26th July – Ss Joachim & Anne.

Today we celebrate our grandparents in Christ – Joachim and Ann. To repeat what I said last Sunday, when we were baptised into the body of Christ, we could address his Father as Our Father. Particularly in the light of John 19:25-27 we can relate to Mary as our mother too. Thus Jesus grandparents (Mary’s father and mother) become our grandparents as well.

Joachim Anne

In the Scriptures, Matthew and Luke furnish a family history of Jesus (through Joseph), tracing ancestry to show that Jesus is the culmination of the great promises of the Old Testament. However we know nothing factual about Mary’s ancestry and parents except that they existed. Even the names of Joachim and Ann come from a legendary source [the apocryphal gospel of St James which was not included in the New Testament because of its doubtful authorship] written more than a century after Jesus died.

The heroism and holiness of these people, however, is inferred from the whole family at­mosphere around Mary in the Scriptures. Whether we rely on the legends about Mary’s childhood or make guesses from the information in the Bible, we see in her a fulfilment of many generations of prayerful persons, herself steeped in the religious traditions of her people.

The strong character of Mary in making deci­sions, her continuous practice of prayer, her devo­tion to the laws of her faith, her steadiness at mo­ments of crisis, and her devotion to her relatives —all indicate a close-knit, loving family that looked forward to the next generation even while retaining the best of the past. Joachim and Ann — whether this is their real names or not — represent that entire quiet series of generations who faithfully perform their duties, practice their faith, and establish an atmosphere for the coming of the Messiah, but remain obscure.

This is the “feast of grandparents.” It reminds grandparents of their responsibility to es­tablish a tone for generations to come: they must make past traditions live and offer them as a promise to little children. But the feast has a message for the younger generation as well. It reminds the young that older people’s greater perspective, depth of ex­perience, and appreciation of life’s profound rhythms are all part of a wisdom not to be taken lightly or ignored. Thus the Church in its teaching says: “The family is the foundation of society. In it the various generations come together and help one another to grow wise and to harmonize personal rights with the other requirements of social life”. (Taken from Saint of the Day, Volume 2)

25th July – St James the Greater, Apostle

saint_jamesToday is the feast day of St James the Greater. He was the brother of St John and, like him, a fisherman. He was one of the witnesses of the Transfiguration and one of those who slept through most of the Agony in the Garden. He was the first of the apostles to be martyred, being beheaded by King Herod Agrippa I to please the Jewish opponents of Christianity. He was buried in Jerusalem.

The corresponding gospel passage is Mt 20:20a.21b-23.25-28.

The mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Jesus and said to him, ‘Promise that these two sons of mine may sit one at your right hand and the other at your left in your kingdom.’ Jesus answered, ‘You do not know what you are asking. Can you drink the cup that I am going to drink?’ They replied, ‘We can.’ He said to them, ‘Very well; you shall drink my cup, but as for seats at my right hand and my left, these are not mine to grant; they belong to those to whom they have been allotted by my Father.’ 

Jesus called the apostles to him and said, ‘You know that among the gentiles the rulers lord it over them, and great men make their authority felt. Among you this is not to happen. No; anyone who wants to become great among you must be your servant, and anyone who wants to be first among you must be your slave, just as the Son of man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.’

TODAY’S POINTERS ON GOD’S WORD (based on http://www.jesuit.org.sg)

  • As you read the passage what words, phases or meanings caught your attention?
  • The only single phrase description given by Jesus of his mission is the above: ‘the Son of man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.’
  • Jesus explained to His disciples that to be truly great is to serve without expecting a reward.
  • Those of us who want to gain prestige, power and position in our service of God’s people will never serve in Christ-like ways, because Jesus came to “serve and not to served”. Let us pray for the grace of authentic and generous service of God’s people and for His greater glory. This may not always be easy given our fallen human nature, but we should keep trying to be more Christ-like.

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If you have time, the following video is a speech made by Senator James Lankford. He speaks about the inconsistencies between our concern for animal rights and the terrible deaths inflicted upon aborted babies which are ignored because the subject is politically incorrect. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7bYeLo0fASU

 

 

24th July – St Charbel Makhluf

St CharbelToday’s saint is Charbel Makhluf (*1828 +1898). He was born in the Lebanon, the son of a mule-driver, and brought up by his uncle, who did not approve of his devotion to prayer and solitude. He would go secretly to the monastery of St Maron at Annaya, and eventually became a Maronite monk and was ordained priest. After being a monk for many years, he was drawn to a closer imitation of the Desert Fathers and became a hermit.

At his hermitage he lived a severely ascetic life with much prayer and fasting. He refused to touch money and considered himself the servant of anyone who came to stay in the three other cells that the hermitage possessed. He spent the last 23 years of his life there, and increasing numbers of people would come to receive his counsel or his blessing.

On December 5, 1965, Pope Paul VI presided at the beatification of Father Charbel at the conclusion of the Second Vatican Council. The Pope said: “A hermit of Mount Lebanon is enrolled in the number of the blessed… a new eminent member of monastic sanctity has by his example and his intercession enriched the entire Christian people … may he make us understand, in a world largely fascinated by wealth and comfort, the paramount value of poverty, penance and asceticism, to liberate the soul in its ascent to God.”

A great number of miracles have been attributed to Saint Charbel since his death. The most famous one is that of Nohad El Shami, a 55-year-old woman at the time of the miracle who was healed from a partial paralysis. She tells that on the night of January 22, 1993, she saw in her dream two Maronite monks standing next to her bed. One of them put his hands on her neck and operated on her, relieving her from her pain while the other held a pillow behind her back. When she woke she discovered two wounds in her neck, one on each side. She was completely healed and recovered her ability to walk. She believed that it was Saint Charbel who healed her but did not recognize the other monk. Next night, she again saw Saint Charbel in her dream. He said to her: “I did the surgery to let people see and return to faith. I ask you to visit the hermitage on the 22nd of every month, and attend Mass regularly for the rest of your life”. People now gather on the 22nd of each month to pray and celebrate the Mass in the hermitage of Saint Charbel in Annaya.

 

23rd July – 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)

Today’s gospel is the parable of the wheat and the darnel (below). Here is my homily.

Joachim AnneWhen I was young, my paternal grandparents lived with us. It is fair to say that they were my best friends while growing up. One can have an entirely different relationship with grandparents – as opposed to parents – because they are not involved with keeping law and order.

As we reflect on the many positive memories we have of our grandparents, it is good to remember that we also have a pair of spiritual grandparents, saints Joachim and Anne, the parents of Our Lady. This comes from our baptism when we were adopted into God’s family. There we received Jesus as our spiritual brother, his mother Mary as our spiritual mother, and also her parents as our spiritual grandparents.

In today’s world grandparents have a vital role in handing on the faith to younger children. This is especially the case when the parents have given up the faith and no longer practice. The only chance that the children will ever know the Christian life is if the grandparents step in and do whatever they can to pray with them and bring them to church. In the newsletter there are details of a nine day novena to St Joachim and Anne that I would like to commend to all grandparents present. It begins this coming Wed, the feastday of our spiritual grandparents. [The details from the parish newsletter is given below.]

To return to my own grandparents, whenever one of us children did any mischief, granny would read us the riot act and tell us that the devil had gone into us. At the time we thought it was a lot of fun. I had an image of the devil as a little man in a red suit with a pitch fork and long tail. Many modern people have a similar cartoon image of what the devil is. However the bottom line conclusion of this view is that the devil isn’t real, like leprechauns and crocks of gold at the end of rainbows aren’t real.

On the contrary whenever Jesus speaks about the devil, he speaks about him as a person or an individual that really exists. One such example is today’s gospel.

The Son of Man sows the good seed of God’s Word in the world. At night time the devil comes and sows among it a poisonous weed called darnel. What we are left with is an enduring conflict throughout history between the forces of good and evil, the kingdoms of Light and Darkness. If the devil didn’t really exist, there wouldn’t be such a powerful presence of evil and darkness around us. Just think of the enormous evil present in World Wars I and II, the current Syrian War, the all pervasive drug culture that generates an ocean of misery for so many people. Indeed we are reminded to the presence and power of evil every time we tune into the daily news.

If the devil has convinced so many that he doesn’t exist, this has only increased his power in the world. We can’t really defend ourselves against an invisible enemy, much less one that we think isn’t real.

If you can remember back to last Easter, Jesus in the parable of the Good Shepherd told us his mission and that of his enemy, the devil. Jesus mission is “I came that they may have life and have it to the full.” The devil’s mission is to “steal, kill and destroy.” We can see that at work today in the attack against the sacredness of human life, especially the right to life of the unborn child.

Should we be worried about the devil? Well, we know that Jesus has won the victory over sin and death by dying for us on the Cross and by his Resurrection. Thus has he opened the gates of heaven and made eternal life accessible to us. All we have to do is to stay close to our Saviour Shepherd throughout our life. We do this by faithfulness to daily prayer through which we grow in friendship with the One who loves us so much. We stay close to Jesus by faithfulness to the Ten Commandments. These gifts of God tell us how to do good and avoid evil. Thirdly we avail of weekly Holy Communion and regular confession which are channels of God’s grace in our life.

In summary: Grandparents have a vital role in handing on the Faith to the next generation. Secondly, Jesus teaches us that the devil is a real person whose evil designs we need to recognise and defend ourselves against.

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Catholic Grandparents Association has as its motto “To help grandparents pass on the faith and to keep prayer at the heart of family life.” They suggest a 9 day novena to Ss Joachim & Anne (parents of Our Lady) which can begin on their feast day, Wed July 26. It involves this prayer followed by one Our Father, Hail Mary and Glory Be.

Lord Jesus, you were born of the Virgin Mary, the daughter of Saints Joachim and Anne. Look with love on grandparents the world over. Protect them! They are a source of enrichment for families, for the Church and for all of society. Support them! As they grow older, may they continue to be for their families strong pillars of Gospel faith, guardian of noble domestic ideals, living treasuries of sound religious traditions. Make them teachers of wisdom and courage, that they may pass on to future generations the fruits of their mature human and spiritual experience. Lord Jesus, help families and society to value the presence and roles of grandparents. May they never be ignored or excluded, but always encounter respect and love. Help them to live serenely and to feel welcomed in all the years of life which you give them. Mary, Mother of all the living, keep grandparents constantly in your care, accompany them on their earthly pilgrimage, and by your prayers, grant that all families may one day be reunited in our heavenly homeland, where you await all humanity for the great embrace of live without end. Amen! (Pope Benedict XVI)

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Gospel                              Mt 13:24-30
Let them both grow till the harvest.

Jesus put a parable before the crowds, ‘The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field. While everybody was asleep his enemy came, sowed darnel all among the wheat, and made off. When the new wheat sprouted and ripened, the darnel appeared as well. The owner’s servants went to him and said, “Sir, was it not good seed that you sowed in your field? If so, where does the darnel come from?” “Some enemy has done this” he answered. And the servants said, “Do you want us to go and weed it out?” But he said, “No, because when you weed out the darnel you might pull up the wheat with it. Let them both grow till the harvest; and at harvest time I shall say to the reapers: First collect the darnel and tie it in bundles to be burnt, then gather the wheat into my barn.”‘

 

 

22nd July – St Mary Magdalene

Today we celebrate St Mary Magdalene which has recently been elevated from a memorial to a feast. Here is the gospel and commentary from the Bishops’ website.

Gospel                      John 20:1-2. 11-18
Woman, why are you weeping? Who are you seeking?

Jesus Mary MagdalenIt was very early on the first day of the week and still dark, when Mary of Magdala came to the tomb. She saw that the stone had been moved away from the tomb and came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved. ‘They have taken the Lord out of the tomb’ she said ‘and we don’t know where they have put him.’

Mary stayed outside near the tomb, weeping. Then, still weeping, she stooped to look inside, and saw two angels in white sitting where the body of Jesus had been, one at the head, the other at the feet. They said, ‘Woman, why are you weeping?’‘They have taken my Lord away’ she replied ‘and I don’t know where they have put him.’ As she said this she turned round and saw Jesus standing there, though she did not recognise him. Jesus said, ‘Woman why are you weeping? Who are you looking for?’ Supposing him to be the gardener, she said, ‘Sir, if you have taken him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will go and remove him.’ Jesus said, ‘Mary!’ She knew him then and said to him in Hebrew, ‘Rabbuni!’ — which means Master. Jesus said to her, ‘Do not cling to me, because I have not yet ascended to my Father. But go and find the brothers, and tell them: I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’ So Mary of Madgala went and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord and that he had said these things to her.

The Word of the Lord.

Gospel Reflection     Saturday,        Saint Mary Magdalene         John 20:1-2, 11-18

In the long tradition of the church, including its artistic tradition, Mary Magdalene has generally been portrayed as the repentant sinner. This is largely due to her being mistakenly identified with the sinful woman who washed the feet of Jesus with her tears and dried them with her hair. There is no evidence to suggest in the gospels that she was any more a sinner than the other disciples of Jesus. [The gospels however mention that Jesus had driven from her “seven demons” Mk 16:9.] The gospel reading for her feast which we have just read portrays her as a woman whose devotion to Jesus brought her to the tomb early on that first Sunday morning. Her heartfelt devotion to Jesus also left her outside the tomb weeping tears of loss when she discovered that the body of Jesus was not there. She sought the Lord but could not find him. However, the Lord came seeking her and found her when he called her by her name, ‘Mary’. Like Mary Magdalene, we too seek the Lord, and, like her, we are also the object of the Lord’s search. Indeed, the Lord’s search for us is prior to our search for him. Even if we struggle to make our way to the Lord, like Mary, the Lord always makes his way to us and calls us by our name. He is the Good Shepherd who, having laid down his life for us, now calls us by name. In calling us to himself by name, the Lord also sends us out, as he sent out Mary Magdalene, to bring the good news of his Easter presence to those we meet. The Lord who calls us by name also asks us to be his messengers to others. Mary Magdalene, the apostle to the disciples, can be our inspiration as we take up this task.

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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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21st July

Jesus-vs-PhariseeToday’s gospel (Matt 12:1-8) deals with the observance of the Sabbath and having a right balance between the letter and spirit of the law. The following is based on the Bible Alive commentary.

Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction! A bizarre photograph has emerged of an Orthodox Jew wrapped from head to toe in a clear plastic bag, aboard an Israeli airliner. It is thought that the man belongs to the Kowhai, a sect that believes that they are descended from the priests of ancient Israel and must not come into contact with the dead, as this will make them impure. Rules on this are so stringent that even flying over burial grounds is strictly forbidden. Rabbi Youssef Shalom Elisha, leader of the Lithuanian Hared, who died recently at the age of  102, suggested that wrapping oneself up in plastic was an agreeable solution. Whether this story is a hoax or a practical joke, it is hard to know. What we do know is that the Kowhai and others like them take the letter of the law very seriously indeed.

In Jesus’ day the Pharisees were just the same. In the Jewish faith, the Sabbath is a day of rest, and in the Christian faith the Sunday is a day to cease from work so that we can remember God’s covenant love with us. The Pharisees tried to protect the Sabbath with rules and regulations ensuring that no work was done on this holy day, but these became so extensive and burdensome that keeping them overshadowed the goal of any religious rule – growing closer to God. The danger is that the focus becomes directed on keeping the rule rather than on our relationship with God.

Jesus’ confrontation with the Pharisees is a wonderful example of how he had come not to abolish the law but to fulfil it, and of how he lived by the Spirit and not the letter of the law. To help them understand he pointed to two examples of where the rule was broken to serve a higher purpose: the first was by David, when fleeing from King Saul in order to attend to the needs of his hungry men, and the second by the priests who served in the temple every Sabbath. Jesus declared that someone greater even than the Sabbath was in their midst. God incarnate stood among his people. The One for whom the Sabbath was designed was with them!

We must guard against an overly legalistic/law-abiding approach to our faith. At the heart of our faith is the Spirit and friendship with God. All law serves this.

Jesus, you continually reveal yourself in our midst. Let me see you more clearly and draw nearer to you every day.