21st January – St Agnes, Virgin & Martyr.

St-Agnes-on-the-Pyre-xx-GuercinoSt Agnes was martyred in the early fourth century. An account is given below in a homily of St Ambrose that is found in the Office of Readings. However the main point I want to make today is that this was a time in Christianity when Jesus’ teachings on nonviolence were taken at face value and practiced. Consider this passage from the Sermon on the Mount: 43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matt 5)

This was the time prior to Christianity becoming the state religion of the Roman Empire. When we assumed this new position, Jesus’ teachings on nonviolence were no longer practical. The following is a snippet from a new book detailing the life of the early Church.

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Today is the birthday of a virgin; let us imitate her purity. It is the birthday of a martyr; let us offer ourselves in sacrifice. It is the birthday of Saint Agnes, who is said to have suffered martyrdom at the age of twelve. The cruelty that did not spare her youth shows all the more clearly the power of faith in finding one so young to bear it witness.

There was little or no room in that small body for a wound. Though she could scarcely receive the blow, she could rise superior to it. Girls of her age cannot bear even their parents’ frowns and, pricked by a needle, weep as for a serious wound. Yet she shows no fear of the blood-stained hands of her executioners. She stands undaunted by heavy, clanking chains. She offers her whole body to be put to the sword by fierce soldiers. She is too young to know of death, yet is ready to face it. Dragged against her will to the altars, she stretches out her hands to the Lord in the midst of the flames, making the triumphant sign of Christ the victor on the altars of sacrilege. She puts her neck and hands in iron chains, but no chain can hold fast her tiny limbs.

A new kind of martyrdom! Too young to be punished, yet old enough for a martyr’s crown; unfitted for the contest, yet effortless in victory, she shows herself a master in valour despite the handicap of youth. As a bride she would not be hastening to join her husband with the same joy she shows as a virgin on her way to punishment, crowned not with flowers but with holiness of life, adorned not with braided hair but with Christ himself.

In the midst of tears, she sheds no tears herself. The crowds marvel at her recklessness in throwing away her life untasted, as if she had already lived life to the full. All are amazed that one not yet of legal age can give her testimony to God. So she succeeds in convincing others of her testimony about God, though her testimony in human affairs could not yet be accepted. What is beyond the power of nature, they argue, must come from its creator.

What menaces there were from the executioner, to frighten her; what promises made, to win her over; what influential people desired her in marriage! She answered: “To hope that any other will please me does wrong to my Spouse. I will be his who first chose me for himself. Executioner, why do you delay? If eyes that I do not want can desire this body, then let it perish.” She stood still, she prayed, she offered her neck.

You could see fear in the eyes of the executioner, as if he were the one condemned; his right hand trembled, his face grew pale as he saw the girl’s peril, while she had no fear for herself. One victim, but a twin martyrdom, to modesty and to religion; Agnes preserved her virginity, and gained a martyr’s crown.

 

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20th January – 2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time (C)

Given the topic of today’s homily, I decided to introduce the Penitential Rite as follows:

In today’s gospel we hear about Jesus’ first miracle at the Wedding Feast of Cana. We also hear Our Lady’s last words in the New Testament: “Do whatever he – Jesus – tells you.” As we review the last week, we ask ourselves if we have been faithful to Jesus and his Truth.

climate change global warming 1Recently I spoke to you about new year’s resolutions. One of my own was to do more about global warming and the moral dimension surrounding it.

What spurred me to action I think was David Attenborough’s address to the UN Summit on Climate Change last month. He is a highly respected scientist and worldwide authority on the natural world. Please listen carefully to this key quote from his presentation: “Right now we are facing a man-made disaster of global scale, our greatest threat in thousands of years, climate change. If we don’t take action, the collapse of our civilisations and the extinction of much of the natural world is on the horizon.”  It is hard to overlook the urgency and gravity of this message.

But does this global matter REALLY affect us here in Ardaghey – out as we are in northwest extremities of Ireland? Well, let’s look at the Big Picture. At the end of all our lives, we will appear before Jesus and give an account of our lives. At that time we will face only two questions: Did we love God and our neighbour? There will be a reckoning of the good and the bad of our lives in this regard.

Who exactly is our neighbour? We tend to think of ‘neighbour’ superficially as family, friends and those who live within a 5 mile radius of us. But if God is Father of all humanity – at least all the baptised – that makes everybody a neighbour. That is the teaching of the Parable of the Good Samaritan. That means that the homeless in Dublin, the desperate refugees coming across the Mediterranean Sea in dingys, the rejected baby in the womb, those caught up in the misery of war and famine in Africa and the Middle East are all neighbours too. We must do what we can in charity to see them as ‘neighbours in Christ’.

We must also remember our future ‘neighbours’ – including our grandchildren and later descendents who will have to live with the catastrophic  consequences of climate change.

I admit that not everybody believes in climate change. There are notable sceptics like Donald Trump. But the overwhelming view of scientists worldwide is that there is impending crisis. What convinces me as a Catholic is that Popes Francis, Benedict XVI and John Paul II have looked at this issue and concur with the prevailing view. One of Pope Francis’ most notable writings in his 6 years as pope is Laudato Si – On care of our common home.

What will this future disaster look like? We have all got a sense of things by looking at the media but one specific study was the STERN REPORT commissioned by the British government in 2006. Two key facts are that an extra 150 million people will go hungry because of famine and drought, especially in Africa. Furthermore another 4 billion will experience water shortages. In 2016 the author Nicholas Stern was interviewed again and he said that the situation had worsened in the intervening 10 years.

How many people will die? A program I once heard on BBC Radio 4 projected that the total death toll from direct and indirect consequences of global warming will exceed that of World War I and II combined. This gives a total more than 85 million. Other estimates can be got by Googling CLIMATE CHANGE DEATH TOLL.

What I wanted to do this weekend was to highlight the scale of this problem. Next week and maybe the one after it, I will talk about WHY this has happened and WHAT we can do practically to help.

In summary: The predicted catastrophic consequences of climate change is a grave moral issue that none of us can ignore.

19th January – Memorial of Our Lady.

This article from Youth2000 on tomorrow’s gospel is an appropriate Marian reflection for today.

mysteries_cana‘My Hour Has not Come Yet – Do Whatever He tells you’ – (John 2:1-11)

If Jesus could work a miracle like the one he worked at the wedding Feast at Cana, and His hour not having come, what can He do now that His time is here? Of course it’s more about our time coming than Jesus’ time coming. So the real question is has your or my time come to be more open to God and to allow Him to work His will in our lives?

Mary, Jesus’ Mother and Our Mother too, tells us to do what He is asking us to do. So what is he asking us to do now? It could be something very small.  As small as, or smaller than, filling a few jars of water. He starts by asking us to do little things and if we respond faithfully and generously He asks us to do even greater things and before we know it we are made responsible by Him for something really great.

So my prayer now could be:

‘Show me Lord what you want me to do and give me the generosity and all the other gifts necessary to do it.

Mary our Mother you saw what the couple needed at the wedding feast at Cana and you had your Son supply it even before His time had come. You see what I need now in order for me to become more pleasing to God. Show me what I have to do and how I have to change. Mother of Merciful Love, may I become ever more pleasing to you and your Divine Son. Amen.’

Fr. Tom Griffin, IC

 

 

18th January.

praise fathergodPraising God is one of our most valuable practices because it is what we will be doing for all eternity. Since the early Church priests and religious start the DAILY OFFICE with this: “LORD OPEN MY LIPS – AND MY MOUTH SHALL PROCLAIM YOUR PRAISE.” It gives the impression that praise of God should be a deep instinct within us that fills the whole day.

Praising God for his wonderful creation is one way to do this. Please read slowly and prayerfully the following excerpt from today’s Office of Readings Ecclesiasticus 43:14-37

By his command the Lord sends the snow,
  he speeds the lightning as he orders.
In the same way, his treasuries open
  and the clouds fly out like birds.
In his great might he banks up the clouds,
  and shivers them into fragments of hail.
At sight of him the mountains rock,
  at the roar of his thunder the earth writhes in labour.
At his will the south wind blows,
  or the storm from the north and the whirlwind.
He sprinkles snow like birds alighting,
  it comes down like locusts settling.
The eye marvels at the beauty of its whiteness,
  and the mind is amazed at its falling.
The cold wind blows from the north,
  and ice forms on the water,
settling on every watery expanse,
  and water puts it on like a breastplate.
He swallows up the mountains and scorches the desert,
  like a fire he consumes the vegetation.
But the mist heals everything in good time,
  after the heat falls the reviving dew.
By his own resourcefulness he has tamed the abyss,
  and planted it with islands.
Those who sail the sea tell of its dangers,
  their accounts fill our ears with amazement:
for there too there are strange and wonderful works,
  animals of every kind and huge sea creatures.
Thanks to him all ends well,
  and all things hold together by means of his word.
We could say much more and still fall short;
  to put it concisely, ‘He is all.’
Where shall we find sufficient power to glorify him,
  since he is the Great One, above all his works,
the awe-inspiring Lord, stupendously great,
  and wonderful in his power?
Exalt the Lord in your praises
  as high as you may – still he surpasses you.
Exert all your strength when you exalt him,
  do not grow tired – you will never come to the end.
Who has ever seen him to give a description?
  Who can glorify him as he deserves?
Many mysteries remain even greater than these,
  for we have seen only a few of his works,
the Lord himself having made all things –
  and having given wisdom to devout men.

17th January – St Antony of the Desert.

Jesus BibleThe Church teaches us that when we come to Mass we are fed spiritually from two tables. One table is the altar of Sacrifice which gives us Jesus’ complete gift of self in Holy Communion. The second table is that of God’s Word. We are told by Jesus today in the Gospel Acclamation for St Antony: “If you make my word your home you will indeed be my disciple. You will come to know the truth and the truth shall set you free.”

The blessings that present themselves to us at this second table can be lost if we want a ‘quickie’ Mass (something that is not unheard of here in Ireland!) In the following account of St Antony’s life, it was Jesus words to the Rich Young Man coming alive within him that changed his life. As we read in Hebrews, “The Word of God is alive and active, it cuts more finely that a double edged sword” – when we receive it with expectant faith.

St Antony (*251 +356) is the originator of the monastic life. (He is not to be confused with St Anthony of Padua who helps us find lost articles.) He was born in Egypt: when his parents died, he listened to the words of the Gospel [whilst at Mass one morning – see above] and gave all his belongings to the poor. He went out into the wilderness to begin a life of penitence, living in absolute poverty, praying, meditating, and supporting himself by manual work. He suffered many temptations, both physical and spiritual, but he overcame them. Disciples gathered round him, attracted by his wisdom, moderation, and holiness. He gave support to the victims of the persecutions of Diocletian, and helping St Athanasius in his fight against the Arians [a sect that denied the divinity of Christ].

jesus-and-the-rich-young-manThe Gospels are full of wise sayings of Jesus that seem to be ignored, and one of the most poignant of these was in his meeting with that young man who asked over and over again, insistently, “What must I do to have eternal life?.” When, in the end, Jesus told him that if he wanted to be perfect he would have to sell all that he had and give the money to the poor, the young man went away, sorrowing; because he was very rich. What could be more of a waste than that? You tell someone what he has to do, and he is afraid to do it. And yet… 250 years later, St Antony hears the story, and [with an open and generous heart] does give away all that he has, and becomes the founder of monasticism. And then again, over 1,000 years later, St Francis of Assisi hears the story, and gives away his possessions (and some of his father’s!!!) and revolutionises Christianity again.

Not all the words that we speak are forgotten, even though we cannot see their effects ourselves. Let us pray that those unknown effects may always be good ones.

(Universalis website)

16th January.

We are encouraged to vote in a JOURNAL online survey and say that doctors who conscientiously object to abortion should not be forced to cooperate by referring clients to an abortionist. This is the link: http://www.thejournal.ie/poll-abortion-referral-gps-4068124-Jun2018/

Yesterday evening I travelled to Knock to listen to an American pro-life activist Laura Gies. This was the blurb I received about her on social media.

Laura Gies from the USA will be giving a Pro Life Talk on Tuesday 15th
of January at 7pm in St. John’s Rest Care Centre, Knock Shrine, Co.
Mayo. She has vast experience over the past 30 years of organising
prolife vigils, side walk counseling and praying outside of abortion
facilities in the United States. Laura will also be giving talks in
Waterford on 12th Jan, Cork 13th Jan, Galway 14th Jan. Everyone Welcome!
For further information please contact Human Life International in Knock
on 094 – 9375993 or email: mail@humanlife.ie Please forward to others

believe-i-nJesusInterestingly, she started off by saying that her decision to become an activist was influenced by a deep conversion in her late teens when she felt called to dedicate her life to Jesus as her Lord and Saviour. This should be at least an aspiration of every Christian as it is so fundamental to our Faith. If this was true of all Irish Catholics, none would have voted to legalise the killing of unwanted babies in last May’s referendum.

Her first encounter with abortion came at the age of 7 when she saw a pro-life display at the back of her church. She asked her mother about the picture showing “dolls in the trash bin”. Her mother with a tear in her eye had to explain that these were unwanted unborn babies that where thrown away. This grim reality was reinforced many times later by seeing the effect abortion had on friends and relatives who chose this route.

Laura keep repeating that every second that goes by, we all get more used to living (comfortably?) with this terrible reality, a reality that has accounted for 60 million deaths in the US since abortion was legalised in 1973. This is a death toll 10 times bigger that the Jewish Holocaust! We must protest and witness to our dying breath! Such is the view of Holocaust survivor and Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel:

We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.

Laura also spoke about the Rescue movement in the USA. It began in the late 1980s and led to some 50,000 people being arrested for ‘civil disobedience’ at abortion clinics. A few days after the birth of one of her 6 children, her husband Walt received a 3 month jail sentence for a Rescue done earlier. Rescue is the right description for what happens. Taking LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOUR AS YOURSELF, what would any of us want our neighbour to do if we were going to be killed someplace in 30 minutes time? Praying, reading the Bible, writing a letter to newspapers or politicians are all nice but will not prevent my death in 30 minutes. There is no point in calling the Police or emergency services – they will just laugh at you. To rescue me from this impending death, my neighbour has to initially make a last-ditch effort to appeal to the executioners. If this fails – as is most likely the case – my neighbour has to peacefully place their body between me and the assassin(s) and block the execution. It is the only thing that will save my life; otherwise I will be dead in 30 minutes.

rescue fr fidelis cfr