Easter – A Doorway to Eternity

Easter is about more than simply recalling or commemorating the resurrection of Jesus. By raising Jesus from the dead, God also opened up for us the way to eternal life. This feast is the reason for our faith and the reason for our hope. Our celebration today raises us up and renews us in faith, hope and love.

Let us love one another and pray,

Let us love one another and be faithful,

Let us love one another and be humble,

Let us love one another and be filled with the charity of God.

Let us love one another with God, in God, and for God,

And we shall thus be one with God for all eternity.

© Cornelia Connelly, foundress, Society of the Holy Child Jesus

Last Monday, 8th April 2019, it was announced that Pope Francis has appointed Fr Fintan Gavin, Chancellor of the Archdiocese of Dublin, as the Bishop-Elect of the Diocese of Cork & Ross to succeed Bishop John Buckley.

Bishop-elect Gavin was born in Dublin on 1st January 1966 and baptised in Saint Andrews Parish, Westland Row, Dublin, on 5 January 1966.  He is the second eldest of seven brothers and sisters.  His family roots are in Marino, Saint Vincent de Paul Parish, on the Northside of Dublin. He played hurling and football with Saint Vincent’s GAA Club, Marino, and was also a member of Marino Athletic Club.  After the completion of his seminary formation in Clonliffe College, Dublin, Bishop-elect Gavin was ordained to serve as a priest of the Archdiocese of Dublin on 7th June 1991.

Bishop Gavin is a respected Canon Lawyer and has served on a number of national boards and committees. He also collaborated in the very successful Second Chance Saturday, Vigil Mass for Sunday, for those who had drifted from Church.  This pastoral initiative invites and encourages people to give their faith a second change, reaching out through street ministry and offering social time and hospitality after Mass. He has a keen interest in music and over the past nine years has helped in developing the Gospel Choir in Ballymun Parish. The choir was chosen to lead the liturgical singing during Pope Francis’ meeting with engaged and newly married couples at Saint Mary’s Pro Cathedral, Dublin last August.

We warmly welcome Bishop-elect Gavin to our diocese and to our community. We hope and pray that he will be both blessed and happy in his role as our Bishop and we look forward to welcoming him to the Harbour Parishes over the coming years.  We wish Bishop John Buckley every blessing in his well-deserved retirement and thank him for his ministry to our community.                           

In light of the horrific attacks recently on Islamic communities at prayer in Christchurch, New Zealand, I’d like to mention an initiative that I have been involved in for the past three years. The Three Faiths Forum – Cork is a group drawn from the Jewish, Christian and Muslim communities here in Cork that meet regularly to explore how our communities can foster a greater spirit of openness, dialogue and inclusion within our society. In the ‘new’ Ireland of the 21st century, Cork has evolved into a multicultural, multiracial and multireligious society. Formed in May 2016, following the example of similar groups in other cities in the UK and in Dublin, the Forum is an initiative that brings together representatives of the three Abrahamic faiths – Judaism, Christianity and Islam – and seeks to create a space where people of faith can dialogue open and respectfully, come to a better understanding of each other’s faith and work together to enhance tolerance, co-operation and friendship in society. The recent attacks in New Zealand and other parts of the world, as well as incidents within our own city, reinforce the urgency of working together to build a society where people of all faiths and none feel respected and valued.

One of the initiatives that the Forum has organised for the past three years is a simple Earth Day Celebration in Bishop Lucey Park, Grand Parade, Cork City. As an expression of our call to care for the earth and to cherish the gift of creation, a call that is at the heart of each of our respective faith traditions, we join millions of people in 192 countries across the world in promoting awareness of our responsibility to care for the earth and its environment.  The celebration consists in a short moment of reflection and prayer followed by an invitation to enjoy some of the fruits of the earth provided by the Forum. The celebration takes place on Saturday 27th April at 2.00 p.m. in Bishop Lucey’s Park and all are welcome.  Come along and show your support not only for the care of the earth but also to meet members of other faith communities in our city and to show your support for greater respect and tolerance in our world.                                         Fr Seán

This Sunday’s Gospel contains one of the best known stories in the whole of the Bible, the story of the Prodigal Son.  It begins with a young man’s audacious request for his part of the family fortune.  His request was granted and then some days later he collected all his belongings and went off to a distant land.  When he got his inheritance, my guess is that he was dreaming a beautiful dream.  He was thinking about the wonderful life that was waiting for him in the distant land.  We would not criticise him for doing that, because dreaming is a vital part of living.  Imagine how impoverished our world would be without its dreamers.  Every great human accomplishment is nothing more than a dream come true.  The electric light was once a dream in the mind of Thomas Edison.  Nowadays, the cure for cancer is a dream in the minds of medical scientists and some day that dream will come true.  Most of us are not great inventors but all of us are dreamers.

Each of us is related to the Prodigal Son.  We feel some discontentment with things as they are and we dream of life as it might be.  We should never stop doing that.  One note of caution however and that is not all of our dreams can be trusted.  Some of them are sheer illusions and this is what got the Prodigal Son in trouble.  He dreamed of freedom without responsibility.  He was determined to like his own life without considering any other person.  He would do what he wanted to do and he would not have to explain to anyone.  In his mind that is what it meant to be free.

I doubt there is a person who has not dreamed at times of that kind of freedom.  We would like to be free from the feeling that there is always something that we ought to do.                                                                                                    Fr John

There is something special about Mother’s Day.  More than most of any national celebration, it lends itself to sentimentality.  It is fairly easy to understand how we could become sentimental about the one who brought us into this world and cared for us through our most helpful years.  For most of us, life found its early direction under the influence of “Mother”.  In all probability when you took your first step, “Mother” was there.  How could we not be sentimental about anyone who has been that much part of our lives?  Yet with all of this we need to remember that mothers are just people like all the rest of us.  They have hopes and dreams, doubts and fears.  They get tired and need rest.  They feel forgotten and need appreciation.  Mothers are just people, but to most of us they are very special people.  With all of their human frailties they have come to symbolise those qualities of life that we admire the most in others.

One of the qualities is strength.  Whenever life is not working right – when there is sickness, when there is pain, when there is sadness, the first thing a child thinks of is “Mother”.  She is a problem solver.  Her arms are the place of security.  Any mother who handles her job well becomes a symbol of strength, a source of inspiration and that is something we all need.

To all mothers we say thank you for loving us, for meeting our childhood needs and for reminding us of what our greatest needs are.                                 Fr John

This week, Leona O’Donovan and Róisín Manning,  Fourth Class pupils in Star of the Sea School, Passage West, share a little of what they have learned about Maya, one of the children who appears on this year’s Trócaire Box.

Maya is 10 years old. She lives with her Mom and Dad, her brothers Farid and Nabil and her sisters Reem and Amira, in a rented house near a refugee camp in Lebanon. Maya and her family are from Syria but were forced from their land when civil war broke out. They made a dangerous journey to safety in Lebanon and are now one of the 1.5 million refugees from Syria in Lebanon.  Maya’s favourite food is mujaddara, a lentil and rich dish that she helps her Mom to cook. Maya also helps to clean the dishes and the rooms. Maya loves to play cards, marbles, skipping and wrestling. Maya’s mother tells her that they used to live in a lovely neighbourhood with a lot of houses, apartments and businesses. Their house had a balcony and flowers. Maya and Reem like to draw what their Mom describes. Maya is sometimes happy living in Lebanon but sometimes they feel that the local people don’t like Syrians and this causes fights. Trócaire is providing Maya and her community with a safehaven centre where she can play in the playground, do art and attend classes.

Many of us are familiar with the most commonly quoted verses of St Patrick’s Breastplate like ‘Christ beside me, Christ before me…….’ May I suggest the following verse as a wonderful morning prayer whereby we entrust each day and all it may bring to God’s care.                                                                 Fr Seán

I arise today through God’s strength to pilot me,
God’s might to uphold me, God’s wisdom to guide me,
God’s eye to look before me, God’s ear to hear me,
God’s word to speak for me, God’s hand to guard me,
God’s shield to protect me, God’s host to save me
From everyone who shall wish me ill, afar and near.

Most of us are familiar with the term “sponger”.  It refers to a person who takes and takes and makes little or no effort to put anything back.  If you go to lunch with a sponger, more often than not he or she will forget to bring money.  You and I do not enjoy the company of a sponger and most of all, we do not want to be one.  In this Sunday’s Gospel Jesus told a story about this pattern of life but the sponger is not a person.  It is a fig tree, the tree draws strength and sustenance from the soil but it never gives anything back.  It never produces any figs.  Of course we all know that Jesus was not concerned about fruitless trees, His concern was people who take without giving.  It troubled him to see people do bad things and it troubled him just as much to see people who did nothing. In his value system, doing nothing is wrong.  Jesus condemned the tree for producing nothing.  This is closely consistent with his teaching.  The parable of the Good Samaritan is one example.  Jesus took  aim at a priest and a Levite who saw a wounded man and passed him by and did nothing.  Few things are more wrong than seeing a need and making no attempt to meet it.  In the eyes of Jesus it is wrong not to care.  It is wrong not to work.  It is wrong not to give.  It is wrong not to help.  That is why the land owner ordered the fig tree to be cut down.  It was non-productive and did nothing.  We can never excuse our idleness or uselessness by saying “I never had a chance, there was nothing that I could do.”  That is simply not true.  All of us have some kind of talent or endowment from God that we can use in His service.  We may not be wealthy.  We cannot give thousands to build schools and hospitals, but not one of us is so poor that we have nothing to share.  We could give some time to a person who lives with continual loneliness.  We can share a word of encouragement.  We can listen to people’s problems.  It may not seem like much, but there are days when even a friendly smile could turn the tide in someone’s struggle with life.  The point is – we must learn to care, to deliberately and consciously become giving, loving, sharing people.  When Jesus talked about fruitful living, I don’t think he meant the big and impressive things, He was the one who commended the worth of a cup of water and a young boy’s lunch and we are all capable of those little unselfish deeds that communicate concern and build bridges of understanding and I am convinced that these are the very essence of fruitful living. A wise person once said “All that is required for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.”  The person who makes mistakes while trying to do good is a far better servant of God than the person who avoids mistakes by risking nothing.  God can work through flawed human beings but he can accomplish nothing if they do nothing.                               Fr John

This year’s Lenten Trocaire Box features three young girls from different parts of the world where Trocaire is working with local communities. Over coming weeks we will share something of their stories.

María is nine years old and lives with her family in Guatemala in Central America. A number of years ago a powerful outside interest group were granted permission to evict Maria’s entire village so that it could be developed as a bio-fuel plantation.  The villagers resisted peacefully but were violently driven off their lands by riot police.  Brutalised and filled with fear, local families watched on in horror as their homes and belongings were burned to the ground. Three years later the plantation was abandoned.  Seventy two villagers returned.  However as Mayan Q’eqchi – the indigenous people that have lived in Eastern Guatemala for generations – they face constant threats. Their lands are still seen as being ‘there for the taking.’ Still, they plant. They stay. They pray. ‘The land is our life’ says Adela, Maria’s mother. ‘It is for our children.’ Maria’s father José agrees.  He has endured terrible depression since the first eviction and his family lives in constant fear that the violent land seizures and the bloodshed will return.

Trocaire is working with vulnerable communities like Maria’s in land resettlement programmes and in helping them to attain land titles that will protect their rights into the future. As little as €65 can help Trocaire and their partners defend vulnerable families like Maria’s against land thefts and secure legal title to their lands.  Trocaire Lenten Campaign Boxes are available in all our Churches.  Please take one and use it to help Trocaire protect vulnerable communities like Maria’s from exploitation.                                                                                 Fr Seán

 

This week, Shannon Ryan and Sarah O’ Donovan, Fourth Class pupils in Star of the Sea School, Passage West, share a little of what they have learned about Patricia, one of the children who appears on this year’s Trócaire Box.

Patricia is a shy 8 year old girl, who lives with her family in Uganda, East Africa. Ever since her father died in 2011, her family has been slowly pushed off their land by a clan member. Patricia’s Mom, Evelyn, has a right to the land, however her husband’s family is claiming that she does not. When Evelyn tried to fight for the land back, her husband’s family burned their house down. Patricia has a busy day. She wakes up at 6.00 am and starts school at 8.00 am. Patricia is in 1st class. She finishes school at 1.00 pm and arrives home at 2.30 pm. When Patricia gets home, she walks with a jerry can to fetch water from a bore hole which is a 5 minute walk from her home and carries the water back home on her head. Her family has 2 goats Arach and Omiya. Evelyn, Patricia’s Mom, breeds them and sells the goat kids to pay for school and medicine. In 2017, when Patricia’s brother was ill, Evelyn was able to sell a goat to pay for his hospital stay. Trócaire are working with Patricia’s family to help to keep them on their land.

Our parents often taught us to think before we speak.  It was very wise advice and has served many of us well down through the years. Recently I came across a new take on that advice suggesting a series of questions that we should ask ourselves  before we speak.

T  -            Is it true?

H  -           Is it helpful?

I  -            Is it inspiring?

N  -            Is it necessary?

-           Is it kind?