18th July.

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

GOSPEL
A reading from the Gospel according to Matthew 11:28-30
I am gentle and humble in heart.happy JESUS

Jesus exclaimed:

‘Come to me, all you who labour and are overburdened, and I 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 Gospel of the Lord.

Gospel Reflection    Thursday,    Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time     Matthew 11:28-30

When Jesus declares in today’s gospel reading, ‘my yoke is easy and my burden light’, he is saying that his teaching, his understanding of God’s will, is not something burdensome. Rather, his teaching is liberating and life-enhancing. If his teaching is received and lived, it lightens the burden of oppression; it brings joy. That is not to say that Jesus’ teaching is not demanding. We only have to listen to the Sermon on the Mount to realise that Jesus’ teaching is in many ways more demanding than the teaching of the Jewish Law. If the Law prohibits murder, Jesus prohibits the kind of anger that can lead to murder. If the Law says, ‘an eye for an eye’, Jesus says, ‘love your enemy’. His teaching is demanding but not burdensome. That is because Jesus does not ask us to live his teaching out of our own strength alone. He empowers us to live out his teaching. In today’s gospel reading, Jesus does not say, ‘Come to my teaching’, but ‘Come to me’. He does not say, ‘learn my teaching’, but ‘learn from me’. He calls us into a personal relationship with himself. It is in coming to him that we receive his Spirit, the Holy Spirit, and so are empowered to live his teaching and, thereby, to become fully alive as human beings. Jesus promises that here and now we will experience something of that rest that awaits us in eternity if we come to him and allow him to empower us to live his teaching in our daily lives.

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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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17th July.

Moses-flaming-bushHad a clinic today. All went well.

This morning I had a few homily words prepared for the gospel. However as the First Reading was being proclaimed, I was captivated by the call of Moses (see below). Moses was an ordinary man doing an ordinary job – looking after sheep. God calls him to be the leader of the 600,000 Hebrews (and become one of the great leaders of history) and lead them out of the clutches of Pharaoh, one of the great and powerful political figures of the world at that time. It was a task that must have seemed completely beyond his capacities; furthermore Moses had a stutter, not a great start for a great leader who would have to make impressive speeches, etc. It was not unlike me being called to be pope or perhaps one of you being called to be President of America. Surely God must have made a fundamental mistake?

When Moses questions things, ‘Who am I to go to Pharaoh and bring the sons of Israel out of Egypt?’  he is simply told by God:

‘I shall be with you’

It is said that God doesn’t always call the qualified but he qualifies those whom he calls. He is all powerful and he can exercise that power through our weakness when we are willing to cooperate with him. St Paul said “When I am weak [and low on my own resources and strength] then I am strong [because I will depend all the more on God’s power and presence in my life]”.

So the next time you’re a bit overwhelmed with life, remember what God said to Moses: “I shall be with you.”

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A reading from the Book of Exodus 3:1-6. 9-12
The Lord appeared to him in the shape of a flame of fire, coming from the middle of a bush.

Moses was looking after the flock of Jethro, his father-in-law, priest of Midian. He led his flock to the far side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in the shape of a flame of fire, coming from the middle of a bush. Moses looked; there was the bush blazing but it was not being burnt up. ‘I must go and look at this strange sight,’ Moses said ‘and see why the bush is not burnt.’ Now the Lord saw him go forward to look, and God called to him from the middle of the bush. ‘Moses, Moses!’ he said. ‘Here I am’ he answered. ‘Come no nearer’ he said. ‘Take off your shoes, for the place on which you stand is holy ground. I am the God of your father,’ he said ‘the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.’  At this Moses covered his face, afraid to look at God.

And the Lord said ‘And now the cry of the sons of Israel has come to me, and I have witnessed the way in which the Egyptians oppress them, so come, I send you to Pharaoh to bring the sons of Israel, my people, out of Egypt.’

Moses said to God, ‘Who am I to go to Pharaoh and bring the sons of Israel out of Egypt?’ ‘I shall be with you,’ was the answer ‘and this is the sign by which you shall know that it is I who have sent you … After you have led the people out of Egypt, you are to offer worship to God on this mountain.’

The Word of the Lord.

 

16th July – Our Lady of Mount Carmel.

Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity

Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity. The hand of blessing, the Cross and Dove are the signs of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit respectively.

Today as well as being the feast day of Our Lady of Mount Carmel is the foundation anniversary (1958) of The Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity (SOLT), the religious community to which I belong. One aspect of our spirituality is that of enrolment in the scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. The following is based on an article from the EWTN website.

A scapular is a garment worn by religious over the shoulders (scapula), and hanging down in front and back, usually to about the bottom of the habit. It developed as a practical garment, protecting the habit during work, and was in time invested with spiritual significance, consecration or dedication to God. By analogy to the scapulars of religious, there are also small scapulars which represent a particular devotion or spirituality, usually associated with a particular community. Such a scapular is two pieces of cloth (generally about an inch square), connected by cords and worn over the head. It often has a picture or a particular colour, depending on the spirituality it stands for.

The best known and most highly esteemed scapular, and the one most favoured by the Church, and by the Blessed Virgin in many of her apparitions (particularly Fatima), is the Brown Scapular of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel. It is adapted from the scapular of the Carmelite Order and represents a special Consecration to Our Lady under the title of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel. Those who wear it practice it a special devotion to Mary. In the past this was the Little Office of Our Lady, but today this can be commuted by any priest/deacon to the rosary. In addition, the person has a special entrustment of themselves to Mary for their salvation. Thus the scapular is a sign of being cloaked in Our Lady’s maternal love and protection like marriage rings are a sign of the circular/unending love of husband and wife.

Relating to Mary as a mother comes entirely from one of Jesus’ Last Words from the Cross when he bids the ‘beloved disciple’ to ‘Behold your mother’ and tells Mary to ‘Behold your son’. The Evangelist then tells us ‘And the disciple took her into his own home’. We know that the disciple in question is John but because he is referred throughout as ‘disciple’ and not by his proper name, we infer that he stands for all disciples. If we live ‘in Christ’ by virtue of our baptism and relate to his Father as our Father, then there is a natural common sense that says we should have some sort of proportionate maternal relationship to his mother also.

According to tradition, Our Lady entrusted this devotion to St Simon Stock in 1251 with the following promise to those who faithfully wear the scapular:  “Those who die wearing this scapular shall not suffer eternal fire.” This must not be understood superstitiously or magically, but in light of Catholic teaching that perseverance in faith, hope and love are required for salvation. The scapular is a powerful reminder of this Christian obligation and of Mary’s promise to help those consecrated to her obtain the grace of final perseverance. Any priest or deacon can invest a person in the scapular. After a scapular wears out, all that is required is that it is replaced with a new blessed scapular.

 

14th July – 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time (C).

Last Wednesday I commenced my new course of second line chemo. It consists of different versions of the previous first line therapy that have kept the cancer at bay for the last 6 years but are now ineffective.  The doctors will monitor my blood results to ensure that the new treatment will put the cancer back in remission. The new medication consists of a daily tablet to be taken for 3 weeks out of 4 along with another drug given as a weekly drip in the clinic for 3 weeks out of 4; this is accompanied by a (dose!) of steroids. The fourth week is free of treatment to give the body a chance to recover.

A week ago last Friday I mentioned a seminary friend Fr Eamon Murray who is now serving in Pretoria, South Africa. There are some photos of a mission station where he is. Another experience of the universal Catholic Church. (Fr Eamon is the priest on the left hand side.)

69361fc6-54b0-4d90-8ea2-8678b59e3daf46f0dd85-fdab-4478-b5b3-aec7977a47232fb54bd9-08dd-44ab-9a29-4b3e629ae2ba

Here is my homily for today.

Usually having lots of information is a good thing. It allows us for example to make a more informed decision about our options. The downside of lots of information is that in the midst of all the facts and figures, it may be difficult to pinpoint that which is more important from that which is less important.

We could spend a whole lifetime meditating on the rich treasures of our beautiful Catholic Christian heritage as found in places like the Bible, Catechism of the Catholic Church, lives of the saints, etc. But in a nutshell what is the core of our Christian faith about? In the question posed to Jesus today in the gospel: WHAT MUST I DO TO INHERIT ETERNAL LIFE? This is the all important matter.

Jesus good shepherd compassionateJesus supplies the all important answer to the all important question. It is the Two Great Commandments: Love God with your whole heart, soul, mind and strength; and love your neighbour as yourself. It is so simple and that is what we want.

But what is saving, Christian love? Is it the same thing as the Beatles were singing about in the 1960s: “Love is all you need”? The two types of love in question are probably quite different when we carefully examine them.

Christian love begins with the amazing declaration of St John’s first letter which says “God is love.” (1 John 4:16).The whole order of Creation shows forth God’s love as well as his truth, beauty and goodness.

In today’s second reading St Paul says that Jesus is the image of the unseen God. When we meditate on the life of Jesus through reading the Bible, praying the Rosary, Stations of the Cross, when we reflect on the Crucifix or the Divine Mercy / Sacred Heart images, we come into direct contact with perfect, divine love. We see God’s mighty love for us and are prompted to respond with gratitude to the great God who first loved us.

The early Church saw the Parable of the Good Samaritan as an account of Jesus’ saving mission to us – his life, death and Resurrection. The traveller who was robbed, beaten up, left half-dead is fallen humanity. This happened as a result of Original Sin when our first parents disobeyed God and turned away from his friendship and shipwrecked themselves. Examples of fallen humanity abound every time we take in the news, when we see what goes on in our local communities. We even see it within ourselves when we become aware of petty and selfish inclinations and behaviour.

The robber is the Devil which tempted us away from God and his goodness in the first place.

The two fellow travellers stand for man-made cultures and religions who have no power to truly save fallen humanity. A prime example is Communism which promised so much in theory but has only added to the sum total of humanity’s suffering.

Jesus is the Good Samaritan who is moved with compassion for the plight of the half-dead traveller – ourselves. The oil and wine that he puts in our wounds stand for the sacraments of strengthening and healing. We think especially of the holy Eucharist, sacrament of the sick and of course Confession which reconciles us to God after we sin.

The INN is the Church, a place of refuge and safety. In today’s world which presents such a skewed picture of the Church, it is important to acknowledge the immense amount of charitable work done by the Church over the last 2000 years – people like Mother Teresa, Nano Nagle, St John Bosco to name but a few. In many poorer nations today the Church’s charitable outreach is the only one that caters for the less well off.

So in this way, the parable of the Good Samaritan is an account of God’s saving love for us.

All of this should prompt us to respond to God with adoration, praise and gratitude. It should move us as well to be Good Samaritans to those who need our help by performing the spiritual and corporal works of mercy. In today secular age, I believe it is a spiritual work of mercy to give the witness of a committed Catholic way of life: namely that we pray daily, attend Holy Mass on Sundays and Holy Days, and live by the Ten Commandments. Opportunities to practice the corporal works of mercy can be found in the Legion of Mary, Saint Vincent DePaul Society and the Pro-Life Movement.

So in summary: As we continue or pilgrimage of faith this week, we should avail of every opportunity to love God and Neighbour.

13th July – Memorial of Our Lady.

This recent Daily Minute Meditation from FRANCISCAN MEDIA is – among other things – a commentary on Our Lady’s life. The first sentence which I have bolded points to the Wedding Feast of Cana and her intervention on behalf of the newly married couple.

love kindness

Once we allow the love of God into our hearts, we are able to live no longer for ourselves but for him, with heartfelt charity and in genuine solidarity with other men and women. The better able we are to renounce ourselves, the better able we are to follow the Spirit. When our identity is fixed firmly on the solid foundation of Christ, we begin to experience our humanity in all its richness. We are able to see in Christ the image of the invisible God, and we become aware of our own exalted vocation to be sons and daughters of the Father. The Spirit is willingly sent by the Father and the Son in order to unite us with Christ and allow us to see ourselves as the Father knows us in the eternity of his mind. We can become God’s children—now. We are adopted as sons and daughters of God. The Spirit imparts the graces we need in order to follow the example of Christ, to act rightly and do good deeds.

—from the book Inspired: The Powerful Presence of the Holy Spirit by Fr. Gary Caster

 

12th July.

sheep lambs -amongst-wolvesIn today’s gospel Jesus gives another of his nonviolent exhortations: ‘Remember, I am sending you out like sheep among wolves; so be cunning as serpents and yet as harmless as doves.’ Sheep among wolves are in mortal danger but they are not to arm themselves, form a militia, and become wolves among wolves. Jesus recognises their mortal danger: ‘Brother will betray brother to death, and the father his child; children will rise against their parents and have them put to death. You will be hated by all men on account of my name.’ Jesus’ followers are to try to evade their mortal danger: ‘If they persecute you in one town, take refuge in the next; and if they persecute you in that, take refuge in another.’ Furthermore ‘the man who stands firm to the end [in this nonviolent witness to the Kingdom of God] will be saved [eternally].’

Why did Jesus preach nonviolent love of enemies and practice it in his Passion and Death? A recent FAST FOOD bulletin (#9) of Fr Emmanuel McCarthy sheds light on this question (see blog of Fri 5th July). Here is an excerpt:

The saving act of Jesus[in his Passion & Death] is an act of a type of love which He recommends in the Gospels. The [divine] power which destroys all other [negative] powers is the power of love, the love of God revealed and active in Jesus Christ. God revealed in Jesus that He loves man and will deliver him through love and through nothing else. The pivot of the Christian moral revolution is love [‘agape’ – self-emptying and self-sacrificing love]. This love is the entirely new and unique feature of Christian moral teaching. It is not the center of a moral structure, it IS the entire moral structure.  I venture to state that in the New Testament an act which is not an act of [agape] love has no moral value at all. There is no moral action in Christian life except the act of love, the kind of love which is specifically Christ-like. The power of this love is seen in the death of Jesus [where he prays for his executioners and welcomes the ‘Good Thief’ into the Kingdom]; it is seen more fully in His resurrection [his definitive victory over the violence and selfish power-plays of the world].

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GOSPEL

A reading from the Gospel according to Matthew       10:16-23
It is not you who will be speaking, the Spirit of the Father will be speaking in you

Jesus instructed the Twelve as follows: ‘Remember, I am sending you out like sheep among wolves; so be cunning as serpents and yet as harmless as doves.

‘Beware of men: they will hand you over to sanhedrins and scourge you in their synagogues. You will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the pagans. But when they hand you over, do not worry about how to speak or what to say; what you are to say will be given to you when the time comes; because it is not you who will be speaking; the Spirit of your Father will be speaking in you.

‘Brother will betray brother to death, and the father his child; children will rise against their parents and have them put to death. You will be hated by all men on account of my name; but the man who stands firm to the end will be saved. If they persecute you in one town, take refuge in the next; and if they persecute you in that, take refuge in another. I tell you solemnly, you will not have gone the round of the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.’

The Gospel of the Lord.