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29th April – Feast of St Catherine of Siena

Yesterday I had another clinic. A blood test showed up that the chest infection is still active in my system. I put on a course of steroids and an anti-viral. Hopefully I can resume maintenance chemotherapy next Friday.

Catherine_of_Siena-220x354Today’s feast is for St Catherine of Siena, a co-patron of Europe and one of the great mystics of the Church. Here is a summary of her life from www.franciscanmedia.org

The value Catherine makes central in her short life and which sounds clearly and consistently through her experience is complete surrender to Christ. What is most impressive about her is that she learns to view her surrender to her Lord as a goal to be reached through time.

She was the 23rd child of Jacopo and Lapa Benincasa and grew up as an intelligent, cheerful, and intensely religious person. Catherine disappointed her mother by cutting off her hair as a protest against being overly encouraged to improve her appearance in order to attract a husband. Her father ordered her to be left in peace, and she was given a room of her own for prayer and meditation.

She entered the Dominican Third Order at 18 and spent the next three years in seclusion, prayer, and austerity. Gradually, a group of followers gathered around her—men and women, priests and religious. An active public apostolate grew out of her contemplative life. Her letters, mostly for spiritual instruction and encouragement of her followers, began to take more and more note of public affairs. Opposition and slander resulted from her mixing fearlessly with the world and speaking with the candor and authority of one completely committed to Christ. She was cleared of all charges at the Dominican General Chapter of 1374.

Her public influence reached great heights because of her evident holiness, her membership in the Dominican Third Order, and the deep impression she made on the pope. She worked tirelessly for peace between Florence and the pope.

In 1378, the Great Schism began, splitting the allegiance of Christendom between two, then three, popes and putting even saints on opposing sides. Catherine spent the last two years of her life in Rome, in prayer and pleading on behalf of the cause of Pope Urban VI and the unity of the Church. She offered herself as a victim for the Church in its agony. She died surrounded by her “children” and was canonized in 1461.

Catherine ranks high among the mystics and spiritual writers of the Church. In 1939, she and Francis of Assisi were declared co-patrons of Italy. Pope Paul VI named her and Teresa of Avila doctors of the Church in 1970. Her spiritual testament is found in The Dialogue.

Reflection

Though she lived her life in a faith experience and spirituality far different from that of our own time, Catherine of Siena stands as a companion with us on the Christian journey in her undivided effort to invite the Lord to take flesh in her own life. Events which might make us wince or chuckle or even yawn fill her biographies: a mystical experience at six, childhood betrothal to Christ, stories of harsh asceticism, her frequent ecstatic visions. Still, Catherine lived in an age which did not know the rapid change of 21st-century mobile America. The value of her life for us today lies in her recognition of holiness as a goal to be sought over the course of a lifetime.

 

28th April

Today’s gospel was Matthew’s account of the feeding of the five thousand with five barley loaves and 2 fish. This feeding miracle points forward to the spiritual feeding that will take place in the Last Supper and the Eucharist. Our Lord’s  actions in today’s gospel are similar to those of the Last Supper: “Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks, and gave them out.”

The following is an article from the last Catholic Voice about a Eucharistic Miracle that happened in Argentina during Holy Week. The article is followed by a link to another Catholic Voice article about a US diocese that is re-introducing the practice of receiving Holy Communion on the tongue and whilst kneeling as a way of showing greater respect for this great and Divine Mystery: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B-eChbWa9e_sYk9kZE16Y3Q5VHg2UjNodTIyb3JxNWlmbThZ/view?usp=sharing

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27th April

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

Gospel                                       John 3:31-36
The Father loves the Son and has entrusted everything to him.

john_baptistJohn the Baptist said to his disciples:

‘He who comes from above
is above all others;
he who is born of the earth
is earthly himself and speaks in an earthly way.
He who comes from heaven
bears witness to the things he has seen and heard,
even if his testimony is not accepted;
though all who do accept his testimony
are attesting the truthfulness of God,
since he whom God has sent
speaks God’s own words:
God gives him the Spirit without reserve.
The Father loves the Son
and has entrusted everything to him.
Anyone who believes in the Son has eternal life,
but anyone who refuses to believe in the Son will never see life:
the anger of God stays on him.’

The Gospel of the Lord

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Gospel Reflection                        Thursday,                      Second Week of Easter                                              

The gospel reading puts before us some very striking statements about Jesus. He comes from above, from heaven, and bears witness to what he has seen and heard there. He speaks God’s own words. God gives him the Spirit without reserve. God the Father has entrusted everything to his Son. All of these statements claim that Jesus has a unique relationship with God. He is the full revelation of God. That is why the reading ends with the declaration that all who believe in Jesus have eternal life, the life of God. Here and now they already share in the life of God which Jesus brings us. Eternal life is not just a life that begins after death. It already exists with God and his Son and it is received here and now by those who believe in God’s Son. Eternal life, this sharing in the life of God, begins now and will extend beyond the barrier of physical death into the undying life of God. The claims of the gospel reading about Jesus and about what he offers us take time to absorb, so striking and powerful are these claims. If what the gospel reading says is true then how we respond to Jesus, the one whom God has sent into the world, is of enormous significance. The most important decision we can make in life is to believe in the one God has sent into the world and allow that belief to shape the whole pattern of our life.

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The Gospel reflection comes from WEEKDAY REFLECTIONS: To know the love of Christ 2016/2017 by Martin Hogan published by  The Messenger c/f www.messenger.ie
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26th April

On approximately a daily basis I get an email with an excerpt from the CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH. (If you would like to subscribe free, send an email to mail@flocknote.com). This bulletin is of particular interest to the lay faithful.

  1. What is the vocation of the lay faithful?st joseph worker

    The lay faithful have as their own vocation to seek the Kingdom of God by illuminating and ordering temporal affairs according to the plan of God. They carry out in this way their call to holiness and to the apostolate, a call given to all the baptized.

    Further reading: CCC897-900, 940

    189. How do the lay faithful participate in the priestly office of Christ?

    They participate in it especially in the Eucharist by offering as a spiritual sacrifice “acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter2:5) their own lives with all of their works, their prayers, their apostolic undertakings, their family life, their daily work and hardships borne with patience and even their consolations of spirit and body. In this way, even the laity, dedicated to Christ and consecrated by the Holy Spirit, offer to God the world itself.

    Further reading: CCC 901-903

25th April – Feast of St Mark, Evangelist

st markToday is the feast of St Mark, the Evangelist. Here is the gospel of the day followed by a commentary from the Irish Catholic Bishops’ website.

Gospel                                   Mark 16:15-20
Proclaim the Good News to all creation.

Jesus said to the Eleven,
‘Go out to the whole world; proclaim the Good News to all creation. He who believes and is baptised will be saved; he who does not believe will be condemned. These are the signs that will be associated with believers:
in my name they will cast out devils;
they will have the gift of tongues;
they will pick up snakes in their hands, and
be unharmed should they drink deadly poison;
they will lay their hands on the sick, who will recover.’

And so the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven: there at the right hand of God he took his place, while they, going out, preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word by the signs that accompanied it.

The Gospel of the Lord.

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 Gospel Reflection                  Tuesday,             Feast of Saint Mark                                              

Mark was the first person to write an account of the pubic ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus. Up until then, the story of Jesus’ live had been passed primarily by word of mouth. Mark, in a way, produced a new kind of literature, what became known as a gospel. He was a pioneer, someone who blazed a trail, soon to be followed by the evangelists we know as Matthew, Luke and John. He highlighted in his gospel the failure of the disciples. They are portrayed as failing to understand Jesus’ teaching, especially when he speaks of himself as the Son of Man who must be rejected, suffer and die. They then fail him completely when he enters into his passion and death; all of them deserted him. Yet, in Mark’s gospel the risen Jesus remains faithful to his disciples. At the empty tomb on the first Easter morning, the women are told by the young man to tell the disciples to go to Galilee where Jesus will meet them, not to reprimand them but to renew their discipleship. In this morning’s gospel reading we are told that the disciples were preaching everywhere in response to the risen Lord’s call, and that the Lord was working with them. Mark’s gospel assures us that even when we are unfaithful to the Lord, he remains faithful to us; even when we fail, he continues to call us to become all he wants us to be.

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The Gospel reflection comes from WEEKDAY REFLECTIONS: To know the love of Christ 2016/2017 by Martin Hogan published by  The Messenger c/f www.messenger.ie
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24th April

Jesus-and-nico-2Today’s gospel is Jesus’ encounter with Nicodemus (Jn 3:1-8). It is followed by a commentary from Dr Micha Jazz of Premier Christian Media.

There was one of the Pharisees called Nicodemus, a leading Jew, who came to Jesus by night and said, ‘Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who comes from God; for no one could perform the signs that you do unless God were with him’. Jesus answered: ‘I tell you most solemnly, unless a man is born from above, he cannot see the kingdom of God’. Nicodemus said, ‘How can a grown man be born? Can he go back into his mother’s womb and be born again?’ Jesus replied:

‘I tell you most solemnly,
unless a man is born through water and the Spirit,
he cannot enter the kingdom of God:
what is born of the flesh is flesh;
what is born of the Spirit is spirit.
Do not be surprised when I say:
You must be born from above.
The wind blows wherever it pleases;
you hear its sound,
but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going.
That is how it is with all who are born of the Spirit.’

It’s interesting that Nicodemus approached Jesus in the night. I know for years I lived with a fear of being exposed as a fraud or for having got something wrong. Mistakes were big issues as I grew up. If something was broken then there was always a thermonuclear reaction from my dad. I realise many of my actions were dictated by my fear of both the reaction, and of carrying the blame.

I constantly lied about things I broke or forgot to do. And this became a habit that was only broken once I came to Christ. So like Nicodemus I preferred to make my discoveries under cover of darkness, away from popular gaze. Such a mentality misshapes how one lives life.

Nicodemus approached Christ in the darkness of his own confusion and sin. He was intrigued by this passionate preacher, yet was blind to the truth that this was the Messiah. All of us approach Christ out of the little we know. There is no shame in this, since at least we are wrestling with the darkness in search of the truth. Sadly as Church we tend to close ranks around the enlightened and leave all those struggling in darkness feeling uncomfortable and fearful of approaching Christ in their confusion.

One thing we note is the integrity of Nicodemus leadership. Aware of the responsibility of his office, he recognised that he must explore the movements and influences that shook Judaism in his day. Unwilling to remain constrained by and comfortable within his tradition alone, he chose to consider what God might be saying fresh into his own day and apply his leadership by working to serve the future of his people. To do so meant risking his reputation.

QUESTION: Consider the extent to which your spiritual security lies in what you know.

PRAYER: Lord Jesus, you are the way, the truth and the life. I seek you today.

 

23rd April – Divine Mercy Sunday.

divine mercyToday is Divine Mercy Sunday. In my homily I focused on the first thing that Jesus did with the Apostles after the Resurrection was to institute the Sacrament of Peace and Reconciliation: “Receive the Holy Spirit. Those whose sins you forgive they are forgiven; those whose sins you retain, they are retained.” This power to forgive sins has been passed on down through the centuries through the laying on of hands and the Sacrament of Holy Orders.

On a pastoral dimension, I expanded on the 3 elements that make up a good confession: Sorrow for sin, a firm purpose of amendment and making restitution. Making up for our wrongs apply especially to lies that injured others and taking what does not belong to us whether it be our neighbour (I cited the example of stealing a neighbour’s sheep), employer (taking sick days that we were not entitled to) and the government (tax or social welfare fraud).

I also developed the point of Jesus appearing behind the locked doors of the Upper Room where the Apostles were hiding out for fear of the Jews. We too can lock ourselves up in various ‘rooms’ through addiction, financial difficulties, illness, relationship problems or simply the accumulation of personal sin. Jesus the Good Shepherd who always seeks out his lost sheep will manifest himself behind our ‘locked door’ with his peace and help. He doesn’t do it directly like in today’s gospel but he usually sends a messenger. We need to ask for the grace to recognise such assistance and respond to what is offered.

We also had a Divine Mercy service in the parish. Here were some quotes from St Faustina’s Diary  that I gathered for the occasion.

  • “Jesus loves hidden souls. A hidden flower is the most fragrant. I must strive to make the interior of my soul a resting place for the Heart of Jesus.”
  • “The Holy Spirit does not speak to a soul that is distracted and garrulous. He speaks by His quiet inspirations to a soul that is recollected, to a soul that knows how to keep silence.”
  • “Pure love is capable of great deeds, and it is not broken by difficulty or adversity. As it remains strong in the midst of great difficulties, so too it perseveres in the toilsome and drab life of each day.
  • “Act in such a way that all those who come in contact with you will go away joyful. Sow happiness about you because you have received much from God; give, then, generously to others. They should take leave of you with their hearts filled with joy, even if they have no more than touched the hem of your garment.”
  • “Now, rest your head on My bosom, on My heart, and draw from it strength and power for these sufferings because you will find neither relief nor help nor comfort anywhere else.”
  • “O my Lord, inflame my heart with love for You, that my spirit may not grow weary amidst the storms, the sufferings and the trials. You see how weak I am. Love can do all.”
  • “Your holy will is the life of my soul.”
  • “And fear nothing, dear soul, whoever you are; the greater the sinner, the greater his right to Your mercy, O Lord.”
  • “Have great confidence; God is always our Father, even when He sends us trials.”