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

For over thirty years a ‘Peace Light’ lit from one of fifteen oil lamps that burn constantly in front of the grotto honouring the birthplace of Jesus in the Basilica of the Nativity in Bethlehem has been distributed throughout the world to promote peace, remembering the song of the angels on the first Christmas night: ‘Glory to God in the highest and peace to God’s people on earth.’ Each year the international scout movement help bring the light from the grotto in Bethlehem to Churches and communities all over the world as a way of promoting peace and reconciliation.  This year we are delighted that the 41st Cork Passage West Scout Troop have kindly offered to bring the Peace Light to our Churches here in the Harbour Parishes. We will celebrate the Reception of the Peace Light in our 7.30 p.m. Mass in St Mary’s Church, Passage West on Saturday 16th December 2017.  Afterwards the light will be shared with our other Churches and a special oil Peace Candle will burn continuously in a place of honour in each of our Churches from then until the Feast of the Epiphany on the 6th January 2018.   We hope that these candles will serve as a reminder of the need to pray this Christmas for peace between all peoples in our world.  Families are welcome to take a light from the Peace Candle and bring it home and thereby share in that special connection with the birthplace of Christ as we celebrate his birth.  We are grateful to our local scout troop for taking the initiative in this project and we look forward to celebrating the reception of the Peace Light into our community on the 16th December.

We are all familiar with the expression “Don’t get involved!” To some extent it has become a slogan of our times. In the gospel reading at our masses this weekend Jesus speaks of the misery and the hurts of the world and personally identifies with each. To one group he says: “I was hungry and you gave me food. I was thirsty and you gave me to drink. I was lonely and you gave me hospitality. I was sick or in prison and you visited me.” The people then ask: “When did we do all these things for you?” and his reply was simply: “When you did it to one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did it to me.” To another group he says the opposite: “When I was in need you did not help, you neglected to help me when I needed you.”  The point of the parable is obvious. Jesus identifies with the hurts and the heartaches of the world.  When I am lonely, God is lonely. When my neighbour grieves, God grieves. When a child is hungry, God is hungry. When a family is homeless, God is homeless.  God is never removed from or indifferent to the suffering of humanity. 

In the parable of the last judgement we see two groups of people.  On the right hand stand those who helped and on the left stand those who refused to help.  There is also a third group – those who needed help: the hungry, the thirsty, the sick, the lonely.  We ourselves are those people. Or at least at some time or other in our  lives that experience comes to us. Sickness? Old age? We may not be there yet but if we live long enough every one of us is going to know what it is to need the help of others.  So let’s get involved! Let’s play our part!  Together let’s make a difference!

This weekend we salute and acknowledge the work of the many people who provide meals on wheels, who care for ageing or sick relatives or neighbours, home-helps, carers,  all those who work with groups like the Society of St Vincent de Paul, Simon or the Samaritans or so many others who give of themselves so generously to benefit others.  The Gospel this weekend is a salute to you all.  More importantly Jesus assures us all that every act of kindness to those in need, no matter how small, will have its reward.                                              Fr John

Simon Fitzmaurice was a Greystones based Irish filmmaker who died a few short weeks ago on 26th October 2017 having battled  motor neurone disease for almost ten years.  Simon’s 2014 memoir ‘It’s Not Yet Dark’ tells the story of his diagnosis and how the disease progressed and impacted on him and his young family. Despite being completely paralysed Simon went on to direct his first feature film ‘My Name is Emily’ during his illness.  Tríona Doherty, wrote the following reflection on today’s gospel before Simon’s passing last month but its message and the challenge she presents remains a powerful one for all of us.  If you are looking for a Christmas gift for someone close to you, or simply want to treat yourself,  I wholeheartedly recommend Ruth Fitzmaurice’s recently published book ‘I Found my Tribe.’ It is a truly inspiring read!                                                                                                                                                Fr Seán  

 

Ruth Fitzmaurice was 32 years old when her husband Simon was diagnosed with motor neurone disease in 2008. He was given four years to live; two years later his lung function collapsed and he chose to be mechanically ventilated. He communicates using an ‘eye gaze’ computer, and their home is a whirlwind of 24-hour nursing care – as well as buckets of joy and love. The family of five has grown to seven since the diagnosis, Simon directed his first feature film, and Ruth has found solace in a daily sea swim with friends near their County Wicklow home while also writing a book, I Found My Tribe, about her experiences.

It is more than some individuals or families have to cope with in a lifetime, but the story Ruth tells is not a sad one. She and her family have taken a challenging situation and turned it into a positive story of love, friendship and hope. Ruth and Simon came to mind when I read the gospel story for today. We are all dealt different cards in life, and some are tougher than others. We are like the servants in the parable who are given different amounts of money to look after. What’s important is not the life we are given, but what we do with it. Jesus was cautioning against playing it safe. The Fitzmaurice family are doing a lot more than just ‘getting on with it’. Instead of turning inwards or living in fear, they meet their challenges head on. ‘Dive in’ is Ruth’s message, no matter what life throws your way.

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

Much of modern life operates on the basis of credit. We all borrow something from somebody.  There are occasions when we borrow from our neighbour.  Most people buy their motor cars on an instalment.  Everyone one who owns a house buys it on credit.  Businesses often purchase equipment and supplies with borrowed money.  Borrowing can be a good and useful thing as long as it is not abused.  The economics of the world would simply cease to function without it.  The use of credit does however have its limits.  In terms of money, there is a limit on how much we can borrow.  Even in terms of life, there is a limit on the kind of things that can be borrowed. In this Sunday’s Gospel Jesus tells a story about ten bridesmaids at a wedding.  Five of them were foolish while the other five were sensible.  This distinction became apparent at the point of being prepared.  Their role was to meet the groom with their lighted torches but because of the groom’s delay the torches were running low on fuel.  The five sensible had allowed for such an emergency, the five foolish had not. They tried to borrow some oil but their request was denied.  That refusal seems selfish and uncaring, but it is true to life.  When a crisis comes and our needs are urgent we must depend on our own resources.  Life allows us to borrow from one another in minor things, but in the great moments when we face important issues we have only that which we have brought with us.  Jesus drew a line right down the middle of that wedding party and said “Five of them were foolish while the other five were sensible”.   There is of course a sense in which faith in God is always borrowed, we have not invented it for ourselves, we have learned about God from Scripture.  The Church has preserved that faith and has handed it down to our generation.  We would never have known God at all except for the faith that others had in him.  Our parents may have been the best people on earth and that is a blessing beyond measure.  It gives us an advantage in life that nothing else could give us.  Whatever kind of advantage we may have inherited, it is up to us to shape our own destinies.  Character is not transferable, it cannot be borrowed, not even from ones own family.  We must build it for ourselves. In many ways our lives are inseparably intertwined with the people around us.  We are mutually dependant on one another.  Sharing is caring.  Ours is a shared existence.  What happens to one happens to all.  But there is another sense in which each of us is profoundly alone.  No one can get inside my body and life my life for me.  I must do that for myself.  No one can make my choices for me.  I must make them for myself.  When the time comes for me to die, no one can take my place.  No one can even go with me.  I must make that final journey for myself.  Some things cannot be borrowed.  A final thought would not be complete without one other word, and it is this.  Even in the lonely experiences that we all have to face, we are never truly alone.  There is ANOTHER who walks beside us and lives within us.  His promise is “I am with you always even until the end of time”.            

Fr John  
 

An Australian soap opera bears the intriguing title ‘Neighbours’. Ratings indicate that it enjoys wide popularity. It traces the life of a small rural community.  Each episode seems to revolve around some row or quarrel in the neighbourhood.  The same seems to be true of all popular TV soap operas, such as Coronation Street and Eastenders. Again the characters are all neighbours. Their true to life quality obviously accounts in part for their popularity.  The writers of these series achieve this by focusing on the jealousies and hostilities that seem to dominate life in these fictional  communities. In many ways however they mirror real life because, for many of us, the term ‘neighbours’ somehow always seems to conjure up the memory of some quarrel or other.

God’s remoteness from us makes him more easily lovable.  He doesn’t elbow his way into our lives.  He isn’t always sticking his nose into our business. We do not think of him as an interfering busybody.  It is we who come banging on the door when we need his help.  Otherwise he keeps his distance discreetly and lovingly. The neighbour is so often just the opposite.  The old Catechism used to define our neighbour as “all mankind” but it is the person next door or across the road that bothers us.  We have no problem with those if far off lands.  If they are hungry or their rights are being ignored, we show our concern and generosity to help them.  The crux for us however is the neighbour next door!

The Christian commandment to love God and to love our neighbour is uncompromising. We are called to love our neighbour as we love our very selves.  In the ‘Our Father’ Jesus taught us to pray. In it he framed a contract between us and God the Father.  The bargain we strike is no soft option: “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”  The great trespasser in our lives might be the one living closest to us.  There is so much to forgive and the score keeps mounting!  If God’s judgment of us were to be as harsh as ours often is of our neighbour, we are not giving ourselves much of a chance.

Jesus is the ultimate realist.  He says “ Love your neighbour as yourself.”  We may try to evade our responsibility by pointing out that some people are simply unlovable.  In essence Jesus says to each of us:  “ I know that but I’m not interested in how you feel about people.  That is not the issue.  My concern is how you treat them.”  Love is not some sentimental feeling,  it is how we treat one another, how we act towards one another.  Ultimately loving our neighbour is about what we do to them and for them.                                                                                      Fr John

“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

There's a time for remembering, a time to recall The trials and the triumphs, the fears and the falls. There's a time to be grateful for the moments so blest: The jewels of our memory where love is our guest.
 These opening lines of Liam Lawton’s moving hymn ‘There is a Place’ capture the spirit in which we are invited to remember our loved ones and the deceased of our community over the coming weeks and to let ‘love be our guest.’  Love always remembers.  Love never forgets.  Love is forever grateful.  Love never stops wishing the best for those it loves.  And so, over these weeks of November, we will prayerfully honour all those who have touched our lives and all those who have gone before us on our journey home to God.  Our November prayer is one of gratitude and hope: an overflowing sense of gratitude for the incredible blessing our loved ones have been in our lives, an unwavering hope rooted in our conviction that they are now, as scripture tells us, ‘in the hands of God.’   
 

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 

 

Streams and rivers run through every valley and plain. They all have one destination and that is the ocean. The one thing that they all have in common is the river bank on both sides. This is crucial to the life of the river. If it were not there the river flows out to become a lake or a floodplain.  It loses its life and energy.  In short, it’s going nowhere. The image of a riverbank is one that can describe God’s presence in our lives. Like the river bank, God gently guides us along on our own daily journeys.  We need support, direction and gentle guidance on our own journey.  The bank of a river may seem insignificant or not very important.  But remove that bank and the river is helpless.  Remove God from our lives and we are also helpless indeed.  © Fr James McSweeney, A Year in Reflection
 

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.

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