As the very name ‘Holy Week’ suggests, the coming days represent a special time, a sacred moment for Christians everywhere.  We will commemorate and celebrate the central moments of the Passion, Death and Resurrection of our Lord Jesus by which we have been saved and brought to new life.  The distinctive liturgies and ceremonies of these days invite us to enter more fully into these sacred mysteries.

 

On Holy Thursday we celebrate the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, commemorating the night Christ gave us the Eucharist as the gift of his enduring presence.  We also re-enact Christ’s washing of the disciples’ feet as a dramatic reminder of Christ’s insistence that we must be a people of service who put the care of others at the very heart of living out our faith. Mass is followed by an opportunity for people to spend some quiet time in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, remembering Christ’s invitation to the apostles  in the Garden of Gethsemane to stay awake and pray with him.

 

Jesus once proclaimed that a person can have no greater love than to lay down his life for his friends.  On Good Friday we remember the day on which Christ proved the depth of his love for us.  The central liturgy of the day, the Passion of Our Lord, consists of three parts: the Proclamation of the Passion from St John’s Gospel, The Veneration of the Cross together with the offering of the Universal Prayers of petition for the needs of our world and finally the Rite of Holy Communion.  The Stations of the Cross are a traditional devotion close to the heart of many people and they allow us an opportunity to reflect step by step on the different moments of Christ’s Passion and Death and to connect them to our own trials and sufferings in life.  In order to allow ceremonies to take place in each of our churches, we have in recent years combined the Stations of the Cross and the Celebration of the Lord’s Passion into a single combined service.

 

On Holy Saturday night, we celebrate the Easter Vigil, the highpoint of the Church’s Prayer throughout the year.  The Paschal Fire symbolises the light of God breaking through the darkness of death, goodness triumphing over evil and life prevailing over death.  It is a celebration of great joy and hope in which we affirm our baptismal belief in the power of goodness and renew our faith and trust in the God of Life.

 

We welcome you to join us for our Holy Week ceremonies over the coming week.

The Parish Clergy and the Parish Assembly

In recent weeks envelopes for the Spring Dues have been delivered to homes in the parish.  As you know these offerings from parishioners form the main source of income for the priests of the parish.  Envelopes may be returned to any of the priests’ houses or in any of the Church collections at your convenience.  Envelopes are also available in each of our churches.  The priests of the parish thank you for your continued support.

 

The most difficult question for any spiritual counsellor is “Why”.  Five years ago a young mother called to my house distraught with the news she had received from her Doctor’s diagnosis – breast cancer.  The prognosis was discouraging.  She knew that in all probability her life would be drastically shortened.  She spoke to me about her two small children and said “Father, Why”.  Thanks to medical personnel who cared for her, she has been cured of her illness.

 

Life is fraught with mystery.  Everywhere the question “Why” raises its head.  Why war, why disease, why poverty, why human suffering and heartbreak manifested in a thousand different ways.  All these are questions to which I do not have an answer or as far as I know, nobody does.  So instead of speculating about “Why” it may be easier to focus on why we do not understand.

 

In this weekend’s Gospel we read the story of Lazarus who was a friend of Jesus.  His sisters Martha and Mary sent for Jesus because Lazarus was sick.  By the time Jesus arrived Lazarus was dead and buried.  The story has a happy ending, as Jesus exercised his authority over death and called his friend back to the land of the living.  In this story we have elements of mystery.  The premature death of a young man.  The heartbreak of the family who were hurt and baffled.  They like us could not understand. 

 

One reason we have trouble understanding, is because God’s timetable is different from ours.  Martha and Mary had sent Jesus an urgent appeal for help.  They needed him immediately and they believed in his power and willingness to help, otherwise they would not have sent for him.  His timing was off.  He seemed to be late in arriving.  “Lord if you had been here our brother would not have died”.  Their concept of time almost made a shipwreck of their faith.

 

If first century people had a time problem with regard to faith, how much more have we in the twenty first century.  We literally live by the clock.  Everything seems to move at a hectic pace. Our roads have signposts with minimum as well as maximum speed limits.  Deadlines loom.  “Our days are too short”.  “I have been up only an hour and I am already too hours behind”.  These are some expressions that we hear and use every day.  We do carry the same hectic pace in our spiritual lives. We pray for something and we not only make the request, we set the delivery day.  We pray for a burden to be lifted or a wrong to be righted or a dream to be fulfilled and if God does not answer our faith begins to waiver.

 

We must understand that God’s ways are not our ways.  We operate in the realm of time, God operates in the realm of eternity.  It is a good thing for all of us that God works by his own methods.  We may not always understand, but we can always trust God to do things his own way.                                                               Fr John

 

The healing of the blind man in the gospel unleashes a chain of chaos and confusion. His neighbours are dumbfounded, the Pharisees are suspicious and at war with one another, and the Jewish authorities are cynical, even calling in the man’s parents as witnesses.  The character of Jesus and of the blind man are called into question as everyone tries to figure out what has happened. Jesus and the man who has been healed are both accused of being sinners. The interrogators even ridicule the man, asking, ‘Are you trying to teach us, and you a sinner through and through?’

But things are simple for the man who has experienced Jesus’ healing. He knows what he has witnessed, and is ready and willing to attest to it. ‘If this man were not from God,’ he says, ‘he couldn’t do a thing.’ He understands that his encounter with Jesus was extraordinary. Jesus finally clears up the confusion, turning everything on its head, as is often his way. It is the man who had been blind who sees who Jesus is: ‘Lord, I believe.’ The Pharisees who think they see things clearly are the ones who are really blind to the truth. ‘We are not blind, surely?’ is the question facing all of us as we advance through Lent. How open are we to seeing the truth of God’s presence in situations where we don’t expect it?

 © Tríona Doherty, Athlone, Co Roscommon.  Intercom Magazine, Veritas Ltd.

  

 

These weeks of Lent are set aside by the Church so that people may have the opportunity, if they choose to take it, of coming face to face with ourselves, taking stock of our spiritual life and measuring them 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, except for those who have visited the Holy Land, it is difficult to visualise the dry parched earth, 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 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 and crushed dreams.  Have you 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, triumph over them.                                                                     Fr John

 As a Harbour community we extend our deepest sympathy and our heartfelt prayers to the families, friends and colleagues of Dara Fitzpatrick, Ciaran Smith,  Mark Duffy, Paul Ormsby; the members of the Coastguard Service who tragically lost their lives whilst involved in a rescue mission off the coast of Mayo early on Tuesday morning.  The tragedy is a poignant reminder of the unsung heroism of the men and women serving with the Coastguard Service, our Naval Service, the RNLI, mountain rescue crews, ambulance and emergency services, firefighters, the Gardaí and our Defence Forces.  When tragedy strikes, as sadly happened on a number of occasions in recent years, we salute their heroism but it shouldn’t take a tragedy to remind us how indebted we are to them. They deserve to be recognised as heroes not just in times of tragedy but every day.  Each and every day they risk their own wellbeing to save others.  We salute them for their heroism and their incredible generosity of spirit.  May we never take all that they do for us for granted.

Ash Wednesday and the start of Lent

This Wednesday, 1st March 2017, we celebrate Ash Wednesday and the beginning of our Lenten Journey.  Blessed Ashes will be distributed at Masses on Wednesday and will also be available to take home for those who are housebound. 

Trocaire Boxes for this year’s Trocaire Lenten Campaign are available in all our Churches this weekend and we encourage parishioners to take one and return it at Easter so that together we can make a difference in the lives of some of the most needy communities in our world.  A Trocaire Box during Lent is a wonderful opportunity to teach young children and to remind ourselves to be grateful for the blessings we so often take for granted and to be mindful of those in our world who are not so fortunate. This Lent let’s make a sincere effort to make some small sacrifice so that others can have a better chance in life.                         Fr Seán

There is a famous line in the book of the prophet Micah that reads as follows: ‘This is what the Lord asks of you, only this: to act justly, to love tenderly and to walk humbly with your God’ [Micah 6:8]. It sums up the very essence of what we are called to as people of faith.  

Those very words haunted me last week as I listened to reports concerning ‘Mother and Baby Homes’ and the shocking revelations of how hundreds of children were buried in Tuam. Listening to those reports and  interviews with those directly affected by the revelations, I felt both profound sadness and deep shame: sadness for those who were judged, marginalised, hidden away and made to feel like lesser beings; shame because our Church was instrumental in fostering a culture that regarded these mothers as outcasts and their children as ‘illegitimate.’ How in God’s name can a child ever be regarded as ‘illegitimate’?  How could the birth of a baby and the precious gift of life ever be seen as a source of dishonour and shame? Every child born into our world is a blessing to be embraced, a gift to be cherished, a godsend to be nurtured and nourished regardless of the circumstances in which they are conceived or the family situation into which they are born. There simply are no ‘lesser children’ for God. There never has been and there never will be! All children are to be cherished equally; all mothers ought to be cared for and supported equally, all families are to be respected equally. To do anything else is to betray everything Jesus lived and died for.

And so this weekend I ask all of us to pray for all those who have suffered unjustly in the past, those who were shunned and hidden away, those who were denied the joy that should have rightfully been theirs in childbirth and motherhood. We humbly acknowledge the part our Church played in cultivating the culture that judged and looked down on these women and children and we pledge ourselves to rediscovering the path that Micah has marked out for us: to act justly, to love tenderly, and to walk humbly with our God.  When we act justly, there is no room for discrimination.  When we love tenderly, no one is excluded from our care.  When we walk humbly with our God no one looks down on anyone else for we are all created equal in the image and likeness of the one and same God.                                    Fr Seán

Getting to the ‘heart’ of the Law

This Sunday’s Gospel is part of the Sermon on the Mount and deals with how we should live the Christian life.  Jesus is telling us that getting by within the letter of the law is not what he has in mind for his followers and he goes on to spell out clearly what is expected of all those who profess to believe in him.  He does not lay down laws and regulations for every situation in life, but he asks us to keep a check on our inner attitudes and on our motivation.

Every society has its laws. We may not like them.  At times we may even resist them but they are absolutely necessary. It would be impossible for us to function without them.  However much we may dislike the laws, they are essential to our very existence.  This is not to say that the laws are always right.   Sometimes they are clearly wrong.  We cannot live without laws but neither can we live with them unless they are constantly revised and corrected. 

There were many who followed Jesus who must have assumed that he supported a life free of the constraints of the Jewish law.  His demeanour was so kind and his association with sinners so enterprising, his denunciation of the Pharisees so stinging, it would be easy to assume that he had come to declare independence from the laws of Moses.  In fact Jesus had come to do the exact opposite.  He had come to restore the law’s proper place in the hearts of people.  He came to show us what a free and full life looked like, when lived in proper obedience to the commandments of God.  The commandments of God do not limit life’s joys: rather they set us free to enjoy life with safety and integrity and are given as a blessing from God and as a sign of His love for us.                                                                          Fr John