All of us at times have taken a ‘true or false’ test.  The concept is very simple.  You are presented with a statement and you must judge whether it is true or false. The great thing about this kind of test is its simplicity.  Even if you don’t know the answer you can take a guess and still have a fifty-fifty chance of being right.

Some people try to apply the same method to the Christian faith. They look at it and then ask themselves ‘Is it true or false?’ That however is an inadequate approach to faith. Faith cannot be reduced to a series of true or false questions. More often than not, what matters is possibility not credibility. This seems to be the approach that Jesus takes with his own faith.  In this Sunday’s Gospel Jesus reads from the  prophesy of Isaiah which looks forward to the coming of a Messiah.  The passage reads:  ‘The spirit of the Lord has been given to me for he has sent me to bring good news to the poor, to proclaim liberty to captives, to the blind new sight and to set the downtrodden free’. This is the kind of scripture that lends itself to endless speculation. Who wrote it? Who were they talking about? Has it already been fulfilled? Is it true or false?

But Jesus did not concern himself with any of this. He read this ancient text and decided to allow it to come true in and through his own life.  I am aware of course that he was the Messiah and these things were actually written about him.  I am also aware that he was not forced to accept any of them. Allowing them to find expression in his life was a choice that he himself made.  Any one of us can choose to make that same choice. We too can be bearers of good news to the poor, we can help the hungry, release people from unjust burdens and campaign for the homeless.  The question is do we want to? Do we choose to allow the words of scripture be fulfilled in us by the choices we make and the lives we live?

Many people have never looked at Christianity this way? They think of it as a creed to be accepted or rejected rather than as a deed to be done. Is Christianity true?  People have debated the question over and over. But is Christianity possible? That is a different question!  And it is the one that really matters. Each of us has the power to allow the scriptures and the promises of God be fulfilled in our lives and when we do so we show the world that a Christian life is indeed possible.

                                                                                                                Fr John

The Wedding Feast of Cana is a familiar story, rich in symbolism. It is the first ‘sign’ recorded in John’s Gospel. These ‘signs’ in John’s Gospel are miracle stories but John prefers to use the term ‘sign’, as they point to something far more than just the miracle itself. John used these signs to encourage belief in his readers but they are also an invitation for us to understand something more of how God operates in our lives.      Jesus transforms the water which would be used for the Jewish purification rite. He takes something used to give life to people, and transforms it into something which brings joy, celebration and new life to the party. There are many messages we can take from this account: the ability of God to transform our lives, to transform that which is dead and stale. The abundance of wine (approx. 700 litres!) is a significant reminder of the abundance of God’s love for us, beyond our comprehension.  We could also focus on the role of Mary in this Gospel – she is the one who notices, she is attentive to the needs of those around her and brings this concern to Jesus. We might pray today that we too may be able to notice, to see, to intervene when we are faced with situations that need attention. This may be a situation of injustice or it may be a situation where something in our own lives or in our church has become dead and stale and is in desperate need of new wine.

© Jane Mellett, Intercom Magazine

May God bless you with discontent with easy answers, half-truths and superficial relationships, so that you will live from deep within your heart.  May God bless you with anger at injustice, oppression, abuse, and exploitation of people, so that you will work for justice, equality, and peace. May God bless you with tears that cry for those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation and war, so that you will reach out your hand to comfort them  and to change their pain to joy. May God bless you with the foolishness to think you can make a difference in this world, so that you will do the things which others tell you cannot be done. If you have the courage to accept these blessings, then God will also bless you with:


happiness           because you will know that you have made life better for others. inner peace         because you will have worked to secure an outer peace for others. laughter              because your heart will be light. faithful friends    because they will recognise your worth as a person.


These blessings are yours - not for the asking, but for the giving - from One who wants to be your companion, our God, who lives forever and ever. Amen.

©  This blessing was written by Benedictine Sister, Ruth Fox, and first delivered at a college graduation some 32 years ago. It still has much to say to all of us!        Fr Seán

God so loved the world

St John’s Gospel sums up the wonderful mystery of Christmas in a single sentence in John 3:16 when he says: ‘God so loved the world that he sent his only Son so that whoever believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.’  We can only understand the true meaning of Christmas in light of the love that inspired such a gift.  If we want to embrace the true spirit of Christmas then the greatest gift we can share over the coming week is the gift of our love.  I recently came across a reflection that spoke of ways to love.  We might all try to take it to heart this Christmas.                                                                                            Fr Seán

Ways to Love

Listen .................... without interrupting

Speak...................... without accusing

Give ....................... without sparing

Answer ................... without arguing

Share..................... without pretending

Enjoy...................... without complaining

Trust ...................... without wavering

Forgive .................. without punishing

Promise ................. without forgetting

Honour .................. without fail

The issues facing our world nowadays are major and have enormous significance. What are they? First and foremost is peace on earth. How can nations and peoples live together and resolve their differences without resorting to war ever again.  Another is the urgent need to tackle climate change. How can we stop polluting this wonderful world of ours? The stark reality of the damage that we humans are causing to the earth is evident – storms, hurricanes, flooding and extreme weather events continue to worsen. When we look at major issues like these our first reaction is one of genuine care and concern and we all agree that something should and must be done.  But our second reaction is very often to excuse ourselves of responsibility on the grounds that there is nothing we as individuals can do.  The issues are simply too big and we are too small to make any real difference.

This Sunday’s Gospel deals with the ministry of John the Baptist preaching about some great issues of his time – the kingdom of God, a call to repentance and the need to prepare for the coming of the Messiah. The people wondered how all of this was connected to their individual lives. If the kingdom of God is soon to appear, surely one individual person cannot do anything about it. Probably not much and certainly not everything, but they could do something.  They asked John “What must we do?” His answer was a simple basic approach to important issues of living justly and compassionately in the circumstances of their own lives. They could make a difference by seeking to make a positive change in their own lives. 

As we approach the celebration of the coming of Christ we ask ourselves “What should we do?”  John’s answer is within the reach of us all.  Firstly, share with those in need. Secondly, do our daily work honestly and well.  Then Christ, the great giver, and Christ, the great worker, will indeed come and live in our midst.             Fr John                                                                                                                                                                                        

Preparing for the arrival of someone important takes care and attention. Think of a family preparing to welcome a loved one home from abroad, perhaps a son or daughter who lives in Australia or someone who has been off travelling the world. They get their bedroom ready, buy their favourite foods, perhaps put up banners or even organise a ‘welcome home’ party. It is all done with great excitement and love, and is a way of easing the path home for the traveller. Or imagine new parents preparing for the arrival of a baby. There are practical considerations such as buying nappies and clothing and getting a cot ready, and of course the nerves and excitement as they prepare to welcome the new arrival. On a larger scale, when an important dignitary visits a venue or a country there is also a flurry of activity in preparation. We saw it in the painstaking arrangements made for the visit of Pope Francis to Ireland earlier this year. Such high profile visits often involve a literal preparation of the way – organising a welcome reception, planning the best route from the airport, clearing the streets of traffic, as well as much chatter and anticipation. Today’s Gospel brings these two types of welcome to mind. During Advent, we prepare for the coming of Jesus by our actions, when we are generous with our time, patient with our families, and help those in need. And we do all these things with excitement and love, so that Christ will find the warmest of welcomes and a clear route into our hearts.

© Intercom Magazine, Tríona Doherty, Athlone

Our families and our communities are marked by a profound yet silent loss that often passes unknown and is seldom spoken of. I speak of the many families in our community who, down through the years, have suffered the heart-breaking loss of a child, and in some cases, several children, during pregnancy or at birth.  For too long this terrible loss was seldom acknowledged publicly or spoken of. Perhaps we simply didn’t know what to say and so we said nothing.  Perhaps even now we are afraid to face such an inexplicable reality because it mocks our sense of the natural order of things. The loss of a child can shatter the heart of his or her parents and plunge them into a grief more intense and more lasting than most of us can even imagine. To lose a child is to be robbed of the dreams and hopes that they represent. It is literally to have part of yourself taken from you. The priest-poet John O Donohue captured something of that loss when he wrote:

No one knows the wonder your child awoke in you,
your heart a perfect cradle to hold its presence.
Inside and outside became one
As new waves of love kept surprising your soul.

Now you sit bereft inside a nightmare,
your eyes numbed by the sight of a grave
no parent should ever see.

You will wear this absence like a secret locket,
Always wondering why such a new soul
Was taken home so soon.

© For a Parent on the Death of a Child

Often the Church, instead of reassuring people of God’s unfathomable love for each and every child from the first moment of their being, only added to the awfulness of that grief with shameful notions of limbo and unfounded fears of no baptism.  For far too long the Church failed to honour these children as we should have by denying them the full rites of Christian burial and by failing to offer their parents the solace and support that Jesus would surely have wished for them. 

This weekend, we wish to acknowledge and pray for these precious little ones who are forever part of our families and our community and who are certainly part of God’s family forever. There are no lost children in God’s family!  All children, born and unborn, find their resting place in the heart of God and are loved equally and completely.  In each of our Churches this weekend we have created a Sacred Space for remembering and honouring those who have died during pregnancy or at birth or shortly afterwards.  We invite you to take a moment to remember your lost little ones and we pray that, in so doing, you will find a measure of solace and the seeds of a new hope. In the words of John O’Donohue, may:

You glimpse how your eternal child
has become the unseen angel who parents your heart
and persuades the moon to send new gifts ashore.                             Fr Seán

Have you ever heard the story of the ant and the grasshopper? It tells the tale of a grasshopper that has spent the summer singing and so is not prepared when winter comes, whereas the ant has been working hard all summer and has stored up enough food for winter. Like many of Aesop’s Fables, it has a stark moral lesson, in this case about the virtue of hard work and being prepared for the future.

Advent is about looking forward to Christmas and our celebration of the birth of Jesus. It is a special time of preparation to welcome him anew into our lives. But today’s readings remind us that Advent is also about looking ahead to another time, the second and final coming of Jesus at the end of time. ‘Advent’ comes from the Latin word ‘adventus’ meaning ‘coming’. The problem, of course, is that we have no idea when this will happen. Unlike the ant and the grasshopper, we have no way of knowing when the seasons will change. We don’t even know when the sun will set on our own individual lives. All we can do is to be prepared and to ‘stay awake’ – to live now in such a way that when we meet Jesus, we will be ready. This readiness is less a practical skill than a condition, or a way of life. Look at how St Paul describes it: he talks about increasing our love for one another, and continually making progress in living the life that God wants. That is how we store up treasures here on earth to make sure we are ready for the heavenly things to come.

The First World War, often referred to as The Great War, from 4th August 1914 to the 11th November 1918, is remembered for the countless thousands of men and women who lost their lives, perhaps needlessly, for a cause often beyond their comprehension. Amongst those who died were many of all ranks and creeds from our own communities, who bravely answered the call. Some fell on the Western Front whilst many others were lost in sea battles such as the Battle of Jutland. These were our own people and we should not forget them. It is only right and fitting that they should be in our thoughts and prayers this weekend as we mark the centenary of Armistice Day which marked the cessation of the war “at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month” in 1918. A Parishioner

All of us possess two kinds of knowledge. There are some things we know on the basis of hearsay. Someone has told us. For example, I know or at least I am reasonably sure that the sun is approximately ninety three million miles from earth and I am also convinced that light travels at approximately one hundred and eighty six thousand miles per second. I would not know how to test these statements were it not for competent scientists telling me so and I believe them. Much of what you and I accept as truth fits into this category. But there is another kind of knowledge that belongs to a very different category. We know some things not simply on the basis of hearsay and what others have said but on the basis of experience. For example, I know that friendship can enrich the joy of living.  I know this because I have seen it in the lives of others but most of what I know of the value of friendship comes from personal experience.

These two sources of knowledge – hearsay and experience – are the subject of today’s gospel.  It tells of a conversation between Pilate and Jesus.  The topic of the conversation was the allegation that Jesus claimed to be or aspired to become the king of the Jews.  In one sense it was true. Jesus did aspire to reign in the hearts and lives of all people but in another sense it was not true at all. Jesus had no desire or intention to compete with Caesar for his earthly throne. Still the accusation had been made and Pilate felt compelled to investigate it. He put the question to Jesus point blank: “Are you the king of the Jews?” Jesus answered with a question of his own: “Are you asking me this of your own accord or have others been telling you about me?”  I am convinced that Jesus would ask that same question of you and me today.  It is not enough just to worship Christ the King. The only thing that will suffice is for each of us to make a serious commitment to him and his truth. In your life and mine, is Christ the king of hearsay or the king of experience?           Fr John


In sporting activities and especially in the Olympics the heroics and sacrifice of the athletes is often marred by the use of drugs and many high profile cases of athletes caught using drugs caused several gold medals to be withdrawn.  How did the officials catch the athletes who were using drugs?  By random testing after the competition.  The threat of testing helped many more athletes stay off the drugs.  In the same way the threat of random audits of tax reports may provide incentive for many of us to be more honest on our tax forms.  Most of us shiver at the word “audit” because we immediately think of the Revenue reviewing our tax returns.  Audits are as necessary in daily life as they are in the business world.  We need to take stock of our lives periodically to see how we are doing.

When it comes to the question of our stewardship before God there is no random audit.  With God every life is audited.  If random audits by the Revenue help us to stay honest how much more should the guaranteed audit by God on our lives help us to make good stewardship decisions.  If we are all going to have God auditing our books, how should we prepare for that audit?

In our Gospel reading this Sunday Jesus goes straight to the heart of what constitutes good Christian living – love God and love your neighbour as yourself.  This is the total and complete commitment of love that Jesus is talking about and wanting us to practice.  The starting place is a right relationship with God.  The only thing we need to do in order to have a right relationship with him, is to accept and return his love.  How to do that will take a life time of learning.  Anyone who wants it can have a right relationship with God this very day.

A second factor that Jesus considered is highly important.  He said “You shall love your neighbour as you love yourself”.  Jesus knew that it was impossible for any of us to have a right relationship with anyone until we first have a right relationship with ourselves.  To say that is one thing, how to do it is something else.  I am not suggesting that it is easy for any of us to truly love ourselves.  Sometimes it is quite difficult, but it can be done.  Basically two things are involved.  First we must recognise and remember who we are, not just our names but our true identity.  “I am a child of God”.  Don’t ever forget that.  The second thing is to act out our true identity.  Since we are children of God we should try our best to live accordingly, of course we will not always succeed in that effort.  We will fail at times but when that happens we can start again building a right relationship with himself or herself once more.

The third factor that Jesus considered important was having a right relationship with other people.  Even as we love ourselves, we must also love others – all others.  In order to live by this seemingly impossible commandment we need to understand that it does not require us to like everybody.  This is not realistic   In the Christian sense we can love people without liking them.  This does now mean that we have to approve everyone’s conduct.  To the contrary, if we love people we will strongly disapprove some conduct and will say so.

If we are all going to have God audit our books, our readings today show us some ways on how we should prepare for that audit.                                    Fr John