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

 

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

 

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

 

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

The healing of the blind man in the gospel unleashes a chain of chaos and confusion. His neighbours are dumbfounded, the Pharisees are suspicious and at war with one another, and the Jewish authorities are cynical, even calling in the man’s parents as witnesses.  The character of Jesus and of the blind man are called into question as everyone tries to figure out what has happened. Jesus and the man who has been healed are both accused of being sinners. The interrogators even ridicule the man, asking, ‘Are you trying to teach us, and you a sinner through and through?’

But things are simple for the man who has experienced Jesus’ healing. He knows what he has witnessed, and is ready and willing to attest to it. ‘If this man were not from God,’ he says, ‘he couldn’t do a thing.’ He understands that his encounter with Jesus was extraordinary. Jesus finally clears up the confusion, turning everything on its head, as is often his way. It is the man who had been blind who sees who Jesus is: ‘Lord, I believe.’ The Pharisees who think they see things clearly are the ones who are really blind to the truth. ‘We are not blind, surely?’ is the question facing all of us as we advance through Lent. How open are we to seeing the truth of God’s presence in situations where we don’t expect it?

 © Tríona Doherty, Athlone, Co Roscommon.  Intercom Magazine, Veritas Ltd.

  

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.

 As a Harbour community we extend our deepest sympathy and our heartfelt prayers to the families, friends and colleagues of Dara Fitzpatrick, Ciaran Smith,  Mark Duffy, Paul Ormsby; the members of the Coastguard Service who tragically lost their lives whilst involved in a rescue mission off the coast of Mayo early on Tuesday morning.  The tragedy is a poignant reminder of the unsung heroism of the men and women serving with the Coastguard Service, our Naval Service, the RNLI, mountain rescue crews, ambulance and emergency services, firefighters, the Gardaí and our Defence Forces.  When tragedy strikes, as sadly happened on a number of occasions in recent years, we salute their heroism but it shouldn’t take a tragedy to remind us how indebted we are to them. They deserve to be recognised as heroes not just in times of tragedy but every day.  Each and every day they risk their own wellbeing to save others.  We salute them for their heroism and their incredible generosity of spirit.  May we never take all that they do for us for granted.

 

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

 

There is a famous line in the book of the prophet Micah that reads as follows: ‘This is what the Lord asks of you, only this: to act justly, to love tenderly and to walk humbly with your God’ [Micah 6:8]. It sums up the very essence of what we are called to as people of faith.  

Those very words haunted me last week as I listened to reports concerning ‘Mother and Baby Homes’ and the shocking revelations of how hundreds of children were buried in Tuam. Listening to those reports and  interviews with those directly affected by the revelations, I felt both profound sadness and deep shame: sadness for those who were judged, marginalised, hidden away and made to feel like lesser beings; shame because our Church was instrumental in fostering a culture that regarded these mothers as outcasts and their children as ‘illegitimate.’ How in God’s name can a child ever be regarded as ‘illegitimate’?  How could the birth of a baby and the precious gift of life ever be seen as a source of dishonour and shame? Every child born into our world is a blessing to be embraced, a gift to be cherished, a godsend to be nurtured and nourished regardless of the circumstances in which they are conceived or the family situation into which they are born. There simply are no ‘lesser children’ for God. There never has been and there never will be! All children are to be cherished equally; all mothers ought to be cared for and supported equally, all families are to be respected equally. To do anything else is to betray everything Jesus lived and died for.

And so this weekend I ask all of us to pray for all those who have suffered unjustly in the past, those who were shunned and hidden away, those who were denied the joy that should have rightfully been theirs in childbirth and motherhood. We humbly acknowledge the part our Church played in cultivating the culture that judged and looked down on these women and children and we pledge ourselves to rediscovering the path that Micah has marked out for us: to act justly, to love tenderly, and to walk humbly with our God.  When we act justly, there is no room for discrimination.  When we love tenderly, no one is excluded from our care.  When we walk humbly with our God no one looks down on anyone else for we are all created equal in the image and likeness of the one and same God.                                    Fr Seán