your neighbour AS yourself – EQUALLY. THE Golden Rule is to treat others AS you would expect to be treated yourself.

The reading today concludes too with an ‘as’ in the middle

Try then to imitate God as children of his that he loves and follow Christ by loving as he has loved you

We mentioned BWM – beginning with myself

I want to finish with another similar one  - BVM.

Today’s feast is of a woman who as a young girl presented herself to God at a young age in the Temple in Jerusalem – she wanted to be the kind of person God wanted her to be. This was Mary. She was open, and she was generous, sympathetic and ready to forgive. As a teenage girl, she was engaged to be married –because that’s the way it was in those times – girls, imagine being engaged?

Well, God had a plan for her – she was called to be the Mother of Jesus, the Blessed Virgin Mary - BVM

And He has a plan for you – a plan that is only just beginning

Can you be generous, sympathetic, ready to forgive, can you be BWM, can you be BVM – the Best Version of Myself?

Let us ask Mary to be like her – to be open to possibilities, but also open to others. The BVM if I pray to her and ask her help even if it’s just ONE HAIL MARY every day she will help me to be like her - BVM – the Best Version of Myself, this school year.





Christ the King

Christ the King 34th Sunday of the Year B (Final Sunday in Ordinary Time)

'So you are a king, then?,' said Pilate.

This feast has its origin in 1920 when the Pope at the time realised that there was the threat of much social chaos in Europe – in fact it was already present, at the overthrow and assassinations of kings and emperors in Portugal, Spain, Austria-Hungary and Russia – in the previous decade. This present decade 2010-2020 marks the centenary of much disorder and war in Europe. Hence the decade witnessed the overthrow and destruction of the royal houses of Europe – or if they continued to exist - were all reduced at best to being symbolic figureheads where they continued to ‘reign’. Examples such as  England, the Low Countries such as the Netherlands, and Scandinavia continue in this line to the present day. This massive upheaval in a short space of time changed the face of Europe and ushered in a new era for the first time in centuries, a ‘brave new world’ was born. People’s potential blind loyalty to the newly founded States, however, be they republics or parliamentary democracies (and Communist as well as fascist dictatorships) was in real danger of eclipsing their prior loyalty to God’s will and kingdom. Indeed the Church was suffering already and would continue to suffer anti-clericalism and persecution in the backlash against the unfortunate prevailing clericalism up that point.
The remedy or attempted remedy was to establish the Feast of Christ the King, as a reminder to all Christians, of Christ’s ultimate Lordship over all people and history, and His universal and everlasting reign - to remind us of our ultimate calling and destiny if we choose to accept it.
On the plus side, it is a reminder that in the world religion and faith have a social dimension, as well as obligations binding on its members and citizens. This was a new era for the Church also as its social teaching came into its own. However, to this day many Christians struggle with unjust laws of the State concerning marriage and the family; the protection of the right to life of society’s most vulnerable members; as well as the place of religious education that is denominational in a pluralist society.

The Kingship of Christ does not have any physical or geographical boundary. But He is the universal King and, as the hymn has it, He is ‘king of all hearts’. This may perhaps seem a romantic, symbolic or remote and abstract concept to us, even ‘flowery’ and not particularly appealing as it seems a bit up in the air.

Yet the prayer of all Christians is the Our Father, where we always say Thy Kingdom Come, and then we say thy will be done. They are actually one and the same request or petition. God’s kingdom can be seen and is manifested where His will is seen to be done in individuals, families, communities and in institutions and societies at large. It does not preclude or exclude the State but where state laws abide by the natural law and respect the dignity of all citizens, the State is not threatened rather its workings are more orderly, peaceful and efficient. We are promoting God’s kingdom by following His commandments and obeying the just laws of the State. But it goes beyond a mere minimalism of conformity, as in the statement I have heard so often ‘I don’t harm anyone’. We must go further and ask and challenge a statement like that with, ‘well, life is about what you do, not what do you not do.’

The kingdom of God is within – it is in our choice to want to do His will above ours, or at least to conform what we want as we consider if it is what God would truly want for us. And that is not the abiding by a mere checklist of commandments and the avoidance of the seven deadly sins, but a real effort at virtue and sanctity. Christianity, truly lived, is not for the faint-hearted.

The kingdom of God, in the words of the Preface for the Feast tells us that it is meant to be

‘ eternal and universal kingdom,

A kingdom of truth and life

A kingdom of holiness and grace,

A kingdom of justice, love and peace.’

Therefore do I practise truth, do I reverence life, do I strive for holiness of life in prayer, appealing to God for the graces I need to remain always faithful to Him, do I hunger and thirst for justice, do I exercise a love that is patient, kind, forgiving, and am I a source of peace?  In the measure that I am all of these things, that is the measure that I am a true representative of Christ in my daily life, an ambassador as it were, of His Kingdom on earth.

Finally, we cannot really effectively have Christ as our King if we do not have Mary as our Queen. This is not to take away or diminish the Lord’s rule or to suggest that Mary does not remain a creature. Yet she has been elevated at her coronation - as the woman of Revelation chapter 12, depicted with a crown of 12 stars around her head, clothed with the sun and the moon at her feet- and we celebrate her Queenship, her coronation, each August 22nd. We do not celebrate that feast with as much prominence as Christ our King, but the Kingdom of God – sometimes called the reign of God, is about the Will of God. And the one who manifested that will perfectly was Mary who said ‘do whatever he tells you’ at Cana – her last recorded words. She is our role model and as the first to enter the Kingdom of Heaven body and soul, she calls us to follow in her footsteps. She played her part and continues to do so through her maternal protection and intercession for all of us.

 Pray for us, O Holy Mother of God, that may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Thirty third Sunday

Heaven and earth shall pass away but my words shall not pass away, says the Lord

Have you ever noticed that words outlive people? I am not just talking about famous sayings like 'to be or not to be’ or anything like that where we can readily answer their origin in a table quiz but  sayings and expressions whose origin goes back hundreds of years, and where nobody knows now for sure who coined them in the first place. Their wisdom and their applicability says something about human nature and behaviours that these words still hold true.

‘Minding your ps and qs’ for example had to do originally with closing time in pubs, where ps were pints and qs were quarts. It was last orders, and it was the announcement of the last chance to but a drink! Has anything changed?

All sorts of clichés like ‘to be honest’, at the end of the day, it’s not rocket science, thinking outside the box, back to the drawing board (1941) avoid it like the plague (middle Ages), a bad hair day (1998 in print), or one of my favourites cut to the chase, used by film editors when a movie in the process of final editing seemed to be lacking in dramatic tension. We might hate sayings like that, but we are all guilty of having repeated phrases whether we like it or not.

Words outlive people. CLOSER TO HOME, we can think of a saying of a deceased relative or friend that has huge significance. It may be witty or wise, and like a family heirloom it has value only within the family circle and conjures up a funny or significant moment. We might introduce it by saying, ‘Lord have mercy on my father, he used always say...’ or ‘as my mother used to say’, or ‘my mother had a saying..’ it may need further explanation outside the family circle. It may be a common enough saying like ‘there’s nowt so queer as folk’, or ‘there’s no accounting for taste’. I wonder what phrases or sayings you might associate with a parent or grandparent or even further back?

The point is: their words live on. The phrase might conjure up an image or memory, it might sum up the character they were for us, so it’s more about the words and their appropriate usage in a given situation, it’s also about the memory of the person we are invoking. We will always make that word association in our minds, and it can be very personally significant but have little meaning for others. We might even have a phrase ourselves unbeknownst to us which people associate with us! Sometimes people want or use a phrase, or better, a favourite prayer for their memorial card or headstone!

So why all this emphasis on words?

Jesus says today: Heaven and earth shall pass away but my words shall not pass away.

Put simply, there is something uniquely significant where words are concerned and particularly in Jesus’ words.

They are the most important words ever spoken, or that will ever be spoken and put to paper –the words, teaching and preaching of Jesus in the Gospel. They will remain forever, no matter what happens. Therefore it is worth getting to know them better, and even having a few simple words or phrases of Jesus we can easily remember and even ponder driving along in the car, such as Come to me all you who labour and I will give you rest. Learn from me for I am meek and humble of heart and you will find rest for your souls. Come follow me, anybody who listen to my words is like a wise man who built his house on rock; blessed are those who mourn, they shall be comforted. Watch and pray, can you not keep watch with me and pray one hour? Ask and you shall receive, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened to you. I am the Good Shepherd; those who belong to me listen to my voice’.

Jesus placed great importance on taking His word to heart and taking them seriously as words for living. We can take great comfort in them.  Without even realising it we find ourselves really praying, bringing our own worries and concerns, at home or at work, to Jesus and finding wisdom and maybe an answer that has been eluding us. They also tell us about the kind of person Jesus was and is, and the kind of people he wants us to be. They are not difficult, they are not rocket science!

In this year of Faith we realise therefore it is not so much about what we believe – although that is important too, but about who we believe in and why? Jesus, whose words will never pass away

Finally as we resolve to take Jesus comforting and at times challenging words more seriously, what were Jesus'  ‘famous last words’ before He ascended into heaven - they are words for every day:

 ‘Do not be afraid, I will be with you always.’


Thirty second Sunday Year B

The generosity of the widow


Mark 12:38-44

In his teaching Jesus said, ‘Beware of the scribes who like to walk about in long robes, to be greeted obsequiously in the market squares, to take the front seats in the synagogues and the places of honour at banquets; these are the men who swallow the property of widows, while making a show of lengthy prayers. The more severe will be the sentence they receive.’

He sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the treasury, and many of the rich put in a great deal. A poor widow came and put in two small coins, the equivalent of a penny. Then he called his disciples and said to them, ‘I tell you solemnly, this poor widow has put more in than all who have contributed to the treasury; for they have all put in money they had over, but she from the little she had has put in everything she possessed, all she had to live on.’


Jesus encounters and sums up the characteristics of three classes of people in the Gospel today

(1)    Jesus condemns the Scribes

Those ridiculous pompous arrogant vain, self-seeking, self-important scribes, who are both seen and heard, say and do anything to attract notice, and make heads turn to look, dressing to make a statement, to gain a certain fame and notoriety and honour – all for them is external show and their religion is skin deep. They were loud in dress and manner, larger than life characters, dressed to impress and for effect, affected, thier manners studied and yet they were ultimately hollow people.

We all know people who value others (or us) only insofar as they have status, fame, money, celebrity and authority in office, people of rank, and are people of influence. These society people summarily dismiss those (of us) who may lack any influence or status, and who did not go to posh schools, and judge us by our educational attainment or our address in town. What matters to them is who we may know or they name drop who they know.

They are the snobs of this world. Perish the thought that we might have ambitions in this direction. We can all think of people whose accents differ remarkably as adults from their upbringing and background, who came from the wrong side of the tracks but you wouldn’t guess it now. It is extraordinary how put on some people are in their new found accent, diction and affectation. Where they shop or even where they go for coffee as well the brand names they wear - are all fashion statements and a keeping up with the Joneses. What and who they value is vanity.

(2)    Jesus is not impressed by the wealthy

The rich (or nouveau riche) in the temple all gave well within their budget. The tinkling or clanking of the many coins, as there were no notes, would echo in the corridors of the Temple, signalling the amount they contributed. They would also attract notice and praise. ‘They have had their reward’. But for all the quantity there was no merit in it. The merit in a sacrifice is the value of what you are giving up, what you are surrendering, but they gave of their plenty. Their contribution was calculated and measured, and fell within their budget. They had plenty left over.

(3)    What is the lesson of the widow?

It is likely that the widow’s generosity was not a one-off. It symbolised and summarised who she was – simple, unworldly, unassuming, devout, but above all, generous, and with a heart whose value far exceeded the material value if all the Temple treasury offerings that day.

The greatest lesson I ever received about generosity was from a wise Capuchin friar, who told me:  be a generous giver and a gracious receiver. Not counting the cost to ourselves – that is sacrifice and the meaning of true love for one another – it is selfless. It is Christian love, because it was the love Christ showed us. It is why she has her reward in heaven, and why we must do likewise, ‘to give and not to count the cost’.






Every school, club, and voluntary organisation has its hall of fame. Go into any hall or sports complex and there is a wall with pictures taken of past heroes and triumphs, called the ‘Hall of Fame’. Honorary members are given pride of place, while trophies and plaques and medals are not hidden away in a corner but placed in a place of honour, in the hallway where passers-by can stop and pause at the greatness and pride of the organization in past accomplishments.  Wistfully some senior members might think ‘we will never see their like again’. They are the stuff of legends, of the golden age, of the good old days, when times were tough and simpler, where sports equipment was rustic and crude, where diet and exercise regimes were not heard of. Photographs, usually black and white, or more recent pics of faded colour whilst showing geeky and dorky dress codes and hairstyles, cannot take away their success and achievements.

Every grouping of people with a tradition will recall founding members, who had a vision for their area geographically, a vision of building up the community, of harnessing the ingenuity and talents of the young as well as the experienced, to manage and support a budding idea and organisation. Risks and sacrifices were taken, and the dream and vision grew brighter, until the idea caught on and its attainability realised over time and with grit and determination in the face of naysayers, critics and persecutors. This applies not only to sport, but to democracies, to clubs, to theatres, to universities and schools, to building projects, to concert halls, to civilisation itself. The same is true of the Church. The vision of the founder, Our Lord Jesus Christ, His teaching, His vision, ethics, moral teaching.

Back to the club or society. But while the older generation look back and shake their heads at the loss and passing of such great ones, a younger eager generation of coaches and selectors see the potential in newer and younger athletes. Who knows, perhaps another Olympic medallist, all-Ireland player or some new household name will give honour to the club. Memorabilia – sports equipment used by the famous, are held in honour and looked on in awe as secular relics.

And what is going in the minds of the younger and fresher athletes – is their ambition to be remembered, not just to play their best and get on the team but to be remembered in stories in times to come, to be famous, to go down in history as one of the greats?

There is something appealing in that thought. Young people are more positive, and ask themselves ‘why not me?’ in their energy and enthusiasm and spirit, they are open to the possibility of greatness. This is their youthfulness. And what happens? Sometimes early Disappointment, and failure and the realisation that not everybody will be that household name, as after all, how many after all can fit on a winners’ podium?

But the great ones are not daunted by failure, seeing it only as postponed success. But even if not successful they can reach a certain level of attainment and potential and do not give into disillusionment. It may be temporary but they can look back later and honestly say, with hand on heart, that they gave it their best shot. It is worth the sacrifice, fuelled by belief.

Coaches, having been around for a while, can be candid, discouraging, and selective. They weed out the untalented, who at best will always stay on the subs bench. Coaches do not make too much of a fuss if they drop out from the panel. In later years perhaps their younger siblings or children will perform instead and be everything theirparents weren’t.

Maybe too parents will pressure them to be what they were not capable of, and project their own expectations on them instead.
Success can be a cross. It brings its own demands. You are under more scrutiny from friend and foe alike. Not that you have upped the ante, there are those who will want you to fail as much as there are those who want you to succeed. There are those who, never having been made a success will taunt you and want to knock you from their pedestal and would be only too happy to drag you to their level. But confidence and encouragement is also there, from family and friends and supporters - urging you on, despite hardships and setbacks.

So it is with the pursuit of holiness. It is a marathon, and not a sprint.

We celebrate the honours list that we call the communion of saints. Not only those who are in the Hall of Fame of the thousands of recognised canonised and beatified men and women and children – but all those gone before us marked with the sign of faith. Those who participated and those too who the crown, the alumni of the Church, all the saints.

We are called to join them and to seriously consider becoming members of the heavenly hall of fame. As St Paul says we must go into 'strict training’ and not depart from the path we have begun. We are striving for ‘a wreath that does not wither.’

As saints we can expect the ‘hardships, worries, insults and persecutions’ that St Paul endured. 
All you holy men and women OF IRELAND pray for us, that we may one day join you.