“Everyone one is invited”. What a warm statement that is. Samsung Digital, the high tech communications company used this as a marketing slogan for a new ad campaign, as they invited the world to step up and into the digital age of telecommunications. Samsung did not invent the phrase. People have used this phrase for years trying to cast a wide net for their event or business. Reading our own Parish bulletin for the meetings that are to take place, the last line says “All are welcome”. What is the motive behind theall inclusive invitation? Is it anxiety that someone would be overlooked, or that enough people would not turn up. What would happen if everyone accepted the invitation? Do those who say “Everyone is invited” really mean it? What would they think if everyone took them up on the invitation?


This weekend’s Gospel features a parable told by Jesus with that bold invitation “Everyone is invited”. In the parable He tells of a King who invites a select list of close friends and family to the wedding of his son, an invitation they either ignore or refuse. In different ways each of us is called to do something similar in our relationship with God. Failure in life, is to miss recognising God in the circumstances of our daily lives. It is the inability or the willingness to see the opportunity he offers to know him more clearly and to serve him more generously. The Jews of Christ’s time were blind to that opportunity and so lost out. In an attempt to alert them to what they were missing out on, Christ used the image of a marriage feast to which many of the guests failed to turn up to. They did not realise what they were missing. Some rejected the invitation to be part of God’s people and so lose out on eternal life. Others accepted the invitation at first but then refused to live as God asked and their loss is just as great. It is not that God withdraws the gift but that their selfish lifestyle prevents them from accepting his invitation. People consider their plans, their priorities, their agendas more important than God’s invitation. The sober truth is that not
everyone responds to the invitation of God. We live in a world of cruel and evil people, but the invitation is always open. We are never beyond the reach of God’s love and forgiveness. We are all invited. Please RSVP ASAP.
Fr John

Last week we spoke of the new Child Safeguarding Policy adopted by the Church in Ireland and the new Garda Vetting requirements for all adults working in groups and activities involving children.  To ensure the safety and wellbeing of children the Church now insists on the following requirements for all parish activities involving children and young people. 

  • All adult leaders and volunteers must undergo Garda Vetting before they take up their role.
  • A Joint Guardian / Child Consent Form is required in order to take part.
  • Codes of Conduct for Adults and Children are in place.
  • Appropriate supervision ratios of adult leaders to children, as laid down by Church guidelines, must be adhered to.
  • An attendance record is kept of all group activities and meetings
  • Each group/activity carries out a Hazard Assessment in advance to identify and minimise any potential risks or dangers.
  • A report of all accidents / incidents is maintained and is available to parents and guardians.
  • Media Permission Forms must be signed before any photos or videos related to the activity are published either in hardcopy or online.
  • Parents and Guardians are made aware of the complaints procedures for parish groups and the reporting procedures for any allegations, suspicions or concerns they may have about the welfare of a child.

 

Sometimes when trying to understand the need for these new guidelines I find it useful to think of the example of safety-belts in cars.  Many of us are old enough to remember when cars didn’t have safety belts.  Even if they did, they were often little more than ornaments.  When wearing a safety-belt was made compulsory some people found the change hard. Hopefully however none of us would now dream of travelling in a car without our safety-belt, not because we are afraid of getting caught by the Gardaí but because we now understand that we are far safer with our safety-belt secured. It is for our own good. It protects us.  It keeps us safe.  Too many people suffered terrible injuries in the past because they weren’t wearing a safety belt.  Likewise many children suffered unspeakable hurts in our Church in the past because we didn’t have robust safeguards in place. I invite you to think of these new guidelines as our ‘safety-belt’. They are designed to keep children safe and ensure that they come to no harm.  They are about creating a safe environment for all Church activities so that all children can safely and confidently partake in the life of our parish.                            Fr Seán 

 

The parable of the labourers in the vineyard is a tricky parable. We feel some sympathy for the crowd who end up grumbling at the landowner. They have toiled all day in the heat, doing far more labour than those who were hired only at the last minute – yet they all receive the same pay. It’s hardly fair, is it?  But the landowner makes his point: ‘Why be envious because I am generous?’ Jesus anticipates the discomfort of his audience. He uses the parable to gently pull the rug from under their feet, to challenge their assumptions, and offer them a new way of thinking that is focused not just on themselves, but on the wider community. Surely we, too, should want God’s love and blessings to be extended to everyone!

© Triona Doherty, Athlone, Co. Roscommon.  Intercom Magazine, Veritas Ireland.

To forgive other people is one of the most difficult things any of us will ever have to do.  But it is imperative that we learn to do it. We live in that kind of world.  Our lives and fortunes are all intertwined with the lives and fortunes of others.  What one person is and does, inevitably touches many people and it is an impossibility for any of us to get through this life without hurting someone else and being hurt by someone else. When that happens what do we do?  How do we handle it?  Our options are really quite limited.  We must do one of two things:  we can forgive it, forget it and leave it go or we can turn our hurt into resentment and carry it with us through life.  These are the only possibilities and there is no middle ground.  We do one or the other. In this weekend’s Gospel Simon Peter was trying to strike a happy medium between the two.  He was trying to find it in his heart to forgive someone who had wronged him.  It seemed to Peter that there had to be a limit to the matter, so he asked Jesus “When my brother wrongs me, how often should I forgive him?  Jesus responded “Not seven times but seventy times seven”.  Forgiveness is not some sort of cold legal transaction where you count the times and keep the score.  It is a matter of the heart.  It is not so much something you do as something you are.  When forgiveness flows from your heart then you have become a forgiving person.  How does one do that?  In our Gospel there are two very practical suggestions.  Jesus is reminding us that God has forgiven us a debt that we could never have possibly paid and we need to be reminded of that.  God cares very deeply about the quality of our lives and when one cares, forgiveness can never be a casual experience.  The Lord has forgiven us at a tremendous cost to himself and every time he forgives, it involves pain.  If we could remember that, maybe we might find ourselves more willing to forgive those who have hurt us. The second thing we need to remember is that by failing to forgive we hurt ourselves more than anyone else.  We do in fact become our own worst enemy when we fail to forgive.  We have enough problems to handle without carrying around a burden of bitterness.  Life can never be a big and beautiful experience if we lock ourselves in a little cell of resentment and hatred. Not just seven times, but seventy times seven.  Open up your heart.  Reach out to other people.  As a special favour to ourselves we must become forgiving persons.                           Fr John

The author Ernest Hemingway once said “When two people love each other, there can be no happy ending”.  There is a sense in which that is true.  Sooner or later all relationships come to an end.  Some of them are terminated by choice.  One or the other or both decide to call it quits and they go their separate ways.  That may be the saddest ending of all.  Others are terminated by death.  This is a normal part of life except when it comes prematurely.  But even at a ripe old age the death of a loved one is sad.  So Hemingway’s pessimistic statement would seem to be true.  When people love each other, there can be no happy ending.

This Sunday, the Feast of the Ascension, tells of a different kind of parting.  It was when Jesus left his disciples for the last time.  He had already left them once through the door of death and that was devastating.  But then He rose from the dead and began to surprise them with his presence. For a period of forty days He appeared to them at various times in various places.  The disciples came to realise that He was alive for evermore.  These appearances lasted only a few weeks.  Then one day Jesus led them to a point near Bethany, He blessed them and was taken up to heaven.  That was his final departure.  They never saw him again.

This separation was not, however, a sad one.  The Gospel tells us that after He was gone the disciples “returned to Jerusalem filled with joy”.  This is one instance when people truly loved each other and there was a happy ending.  What made it that way?  For one thing, it was not really an ending, it was a transition.  They simply moved from one kind of relationship into another. Up to that point they had always known Jesus as a flesh and blood person who came and went.  That was now over.  They would never know him that way again. From now on they would know him as a spiritual presence who would never leave.  Death had already done its worst.  It had separated them once but could never do it again and because that is true of Jesus, it is also true of others whom we have loved and lost.  They are not gone.  They have simply moved into another dimension of life.  We cannot reach them there and that for us is sad.  We miss them, but this separation is only for a while.  Some day through faith in Jesus we will be together again.  Then there will be no more sorrowful goodbyes.  Small wonder that the disciples returned to Jerusalem with joy.  The Ascension of Jesus meant they had a friend who would never leave them.                                Fr John 

It can be difficult to understand why anyone would willingly place a burden on themselves. We are bombarded daily with promises of a better, easier life. New gadgets pledge to remove obstacles or irritations and make our lives less stressful. It’s all a bit of a contrast to the message of today’s gospel, where Jesus says that his followers must take up their cross. Why would we deliberately suffer, or take on a burden? Surely we should aim to make our lives as easy as possible!

Yet, we see self-sacrifice all the time. Parents make sacrifices for their children, and many people tend lovingly to elderly parents or relatives. Friends give up their time to listen and support each other. Teachers go the extra mile for a vulnerable child, and nurses, doctors, and care workers often go beyond the call of duty. Countless people give up their time and resources to help those in need, whether it’s raising funds for charities or offering practical support to those who are sick, homeless, or struggling. And it’s all done out of love. When Jesus tells his disciples that he is going to suffer grievously and be put to death, they naturally react with shock, as it seems like a strange path to choose. But he is not doing it simply to make life difficult for himself. His sacrifice stems from his passionate love for us, just as we would sacrifice everything for someone we love dearly. Being a follower of Jesus means being prepared to sometimes put others’ needs before our own.

© Tríona Doherty, Intercom Magazine, Veritas Ireland.

St Teresa’s Prayer is popular in this adaptation-

 

Christ has no body now but yours,

No hands, no feet on earth but yours.

Yours are the eyes through which he looks with compassion on this world.

Yours are the feet with which he walks to do well.

Yours are the hands with which he blesses all the world.

Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,

You are his eyes, you are his body.

Christ has no body now but yours,

No hands, no feet on earth but yours.

Yours are the eyes through which he looks with compassion on this world.

Christ has no body now on earth but yours.

 

Jesus speaks in the gospel about being still alive, even after his death. Mostly we find Jesus alive in the love of others. The energy of love that is connected to the energy of God, for God is love. Other times we find God close to us in prayer; but where we can sense him alive mostly is in the ordinary and extraordinary loves of every day, in marriage, family, friendship and care for others.

Many of us do not realise that in this way we have been Christ-bearers. In listening to another, in care of all sorts, in putting ourselves out for the other, in working for justice and for peace the Spirit of God is alive and people are touched by God’s love through the co-operation of ordinary men and women.

©Fr Donal Neary, S.J, Gospel Reflections for the Year of Matthew, www.messenger.ie

 

I bind unto myself today the strong Name of the Trinity,
By invocation of the same, the Three in One and One in Three.

I bind unto myself today the power of God to hold and lead,
His eye to watch, His might to stay, His ear to hearken to my need.
The wisdom of my God to teach, His hand to guide, His shield to ward;
The word of God to give me speech, His heavenly host to be my guard.

 

© St Patrick’s Breastplate. Translation by Cecil F Alexander

Throughout history people have chosen certain animals as symbols of themselves.  American Indians were given, or chose for themselves, names such as “Running Bear” and “Crazy Horse”.  In the world of sports this ancient tradition continues.  Many sporting teams have animals as their symbols.  Some of the favourites are lions, tigers, bears, eagles.  These animals are chosen for the obvious reason that they represent speed, strength and courage – the kind of characteristics that we human beings like to believe about ourselves.  It is not surprising that the Bible also employs this technique of animal symbolism but the emphasis is very different.  Only rarely do the writers of Sacred Scripture compare people to wild creatures such as lions and tigers.  They do occasionally but not often.  By far their number one choice of an animal as a symbol for humanity is a sheep.

It is not without significance that the Bible uses domestic sheep to symbolize people.  Sheep are some of the most vulnerable and dependant of all creatures.  They lack the strength and weapons to stand and fight.  They do not have speed to flee and escape.  They desperately need the help of someone who cares about them and is able to care for them.  This is the major emphasis of the Gospel story this weekend.  Jesus wants us to know that we are safe and secure under His care.  We can depend on him to provide for our needs.  This does not mean that we are free from responsibilities or don’t have to play our part.  It simply means that if we do our best He will take up the flack.  We are going to make it and our needs will be met.  We can also depend on him for guidance.  One of the most certain things about life is its uncertainty.  We just don’t know what is out there.  Tomorrow is a hidden secret.  What it holds shall remain a mystery until we get there.  Travellers have maps and sat-navs to bring them to their destination but every day that we live we walk an unmarked path. But there is no reason to fear.  We can trust the Shepherd to guide us.

We can also depend on him for protection.  This of course does not imply that we will be exempt from problems and pain.  That would be a rather dishonest kind of religion, if trusting God meant a trouble free pass through life. The Shepherd’s protection of his sheep does not mean that he keeps us from trouble, but that he sustains us in trouble and strengthens us through trouble.  We can depend on the Good Shepherd who cares about us and is able to care for us.         Fr John