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

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.

 

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

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 

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

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

 

As the very name ‘Holy Week’ suggests, the coming days represent a special time, a sacred moment for Christians everywhere.  We will commemorate and celebrate the central moments of the Passion, Death and Resurrection of our Lord Jesus by which we have been saved and brought to new life.  The distinctive liturgies and ceremonies of these days invite us to enter more fully into these sacred mysteries.

 

On Holy Thursday we celebrate the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, commemorating the night Christ gave us the Eucharist as the gift of his enduring presence.  We also re-enact Christ’s washing of the disciples’ feet as a dramatic reminder of Christ’s insistence that we must be a people of service who put the care of others at the very heart of living out our faith. Mass is followed by an opportunity for people to spend some quiet time in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, remembering Christ’s invitation to the apostles  in the Garden of Gethsemane to stay awake and pray with him.

 

Jesus once proclaimed that a person can have no greater love than to lay down his life for his friends.  On Good Friday we remember the day on which Christ proved the depth of his love for us.  The central liturgy of the day, the Passion of Our Lord, consists of three parts: the Proclamation of the Passion from St John’s Gospel, The Veneration of the Cross together with the offering of the Universal Prayers of petition for the needs of our world and finally the Rite of Holy Communion.  The Stations of the Cross are a traditional devotion close to the heart of many people and they allow us an opportunity to reflect step by step on the different moments of Christ’s Passion and Death and to connect them to our own trials and sufferings in life.  In order to allow ceremonies to take place in each of our churches, we have in recent years combined the Stations of the Cross and the Celebration of the Lord’s Passion into a single combined service.

 

On Holy Saturday night, we celebrate the Easter Vigil, the highpoint of the Church’s Prayer throughout the year.  The Paschal Fire symbolises the light of God breaking through the darkness of death, goodness triumphing over evil and life prevailing over death.  It is a celebration of great joy and hope in which we affirm our baptismal belief in the power of goodness and renew our faith and trust in the God of Life.

 

We welcome you to join us for our Holy Week ceremonies over the coming week.

The Parish Clergy and the Parish Assembly

 

Over the past year or so I have been involved in a group called the Three Faiths Forum here in Cork.  Already established in Dublin and in other cities throughout the world, the Three Faiths Forum is an initiative that brings together representatives of the three Abrahamic faiths – Judaism, Christianity and Islam, seeking to create a space where people of faith can dialogue openly and respectfully, come to a better understanding of each other’s faith and culture and work together to enhance tolerance, co-operation and friendship in our society.

Cork, like all of Ireland, is increasingly a multicultural, multiracial and multi-religious society. Our group is drawn from the Muslim, Jewish and Christian faith communities in Cork and we seek to explore how our various faith traditions can help foster a spirit of openness, dialogue and inclusion here in Cork.  Next Saturday, 22nd April, we will hold our first public events when we will gather to celebrate Earth Day together at 1.00 p.m. in Bishop Lucey Park, Grand Parade Cork and our shared calling to care for the earth and to be responsible stewards of creation.  In a world marked by division and hostility, where faith is often twisted to justify other interests this is an opportunity to say that we, as people of faith, believe in the value of respect, inclusion, dialogue and co-operation. All are welcome to join us for this simple celebration on Saturday and I hope that you will try to join us if you can.                                                               Fr Seán

In recent weeks envelopes for the Spring Dues have been delivered to homes in the parish.  As you know these offerings from parishioners form the main source of income for the priests of the parish.  Envelopes may be returned to any of the priests’ houses or in any of the Church collections at your convenience.  Envelopes are also available in each of our churches.  The priests of the parish thank you for your continued support.

 

We all experience moments of dying in our lives.  We get a foretaste of death when we live in bitterness, when prejudice blinds us, when loneliness enfolds us, when fear oppresses us, when sadness overwhelms us and when we give in to despair.  In those moments the world is closing in on us and something dies within us.

But we also experience moments of resurrection in our lives: when we know true love, when we are truly accepted, when we are forgiven, when we open our hearts to our neighbour, and when hope returns. In those moments our horizon is widening and we can feel ourselves emerging from the tomb.

Lord Jesus, may the power of your resurrection touch whatever is dead within us and bring it back to life.  Let the splendour of your resurrection light up the world, scattering the shadows of death and helping all of us to walk in radiant hope towards the new life that you promise.

© Fr Flor McCarthy SDB, Dominican Publications

 

The most difficult question for any spiritual counsellor is “Why”.  Five years ago a young mother called to my house distraught with the news she had received from her Doctor’s diagnosis – breast cancer.  The prognosis was discouraging.  She knew that in all probability her life would be drastically shortened.  She spoke to me about her two small children and said “Father, Why”.  Thanks to medical personnel who cared for her, she has been cured of her illness.

 

Life is fraught with mystery.  Everywhere the question “Why” raises its head.  Why war, why disease, why poverty, why human suffering and heartbreak manifested in a thousand different ways.  All these are questions to which I do not have an answer or as far as I know, nobody does.  So instead of speculating about “Why” it may be easier to focus on why we do not understand.

 

In this weekend’s Gospel we read the story of Lazarus who was a friend of Jesus.  His sisters Martha and Mary sent for Jesus because Lazarus was sick.  By the time Jesus arrived Lazarus was dead and buried.  The story has a happy ending, as Jesus exercised his authority over death and called his friend back to the land of the living.  In this story we have elements of mystery.  The premature death of a young man.  The heartbreak of the family who were hurt and baffled.  They like us could not understand. 

 

One reason we have trouble understanding, is because God’s timetable is different from ours.  Martha and Mary had sent Jesus an urgent appeal for help.  They needed him immediately and they believed in his power and willingness to help, otherwise they would not have sent for him.  His timing was off.  He seemed to be late in arriving.  “Lord if you had been here our brother would not have died”.  Their concept of time almost made a shipwreck of their faith.

 

If first century people had a time problem with regard to faith, how much more have we in the twenty first century.  We literally live by the clock.  Everything seems to move at a hectic pace. Our roads have signposts with minimum as well as maximum speed limits.  Deadlines loom.  “Our days are too short”.  “I have been up only an hour and I am already too hours behind”.  These are some expressions that we hear and use every day.  We do carry the same hectic pace in our spiritual lives. We pray for something and we not only make the request, we set the delivery day.  We pray for a burden to be lifted or a wrong to be righted or a dream to be fulfilled and if God does not answer our faith begins to waiver.

 

We must understand that God’s ways are not our ways.  We operate in the realm of time, God operates in the realm of eternity.  It is a good thing for all of us that God works by his own methods.  We may not always understand, but we can always trust God to do things his own way.                                                               Fr John

 

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