Category Archives: Religion

The Widow’s Mite: Twenty Second Sunday

Remember last weeks Gospel?

Mk 12:28-34 Love God with all you’ve got – all you’ve got, and your neighbour as yourself.

Well this weekend – Mk 12:38-44 – we’re given an example of living the great twin commandment and an example of the failure to live it.

The scribes “swallow the property of widows, while making a show of their lengthy prayers.”

Jesus is clear; this kind of evil disguised as religion, evil hidden beneath a religious veneer will attract a severe sentence.

The Catholic Church has been under this kind of heavenly judgement for some time.

Let’s just check-in to the power of these words: “The more severe will be the sentence they receive.”

The power of words – severe… feel it… and sentence.

Moving on to the widow – she’s an example of living the twin commandment. 

She puts two coins into the treasury; everything she has to live on.

She truly loves all that the treasury represents, she loves God with all – all her soul, mind, strength.

“It’s not how much we give but how much love is put in the giving” as Mother Theresa observed.

There’s something else we should notice about the widow: She hasn’t been put off by the blatant evil of the religious leaders all around her, unlike the claims of so many today.

The top spot in the kingdom belongs to this widow and her kind.

Hell belongs to the scribes and their kind.

Most of us are somewhere in between!

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…

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.”

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.

Can we make any sense of our uninvited suffering?

Try to receive your suffering as a privilege, or as the Medugorje visionary Vicka who suffers so much herself has said, as a gift from God.

Try. It’s easer said than done! But it doesn’t have to be something big, it might be nothing more than having to endure several failed attempts to insert a cannula. Or an everyday difficulty.

Don’t waste your suffering as Pope St. John Paul once said.

We struggle to understand this because we do not have a deep connection with the person of Jesus, his life and teaching, and with the true meaning of Christmas and Easter.

We pay more attention now to mindfulness and various other spiritual practices – good in themselves… as far as they go – but we do not have a deep connection with Jesus born of Mary, the son of the living God.

Jesus born of Mary is Heaven torn open, exposed… the mystery revealed, waiting for us to jump in, he is God who came down, lived among us, attempting – and still attempting – to reach us, leaving us a rather detailed understanding of eternity, how it works, what it’s like, what to expect…

We have been formed by divine teaching… but you’d hardly know it. He has revealed so much of the mystery.

He taught us there’s a definitive standard – love – by which we will be judged.

He taught us that within this love there is ultimate justice and judgement.

He taught us that what we do to others we do to him… ouch 😣. Imagine the joy and the sorrow of that! Everything that happens on earth arrives into the heart of God.

He taught us that mercy costs, that forgiving an offense and embracing an offender is painful 😓. On a universal scale he illustrated this on the Cross.

Every time God forgives, the struggle and the suffering of the Cross continues… until the end of time.

Every sin creates a piece of hell on earth.

Every time there’s love – true love – the resurrection continues to happen on earth.

How much sin – offensive hurt – can a person endure before he turns? How much could you endure? Now apply the question to God.

For example, abortion alone – executed as a human right and which the majority have now decided is our choice – is horrendous suffering in the heart of God, beyond all human imagining.

Still, God remains gracious. It is grace beyond all human comprehension – a love so merciful that it astonishes even the angels – that prevents God turning, that prevents the partial and even the complete destruction of the earth 🌍.

At times it is Our Lady who is holding the line which is why she’s repeatedly asking for prayer and sacrifice – help me here! Sacrifice has a similar value to suffering in Heaven – provided each is freely offered.

The earth survives through the pure graciousness of God – but do not underestimate the cost.

When suffering comes our way we are given the opportunity to work intimately with God in the work of salvation, in sharing the burden of saving humankind.

When that suffering is borne or carried out of love for the Saviour – I want to help you Lord because I love you – we’re already well advanced in the communion of saints.

Sadly, for many it’s the deep connection with Jesus that’s missing when suffering comes our way and we’re left “like sheep without a shepherd…”

Hired men – the problem with Christianity!

Imagine the criminal being sentenced for a crime.

The more shocking the crime the more it will help us to grasp the full force of God’s love and the true meaning of mercy.

The hired man on hearing sentence pronounced is likely to add; “and I hope they throw away the key!”

The Good Shepherd takes the place of the guilty prisoner!

The good shepherd on the other hand stands before the judge and doesn’t plead for leniency or mitigation but rather offers himself – his life – to take the place of the guilty prisoner and serve the time on his behalf.

The hired man simply runs away. The good shepherd lays down his life.

This image also helps to explain the difference between our understanding of mercy and God’s understanding.

Our understanding is little more than mitigation, leniency, a lighter sentence whereas Gods understanding is paying the full price on behalf of another.

The pain and the price of injustice, of mercy, do not disappear magically, rather it is always being absorbed in human flesh and ultimately in the Godhead – there are no short-cuts.

So what do you think; are you more hired man or good shepherd? I think I’m more hired man!

Finally, the image helps to explain the difference between a job and a vocation.