God Is Good & So Are YOU!
Jan 29, 2019
I felt this was a fitting picture. Fr. George’s Wake and Funeral Mass will be held at St. Barnabas.
I have had the pleasure for the last 8 years to bring to you the life and wisdom of one of the greatest men I have ever known. Through his writings we all came to know him just a little bit better, and in that process, our lives – if we followed his simple suggestions – became better too! The old saying, “they broke the mold when they made. . . ” amply applies to George Patrick McKenna.
8 years ago, Uncle George wanted to put out a 5th book, and when he got an idea in his mind, believe me, it was hard to change it. His nieces (one is my beautiful wife), would visit him every Saturday and Sunday, and weekly they would hear about his plans. Understandably, we had doubts. He was 92 years old, and at the time was going through some health issues. Would a book make sense at this late time in his life? My daughter suggested a blog as a means for him to reach even more people than a little paper back would, and the cost would be nothing but the time spent typing out the page. In a short time, Uncle George agreed to give this new technology a try and his little Blog – which has now reached 147 countries and has been viewed more than 53,000 times, was born.
Each week became routine. The blog for the week would be created from his treasure trove of writings, he would review the finished project, it would be published, and then his nieces would read to him each and every comment that was sent in. It not only brightened his day, but it gave him the hope and will to keep moving, keep living, and keep looking forward to tomorrow. I can confidently say that YOU, each and every one of YOU who sent in your thoughts, your love, and your gratitude – kept this humble servant of God, not only living, but thriving up to the end.
Through these 8 years, I have marveled at the love, admiration and gratitude of the comments that you have all written about Fr. McKenna. As his family, we knew he was special, but that took on new meaning when you all confirmed what we already knew.
I continue to be amazed at the memories you have shared. These stories were sparks of hope and life for Fr. McKenna. You might not realize this, but this little blog and YOUR response, YOUR acceptance, YOUR love and most importantly, YOUR COMMENTS kept him going these last 8 years. We all need to be loved and appreciated. Without this beautiful gift, our lives would be lonely, despondent and bleak. Uncle George’s existence was supported and nurtured by the outpouring of love you showed each and every week through your comments.
This Thursday and Friday we will be saying our earthly good byes to our Uncle, Friend, Priest, Confessor, Teacher and Spiritual Guide. Thank you, to each of you for giving us these extra 8 years to live and love this remarkable man. You made a difference in his life, more than you know.
A Lenten Morning Prayer:
Lord Jesus, you lived and died for me.
Help me to keep that thought before me today so that whatever life brings, whether it be success or failure, satisfaction or disappointment, happiness or sorrow, I may offer it to you.
Through me, may everyone I meet this day see You Lord, see Your presence and experience Your love. Lord I offer You today.
May I serve You by serving others in Your name making all that I do a gift of love and thanksgiving for all You have done for me. Amen
Bless me heavenly Father,
forgive my erring ways.
Grant me the strength to serve Thee,
put purpose in my days.
Give me understanding,
enough to make me kind.
So I may judge all people,
with my heart and not my mind.
Teach me to be patient,
in everything I do.
Content to trust your wisdom,
and to follow after You.
Help me when I falter,
and hear me when I pray.
And receive me in Thy kingdom,
to dwell with Thee someday.
The health benefits of fasting from food have gotten a lot of attention in the last several years. What’s often forgotten in these discussions, however, is that fasting has been practiced for thousands of years not only for the sake of the body, but for the spirit as well.
Doctors + Cures:- Doctor Stoney was the local doctor about fifty years ago. He never listened to the people's complaints. He was considered a very fussy man + people often laughed about the way he treated patients who went to him. He would say when the people went to him "ome in, come on, put out your tongue here's a bottle, take it." This was said to everyone + was said all in one breath.
Before him, was Doctor Watson: He was a good man + looked after his people well.
But the very old people never cared for doctors. They preferred to pray.
Catholic News Article
Catholic education should be celebrated – Kate Liffey
The year before last, my now-96-year-old father, Robert McQuillan, decided to take a little trip down memory lane.
He made contact with his old secondary school, the former Christian Brothers’ secondary in Dundalk.
He received a warm welcome from the current principal of Coláiste Rís, Padraig Hamill.
The old roll books were taken down from a dusty shelf somewhere and my dad’s name and the names of his fellow students were mulled over; memories flooding back for my father and the story of the school’s pivotal role in the education of the youth of Dundalk since 1869 unfolding once again as the two men talked together.
Listening to my dad reminisce about his education, I imagine his story as a fairly common one for his generation and the generations after his.
He was born in 1923, the third son of seven children. His father was a master blacksmith who worked on the Great Northern Railway but it was primarily from his mother that the wish for a good education came.
He started primary school in 1928 with the Sisters of Mercy and then moved in 1929 and went to the Christian Brothers’ primary, in the 60th year of the school’s founding.
His first teacher was a Belfast man, Johnny Barnes. My father remembers him fondly as a great soccer player – something with which the Brothers at the time were not too enamoured.
Robert McQuillan still remembers the names, and personalities, of most of the teachers, the laymen and the Brothers, who taught him.
He remembers the exact fee for the education he received – 30 shillings a term, with the third boy and following boys free.
My father tells me very matter-of-factly that without the Christian Brothers and other Religious Orders like them in the town, there would have been no education at all for boys like him.
He doesn’t ‘sugar coat’ it either, acknowledging the complexity of the history of the Brothers in Ireland.
But for my dad, he will always be grateful for the rich educational experience he received from them and what it empowered him to do with his life.
Four of the six boys in my father’s family – one little boy, Danny, sadly died from diphtheria as a child – went on to sit their Leaving Certificate.
His sister and two of his brothers sat the Intermediate Certificate, now the Junior Certificate. This was no mean feat in terms of academic achievement for those times.
One of my father’s happiest memories was the day the Leaving Certificate results were published.
Brother Sullivan came out to the family home and the envelope was handed over with very matter of fact words of congratulations; he had come in the top four candidates in the town.
The results were published in the Dundalk Democrat and my grandfather carried the newspaper cutting to show his friends at work. That was in 1941.
A number of years later and all of my uncles who achieved their Leaving Certificate results read at university, with one going on to gain a PhD in mathematics.
My dad graduated as a mature student with a Bachelor of Commerce (Hons) from University College Dublin.
It is worth remembering, of course, that all of this happened in my father’s family well before the introduction of free education.
Fast forward to this year, and having helped prepare many thousands of young people for the world in which we live, my dad’s old school in Dundalk will celebrate, with a certain very justifiable pride and satisfaction, 150 years of its existence in 2019.
Across every town in Ireland, north and south, similar schools were set up by large numbers of religious men and women. They were founded to serve the needs of local communities.
In the case of the Christian Brothers, founded by Blessed Edmund Ignatius Rice in the early part of the 19th century, ‘the local’ mattered a great deal.
Local needs around education were met locally. Well over 100 schools were established up and down the country, the most recent one in Bray, Co Wicklow in 1956.
The history of these schools is obviously mixed – and that of course, must be remembered – but that they sought to serve local communities, especially poorer communities, is significant.
One of Blessed Edmund Rice’s most famous sayings is: “Were we to know the merit and value of only going from one street to another to serve a neighbour for the love of God, we should prize it more than silver and gold.”
The theme of Catholic School’s Week in 2019 – which is being celebrated this week – is ‘Celebrating the Work of our Local Catholic Schools’.
For all of us who benefited from a Catholic education, it is worth reflecting that when we talk about the characteristic spirit or ethos of our local Catholic schools, we are not just talking about the faith context of the school, although that is important; rather, we are also referring to the school’s history, and geographical and social context.
All of this will hopefully make for a rich, honest and very real celebration of all that has been achieved in Catholic education in local communities and in the lives of thousands – even hundreds of thousands – of young people.
Among that number my dad, Robert McQuillan, is very happy to count himself.
Kate Liffey is the National Director for Catechetics and co-ordinator of the National Faith Development Team Council for Catechetics of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference.
This article appears in the Faith Matters column of The Irish News newspaper of 31 January 2019 to coincide with the celebration of Catholic Schools Week 2019.
This content is provided by www.catholicnews.ie, the news source for the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference. All queries relating to the article should be directed to email@example.com.
The letter said the council had “read about statements which expressed the fear that the Knights of Columbus held many extreme beliefs. It is our great pleasure to assure you that this fear is not grounded in any truth. The Knights of Columbus in general, and O’Boyle Council in particular are dedicated to the three fundamental principles of charity, unity, and fraternity.”
Prayer for the Poor
God of Justice,
open our eyes
to see you in the face of the poor.
Open our ears
to hear you in the cries of the exploited.
Open our mouths
to defend you in the public squares
as well as in private deeds.
Remind us that what we do
to the least ones,
we do to you.
Wed, Sep 19, 12:43 PM (10 days ago)
Where War or Peace Originate
Mahatma Gandhi noted that “You must be the change you want to see in the world.” He also said that “You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.” A Christmas Song urges us: “Let there be peace on earth/and let it begin with me./Let there be peace on earth/the peace that was meant to be./With God as our Father/ Brothers all are we./Let me walk with my brother/ in perfect harmony.” God creates us to be the stewards of the earth and our stewardship is either wise or unwise, good, bad, or ugly. My mother used to say that there’s nothing wrong with the world except the people in it. The world doesn’t change us; rather we change the world by how we change our self in our thoughts, words and actions. By changing myself I change my world. Gandhi noted that, “As human beings, our greatness lies not so much in being able to remake the world – that is the myth of the atomic age – as in being able to remake ourselves.” Only Jesus can help us remake our self.
It’s in remaking our self that we come face to face with who and what we are. We’re created by God in His image and likeness in our soul. But our human nature has been tainted by Original Sin and so we suffer from a fallen nature that’s prone to selfishness, sin and divisiveness. We can’t save our self from sin. Since only God can lift up our fallen nature He alone can save us from our sinful tendencies. He does this in the Person of Jesus Christ. He’s our Saviour. He carries out God’s Old Testament promise: “I will give you a new heart and place a new spirit within you, taking from your bodies your stony hearts and giving you natural hearts. I will put my spirit within you and make you live by my statutes, careful to observe my decrees.” (Ezek 36:26-27) God put that new spirit in us the day we were Baptized and renewed it in Confirmation. That day God remade us by freeing us from Satan’s grip through adopting us as His children. However, despite God placing His Spirit within us, we still have to choose to unite our spirit to His. God never forces us to observe His decrees. He respects our free will. The choice is ours – choose peace or war, good or evil.
It’s not what’s outside of us that changes us but what’s inside. “It is not what goes into a man’s mouth that makes him impure; it is what comes out of his mouth … what comes out of the mouth originates in the heart and it is these that make him impure.” (Mt 15:11, 18) What originates in the heart begins in the mind. So what we fill our mind with takes root in our heart. That’s where peace or war begins. St. James, inspired by the Holy Spirit, confronts us by asking, “Where do wars and conflicts among you originate? Is it not your inner cravings that make war within your members? What you desire, you do not obtain, and so you resort to murder. You envy and you cannot acquire, so you quarrel and fight… You ask and you do not receive because you ask wrongly with a view to squandering what you receive on your own pleasures.” (Jas 4:1-3)
The Holy Spirit revealed that, “Where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every vile behaviour.” (Jas 3:16) This is how war starts both within us and between us. None of is immune to desires that are prideful, lustful, avaricious, covetous, wrathful, envious, slothful, and gluttonous. They are at war with the seven virtues of Faith, Hope, Charity, Prudence, Justice, Fortitude, and Temperance. Jealousy and selfish ambition always create conflict both internally and externally. Jesus confronted the Apostles’ conflict over which of them thought he was the most important. He sat them down and informed them that the only acceptable ambition and only way to eliminate conflict was to be a humble servant practising hospitality especially to those whom society considered to be insignificant. “If anyone wishes to rank first, he must remain the last one of all and the servant of all. Whoever welcomes a little child for my sake welcomes me. And whoever welcomes me welcomes, not me, but the One who sent me.” (Mk 11:35, 37)
To change our self and put an end to war within us and between us, we must fill our mind with God’s wisdom through meditating on the Holy Scriptures as faithfully interpreted and taught by Jesus’ One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Christian Wisdom is thinking, feeling and acting on our knowledge of Jesus Christ plus our experience of His presence in His Church plus common sense. St. James shows how that wisdom counteracts our warring passions: “Wisdom from above, by contrast, is first of all innocent. It is peaceable, kindly and considerate; it is full of compassion and shows itself by doing good; nor is there any trace of partiality or hypocrisy in it. The harvest of justice is sown in peace for those who cultivate peace.” (Jas 3:17) War or peace begins with you and me. (frsos)
Wed, Sep 26, 12:48 PM (3 days ago)
Which Spirit Guides Yours?
There are two basic spirits guiding the human spirit: the Holy Spirit and the evil spirit. God’s Spirit guides our individual spirit to Jesus. Satan, the evil spirit, leads us to godlessness, egotism, destruction, and eternal deprivation of love, joy, and happiness - hell. St. Ignatius of Loyola emphasized the importance of discerning which spirit is influencing our spirit so we can know whether we’re headed for consolation or desolation. Our spirit is always led toward either holiness or sinfulness.
The Holy Spirit is the personification of God the Father’s and God the Son’s love for each other; a Spirit of unconditional love. When we invite the Holy Spirit to join our spirit He enables us to receive the gift of unconditional love which the Father and Son share with One Another. The Holy Spirit is God’s gift to us of His divine love for us. It always brings consolation. The Holy Spirit transforms us into God’s image and likeness. There we experience the joy of the Lord, our soul’s fulfilment, the peace that only Jesus can give.
This Sunday Jesus’ Church reminds us that the Holy Spirit comes to those who invite Him. Joshua wanted Eldad and Medad stopped from prophesying because they weren’t present when the Spirit came upon the elders. Moses replied, “If only the whole people of the Lord were prophets, and the Lord gave His Spirit to them all.” (Num 11:25-29) Jesus encountered something similar when John reported, “Master, we saw one who is not one of us casting out devils in your name; and because he was not one of us we tried to stop him.” (Mk 9:38) Jesus responded, “You must not stop him; no one who works a miracle in my name is likely to speak evil of me. Anyone who is not against us is for us.” (Mk 9:39-40) The Holy Spirit always leads people to Jesus present in His Church where they can meet Him in the Sacraments and feel His love. Therefore, we should invite the Holy Spirit to direct our spirit every morning so we can experience God’s unconditional love throughout the day. A popular hymn, “The Spirit Is A-Movin’ All over, All over this Land”, reminds us that, “People are gatherin', the church is born,/The Spirit is a blowin' on a world reborn./ Old ones are dreaming dreams, and young men and women see the light./ Old walls are falling down, and people all over are speaking with each other./ Filled with the Spirit, we are sent to serve, we are called out together, we are called to work./ The Spirit fills us all with pow'r, to be God's witnesses to all we meet.”
Satan is the evil spirit who hates God and therefore hates love. Satan “… brought death to man from the beginning, and has never based himself on truth; the truth is not in him. Lying speech is his native tongue; he is a liar and the father of lies.” (Jn 8:44) The lies are: we can save ourselves from sin; I must put myself first; science alone has the answer to human fulfilment; Jesus’ Church isn’t necessary for salvation; death is the end of everything; sex is morally good outside marriage; everything is relative, no universal truths and norms.
Satan’s goal is to convict us of sin and therefore does everything possible to tempt us. You and I are fair game for Satan’s lies since we’re prone to egotism and selfishness. Therefore easily tempted to rely for happiness on money, popularity, possessions, and pleasure gained at the expense of others. St. James warns: “… the cries of the reapers have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts … it was you who condemned the innocent and killed them; they offered you no resistance.” He reminds those who “live a life of comfort and luxury” that it will all collapse on them the day they die. (Jas 5:1-6) Satan’s influence is evident in war, violence, abortion, euthanasia, suicide, sexual immortality, etc., all based on lies. Satan not only leads the human spirit to self-destruction under the guise of power, popularity, licence, possessions, and pleasure, but also cultures. We see this in what St. John Paul II termed “the culture of death” in our world.
Because Satan is constantly trying to lead people away from God, Jesus was very explicit in warning us to resist temptation. “But anyone who is an obstacle to bring down one of these little ones who have faith, would be better thrown into the sea with a great millstone round his neck.” (Mk 9:41-42) He warned us get rid of our hand, foot, eye if it causes us to sin, because it’s better to enter God’s Kingdom maimed than enter hell intact. (Mk 9:45-48) This is all the more reason to make sure we’re led by the Spirit that leads us to Heaven and not the spirit that leads us to hell. “Come, Holy Spirit, guide my spirit and kindle in my heart the fire of Your Divine Love that I may be created and with Your help renew the face of the earth. O God who instructed the heart of the faithful by the power of the Holy Spirit, grant that by that same Spirit I may be truly wise and share in His consolation through Christ our Lord. Amen.” (frsos)
Lourdes: Family seek answers over World War One 'miracle' cure
The family of a World War One soldier said to be cured of paralysis after a pilgrimage to Lourdes in France look to learn more about his history.
Jack Traynor from Liverpool took the waters in 1923 and his family said he was fully cured by it.
His descendants say he came home pushing his own wheelchair.
This story was shown in full on BBC Inside Out North West on BBC One on Monday 3 September, and is available via iPlayer for 30 days afterwards. 03 Sep 2018
Resources From The Irish Bishops on the upcoming referendum can be found on www.chooselife2018.ie with a weekly online newsletter and features (available in porch). From the Irish Bishops “Our Common Humanity” “We believe that human life is sacred from conception until natural death and that Article 40.3.3 (8th Amendment) reflects the appropriate balance of rights. We ask God’s blessing and guidance on each member of our society in responding to the significant responsibility that we have to defend this right for the present generation and for the generations to come”. Let us support the dignity due to every unborn child, and support every woman, couple, and family in a crisis pregnancy.
Muintearas Iosa is 40 years old! celebrate with us!
For 40 years, Failte, Foghlaim and Guí have been at the heart of the young church (Eaglais Og) here in Limerick diocese. Muintearas Íosa is a diocesan youth group that has been providing young people with opportunities to gather for a wide variety of experiences and in a wide variety of settings since 1978. Muintearas Íosa events vary from one day events, evening events, overnight stays to an annual 10 day stay in Brú na Gráige, in Ballyferriter, Co. Kerry. Members must be over 16.
On the Saturday after Easter we celebrate Muinteareas and we welcome all who have been involved over the years, and their families. All we ask is that you let us know how many are coming (so we have some idea of numbers), that you bring some food to share, and that - if you have photos or memories you're happy to share - that you share them to the email in the poster! Thanks!
From Fr. McNamara.
HOLY WEEK FULL OF CHOICES
Heading into my third Holy Week in the Parish I am reminded that it’s a week full of choices and because of Calvary we are free to choose. Here are some choices which I have put together for this very special week. I hope you find them helpful.
I CHOOSE LOVE………….
No occasion justifies hatred; no injustice warrants bitterness. I choose love. This week I will love Jesus and what Jesus loves.
I CHOOSE JOY…………….
I will invite Jesus to be the God of circumstances. I will refuse the temptation to be cynical. I will refuse to see people as anything less than human beings, temples of God’s Holy Spirit, created by God. I will refuse to see any difficulty or problem as anything less than an opportunity to see God.
I CHOOSE PEACE………….
I will live forgiven. I will forgive so that I may live. What is available to us at the Reconciliation Service in Listowel this Monday evening can help us enjoy Holy Week better.
I CHOOSE PATIENCE…....
I will overlook the inconveniences of daily living. Instead of cursing, the one who takes my place I’ll invite him to do so. Rather than complain that the wait is too long, I will thank God for a moment to pray. Instead of clinching my fist all I have to do, I will do them with joy and giving it my best.
I CHOOSE KINDNESS……..
I will be kind to the unkind, for such is how Jesus had treated me. Nothing is won by force. I choose to be gentle. If I raise my voice, may it be only in praise. There is loads more that could be added to these. If I succeed, I will give thanks. If I fail, I will seek God’s grace. All of us can make this week Holy.
Charlie Lamb put it this way…..”every 1st of January that we arrive at is an imaginary milestone on the turnpike track of human life, at once a resting place for thought and meditation, and a starting point for fresh exercitations in the performance of our journey”.
Choose Life. A pastoral letter from Bishop Brendan,
The Antichrist and the Temple in the Christian Mind
Former Manchester United footballer enjoying life as a priest
By Sean Ryan -16 July, 2017
A former Manchester United footballer turned priest has spoken
for the first time about how being a €600,000 a year footballer left
him feeling unfulfilled. Belfast-born Fr Philip Mulryne OP was recently ordained a Dominican priest. He celebrated his first Mass in Belfast on 10 July and will take up a position as chaplain at
Newbridge College in Co. Kildare in August. Speaking to RTÉ’s Sean O’Rourke about his decision to become a priest, Fr Philip (39) said that while he enjoyed his 13 years as a professional footballer which saw him play for Manchester United, Norwich and Northern Ireland, he eventually fell out of love with a “footballer lifestyle”.He added: “There’s no running away from that. I obviously lived
the life of a footballer and it’s well documented. Things were given to young men very quickly.”
Speaking about the lifestyle he said, “I had a Ferrari 360 Modena. I always said to myself, if I get to the Premier League with Norwich I’ll buy one of these. This was my dream car as a child. I had it for three months, then I sold it. I got bored of it.”He continued: “At the age of 20 I had to stop and think, why is thi stuff not satisfying me? I’m bored, it’s not enough, nothing’s ever
enough.”Fr Philip explained that he hit a low point after a World Cup Qualifier to England in 2005. He was sent home for breaking a curfew and going drinking. He said, “It was a turning point, it
made me reflect more. “As a footballer you’re caught up in the whole way of life. You never stop to take stock and think, this isn’t going to last forever. What am I going to do after?’’
He took a year out of football in 2009 to return to Belfast, and later decided not to return to the game. He added, “I have to say I found it tremendously liberating and freeing. To be caught up in
that rat race of always accumulating and the pressure it brings, it was making me restless. The notion of living very simply from a faith perspective was very attractive to me
Sean Sheehy 2017 May
11:58 AM (8 hours ago)
A man was asked, “What do you do for a living?” He answered, “I live for a living!” Back in the 1950s a film titled, “I Want to Live” portrayed a woman who’d made immoral choices and ended up being convicted of murder by association with a murderer. She didn’t commit the crime but was nonetheless convicted and executed. She protested her conviction all the way to her execution pleading, “I want to live!” Judging by the number of people who commit suicide it seems that not everyone wants to live. Still we possess an instinct that life is precious. So we naturally try to prevent people from harming themselves. Life is precious because it’s a gift from God. If someone gave you a gift and you threw it away it would indicate that you didn’t appreciate it or the donor. We don’t create our own life. It’s the sine qua non for everything we yearn for – love, peace, happiness, freedom, joy, etc. This is why we want to preserve and live life as fully as possible and forever. No reasonable person wants to die except in a desperate attempt to escape hopelessness. Even people who commit suicide don’t want to die; rather they want to escape a perceived bottomless pit in their life that, in their mind, has reduced life to nothing. The motivation isn’t to stop living but to stop hurting. So, in a distorted manner of thinking, by ending their life they’re trying to end what seems to be making their life hopeless. As the Life-Giver, only God can provide us with the wherewithal to live and make life worth living by giving us the help to rise from what pulls us down. Easter celebrates life that survives suffering and death and enjoy an eternal heavenly existence.
God didn’t create us to suffer and die. He created us to live for a living. But, through the abuse of free will, we separate our self from our Life-Giver and that puts us in the realm of suffering and death. Death is the result of separation from the Giver of life. It was to remedy this tragedy that God sent His Son, Jesus, the Word-made-flesh, to bring hope of life after death to the world. He revealed, “The thief comes only to steal and slaughter and destroy. I came that they might have life and have it to the full.” (Jn 10:10) The “thief” is Satan who tricked Adam and Eve into thinking they could live without God only to have them experience death and suffering that has affected the whole human race. Sin causes suffering, whether personal, communal or institutional. But Jesus brought hope of healing and resurrection when He announced, “I have come not for the self-righteous, but to call sinners to repentance.” (Mt 9:13) Through God’s grace of repentance and the gift of forgiveness we’ve the power to overcome sin, overcome our suffering, and be resurrected from the dead.
After Jesus’ Ascension, St. Peter told his listeners when they asked what did they needed to do: “Repent and be baptized in the Name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit … Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” (Acts2:38, 40) He comforted them by teaching them: “In His own body He brought your sins to the cross, so that all of us, dead to sin, could live in accord with God’s will. By His wounds you have been healed for you had gone astray like sheep but you have returned to the Shepherd and the guardian of your souls.” (1 Pt 2:24-25) The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Life who enlivens our spirit and purifies our soul. If we focus only on the body we reap corruption because the body corrupts in death. But when we attend to the needs of our soul we attend to life that’s eternal because Jesus guards it.
Jesus is our Shepherd who guards our soul by cleansing it from sin in Baptism and Confession, and nourishes it with His Body and Blood in the Holy Eucharist. This is why the Psalmist reminds us, “The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want … He refreshes my soul.” (Ps 23:1-3) As the Shepherd and Guardian of souls, Jesus “calls His own sheep by name and leads them out … He walks ahead of them and the sheep follow Him, because they recognize His voice.” (Jn 10:3-4) He identifies Himself as the “gate to the sheepfold.” “I am the gate. Whoever enters through me will be safe.” (Jn 10:9) As the Gatekeeper Jesus both protects us from harm and leads us to what nourishes our life so we can have it abundantly. We hear His voice through His Church as she proclaims His Word, guided by the Holy Spirit, and made visible in her Sacraments. Jesus is the Life-Giver and He alone leads us to the fullness of a life that’s joyful, peaceful, restful, loving, and eternal. If you want to have life to the full follow the Life-Giver in His Church. He alone reveals, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” (Jn 14:6) (frsos)
Apr 26 (7 days ago)2017
The Breaking of Bread
Anyone who reads the New Testament is familiar with what Jesus did on Thursday night as He celebrated the Passover Supper with His Apostles. During the meal, “… taking bread and giving thanks, He broke it and gave it to them, saying: ‘This is my body to be given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ He did the same with the chalice after eating, saying as He did so, ‘This chalice is the new covenant in my blood, which will be shed for you.’” (Lk 22:19-20; Mk 14:22-24; Mt 26:26-30; 1 Cor 11:23ff) The following Sunday afternoon two of Jesus’ disciples were walking home to Emmaus grieving over His crucifixion and deeply saddened that all their hopes and dreams had been dashed. As they covered the seven miles from Jerusalem to their home the risen Jesus appeared walking beside them, but they didn’t recognize Him. He asked them what they were discussing and they related their tale of woe. Then He chided them for not believing the Scriptures. “What little sense you have! How slow you are to believe all that the prophets have announced! Did not the Messiah have to undergo all this so as to enter into His glory?’ Beginning, then, with Moses and all the prophets, He interpreted for them every passage of Scripture which referred to Him.” (Lk 24:25-27) Nearing home they invited Jesus to spend the night with them since it was getting late. He accepted their hospitality and, “When He had seated Himself with them to eat, He took bread, pronounced the blessing, then broke the bread and began to distribute it to them. With that their eyes were opened and they recognized Him; whereupon He vanished from their sight.” (Lk 24:30-31)
Have you ever had an “aha” moment in your life? It’s a particular time, event, or experience when you have a sudden insight that makes sense of something. These two disciples had their “aha” moment when Jesus sat at their table and took bread, blessed it, broke it, and distributed it to them. The “breaking of bread” was the event, the experience that gave them the sudden realization that the man doing this was indeed Jesus Christ. After He vanished from their sight, “They said to one another, ‘Were not our hearts burning inside us as He talked to us on the road and explained the Scriptures to us?’” (Lk 24:32) Immediately, they set off for Jerusalem with their great news that they had seen Jesus. When they met their fellow disciples in Jerusalem, “They recounted what had happened on the road and how they had come to know Jesus in the breaking of bread.” (Lk 24:35)
Jesus often mentioned the Scriptures regarding the promised Messiah. But hearing it didn’t convince them of His resurrection. It was in the “breaking of bread” that they recognized the action of Jesus and then the Scriptures made sense to them. The “breaking of bread” is another way of describing the Holy Eucharist that Jesus instituted on Holy Thursday evening and ordained the Apostles and their successors to continue His sacrifice: “This is my body, which is broken for you; do this as a memorial of me.” (1 Cor 11:24) St. Peter explains, “Through Jesus you believe in God who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory so that your faith and hope are in God” (1 Pt 1:17-21) It’s one thing to listen to God’s word but it’s in the action of the Eucharist that the Word becomes visible. It’s in the Eucharist that we see and adore Jesus’ Real Presence to and among us. It’s in the Eucharist that we’re able to proclaim with Thomas, “My Lord and my God!” (Jn 20:28) St. Paul expresses it thus: “Is not the cup of blessing we bless a sharing in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread we break a sharing in the body of Christ?” (1 Cor 10:16) The Eucharist is the celebration of the Risen Jesus really present, body, soul, and divinity in His Church and in each member who receives Him in Holy Communion. It’s through meeting Jesus in the Eucharist that He is able to enter into a Holy Communion with us, individually and communally, transforming us into a Holy Community. There He physically touches us and we touch Him.
The Catholic Church, under the leadership of the Pope, successor of St. Peter, emphasizes and makes participation in the Holy Eucharist at Mass essential and obligatory. Why? Because the Christian faith is all about believing in the Risen Jesus who alone makes salvation possible. Refusing to participate in the Mass is a refusal to recognize and celebrate the Real Presence of the Risen Jesus. Jesus Himself reminds us, “I tell you, whoever acknowledges me before men – the Son of Man will acknowledge him before the angels of God. But the man who has disowned me in the presence of men will be disowned in the presence of the angels of God.” (Lk 12:8-9) The celebration of the Eucharist is our “aha” moment when we recognize and proclaim that Christ has died, Christ has risen, and Christ will come again. It’s in the Mass that we recognize Jesus’ resurrection and put our self in the presence of God and His angels. (frsos)
Holy Week: Sacrifice Brings Joy
Charles Dickens gives us the character, Ebenezer Scrooge, in his Christmas Carol. Scrooge was a miser and as, a result, a miserable person. He hated Christmas because it was about generosity and gift-giving. It wasn’t until he had a change of heart and began to share that he regained his humanity and a spirit of joy. We all have to learn that sacrifice brings joy. It’s the antidote to selfishness which fosters a greedy spirit that isolates and keep us worried, fearing we’ll lose our possessions or won’t have enough to make us feel secure. Jesus taught us, “There is no greater love than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (Jn 15:13) Love is all about sacrifice, which is why sacrifice, as an expression of love, always bring joy when the focus is on giving rather than on receiving.
This week is called “Holy Week” by Jesus’ Church. It begins with Palm (Passion) Sunday - people shouted “Hosannas” in the morning and roared “Crucify him!” in the evening - and concludes with Easter Sunday when we celebrate Jesus’ Resurrection - to the amazement of Mary Magdalene and His disciples - having conquered Satan, sin, suffering, and death. The Church proclaims the Gospel from the Passion Narratives found in the Gospel of Matthew on Palm or Passion Sunday and from St. John on Good Friday. In these narratives we find a description of the greatest act of self-sacrifice, humility, and love for others on the part of Jesus that the world has ever seen or will ever see again. Jesus epitomized His love of others - you, me, and everyone from the beginning of human history until the end of the world - in His passion, death, and resurrection. In laying down His life so that we might live demonstrates the ultimate in caring. He laid down His life for sinners – those who rebelled against God that they may repent and be saved. “It is precisely in this that God shows His love for us: that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Rom 5:8) He underwent excruciating abuse from His betrayal by Judas, to agonizing in the Garden of Gethsemane, being scourged at the pillar, crowned with thorns, carrying His cross, abandoned by His disciples, with the exception of His Blessed Mother and John, and finally being nailed to a cross. On that cross Jesus called out in His agony and feeling of abandonment, fulfilling the prophecy in Psalm 22, “My God, my God why have you abandoned me?” (Mt 27:46) But, quoting Psalm 31, Jesus expressed His total trust in His Father when He prayed as His body hung upon the cross, “Into Your hands I commend my spirit; ….” (Ps 31:6)
Jesus’ suffering was more excruciating than any suffering we might experience because He was totally innocent. “Though He was in the form of God … and it was thus that He humbled Himself obediently accepting even death, death on a cross!” (Phil 2:6, 8) Suffering of the innocent is far more painful than the suffering of the guilty. Jesus is the first to give human suffering a value. He shows us that it can be used to help others. He used His suffering to bring about salvation from sin and death for all who seek it. Jesus didn’t seek suffering but He accepted it as the price to be paid to ransom us from Satan’s sentence of death. In Gethsemane, He prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, let this chalice pass me by. Still, let it be as You would have it, not as I.” (Mt 26:39) No one wants suffering, but if it comes, we know that God can use it to help us do His will and become more like Jesus in our attitude and lifestyle, if we trust in Him.
The events of Holy Week challenge a world that flees from suffering, rejects sacrifice, promotes greed, and wallows in selfishness. The delusion of such a world is that we can be happy without sacrifice. Without sacrifice love is impossible. Without love happiness is impossible. To make sacrifices is impossible without a spirit of generosity and the realization that if we want to get we must give without counting the cost. Jesus teaches us to give for the sake of giving because it is in sacrificing, like Scrooge learned, that we find joy. Jesus reminds us, “Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure pressed down, shaken together, running over, will they pour into the fold of your garment. For the measure you measure with will be measured back to you.” (Lk 6:38) This week is holy because Jesus gave Himself wholly for our salvation. His Good Friday sacrifice brought the joy of Easter Sunday. Christianity is all about ministering to others in Jesus’ Name. Thus we become like Him, and being like Him, we embrace suffering and willingly sacrifice ourselves for we know it will bring joy. (frsos)
Easter with a Capital “V”
The song “Everybody Loves a Winner” choruses, “Everybody loves a winner/Everybody loves a winner/But when you lose, you lose alone” When you win everyone wants to know you, even those you beat. But when you lose the well-wishers disappear. Laugh, and the world laughs with you; cry, and you cry alone. Last Sunday I watched a Gaelic Football final between Kerry and Dublin. Dublin were forecast to win, even by Kerry followers. But the predicted losers won only to be greeted with effusive praise from their detractors. On Good Friday in Jerusalem it looked like Jesus lost. Feeling abandoned, He called out in agony, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mt 27:46) Jesus cried alone.
Have you ever been in a situation feeling all alone when friends distanced themselves from you? When Peter was identified by the servant girl as a friend of Jesus, he replied, “Woman, I do not know him.” (Lk 22:57) When a team is losing, fans often leave even before the game is over. But when the team is winning no one wants to leave. Why? Because we all want to identify with winners, not losers. We laugh when we win, but we cry when we lose.
Easter is the culmination of Holy Week when Jesus was seen to be a loser and abandoned by His disciples. The man who had performed so many miracles, freed people from the possession of evil spirits, and even raised people from the dead, now hung crucified on a cross. Mary Magdalene, whom Jesus rescued from her sinfulness and showed her an unconditional love she’d never experienced before, was devastated. Jesus’ disciples, including His Mother, sought safety in prayer in an upper room thinking that all their hopes and dreams had been dashed by the crucifixion of their Teacher and Messiah. All seemed lost, fearing for their own life expecting the same fate as Jesus.
It’s now Sunday morning, the third day since Jesus’ death and the disciples feel so alone and vulnerable. But something was about to change. That change was epitomized in the experience of Mary Magdalene. She came to the tomb as a final act of love toward Jesus to anoint His dead body. She had previously braved the ridicule of Simon the Pharisee to crash a banquet to anoint Jesus’s feet as a sign of her gratitude. “She brought in a vase of perfumed oil and stood behind Him as His feet, weeping so that her tears fell upon His feet. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissing them and perfuming them with the oil.” (Lk 7:37-38) At Jesus’ death this same Mary comes to anoint His body before final burial. But to her consternation she finds the tomb empty. So she runs to tell Peter and the others the news. They don’t believe her. “Meanwhile Mary stood weeping beside the tomb.” She was in the depths of grief and desolation. A man, whom she thinks is the gardener, asks her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Who is it you are looking for?” (Jn 20:11-15) Then the man said her name, “Mary!” No one said or could say her name like Jesus. Spontaneously “She turned to Him and said in Hebrew, ‘Rabbuni!’ meaning ‘Teacher.’” She recognized her beloved Savior who rescued her from a loveless life and ran with open arms to clasp Him in joyful incredulity. Jesus, I’m sure with a smile, responded, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Rather go to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God!’” (Jn 20:15-18) Mary ascended with the risen Jesus from the pit of grief and loss to the heights of joy and happiness; from death to life, despair to hope, losing to winning.
Jesus, the apparent loser on Friday, let Mary see that He is the real winner. Easter is the celebration of victory with a capital “V”. The Webster dictionary defines victory as the “overcoming of an enemy or antagonist. It’s the achievement of mastery or success in a struggle or endeavor against odds or difficulties.” Easter reminds us to celebrate Jesus’ victory over suffering and death, the wages of sin. Jesus showed us that suffering has value when we use it as a means to salvation, either for ourselves or others. It leads us to salvation when we see it as a sign that we’re dependent on God for every good thing, especially a life that will enjoy complete and eternal happiness. Christianity is the only religion that can truthfully promise a happy life after death because its founder, Jesus, is the only one who raised people from the dead and also rose Himself from the dead. This is why faith in Jesus, as the source of our meaning, purpose, power, peace, happiness, and a joyful eternal destiny, is the only faith that can deliver on these hopes and desires. Christianity is for winners. Why, then, isn’t everybody Christian? Because Christianity is paradoxical: to win we must be willing to lose. It’s in losing our life to Jesus here on earth that we win life in Heaven. This is why we can greet one another with “Happy Easter!” (frsos)
Faith Comes through Hearing
There’s an adage that says, “If something sounds too good to be true, it probably isn’t.” This was the Apostle Thomas’ mind-set upon being told Jesus had risen from the dead. “His answer was, ‘I will never believe it without probing the nailprints in His hands, without putting my finger into the nailmarks and my hand into His side.’” (Jn 20:25) For Thomas, the idea of resurrection was too good to be true, therefore it probably wasn’t true. But probability and possibility aren’t the same. The probability doesn’t rule out possibility, especially where God is concerned. The Gospels record that a week later, “Despite the locked doors, Jesus came and stood before the disciples. ‘Peace be with you’, He said; then to Thomas: ‘Take your finger and examine my hands. Put your hand into my side. Do not persist in your unbelief, but believe!’ Thomas said in response, ‘My Lord and my God!’” (Jn 20:27-28) Jesus addressed him, “You became a believer because you saw me. Happy are they who have not seen me and have believed.” (Jn 20:29) Thomas’ faith was conditional. He wanted to see before he would believe. Seeing is believing, but believing is seeing without seeing physically. How? We see through hearing.
The Holy Spirit inspired St. Paul to write that, “Faith, then, comes through hearing, and what is heard is the word of Christ.” (Rom 10:17) The three things that characterized the members of Jesus’ young Church were their devotion to “the teaching of the Apostles, the communal life, the breaking of bread (Eucharist), and prayers.” (Acts 2:42) First came the “teaching of the Apostles”. The Apostles teaching centred on what Jesus taught them – His word. Hearing Jesus’ word called them to faith and developed their trust in Jesus. Faith is what we rely on to give us meaning, purpose, value, power, and a hopeful destiny. To be Christian is to rely on Jesus to give us true meaning, a unique purpose and self-worth, to empower us to change things for the better, and give us a bright future in which to hope. To sustain our faith in Jesus to provide us with these gifts we need to hear Him speak to us. This is why we need to attend Sunday Mass as a minimum requirement to hear God’s word proclaimed and preached to us. If we don’t regularly hear God’s word our faith in Him will deteriorate and we will fall victim to false gods and their false promises.
It was through listening to Jesus’ word preached by the Apostles that fostered a community spirit. They celebrated this community spirit in the “breaking of bread”, the Eucharistic celebration in which they recognized Jesus’ Real presence and the gift of Himself in Holy Communion as the nourishment for their souls. In the “breaking of bread” the Apostles carried out Jesus’ command at the Last Supper when He instituted the Holy Eucharist and ordained them to “Do this in memory of me.” (Lk 22:19) The fourth source of sustenance for the faith of the first followers of Jesus was prayer. What is prayer? It’s a response to God’s word to us. This is why the basis for prayer must be hearing God’s word first. St. Jerome, back in the 4th or early 5th century, insisted that “Ignorance of the Sacred Scriptures is ignorance of Jesus Christ.” Our prayer can’t be effective unless we’re hearing God first and then speaking to Him. Since God initiates our prayer, it follows that we must first listen to Him tell us who and what He is for us before we can speak to Him about who we are and what He wants us to be. If we don’t listen to God we can’t know Him. And if we don’t know Him, how can we speak to Him in an intimate and trusting manner, which is what prayer is all about. Only through listening to God’s word to us can we pray with the Psalmist, “My strength and my courage is the Lord, and He has been my Saviour.” (Ps 118:14)
It’s through hearing Christ’s word that we’re able to believe in Him and love Him without seeing Him. In order for every man, woman, and child, to believe in Jesus and love Him He founded His Church to faithfully preach His Word and celebrate His presence in her Sacraments until the end of time. Through, with, and in Jesus’ Church the preaching of the Apostles, the communal life, the breaking of bread, and prayers continue. Since Jesus came to free us from sin He authorized His Church’s leadership through the power of His Spirit to forgive repentant sinners. “If you forgive men’s sins, they are forgiven them; if you hold them bound, they are held bound.” (Jn 20:22) It is this forgiveness that makes us receptive to the “Peace” the risen Jesus offers us. Our faith in Jesus, then, comes through hearing God’s word which teaches us the way, truth, and life that leads to happiness. “Although you have not seen Him, you love Him; even though you do not see Him, you now believe in Him … as you attain faith’s goal, the salvation of your soul.” (1 Peter 1:3-9) We believe and love Him because we hear His saving Word. (frsos)
Last Letters from the Holocaust: 1942
30 August 1942
Les Milles Camp, France
"I can hold my head up high"
Anne Meininger's Last Letter
Anne Meininger wrote these words in her last letter, sent from France to her daughter, Hilde Garti, in Bulgaria.
Eugen Meininger and Anne née Stern lived in Göttingen, Germany. Eugen was in the cattle business. In 1913, their daughter Hilde was born, and their son Franz-Josef was born about 8 years later. In October 1935, Eugen was informed that his trade license had been revoked, and that he had to stop working immediately. Eugen died of heart failure at home the same day. He is buried in the Jewish cemetery in Göttingen.
Hilde married Robert Garti, a Bulgarian Jewish dentist who came to Germany to study, and moved with him to Bulgaria , where their daughters Renée (later Rina Lavie) and Jeneline-Jenny (later Gila Ofir) were born. In 1937, Franz-Josef immigrated to Eretz Israel (Mandatory Palestine) with the Youth Aliyah, and settled in Kfar Yehezkel.
My darling, darling children,
Today, on your birthday, my thoughts are intensively focused on you. My dear Musch, I hope that you had a good time today, given the circumstances. What wouldn't I give to be with you? We must be patient, that day will yet come. We have been in the camp since Wednesday, and I am truly all right. You at home don't need to worry about me. I am together with many acquaintances, but we will not be staying here although I don't know when we will be leaving. In any event, write to me at Gusty: 7 Rue St. Francois Le Sales, Annecy (Haute-Savoie). She will send the mail on to me.
I hope that you are all right, my loves. Just don't worry about me unnecessarily. The main thing is that we can receive news from each other. Keep writing to me diligently, and send me sweet pictures. It's the mischievous one's [Anne's son, Franz-Josef] birthday the day after tomorrow. This year these are not happy days for me, but I can hold my head up high. You know your mother, she's brave like that. I would love to go to my friends, Otto and Marta, as then I would have pleasant, good people around me. They would definitely be able to help me. Maybe I'll visit Tiltchen. The weather is very good, and I'm in the fresh air all day. You probably have a lot of work. If I was with you, I could be very busy and helpful. When I see you, I will open wide, surprised eyes. I wish it would already happen.
I'm finishing for today. My four dear ones, stay well, and keep writing to me conscientiously.
I kiss you,
Your loving Mutti [Mother]
Was Jesus Really Tempted?
by Friar Jim Van Vurst, OFM
Yes, he was—and more than once! In fact, Matthew, Mark, and Luke give descriptions of Satan tempting Jesus, especially in the desert following his baptism. Mark briefly states that “Jesus was tempted,” while Matthew and Luke go into considerable detail of three separate times when Jesus was tempted by Satan. Jesus rebuked Satan, but the temptations continued.
But there is a reason why some believers struggle in accepting the fact that Jesus was tempted. That is because many tend to think that temptation is proof of sin. And that is simply not true.
The first point to stress is that Jesus, though divine in nature, was also human. That’s why Paul reminds us that Jesus became “like us” in all things but sin. What that tells us is that Jesus really did enter into our human experience. At the same time, however, we can be sure that you and I have never been tempted the way Jesus was. It would be vain on our part to compare our experiences in life to what Jesus experienced.
The important truth is that temptation is never a sin. Temptation is simply an invitation or pull toward sin. Basic moral theology insists that sin is not in the feelings, emotions, intellect, or fantasy. Sin can only reside in our hearts and in our will. But it is very easy to assume that, when our emotions and imaginations are bombarding us mercilessly, there must be sin in us somewhere. No! All that proves is that we are prone to temptation as wounded human beings.
Every human being experiences temptation. We are fooling ourselves if we make exceptions, as some do for the saints. Many ordinary Christians think the saints were so holy that they could bat away temptations without any trouble. Not true. Read their autobiographies and you will understand that, at times, they struggled in trying to live a life of faith, hope, and charity. That’s the important fact to remember. The reason anyone is tempted to commit sin is because he or she is struggling to be good, not because he or she is bad.
Just as Jesus was tempted all throughout his life, so was Jesus’ sinless mother, Mary. What a prize she would have been to Satan! Mary’s life was one of total faith in circumstances that would have provided Satan with ample opportunity for temptation. The experiences of both Jesus and Mary are truly a blessing for us to understand that temptation is not sin. It’s a struggle; frustrating at times, yes, but never itself a sin.
From Fr. Kevins Newsltter
MEET THE PRODIGAL DAUGHTER
All of us have our thoughts/views on the beautiful parable of the Prodigal Son. I love it – there are so very many aspects to it, but how many of us ever give any thought, care or indeed concern to the Prodigal Daughter?
Let us introduce you to her……
Great poets have sung the beauties of home,
its comfort, its love and its joys;
How back to the place of its sheltering dome
I welcome the Prodigal Boy.
The picture, his father with pardoning smiles and
glittering robes to unfurl,
but none of the poets though it worthwhile,
to sing of the Prodigal Girl.
The Prodigal Son can resume his old place,
as leader of fashion’s mad whirl,
with never a hit of his former disgrace –
not so for the Prodigal Girl.
The girl may come back to the home she had left,
but nothing is ever the same.
The shadow still lingers o’er the dear ones bereft,
society scoffs at her name.
Perhaps this is why when the Prodigal Girl,
gets lost in life’s devious track,
she thinks of the lips that will scornfully curl
and hasn’t the heart to come back.
Yes, welcome the Prodigal Son to his place,
kill the calf; fill the free flowing bowl,
but shut not the door on his frail sisters face,
remember she too has a soul.
Prayer for the New Year
Lord in this New Year which we have begun,
may we have enough happiness to keep us agreeable,
enough trials to keep us strong,
enough sorrow to keep us human,
enough Freedom to keep us happy,
enough failure to keep us humble,
enough success to keep us eager,
enough wealth to meet our needs,
enough faith to banish depression,
enough hope to look forward,
enough love to give us comfort,
And enough determination to
keep us going
A New Year's Prayer
May God make your year a happy one!
Not by shielding you from all sorrows and pain,
But by strengthening you to bear it, as it comes;
Not by making your path easy,
But by making you sturdy to travel any path;
Not by taking hardships from you,
But by taking fear from your heart;
Not by granting you unbroken sunshine,
But by keeping your face bright, even in the shadows;
Not by making your life always pleasant,
But by showing you when people and their causes need you most,
and by making you anxious to be there to help.
God's love, peace, hope and joy to you for the year ahead.
WHEN IRELAND'S CAUSE WAS SOLD FOR A BATTLE OF WHISKY.
The Sacred Heart Review, Number 12, 13 March 1909
We are all more or less familiar with the part played by the unfortunate love of liquor in the Irish rebellion of 1798. The tale has often been told, (although no lasting lesson has been learned from it,) of advantages won by valour and lost by liquor in that struggle of Wexford's peasantry against the disciplined might of England. But an earlier example of the unholy and traitorous part played by liquor in Irish history is, perhaps, not so well known. In view of the coming feast of St. Patrick, it may be well to recall it. In 1601 when a Spanish force, sent over to help Ireland win back her ancient independence, was occupying the town of Kinsale it was besieged by the English. But the English were in turn surrounded by an Irish army under O'Neil and O'Donnell, and thus were placed between two fires. It was decided that a general attack should be made on the English by the forces of O'Neil and O'Donnell on the one hand, and the Spaniards on the other. This attack might or might not have succeeded, according as the English, whom it was hoped to take by surprise, fought well or ill, but, anyway, there was treason in the ranks of the Irish, the English were apprised of the proposed attack , and the Irish and Spanish forces were disastrously defeated. This is how it came about: A certain Brian MacMahon whose son, it seems, had been, some years before, a page to Sir George Carew in England, " for old time's sake " sent a message to Carew asking for a bottle of whisky. The whisky was sent, and so grateful was MacMahon for the gift that he informed Carew of the intended attack. "The list of Irish traitors is a long one," says the Rev. E. A. D'Alton in his history of Ireland, "but our history records no more infamous transaction than this bartering of faith and country for a bottle of whisky." The Irishmen who drink to excess on St. Patrick's Day are guilty of a crime against their birth land and their religion which differs only in degree from that of Brian MacMahon. Drunkenness on St. Patrick's Day is a species of treason to the old land and the old faith which every loyal Irishmen should reprobate and condemn.
From Father Kevin
AGENTS OF THE LORD
A very kind, sensitive and supportive parishioner introduced me to the film Evan Almighty. It’s is perfect for a family evening over Christmas, to warm your hearts and reaffirm your ideals. The hero is an ambitious young congressman who is persuaded to pray for help with his mission to ‘change the world’. God responds. He tells him to build an Ark and then provides the materials to make it along with the pairs of animals to fill it up. The messengers of God embodied the one who could not be embodied, spoke for the one who had no physical voice and brought help from the one who had no hands. As often as not, he or she looked just like a human being, even maybe, just like Morgan Freeman from the above film. We rarely now speak of providence, but we still talk about angels. We know precisely what “you’re an angel” means. An angel turns up unexpected and unasked at just the right moment and knows exactly what help is needed. I still bless the memory of Mike, for example, all six feet of him, who appeared from nowhere to rescue me when my car broke down in Manchester. Without money or a phone, I was totally frightened. It happened back in the mid 80’s when I was on Vocation work while based in Liverpool. Did Mike, I wonder, think of himself as an answer to a prayer? The providence of God is mediated through his creatures and so “In the sixth month the Angel Gabriel was sent from God”. His message was that the gap between God and His creation was to be closed in a way more intimate than could ever have been imagined. Emmanuel means ‘God is with us – the word made flesh’. These lovely days of Christmas let all of us make an extra special effort in having meaningful encounters with Jesus. We are all agents of the Lord.
MESSAGE FROM CHAIRPERSON OF THE PARISH PASTORAL COUNCIL
At this very special and holy time for us all, I would like to thank all those in the Parish who contribute to the life and spirit of our Parish community. We are very fortunate in Moyvane and Knockanure to have so many Parishioners who actively and willingly give of their time, ideas and resources to assist Fr Kevin, the PPC and Liturgy Group in maintaining and developing such a spiritually active Parish. The PPC has been actively engaged with the other Parishes in the Pastoral Area, in what has been a challenging year due to the changes that have occurred and we will continue this engagement into the New Year with a view to enhancing and developing the spiritual life of our Parish community and Pastoral Area. Within the Parish, our worship and celebrations have been enriched by the enthusiasm and efforts of our Parish Priest, Fr. Kevin and on behalf of us all I would like to thank him for his devotion to the Parish and ask that we always keep in him in our prayers. Finally, on behalf of the PPC I would like to wish you all a very joyful, peaceful and Holy Christmas and every blessing for 2017.
The word ‘manage’ originally meant the handling or training of horses. Today it means treating or controlling someone or something. We manage all sorts of things – ourselves, relationships, business, work, family, money, home, property, etc. Our ultimate purpose in management is our own happiness and to that end we treat people and things. The way we manage is determined by what we think is in it for us. We’re motivated in our behaviour by what we think will make us secure. That doesn’t necessarily mean that we’re selfish. Selfishness means that we focus primarily on personal gain at the expense of others. It’s a fact that even when we focus on helping others we know that there’s something in it for us also even though that isn’t our primary motivation. To make sure that we’re not acting for purely selfish reasons we need to daily examine our true motivation for our behaviour.
We’re born with a built-in tendency toward selfishness and sin. Jesus came to save us from these tendencies. This is why we constantly need the Holy Spirit to join our spirit and purify it so that we’re motivated by generosity, honesty, and justice in our dealings with others at home, at work, in Church, or at play. Whom am I serving? How am I managing my time, talent, money? Jesus is the model and the standard for good management. For Jesus good management is all about using our gifts to serve others. “Anyone among you who aspires to greatness must serve the rest, and whoever wants to rank first among you must serve the needs of all. Such is the case with the Son of Man who has come, not to be served by others, but to serve, to give his own life as a ransom for the many.” (Mt 20:25-28)
God created man and woman to be managers of the earth in His behalf. God blessed them, saying, ‘Be fertile and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it. Have dominion over the fish, birds, and all living things that move on the earth.” (Gen 1:28) We’re the guardians of the earth in God’s behalf, and that means treating it with respect and love. It also means that we’re accountable to God for our management. Are we managing the earth for our own selfish ends or are we managing it according to God’s will? Will our style of management bring us happiness or sadness in the end? Time and again God accused His people of mismanaging the earth by using it to satisfy their own greed. “Hear this, you who trample upon the needy and destroy the poor of the land!” (Amos 8:4) God called Amos to preach social justice and expose the abuse of the poor by the rich. God warned, “Never will I forget a thing they have done!” (Amos 8:7) Nothing escapes Divine Justice. We’ll all have to account for our use of this world’s goods.
As a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, so a community is only as just as its treatment of its weakest members. Are we treating them with compassion and justice? If you and I view our life as God’s managers of His world, we’ll be able to determine whether our stewardship is self-serving or other-serving. An executive with a religious organization said that viewing your life in terms of stewardship is like driving a leased car. “You can do what you like with it, but you must return it to its owner at a certain time. You will be held accountable for the condition in which it’s returned.” Many people think that their life is their own and aren’t accountable for how they use it. They act as if they own the earth and can do with it what suits them. But that isn’t the case. As St. Paul reminds us, “You are not your own. You have been purchased, and at a great price. So glorify God in your body.” (1 Cor 6:19-20)
God “wants all men and women to be saved and come to know the truth.” (1 Tim 2:3) The truth is this: “God is one. One also is the mediator between God and men, the man Jesus Christ who gave Himself as a ransom for all.” (1 Tim 2:5-6) Jesus alone can secure life and happiness for us. He tells the story of the wily steward who is fired for mismanagement. Knowing he’s out of a job the manager endears himself to the owner’s debtors by lowering their bills. The owner credits him for his deviousness in looking out for his own security. Jesus teaches us, ““The worldly take more initiative than the other-worldly when it comes to dealing with their own kind. Make friends for yourselves through your use of this world’s goods, so that they fail you, a lasting reception will be yours.” (Lk 16:8-9) Jesus’ lesson is that just as the unjust manager used his intelligence to secure friends to help him now that he was unemployed, so we must use our intelligence to make friends with those who can help us when our body fails us. Intelligent management treats people and the world in a manner that nurtures friendship with Jesus to whom we’re accountable as the managers of God’s earth. (frsos)
Frank Sinatra sang, “I Did it My Way” It began with, “And now, the end is near/ And so I face the final curtain/ My friend, I’ll say it clear/ I’ll state my case, of which I’m certain/I’ve lived a life that’s full/ I’ve travelled each and every highway/But more, much more than this/I did it my way.” We all have a tendency to think our way is the best. The key question is, “Where will my way get me?” A way is a road, or a method that leads to a desired destination or the accomplishment of something. The way we choose to live will definitely lead us to the “final curtain”. But what will I find beyond that curtain as a result of the way I have taken?
Someone asked Jesus, “Lord, are there few in number who are to be saved?” (Lk13:24a) He answered, “Try to come in through the narrow door. Many, I tell you will try to enter and be unable.” (Lk 13:24b) Jesus is the narrow door to Heaven and happiness. In His last discourse He promised His disciples, “I am indeed going to prepare a place for you, and then I shall come back to take you with me, that where I am you also may be. You know the way that leads where I go.” (Jn 14:3-4) Thomas asked, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” (Jn 14:5) Jesus told him, “I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life; no one comes to the Father but through me.” (Jn 14:6) Frank Sinatra might have done it his way, but Jesus’ way is the only way to Heaven.
To live according to Jesus’ way means choosing Him as our Teacher, our Lord, our Leader, our Saviour, the One who loves us unconditionally and calls us into membership of His One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. He said Himself, “If a man wishes to come after me, he must deny his very self, take up the cross, and begin to follow in my footsteps.” (Mt 16:24) Following Jesus requires us to put Him first in our lives to show us the way to Heaven. Having come down from Heaven, Jesus alone knows the way to Heaven. To follow Jesus means to totally obey, trust, and sacrifice my will for the sake of His. Knowing the world in which we live, Jesus, God’s Word-made-flesh, is able to show us what we should move towards and steer clear of. Like a tour guide, Jesus leads us to the places of interest and away from the no-go areas. When we let our ego or someone else do the guiding we’re destined to choose the wrong way. Jesus warns us, “Whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. What profit would a man show is he were to gain the whole world and lose his soul in the process? What can a man offer in exchange for his very self?” (Mt 16: 25-26) When we lose our life to Jesus He helps us see and possess it in a way that we could never see ad possess it before. But if we try to save our life by doing things our way we’re guaranteed to end in failure.
Sadly, there are people who say they are followers of Jesus but don’t do things His way. Jesus founded only one Church on Peter as visible head on earth. He gave him the keys of the Kingdom and the power to bind and loose in His Name. He provided this Church with visible signs of His presence, namely the seven Sacraments. Jesus provided His Church with the visible sign of His Real presence wherein He makes a gift of Himself, body, blood, soul, and divinity, to her members in the Holy Mass. In these signs Jesus strengthens, encourages, nourishes and guides us on the way through the wisdom and power of the Holy Spirit. Yet, so many have rejected Jesus’ Church and her Sacraments to follow Him according to their own way. Jesus says that many will try to enter Heaven and be unable. They’ll ask, “Sir, open for us … We ate and drank in your company. You taught in our streets.” (Lk 13:25a, 27a) Jesus’ answer is, “I do not know where you come from.” (Lk 13: 27b) Their way can’t get them to Heaven. Thus, Jesus warned, “The invited are many, but the elect are few.” (Mt 22:14)
We create a mess when we live life our way. Our way is prone to sin, selfishness, egotism, and domination that disrespects human life and creates conflict, violence, and destruction. Jesus’ way is the way of love where caring for one another is the order of the day, freedom to reach the fullness of our human potential, justice that guarantees each person’s due, and peace that follows from doing right by God, our self and others. This is why every man, woman, and child needs Christianity - Jesus’ way - if he or she is to have any hope of fulfilment and happiness in Heaven. Sadly, the Way of Jesus is the way less travelled. (frsos)
Decision Involves Division
Jesus’ first words to His disciples after His resurrection were, “Peace be with you.” (Jn 20:21) In His last discourse He said, “Peace is my farewell to you, my peace is my gift to you; I do not give it to you as the world gives peace. Do not be distressed or fearful.” (Jn 14:27) In Isaiah’s messianic prophecy the Messiah is associated with peace. “His dominion is vast and forever peaceful.” (Is 9:6) Christians know Jesus as the “Prince of Peace”. But why in His providential call to repentance did Jesus warn, “Do you think I have come to establish peace on the earth? No, I tell you but rather division.” (Lk 12:51) How could Jesus, as the Prince of Peace, come for division?
God created us and bestowed on us the gift of free will. Because of free will we have the ability to say Yes or No to any person or anything, including God Himself. Free will gives us the ability to make choices. Choices call for decisions. Decision creates division when people choose opposing values, tasks, methods, viewpoints, philosophies, etc. People who fear division fear making decisions. But God doesn’t want us to be mugwumps or fence-straddlers. Jesus said, “Say, ‘Yes’ when you mean ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ when you mean ‘No.’” (Mt 5:37) The word ‘decision’ comes from Latin and means ‘to cut off.’ A decision is the act of choosing or “cutting off” one option from among the others. Decision always implies options, otherwise there’s no decision involved. People often put it as “having no choice”. When Jesus said He came for division He meant that people either freely decide to unite with Him as their Lord and Saviour or divide themselves from Him. The decision involves division. This is clearly expressed by Jesus in Matthew 25 where people’s decisions divide them from one another as sheep and goats are separated from one another.
God sent Jeremiah to prophesy that Jerusalem would be destroyed if the people remained unfaithful to their Covenant agreement. He called the people to make a decision to repent and obey God’s Commandments or to continue on their materialistic and idolatrous path of destruction. They decided to reject Jeremiah and separated themselves from God. The princes charged that Jeremiah’s teaching wasn’t politically acceptable. “This man ought to be put to death … he is not interested in the welfare of our people, but in their ruin.” (Jer 38:4) Several hundred years later the high priest, Caiaphas, at Jesus’ trial, called for a decision that caused division between the Jewish leaders and Jesus when he urged, “You have no understanding whatever! Can you not see that it is better for you to have one man die for the people than to have the whole nation destroyed?” (Jn 11:49-50)
Decisions foster peaceful unity only among those who choose the truth. Jesus is the Truth personified. Jesus didn’t come to establish peace on the earth because it would require Him to impose His will on each of us. To do that He would have to deprive us of free will. We inherit a fallen nature that’s prone to sin, disease, and death. Jesus didn’t come to prevent us from sinning or rid us of disease and death. He did come to give us the option of choosing a future free from sin, suffering, and death. That future promises the joy of being in His Father’s presence in union with Him and the Holy Spirit surrounded by a “great cloud of witnesses”. (Heb 12:1) Jesus commissioned His Apostles to “Go into the whole world and proclaim the good news to all creation. The man who believes in it and accepts Baptism will be saved; the man who refuses to believe in it will be condemned.” (Mk 16:15-16) Thus He made it possible for each person to decide to accept or reject Him. It’s a choice we each have to make. Jesus is Prince of Peace because He alone can make us right with God, ourselves and with one another. In choosing Him we choose the means to practice justice which is the foundation of our inner peace of mind, heart, and soul.
The peace that Jesus offers comes from the knowledge that He is with us and will lift us up from our fallen state. At His birth the angels sang, “Glory to God in the highest and peace on earth to those on whom His favour rests.” (Lk 2:14) God’s favour rests on those who decide to do His will by uniting themselves with Jesus. To solidify that union the Holy Spirit joins our spirit to help us “throw off everything that hinders us, especially the sin that clings so easily … (and) not lose sight of Jesus, who leads us in our faith and brings it to perfection.” (Heb 12:1-2) The sin that “clings so easily” is our ego that wants to be first and causes division between us and God. We mustn’t be afraid to decide for Jesus even though it may divide us from those who reject Him. Deciding for Jesus is deciding for a peace that only He can give. (frsos)
God’s Mercy: Merci Beaucoup
Pope Francis designated December 8, 2015 to November 20, 2016 as a period of time to reflect on mercy as an essential virtue for human maturity and the growth of community. He invited everyone to actualize love, kindness, and generosity in their lives by encountering the incredible mercy of God revealed in and through Jesus Christ. What is mercy? In Latin and French it means reward, gift, kindness, grace, or pity. It’s the disposition to forgive and show compassion. Since all good things come from God, mercy comes from Him to us, to be exercised toward one another. St. Paul personally experienced God’s mercy and wrote, “I have been mercifully treated … Indeed the grace of our Lord has been abundant, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus … Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” (1 Tim 1:13-15) God’s mercy toward us empowers us to be compassionate toward others.
The need for mercy, and why it’s essential for human maturity, is that it disposes us to forgive one another’s injustices. God’s mercy is personified in Jesus’ coming to call sinners to repentance and seek forgiveness. Why do we need to repent and seek forgiveness? Because we’re all sinners. Sin is rampant in the world. St. John clearly states what Jesus revealed to the Apostles, “If we say, ‘We have never sinned,’ we make Him a liar and His word isn’t in us.” (1 Jn 1:10) It’s because we’re all sinners that Jesus empowered His Apostles to forgive sin. For this reason He gave His Church the Sacrament of Reconciliation, commonly known as “Confession.” “‘As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’ Then He breathed on them and said: ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive men’s sins, they are forgiven them; if you hold them bound, they are held bound.’” (Jn 20:21-22) In this manner Jesus has empowered His Church through her bishops and priests to bestow His mercy on those who repent of their sin and seek reconciliation with Him and His people.
We can’t appreciate mercy and forgiveness unless we’re acutely consciousness of our sin. We must be willing to pray with the Psalmist, “Have mercy on me, O God, in Your goodness; in the greatness of Your compassion wipe out my offense. Thoroughly wash me from my guilt and of my sin cleanse me.” (Ps 51:3-4) The reason people act unmercifully is because they ignore their own sinfulness and their need for God’s mercy themselves. If you or I think we haven’t sinned, why should we seek mercy? Only the sinner recognizes his or her need for compassion. There’s a woeful loss of a sense of sin in the world today, even in some members of Jesus’ Church. This breeds self-righteousness and the illusion that there’s no need for God, Jesus, or His Church. The more the sense of sin is dumbed down the less conscious people become of their own sinfulness and dismiss their need for repentance and forgiveness. Where there’s no forgiveness relationships die and people’s souls remain tarnished. All this dehumanizes the sinner who thinks he or she is sinless. Today sin is legalized in abortion, same-sex marriage, and euthanasia, prostitution. It’s alive and well in divorce, sex trafficking, political corruption, murder, disrespect, biased media, suicide, illegal drugs, etc. What’s legal isn’t always what’s moral. People forget that one day they’ll die and be answerable to God for their un-repented sins.
God is merciful, no doubt about it. But He forgives only those who admit their sin and seek forgiveness. God, in His justice, holds everyone accountable for their actions and for how they’ve used the gifts He gave them in this world. Jesus emphasized God’s mercy in His parables of the Lost Sheep, the Lost Coin, and the Prodigal Son. He pointed out in these parables that, “There will be more joy in Heaven over one repentant sinner than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need to repent.” (Lk 15:7.10) God constantly call His children to avail themselves of His mercy by repenting and amending their life. Jesus’ Church emphasizes God’s mercy in her teaching on Purgatory.
The Old Testament is filled with acts of God’s mercy toward His people who sinned against Him by disobeying His Commandments, committing sins of idolatry, adultery, and inhospitality. Sin is putting someone or something else before God in our life. In sin we create a golden calf and worship it. (Ex 32:7-11) The golden calf is always our personal attempt to seek what satisfies us rather than seeking what pleases God. But we reap what we sow; if we sow in corruption, we’ll reap corruption. (Gal 6:8) If we’re merciful God will treat us mercifully. Charity, which is compassion, covers a multitude of sins. Consciousness of our sinfulness causes us to turn to God’s mercy which brings us the joy of knowing His love and care for us. This evokes a spirit of gratitude in us knowing that we’re not domed by our sins. The more we recognize God’s mercy towards us the more we will be inclined to be merciful towards others. Only the self-confessed repentant sinner receiving God’s mercy can say to Him daily, “Merci beaucoup.” (frsos)
Humility: Key to Virtuous Living
Virtuous living means practicing good habits. Good habits are those thoughts, words and actions that promote health of mind, soul, and body. There are three virtues that depend on God for their actualization in our life, namely supernatural faith, hope, and charity. We depend on God to give us the grace to believe in Him as He has revealed Himself to us in Jesus Christ, now present in His Church. Only God can give us the hope we need to believe that the best is still to come. Since God is love, only He can give us the love we need to love ourselves and our neighbour despite our flaws and sinfulness. These divine virtues are essential in order for us to be able to aspire to a sense of fulfilment that is beyond our natural ability to attain. Yes, we want to have faith, hope, and love but without relying on God’s faith in us, His hope for us, and His unconditional love for us we would not be able to believe, hope, and love especially when faced with betrayal, doubt, apathy, despair, hate, and suffering. These three divine virtues provide the foundation for the practise of the natural virtues of prudence in our decisions, justice in how we treat others, perseverance in the face of obstacles, and temperance by avoiding excesses in all things. All other good habits flow from these. Humility is essential to prevent virtues from becoming vices. It helps us control our tendency to be prideful and vain in our accomplishments.
The Holy Spirit inspired the author of Sirach to write: “My child, conduct your affairs with humility, and you will be loved more than a giver of gifts. Humble yourself the more, the greater you are, and you will find favour with God. For great is the power of God; by the humble He is glorified” (Sir 3:17-19) Divine revelation tells us that humility brings love and God’s favour and leads the humble person to glorify Him. What is humility? The word is derived from the Latin ‘humus,’ which means earth or soil. But it is more than just earth; it is like a sponge that holds water in the soil and enriches it. In French it means modesty or sweetness. Scientists explain how humus enriches soil. “Soils that have a high humus content, have abundant living biological activity to convert plant residues, leaf litter, animal dung and various biomass into stable humus.” What humus does for soil, humility does for us. It calls for a balanced and modest view of themselves and the recognition that all good things come from God including our gifts and talents.
In His first instruction to His Apostles Jesus emphasized humility when He taught them, “Blest are the lowly; they shall inherit the land.” (Mt 5:5) To be lowly is to humbly accept our total dependence on God and our need for one another. This is why the lowly person is always grateful. This is highlighted in Jesus’ parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector. The tax collector humbly sought God’s mercy recognizing himself as a sinner. The Pharisee proudly talked about his accomplishments. Jesus ended the story by telling His listeners, “Believe me, this man went home from the temple justified but the other did not. Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled while he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Mt 18:14) The Holy Spirit revealed in the Psalms, “a heart contrite and humbled, O God, You will not spurn.” (Ps 51:19) Humility is an essential disposition if we’re to receive God’s attention. St. Paul reminds us, “Let him who would boast, boast in the Lord. It is not the man who recommends himself who is approved but the man whom the Lord recommends.” (2 Cor 10:17-18)
Jesus epitomized humility in His thoughts, words and actions. “Though His state was divine, yet He did not cling to His equality with God but emptied Himself to assume the conditions of a slave, and became as men are ...” (Phil 2:6-7) He said of Himself, “Come to me all you who are weary and find life burdensome … learn from me, for I am gentle and humble of heart.” (Mt 11: 28-29) Jesus is completely approachable because He is so humble of heart. He considered humility so important that He devoted another parable to highlight its importance when practising the virtue of hospitality. Jesus advises, “When you are invited by someone to a wedding party, do not sit in the place of honour in case some greater dignitary has been invited ...” (Lk 14:8) There’s a big difference between being humble and being humiliated. The truly humble person can’t be humiliated because he or she already takes the lowest place in any gathering. The person who lacks humility is the one who risks being humiliated.
We are all born with an ego that wants to be centre stage. Despite maturity and learning to put others first the ego still battles for attention. Humility keeps the ego in check. Whose company would you prefer, that of an egotistical person or one who is humble? Humility makes us approachable and keeps us realistic and grateful in the practise of our other virtues. It’s the antidote to pride that seeks superiority and vanity that seeks praise. It keeps us grounded, down to earth, and enriches us in all that we do and say. It keeps us modest and moderate. “You have been told what is good, and what the Lord requires of you: Only to do the right and to love goodness, and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8)(frsos)
Where’s God’s Heart?
I was talking to a woman recently who related a sad story about a child suffering from cancer. She queried, “Is there a God?” I’ve heard many ask the same question when faced with tragedy, disease, and death. My answer was, “Yes, there has to be a God who can give us faith, hope, and love when our faith is shattered, love wanes, and hope is dashed.” Without a God who cares and can lift us up from the pit of suffering and death, life in this world is nonsense. God assures us, as He did St. Paul in his suffering, “My grace is enough for you, for in weakness my power reaches perfection.” (2 Cor 12:9a) It’s up to us to let God’s grace perfect us. In our suffering God asks us to look beyond world’s inability to heal us. Disease, whether mental or physical, is the result of Adam and Eve’s sin which has infected the human nature we each inherit from the moment of conception. Suffering and death had no part in God’s original plan. But it’s God who comes to our rescue by establishing His Kingdom in this world so that we can look forward to the fullness of joy in His Kingdom in Heaven. Jesus established God’s Kingdom here on earth – where we can begin to taste His love, freedom, justice, and peace. Jesus didn’t come to make this world His kingdom. He pointed out, “My Kingdom does not belong to this world. … My Kingdom is not here.” (Jn 18:36) Jesus’ Church, founded on Peter, is the visible sign of God’s Kingdom here on earth so that every man, woman and child could enter and know that He would raise them up from suffering and death if they believed in Him. Without Jesus there is no future for you or me or anyone else.
God glorifies everyone whom He calls into His kingdom. (Wis 18:6-9) He calls everyone to enter His Kingdom through the Sacrament of Baptism in which Jesus binds us to Himself as His adopted brothers and sisters. The believer in God is able to proclaim, “Blessed the nation whose God is the Lord, the people He has chosen for His own inheritance … Our soul waits for the Lord who is our help and our shield. May Your kindness be upon us who have put our hope in you.” (Ps 33:12, 20) By entering God’s Kingdom we become new persons, enjoying a blessed status, and an eternally happy destiny, armed with a divine faith, love and hope. How does this happen? God promised us, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you. I shall remove the heart of stone from your bodies and give you a heart of flesh instead. I will put my spirit in you and make you live by my commandments, careful to sincerely respect my observances.” (Ezek 36:26-27) He makes us more fully human and alive.
Jesus teaches us, “Wherever your treasure lies, there your heart will be.” (Lk 12:34) Where’s your heart? There’s your treasure! Where’s God’s heart? What does He treasure? He treasures what He loves. What does God love? He loves His creation and He especially loves every person whom He has created to guide the world back to Him. How do we know that God’s loves us? Jesus stated, “There is no greater love than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (Jn 15:13) Jesus, God’s Word in the flesh, demonstrated this highest love for mankind in His passion, death, and resurrection. To realize that God has put His heart in you as His treasure, just reflect on the Crucifix. This calls for faith. Faith is simply believing that God is faithful to His promises. The great compliment Elizabeth, mother of John the Baptist, paid Mary, the mother of Jesus, was, “Blessed is she who believed that the Lord’s words to her would be fulfilled.” (Lk 1:45) The Holy Spirit reveals the power of faith: “Faith is confident assurance concerning what we hope for, and conviction about things we do not see.” (Heb 11:1) Faith is God’s gift to trust in His love in all situations.
Faith is about believing what God has revealed to us about Himself, about us and our purpose on this earth. God’s revelation gives us a knowledge that we could never attain through science. It lets us see that God’s heart is in our wellbeing and welfare. He treasures us and calls us to join our heart to His as our greatest treasure. How do we show that our heart is in God as our greatest treasure? By putting our trust in Jesus Christ and living each day as His disciple. Each day we should invite the Holy Spirit to join our spirit and refresh, purify, encourage, and enlighten it so that we may be ready to meet Jesus as our Judge at the moment of death. Jesus cautions us, “Be on guard, therefore. The Son of Man will come when you least expect Him.” (Lk 12:40) Yes, there is a God who always puts His heart in you because He treasures you. (frsos)
Insuring Your Future
Insurance is a fact of life in the western world. You can buy insurance for practically everything - life, health, home, property, pet, vehicle, travel, etc. Insurance is the guarantee of compensation for loss of what’s insured. But there’s no insurance that guarantees the prevention of loss. Life insurance doesn’t guarantee life. It isn’t the person whose life is insured that benefits but those who are named as beneficiaries after his or her death. It doesn’t do the insured person much good except knowing that others will benefit from his or her death. Jesus warns against the false thinking that we can insure our future happiness by our own plans. You can’t buy insurance that guarantees life after death. A rich man’s harvest was so good that he had to extend his barns. Pleased with himself, he reflected, “You have blessings in reserve for years to come. Relax! Eat heartily, drink well. Enjoy yourself.” Lk 12:19) Then God spoke to him, “You fool! This very night your life shall be required of you. To whom will all this piled-up wealth of yours go?” (Lk 12:20) Jesus warns His listeners, “That’s the way it works for the man who grows rich for himself instead of growing rich in the sight of God.” (Lk 12:21) The man had a full barn but an empty soul.
Would you insure your home, car, or property with a company who couldn’t compensate you in case of loss? But what about your future? What insurance have you taken out that guarantees you a happy life after death? The only Company that can insure you against loss of life and love at the moment of death is Jesus’ Church. It’s also the only Company that can insure your family and friends that their relationship with you hasn’t ended. So often we live as if we’re never going to die and work on insuring our own happiness by seeking material comforts. This fuels a spirit of greed. Jesus, when asked to intervene in a family dispute over property, answered, “Take care to guard against all greed, for though one may be wealthy, but his possessions do not guarantee him life.” (Lk 12:14-15) The only one who can guarantee life’s continuity is the Life-Giver Himself, namely the God the Father , through Jesus Christ, by the Power of the Holy Spirit.
Some years ago Carly Simon sang, “You’re So Vain”. The chorus is: “You’re so vain/ You probably think this song is about you/ You’re so vain, / I’ll bet you think this song is about you/ Don’t you? / Don’t you?” The word vanity comes from Latin and means ‘empty.’ The Psalmist asked, “Men of rank, how long will you be dull of heart? Why do you love what is vain and chase after what is falsehood?” (Ps 4:3) In Ecclesiastes, Qoheleth, in speaking of how people live, warned, “Vanity of vanities! All things are vanity!” (Eccl 1:2) Vanity differs from pride. Pride is acting superior to others. It doesn’t necessarily seek praise. Vanity, on the other hand, is acting in a manner that seeks praise and self-admiration. The cult of celebrity reflects vanity in all its emptiness. A vain person seeks self-adulation, lapping up praise like a hungry cat drinking milk. Hence the tendency to attribute all accomplishments to oneself so as to gain all the glory. This is the pathology of narcissism. It’s defined as an “inordinate fascination with oneself, or excessive self-love, self-centeredness, smugness, egocentrism.” From a psychological perspective narcissism is the “erotic gratification derived from one’s own physical or mental attributes, being a normal condition at the infantile level of personality development.”
In many ways western culture promotes vanity. It’s a business that emphasizes “body beautiful” but ignores the soul’s need for God and produces stunted personalities. The antidote to vanity, narcissism, and erotic gratification is Jesus Christ who emphasizes serving others and union with God who alone insures a developed personality and a joyful life that never ends. Thus, St. Paul urges, “Let your thoughts be on Heavenly things, not on the things that are on the earth … When Christ your life appears, then you too will appear with Him in glory” (Col 3:1-4) Vanity obsesses about instant self-gratification, which fuels greed, and self-admiration, which puts the ego at the centre where God, the Creator and Life-Giver, should be. St. Paul, in order to insure our future fulfilment, urges us to, “Put to death, then, the parts of you that are earthly: immorality, impurity, selfishness, evil desires, and the lust that is idolatry. … Put aside all anger and quick temper, malice, insults, and foul language. These are the sins which provoke God’s wrath. Stop lying to one another.” (Col 3: 5-10) When you ask God’s Spirit to join your spirit you put on the new way of life given you by Jesus and you reject the old way of sin. At every Holy Mass the priest prays to God the Father, just before receiving Jesus in Holy Communion, “May the Body and Blood of Christ keep me safe for eternal life.” Jesus is our only insurance for a joyful future and a present well-spent. (frsos)
Prayer Is an Act of Intimacy
Many years ago I had the sad experience of conducting the burial service for a young father who died tragically. As the coffin was being lowered into the grave his ten-year old daughter kept calling out, “Daddy, Daddyyyy….” Her voice slowly trailed off as the coffin went out of sight. Her father was the one she cherished and with whom she shared her intimate thoughts. Intimacy means sharing your innermost thoughts with another knowing you’ll still be acknowledged, affirmed, and loved. Every person needs intimacy, a trusting and safe relationship where we’re not afraid to reveal our most vulnerable self. It enables us to see more clearly who we are, what we’re about, and what we’re becoming. This is what prayer does. It’s an expression of an intimate relationship with God.
Jesus’ Apostles saw how important prayer was to Him, so they asked Him to teach them. “Lord, teach us to pray …” (Lk 11:1) They wanted a special prayer that reflected the intimacy they and He shared with one another. Jesus responded, “When you pray, say: ‘Father, hallowed be Your Name, Your Kingdom come.’” (Lk 11:2) The Aramaic word for father is ‘Abba’ and has the same implication as ‘Daddy’. Jesus intimately addressed God the Father in the Garden of Gethsemane, “Abba, You have the power to do all things. Take this cup away from me. But let it be as You would have it, not as I.” (Mk 14:36) In teaching His Apostles to call God “Abba,” Jesus called them to view prayer as an intimate conversation between God as their “Daddy” and themselves as His beloved children. Recently I was visiting a family and the fourteen-year old daughter entered the room and sat beside her Dad who kissed her on the cheek. She lovingly returned the gesture. It reflected that special father-child relationship. Prayer is an intimate experience of trust and sharing between God and His children. This involves the humble realization that God is the Father and we’re the children. The Father is always the leader and the teacher. The children are always the followers and the learners. When this awareness is acute the children always benefit.
We see this kind of intimate trust in the relationship of Abraham and God. Sodom and Gomorrah were wallowing in immorality. God was about to punish the citizens for their blatant sinfulness. Abraham interceded with God to save the innocent people lest they suffer with the sinners. God listens and promises to withhold punishment for the sake of the faithful, no matter how few they might be in numbers. Abraham interceded with God, “‘What if t