This was my homily for the weekend followed by the gospel.

baptismWhenever I do baptisms, I give a running commentary of the various parts of the liturgy. Some of you here may have seen my do this.

Of course the central act of baptism is the pouring on of water and invoking the Blessed Trinity. In this Original Sin (and in the case of an adult, any actual sin) is washed away and God’s divine life comes into the soul for the first time.

The first thing that happens afterwards is the Anointing with Chrism. Sacred oil blessed by the bishop on Holy Thursday is put on the head of the candidate. This is a coronation rite like what happens when a person is made king or queen. What do we mean by all of this?

We will never fully appreciate the awesomeness of baptism on this side of eternity because of the great transforming action that takes place. In this free, unmerited gift the candidate (usually a child) becomes a son or daughter of God, “the creator of heaven and earth”. If God is THE King, then this means that the newly baptised is a prince or princess. This is not make-believe, this is really REAL!

Afterwards a white garment is put on the child. The accompanying prayer said by the priest gives its essential meaning: “… You have become a new creation [a new CREATION, something that has not existed before, so much more than just a cosmetic face-lift!]. See in this white garment the outward sign of your Christian DIGNITY. Bring that DIGNITY unstained into the everlasting life of heaven”. If you’ve been counting, the word ‘dignity’ has appeared twice in this short prayer.

We all know that members of the Royal Family are called to a higher code of behaviour because of their office, their status, and the dignity bestowed by this. All the more do we as Christians who belong to the true ROYAL FAMILY of God have a higher code to live by. It is all about upholding our Christian dignity.

You know that the word ‘Donegal’ comes from the Irish phrase Dún na nGall which means ‘fort of the foreigners’. So where does the word ‘sin’ come from? It means simply ‘to miss the mark’.  To commit sin is to let ourselves down, to betray our Christian dignity. It’s like what would happen if we saw a member of the Royal Family drunk and disorderly, and how this would betray their status. So sin is not about breaking something in a rule book, it is about sacrificing our wonderful dignity.

The basic requirement for salvation – entry into eternal life – is about choosing to preserve our Christian dignity and our status as God’s sons and daughters. Every moral choice we have in this life is about accepting or rejecting God as our Father and the promises made at our baptism.

What happens if we lose our wonderful gift of Christian dignity and dirty our white garment? Repentance is the way that we recover our status. In today’s gospel, Jesus issues an urgent call of repentance to his contemporaries: “Unless you repent, you will all perish [eternally]”. We should feel these words addressed to us here too. It is a call to wake from sleep and once more to centre our lives on Jesus, our divine LORD.

How do we live in order to keep our dignity as God’s sons and daughters?

It’s very simple and is good news in itself. We don’t have to speak with a posh accent or have perfect manners. We don’t need to have elegant clothes and smell like a rose garden all the time. We don’t need to go around in a chauffeur driven Rolls Royce car. All we have to do is to live a life of LOVE. As we hear in the two great commandments: Love God with your whole heart, mind, soul and strength; and love your neighbour as yourself. In the gospel parable of the Fig Tree, the owner expected to find fruit on it. LOVE is the fruit that God expects to see in our lives.

A large part of this life of love is expressed in the Ten Commandments. At the back of the church you will find a pamphlet that has a fairly detailed examination of conscience based on the Ten Commandments. My hope is that you will take away a copy and prayerfully reflect on it over the remainder of Lent. Afterwards make a good Confession in preparation for Easter and receiving the new life of the Resurrection. [At the very end of this blog you will find a copy of this pamphlet. This is a link where you can download a formatted double-sided A4 copy https://1drv.ms/b/s!ArUcgxa4hjrkiERsEiyaPJogOKBL .]

So in summary: To sin is to “miss the mark”, to lose our Christian dignity as God’s sons and daughters. To repent is to recover that dignity.

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GOSPEL

A reading from the holy Gospel according to Luke      13:1-9
Unless you repent you will all perish as they did.

Some people arrived and told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with that of their sacrifices At this he said to them, ‘Do you suppose these Galileans who suffered like that were greater sinners than any other Galileans? They were not, I tell you. No; but unless you repent you will all perish as they did. Or those eighteen on whom the tower at Siloam fell and killed them? Do you suppose that they were more guilty than all the other people living in Jerusalem? They were not, I tell you. No; but unless you repent you will all perish as they did.’

He told this parable: ‘A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came looking for fruit on it but found none. He said to the man who looked after the vineyard, “Look here, for three years now I have been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and finding none. Cut it down: why should it be taking up the ground?” “Sir,” the man replied “leave it one more year and give me time to dig round it and manure it: it may bear fruit next year; if not, then you can cut it down.”‘

The Gospel of the Lord

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A Primer for Confession

On the evening of his Resurrection from the dead, Jesus appeared to his Apostles and gave them the power to forgive all sins.   Breathing upon them, He said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.  If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven.  If you retain anyone’s sins, they are retained.” (Jn.20:22-23)   Through the Sacrament of Holy Orders, bishops and priests of the Church receive the ability from Christ himself to forgive sins.   It is exercised in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, also known as the Sacrament of Penance or simply as “Confession.”   Through this Sacrament, Christ forgives the sins that the members of his Church commit after Baptism.

In receiving the Sacrament, the penitent (the sinner) expresses sorrow for his or her sins.   Sorrow for sins is called contrition.   Imperfect contrition is sorrow for sins motivated by the loss of one’s soul or the ugliness of sin itself.   Perfect contrition is sorrow for sin motivated by the love of God.

Contrition, perfect or imperfect, is joined with a firm purpose of amendment, that is, a solid resolution to avoid the sin committed as well as the persons, places and things that prompted the sin in the first place.   This is required for a sincere confession.

Mortal sin is a direct, conscious and free violation of one or another of the Ten Commandments in a serious matter.   Mortal sin destroys the life of grace in the soul.   God’s grace begins to draw the sinner back to him through sorrow for sin.   He is brought back to life when he confesses his sins to a priest and receives absolution (forgiveness).   The Church recommends that Catholics confess also their venial sins which are violations of God’s law that do not sever the relationship with or destroy the life of grace in the soul.

The following is an Examination of Conscience to help prepare for confession.   If you are not sure whether your sins are “mortal” or “venial” the confessor (the priest to whom you confess your sins) will help you to understand the difference.   Don’t be shy:  seek his assistance.   Ask him questions!   Do not be afraid! – his only intention is to help you and act in the person of Christ, The Good Shepherd. You always have the right to confess your sins in a face-to-face encounter with the confessor.   It is also your right to confess “anonymously” behind a screen.   The Church wants to make it as easy as possible for you to make a frank, honest confession of all your sins.   You are also free to call your parish priest and make an appointment for confession.

(GENERAL ABSOLUTION is only VALID when received in exceptional circumstances and with the intention of making a regular confession of grave sin when this is reasonably possible.)

  1. I am the Lord your God. You shall not have strange gods before me.
  • Do I seek to love God with my whole heart and soul? Does He hold first place in my life?
  • Have I been involved with the occult or superstitious practices?
  • Have I ever received Holy Communion in the state of grave sin?
  • Have I told a lie in confession or deliberately withheld confessing a grave sin?
  1. You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.
  • Have I insulted God’s holy name or used it lightly or carelessly?
  • Have I used offensive language?
  • Have I wished evil on anyone?
  1. Remember to keep holy the Lord’s Day.
  • Have I missed Mass deliberately on a Sunday or on a Holy Day of Obligation?
  • Do I observe an hour fast before Communion?
  • Do I practice a penance on Friday in memory of the Lord’s Passion?
  • Do I try to keep Sunday as a day of rest?
  1. Honour your father and your mother.
  • Do I honour and obey my parents? Do I care for them in their old age?
  • Have I neglected my family responsibilities to spouse and children?
  • Is my family life centred around Christ and his teaching?
  1. You shall not kill.
  • Have I caused harm to anyone?
  • Have I had an abortion? Have I encouraged an abortion?
  • Have I used or consented to abortifacient birth control (pills, coils, etc)?
  • Have I abused drugs or alcohol?
  • Have I mutilated myself through any form of sterilisation or encouraged others to do so?
  • Have I harboured hatred, anger or resentment in my heart towards anyone?
  • Have I given scandal to anyone by my sins, thereby leading them to sin?
  1. You shall not commit adultery
  • Have I been unfaithful to my marriage vows in action, word or thought?
  • Have I practised any form of artificial contraception or IVF in my marriage?
  • Have I engaged in any sexual activity alone or outside legitimate marriage?
  • Am I pure in my thoughts, words, actions? Am I modest in dress?
  1. You shall not steal
  • Have I taken what is not mine?
  • Am I honest with my employer/employee and taxes/social benefits?
  • Do I gamble excessively thereby robbing my family of their needs?
  • Do I seek to share what I have (time and money) with the poor and needy?
  1. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour
  • Have I lied, gossiped or spoken behind anyone’s back?
  • Have I ruined anyone’s good name?
  • Do I reveal information that should be confidential?
  • Am I sincere in my dealings with others?
  1. You shall not desire your neighbour’s wife.
  • Am I envious of another’s spouse or family?
  • Have I consented to impure thoughts?
  • Am I reckless and irresponsible in the books I read and the TV/movies I watch?
  1. You shall not desire your neighbour’s goods
  • Am I envious of the possessions of others?
  • Am I resentful and bitter over my position in life?

When you enter the place set aside for the celebration of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, the priest may greet you and together you will make the sign of the cross.   He may then choose a brief reading from the Bible to help you feel the merciful presence of Christ.   Next, you tell your sins simply and honestly to the priest  Mortal sins are confessed by name and number.   For instance, “I stole £500 from my employer”;   “I deliberately missed Mass on 2 Sundays and 1 Holy Day”;   “I gambled away a whole week’s pay cheque.”

This Sacrament is not only for the forgiveness of mortal sins.   You may also confess your venial sins.   The Church encourages devotional confession, that is, the frequent confession of venial sins as a means of growing perfect in the love of God and neighbour and obtaining grace to refine character faults.

After you confess your sins, listen to the advice the priest offers you.   You may also seek his help and guidance.   He will then give you a penance.   He will ask you to either pray, fast or perform an act of charity.   Through the penance, you begin to make reparation for the harm your sins have caused you, others and the Church.   The penance of the priest reminds us that we need to be one with Christ in his sufferings so as to share in his Resurrection.

Finally, the priest will ask you to express your sorrow for the sins confessed in an act of contrition, and then, exercising the power of Christ, he will give you absolution.   As he prays over you, know with the certainty of faith that God is forgiving all your sins, healing you and preparing you for the Banquet of the Kingdom of Heaven!   The priest will dismiss you saying: “The Lord has freed you from your sins.   Go in peace,” to which you answer “Thanks be to God.”

Try to spend some time in prayer, thanking God for his forgiveness.   Perform the penance the priest has given you as soon as possible

ACTS OF CONTRITION:

O my God, because you are so good I am very sorry I have sinned against you, and with the help of your grace, I will not sin again, Amen.

O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended Thee, and I detest all my sins, because I dread the loss of Heaven, and the pains of Hell; but most of all because I love Thee, my God, Who art all good and deserving of all my love. I firmly resolve, with the help of Thy grace, to confess my sins, to do penance, and to amend my life. Amen.

My God,  I am sorry for my sins with all my heart. In choosing to do wrong and failing to do good, I have sinned against you whom I should love above all things. I firmly intend, with your help, to do penance, to sin no more, and to avoid whatever leads me to sin Our Saviour Jesus Christ  suffered and died for us. In His Name, my God, have mercy on me. Amen..

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23rd March.

I came across this in my breakfast reading from the Catholic Voice. Lent is more than giving up chocolate biscuits so we’ll look better come Easter!

Lent 1Lent 2Lent 3Lent 4Lent 5

22nd March.

This is today’s minute reflection entitled COME HOME from http://www.FranciscanMedia.org

come home

When we realize that the road we have been following may not be the one that is best for us, we must have the humility to admit that we have strayed, that we have been mistaken, that God knows better than we. Nothing is more difficult than admitting that we have failed, that we have sinned. We feel haunted by the past. No matter how willing we are to do penance and suffer and take on the heavy burden of our guilt, in the end the greatest humility is accepting the role the Lord has written for us.

All that the Lord asks is that we come home. We must accept our roles as daughters and sons and not refuse this great gift of love. We are all children of the Father, we have all sinned, but we are all welcome in our Father’s house. We must live as a forgiving and as a forgiven people.

—from the book The Hope of Lent: Daily Reflections from Pope Francis by Diane M. Houdek

 

21st March.

Today’s gospel of the Rich Man and Lazarus (below) reminds us of our core Christian duty to be generous to the poor. The humanitarian disaster of the present moment is the cyclone that devastated SE Africa. Perhaps our Christian calling can be summed up by Gandhi’s principle of “Life simply so that others can simply live.”

This following reflection from Walk with Me reinforces this message.

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GOSPEL

A reading from the holy Gospel according to Luke              16:19-31
Good things came your way, just as bad things came the way of Lazarus. Now he is being comforted here while you are in agony.

Jesus said to the Pharisees:
‘There was a rich man who used to dress in purple and fine linen and feast magnificently every day. And at his gate there lay a poor man called Lazarus, covered with sores, who longed to fill himself with the scraps that fell from the rich man’s table. Dogs even came and licked his sores. Now the poor man died and was carried away by the angels to the bosom of Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried.

‘In his torment in Hades he looked up and saw Abraham a long way off with Lazarus in his bosom. So he cried out, “Father Abraham, pity me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in agony in these flames”. “My son,” Abraham replied “remember that during your life good things came your way, just as bad things came the way of Lazarus. Now he is being comforted here while you are in agony. But that is not all: between us and you a great gulf has been fixed, to stop anyone, if he wanted to, crossing from our side to yours, and to stop any crossing from your side to ours.”

‘The rich man replied, “Father, I beg you then to send Lazarus to my father’s house, since I have five brothers, to give them warning so that they do not come to this place of torment too”. “They have Moses and the prophets,” said Abraham “let them listen to them.” “Ah no, father Abraham,” said the rich man “but if someone comes to them from the dead, they will repent.” Then Abraham said to him, “If they will not listen either to Moses or to the prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone should rise from the dead.”‘

The Gospel of the Lord.    

20th March.

Sr. Alison, SOLT shares a reflection for the second Sunday of Lent (here in Ireland it was superseded by St Patrick’s feast day). She encourages us to remember that in Baptism, we died with Christ, so that we may rise with him. Trust in Him.

In the background is the SOLT headquarters in Corpus Christi, Texas

19th March – Solemnity of St Joseph.

I just realised that I forgot the SOLT Novena to St Joseph that is said in the 9 days leading up to his feast day. Trusting that God is never too bothered about the timing of such things, I will begin the novena today. If you’d like to pray a novena, a prayer is given at the bottom.

St Joseph was the very special man chosen by God as spouse of the Virgin Mary and foster father of Jesus. Just as Mary is our spiritual mother in Jesus, so too is St Joseph our spiritual foster father.

This is the commentary on today’s solemnity from the Bishops’ website.

st.-joseph-300x209GOSPEL

A reading from the holy Gospel according to Matthew        1:16. 18-21. 24
When Joseph woke up he did what the angel of the Lord had told him to do: he took his wife to his home.

Jacob was the father of Joseph the husband of Mary; of her was born Jesus who is called Christ.
This is how Jesus Christ came to be born. His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph; but before they came to live together she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph; being a man of honour and wanting to spare her publicity, decided to divorce her informally. He had made up his mind to do this when the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because she has conceived what is in her by the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son and you must name him Jesus, because he is the one who is to save his people from their sins.’ When Joseph woke up he did what the angel of the Lord had told him to do: he took his wife to his home.

The Gospel of the Lord.    

Gospel Reflection         19/3         Feast of Saint Joseph       Matthew 1:16, 18-21, 24

Luke’s portrayal of the twelve-year-old Jesus sitting among the doctors of the Law in the Temple is a striking one. It doesn’t say that Jesus was teaching these doctors of the Law, rather, he was listening to them and asking questions. He was receptive to what they were saying. No doubt Jesus was also receptive to what Joseph said to him. In the Jewish family, the father was the one responsible for passing on the religious tradition to the children. Joseph may not have been a doctor of the Law, but he was a teacher within his own home. Yet the gospel reading suggests that, at twelve years of age, Jesus was moving on from receiving the wisdom of his superiors to taking his own path in life. Having travelled with his family from Nazareth to Jerusalem for the feast of Passover, he decided not to travel back with them, without informing any member of his extended family. Mary and Joseph decided to head back to Jerusalem where they eventually found him in the Temple. Their disappointment in Jesus and the distress he caused them is very evident in the question Mary put to him. Yet, his answer to their question caused them a different kind of distress. ‘Did you not know that I must be busy with my Father’s affairs?’ They didn’t understand what he meant. By ‘my Father’s affairs’, the boy Jesus was not referring to his father Joseph, but to his heavenly Father, God. If Jesus was learning from the doctors of the Law, Joseph had his own lesson to learn from his young son. He was beginning to realise that his influence on his son would have to take second place to God’s influence. He and his wife, Mary, would have to learn to let Jesus go to God’s purpose for his life. We can learn from Joseph that gentle art of letting go, of surrendering those we cherish to God’s purpose for their lives, even though it may leave us with a great sense of loss. Joseph learned to allow God to be God in his own life and in the life of his Son. We pray for something of that same generosity of spirit that Joseph clearly had.

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The Gospel reflection comes from: Weekday Reflections for the Liturgical Year 2018/2019; I Want to Know Christ  
by Martin Hogan, published by The Messenger  c/f   
www.messenger.ie/bookshop/

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ST JOSEPH NOVENA PRAYER

Saint Joseph, you are the faithful protector and intercessor of all who love and venerate you. You know that I have confidence in you and that, after Jesus and Mary, I come to you as an example for holiness, for you are especially close with God. Therefore, I humbly commend myself, with all who are dear to me and all that belong to me, to your intercession. I beg of you, by your love for Jesus and Mary, not to abandon me during life and to assist me at the hour of my death.

Glorious Saint Joseph, spouse of the Immaculate Virgin, pray for me to have a pure, humble, charitable mind, and perfect resignation to the divine Will. Be my guide, my father, and my model through life that I may die as you did in the arms of Jesus and Mary.

Loving Saint Joseph, faithful follower of Jesus Christ, I raise my heart to you to implore your powerful intercession in obtaining from the Divine Heart of Jesus all the graces necessary for my spiritual and temporal welfare, particularly the grace of a happy death, and the special grace I now implore:

(Mention your request)

Guardian of the Word Incarnate, I feel confident that your prayers on my behalf will be graciously heard before the throne of God.

St. Joseph Terror of Demons, Pray for us!

Amen.

Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end.

Amen.

 

18th March – St Cyril of Jerusalem.

peter kreeftIn yesterday’s homily I quoted the prolific Catholic writer Peter Kreeft who is a philosophy professor in Boston College : “There are two types of people in the world. There are the saints who know they are sinners and there are sinners who think they are saints.” In my earlier life his book FUNDAMENTALS OF THE FAITH helped me a lot to see how reasonable it was to believe in God. I was a bit in the dark – being very much a ‘head’ person – regarding all the modern atheistic arguments against the existence of God.

The following article from a recent Catholic Voice has another interesting input from the professor. I have enough life experience to believe in the existence of such creatures.

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