15th August – Solemnity of Our Lady’s Assumption.

assumption-murilloToday is of course the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The Dutch priest, theologian, philosopher and intellectual Erasmus, speaking from the Middle Ages and perhaps getting rather carried away with himself in a burst of love and veneration for Mary, declared: ‘No worship of Mary is more gracious than if you imitate Mary’s humility.’ Of course, we know that we don’t worship Mary as true worship is reserved for God and God alone. In old English, the word ‘worship’ depending on context could also refer to deference to a greater individual – like a civil leader or member of the judiciary. Some old Catholic hymns speak of devotion to Mary as ‘worship’ but strictly in this other sense, and in no way equal to the loving adoration and praise which is reserved for Almighty God.

Yet sometimes our hearts overflow with love and thanks to God for her and we venerate her witness as the perfect disciple. This is demonstrated in her humility as pointed out by Erasmus and expressed in today’s gospel: ‘My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord and my spirit exults in God my saviour; because he has looked upon his lowly handmaid. Yes, from this day forward all generations will call me blessed, for the Almighty has done great things for me.’ Humility properly understood isn’t anything to do with having a contrived low self-esteem. It is rather having a true appreciation of our littleness, God’s greatness and goodness, and our need for him in our lives – as reflected in the above quote from Mary’s Magnificat.

She was, however, much more than the perfect disciple: she was and is the Mother of God. Mary’s role in the Church is inseparable from her union with Christ which flows directly from it. Through her union with Christ she was preserved free from all stain of original sin and so, when the course of her earthly life was finished, she was taken up body and soul into heavenly glory. She was exalted by the Lord our God as Queen over all things, so that she might be more fully conformed to her Son, the Lord of Lords and the conqueror of sin and death.

Today, on this most holy and wonderful of feast-days, we are, in fact, celebrating the promise of our own resurrection from the dead. In the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary we anticipate, in some way, our own resurrection from the dead. Mary has, in this sense, gone before us, marked with the sign of faith. In the profound and moving words of the Byzantine Liturgy: `In giving birth you kept your virginity; in your Dormition [death/falling asleep] you did not leave the world, O Mother of God, but were joined to the source of Life. You conceived the living God and, by your prayers, will deliver our souls from death.’

The bishops at the Second Vatican Council, almost imitating Erasmus’ enthusiasm, said: ‘In a wholly singular way she co-operated by her obedience, faith, hope and burning charity in the Saviour’s work of restoring supernatural life to souls. For this reason she is a mother to us all in the order of grace’ (Lumen Gentium 61).

 

13th August – 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)

Today I travel to Kerry. Dad’s Month’s (actually 2.5 months!) Mind Mass is on Monday. I will return to the parish on Friday.

This Sunday’s gospel is about Peter trying to walk on the water, taking his eyes off Jesus and when he starts to drown, has to be rescued by Jesus.

In my homily I talked about having a similar drowning experience after my cancer diagnosis – not knowing if I was going to live, not knowing if my spinal repair operation would allow me to walk again, if I would ever minister as a priest again, etc. Furthermore my mind was messed up by morphine so I could not pray or reason things as usual.

In the midst of this drowning experience I received a letter from a past parishioner. I had counselled her in a similar cancer situation by giving her the image below. I said put yourself in Peter’s place and say LORD! SAVE ME! Then let Jesus say to you COURAGE! IT IS I! DO NOT BE AFRAID. Let him pull you out of the water and bring you back to the safety of the boat. This kind person was now returning the picture to me because she knew I needed it more than she did.

peter_walking_on_water

“Courage, it is I, do not be afraid.”

It worked! Daily I put myself in Peter’s place and entrusted everything to Jesus’ saving power. In time everything was sorted!

You might like to print the picture for your own future use. (Somebody in your circle should have the necessary IT smarts.)

11th August – St Clare.

Today was a clinic visit and I didn’t get the chemotherapy because my chest hadn’t recovered from the last infection. Hopefully things will be back to normal again in 2 weeks.

Dr Ruth Cullen of the Pro Life Campaign has launched the  ‘Give 8 for the 8th Campaign’. It is asking for a single, once-off donation of €8 to support the massive effort required to save the pro-life 8th Amendment to the Constitution. Since this was passed in 1983, some 100-200,000 lives have been saved according to commissioned actuarial studies. The link is http://mailchi.mp/prolifecampaign/update-terrific-response?e=5d6f51018f. If you don’t have a PAYPAL account but could donate with a credit/debit card, use this link instead https://www.paypal.com/ie/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_flow&SESSION=zkPB5j2Yg8smM1c1y4zx1IBebGjPsDx0v57PY7xkvHxoAgdVjf9nSQcHsN4&dispatch=5885d80a13c0db1f8e263663d3faee8d795bb2096d7a7643a72ab88842aa1f54&rapidsState=Donation__DonationFlow___StateDonationBilling&rapidsStateSignature=e261216dcf02864b02f16150ca151a2f148801fe. Bless you.

st clareToday is the feast of St Clare (+1253), the incorrupt foundress of the Poor Clare order and contemporary to St Francis. Given that this is a Friday, it is worthwhile to reflect prayerfully on what she wrote about Jesus’ self-emptying – leaving the inaccessible light of heavenly glory to come to earth and eventually die on the Cross to make atonement for our sins.

Gaze first upon the poverty of Jesus, placed in a manger, wrapped in swaddling clothes. What marvellous humility! What astounding poverty! The King of angels, Lord of heaven and earth, is laid in a manger. Consider next the humility, the blessed poverty, the untold labours and burdens which he endured for the redemption of the human race. Then look upon the unutterable charity with which he willed to suffer on the tree of the cross and to die thereon the most shameful kind of death. [As is written in the Book of Lamentations]: ‘All you who pass this way look and see if there is any sorrow like my sorrow.’ With one voice and one mind let us answer him as he cries and laments, saying in his own words: ‘I will be mindful and remember and my soul shall languish within me.’ Thus may you ever burn more ardently with the fire of this love.

10th August – St Lawrence, Martyr & Deacon

Today is the feast day of St Lawrence, a deacon of the third century Roman church who was martyred by being burned alive. Here is the gospel followed by the Bishops’ website commentary.

lawrence

Gospel                              John 12:24-26
If anyone serves me, my Father will honour him.

Jesus said to his disciples:
I tell you, most solemnly,
unless a wheat grain falls on the ground and dies,
it remains only a single grain;
but if it dies, it yields a rich harvest.
Anyone who loves his life loses it;
anyone who hates his life in this world will keep it for the eternal life.
If a man serves me, he must follow me,
wherever I am, my servant will be there too.
If anyone serves me, my Father will honour him.

The Gospel of the Lord.

Gospel Reflection   Thursday, Saint Lawrence, deacon and martyr   

Today we celebrate the feast of Saint Lawrence. He was a deacon of the church in Rome in the middle of the third century and was martyred in the year 258 under the emperor Valerian. One of the Basilicas in Rome, Saint Lawrence outside the walls, is built over what has always believed to be his tomb. In the words of the gospel reading, having served Christ as a deacon, he followed Christ to the end, being put to death for his self-giving service as Christ was. The image Jesus uses in that gospel reading of the wheat grain that falls to the ground and dies and in dying yields a rich harvest was, firstly, an image of Jesus himself. He was the wheat grain who fell to the earth and died and in dying yielded a rich harvest, passing through death into a new and fuller life and opening up that life to us all. It is also an image of all who would follow him. Jesus is saying to us that if we share in his self-giving love, if we die to our own selfishness, we will yield a rich harvest, both in this life and in eternity. Saint Paul in today’s first reading expresses the same truth. He first declares, ‘God loves a cheerful giver’ and then states that if we become cheerful givers, there is no limit to the blessings which God can send us. It is not enough to be a giver, Paul is saying, but we need to be cheerful givers. We are to share in the Lord’s self-giving love not grudgingly or as if under compulsion but willing and gladly, in response to the Lord’s abundant love of us. The church and the world need ‘cheerful givers’. That is our calling.

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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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9th August – St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein)

edith steinToday’s saint was nominated by Pope John Paul II as one of the patron saints of Europe. A brilliant philosopher who stopped believing in God when she was 14, Edith Stein was so captivated by reading the autobiography of Teresa of Avila that she began a spiritual journey that led to her baptism in 1922. Twelve years later she imitated Teresa by becoming a Carmelite, taking the name Teresa Benedicta of the Cross. Teresa Benedicta and her sister Rosa, also a Catholic, died in a gas chamber in Auschwitz on August 9, 1942.

Pope John Paul II beatified Teresa Benedicta in 1987 and canonized her in 1998.

Here are some quotes of St Teresa Benedicta.

  • And when night comes, and you look back over the day and see how fragmentary everything has been, and how much you planned that has gone undone, and all the reasons you have to be embarrassed and ashamed: just take everything exactly as it is, put it in God’s hands and leave it with Him.
  • The world doesn’t need what women have, it needs what women are.
  • When you seek truth, you seek God whether you know it or not.
  • The woman’s soul is fashioned as a shelter in which other souls may unfold.
  • Do not accept anything as love which lacks truth.
  • The deeper one is drawn into God, the more one must ‘go out of oneself’; that is, one must go to the world in order to carry the divine life into it.
  • Usually one gets a heavier cross when one attempts to get rid of an old one.
  • The motive, principle, and end of the religious life is to make an absolute gift of self to God in a self-forgetting love, to end one’s own life in order to make room for God’s life.