20th February – Pope Francis Lenten Message, #2 of 5

Pope Francis AppealA cold heart

In his description of hell, Dante Alighieri pictures the devil seated on a throne of ice,[2] in frozen and loveless isolation. We might well ask ourselves how it happens that charity can turn cold within us. What are the signs that indicate that our love is beginning to cool?

More than anything else, what destroys charity is greed for money, “the root of all evil” (1 Tim 6:10).  The rejection of God and his peace soon follows; we prefer our own desolation rather than the comfort found in his word and the sacraments.[3]  All this leads to violence against anyone we think is a threat to our own “certainties”: the unborn child, the elderly and infirm, the migrant, the alien among us, or our neighbour who does not live up to our expectations.

Creation itself becomes a silent witness to this cooling of charity.  The earth is poisoned by refuse, discarded out of carelessness or for self-interest.  The seas, themselves polluted, engulf the remains of countless shipwrecked victims of forced migration.  The heavens, which in God’s plan, were created to sing His praises, are rent by engines raining down implements of death.

Love can also grow cold in our own communities. In the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, I sought to describe the most evident signs of this lack of love: selfishness and spiritual sloth, sterile pessimism, the temptation to self-absorption, constant warring among ourselves, and the worldly mentality that makes us concerned only for appearances, and thus lessens our missionary zeal.

 

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19th February – Pope Francis Lenten Message, #1 of 5

Dear Brothers and Sisters,pope francis

Once again, the Pasch of the Lord draws near! In our preparation for Easter, God in His providence offers us each year the season of Lent as a “sacramental sign of our conversion”. Lent summons us, and enables us, to come back to the Lord wholeheartedly and in every aspect of our life.

With this message, I would like again this year to help the entire Church experience this time of grace anew, with joy and in truth.  I will take my cue from the words of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew: “Because of the increase of iniquity, the love of many will grow cold” (24:12).

These words appear in Christ’s preaching about the end of time.  They were spoken in Jerusalem, on the Mount of Olives, where the Lord’s passion would begin.  In reply to a question of the disciples, Jesus foretells a great tribulation and describes a situation in which the community of believers might well find itself: amid great trials, false prophets would lead people astray and the love that is the core of the Gospel would grow cold in the hearts of many.

False prophets

Let us listen to the Gospel passage and try to understand the guise such false prophets can assume.

They can appear as “snake charmers”, who manipulate human emotions in order to enslave others and lead them where they would have them go.  How many of God’s children are mesmerized by momentary pleasures, mistaking them for true happiness!  How many men and women live entranced by the dream of wealth, which only makes them slaves to profit and petty interests!  How many go through life believing that they are sufficient unto themselves, and end up entrapped by loneliness!

False prophets can also be “charlatans”, who offer easy and immediate solutions to suffering that soon prove utterly useless.  How many young people are taken in by the panacea of drugs, of disposable relationships, of easy but dishonest gains!  How many more are ensnared in a thoroughly “virtual” existence, in which relationships appear quick and straightforward, only to prove meaningless!  These swindlers, in peddling things that have no real value, rob people of all that is most precious: dignity, freedom and the ability to love.  They appeal to our vanity, our trust in appearances, but in the end they only make fools of us.  Nor should we be surprised. In order to confound the human heart, the devil, who is “a liar and the father of lies” (Jn 8:44), has always presented evil as good, falsehood as truth.  That is why each of us is called to peer into our heart to see if we are falling prey to the lies of these false prophets.

We must learn to look closely, beneath the surface, and to recognize what leaves a good and lasting mark on our hearts, because it comes from God and is truly for our benefit.

 

18th February – 1st Sunday of Lent (B)

Since Friday I have been filling in as chaplain in Letterkenny Hospital, the place where I go for chemotherapy clinics every two weeks. This role brings back happy memories of past times where I also did hospital chaplaincy. I am thus away from my computer and have pre-loaded the blogs for these few days. This is a reflection on the Mass readings for the First Sunday of Lent by Fr Sam Medley, SOLT. It is short but packs a powerful message,  reminding us that we should allow the Holy Spirit to lead us into the desert of Lent in order to make us better disciples of Christ.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=2&v=PXh5mrF_cFA

fr sam medley

17th February.

It is easy to get disillusioned with politics and politicians and the standards therein. Our Taoiseach (Prime Minister) said back in 2010 that he was pro-life, even in the case of rape. He is now leading the drive to legalise abortion along with the Ministers of HEALTH and CHILDREN – the irony couldn’t be greater!

Leo Varadkar abortion

It is comforting however to remember that Jesus always takes the side of the poor, indeed even the poorest of the poor. This reflection on last Sunday’s gospel can be read in the context of Jesus’ advocacy of the unborn child – our present day outcasts – even if they are abandoned by the establishment for the sake of political opportunism and the values of our secular age.

Jesus Leper Outcast

16th February.

I don’t think we are concerned enough about the plight of suffering Christians in such places as the Middle East where Christianity began. To address this, can I suggest that you reflect on the following Lenten Prayer and then look up the link to the latest bulletin from AID TO THE CHURCH IN NEED. It gives ideas about how we can direct our prayers, almsgivings and fasting to such a worthy cause. If you wanted to donate but lack the IT capacities, there is probably somebody around who could do it for you.

Lent Prayer

https://mailchi.mp/acnuk/syria-bishop-miraculously-avoids-death-889621?e=d9f1b1de4b

 

15th February.

This is today’s gospel followed by the commentary from the Bishops’ website.

GOSPEL

cross surrenderA reading from the holy Gospel according to Luke        9: 22-25
Anyone who loses his life for my sake, that man will save it.

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘The Son of Man’ he said ‘is destined to suffer grievously, to be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes and to be put to death, and to be raised up on the third day.’

Then to all he said, ‘If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross every day and follow me. For anyone who wants to save his life will lose it; but anyone who loses his life for my sake, that man will save it. What gain, then, is it for a man to have won the whole world and to have lost or ruined his very self?’

The Gospel of the Lord.
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Gospel Reflection       Thurs after Ash Wednesday       Luke 9:22-25

There are two little words in today’s gospel reading that often strike me ‘every day’. Jesus says, ‘if anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross every day and follow me’. Jesus is saying that following him is something we need to do ‘every day’, and, ‘every day’, this will involve some form of renunciation and taking up the cross, some saying ‘no’ to what may often seem an easier path, all in the service of saying ‘yes’ to Jesus’ call to follow him. It is as if Jesus is saying that we never take a holiday from trying to follow him more closely. There are no days off. It is something we need to do every day. Every day, the Lord calls us to follow him, to take the path he has shown us by his life and his teaching, and, indeed, by his death, and every day we try to respond to that call. It is because the following of the Lord is daily that Jesus teaches us to ask the Father, ‘give us this day our daily bread’. We daily need the resources only God can provide if we are to be faithful to the Lord every day. Of course, we all have our off days. We recognize at the end of some days that we were not at our best. Yet, we just begin again the next day. Each day the Lord says to us what Moses says to the people in the gospel reading, ‘choose life’. Jesus assures us in the gospel reading that in seeking to follow him every day we are choosing life, we are saving our lives.
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The Gospel reflection comes from Martin Hogan’s book: WEEKDAY REFLECTIONS: To know the love of Christ 2016/2017 published by  The Messenger c/f www.messenger.ie
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14th February – Ash Wednesday.

Today is Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent. It is easy to limit such an important season to the superficial: Ashes on the forehead, giving up chocolate, etc. Bible Alive’s reflection is helpful in getting to grips with its deeper dimension.

lent 40 days clipart

Lent can be understood as a season of divine therapy — a time to detoxify our souls, renew our energy and be refreshed in spirit. Lent is like a long ‘retreat’, during which we can turn into ourselves and listen to the voice of God in order to defeat the temptations of the Evil One. It is a period of spiritual ‘combat’, which we must experience alongside Jesus, not with pride and presumption, but using the arms of faith: prayer, listening to the Word of God and penance. In this way we will be able to celebrate Easter in truth, ready to renew the promises of our baptism.

During Lent we are invited to fast and deny ourselves; we receive the call to pray more and give to those who are in need (almsgiving). In all these ways we give of ourselves, but it is also a season to receive. Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta said: ‘As Lent is the time for greater love, listen to Jesus’ thirst… “Repent and believe” Jesus tells us. What are we to repent of? Our indifference, our hardness of heart. What are we to believe? Jesus thirsts even now, in your heart and in the poor — he knows your weakness. He wants only your love, wants only the chance to love you.’

Lent then is a time of conversion, of change, of repentance, of turning back to God. The problem is that we often find it much easier to identify and point out how others may need to repent and change than to focus on ourselves and our own shortcomings. Self-knowledge is a gift of the Spirit which we can ask the Lord to give us. As we grow in spiritual insight into our own behaviour and attitudes, we become aware of our need to seek out what the Church calls ‘the second conversion’, which the Catechism of the Catholic Church unreservedly teaches is an ongoing process in the Christian life: ‘Christ’s call to conversion continues to resound in the lives of Christians. This second conversion is an uninterrupted task for the whole Church who, `clasping sinners to her bosom, [is] at once holy and always in need of purification [and] follows constantly the path of penance and renewal” (para. 1428).

Lord Jesus, during Lent may your Spirit so work in me that my heart may be drawn and moved by the merciful love of God. Help me to recognize my need to return to you.