Monday of Week One

Liturgical Readings for: Monday, 9th January, 2012

First reading: 1 Sam. 1: 1-8
There was a man of Ramathaim, a Zuphite from the highlands of Ephraim whose name was Elkanah son of Jeroham, son of Elihu, son of Tohu, son of Zuph, an Ephraimite. He had two wives, one called Hannah, the other Peninnah; Peninnah had children but Hannah had none. Every year this man used to go up from his town to worship and to sacrifice to Yahweh Sabaoth in Shiloh. The two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were there as priests of Yahweh.
One day Elkanah offered sacrifice. He used to give portions to Peninnah and to all her sons and daughters; to Hannah, however, he would give only one portion, although he loved her more, since Yahweh had made her barren. Her rival would taunt her to annoy her, because Yahweh had made her barren. And this went on year after year; every time they went up to the temple of Yahweh she used to taunt her. And so Hannah wept and would not eat. Then Elkanah her husband said to her, 'Hannah, why are you crying and why are you not eating? Why so sad? Am I not more to you than ten sons?'

Responsorial Psalm Ps 115

1. How can I repay the Lord
for his goodness to me?
The cup of salvation I will raise;
I will call on the Lord's name.

2. My vows to the Lord I will fulfil
before all his people.
a precious in the eyes of the Lord
is the death of his faithful.

3. Your servant, Lord, your servant am I;
you have loosened my bonds.
A thanksgiving sacrifice I make;
I will call on the Lord's name.

4. My vows to the Lord I will fulfil
before all his people,
in the courts of the house of the Lord,
in your midst, a Jerusalem.

Gospel Acclamation Acts 16: 14

Alleluia, alleluia!
Open our heart, O Lord,
to accept the words of your Son.

Gospel: Mark 1: 14-20

After John had been arrested, Jesus went into Galilee. There he proclaimed the Good News from God. 'The time has come' he said 'and the kingdom of God is close at hand. Repent, and believe the Good News.'

As he was walking along by the Sea of Galilee he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net in the lake - for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, 'Follow me and I will make you into fishers of men'. And at once they left their nets and followed him. Going on a little further, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John; they too were in their boat, mending their nets. He called them at once and, leaving their father Zebedee in the boat with the men he employed, they went after him.


The readings today are the beginning of two narratives, therefore their brevity should not prevent us from seeing that the story of Hannah and the disciples are just the beginning.

The prayer of Hannah, like so many desperate couples today (one in six), is for a child. It is when nothing seems to be happening in our lives that God is truly about to act in a very dramatic fashion. With God we are never bored for very long. We are constantly petitioning God for ourselves and others. Prayer to Him is a battle and a long struggle, evan a 'battle' (Catechism of the Catholic Church -see below*** ), but victory is certain as Hannah will find out and as the Psalmist sings in praise and thanksgiving for a favour(s) received. Before we launch into our next big request or petition let us take time to praise God in gratitude for all the favours we have already received. Let us count our blessings today.

The call of the disciples at Galilee is amidst their daily tasks. It is when things are quiet the Lord catches us unawares. It is interesting that there are 2 types of activity here – fishing and mending. Both are crucial – one does not make sense without the other – the mending is for a purpose, but the act of fishing has limitations due to wear and tear. These two aspects of fishermen’s lives correspond to ours – work and repair: activity and time out. Even sellers of goods must close for stock-taking. Why should our spiritual life be any different? We must be active in the apostolate, in works of charity, our daily duty, and we also must withdraw for re-charging before re-launching. But crucial to this is the encounter with Christ in prayer – we are re-called as it were, time and again.

In prayer we return in our minds and in our hearts to that first beginning – the initial encounter with Christ maybe years ago, of that first attraction, not knowing where it would lead us. Like a man and woman who remember when, where, and how they fell in love with each other and on an anniversary recall that first meeting, as well as all the events that followed, so we too are re-charged by the remembrance of our first real encounter with Him, our first joyful experience of love of Him in prayer. We see too that we have progressed or deepened that friendship – beyond prayer-as-petition to reflection, to renewed desire, and to contemplation in love. Prayer therefore is not so much what we do, but describes a state of being, of relationship. It is then with renewed purpose that we can return to our tasks and vocations in life this January with a reminder of WHAT SHOULD BE our basic central motivation and meaning behind what we do – which is love. And love is never boring, because a lover is never bored!


2725 Prayer is both a gift of grace and a determined response on our part. It always presupposes effort. The great figures of prayer of the Old Covenant before Christ, as well as the Mother of God, the saints, and he himself, all teach us this: prayer is a battle. Against whom? Against ourselves and against the wiles of the tempter who does all he can to turn man away from prayer, away from union with God. We pray as we live, because we live as we pray. If we do not want to act habitually according to the Spirit of Christ, neither can we pray habitually in his name. The "spiritual battle" of the Christian's new life is inseparable from the battle of prayer.


2726 In the battle of prayer, we must face in ourselves and around us erroneous notions of prayer. Some people view prayer as a simple psychological activity, others as an effort of concentration to reach a mental void. Still others reduce prayer to ritual words and postures. Many Christians unconsciously regard prayer as an occupation that is incompatible with all the other things they have to do: they "don't have the time." Those who seek God by prayer are quickly discouraged because they do not know that prayer comes also from the Holy Spirit and not from themselves alone.

2727 We must also face the fact that certain attitudes deriving from the mentality of "this present world" can penetrate our lives if we are not vigilant. For example, some would have it that only that is true which can be verified by reason and science; yet prayer is a mystery that overflows both our conscious and unconscious lives. Others overly prize production and profit; thus prayer, being unproductive, is useless. Still others exalt sensuality and comfort as the criteria of the true, the good, and the beautiful; whereas prayer, the "love of beauty" (philokalia), is caught up in the glory of the living and true God. Finally, some see prayer as a flight from the world in reaction against activism; but in fact, Christian prayer is neither an escape from reality nor a divorce from life.

2728 Finally, our battle has to confront what we experience as failure in prayer: discouragement during periods of dryness; sadness that, because we have "great possessions,"15 we have not given all to the Lord; disappointment over not being heard according to our own will; wounded pride, stiffened by the indignity that is ours as sinners; our resistance to the idea that prayer is a free and unmerited gift; and so forth. The conclusion is always the same: what good does it do to pray? To overcome these obstacles, we must battle to gain humility, trust, and perseverance.


Today is the first day back to work, college or school for many people – and the dark moody period known as the doldrums begin. The doldrums are that part of mid-ocean where there is no tide and no wind. Sailing ships, relying on nature alone, are at a complete standstill. There is no sense of achievement or accomplishment because, despite having a compass and all the equipment and cargo, without a puff of wind, the ship is useless. The doldrums are also noted for calm periods when the winds disappear altogether, trapping sail-powered boats for periods of days or weeks.

When the winds are gone the sea actually has no swells, on a clear day the color of the sky is reflected in the water. At night the same effect, with no clouds or moon, gives one the effect of floating in space. The crew have to wait it out, monotony sets in, jobs and maintenance performed for their own sake soon become a crushing bore. This whole month of January can be tedious. After the excitement and distraction of the aftermath of Christmas, reviews of the year just past, and January sales, even still the next secular event - Valentine’s Day seems far away.
The weather can be pretty drab as well, and we can be tempted to book holidays to divert ourselves and rescue ourselves from the ever-yawning chasm of boredom and return to difficult tasks we have put off tackling. Our lives, if they were biographies, would be at the ‘boring’ part.

Prevailing sadness and monotony are part of the human condition. We all go through periods of ‘seeming meaninglessness’, but like the sails of a boat, the oppressive calm will once more end and we can once more get on our way. Before we know it, our lives pick up speed and in the midst of activity we hanker again for quiet and calm!

As we pause let us begin our year with a resolution to be more reflective.

What better source of material for reflection than the daily readings from Mass?

So let us begin Week One of Year II in the Liturgical Year as we launch once more out into the deep.


Baptism of the Lord, 7th January 2012

The Birthday of Christ begins the season of Christmas and now this Sunday the Baptism of Christ brings an end to the season. We go back to ordinary time as well as resuming our tasks and lives - back to school, work, and routine.

But before we do so, before all the decorations are put away for another year and all the cards are recycled, the Church invites us to take another look at our baptism in commemorating the Baptism of Jesus – and its relevance and importance in our lives.

For each of us our physical birth to our mother and father begins a close relationship of dependency, of nurturing and love as well as membership of a family and taking our rightful place in the family home.

But in some cultures the 'name-day' or christening date is celebrated or marked more significantly than one's birthday. It is the day after all we began our son-ship/daughter-ship as members of God's family. It is our spiritual birthday. Why not find out when you were baptised, and commemorate it annually?

Baptism is a spiritual rebirth, we belong to Mother Church and are nurtured by the sacraments, and we are at home in the Church with our spiritual kinship to our brothers and sisters. St Augustine said "he will not have God for his Father who would not have the Church for his mother."

Our obligations and responsibilities towards the other members of our own human family, brothers and sisters etc., are mirrored by the relationship and responsibilities to our brothers and sisters in Christ.

But baptism involves this and much more on a spiritual level.

We can remind ourselves often of our great dignity and calling through Baptism, by utilising each of the letters of BAPTISM to help us to realise the implications of the Sacrament.

B is for Beloved.
God the Father describes Jesus at His Baptism as His ‘beloved’ Son. We too are beloved of the Father through our Baptism and this is an unfathomable mystery that God takes the initiative to love us who are so undeserving. To recognise that we have a loving Father is very important, but can be conditioned and hampered by the relationship we have (had) with our earthly father. But even if it was nit an ideal relationship hopefully all have us have had the experience of being loved by someone. That wonderful sensation is just a glimpse of the love God has for us. Sometimes we wonder what a woman might ‘see’ in a man she loves, and vice-versa. They may seem to us to be ill-matched, but through the lens of love they see themselves as ‘made for each other.’ It remains a mystery. There are no really satisfactory human comparisons to God’s love for us. God’s Love has no reasons ‘why’ but it is worth reflecting on His generous Love for you and me.

A is for Adopted as sons and daughters of God the Father. This is a spiritual adoption. Adoption has legal implications, giving the adopted person the same legal rights of inheritance as biological children. Through baptism we are adopted by God as His children, and become brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ and of one another and are given the ‘right’ to the inheritance of heaven, something which is again God’s loving initiative. Every man is therefore my brother in Christ, and every woman I can call my sister. If only I would begin to treat them accordingly and as they deserve!

P is for People of God – on a pilgrimage through the wilderness of life. We are no longer individuals, isolated, rudderless, without meaning or identity. We truly ‘belong to each other’ and are called, in the words of Pope John Paul II, to build ‘a civilisation of love’. We have a collective identity. We are a people. We are a family, with relationships and responsibilities – just as we are all at once a son or daughter, grandson or grand-daughter, niece or nephew, cousin, so we have relations in the Christian family.

T is for Temples of the Holy Spirit, called and commanded to keep the temple of our bodies undefiled, by sin. True self-love respects the body of oneself, as well as therefore treating the bodies of others with dignity. We do great harm to ourselves by sin, and if we involve another in a sin, do great harm to them also. This should give us pause for thought, to meditate often on our true worth and value, as well as by implication, the worth of others for their bodily and spiritual integrity.

I is for Intercessors for one another – we ought to take seriously the invitation to pray for one another. We ought to believe that our prayers can and will be heard even if they are answered in ways and at times that we do not expect. I wonder if I have always taken this call to intercession seriously enough and if I have had the requisite faith to believe in it.

S is for Sanctified and called to be a saint, and able to receive the other Sacraments. Without Baptism, the other sacraments have no meaning and no value or effect on our souls. That is one reason that the Church has always taken great care to record the event of a baptism. The sacrament changes us interiorly and invisibly to make us holy and acceptable in God’s sight. We are to take seriously the baptismal call to holiness. The Bible says: ‘this is God’s will – your sanctification’ (1 Thess 14-16) Persevering prayer is the key to holiness. Sanctification is the work of a lifetime.

M is for Members of the Body of Christ, members of the Church and on a Mission. We have a collective purpose, calling and vocation by word, and by example to be lead, and to lead others closer to God. We cannot keep to ourselves the ‘secret’ of Christ, what He means to us, and what He does for us. We should desire this happiness for others. As Pope John Paul II said ‘those who have come into genuine contact with Christ cannot keep him for themselves, they must proclaim Him’. Membership of the Church should make us consider seriously becoming members of an apostolic or missionary organisation, concerned with spiritual and charitable works for our neighbour. We prove we are Christians by our love, especially for those whose need is greater than our own. To sum up, it means doing More!

So let us remember who and what we are as baptised Catholics:


The Epiphany

The Solemnity of the Epiphany - January 6th

While reading once again the familiar account of the journey of the three Magi, it struck me that their last stage of their journey was their shortest, but was too long for Herod and the Jews because they lacked faith.

Having travelled hundreds of miles across the wilderness of the Middle East, with faith but not the requisite knowledge, the distance for the Magi from Herod’s palace to the lowly manger in Bethlehem was only 6 miles. Yet it is not recorded if any of the scribes or Pharisees bothered themselves to make the journey for themselves. They had the requisite knowledge, but not the wisdom or genuine faith to lead them to Christ. Herod was too proud and sceptical to go there. But the Magi did go there and fell on their knees; and their faith, armed with knowledge was rewarded.

There were four stages to their journey –

Firstly, based on their human calculations and assisted by the star but also on their wits, logic and tenacity, yet somehow still unsure, they made their way to the place where an earthly king could be expected to be found – in Jerusalem.

Secondly, based on the accumulated and collective wisdom and Revelation to the Jews, they made their way - correctly - to Bethlehem.

Thirdly, they fell down and worshipped Christ – the Messiah and the King of Kings, seen with Mary His Mother. They offered what they had.

Fourthly, they were guided by divine intervention in a dream, and made their way home by a different, safer route.

This journey of faith, hope, and expectation of the Magi is our journey too and an example to each Christian.

The Magi remind us that we too make our way through life amidst uncertainty, unsure of what lies ahead in the future. They crossed the wilderness, and eventually through their own perseverance and with the right guidance, they found Christ, the goal of their quest and long searching.

We are often left uncertain and anxious of the road ahead, but like the Magi, our journey is marked out for us. The star was not there for them at all times to guide them continuously, but arose again when they were near their goal. They availed of the wisdom of the Jews. The Old Testament - and the New Testament Revelation - the Word of God - is at our disposal.

We know that Christ will guide us but He respects our free-will and expects us to make an effort by ourselves to persevere and not give up in prayer.

We encounter Christ in the sacraments – and adore Him, falling on our knees in the Eucharist. The more time and sacrifice (required of us) in our efforts to give honour, praise and adoration in the Eucharist, and the more we offer ourselves and our lives to Him and His will, the more freely He acts in us and guides us to where He wants us to go. His will becomes clearer to us in proportion to prayerful, persevering effort in prayer.

The Magi’s journey home was far more secure and certain after their encounter with Christ and His Mother. Jesus, with Mary also, can guarantee us safety and right direction as we continue the earthly pilgrimage to our heavenly home.

May we be truly wise and may Jesus and Mary be with us every step of the way in 2012!

January 1st 2012 Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God

This is the time of year for resolutions – yet again, many of which we will fail to keep by month’s end, because we are creatures of habit. All self-help books promise a winning formula – a plan, a programme that is fool-proof (except for me that is!), offer tangible results, short term and long term goals, strategies against back-sliding, reviews, exercises, and accountability to and the support of others.
The top ten resolutions of course include more exercise, getting fit, losing the flab, acquiring a new hobby, getting organised, more time with family and friends, quitting smoking, helping others and so on.

One thing is true however – apparently it takes three weeks for the body to attune to a new habit it has not adapted to before – before it becomes automatic.
All of these are quite praiseworthy, but have I thought about my relationship with God?
The passing of another year means that I am a year closer to meeting Him. How do I feel about that? The only good news is that if you have a frame of mind like mine you know now that 2011 won’t be on your headstone. Now that another 365 days have passed, how many more lie ahead?

‘The key to a better you’ is a physical fitness plan a friend of mine has undertaken recently and he lost 2 stone in 2 months – a bit dramatic, and involving strenuous exercise and a massive change in diet – 70% of any weight loss plan involves change in diet by the way.

But what is the key to a better ‘spiritual you’?

Is there a winning formula in my relationship with God? Yes I believe there is, and who better to look to than the woman we celebrate today – someone who we may have overlooked in recent years.


The letters of Mary’s name correspond to a daily spiritual programme to draw us ever closer to God.

M is for Mass – if possible, daily. While there are many reasons to participate at Mass regularly, here are just two:

In a particular way, the prayer ‘give us this day our daily bread’ corresponds to the strength and healing that Christ alone can give us to carry on. Just as we are weakened by lack of proper nourishment, without Christ we are weak indeed.
Secondly, it is good to go to Mass with an intention in mind, and easier to focus with that intention – for ourselves or someone else – and to pray for that intention at the elevation of the Host and the Chalice at consecration.

A is for Angelus – a prayer that can be said at 6 am, 12 noon, and at 6 pm. It is a reminder of God’s love for us in sending us His Son as well as Mary’s response in faith to her unique calling. To what is God calling me, and how can I be more faithful and attentive as Mary was, are questions that we can ponder during the recitation of the Angelus

R is for Rosary – the prayer that Mary asks us to pray daily in order to obtain peace for the world and for ourselves.

Y is for You – the unique gift that only you can give to God is the ongoing daily surrender of your very self – thought words, actions, intentions and sacrifices, in the spirit of Mary, and through her intercession.

For 2012 and beyond, this is the key to a better ‘spiritual you’.

Happy New Year