Getting to the ‘heart’ of the Law

This Sunday’s Gospel is part of the Sermon on the Mount and deals with how we should live the Christian life.  Jesus is telling us that getting by within the letter of the law is not what he has in mind for his followers and he goes on to spell out clearly what is expected of all those who profess to believe in him.  He does not lay down laws and regulations for every situation in life, but he asks us to keep a check on our inner attitudes and on our motivation.

Every society has its laws. We may not like them.  At times we may even resist them but they are absolutely necessary. It would be impossible for us to function without them.  However much we may dislike the laws, they are essential to our very existence.  This is not to say that the laws are always right.   Sometimes they are clearly wrong.  We cannot live without laws but neither can we live with them unless they are constantly revised and corrected. 

There were many who followed Jesus who must have assumed that he supported a life free of the constraints of the Jewish law.  His demeanour was so kind and his association with sinners so enterprising, his denunciation of the Pharisees so stinging, it would be easy to assume that he had come to declare independence from the laws of Moses.  In fact Jesus had come to do the exact opposite.  He had come to restore the law’s proper place in the hearts of people.  He came to show us what a free and full life looked like, when lived in proper obedience to the commandments of God.  The commandments of God do not limit life’s joys: rather they set us free to enjoy life with safety and integrity and are given as a blessing from God and as a sign of His love for us.                                                                          Fr John

All of us need to know that we are needed. To feel not wanted can have a devastating experience in our lives.  Imagine how you would feel if no one needed your help, your advice, your encouragement, your company or anything else you have. You would be isolated in a world that could get along just as well without you.  Some people feel that way about themselves. They are badly mistaken, but this is how they feel nonetheless.  Most of us have some sense of necessity.  We know that our families need us, our friends need us, and probably we are needed in a business or job somewhere. We have a place in life and we know that our presence and participation are important to a few people.  This gives us some sense of necessity and we may not realise how badly we are needed. In this Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus is talking about this.  He is trying to get us to see how necessary each individual is. It isn’t just a matter of your family and a few close friends.  Jesus is saying to each one of us that the world needs us.  We may find it hard to believe this but that is what He is saying “You are the salt of the earth and you are the light of the world.”  When He said those things He wasn’t talking to a few powerful men and women, He was talking to a group of plain ordinary people just like any of us. Salt and light - if we can understand how important these two things are to the world, then we can know how badly we are needed.  Salt in the ancient world served two very necessary functions.  One of them was seasoning for food.  We are still quite familiar with that. The other is less common in our day and that is preservation.  We preserve our food in the fridge and the deep freeze.  Before electricity came to our homes people used salt to cure meat and fish with a saline solution that helped to keep them edible for long periods of time. Jesus had to have this function in mind when He said to his friends “You are the salt of the earth.”  He was saying that we as Christians have a responsibility to serve as a preserving influence in the midst of a decaying world. The function of light – the uses of light in our modern world are so many that we could not even list them let alone discuss them.  Light dispels the darkness and helps us to see where we are going and what we are doing.  Jesus must have been thinking of something like this when he said “You are the light of the world.”  All around us are people groping in darkness and confused about life.  We can help them by the way we live our lives, driving back a little of the darkness, enabling others find their way.  From my younger days I remember a song entitled “The old lamplighter.”  Part of the lyrics said “He made the light a little lighter wherever he would go – the old lamplighter of long long ago.”  This is what Jesus is saying that we should do, make the world a little brighter everywhere we go. Your world needs you.  Let your light shine that people may see goodness in your life and praise God because of it.                                                       Fr John 
 

The Choice is Ours An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life. “A battle is going on inside all of us,” he said to the boy. “It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil – anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego. The other is good – joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. This same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.” The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?” The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed”. In a way, it is as simple as that. Each one of us faces hundreds of choices every day. Mostly, they are minor decisions that may not seem important at the time. But they all add up to something. They make us the person we are. Do our choices make us the kind of person who follows Jesus, or the kind of person who goes in the opposite direction? We can stay stuck where we are, repeating the same old patterns, or we can leave it all behind and choose a new path, like Peter, Andrew, James and John did. They were called, and they took decisive action. This initial choice to follow Jesus was reinforced and remade, day in and day out, during their discipleship journey, just as it is on ours.                          © Tríona Doherty. Intercom Magazine

The adventures of a five euro note

I remember from my school days an essay with the heading called “The adventure of a shilling”.  A shilling was a day’s wages then.  The adventure of a fiver – to take its modern equivalent would make a great story or perhaps a TV play now, or perhaps for that matter a whole series.  It would be fascinating to follow its journey from person to person, pocket to pocket or hand to hand.  From the crisp new note fresh off the printing press to the battered old fiver confined to the bank vault.  In a world so obsessed by hygiene, nobody ever dreams of washing their hands after handling it and certainly nobody is ever deterred from taking it even from the most suspect sources. How many would refuse it even if they were absolutely sure that it came from a person suffering from a contagious disease.  Strange isn’t it, how we never think of its past, yet every crease in it, every stain on it has its own story.  It must have brought a lot of happiness to many people and no doubt too, it must have left a long trail of misfortune behind it. It might have bought some medicine to cure a sick person or some food for the hungry person or a bag of coal to bring warmth into a home.  On the other hand it is not called the “the root of all evil” for nothing.  The drink it paid for that started the alcoholic or drugs for the addict.  Despite its innocent appearance it has figured in a lot of sordid deals, bribes and backhands, or phrased more acceptably, for services rendered and favours done.  But it has one great virtue it does not carry forward its past.  It is a crisp new fiver in every new hand.  In these days of devaluation and inflation and shrinking purchase power it is worth reminding ourselves when we look at the fiver in our hands, that the only devaluation that matters is the use we make of it.  If we insist on spending it as so often we do, carelessly, we should not be so surprised at how little it can buy.  It can still buy an awful lot for somebody in real need.  In a world where millions die of starvation and disease we can still get a lot of real value for money.  A fiver well spent can never be devalued.                                                               Fr John

The Christmas season more than any other time of the year is an occasion for parties.  Businesses have parties, schools have parties, families have parties, friends have parties.  Almost everybody gives or attends at least one party at Christmas time.  Nobody is naive enough to think that all of these parties reflect the true meaning of Christmas.  For all of the centuries that Christmas has been a season of celebration it is good to know that our Lord’s birth is still the inspiration of more festivities than any other event in history. A lot of Christmases have come and gone since Jesus was born in Bethlehem.  There is something about it that reminds us of how life ought to be for the rest of the year.  Christmas is the memory of the birth of Jesus, but it is much more.  It is a call to become His partner in bringing love, compassion, peace and all that is of God to birth in our families, in our friendships, in our community and in our Church.  Christmas is a success, we might say, if Christ is born in our hearts this month and in the heart of society, but He will be born in the heart of society only if He is born in the life and heart of each one of us. We are living in a world where there is an over-supply of sadness and a critical shortage of joy.  We can see it everywhere.  How many people do you know whom you regard as genuinely happy?  What percentage of our days are characterised by a genuine sense of joy?  An honest answer to either of these questions would probably reveal how badly we need the Christmas season.  It is a time, when at least for a little while, we are confronted and challenged by concept of joy.  Even with the traffic jams and crowded stores, people are more friendly and courteous to one another.  May the Lord bring His gift of joy and peace this Christmas to us and to all we meet.                                                                                                             Fr John
 

Christmas Cards …… To send or not to send?

‘Happy Christmas’ are probably the two most used words at this time of year.  We may have already wished some people a Happy Christmas in person. If not, we have certainly written it on Christmas cards. I must admit that I stopped sending Christmas cards some years ago, which I believed was the right thing to do back then. Now I am not so sure. When I was first ordained I had so many friends who had meant so much to me before our ways had parted to work in different parts of the world. Having worked now in ten parishes in the dioceses, the number of friends grew bigger and bigger, so much so that I stopped sending Christmas cards.

Now that I am older I am having second thought. I regret now not having sent Christmas cards because I know that among all the acquaintances I have forgotten, I may have lost one or two friends. There are a few whose names and faces come to mind now and again and I feel a pang of regret for having neglected them. People move, addresses get lost, new faces crowd old friends out. It can easily happen to any of us.

The great thing about a Christmas card is that it keeps people in touch and while people are in touch, there is always the hope that in more favourable circumstances, old friendships can be revived.  Even in spite of all my neglect there are still the few old faithful friends who never fail to send me a card. I am always touched to think that they remember me after all those years. When you have said everything there is to say against Christmas cards, it is still a nice custom in a world which is losing a lot of its nice customs. In spite of the way we abuse it, it is still a real noble and Christian act.                                                                                                   Fr John

St Mary’s Church of Ireland, Carrigaline has organised a series of talks on Advent in the Parish Hall, Carrigaline at 8.00 p.m. focusing on the virtues of faith, hope and love.   The first of these talks will take place on Wednesday 30th November, Richard Dring will speak on ‘Faith’.  On Wednesday 7th December Dr John Sweeney will speak on ‘Hope’.  On Wednesday 14th December Cecil Poole will speak on ‘Love’. For more details see posters displayed on the noticeboard in our Churches.   All are welcome to attend these talks. 

It’s okay to not feel okay and it’s okay to talk about it.

We all have our dark times. Times when we feel as if even our shadow has abandoned us. But these moments define who we are as human beings and it is at moments that we must decide whether we will let life make or break us. Do we have to let life break us or are there ways of helping us power through the hardships? The answer is yes, and whether you know it or not we can all overcome obstacles. We can do this by speaking to a friend, a family member, a teacher, a co-worker or anyone you feel comfortable speaking to. And this is hard: but, believe me, you can do it. You are not alone. There is always someone who has your best interests in mind.

The One Good Adult concept has been of great help to me. Your One Good Adult is someone who is always there for you: someone you can use as a safety net when you fall on hard times. This person should be someone you interact with on a regular basis, someone you know you can rely on. Someone who will genuinely listen to you. Your One Good Adult could be your mum, dad, brother, another family member or a teacher.

My uncle Martin is my “go to” person. When times get tough I always know I can turn to him, whether that’s for finance, my mental health or just advice on how to improve my gym technique. He is always there (even though he lost me in Dublin Zoo when I was a kid!!). I also find the support of family and a group of friends that you can trust with your life makes a big difference, and I’m lucky to say I have both. I’m talking about the sort of friends to whom you can just say, “I need you”, and they’ll be there. Or the sort of friends that will never let you take the long walk home after a long night out.

© Aaron Murphy, Health & Living, The Irish Times, 19th August 2014

 

Advent – a time to prepare ourselves for Christmas

You know that feeling of waiting for something or someone? It is a feeling of excitement or maybe anxiety. For most people, waiting is not a very popular pastime, it can be seen as a waste of time. If we allow it to, waiting can be a creative time, a time of high alert, where we may even be more aware of ourselves. Our senses are heightened especially when we are waiting for important news or results or waiting on a loved one to call or to arrive. Waiting is not always seen as a good thing but it can be a time for growth. And so, we enter into the season of waiting: Advent. The Gospel reminds us to be alert and use this time to prepare. What will our preparations be like? God is with us in many different ways, trying to catch our attention in the midst of our busy days. As we fight our way through the queues in the coming weeks, can we use 5 minutes, 7 minutes, 20 mins … to stop, be still, to ask God to enter into our hearts and lives once more.              ©Jane Mellett, Intercom Magazine

Journeying towards Christmas: Advent Nights in Passage

Sr Rosarii invites you to join her for a Quiet Time of Prayer and Reflection on the four Tuesdays of Advent beginning this Tuesday 29th November 2016 from 8.00 p.m. to 9.00 p.m. each night in the newly refurbished Prayer Room in Passage West.   This year the gatherings will focus on the Psalms as a source of inspiration for helping faith be part of our preparation for Christmas.

To most of us the word “King” has primarily a historical meaning.  It recalls memories of an outmoded form of Government where one man held all the power and exercised all the authority.  We have long since left that system behind and would not even consider going back to it.  Never the less we gather this Sunday to observe the solemnity of Christ the King.  The Gospel tells us that when he died there was an inscription above his head that said “This is the King of the Jews”.   This statement meant different things to different people.   Technically it was the formal charge against him, the crime for which he was crucified.  Pilate was the one who had it written and placed there.   He did not believe it, but for him it was a way to insult the Jewish leaders.  To the Roman soldiers the inscription was mainly a cruel joke.  They knelt before him and said “Hail King of the Jews”.   When they had crucified him they continued their mockery, challenging him to prove his power by saving himself from the cross.  Among those involved in the Crucifiction it would appear that only the one, the good thief took seriously the inscription proclaiming Christ as King.  Since then and on this day Christians around the world will proclaim Christ as their King.  Habit is part of the reason we call him our King, but there is more to it than that, something real, something that touches our lives in a deep and meaningful way.  I think it is recognition of the supreme quality of his life.  The word King has a symbolic as well as a literal meaning.  We use to describe someone or something that is supreme in a certain class.  A lion is called a the “King of the beasts”, an eagle is called the “King of the birds”, for those of us old enough to remember, band leader Benny Goodman was known as the “King of the swing” and actor Clarke Gable the actor was called the “King of the silver screen”.

In the same way but in a deeper sense, we speak of Jesus Christ as the King.  He is the supreme person, the one who stands head and shoulders about all the rest.  He is everything that we are not, but knew that we ought to be, and wish that we were.  Think of any trait of character, any quality of life that you admire and you will find it supremely evident in Christ the King.                                                     Fr John