26th June – St Jose Maria Escriva

Today is the memorial of St Jose Maria Escriva (*1902 +1975), founder of the layst jose maria escriva movement Opus Dei.  It is dedicated to helping lay people find holiness in everyday life and is known for its faithfulness to Catholic teaching and beliefs. Here are some quotes of his.

Understand this well: there is something holy, something divine hidden in the most ordinary situations, and it is up to each one of you to discover it.

Either we learn to find the Lord in the ordinary everyday life or else we shall never find him.

Don’t say, “That person bothers me.” Think: “That person sanctifies me”.

Put your heart aside. Duty comes first. But when fulfilling your duty, put your heart into it. It helps.

To begin is for everyone. To persevere is for saints.

You don’t know how to pray? Put yourself in the presence of God, and as soon as you have said, ‘Lord, I don’t know how to pray!” you can be sure you have already begun.”

To defend his purity, Saint Francis of Assisi rolled in the snow, Saint Benedict threw himself into a thorn bush, and Saint Bernard plunged into an icy pond… You – what have you done?

Say the Holy Rosary. Blessed be that monotony of Hail Mary’s which purifies the monotony of your sins!

St. Joseph was an ordinary sort of man on whom God relied to do great things. He did exactly what the Lord wanted him to do, in each and every event that went to make up his life.

25th June – Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)

Today’s gospel is at the bottom of the page. Here is my accompanying homily.

tightrope-walkingSince dad passed away 3 weeks ago I’ve been thinking about all my experiences with him. In the light of today’s gospel, this event came particularly to mind.

One summer’s day, we were making a reek of hay in the haggard, the field behind the house. I was 7 or 8 years old and I was put into the middle of it to trample down the hay as it was thrown in. As the reek reached completion it was tapered off until I found myself at the top of a fairly narrow ridge. I felt insecure. My footing was unsteady. Not having a good head for heights, the ground seemed a long way down. I thought to myself: If I fall from here, I’ll break my two legs or neck!

That same day there must have been no ladder around. Dad said “Slide down and I’ll grab you.” Not without some fear and trepidation, I let go of my perch and slid down. As I approached the ground, dad grabbed me under the arms and slowed my fall, before dropping me gently on the ground. No broken legs or neck!

I tell you that story because in the gospel, Jesus is telling us that we should have unlimited trust and confidence in our heavenly Father – an eternal Father who will always be there for us unlike our natural fathers who are mortals like everybody else. To quote Jesus: “Can you not buy two sparrows for a penny? And yet not one falls to the ground without your Father knowing. Why, every hair on your head has been counted. So there is no need to be afraid; you are worth more than hundreds of sparrows”.

Why should we trust in our heavenly Father? The extent to God’s love for us is shown in the life of Jesus. In the gospels there are many healing miracles that show divine compassion for our human frailty. The greatest expression of divine compassion for our human vulnerability is shown on the Cross where Jesus died for our sins. This is the subject of today’s second reading where St Paul speaks to us about the divine grace – or divine favour – that came through Jesus Christ as an abundant free gift. The fact that the gift was free tells us that it was unmerited by any goodness we possessed ourselves.

So what does God expect of us in return for showing us such great favour? As with all other relationships, it is a two way street. God invites and then awaits our response. In today’s gospel Jesus asks us to be his public witnesses in the world. We should be faithful to him as he is to us.

To quote Jesus: “So if anyone declares himself for me [and my Gospel/Truth] in the presence of men, I will declare myself for him in the presence of my Father in heaven. But the one who disowns me in the presence of men, I will disown in the presence of my Father in heaven.”

To give a practical example, a number of years ago Lucinda Creighton was a rising star in the Fine Gael party and was tipped by some as a future leader. In 2013 she and 6 other TDs and senators were expelled from the party because they would not vote for the government’s abortion bill. This was a bill that legalised abortion on the grounds of suicidality and was contrary to the majority view of medical experts in the field.

If Lucinda had been a pragmatist and compromised her Christian beliefs, it is just conceivable that we would now have our first woman Taoiseach. From the perspective of 100 years from now, it is a far greater good for her to be faithful to Jesus rather than the powers of this world.

So in summary: Jesus teaches us that we should have the greatest trust in the goodness of our heavenly Father. In return we should be public in our witness to Jesus and the Gospel.

Gospel                                  Matthew 10:26-33 
Do not be afraid of those who kill the body.

Jesus instructed the Twelve as follows: ‘Do not be afraid of them therefore. For everything that is now covered will be uncovered, and everything now hidden will be made clear. What I say to you in the dark, tell in the daylight; what you hear in whispers, proclaim from the housetops.

‘Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; fear him rather who can destroy both body and soul in hell. Can you not buy two sparrows for a penny? And yet not one falls to the ground without your Father knowing. Why, every hair on your head has been counted. So there is no need to be afraid; you are worth more than hundreds of sparrows.

‘So if anyone declares himself for me in the presence of men, I will declare myself for him in the presence of my Father in heaven. But the one who disowns me in the presence of men, I will disown in the presence of my Father in heaven.

The Gospel of the Lord.

 

24th June – Solemnity of St John the Baptist.

Today is the solemnity of St John the Baptist, the prophet who bridges the Old and New Testaments. The Bishop’s commentary follows the gospel of the day.

GOSPEL:                                       Luke 1:57-66. 80baptist birth
His name is John.
The time came for Elizabeth to have her child, and she gave birth to a son; and when her neighbours and relations heard that the Lord had shown her so great a kindness, they shared her joy.

Now on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child; they were going to call him Zechariah after his father, but his mother spoke up. ‘No,’ she said ‘he is to be called John.’ They said to her, ‘But no one in your family has that name’, and made signs to his father to find out what he wanted him called. The father asked for a writing-tablet and wrote, ‘His name is John.’ And they were all astonished. At that instant his power of speech returned and he spoke and praised God. All their neighbours were filled with awe and the whole affair was talked about throughout the hill country of Judaea. All those who heard of it treasured it in their hearts. ‘What will this child turn out to be?’ they wondered. And indeed the hand of the Lord was with him. Meanwhile the child grew up and his spirit matured. And he lived out in the wilderness until the day he appeared openly to Israel.

The Gospel of the Lord.    

Gospel Reflection       Saturday,       The Nativity of John the Baptist       Luke 1:57-66, 80

John the Baptist is the only saint, after Jesus himself, whose birth the church celebrates with a solemn feast. We celebrate the birth of John the Baptist on June 24th, six months before we celebrate the birth of Jesus on December 25th. The celebration of the birth of Jesus at Christmas coincides more or less with the winter solstice. Just as the light of the sun begins to make a comeback after darkness has reached its peak, we celebrate the birth of the light of the world. The celebration of the birth of John the Baptist coincides, in contrast, with the summer solstice. Just as the light of the sun begins to decrease, after reaching its peak, we celebrate the birth of the one who said, Jesus ‘must increase, but I must decrease’. The question of the neighbours and relations ask of the child John in the gospel reading, ‘What will this child turn out to be?’ could be asked of any of us. It is a question that could be asked of us at any stage of our lives, ‘What will I turn out to be?’, or to put the question in other terms, ‘Who is God calling me to be’? ‘What is God’s purpose for my life?’ God’s purpose for John’s life and God’s purpose for all our lives have a great deal in common. God wants all of us to do what John did, to point out the Saviour, to make way for Jesus, to lead others to him by what we say and do. John the Baptist, whose birth we celebrate today, has something to teach us about how we might keep faithful to this God-given calling. He was a man of the desert, a man of prayer. We all need to find our own desert place of prayer if we are to remain true to our calling to lead others to the Lord, if we are to turn out as God wants us to.

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The Gospel reflection comes from WEEKDAY REFLECTIONSTo know the love of Christ 2016/2017 by Martin Hogan published by  The Messenger c/f www.messenger.ie
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23rd June – Solemnity of THE SACRED HEART OF JESUS.

Today is the great solemnity of THE SACRED HEART OF JESUS. Below is the gospel and commentary. As an exercise in prayer, consider saying 10 times slowly and prayerfully my granny’s favourite prayer: SACRED HEART OF JESUS, I PLACE ALL MY TRUST IN THEE.

Gospel                            Matthew 11:25-30
I am gentle and humble in heart.

Jesus9 ‘I bless you, Father, Lord of heaven and of earth, for hiding these things from the learned and the clever and revealing them to mere children. Yes, Father, for that is what it pleased you to do. Everything has been entrusted to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, just as no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

‘Come to me, all you who labour and are overburdened, and 1 will give you rest. Shoulder my yoke and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Yes, my yoke is easy and my burden light.’

The Word of the Lord


Gospel Reflection    Friday,       Feast of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus         Matthew 11:25-30

My parents’ and grandparents’ generation and the generations before them often had an image of the Sacred Heart in their homes, very often with a little red light burning in front of it. Here was an image that spoke powerfully to people. It was an image that somehow brought Jesus close to people. This image with its little red light before it was a powerful reminder to people that the Lord was present to them in a very personal and loving way at the heart of their lives, with its trials and tribulations. The image of Jesus with his pierced heart prominently displayed speaks to us of a divine love, of God’s love revealed in Jesus, especially in his death. The second reading this morning makes the very simple but profound statement, ‘God is Love’ and then declares that God’s love was revealed for us when God sent his only Son into the world so that we might have life. That is what we are celebrating today, God’s life-giving love for us revealed in his Son. It was this love that people somehow felt touched by in and through the image of the Sacred Heart. Having been touched by God’s love through this image, people felt a desire to respond to that love in some way. That is what Jesus calls for in the gospel reading today when he turns towards the crowd and says to them ‘come to me’. It is the invitation of a love that is greater than any human love, and that promises a gift that is greater than any human gift, the gift of ‘rest for your souls’. Our souls are restless, Saint Augustine said, until they rest in God. Because Jesus is God’s love in human form, he can give rest to our restless souls if we come to him.

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The Gospel reflection comes from WEEKDAY REFLECTIONSTo know the love of Christ 2016/2017 by Martin Hogan published by  The Messenger c/f www.messenger.ie
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22nd June – Ss Thomas More & John Fisher

jesusThe following is an article I wrote for last Sunday’s newsletter. Even if you are not from Ireland, it gives a sense of the general difficulties involved in maintaining our Christian culture in secular age.

Public Fairness: David Quinn of the Iona Institute is a columnist with the Irish Independent and Irish Catholic. This is a recent article of his: Church bashing is the new Brit bashing. The hard left never stop. I am not sure I can think of a single time during his six years as Taoiseach (Prime Minister) when Enda Kenny had a good word to say about the Catholic Church or Ireland’s Christian heritage. So why the continuous negativity about the Church? Why are we presented only with the misdeeds while the good it has done over the centuries is kept hidden from view? (Emphasis added.) Because that makes it all the easier to whip up public support for removing all significant public traces of it from national law and life. This is being done in the small things (Good Friday drinking laws) and the much bigger things (our pro-life law). If the public can be made to think that Catholic Ireland was a terrible place, and nothing else, then we will be all the more determined to replace Catholicism and Christianity with ‘secular modernity’. This government is certainly determined to do this.

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If you have some time on your hand and would like to read a rather lengthy article from HOMELITIC AND PASTORAL REVIEW about the power and meaning of the sacraments, visit http://www.hprweb.com/2017/06/sacraments-in-brideshead-revisited/. The background story has an engaging human-interest element.

21st July – St Aloysius Gonzaga

st aloysius gonzagaOne of the titles given by Vatican II to the Church is ‘Pilgrim People’ – a people who are passing through this world and on the way to the Father’s House as our final destination. Today’s saint Aloysius Gonzaga (+1591) who died at the age of 23 having contracted the plague whilst helping in a hospice, had no such problems with this reality. He died with name of Jesus on his lips. The following is from his farewell letter to his mother. (It is certainly honours-course Christianity!)

May the comfort and grace of the Holy Spirit be yours for ever, most honoured lady. Your letter found me lingering still in this region of the dead, but now I must rouse myself to make my way on to heaven at last and to praise God for ever in the land of the living; indeed I had hoped that before this time my journey there would have been over. If charity, as Saint Paul says, means to weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who are glad, then, dearest mother, you shall rejoice exceedingly that God in his grace and his love for you is showing me the path to true happiness, and assuring me that I shall never lose him…

Take care above all things, most honoured lady, not to insult God’s boundless loving kindness; you would certainly do this if you mourned as dead one living face to face with God, one whose prayers can bring you in your troubles more powerful aid than they ever could on earth. And our parting will not be for long; we shall see each other again in heaven; we shall be united with our Saviour; there we shall praise him with heart and soul, sing of his mercies for ever, and enjoy eternal happiness. When he takes away what he once lent us [our earthly life], his purpose is to store our treasure elsewhere more safely and bestow on us those very blessings that we ourselves would most choose to have.

I write all this with the one desire that you and all my family may consider my departure a joy and favour and that you especially may speed with a mother’s blessing my passage across the waters till I reach the shore to which all hopes belong. I write the more willingly because I have no clearer way of expressing the love and respect I owe you as your son.

 

20th June

Today’s gospel brings us to the heart of the Sermon on the Mount. Bishops’ website commentary follows.

Gospel  Acclamation  Jn 13:34love enemies
Alleluia, alleluia!
I give a new commandment: love one another just as I have loved you, says the Lord.
Alleluia!

Gospel                             Matthew 5:43-48
Love your enemies.

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘You have learnt how it was said: You must love your neighbour and hate your enemy. But I say this to you: love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you; in this way you will be sons of your Father in heaven, for he causes his sun to rise on bad men as well as good, and his rain to fall on honest and dishonest men alike. For if you love those who love you, what right have you to claim any credit? Even the tax collectors do as much, do they not? And if you save your greetings for your brothers, are you doing anything exceptional? Even the pagans do as much, do they not? You must therefore be perfect just as your heavenly Father is perfect.’

The Gospel of the Lord.    

Gospel Reflection    Tuesday,     Eleventh Week in Ordinary Time  Matthew 5:43-48

Unconditional love does not come naturally to us. We tend to love people when certain conditions are fulfilled. This even applies to the most intimate of human loves. In particular, we expect those we love to love us in return. If they do not, our love for them can easily wane. In the gospel reading, Jesus speaks of God’s love as a love without conditions attached. God does not only love those who love him. Rather God loves ‘bad as well as good’, those who return God’s love and those who do not. In this consists God’s perfection, according to Jesus. God is perfect in that his love is unconditional and, therefore, embraces all. What makes distinctions between people is how they respond to God’s love, the extent to which they allow God’s love to transform them. In the gospel reading, Jesus calls on us all to be perfect as God is perfect, to love unconditionally in the way God does, and that will mean loving even our enemies, those who would wish us harm. There are outstanding examples among Jesus’ followers of this kind of indiscriminate love. Such people are often to be found in the setting of war, [conscientious objectors, affected civilians] precisely in the context of being badly treated by their enemies. They are an inspiration to us. They show us what perfection, what holiness, looks like. They remind us of the good we are all capable of, with the Lord’s help, even in the face of evil.

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The Gospel reflection comes from WEEKDAY REFLECTIONSTo know the love of Christ 2016/2017 by Martin Hogan published by  The Messenger c/f www.messenger.ie
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