We stand at a defining moment in our history that we sense will not leave us as it finds us. It feels as if we are embarking on a perilous voyage where we have every reason to be concerned at personal, community, national and global levels. The many crossings of the Sea of Galilee by the early disciples offer a faith rather than a fear focus at this time. They were usually evening crossings when Jesus said: 'Let us cross to the other side.' We too sense the sun coming down on so much of what we have taken for granted up to this. Like the sudden storm that arose from them without warning, we now find ourselves on perilous seas. Christ slept through the worst. He was in the eye of the storm with his inner centre undisturbed. When they woke him he reached out and calmed the raging sea. His inner peace radiated stillness even to the waves. Then he asked them a very important question, 'Where was your faith?' Yes, they had faith but it was not in him to keep them safe but rather in the power of the wind and waves to swamp them. They have shown that they were more fearful than faithful disciples. Hopefully we too can cross to the other side of this Corona Virus with faith in our hearts without allowing our lives to be swamped by fear.

 

© Lights in the Darkness. Fr Jim Cogley, Our Lady’s Island, Wexford.

These weeks of Lent offer us the opportunity to come face to face with ourselves, taking stock of our own spiritual life and measuring our lives against the yardstick of God’s commandments.

This Sunday’s Gospel finds Jesus in the desert wrestling with issues of right and wrong.  For most of us, perhaps with the exception of those who have visited desert lands, it is difficult to visualise the dry parched earth and the stark landscape of the desert.  No one books a holiday to the desert unless they can be assured that someone has built a resort spa and a five star hotel! The desert also represents a parched place for the heart and the soul.  The desert may be the time when health is broken or promises have been broken.  The desert may be the wasteland of depression, hopelessness or crushed dreams.  Have you ever been there? Are you there now?

Living now, as many of us do, in built up areas, piled high on top of each other in high rise apartments, bombarded day and night with the roar of traffic and the blare of electronic music, we are in danger of losing our desert roots and with that, our inner life.  We need to create a time and space to nurture our spiritual lives.  Lent is such a time.  The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert wilderness and He remained there for forty days.  Like Jesus we too should let the Holy Spirit lead us out into the desert this Lent where we can confront the devils that haunt our lives, and like Christ, wrestle with them and overcome them.                                          Fr John

 

‘I bear no ill will. I bear no grudge. That sort of talk is not going to bring her back to life. She’s in heaven and we shall meet again. I will pray for these men tonight and every night.’ These words of Gordon Wilson echoed across the world in 1987, just hours after his 20-year-old daughter Marie was killed in an IRA bomb in Enniskillen. Very few words in the history of the Northern Ireland conflict had such a powerful impact. His extraordinary capacity to forgive the people who had caused him so much pain helped to inspire the end of the violent conflict in Northern Ireland.

Gordon Wilson was the personification of the words of Jesus: ‘Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.’ It is one of the most difficult and challenging passages in the Gospels; one commentator calls it Jesus’ most unreasonable command. Living under oppressive Roman rule, with torture and murder not uncommon, the disciples knew what it was to hate their enemies. As we read and listen to the news today, the cruelty of people continues to astound and upset us. But Jesus reminds us that everyone is human. All are children of God, who ‘causes his sun to rise on bad men as well as good.’ While we clearly don’t accept or excuse the terror and evil in the world, we cannot dehumanise those who carry out despicable actions. That is much easier said than done, but we must strive to meet hatred with love. With God, there is always the possibility of forgiveness; there is always hope.

©Tríona Doherty, The Deep End, Intercom Magazine, Veritas, Ireland

There are times when we try to get by with the bare minimum. Maybe we have scraped through an exam with the minimum of effort, or done a last-minute rush job to complete a work project. Plenty of us know what it’s like to do just enough around the house to keep it from descending into total chaos! Perhaps unconsciously, we sometimes take the same approach to our relationships – only phoning a parent once in a blue moon to ‘check in,’ or visiting a friend only when we are reminded. It can be easy to slip into a pattern of acting out of a sense of duty rather than love.

 Of course, our faith can go the same way. Are there times when we approach the Eucharist with a niggling feeling that something is not quite right? If so, Jesus has some strong words for us in today’s Gospel. If we believe that all we are expected to do is ‘follow the rules,’ we have missed something important. Jesus does not want us to merely follow the letter of the law. Where is the joy or the challenge in that? He tells us that our virtue must go deeper than simply doing the bare minimum. Not only must we not kill, we must not be angry with others. Not only must we not break a promise, we must be honest in all our dealings and in our speech. If we approach the altar without being on good terms with others, we are not in true communion with God. Obeying the rules is the bare minimum. The Gospel is calling us to a more radical way of living

© Tríona Doherty,The Deep End, Intercom Magazine, Veritas.

It might be tempting to run away to a monastery for Christmas, away from the commercialization, away from the hectic hustle, away from the demanding family responsibilities of Christmas-time. Then perhaps we could have a truly holy Christmas. But then we would forget the lesson of the Incarnation, of the Word becoming flesh and dwelling among us—the lesson that we who are followers of Jesus do not run from the secular; rather we try to transform it. It is our mission to make holy the secular aspects of Christmas just as the early Christians adopted and gave a meaning to the Christmas tree. And we do this by being holy people—kind, patient, generous, loving, laughing people—no matter how maddening is the Christmas rush.                                              © Fr Andrew Greeley, Selected Writings

This little light of mine … I’m gonna let it shine!

Perhaps you are familiar with this popular hymn. It is often used in children’s liturgies, and was in fact written as a gospel song for children in the 1920s. It later became something of an anthem for the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 60s, associated in particular with civil rights leader Fannie Lou Hamer. The song was seen as a way of expressing unity, as people fought for equal rights and freedom.

‘This Little Light of Mine’ is based on the words of Matthew’s Gospel that we hear today: ‘No one lights a lamp to put it under a tub… your light must shine in the sight of all.’ Without the light of those who were part of the civil rights movement, our world would be a very different place. There are good people everywhere who continue to fight for justice and freedom, who use their ‘light’ to help others and make sure people are treated fairly and with dignity – both those who campaign and speak out about injustice, and the people on the ground who support the sick, the homeless, refugees and others experiencing difficulties. Witnessing so much suffering, it might be tempting for these ‘people of light’ to become disheartened, but they carry on, using their compassion and skills to bring about change, shining their light in the darkness. As followers of Christ, we are called to light up the world. As Dietrich Bonhoeffer once wrote: ‘A community of Jesus which seeks to hide itself has ceased to follow him.’

© Tríona Doherty, The Deep End, Intercom Magazine, Veritas.

Over the past few weeks many people have quietly been preparing behind the scenes to make sure that our Christmas celebration of the birth of Christ is truly the special occasion it ought to be.  Cribs have been erected, trees have been decorated, choirs young and old have been busy practicing to ensure that our Christmas services are truly memorable and can help us to share in ‘the joy of the angels, the gladness of the shepherds, the worship of the wise men and the peace of the Christ Child.’ Quietly behind the scenes many people and organisations have been working tirelessly to help make this Christmas a little more special for those who are struggling or need a hand.  Your quiet service ennobles our entire community and we thank you for the difference you have made and will make over the coming days.

As priests of the parish we are deeply indebted to you, our parishioners, for your continued kindness, friendship and support and we take this opportunity to thank you for your generous support of the Christmas Offering Collection. We welcome everyone in our community to join us for our Christmas Services    

Fr Con, Fr John and Fr Seán

This Tuesday, 11th February, we celebrate the Feast of our Lady of Lourdes which also marks World Day of Prayer for the Sick.  It is a reminder of the very special place that the sick had in the life of Jesus. No one who has ever read the gospels could ever question his love of, or his compassion for the sick.  His concern for those who were suffering in mind or body or spirit is imprinted on every page and in every encounter. As followers of Jesus we are called to follow his example of care and compassion for all those who suffer sickness and ill-health. Our care of the sick is one of the most powerful ways in which we can witness to Christian love and it must always be a corner-stone of our faith.   This weekend we extend our heart-felt prayers for all who are sick in our community and in your families.  We commit ourselves once more to caring for them and supporting them in their time of illness and we acknowledge the extraordinary service of so many people in our community who each day are living examples of loving care to the sick: families caring for loved ones at home; home-helps; doctors, nurses and carers in our hospitals, hospices and nursing homes; volunteers caring for neighbours and many other people within our community.  Your service enables and enriches the life of our community and we pray God’s blessing on you and all those for whom you care.

We also take this opportunity to once more say that if anyone is sick or unwell in our community and would like one of us to visit you then we would be delighted to do so, be that in your home, in hospital or in nursing care. If anyone is housebound or struggles with mobility and would like to be included in our First Friday Communion Calls then we would be only too happy to visit you and bring you Holy Communion each month.  Please don’t be shy about calling us.  There is nothing more important to us than caring for and supporting those in our community whose health is failing and it is always a great privilege to be able to visit with you, pray with you if you so wish and bring you Holy Communion.  Please call or have one of your family call whichever one of us you would like to visit you.  We look forward to seeing you.  Until then please be assured that you are always in the thoughts and prayers of our community.   Fr Con & Fr Seán

Life is a constant Advent season: we are continually waiting to become, to discover, to complete, to fulfil. Hope, struggle, fear, expectation and fulfilment are all part of our Advent experience. The world is not as just, not as loving, not as whole as we know it can and should be. But the coming of Christ and his presence among us—as one of us—give us reason to live in hope: that light will shatter the darkness, that we can be liberated from our fears and prejudices, that we are never alone or abandoned. May this Advent season be a time for bringing hope, transformation and fulfilment into the Advent of our lives.                                                        

© Connections