Author Archives: Paddy Banville

About Paddy Banville

Priest, Wexford, Ireland.

Trust life knowing that it’s Heaven breaking into our small lives.

Twenty Ninth Sunday.

Mark 10:35-45 “You do not know what you are asking… Can you drink the cup that I must drink…”

I can almost hear Jesus: Omg 😱 look at these two. They haven’t a clue what they’re asking.

Jesus could be alluding to the cost to himself of opening Heaven to us.

Remember if you ask God to hug sinful humanity it’s similar to you or I hugging the person who has offended or hurt us. For God it’s a similar emotional, psychological and spiritual experience.

But Jesus could also be alluding to how much it’ll cost James and John themselves.

Remember too that you and I share in the cup that Jesus “must drink” through the Eucharist and we share in the baptism that he is “baptized with” through our baptism.

Sometimes though it’s all just words! But the really chosen souls don’t just share in this cup and baptism sacramentally, at a distance so to speak; they share it in their flesh. It becomes their flesh.

Suffering is never a punishment. Never.

Sometimes suffering is intended to get us off the wrong road.

Sometimes suffering is intended to bring those on the right road even closer to Jesus.

But both have the one aim; to bring us to Heaven.

One point is very clear; entry into eternal life is costly!

There is always some level of suffering.

The suffering that’s part of life, aging, serious illness, bereavement – there’s no need to go looking for it because it’s just part of living – shatters our illusions and breaks down the ego. It puts jealousy, envy, indignation, the need to make our authority felt, all that stuff, the stuff that’s not fit for Heaven in perspective. Remember, envy and all that stuff, so much that’s part of our lives, can’t enter Heaven because it’ll turn Heaven into hell. Suffering breaks all that stuff down. It makes all that stuff irrelevant, unimportant, trivial.

As the years take their toll you’ll often hear it said: It’s easy talk to him or her now!

Life has built-in levelers that conspire to make us fit for Heaven.

We need to be able to trust life, especially all that comes uninvited, knowing that it’s Heaven breaking into our small lives and preparing us for big life, for Heaven, nothing more, nothing less.

Unteachable – no reason to believe Heaven views us differently!

Twenty Seventh Sunday.

It’s a tough one!

Bear in mind that it comes on the back of: “And if your eye should cause you to sin, tear it out; it is better for you to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell…” (last Sunday’s Gospel, Twenty Sixth Sunday).

Divorce and remarriage are an accepted part of life. To suggest otherwise is to be considered outdated and backward.

Yet here in the proclamation of this Sunday’s Gospel reading we are once again confronted by the teaching of Jesus which says that divorce and remarriage are not, and never were, a part of God’s plan.

Jesus turns to the teaching of Moses and in doing so he must have known that Moses allowed divorce and remarriage.

In keeping Moses in the conversation Jesus is firstly putting the Ten Commandments centre stage; and secondly, he’s taking the opportunity to correct the teaching of Moses which allowed for divorce and remarriage.

Interestingly, he doesn’t blame Moses. Rather, he blames Moses generation, the masses, from Moses right up to his day, about 1600 years of people divorcing and remarrying: “It was because you were so unteachable” that Moses allowed you to divorce and remarry. There’s no reason to believe that Heaven views us any differently!

Just about everybody seems to have expected Jesus to go with Moses teaching allowing divorce and remarriage – as most people do today – as evidenced by the disciples bringing the matter up again in the privacy of the house.

That Jesus turns to the Ten Commandments should not be a surprise.

He guarded the commandments carefully saying that Heaven and earth would disappear before the Ten Commandments. That’s a huge statement. But there’s more: “Therefore, the man who infringes even one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be considered the least in the kingdom of Heaven; but the man who keeps them and teaches them will be considered great in the kingdom of Heaven.” Matt 5:17

In placing divorce and remarriage in the context of breaching the sixth commandment (he actually uses the word “guilty” of adultery), in binding divorce and remarriage to adultery so tightly, and given his understanding of the place of the Ten Commandments in the working out of our salvation, Jesus is raising a red flag 🚩 here about divorce, remarriage and our eternal welfare.

It’s a tough one indeed.

What I haven’t dealt with here is Heaven’s understanding of the purposes of marriage and our everyday understanding – they’re very different and it will go some way to explain our difficulty with Jesus teaching.

But that too is another days work…

Jesus shock – cutting off hands and tearing out eyes!

Twenty Sixth Sunday

Who was this outsider that he’d figured out the significance, if not the identity, of Jesus?

“But he’s not one of us” the disciples complain.

He wasn’t part of the twelve. He didn’t have the benefit of sharing intimately in Jesus inner circle. Yet here he is, ministering in the power of Jesus.

Here we glimpse the wonder of the Father’s revelation which is always capable of catching us offside so to speak. The Father is full of surprises!

Jesus corrects his inner circle; he may not be one of us in the sense that he’s not physically present in this group, but he knows me… and that’s all he needs.

Essentially this passage is teaching us that Jesus is everything, that knowing and recognizing him is everything – not the group we belong to – and that giving a cup of water to someone just because she belongs to Christ is hugely significant because the giving of the water is really about the recognition of Jesus.

The recognition of Jesus is everything.

But then Jesus turns his attention to sin, to the power that is his absolute opposite.

That he swings so suddenly – almost violently – to bring up his opposite suggests he wants us to hear what he has to say.

It’s Jesus shock!

It’s shock tactics so he can get our attention – “thrown into the sea with a great millstone round his neck… cut off your hand… tear out your eye…”

It’s a shocking message, hyperbole obviously, but nonetheless a very simple message that Jesus really wants us to hear.

Do not sin.

Sin – without repentance – is the highway to hell!

Sitting on the low stool – suffering in our lives.

Twenty Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

We’ll begin and end this piece with Padre Pio.

Speaking about human suffering Pio said: “Jesus does not ask us to carry the heavy cross, but a piece of his cross, the piece that consists of human suffering.”

Suffering has shaken the faith of many.

Still does.

When good people suffer we question, we’re puzzled.

Yet Jesus always taught his followers to expect it, not to run from it, but to pick it up, carry it and follow after him.

It’s very clear that Jesus believed suffering to be an essential element on the path to salvation.

He even goes as far as calling Peter’s objections the work of Satan!

Jesus teaches that if you try to avoid suffering – the stuff that just comes your way, uninvited – which he calls wanting to “save your life” you will actually lose your life; losing your life here (in this context) means losing salvation.

Catch a hold of that! The refusal to carry the suffering you can do nothing about means the loss of salvation, the loss of the next life!

It’s a teaching that couldn’t be more opposed to the whole euthanasia and assisted suicide movement.

It’s a teaching that couldn’t be more opposed to the often voiced preference for a bullet rather than a care home.

It’s a teaching that puts most people offside!

Jesus goes on; if you embrace your suffering, seek to carry it for the sake of Jesus and the gospel (in the worldly sense “losing your life”) you’ll save it, you’ll merit salvation – heaven.

There is no resurrection for Jesus without the passion.

There will be no share in that same resurrection for you and for me unless we also share in that same passion, in whatever format it comes to each one of us.

In 1947 forty five people, most of them war orphans between the ages of four and thirteen lost their lives at sea, shipwrecked less than 100 metres from shore off the coast of Italy.

When Padre Pio was asked about the tragedy he replied:

“It would do you well to listen. There is a mother embroidering. Her son, sitting on a low stool, watches her work, but he sees everything backwards. He sees the knots of the embroidery, the confused threads. So he says: ‘Mother, what are you doing? Why is your work so unclear?’ Then his mother lowers the frame and shows the other side of her work, the fine part. Each colour is in place and the variety of threads is composed neatly and harmoniously.” Padre Pio concluded, “Down here we see only the reverse of the embroidery. We are sitting on the low stool.”

The demands of justice never disappear

The demands of justice remain into eternity because they originate in eternity.

Justice brings peace, harmony, calm, stability, balance…

But when justice is contravened there is hurt, discontent, distress, conflict, discord, peace is disturbed and sometimes peace disappears altogether.

It affects individuals and then reaches out into the wider community, sometimes a whole community or society can be disturbed, distressed, unbalanced…

This is how ghettos are created, civil unrest, riots, wars…

Injustice is a horrific reality that many people are forced to live with.

Injustice doesn’t fall on stones, it falls on real people, just think of the victims of crime.

Too often we hear their cries for justice.

When I do not honour justice there’s always somebody paying the price of my decision and my subsequent actions, namely the victim of my actions. From there the distress, the discord, the conflict moves outward and drags in family, friends, neighbours…

Why are we like that? Why is reality like that?

Because we’re made in the image and likeness of God. Because we’re reflecting eternity.

In eternity and in Heaven justice must be placated, satisfied, it never disappears. Where can it disappear to? Somebody is always carrying the demands of justice, always.

So, may I appeal to you, never willingly engage yourself in injustice no matter how insignificant it seems to you because sooner or later you’re going to have to pay the price, and if it’s collective injustice, we’re going to have to pay the price. The demands of justice never disappear, unless of course, some Good Samaritan like Padre Pio, or even Jesus himself pays the demands of justice for you, for us!

But why should they do that for you or for any given generation or generations? Why?

On clean and unclean or if you put theft, or avarice, or envy in Heaven you’ll create hell!

Mark 7:1-8,14-15,21-23.

22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time.

Things kick off over ritual washing before eating, and there’s mention of the tradition of washing after returning from the shops because they’d been “contaminated” by the people they’d mixed with.

There are some interesting lessons to be learned from Jesus response.

He doesn’t dispute their distinction between clean and unclean. In fact he accepts it.

Clean and unclean stand for Heaven and hell, being fit for Heaven or fit for hell, creating Heaven or creating hell.

But Jesus has a very different understanding about what makes a person clean or unclean, fit for Heaven or fit for hell.

It’s what’s in your heart that decides whether you’re fit for Heaven or hell and he lists the way-markers on the road to hell which are actually qualities that abound, and apart from the obvious like murder, he includes fornication, adultery, theft, avarice, malice, deceit, envy, indecency, slander, pride, folly.

What happens if you put theft in Heaven? What happens if you put envy in Heaven? Avarice? Malice? Deceit? That’s not Heaven, that’s hell.

You can’t put theft in Heaven because it’ll create hell, no more than you can put envy or avarice, or malice, or any of the qualities listed by Jesus.

Can you see why these qualities are way-markers on the road to hell?

And can you see that it’s what’s in our hearts that determines how God receives us?

We want God to do it all for us but it’s not like that. It’s what’s inside us that determines our future.

He advises:

Do not pay lip service to God. When you pray 🙏, pray from your heart. When you worship, worship from your heart. Otherwise it’s worthless.

Which begs the question: Mass and your heart; what’s the story there? If the worship of God is boring it’s because your heart is not in it!

He further advises:

The commandments and the law of God are more important than human tradition; more important than any human law.

Overall, he’s saying; if you truly loved God, if your heart was really in it, you’d know all this!

Jesus offers the twelve their freedom to walk away from him and his teaching about the Eucharist – again, no change there then!

The peoples response to Jesus teaching is: “This is intolerable language.” But what provoked such a strong reaction?

Whatever way Jesus delivered this teaching – which is obviously about the Eucharist – he left the people in no doubt that he wasn’t speaking symbolically, and he wasn’t speaking about signs.

When he’d finished his teaching they clearly understood he meant actually eating his flesh and drinking his blood and they found it “intolerable language” and concluded, “How could anyone accept it?”

Remember the reaction wasn’t just words, they didn’t just talk the talk, they walked away. They were clearly shocked, possibly even disgusted!

And Jesus didn’t even try to stop 🛑 them!

He didn’t try to stop ✋ them because the teaching he’d shared was the truth. He was saying “this is how it is in Heaven and I can’t change it.”

This is my Fathers will, that you eat my flesh and drink my blood; that you celebrate Eucharist. But we must celebrate it in such a way that we’re actually eating and drinking him – and the bread and wine are not signs or symbols but his actual body and blood, his very self.

Jesus makes no effort to soften his teaching: “Does this upset you?” he says, and pushes on trying to open up the huge expanse that exists behind his earthly body, the spirit that’s behind the flesh. “It is the spirit that gives life, the flesh has nothing to offer” he says. Yet we spend so much time focused on the flesh – and money too.

Then Jesus states that we cannot come to him unless the Father allows it. Once again we’re told that there’s order to all this, that not all are admitted to the kingdom of God – qualifications are required – that there are some who will always be outside it because they remain “lost” in their own flesh which Jesus says “has nothing to offer” – it ends in dust! This is Peter’s point at the end: “Lord, who shall we go to? You have the message of eternal life.” Without you, we’re just dust!

In the end, having lost large numbers, Jesus turns to the twelve; “What about you, do you want to go away too?”

Jesus offers the twelve something beautiful, their freedom, their freedom to walk away from him and his teaching about the Eucharist. Is it a reflection of how Jesus offers people today the same freedom to walk away from Mass? Are the people who walk away from Mass today using their freedom in much the same way as the people who walked away from this teaching about the Eucharist?

Have we changed at all?

People didn’t anticipate the decisive action of God – no change there then!

What always strikes me about Mary is the hidden-ness, the anonymity of all that’s happening; the unseen but nonetheless huge activity of God. Get that; on the one hand God is hugely active in human affairs, on the other it’s unseen. That’s something of the power of God, the genius of God.

Unseen and unrecognized for 9 months within the womb of Mary apart from the few, the hidden-ness of his birth apart from the few, thereafter the years of hidden-ness from new born infant to toddler, from early to middle to late childhood, from adolescence to early adulthood, completely hidden apart from the few, right up to his public ministry when he just launched into public life out of what seemed to most to be out of nowhere.

But it wasn’t out of nowhere, was it? The people were just in a different living space!

Then when he launches himself publicly – apparently “out of nowhere” – he is met by the twin responses of unbelief and belief, unbelief that varied from indifference to incredulity to outright and open hostility; and belief that was so slow to grasp the full implications of Jesus life and teaching. We still struggle to grasp it because it’s just so big.

But none of this was out of nowhere because for several decades God had been hugely active under the radar. That hasn’t changed!

Furthermore, it wasn’t out of the blue for some; some were close enough to God to have been allowed to glimpse at least something of the magnitude of what was happening. Nonetheless, such was the magnitude of all that Jesus was claiming – about himself and the “next” world – that the people struggled to grasp it. It was just too big for their little minds. This too hasn’t changed!

This is familiar ground because Mary has been hugely active in recent centuries just as she was in the beginning, and we’re every bit as unsuspecting. She’s been so – so – active but you’d never know!

Lourdes in and for the 19th century.

Fatima in and for the 20th century.

Medugorje in and for the 21st century.

Remember, these are not just places of pilgrimage – each was given for it’s time.

When all that Medugorje is prophesying begins to unfold in world history it’ll seem to many to have been as equally hidden in its preparation and as unexpected and dramatic in its arrival. It will seem to have come out of nowhere and the responses of unbelief and belief will be largely the same.

But nothing of all this will be out of the blue because it’s right here, right now, under our noses.

The only thing that’s out of the blue, out of synch so to speak, is the human ego!

So the sky didn’t fall when we repealed the 8th.

A recent documentary commented that the sky didn’t fall when a majority voted to repeal the 8th.

I was fascinated that such a comment was even included.

A car window sticker from the failed campaign to save the 8th Amendment

I have no doubt that we’ll pay a heavy price for abortion procured as a human right. It is more offence added to offence that God already carries. How much offence would you carry before turning? Why are you like that? I put it to you that you’re reflecting eternity. God is profoundly gracious but anyone who thinks that there’ll be no cost – that we’re freeloading – is delusional. We do not live in a meaningless universe.

Even mercy costs. Just try hugging the person who has hurt you. Recently I listened intently to a man sharing on live radio how he was struggling with the release from prison of the person who’d taken the life of his daughter. The man’s struggle illustrates the cost of mercy and is a reflection of the eternal, the sometimes crucifying cost.

The God-given answer to all that offends God – and the universe itself – is a single word; repent. Make mercy a little less crucifying!

The matter is much more nuanced than a distant God giving the order that the sky should fall. It doesn’t work like that.

Besides, if we could connect cause and effect as easily as the comment suggests – we repealed today and the next day, or some days later, the sky fell – we’d be devoid of free will and belief would be inevitable.

Christianity, like God, is incarnational. We are the weeds and wheat or the barren tree that’s cut down, or spared. The teaching of Jesus always becomes our flesh, it becomes our lived experience.

The best illustration of how the sky actually falls is found in the message of Fatima. Our Lady told the 3 children that if people did not stop offending God another war – a more terrible war, World War II – would break out.

It’s a classic example of how God works; three children who couldn’t read or write rather than the best minds of the time know where the world is heading!

There are roughly 20 years between the events at Fatima and the start of World War II. That’s 20 years for humanity to change – to repent – to heed the message of Fatima and prevent World War II, to prevent the “sky falling” so to speak. I suspect that with each passing year it became a little more difficult to turn back, a little more unlikely.

Fatima teaches us that we decide – the people decide – if there’s war or peace and it is determined by our relationship with the divine.

Fatima teaches us that the “sky falling” is generational, it unfolds gradually over decades, and perhaps longer, incrementally, just as World War II was many decades in the making and dragged several generations into its horror.

Fatima teaches us that the “sky falls” through human agents and activity, through cultural, socio-economic and political developments just as Hitler and World War II developed within the cultural, socio-economic and political situation in Germany and Europe at the time.

Fatima teaches us that the “sky falls” from within human history, that it falls as a result of the somewhat mysterious work of the power of sin, befriended and endorsed within the body of humanity; it teaches us that this unchecked sin, enfleshed in our history, was the real driving force behind Hitler’s rise to power and World War II.

Above all else, Fatima teaches us that offending God without turning back, without repentance, always creates hell, both in time and in eternity.

Ultimately Fatima teaches us that the sky does indeed fall.

Love is the standard by which God will judge us – but it is love of a much higher standard than we realize

Jesus has taught us that there’s a definitive standard – love defined as love of God and love of neighbour – by which we will all be judged.

But don’t be complacent about God’s love… and be careful of presumption…

Because this love is of a much higher standard than most people realize. Remember Jesus’ teaching that his new standard is higher than the old; love your enemies.

Or the widow who put in one small coin. She put in more than all the others although the others put in much bigger amounts… because she gave everything she had.

He’s indicating different levels of love… which correspond to different levels in the next life, in the kingdom of God.

When Jesus speaks about love he really means all-consuming charity, charity that no longer experiences even a hint of self denial. He’s not really thinking about romantic love.

So be careful… sometimes people use Jesus emphasis on love to include stuff that may be contrary to Jesus intentions; may be contrary. Some TV personalities are quite adept at this!

Here’s a good illustration of the inner dynamics of judgement; suppose I’m buying a car. For many it’s an ordinary enough event and few would even relate it to God. But for others it’s far from an everyday event. I could splash out 20,000 or 50,000 or even 80,000. What we do not suspect is that we’ll relive that choice – and every other choice – from within the standard of God’s love at the moment of our judgement; how did I love God and how did I love my neighbour in these choices?

In our judgment we’ll see what we actually did with what we had, and what we could have done – and much of it will be stuff that we don’t even connect with God, stuff that we might call “business” or “the market” or some other name whereby we remove whole areas of our lives from God, as if God could be excluded, but seeing what we could have done, but didn’t do, at this level – in the presence of God – is actually pure punishment.

So while we might think that a man or woman has been successful, that same success may prove their downfall at the moment of their judgement.

The criteria of judgment will always be; how did I love God and love my neighbour in my everyday choices and no area of human life, endeavour or enterprise escapes God’s attention.

Have you ever wondered why Jesus taught that the poor are blessed? Partly, because they avoid this responsibility and thus they avoid this kind of judgement. But that’s only part of the reason.

The bigger part is how success, more often than not, deceives and empowers our small ego lives into choking our need for big life, for God.

But that’s another day’s work!