Tag Archives: liturgy

A Lenten exercise inspired by St. Patrick.

Homily Notes. Luke 10:1-12,17-20

Today’s readings are about bringing Jesus and the Gospel to others – going out. The psalm captures it well: Go out to the whole world; proclaim the Good News.

Today’s Mass Preface tells us that St. Patrick did just that:

For you drew him (St. Patrick) through daily prayer
in captivity and hardship
to know you as a loving Father.
You chose him out of all the world
to return to the land of his captors,
that they might acknowledge Jesus Christ, their Redeemer.

We all need to be a little bit like St. Patrick.

However, I’m always amazed by our reluctance to be missionaries – by the ability of the baptised to place the Church outside themselves.

Why did he baptise you (he – meaning Christ)?

He wants you to be his missionary, his eyes and ears, hands and feet.

We need to get this – as God’s baptised we no longer represent ourselves and our own interests, we represent Jesus Christ and the kingdom of God. In every encounter, in every person we meet, in every transaction, in every detail of our lives you and I represent Christ.

IMG_0746We’ve got to take this call seriously – don’t wait for others, not even me!

So let’s do something really practical. This week, pick one day, and deliberately represent Christ in every detail of your day. Focus on it – you’re no longer just working for yourself or your employer, you’re working for Christ.

Say to yourself: Today, I represent Jesus Christ and the Gospel.

Second Sunday of Lent: It’s wonderful to be Catholic; I’ll make tents so we can stay!

Homily Notes. Matt. 17:1-9

Peter, James and John glimpse ‘something greater’

Of course, it wasn’t the first time. With Jesus there’s always ‘something greater’ to be experienced.

That’s our first lesson – the disciples are always in the company of Jesus, stuck to him, and in his company their hearts are opened out to ‘something greater’

Significantly, they climb a very high mountain before they glimpse this ‘something greater’. This too is instructive – if we’re going to develop spiritually it’s like climbing an interior mountain. But the higher we go the more beautiful and dangerous it becomes. Many don’t make it.

While on the mountain-top they glimpse another world, Jesus is transfigured and he’s talking with Moses and Elijah, two great men of God long since dead.

This suggests continuity. Jesus is the continuation of a line through history and if we care to look the line is marked by individual holy lives shining brightly in the midst of corruption – it’s not just anybody Jesus is talking with as he is transfigured! But do you seriously think the line stopped with Jesus? Jesus is the pivotal point, the line flowed to him and flows from him, to this day, and it will remain until the end of time a line marked by holy men and women shining brightly in the darkness.

Where’s the line? Wouldn’t you want to be a part of that line?

Peter wants to stay on the mountain top – he suggests making tents – but we can’t live on a mountain-top, we have to come back down the mountain.

When we have a spiritual experience it is grace that’s doing the work, God is doing the work, carrying us. At some point God is going to put you back down and say; now you do it, walk the walk yourself. If you’re really advancing he’ll put you back down and withdraw his favour for a time. If you survive you’re well on the way to becoming a Saint.

Of course, Peter is going to come back down the mountain; big time! In the face of the suffering and death of Jesus he’ll crack, denying Jesus; mountain-top to the valley of tears. It’s all our lives.

But at some point Peter is going to remember the mountain-top experience. At some point the memory will click-in and it’ll carry him through the valley of tears.

Which brings us to something that really troubles me. I have seen a massive exodus from the Catholic Church in my lifetime – for many reasons. I have also seen many peoples’ faith crumble in the face of difficulty and it leaves me wondering if the people abandoning the Church and faith have ever been to the mountain-top with Christ within their Catholicism, have they ever known ‘something greater’ within their Catholicism – if they had they simply wouldn’t be exiting!

No, they’d be saying with Peter, it is wonderful for us to be here, to be Catholic, we’ll make some tents so we can stay!

First Sunday of Lent: The temptations – throw yourself off the roof, God will look after you!

Homily Notes. Matt 4:1-11

The devil features strongly in today’s Gospel.

Notice his ability to take Jesus to Jerusalem and make him stand on the parapet and take him to a high mountain and show him all the kingdoms of the world … Interesting.

The first temptation – change these stones into bread.

Jesus replies: “man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.”

These are extraordinary words because Jesus has been fasting for forty days and forty nights yet he stresses that God’s Word is as important as our food!

So let’s look at our relationship with food because Jesus is using it to teach us. Most likely we start with breakfast, have something at lunch time, and something in the evening – and if you’re like me … it’s complicated!

How long do we go without sitting down to God’s Word? Could it be said by any stretch of the imagination that we ‘eat’ God’s Word?

We need to hear – really hear – God’s Word so that we’re responding to God rather than a God who is nothing more than our projection.

I’d like you to take a very close look at the second temptation. It’s the temptation to jump off the parapet – self harm and suicide – on the basis that God will look after us because God’s Word says so.

Jesus doesn’t deny that God will look after us – he says “you must not put the Lord your God to the test.”

The third temptation is just as interesting because it suggests that the kingdoms of the world and their splendour – the wealth of the world – are not in God’s control but in the control of the devil who is therefore able to offer it to Jesus and presumably others too.

Isn’t that very interesting – in a world where God is blamed for starvation!

Jesus answer is even more telling; life is found not in the pursuit of worldly wealth but in the pursuit of God.

Sunday 8 Year A: Try reconciling euthanasia or even abortion with this!

Homily Notes.

IMG_0955Matt. 6:24-34 That is why I am telling you not to worry about your life and what you are to eat, nor about your body and how you are to clothe it …

Suggestion: Read and re-read the Gospel.

Summary: Use whatever it is you have – your education, your business, your wealth, not for your own personal gain but for God’s gain on earth, and God will grant you everything you need.

Firstly, something that jumped out at me, but if you’re to experience it too, you’ll need to read and re-read this particular Gospel passage until the message Jesus is attempting to convey starts to take hold of you, and as it takes hold think about euthanasia or abortion and it’ll hit you – bang – they’re totally opposed to the teaching of Jesus and impossible to reconcile apart from Mercy. Please do try it.

Secondly, notice what Jesus actually says. He says, if I put God and God’s kingdom first then God will look after me. I suspect that most of the time we place ‘me’ first and God doesn’t figure too prominently after that, other than to deliver in accordance with our plans.

No doubt there are people who’ll hear today’s Gospel and think; what a fairy-tale! In fairness, even for believers it’s daunting. Mercifully, the passage is quite nuanced and easily misunderstood. Still it’s also somewhat reasonable once you accept the creator God and the person of Jesus Christ.

IMG_0757If God is (if there is a God) then there is an Order. After all He created everything – don’t let pseudo-science put you off, there’s nothing in science to deny intelligent design. You may be surprised to know that it was a priest who proposed the big bang theory.

The world is intelligent and it was intelligent long before we recognized it. It’s not human intelligence that gives intelligence to the world – no – intelligence is already there, before and prior to us.

Thus Jesus argues: look around you, the birds get by and they do not sow or reap or gather into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them, and there’s a beauty in creation that’ll match the finest clothes any day of the week.

Therefore we can forget ourselves because we’re part of a much bigger picture, because there’s an Order and an Order-er, and the Order-er hasn’t abandoned us, rather, He’s our Heavenly Father who knows we need to live.

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As Pope Benedict said so beautifully: “Each of us is the result of a thought of God. Each of us is willed. Each of us is loved. Each of us is necessary.”

Of course, Jesus is not suggesting that our livelihood will fall out of the sky! On the contrary, he’s suggesting that instead of educating ourselves and doing whatever it is we do for our own personal gain that we change our focus and do it instead for God and God’s advancement.

It’s a mammoth change of direction!

Love like Jesus – and get yourself in trouble!

Homily Notes

Seventh Sunday, Year A. Matt. 5:38-48

At first sight today’s Gospel seems very demanding.

Demanding might seem an understatement. Perhaps the immediate response of many will be; it’s impossible. It’s audacious in its demands; “offer the wicked man no resistance, if anyone hits you on the right cheek, offer him the other as well …”

Yet when Jesus begins to argue that if we do good only to those who do good to us and save our greetings for our friends (brothers) only, I think we can begin to see that he’s got a point.

IMG_0852There is nothing exceptional in doing good to those who do good to you or in loving those who love you.

When the words of Jesus drag us to look at ourselves in this way we can begin to see the obvious limitations of our goodness and by comparison the magnanimous goodness of God who “causes his sun to rise on bad men as well as good …”

Thus, here again we glimpse the missionary demand of Jesus, to move out of ourselves individually and collectively and to go out and always be charitable – even towards our enemies!

IMG_0850To live in this way is counter cultural. It sets us apart, makes us like a city built on a hilltop. You will never hear a Government minister or a TD* ask this of you. No media person will ask it of you. But Jesus asks it. Who do you follow?

While we might think that modern Ireland is challenging Catholicism, it’s actually not challenging Catholicism at all; rather, it’s challenging a poorly incarnated (lived) Catholicism. No democracy will ever present you with a challenge greater than loving your enemy or being as perfect as your Father in Heaven!

In the end we’re being called to love like Jesus Christ who gave his life, not just for good men, but for bad men too.

These words of Jesus open doors that’ll – if we pass through – get us in a lot of trouble!

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*TD – a member of the Irish Parliament (Dail Eireann)

Catholics are called to pure goodness.

Homily Notes

Sixth Sunday Year A. Shorter Gospel – Matt 5:20-22,27-28,33-34,37

If your virtue goes no deeper than that of the Scribes and Pharisees you’ll never enter the kingdom of Heaven.

Ouch!

Let’s hope the Scribes and Pharisees were very corrupt!

Jesus calls us to a higher – perhaps deeper – standard. It’s not just, thou shalt not kill; it’s thou shalt not be angry.

It’s not just, thou shalt not commit adultery; it’s thou shalt not lust.

Neither anger nor lust can be considered harmless; both can lead to serious spiritual bondage, to diminished freedom and to acts that are gravely sinful and sometimes criminal.

Thus Jesus calls us to purify our hearts – to remove all that leads to sinful and sometimes criminal behaviour.

A pure heart is nothing more than a heart – a person – who loves God.

Jesus’ final point about swearing and oaths calls us to the same goodness.

It’s not just, don’t break your oath; it’s be a person of such integrity that your ‘no’ means ‘no’ and your ‘yes’ means ‘yes’ and swearing or oath-taking is no longer necessary.

This is a breath-taking window-view opening out to show us the sheer goodness, the purity of heart to which we’re called and on which Catholicism is founded.

Indeed elsewhere in the Gospel Jesus tells us to be “as harmless as doves …”

Engaging with last weeks Gospel:

If last week Jesus called us to witness like “a city built on a hill-top” this week he reminds us that such witness flows from a heart that’s like a store full of goodness (a store full of goodness is how Jesus described a good heart)

If last week Jesus called us to be salt of the earth, this week we get a glimpse of how salt becomes tasteless – when we draw out from our hearts, not goodness but anger, lust, jealousy …

Weak discipleship means a weak Church.

Homily Notes

Matt. 5:13-16

To his disciples – to the fledgling Church – Jesus says; “you are the salt of the earth. But if salt becomes tasteless … it is good for nothing, and can only be thrown out to be trampled underfoot by men.” Strong words!

The disciples are to be salt of the earth.

So where would you find the disciples of Jesus Christ in our day?

Here, surely?

If the world looks at us and doesn’t see Christ’s disciples – well, something’s wrong.

If the people who don’t come to Mass don’t see something attractive in us – like happiness in IMG_0954our relationship with God – then something’s wrong.

When we received Baptism, Confirmation and Communion Jesus didn’t mean that it should be private like a lamp covered by a tub!

No. Our commitment to Christ is to be as obvious and attention-grabbing as a city built on a hill-top!

But if our commitment to Christ is not like a city built on a hill-top, if it’s not obvious, if it’s like a lamp covered by a tub, if we’re like salt that has become tasteless, if we’re ineffective disciples – the local Church too – becomes “good for nothing and can only be thrown out to be trampled underfoot by men.” Weak discipleship means a weak Church.

We are to be obvious attention-grabbers for Christ, my light, your light must shine in the sight of men – but notice the next line – so that seeing our good works people may give thanks to God.

Ah, now! Who would want that? Who wants to give God everything? Actually, very few! We’re terrified that there’ll be nothing left for us! What’s left for me? What do I get?

The raging cultural war in which Catholicism is being squeezed is actually about this question – is life about me, self, my ego, or is it about God?

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The answer is another day’s work – we’ll come back to it. For now I’ll leave you with an insight from Mother Teresa – “Many people mistake our work for our vocation. Our vocation is the love of Jesus.”

For love, a man or woman will give everything, even be prepared to die, and all our human loves – whatever the kind – are mere shadows, reflections and even distortions of the Love we really crave, the love for which we’re made. That love has a name; Jesus Christ.

So, open wide the doors.

The Presentation of the Lord

Luke 2:22-32

Homily Notes

Today I’d like to draw your attention to a detail that I find fascinating and indeed instructive for us on this February day in 2014.

When God became man He inserted himself in a particular religion; Judaism.

Thus we see Mary and Joseph bringing the child Jesus to the Temple to fulfil the requirements of Judaism. They were a religious family.

Indeed, Luke tells us that at the age of twelve years Jesus went missing and when Mary and Joseph found him, they found him in the Temple – where else? – “sitting among the doctors, listening to them, and asking them questions” Luke 2:41-46

IMG_0695Judaism and the Temple played a significant role in Jesus’ life. The Gospels reveal him moving between on the one hand, the Synagogues and the Temple and on the other hand, the sinners, the outsiders, calling all to himself as the fulfilment of Judaism – and nothing less than the light whom God has prepared for all the nations to see!

Although Jesus challenges the Jewish leaders, at times using very strong words, and although the Gospels reveal corruption within Judaism (take such corruption out and there’d be nothing of the Bible left!) Jesus never abandons Judaism but rather calls the Jewish people to fulfil their religion.

He affirms Judaism saying he has come not to abolish Judaism but to fulfil, to bring to completion, and with those who follow him he brings to birth out of Judaism the Christian religion which is historically Catholic.

Now I’d like you to see what I see – there’s an order to God inserting Himself in human affairs, it’s clearly bounded, and it’s far from perfect. In fact it’s imperfect, but God inserts Himself into it, and although there are clear boundaries, there’s a line through history, a particular people moving through history to this day – the People of God which is the Church, the baptized – there’s an open invitation to all people to enter in, to be a part of it, and to find Jesus Christ there, who doesn’t wait for perfection, doesn’t run away from corruption, but places himself in the middle of it and calls us to our proper fulfilment.

Remember, He is the light and a light is at its best in the darkness!

Gospel (shorter version) Matthew 4:12-17 The people that lived in darkness and who dwell in the shadow of death has seen a great light.

If I’m not mistaken Zebulun and Naphtali were the extremities of Israel at the time of Jesus.

So the light reaches to the extremities. It reaches out, which is what it’s doing right here, right now.

The point of Catholicism is that Jesus Christ is already our light. He’s not meant to be outside us, he’s meant to be in here (inside). This is the critically important journey that every Catholic must make.

But often, even for Catholics, particularly cradle Catholics, the light inside us is someone or worse still something else, someone or something other than Jesus Christ.

We have our idols! Money is the obvious idol, education can become an idol (note the recent comments by the Minister for Education), even our children can become idols! There are endless possibilities.

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Where God is not loved, idols are loved instead. It’s a basic spiritual truth. These idols or ‘lights’ are the real driving force within Irish life today.

Every person has such a light or lights. The light of my life is what gives meaning to my life.

So ask yourself what it is, what’s the light that you’re living for, that keeps you going?

Then ask; will that light ever go out?

Jesus Christ once remarked; what if the light inside you is actually darkness? What darkness that will be!

There’s only one light that never goes out – Jesus Christ.

Thus Jesus begins his preaching with a call to ‘repent’ – why? – because the kingdom of Heaven is close at hand. Get the connection!

In other words, repent, which means turn away from sin, from idols, and turn towards God, so that you may enter the life of God and find what humankind is really looking for in our idols.

If there’s no objective moral order Jesus died in vain! Second Sunday of Ordinary Time

Homily Notes

Gospel: John 1:29-34 Look there is the lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world.

How does Jesus Christ take away the sin of the world?

By taking the sin of the world to himself.

He’s innocent but he made himself guilty in place of the guilty.

So, let’s draw out the implications of Jesus as lamb of God.

There’s an objective moral order to which we’re all subject – otherwise why would Jesus Christ need to die for sinners?

There is ultimate Justice.

Because there’s ultimate Justice Jesus was tolerant only in so far as tolerance served repentance.

The guilty who genuinely repent and turn to Christ are free – He takes the place of the guilty. That’s redemption. It’s the only reason a priest can absolve sins.

Jesus was merciful rather than tolerant. Learn the difference. Mercy is Justice transfigured by Love. It requires ultimate Love.

Sin is destructive – ponder Christ crucified. It’s the most destructive force known to humankind.

If Jesus doesn’t take away the sins of the world – if we refuse Mercy – where will the sins of the world go? Where will the destruction go?

Jesus Christ is our future.