20th November.

the-love-of-god1This is a reflection from Premier Christian Media & Dr Micha Jazz on “Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me.” (Jn 14:1)

The Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoyevsky wrote, “Man only likes to count his troubles; he doesn’t calculate his happiness.” I have pondered this often and recognise that trouble, defined as stress, anxiety, concern, feeling unsettled etc, plays a significant part in each one of our lives. Why is it that when Katey was unexpectedly late home from work, I began to fret that something terrible must have happened to her? Normally a delay at school, or heavy traffic was the reason, but my mind moved towards the catastrophic in the first instance.

Anxiety and stress have a physical impact upon us. I can feel my chest tightening, my breathing becomes shallower, my muscles tense. My emotions are equally influenced and concentration on anything other than the issue of concern seems impossible. Then, of course, when anxiety was resolved, and Katey walked through the door, I could act out my anxiety and project blame, as though she deliberately caused my stress.

The response to anxiety is twofold, and both grow from calculating happiness. First I am invited to recall that God has my best interests at heart, even when it feels anything but the case. Then I am to take charge of my heart and move back into living in the secure knowledge that God exercises full control of every detail of life.

Following Jesus is not a passive activity. We exercise the faith muscle, much as we do any physical muscle required to move our mortal frame. God’s word is clear and true, yet we are expected to act upon it. So I choose to live within God’s provision, even when my circumstances appear to paint a different picture. This is calculating my happiness, for such happiness flourishes once I acknowledge all I have received from God. Jesus invites his disciples to choose to trust in his care and goodness, rather than fearing the likelihood of calamity and worse.

QUESTION: What things make you anxious?

PRAYER: Lord, help me trust you in the midst of all that can cause me to worry and lose sight of you.

Advertisements

19th November – 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)

SOLT Christmas Novena: This year the usual novena of 9 Masses will be said by my colleague Fr Mark and I beginning on Christmas Day. If you would like to enrol somebody in the novena you can email me at soltlondon@hotmail.com with your address, the number of cards requested and when known, the names to be included in the novena. Recommended donation is €3/£3 per card which will cover mailing. Proceeds benefit the training of SOLT seminarians and the SOLT sisters’ missions.

This was today’s homily.

our-lady-of-fatimaI returned Tuesday from a wonderful priests’ retreat in Fatima. Blue skies and sunshine for the whole week without even a hint of rain. You might like to consider Fatima or Medjugorje next year for a fine weather and holy holiday.

During the retreat we heard many great presentations from top international speakers and today I’d like to share some of the highlights with you.

The Fatima Message can be summarised by the prayer that Our Lady asked to be said at the end of every decade of the Rosary: “O my Jesus forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell; lead all souls to heaven especially those in most need of your mercy.”

As a most perfect and devoted mother, Mary is intensely interested that all of her children reach heaven. Like any other mother, she wants the very best for her offspring. Yet she told the 3 shepherd children that many souls are lost. They fail to walk the narrow way that leads to eternal life as Jesus speaks about in the gospel. I would be a defective and poor pastor if I didn’t share this same concern.

To highlight this reality Our Lady of Fatima showed the children a graphic vision of hell in the July 13th apparition. Those of you who saw the Fatima DVD in the parish hall recently will remember this.

She said that most souls are lost because of sexual sins. This is a sober reminder that contrary to today’s values, God’s gift of sexuality is strictly limited to a valid marriage between husband and wife that is open to life.

What Our Lady said at Fatima about the salvation of souls is similar to today’s second reading. St Paul said “We should not go on sleeping as everybody else does, but stay wide awake and sober.” If we are asleep we are not aware of what is happening around us and where we are going. For example, if we fall asleep while driving we will soon crash. On the other hand if we are awake, we are alert to the world around us and we will be able to find our way to our destination – which for Christians is Our Father’s House.

A few months ago I devoted a homily to the existence of the devil, to him being a real person, given completely to evil and our mortal enemy. He is not a mythical cartoon character with a red suit, long tail and pitchfork! One of the most memorable talks was given by a leading US exorcist. He gave a powerful account of an exorcism carried out on a possessed man. It wasn’t as quite as dramatic as what we saw in the EXORCIST movie but still captivating enough to demand our full attention throughout.

We were also told about the many doors in our modern world that provide access to the devil. One of them is alternative medicine that is linked to Eastern religion. A very particular example is Reiki which should not be touched with a barge pole. For young people games linked to the occult should be avoided like the Ouija (weegie) Board; another similar game that I hadn’t heard of is called Charlie/Charlie where crossed pencil move on their own by occult power. Another trap is certain types of pop music. Mention was made of the pop star Beyonce who claims that a spirit possesses her when on stage. It is unlikely that this spirit is anything to do with the HOLY Spirit.

A major avenue for the devil is the modern pandemic of pornography which is highly addictive. Because of the internet and smart phones, the average age at which children have their first exposure to this is 11. This should be a matter of serious concern to parents as they seek to protect their children from this debasement . It going without saying that pornography is a grave sin that violates the 5th, 6th and 9th Commandments.

How can we help Our Lady to lead all souls to heaven, especially those in most need of God’s mercy? What was suggested at the retreat was the acronym  C.A.R.E.

C = regular confession, perhaps monthly, preceded by a meaningful examination of conscience. Sin is the ultimate thing that separates us from God and one another.

A = (weekly) adoration of Jesus really present in the Blessed Sacrament. This is a true foretaste of our future life of heaven.

R = Rosary every day as Our Lady requested.

E = Eucharist. Attend Mass not just on Sundays and Holy Days but weekdays if possible. As Our Lord Jesus said in the Last Supper: Do this in memory of me.

If we live holy lives, then its effects will ripple out and affect others. Think about how you have been helped in your faith journey by the example of holy parents and grandparents.

In summary: Our Lady and St Paul want us to be spiritually awake and alert as we journey to Our Father’s House. As a speaker said: TIME FLIES AND ETERNITY IS FOREVER.

18th November – Memorial of Our Lady.

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

GOSPEL

persistenceA reading from the holy Gospel according to Luke     18:1-8
God will see justice done to his chosen who cry to him
Jesus told them a parable about the need to pray continually and never lose heart. ‘There was a judge in a certain town’ he said ‘who had neither fear of God nor respect for man. In the same town there was a widow who kept on coming to him and saying, “I want justice from you against my enemy!” For a long time he refused, but at last he said to himself, “Maybe I have neither fear of God nor respect for man, but since she keeps pestering me I must give this widow her just rights, or she will persist in coming and worry me to death.”‘

And the Lord said ‘You notice what the unjust judge has to say? Now will not God see justice done to his chosen who cry to him day and night even when he delays to help them? I promise you, he will see justice done to them, and done speedily. But when the Son of Man comes, will he find any faith on earth?’

The Gospel of the Lord.

***********************

Gospel Reflection     Saturday,       Thirty Second Week in Ordinary Time         Luke 18:1-8

It is often the case that some of the characters in the parables that Jesus speaks often leave a lot to be desired. That is the case with the judge in this morning’s parable. He is described as someone who had ‘neither fear of God nor respect for man’. For a long time he refused to give justice to the widow who kept coming to him. Perhaps being a widow she could not offer him any financial incentive and that was what he was used to. This kind of scenario was part of life that Jesus clearly observed. Yet, Jesus was able to take an unsatisfactory situation like this and show how it had some redeeming feature that could speak to us of our relationship with God. The redeeming feature in this situation was the widow and her refusal to give up hope or to lose heart. She kept seeking justice for herself in spite of the evil that she was up against. Eventually, she wore the judge down and she received the justice she was entitled to. Jesus is saying that we have something to learn from this widow. God is not like the judge in the story. As Jesus says, God will see justice done to those who cry out to him day and night. The question is, ‘Are we like the widow?’ That is the question Jesus asks at the end of the parable, ‘When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?’ Will he find the kind of persevering faith that the widow displayed, a faith that endures even in the face of repeated disappointment? Luke’s introduction to Jesus’ parable suggests that this kind of faith finds expression in a prayer that is constant and persistent, trusting and calm.
________________________________

 

17th November – St Elizabeth of Hungary.

When we think of the saints, we think of super-heroes of the Faith who went way beyond the standard set by the Gospel. Yet, the entire objective of St Francis of Assisi was nothing more or nothing less than to live out the literal teaching of the Gospel! We miss this point because Jesus’ radical message has been so ‘dumbed down’ to make it acceptable to the masses.

The same may be said of St Elizabeth of Hungary (*1207 +1231) and her care of the poor. Born a princess, she married into the aristocracy. After her husband died, she committed herself whole-heartedly to the poor and destitute. The following is a Brievary excerpt of her life as written by her spiritual director.

study_for_the_charity_of_saint_elizabeth_of_hungary

She ordered that one of her castles should be converted into a hospital in which she gathered many of the weak and feeble. She spent all her own revenue from her husband’s four principalities, and finally she sold her luxurious’ possessions and rich clothes for the sake of the poor.

Twice a day, in the morning and in the evening, Elizabeth went to visit the sick. She personally cared for those who were particularly repulsive; to some she gave food, to others clothing; some she carried on her own shoulders, and performed many other kindly services. Her husband, of happy memory, gladly approved of these charitable works. Finally, when her husband died, she sought the highest perfection; filled with tears, she implored me to let her beg for alms from door to door.

 

16th November – St Margaret of Scotland.

St Margaret of Scotland (*1046 +1093) was wife of King Malcolm III and mother of 8 children.  She is remembered for the happiness of her marriage, for her devotion to prayer and learning, and especially for her generosity to the poor.

familySt Lucia of Fatima said that the final battle between God and Satan would be about family life – which for us Christians is based on holy matrimony between husband and wife. We can see in today’s world this clash of values taking place. In today’s Office of Readings for St Margaret we have the beautiful vision of Christian family life. It is taken from Vatican II’s Gaudium et Spes and while being a somewhat heavy read, it is well worth working through.

Husband and wife, by the covenant of marriage, are no longer two, but one flesh. By their intimate union of persons and of actions they give mutual help and service to each other, experience the meaning of their unity, and gain an ever deeper understanding of it day by day.

This intimate union in the mutual self-giving of two persons, as well as the good of the children, demands full fidelity from both, and an indissoluble unity between them.

Christ the Lord has abundantly blessed this richly complex love, which springs from the divine source of love and is founded on the model of his union with the Church.

In earlier times God met his people in a covenant of love and fidelity. So now the Saviour of mankind, the Bridegroom of the Church, meets Christian husbands and wives in the sacrament of matrimony. Further, he remains with them in order that, as he loved the Church and gave himself up for her, so husband and wife may, in mutual self-giving, love each other with perpetual fidelity.

True married love is caught up into God’s love; it is guided and enriched by the redeeming power of Christ and the saving action of the Church, in order that the partners may be effectively led to God and receive help and strength in the sublime responsibility of parenthood.

Christian partners are therefore strengthened, and as it were consecrated, by a special sacrament for the duties and the dignity of their state. By the power of this sacrament they fulfil their obligations to each other and to their family and are filled with the spirit of Christ. This spirit pervades their whole lives with faith, hope and love. Thus they promote their own perfection and each other’s sanctification, and so contribute together to the greater glory of God.

Hence, with parents leading the way by example and family prayer, their children- indeed, all within the family circle – will find it easier to make progress in natural virtues, in salvation and in holiness. Husband and wife, raised to the dignity and the responsibility of parenthood, will be zealous in fulfilling their task as educators, especially in the sphere of religious education, a task that is primarily their own.

Children, as active members of the family, contribute in their own way to the holiness of their parents. With the love of grateful hearts, with loving respect and trust, they will return the generosity of their parents and will stand by them as true sons and daughters when they meet with hardship and the loneliness of old age.

15th November – St Albert the Great

I returned yesterday from Fatima. I had a great time with the retreat talks, fraternity with the attending priests and of course the weather – all blue skies and sunshine! (The ‘Rainy Season’ here in Donegal is ever present!)

This is the main basilica that contains the burial places of the 3 Fatima visionaries.

fat 1

This is the burial place of St Francesco Marto.

fat 3

This is the burial place of St Jacinta and Servant of God Lucia

fat 4

This the place of the first apparition at which a Rosary procession begins daily at 9.30pm

fat 2

This is the processional statue at Fatima. If you look clearly at the top of the crown, you can see sticking down the bullet that almost killed St John Paul back in May 13, 1981. He credited Our Lady with saving his life on that occasion and had the bullet placed in her crown to acknowledge his gratitude.

our-lady-of-fatima1a

 

One of the most memorable retreat talks was on the Four Last Things: Death, Judgement, Heaven and Hell. The speaker was Fr Ralph Weimann who is a professor at two Roman universities. He said: “Ask yourself if you are ready, right now, to die and give an account of your life at the Final Judgement? If the answer is ‘No’ then there is a fair possibility that you won’t be ready either when the moment actually comes.”

This question is worthy of our profound reflection.