When you and I become truly interested in some public figure our first desire is to know what he or she really looks like. We see them on television, we read about them in the newspapers, we listen to their speeches. We all know that all of these things are carefully planned and controlled.  They are deliberately designed to create a certain kind of impression.  What we would like to do is go behind that public image and see the person as he or she really is.

In this Sunday’s Gospel a group of Greeks who had come to Jerusalem for the feast of the Passover sought similar information about Jesus. They had heard stories about this unconventional prophet from Galilee. What they had seen and heard made them want to know more, so they asked Philip, one of the Apostles “Sir, we should like to see Jesus”. Philip took them to Andrew who seems to have been the contact man for those Greek men who had heard about Jesus and wanted to meet him.  He knew Jesus’ mind on things and his plans.

Such contact persons are needed more than ever today. There are people who have heard a lot about Jesus and the Gospel, but who want somebody who actually knows Jesus in faith to lead them to Him. That is what the world wanted from the Church back then and that is still what the world wants from the Church today. If we could give them a clear vision of Jesus, most people would be interested in Him. The only convincing way for us to do that is by demonstration. We must live in such a way that His qualities can be seen in our attitudes and actions. We cannot take them by hand and lead them into his presence as Philip and Andrew did. We can help them to see a little bit of Him shining through us. In 2018 the cry of many hearts and especially among the young, is that of the Greek festival goers “Sir, we should like to see Jesus”. Can we be an Andrew for them in our time?

                                                                                                   Fr John

We congratulate the children from the First Communion Classes in Ringaskiddy, Shanbally, Monkstown and Passage West who, over the past two weeks, have treated us to some very special ceremonies as they celebrated the Sacrament of Reconciliation for the first time accompanied by their families and teachers. 

When I asked the children in the schools what they thought ‘forgiveness’ means one child answered ‘It means giving someone another chance.’ It is hard to imagine a simpler or a better definition of what forgiveness entails!  As we continue our journey through Lent maybe we might ask ourselves: ‘Is there someone in my family or amongst my friends or colleagues who has hurt me in some way who deserves another chance?’

In our day-to-day struggle just to get on with the business of living it is unlikely that we go around with the image of ourselves as ‘God’s work of art.’ There are many forces at work both within us and outside us which tend to pull us down and to leave us with negative feelings about ourselves and those around us. By contrast, at the heart of the gospel message is the wonderful assertion that we are the handiwork of a God who does not make mistakes. This is the God who so loved the world that he gave his only Son not to bully us into obedience or to threaten us with hellfire but to bring us to life in its fullness. This is terrific news indeed, so let us take steps to ensure that other messages do not drown it out.

Seán Goan, Let the Reader Understand, www.columba.ie

Lord, even in difficult times

help me to remember that you truly care for me,

especially in those moments when it doesn’t feel like that.

In hours of loneliness, weariness, and pain draw near to me.

If afflicted, bring me relief;

in moments of impatience and anger

help me to be gentle with myself and with others.

When frustrated help us to find peace within.

As Mary once stood by your side, so may I never face my trials alone.

In times of despair surround me with love and with people who care.

Never allow me to lose hope in myself, in others or in you.

May I never forget that your deepest wish is

that we should have life and have it to the full.

Anonymous

Some people are born deaf.  In others, hearing is impaired through accident, illness or age. Then there are those whose hearing is nearly perfect but who never listen. Listening is a decision. It is a decision to give another person one’s full attention and to focus on everything that is being communicated. Without listening there can be no trust and no love. Listening is an acquired skill. In our busy noise-filled world, listening is hard work for many of us, especially to someone in need of love or affection or support.

In this Sunday’s Gospel, God the Father challenges not only Peter, James and John but each one of us to listen to his beloved Son. Peter could not stay still and listen. With a burst of energy he wanted to rush off building tents that nobody wanted. Something similar often happens in our human relationships as well as in our relationship with God. Hearing and listening is not the same thing.  A person may have wonderful hearing and be able to pick up a conversation from a distance and yet not be able to hear the cry of someone close to them in need. A person may have hearing good enough to be able to understand perfectly the Word of God proclaimed in our Scripture readings at Mass and elsewhere and yet not have ears sensitive enough to really take it in, so that it makes a difference to the kind of person I am and the kind of life I live. I can have perfect hearing and yet not be able to hear at all.

We are called to listen to what God is saying to us and asking of us – in the Scriptures and in the events of our lives. To really listen is to respect.  How good a listener are you?                                                                              

Fr John

The child featured on the Trocaire Box this year is a girl called Kumba.  She was a bright happy 7-year old until 13th August last year when her life changed forever.  Kumba woke as her house began to shake and a deafening roar filled her bedroom.  Her mother Finda grabbed her arm and dragged her from the house as mud enveloped their home.  Her little sister fell and as they tried to pull her from the deepening mud her kneecap became detached.  Fortunately, though injured, the family reached safety. Other villagers weren’t so lucky.  Kumba watched many perish, believing her father who wasn’t at home to be among them.  Thankfully her father survived, but her home and the life she had known were swept away that morning. Her family lost everything.  Her parents’ livelihoods were gone in an instant.  With nowhere to live Kumba has been separated from her family and is staying in a children’s home with her mother and siblings while her father lives with his brother.  All they want is to be together again.

A few years ago Kumba and her family lived through the Ebola crisis which killed many in Sierra Leone.  Now, she and her family face the fear of uncertainty again.  Kumba loves school and hopes to have an important job one day.  Help to give her that hope by supporting this year’s Trocaire Lenten Campaign so that Trocaire can continue to support the Koroma family and many more like them in Sierra Leone that have been devastated over recent years first by the Ebola epidemic and in more recent months by terrifying mudslides.  

Trocaire Boxes and information packs are available in all our Churches this weekend. Please take one and return it after Easter to help families like Kumba’s in Sierra Leone, one of the poorest countries in the world. Despite all the setbacks Kumba and her family have suffered, they are not giving up. Neither should we!  Together let’s do what we can to help to bring new hope to their lives.      

Fr Seán

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

Every Lent is a new beginning. Sometimes new beginnings are welcomed, other times not so much!  We welcome Lent as a time to make our faith fresh, but we know from other Lents that it’s hard to keep going, and it’s for a long time!  We might ask ourselves what Lent is really for.

The focus of Lent is not so much on what we give up but on what we have been given. We focus our minds on the self-giving love of Jesus which we will celebrate in Holy Week. We allow ourselves to believe in this love. Often it’s difficult to believe in the tender love of God. This conquers all else in the world; it is given in the mercy and compassion of God.

Lent reminds us of the grace of forgiveness into our world, a grace we need individually and as a people. We need to know that God is bigger than any of our sins, our faults, our failings; greater than every war and violence and hatred that disfigure our world. Every time we pray the Lord’s Prayer we pray that God’s kingdom may become a reality in our own time. Lent is our time of saying ‘yes’ to a partnership with God in building a more caring, just and equal world. Maybe we need to ask ourselves what our Lent does for others rather than just what we are doing for Lent. If Lent is truly a time of renewal, then it will manifest itself in acts of love and forgiveness and a heartfelt compassion and care for others.

© Donal Neary SJ   www.messenger.ie

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

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

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