Author Archives: Paddy Banville

About Paddy Banville

Priest, Wexford, Ireland.

Human imperceptibility – the sign of God’s greatness

John expects… anticipates…

For John what is about to unfold – God in Jesus – is decisive.

John’s Jesus clearly carries a threat.

“Brood of vipers, who warned you to fly from the retribution that is coming?”

“Even now the axe is laid to the tree so that any tree which fails to produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown on the fire.”🔥

“His winnowing fan is in his hand, he will clear his threshing floor…”

So how did this threat unfold in real life back then?

How did this “retribution” as John calls it unfold?

How was the tree cut down and thrown on the fire? Bearing in mind that we’re not really talking about a tree but about real people whom the tree represents – a people to be cut down and thrown on the fire.

How was the wheat separated from the chaff in the lived experience of the people back then? In their history?

I’d say they hardly noticed it happening or that it had happened… and that’s my point!

So, while the language and the images are strong, at times scathing, the threat unfolded in the lives of the people very gently, almost imperceptibly.

In fact it was so gentle that many probably didn’t even realize that it had happened!

This human imperceptibility is one of the signs of God’s greatness.

What happened was that they missed the significance of Jesus… they didn’t connect with him… they didn’t grasp his identity. He went over their heads so to speak.

They just went on doing what they had always been doing.

And in so many places… spaces… hearts and minds… the same pattern will reemerge this coming Christmas.

But God will have been and gone!

Indeed, the kingdom of God is always close at hand.

Finally… empty pews and empty churches – a sign of the death of religion or a people being cut down and thrown on the fire?

Do you really think that God is no longer active?

There’s only one response to that 😂🤣😂🤣😂🤣

Wild super-abundance; the mark of God

Thirty-first Sunday

Lk 19: 1-10 Zacchaeus

The mark of God is super-abundance.

Call it mercy if you like, but it’s an outrageous and wild super-abundance.

God is not mean and the person truly touched by God is not mean because to be touched by God is to be touched by wild super-abundance.

So when Zacchaeus is touched by God he cannot help but respond super-abundantly… if he’s cheated anybody he commits to paying him back four times the amount. Four times!

This wild super-abundance is the sign of God’s presence, the guarantee that where God was once absent from Zacchaeus’ life, he is most definitely now present.

Is there any sign of this wild super-abundance in our lives?

Pray without losing heart!

Twenty-ninth Sunday

Lk 18: 1-8 The unscrupulous judge and the importunate widow

Whatever we receive from God is received in prayer 🙏

This is is also true of Mary the Mother of God, whatever Mary receives from God she receives through prayer.*

It is impossible to receive from God in any other way.

The more prayer, the more we receive which in turn nourishes the heart’s desire to pray and prevents us “losing heart”

Not losing heart seems critical… because if we lose heart we’re likely to give up prayer and this leads to the death of faith; “But when the Son of Man comes, will he find any faith on earth?”

We can conclude that prayer is the life of faith and the absence of prayer is the death of faith.

*Whatever Mary seeks and receives from God will always be for us, for humanity.

Perverting the holy – an ever present danger ⚠️

Thirtieth Sunday

Luke 18:9-14 The tax collector, not the Pharisee, went home justified

We are privy to the pharisees inner world and so we’re able to see him as God sees him.

He’s using other people, people whom he views as beneath him, to make himself feel good but – and this is what makes it so much worse – he’s doing it by using the holy, by using the Ten Commandments, by using God.

So the ego remains unconverted and in fact the ego is converting (perverting) the holy to suit itself.

From the very beginning this perversion of the holy has been an ever present danger ⚠️ within Christianity – and too often a very real one.

And in the sight of God what he’s doing amounts to abusing the holy, abusing the Commandments and abusing God.

God lives as the ego dies!

Did you notice that the Pharisee said his prayer to himself… it never reached God!

He believes he’s a step above the tax collector.

It happens!

So when you pray, or when you’re here and take a glance sideways, do you ever think you’re a step above somebody else?

Well if you do… then you can be sure that you’re praying to yourself, and not to God – in a relationship with your own ego but not with God!

God lives as the ego dies!

The ten lepers and glorious human need – the beginning of conversion

There’s so, so much going on in this piece, apart from simple gratitude.

Jews and Samaritans were enemies and each justified despising and hating the other for political and religious reasons.

So all around there’s dislike, hatred, and division.

There’s another ingredient too – both Jew and Samaritan considered leprosy to be God’s punishment for sin so the lepers were rejected for religious reasons – and obviously on health grounds.

But leprosy introduced an additional fear factor.

So there’s so much in the air as Jesus walks along the border; dislike, hatred, division and fear, indeed terror, the terror of countracting leprosy.

Even the geography is noteworthy, Jesus is walking along the border between the two feuding tribes, Jews on one side, Samaritans on the other, and lepers approach him. This is coming to a head!

He tells the ten to show themselves to the priests. They’re not healed immediately but only as they’re going away. There’s an element of trust as they turn to go find the priests… but is it hope or faith or a bit of both that motivates the ten to keep going? It’s likely they’d try almost anything to be healed so they may be some way from faith at this stage. But something is stirring even if it’s only human need. Glorious human need… the beginning of conversion.

In sending the ten to the priests Jesus is putting it up to the priests; who am I? Take a look – the lepers are healed. Decide about me.

And at least one of the ten newly healed lepers is a Samaritan… ouch 😓… so the leper colony contains both Jew and Samaritan. Isn’t it remarkable that leprosy could unite Jews and Samaritans but in health they were divided and justified that divide by using God?

Jesus is having none of it!

Finding himself cured, the Samaritan leper returns and throws himself at the feet of Jesus. This is an act of adoration due only to God. It’s worship. It’s more than gratitude. Jesus says, “stand up… your faith has saved you!” This is an absolute insult to the Jews!

But what about the other nine? They heard nothing about being saved. Were they healed but not saved?

Yes, it seems just one of the ten healed lepers reached faith.

There’s more Christianity in the dog!

Twenty-sixth Sunday

Luke: 16:19-31 The rich man and Lazarus

Look at the dog – I’m loving 🥰 that dog.

He’s everything a Christian should be.

He rambles up to Lazarus, he has time, he’s not in a rush, he doesn’t pass him by, he doesn’t ignore him, he rambles over to him and licks his sores, he spends time with Lazarus.

A dogs lick is friendly… he likes you… not to mention the age-old belief that a dogs lick is healing ❤️‍🩹

In human terms it’s the equivalent of sitting down at the gate with Lazarus and putting your arm around him.

And even if the roles were somehow reversed, if the rich man was the one sitting at the gate, the dog wouldn’t pass him either… it’d make no difference to the dog whether it was Lazarus or the rich man… he wouldn’t discriminate between rich and poor.

There’s so much Christianity in the dog!

If we could all be more like the dog perhaps 🤔 we’d create Heaven on earth!

Jesus says we over-estimate our faith and goodness – with a nod to Peter Kreeft

Twenty-seventh Sunday

Luke 17:5-10

What are we to make of that?

Two things.

Even though the apostles ask Jesus to increase their faith they’re still over-estimating the size of the faith that they do have. They think they have faith but Jesus raises the bar, he raises the standard; “were your faith the size of a mustard seed you could say to this tree, be uprooted and planted in the sea, and it would obey you.” Jesus is telling them that their faith is not even the size of a mustard seed!

In the second piece they’re over estimating their goodness. So Jesus tells the story of the servant who having worked hard all day in the fields is then expected to make himself tidy, lay his master’s supper and wait on him before he eats himself… and he is then required to say; no big deal, I’m merely a servant. Again he’s raising the standard… it feels like injustice.

All this means:

If we stroll up to Heaven thinking that we’ve both faith and goodness “to beat the band” we’ll be in trouble because God’s standard is so much higher.

If we approach Heaven humbly, relying on Gods mercy rather than our sense of our faith and goodness – which is almost always inflated and an expression of the human ego – we’ll have a much better chance of gaining entry.

Ouch 🤕 the standard of judgement is high!

Twenty-second Sunday

Luke 14:7-14

Once again Jesus uses something very ordinary to teach us about Heaven.

This time he’s observing people at a dinner.

So he takes just that – people at a dinner – and he uses it to describe Heaven.

Heaven is like a wedding feast.

Insights like this – and Jesus supplies so many – are useful in helping us address the mystery of death. Jesus is saying that what comes after death is like a wedding feast.

What else is he telling us about Heaven?

He tells us that in God’s presence, in Heaven, we are merely guests.

Guests don’t decide where they sit!

This is the real force of the teaching – we ought not presume that we know our place or that we’re already in!

The best bet is humility. Besides there’s only humility in God’s presence. Nothing else can exist there.

It will be our host – God – who’ll decide where we sit. In other words there’s judgment. My friend move up higher or to our embarrassment, we are moved to a lower or even the lowest place.

But it’s the piece about inviting guests who can’t pay us back that really puts the knife in!

Here we’re given the standard that God will use to determine where we’ll be sitting!

Ouch!🤕

The only disciple is a tough disciple!

Twenty-third Sunday

Luke 13: 25-33

Great crowds accompany Jesus.

But Jesus turns and says stuff that could easily drive them away!

Why though, why did Jesus do that?

Because he knows us too well and he knows that life itself will break the faith of many… so he urges caution ⚠️

We’re all familiar with people who’ve fallen out with God because of some suffering or loss, the death of a loved one, yes?

Often, we’re rattled ourselves.

When he tells the story of a man who started to build but couldn’t finish he’s talking about us, about that struggle, specifically about all who fall away.

When he talks about a man who marched out to war with 10,000 men without considering if he could stand up to the other advancing against him with 20,000 men he’s talking about us, about that struggle, specifically about all who fall away – the 20,000 men being life, cancer, diseases of one kind or another, disappointment, the tough stuff… and even the soft stuff, like our love of money, possessions.

And what’s really happening when we fall out with God because of some suffering or death, because of the tough stuff?

According to Jesus we’ve put ourselves or our loved ones before Jesus. There’s the knife!

Jesus understood that we’re inclined to think that God will somehow spare us suffering if we’re good and he knew this is nonsense, a recipe for disaster.

So when he saw the crowds he tried to warn them.

He’s just turned to you now and done the same!