A question that many people ask at the beginning of Lent is “What did you give up for Lent?” When we were young it was common, indeed it was expected, that all of us would give up something for Lent. Once Ash Wednesday came round, all of us, no matter how young we were, were encouraged to make some small sacrifice by giving up something for the next forty days.  Sugar was a popular choice and many of us never went back to it again. Today, the tradition of giving up something for Lent is not as strong as it was in the past, but the idea behind it is still a good one. Giving up something helps to develop a sense of discipline, it helps us to appreciate all that we have and it allows us to help the most needy in the world by contributing what we save to the Trocaire Lenten Campaign.

But of course you do not have to “give up” something if you do not want to.  You might decide to “take up” something instead.  Lent is about more than “giving up” drink or cigarettes or sweets – it’s about taking on a new commitment to our faith and trying to be more like Jesus in the way we live our lives. There are many ways in which we can journey with Jesus through these forty days, many ways in which we can make that extra little effort to be the person God wishes us to become. It is simply a matter of deciding how. To give up or to take up?  The choice is ours!                                                                                              Fr John

This Sunday we celebrate the World Day of Prayer for the Sick which is celebrated each year on the Sunday closest to the Feast of our Lady of Lourdes on the 13th February.  The World Day of Prayer reminds us of the very special place that the sick had in the life of Christ.  No one who has ever read the gospels could ever question 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 Christ 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 Christian love and must always be a corner-stone of our faith.   This weekend we offer our heart-felt prayers for all who are sick in our community and our world.  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 people within our community.  Your service enables and enriches the life of our community and we pray God’s blessing for you and all those for whom you care.

To mark this special day we will celebrate a Service of Healing and Blessing for the Sick and Carers in St Mary’s Church, Passage West at 3.00 p.m. If you need healing in body or mind, if your spirit needs refreshing, if your soul needs rest, please come and join us in asking God’s blessing and grace.                Fr Seán

One of the most obvious facts about life for many people is that life is not easy. Sometimes it is often quite difficult and sometimes for some people almost impossible. One such person is Job which we read about in the first reading of our Mass. When first he appears on the biblical page, he was a man of most fortunate circumstances – good health, great wealth, a loving family and the esteem of his friends and neighbours. Then one day the winds of fortune suddenly changed and Job’s circumstances underwent a drastic change. Marauders stole his animals and slaughtered most of his servants, a blinding storm killed all of his children, his health failed, as is often the case in times of distress. In the midst of all this, his wife in her despair suggested that the best thing he could do was “curse God and die”.

Most of us cannot match Job’s story of suffering. We have never known what it is to lose virtually everything to one swift stroke of cruel fate. Most of us have gone through days when a sense of hopelessness was our constant companion. The plain truth is that life is hard and sometimes gets us down. Job’s story is sometimes our story as well.

Part of his problem was financial. Poverty is a difficult thing especially for those who were once wealthy. Many people today find themselves in a similar circumstance to Job. Through no fault of their own they lose their jobs, the pay cheques stop and the bills keep coming. Every day has become a struggle for economic survival. Then there are those who have never known anything but poverty. They were born in it and have lived in it all their lives. To be poor is one of the most debilitating experiences that can befall on anyone.

Another part of Job’s problem was the loss of loved ones. All of his children had died in one storm. Death is always an occasion of sorrow and the only people who can comprehend that kind of pain are those who have known it. Life isn’t easy, it can sometimes crush a human heart under the sheer weight of sorrow. One other dimension of Job’s problems and perhaps the most difficult of all was broken relationships, which is quite possibly life’s most painful experience and difficult to overcome. Job experienced it all – the pain of poverty, the grief of death, the suffering of sickness and the agony of broken relationships. For similar reasons we find ourselves in the same situation.

What should we do when life gets us down? My suggestion would be that we never accept any feeling as final. Overwhelmed by his problems Job said “I shall not see happiness again”. We certainly understand how and why he would feel that way. Our feelings are in one respect like the weather – changeable. We must learn to wait. Time is a great healer. When the little voice comes telling you that you will never see happiness again, try not to listen because it isn’t telling you the truth. Don’t be convinced that your present mood is permanent, because it isn’t. My next suggestion is predictable but absolutely imperative – hold on to your faith in God. Job did that. That was all he had – an awareness of God. As it turned out that was all he needed. Life had him down but it could not keep him there because he held on to his faith. In days of discouragement and despair may we have the wisdom to do the same. If we hold on to our faith, life can never defeat us. It may get us down but it will never be able to keep us there.                                                                                           Fr John

The first disciples were simply mending their nets when they were called. It was part of their daily routine, something they did almost every day. It is a wonderful reminder that there is something sacred about the ordinary: be it bathing a child, loving a spouse, doing our job, family time and everything else that goes to make up our days. In the middle of all of this God can often surprise us and call us into his service. Our expectation is sometimes different – we think that we need long times of prayer to find God, or read about him, or do big things for him. But more often than not God is found in the ordinary.

Irish spirituality had blessings for everything ordinary moments – for milking a cow, dusting a room, visiting the sick and many more. There were prayers for meals, a safe journey and a happy death. In times past Irish spirituality found God as much in mountains and people as in the church, and often more so. May we, like the first disciples, realize that it is in and through the ordinary moments of life that God calls us most to follow Him.                  ©Donal Neary SJ  www.messenger.ie

If I decorate my house perfectly with bows and lights and tinsel, but do not show love to my family, I'm just another decorator. If I slave away in the kitchen, baking dozens of Christmas cookies, preparing gourmet meals and arranging a beautifully adorned table at mealtime, but do not show love to my family, I'm just another cook.

If I work at the soup kitchen, carol in the nursing home and give all that I have to charity, but do not show love to my family, it profits me nothing. If I trim the spruce with shimmering angels and snowflakes, attend a myriad of holiday parties and sing in the choir's cantata but forget Christ, I have missed the point.

Love stops the cooking to hug the child. Love sets aside the decorating to kiss the spouse. Love is kind, though harried and tired. Love doesn't envy another's home that has more elaborate decorations. Love doesn't yell at the kids to get out of the way.

Love doesn't give only to those who are able to give in return but rejoices in giving to those who can't. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. Video games will break, pearl necklaces will be lost, golf clubs will rust, but giving the gift of LOVE will last forever.                     Anonymous

‘Will you come and follow me if I but call your name?

Will you go where you don’t know and never be the same?

Will you let my love be shown, will you let my name be known,

Will you let my life be grown in you, and you in me?

The hymn ‘The Summons,’ by John L. Bell, consists of a list of questions from Jesus as he calls each one of us to be disciples. Each one begins with the words ‘Will you…?’ The final verse is our response as disciples: ‘Let me turn and follow you and never be the same.’

Today we reflect on Jesus’ call to the very first disciples. There is a simplicity to the scenes where Jesus gathers his first disciples. He issues the invitation to follow him, and the fishermen respond with a resounding yes, leaving their nets, boats, and even their families behind, no questions asked. In the opening chapters of Mark’s gospel everything happens ‘at once’ or immediately. There is a sense of urgency; the time has come, the kingdom of God is near, and Jesus needs helpers to work alongside him.

Jesus asks the same of us, his modern-day disciples: ‘Follow me’. We are summoned too. We are challenged to leave aside our worldly concerns, see the world in a new way, and to begin a new adventure with Jesus.

©Tríona Doherty, Athlone.  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.   Intercom Magazine

Many years ago there was a TV programme called “What’s my line”.  The format was a chairperson, a panel of experts and a mystery guest.  The guest had some unusual occupation.  The panel would try to figure out what it was.  They would do this by asking a series of questions, calling for a Yes or No answer.  Sometimes the panel would figure out what the guest did, but occasionally they would be stumped and the guest would have to tell them.

We have an ancient version of this game in this Sunday’s Gospel.  The mystery guest is John the Baptist and the panel of experts is a group who are trying to figure out who John is.  His simple answer was “I am a voice”.  That was John’s role.  He was a voice alerting people to the coming of the Messiah.  If someone were to ask any of us to identify ourselves, what would we say?  They are not asking our name, they just want to know our role in life.  How would you answer that?  I think that all of us could borrow a part of John’s answer.  We could say “I am a voice”.  We are all a voice for something.  We may not talk much but that doesn’t matter.  Actions speak louder than words and we all represent something or somebody. 

John was a preacher of incredible power and his every word pointed towards Christ.  He held Christ in high esteem and so do we.  Most of us are not preachers.  We lack the ability to speak for him as John did. We can still stand for his cause and that is the most effective preaching.  The best word that is ever spoken for Christ is really not a word, but a deed.  Whose voice are you?  Every time you treat people with kindness and words you are speaking for Christ.  Do it today and do it often.

                                                                                                                     Fr John                                                                         

Each New Year offers us a welcome chance to make a fresh start.  Many of us have, I’m sure, made resolutions to eat more healthily, to take more exercise, to connect more often with family and friends, to take up a new hobby or to fulfil that goal that we have always dreamed of.

As a parish, our New Year’s resolution, our goal for the coming year, is to invite as many people as possible into playing a role in the life of our parish.  We are looking for people who would be willing to serve our community not just in traditional roles such as Ministers of the Word or Ministers of the Eucharist but in other roles that can enhance the life of our parish.  These might be Ministers of Welcome or Ushers who welcome people to our celebrations as they arrive or being part of a Baptism Team that takes turns to join us in our baptism ceremonies and represent the community in welcoming the child and family into the parish.  Other services might include being part of a Funeral Team that helps to lead some of the Funeral Prayers in the Funeral Home and in our churches. 

People may have a particular gift or talent that they would like to share: you might like flower arranging or you might have creative ideas for setting up sacred spaces that focus on different themes as we move through the year.  You might have a love of graphic art and printing and might like to help creating posters and signs for our notice boards or you might help us have a better online presence. You might simply be willing to give an hour of your time to help clean your local Church. Whatever way you feel you can contribute you will be most welcome.   Some of the greatest initiatives in any parish started with someone saying: I would like to do such and such. St Paul once said: There are all kinds of service to be done but always to the same Lord.  That remains true. There are many ways of playing an active part in the life of our faith community.  As we start this New Year we’d like to ask you to think about something that you would like to contribute, some gift or talent that you would like to share, some ministry in which you would like to get involved.

We are blessed to have in our parish someone who has a great gift for inviting people to get involved and who has a special knack for getting people to agree.  I am speaking of course of Fr Con who has kindly agreed to become our unofficial ‘Recruitment Officer’.  Don’t be surprised if he approaches you and asks you to become involved in some way or other.  Better still, don’t wait for him to ask you!  Take the initiative and tell him how you would like to be involved! Everyone’s contribution is welcome. All of us together have a part to play.

This year Lent will begin on the 14th February. That’s just a month away. By then  we would love if  many of you accepted our invitation to take up a more active role in our parish.  That way we can use Lent as an opportunity to invite someone to come and lead us all in exploring the connection between faith and service that lies at the heart of all ministry and Easter this year can truly be a celebration of new life for our parish.  We very much hope that you will be part of that new life.     Fr Seán

 

Election campaigns very often degenerate into character assassinations. Past failures are highlighted to discredit almost every candidate. The good they may have done is ignored and their errors are not only recalled but exaggerated out of context. In politics there is little mercy for mistakes and there are few opportunities to make a fresh start. In our relationship with God things are very different. Although our sins may be scarlet God is willing to make them as white as snow. There is a constant invitation not only to make a fresh start but to begin a radically new way of living. Being aware of how easily we postpone this fresh start, the Church offers us annual reminders of Christ’s coming to focus our hearts as well as our minds on his presence among us. Advent is an alerting and preparing time.  This weekend John the Baptist reminds us that Christmas is about preparing a way to let God have an increasing say in our lives. Most of us face the prospect of change with mixed emotions.  There is something in us that wants to grow and expand. We have hopes and dreams not only for our country but for ourselves as well. We would like to do better in the future than we have in the past. But there is another part of us that is fearful of change.  We are not fully satisfied with life as it is, but we are familiar with it.  We have formed our attitudes and habits and are not sure that we want to change them. We may not even be sure that we could. That is why we go back to John the Baptist and his ministry year after year. His message was one of repentance which literally means “to change one’s mind and to take a new direction.” That is what we must all do. If the coming of Christ is to be real for us, there must be a different attitude.  We must find in our hearts a willingness to change.  Are we willing to change?  That is the question!                                               Fr John