Thirteenth Sunday of the Year C

What does Jesus Christ want of us?

Any parent of a sluggish (usually teenage) child knows the expression, ‘How many times must I call you?’ as a teenager will often put off a painful duty. A girl in her 20s told me how her teenage niece texted her from the couch in her home to the kitchen to make her a cup of tea! How lazy can you get?

We delay the inevitable thought of discomfort. We text ahead that we are running late (but what really delayed us?). There is no ad break or commercial break, there is no ‘I’ll get back to you’ for our response to God.  Abraham Lincoln once said that ‘my father taught me the value of hard work, but he didn’t teach me to like it’.

What does God want? There is no snooze button or pause button where God is concerned. Nor does He does not want to be put on hold!

He wants obedience –

·       listening,

·       and doing,

·       promptly

·       to the present moment.

He wants our friendship and a return of the love that He has shown us.
He calls each one of us, not just priests and nuns or missionaries, to follow Him. He wants of each person the faithful performance of their daily duty as required of their state in life. It need not necessarily be (though may include) getting up and facing the day sometimes on a dark, dreary wintry morning that is bleak and daunting to go off to work.

He wants us to follow Him to Jerusalem - to deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow him. He wants a particular kind of friendship and relationship – of trust and of reliability.
What kind of friend am I to Him? What kind of person am I?

Three people make what we might deem valid excuses in their response to Christ’s call today.

But the excuses that we make tell us a lot about ourselves in our present state. The delay tactics, the reasons for delay are about us wanting to put off an uncomfortable but necessary duty that urgently presents itself to us!

‘I’ll do it later’ tasks are often never done at all, of if done are done later in the day, under the pressure of the clock or deadline, and grudgingly or slipshod. As creatures of habit we might work better under the pressure of a deadline and how ironic it is that the more time I have on my hands, the less I get done.

‘I don’t feel like it’ is not refer to things that a matter of taste but those very things are a matter of duty, of honouring and being faithful to a commitment. As Nike ads say ‘Just do it’. Laziness, or sloth in one place will ultimately spill into all areas of our lives. This is part of the self-indulgence that St Paul warns the Galatians about in today’s Sunday reading. A good test of our response, our obedience to the present moment, to the duty required of us, is our punctuality vis à vis suiting ourselves.  So we see that the Cross that we are called to pick up every day (last week) does in fact involve denying ourselves, and if for no other reason let us at least be motivated to act straight away by our consideration for others’ feelings. This is very telling when we see that Our Lady went with haste to visit her cousin Elizabeth and was so attentive at Cana before everyone else noticed that the wine had run out and spared the couple’s and family’s embarrassment in a real concrete situation.

We are at constant war with the self-indulgent back-sliding that years of bad ingrained habit tempt us back to, and the striving to live a life in the Spirit – the new life which Christ calls us towards and ultimately leads to eternal life.

If we are truly, madly, deeply in love with Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ and faithful to Him in prayer (even when we don’t feel like praying when the opportunity presents itself), we will find ourselves saying more and more often when we are tempted backwards: ‘How could I do that to Him?’ and throughout the day we will see Him and serve Him with consideration more and more in our neighbour. Then our constant question will be ‘what am I waiting for?’


Twelfth Sunday of Year C

Twelfth Sunday

One of the advantages of a name like 'John' is that is so common. There were 4 Johns in my class at primary school and sometimes the teacher would ask a question I wouldn’t know the answers to. I am sure looking back one teacher got great pleasure in asking ‘now who will I ask? John…’  the four Johns would gulp and be on hold, and a sigh of relief would come from this John who didn’t know the answer when another John surname was called out because he hadn’t his learning off homework done!

A teacher asks questions of course out find out how much the pupils understand what they have learned (if they have taken the trouble to learn!). That is in fact what to educate means ‘to draw out from’.

Jesus was, among other things, a teacher to his followers. He was often addressed as ‘Rabbi’ which means ‘teacher’. Someone once counted how many questions Jesus asks in the 4 Gospel accounts and there are about 200 questions he asks, often rhetorically, but all ultimately directed at all Christians for all times and at us today, addressed to us, and He wants an answer from each person.

Jesus asks two questions today

Who do people say that I am?

And of course opinions are divided and none of the answers turn out to be correct. People’s opinions are not necessarily right. Popular opinion is very elusive. So much for what people think of us.

But Jesus is not really that concerned what people think of him (unlike us!). This was simply a lead in question to the real question: ‘who do you say that I am?’ That is a very different prospect altogether! Jesus is getting personal.

This is a crucial question. After all we know that He will meet with us one day and ask us the very same question! It is Only Peter who comes up with right answer – ‘The Christ of God’.  Likewise in class there was always someone who knew the right answer to every question!

We come to realise then in the account of what follows that then Jesus teaches us who he says He is Himself! And that we cannot have Him without the cross. And all of us have one, which can be external or internal, even unknown to a spouse or family member.

The inescapable reality of the cross in all its forms – spiritual, physical, emotional, mental, in relationships, the cross can take the form of everyday criticism, anger, trials, contradictions and humiliations. To be a disciple is to be a follower of the Lord Jesus not in a piecemeal fashion, picking and choosing, but with hardships and ordeals and all sorts of unexpected challenges and trials. There is no-one who escapes suffering. To be a follower means to be open - and to be willing to be opened to the very likely possibility of suffering.

It only begins to make sense when love is brought into the equation. Even on the happiest day imaginable in a person’s life, in two people’s lives in fact – on their wedding day, a couple exchange vows. The good and the bad are accepted in equal measure, in a balanced equation as it were. - For better or worse for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, till death do us part. Often a couple are quite moved by this exchange. What a married couple effectively say is: we will face the future together and we will suffer together. It is love, as well as  prayer, duty, mutual trust and tenacity that help them to persevere and not to give up on each other.

People sometimes wistfully say to themselves or aloud – ‘if I knew then what I know now!’ Each choice in life, single, married, religious or priestly, brings its own cup of suffering in unexpected ways. The grass is always greener elsewhere. No matter what life we choose, we bring our personality, our temperament, our upbringing with us. We will make our share of mistakes; we will have our coping mechanisms, bad habits and good. We will have good days and bad days, sunshine and rain. In marriage two personalities must work for a lifetime, religious must lives their vows in a community setting, a priest and even single people must find it in the sacrifices to their comfort, convenience and control.

With the passage of time we begin to see all the implications of that first yes, but it was a free yes, made in love and hopefully now even more mature and developed, made stronger and with more resolve. The permanent and lasting cost becomes clearer to us, especially at milestone events, ages or anniversaries,  with the renewed and deeper sense or realisation of what we have accepted as well as given up, renounced or surrendered. Sometimes growth involves the more complete 'yes' that entails a  fuller surrender of self, a stripping off of vanity and pride, of self-centredness and control. But the 'terms and conditions' that bind us at one level are meant to free us at another.

Now today, Jesus asks: ‘Who do you say that I am NOW? After all these years? Or will you too go away?’ At every stage of life we must face the daily cross, not back-sliding, but denying ourselves, making sacrifices, doing our duty. Obedience, the calling and sacrifices that our state and age in life brings. Take up your cross, whatever that may be!

Andrew said to Bartholomew – ‘we have found the Christ.’  We too must find Him, but He must find us - in prayer. Jesus says firmly and finally that we must ‘lose our lives’ in order to find them. Therefore we must regularly die to self and  surrender the three C words of our Convenience, Comfort and Control. With the help of prayer we realise that:

‘When you have found the Cross, it is I you have found’ (Our Lord to Bl Josefa Menendez).


11th Sunday of Ordinary Time

The woman who was a sinner
The story of the compassion of Jesus in Luke continues in the Gospel account of the woman who has sinned much and been forgiven much.

The saying goes that every saint has a past and every sinner has a future!

Who among us has not sinned grievously in the past? Some of our (repented) sins remain known to God alone, thank God! If people we count among our friends knew all our (sometimes repeated) sins of the past – and present - they would be truly shocked and scandalised! We might take little consolation that we might feel that way in return if we were privy to their sins. So some things are better left unsaid between friends. They know us for who we are and still love us, for our warts and all!

The readings today at Mass tell us about three sinners – David, who committed lust, murder and adultery; Paul, the convert from fanatical persecution of Christians, and the woman who was a sinner, with a ‘name’ in the town in which she lived.

The woman in the Gospel passage of today shows great love – tears of joy of repentance and the knowledge that she is forgiven much, and tears too of sadness of sins she committed against herself, perhaps against her own body, but certainly sins against her own dignity. That is one of the effects of sins, even private ones. They degrade us, and sometimes we are completely at fault, with perfect knowledge and full consent, as the Catechism teaches us.

We might beat ourselves up for sins we would not commit know now with the benefit of age, wisdom and hindsight. So we can see what damage sin does to our own psyche, and the harm we do not only to our spiritual well being but our mental, physical and emotional well being before and having been forgiven.

 All this does not include the offence given to God, and sins we may have committed in collusion with, or which gave scandal to, others.

Many people carry around - for years - the unnecessary burdens of guilt, anger and shame. Some of the anger directed at the Church and her priests is due, at least in part, to guilty consciences and people’s upset that in fact the Church especially in her moral teaching might be right after all. But without the grace of God, people can level hatred at the Church projecting their own self-hatred.  

The deeper the hurt, the greater the pain. With sin, there are no winners, only losers. But the sense of joy, of a great burden lifted, with the experience of at last confessing personal sin, is therapeutic and uplifting, and gives a peace and joy the world cannot give.

This is the heartfelt experience of the woman who was a sinner, who became a disciple. And are we not all disciples, and all sinners one at the same time. Is there anyone among us who has not sinned? Let us turn to the Lord of mercy and compassion and live lives of mercy towards all we meet - in  prayer, thought, word and action.

Jesus, mercy



                Statement of the Irish Bishops Conference was read at all Masses this Sunday


Statement by the Catholic Bishops of Ireland

A time to reflect

On Saturday last, tens of thousands of women, men and children gathered in Dublin to express their support for the equal right to life of mothers and their unborn children.

We are at a defining moment for our country.

The Gospel of life is at the heart of the message of Jesus.  He came that we may have life and have it to the full (Jn 10:10).  The Gospel challenges us to work for a world in which the dignity and beauty of every human life are respected.

A time to uphold the right to life

The right to life is the most fundamental of all rights; it is the foundation of all other rights.  No individual has the right to destroy life and no State has the right to undermine the right to life.

Yet the Irish Government is proposing abortion legislation that will fundamentally change the culture of medical practice in Ireland.  For the first time legislation will be enacted permitting the deliberate and intentional killing of an unborn child. This represents a radical change. Every citizen, not just people of faith, should be deeply concerned.

We value the skill and efforts of our doctors, nurses and other care professionals who have helped to earn Ireland’s place as one of the safest countries in the world for mothers and their babies during pregnancy.

Catholic Church teaching is clear: where a seriously ill pregnant woman needs medical treatment which may put the life of her baby at risk, such treatments are ethically permissible provided every effort is made to save both the mother and her baby.

This is different from abortion, which is the direct and intentional taking of the innocent life of the unborn.  No matter what legislation is passed in any country, abortion is, and always will be, gravely wrong.

A time for clarity and truth

The Government is under no obligation to legislate for the X case.  People are being misled. We challenge repeated statements that this legislation is about saving lives and involves no change to the law or practice on abortion. Legalising the direct and intentional destruction of the life of an unborn baby can never be described as ‘life-saving’ or ‘pro-life’.

Contrary to clear psychiatric evidence, this legislation proposes abortion as an appropriate response to women with suicidal feelings during pregnancy.  It is even possible to envisage as a result of this legislation the deliberate destruction of a child, who could otherwise be saved, right up to and including the moment of birth.

Furthermore, we challenge assurances that the proposed legislation will provide limited access to abortion.  As published to date, the legislation will allow for a very wide margin of subjective professional assessment by which the deliberate destruction of an unborn baby can be legally justified. As we have learned from other countries, such legislation opens the door to ever wider availability of abortion.

We remain convinced that enhanced medical guidelines, which do not envisage the direct and intentional killing of the unborn, could provide the necessary clarity as well as a morally, legally and medically acceptable way forward.  While good health can normally be restored, life, once taken, can never, never be restored.

A time for freedom of conscience

Freedom of conscience is a fundamental human right.  A State that truly cherishes freedom will respect the conscience of its citizens, including its public representatives, on such an important human value as the right to life.

It is ethically unacceptable to expect doctors, nurses and others who have conscientious objections to nominate others to take their place.  Neither should any institution with a pro-life ethos be forced to provide abortion services.

A time to decide: a time to act; a time to pray

We call on citizens to exercise their right to make their views known respectfully to our public representatives and to leave them in no doubt about where they stand on this issue.

We ask our public representatives to uphold the equal and inviolable right to life of all human beings, even if this means standing above other pressures and party loyalties.

We also invite our priests and people to continue to pray the Choose Life prayer at Mass and in the home that the dignity and value of all human life will continue to be upheld in this country.

Some mothers today are facing difficult or crisis pregnancies. Other people who have had, or who have assisted with abortions, may be re-living what happened in the past.  They deserve to receive all the love, support and professional care that they need.

As Bishops we will join this weekend in prayerful solidarity with millions of Catholics all over the world in the Year of Faith celebration of Blessed John Paul II’s Encyclical Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life).

Every human life is precious, every human life is beautiful, every human life is sacred. Choose life!


10th Sunday of Ordinary Time Year C

The widow’s son at Nain
Now we return to Ordinary Time Sundays, having celebrated the Solemnities of Pentecost, Trinity Sunday and Corpus Christi. For the remainder of the liturgical year we will be encountering the Christ of Luke or of Christ from the perspective of Luke. Luke was a convert and had a keen sense of coming in from the margins as a Gentile convert. So it is that he has empathy for the outsiders in Jewish society. We see in the coming Sundays the compassion of Jesus for women as one of the interests of Luke in how he presents Christ. Might it be too bold to say that Luke was a feminist? We see today the woman who is widowed is also now childless and therefore in an incredibly vulnerable position in society. She is impoverished by this cruel twist of fate that sees her outlive her husband’s and her only son.

 We are presented with this Gospel passage today alongside its counterpart in the Old Testament of Elijah raising a widow’s son. Elijah calls on God, but Jesus is God and has the power to raise the young man Himself. It is the clear and consistent action of Christ to raise up all those who are bowed down, or in  Mary’s words in the Magnificat - also recorded in Luke -  ‘he lifts up the lowly in their nothingness’(Luke 1:52).

 The compassion of Christ is for the widow’s fate. In this month of the Scraed heart we are called once more to consider the Lord’s merciful heart – aheart filled with love, mercy and compassion. The Lord’s mercy is indeed truly astonishing to the crowd – ‘God has visited his people’!

Jesus does an astonishing thing in interrupting a funeral procession. He puts his hand n the wooden bier, and while that was considered unclean because of the close contact with a dead person, the fact that the boy is raised up means that there is no uncleanness ritually either.

The phrase common to both accounts, written centuries apart, is that ‘he gave him to his mother’ (Luke7:15).

Death loses its power. Jesus takes on death and ultimately triumphs. He is reversing the effects of the Fall, when death entered the world through sin. He will conquer death in the wood of the Cross.

In a great parallel at the end of His life, as Jesus’ hands were touching another piece of wood, the wood of the cross,  Jesus gives ‘the son to his mother’ when He gives the disciple to Mary, calling him ‘your son’ …’and ‘from that hour the disciple took her to his own home’ (John 1:27).

 Applications in our own lives

We may have had the experience of someone encouraging us, lifting is up, singling us out as it were for a word of consideration or kindness. We were not forgotten or neglected by them; we were made feel that we matter; we were made feel that we were of use, that we have an indispensable purpose in the order of things, and our dignity and sense of meaning was restored to us. Anyone who acted that way towards us has acted in a Christ-like manner. The challenge to us is to do likewise (Luke 10:37).

The message we can take from today’s passages is that God does not want us to feel abandoned or alone, in want or desperate. In fact ‘true religion is this – to come to the aid of the widow and orphan in their distress’ (James 1:27). We are called to reach out to the very same sense of compassion and empathy to the destitute, and to ‘raise them up’ as it were, in their need.

And at those times of desperation in our own lives, it is Christ's gift of His Mother Mary who can be our companion and our consolation in this ‘valley of tears’. Let us give ourselves completely to her, following the example of Blessed John Paul II whose motto was ‘Totus Tuus Ego Sum’ – ‘I am all yours’.

The raising up of the man also points to the resuscitation (through the Spirit) we experience in big raised up and restored to ‘Mother Church’ in the forgiveness of sins, restored to the Christian family, restored to the community, reconciled. Now again like the young man, we must truly live as is disciples.




Corpus Christi

Corpus Christi


Trinity Sunday

Pentecost Sunday