Tag Archives: religion

The future of the church and the world is hidden in plain sight – in the life and teaching of Jesus

Firstly, I want you to understand that the decline of the church is itself an example of Jesus own teaching, eg, Matt 5:13, “…if salt becomes tasteless, what can make it salty again? It is good for nothing, and can only be thrown out to be trampled underfoot by men.”

This is what has happened to the Catholic Church in our time. The fall of the Catholic Church in Ireland is this teaching of Jesus – and many similar teachings – made flesh in our time. This is intended to teach us, all of us, people inside and outside the church about the consequences of ignoring the teaching of Jesus.

I want you to grasp this – the teaching of Jesus is always made flesh, it becomes our lived experience.

This is not just true in the church but also in the world; any decline in the human-divine relationship – unchecked – will always result in a time of decline which in turn leads to a time of suffering for humanity through real historical events. This is the reason Jesus begins his ministry; repent! For example, according to the message of Fatima, World War II was one such event. Bear in mind the message of Fatima was saying this twenty years before the actual event. In our time Medugorje is flagging similar warnings concerning our future.

Secondly, I want you to understand that there will also be gracious acts of God that will reverse the decline.

I don’t know how far the decline will go before this begins to happen. For example, I do not know how many parishes will close, how many congregations will die out before it happens. But when it does happen, it’ll be dramatic and rapid, in a matter of days… quite suddenly there’ll be queues for Baptism and Confession.

At this point – on this July day 2021 – the Divine correction of the church is well advanced but the correction of the world is only in its very early stages. The church first because in the mind of God the church – the gathering of his disciples – should be the yeast in the dough that is the world, but when the yeast is off, well, then it has to be fixed – and fixed first. Then the dough. Again, the teaching of Jesus is being made flesh, it is becoming our lived experience.

Corpus Christi and Fatima; the centrality of Mass in God’s design.

Corpus Christi: the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ. The whole mystery of God – from Christmas to Easter and beyond – packaged and given to us to be opened… plundered.

This is how God becomes ‘concrete’ in time, how he becomes personal, how he enters our lives…

This then is the big one!

But unfortunately for us (and it will be unfortunate!) in our day we’ve lost the importance of Mass. So, during the week I gave some thought to how I might register the cosmic significance of the Mass – even that’s understating it! Eventually I settled on using the events in Fatima to stress the centrality of the Mass in God’s design.

There’s a little known detail about Fatima that is so instructive in this regard. Shortly before the appearances of Our Lady in Fatima in 1917 an angel appeared to the three children. But the angel didn’t come empty handed.

The angel carried a host and a chalice in his hands… blood spilled from the host into theAngel of Fatima Image chalice. The children instantly recognized the host and the chalice as the central elements of the Mass.

Let’s stop at this point to reflect.

Why didn’t the angel bring a can of coke and a packet of crisps? Why not a glass of beer and a steak burger from the BBQ?

Then the angel did something even more instructive. Leaving the host and the chalice suspended in mid-air, the angel prostrated himself (bowed down before) the suspended host and chalice, taught the children to do the same, on their knees with their foreheads touching the ground and taught them a prayer.

Let’s stop again.

Why didn’t the angel say they should surf the waves on a Sunday morning and find God there? Or climb a mountain? Or go for a walk or a 10 kilometre run?

Why? Because God has chosen the way in which he gives himself – in bread and wine, the Mass!

Let’s look at the prayer, it’s equally instructive.

Most Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, I adore you profoundly. I offer you the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ present in all the tabernacles of the world, in reparation for all the outrages, sacrileges and indifference by which you are offended. Through the infinite merits of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary I beg the conversion of poor sinners.

“Holy Trinity” (last Sunday); “Body and Blood… present in all the tabernacles” (today, Corpus Christi); “Sacred Heart” (next Friday) – there’s reason to these things, order!

Of all the prayers the angel could have taught, why this prayer?

The immediate purpose of Fatima was to prevent World War II – Our Lady told the children in 1917 that if people didn’t stop offending God a more terrible war would break out…

There’s a basic spiritual principle to be extracted here – the rejection of God (in other words the acceptance of sin) always ends in the figure of a crucified humanity. The rule of sin always leads to ruin.

I’ll finish with a question; according to the events that occurred in Fatima how important is the Mass?

Third Sunday of Lent: A lesson in evangelization, a lesson in love.

The Samaritan woman represents the existential dissatisfaction of one who does not find what he seeks. She’s had “five husbands” and now she lives with another man.” Pope Benedict XVI

John 4: 51-42. The Woman at the Well.

Once again Jesus uses something very ordinary – water – to teach us about God and God’s desired relationship with us.

First thing to note: Jesus has gone out, he’s in hostile territory: “What? You a Jew and you ask me, a Samaritan, for a drink?” We need to move out from the security of our Church buildings too!IMG_0947

Now the woman could be any woman here (or man). She’s busy with her life doing something that’s life-essential – drawing water from the well.

But watch what happens as she meets Jesus – in the end she’ll put down the water jar and go and tell her friends about the man she’s met. She becomes a missionary. If it happened here in Enniscorthy some might say she’s turned into some kind of religious nut!

First she doesn’t get it: “You have no bucket, sir, and the well is deep; how could you get this living water?” She’s thinking in terms of water (her earthly life) but he’s talking about himself as “living water” (human fulfillment, which she’s so close to – she can actually reach out and touch God physically yet she might never meet him and know only the joys of this world). Notice too that she calls him “sir” rather than Lord – her journey will be from “sir” to Lord.

IMG_0935She gets there gradually, in stages, slowly discovering the full identity of Jesus on a one to one basis. It’s personal, one to one, the heart of God meets the heart of a woman and revelation occurs gradually.

Lesson – We must meet him personally. We must converse with him, if we do, he’ll change our lives.

Suddenly, as soon as the woman asks for “that water” Jesus asks her to call her husband – watch where this is going – and she replies “I have no husband” to which Jesus responds; “although you’ve had five (husbands) the one you have now is not your husband.” Classic!

Remarkably, she doesn’t protest, clearly she’s got some awareness of a religious understanding of marriage which Jesus affirms as God’s understanding of marriage (as opposed to the cultural understanding). She also acknowledges the expectation of Messiah.

Of course, nowadays we’d probably tell Jesus off and shout discrimination!

But she humbles herself, submits to a higher power and order, accepts the reality of sin, and he brings her forward. She meets the tender embrace of Jesus’ heart – mercy – always available to us in Confession. What if she’d gone the other way?

There’s one final detail I’d like you to notice. She brings the town to see Jesus –  the town asks him to stay – and when they too have encountered him they say something that we all need to be able to say:

“Now we no longer believe because of what you told us; we have heard him ourselves and we know that he really is the saviour of the world.”

St. Patrick’s Day and the will of God

Today’s Liturgy gives thanks to God for the mission of St. Patrick. Patrick brought us Christ.

That’s not quite the same as celebrating our Irish-ness which increasingly we seem unable to do without rivers of booze! So just in case we get carried away let me place our Irish-ness in the context of the life and work of St. Patrick.

I’ll put it this way:

In God’s presence, in the kingdom of God you won’t find a group holding a placard which reads ‘I’m Irish’ or another group declaring ‘I’m English’ – no more than you’ll find groups bearing the name ‘Catholic’ or ‘Protestant’ or ‘Muslim’. You’ll just find people who did the will God.

The will of God lifts humanity above our self-imposed limitations – Irish or English, Catholic or Protestant and so on – and becomes the source of a new world order which itself is a foreshadowing of the life of heaven.

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!

Philomena, the film: What might God make of it?

If you haven’t seen the film, Philomena, I’m sure you’ve heard about it! It’s the true story of a young girl who became pregnant outside marriage in 1950s Ireland.

IMG_0860Before going any further I must admit that I haven’t seen the film but I have just finished reading the book. I was surprised by the book – not the pregnant outside marriage in 1950s Ireland story-line – but the level of promiscuity portrayed in the sections of the book dealing with Michael’s (Anthony’s) adult environment in the United States. I found it quite shocking and it’s dominating my initial thoughts about the book. Nonetheless the book has copper-fastened my belief that every child should have a right – an unassailable human right – to know his or her father and mother.

The book also got me thinking about what God might make of it all? So I’m going to do just that – look at the matter from God’s perspective. God’s perspective is effectively the will of God. The will of God is always in our best interests. It’s the true Paramount Principle because it’s the only guarantee of human well-being. Can we establish the will of God for the women portrayed by the character of Philomena? Yes, we can – but it’s not likely to be welcome – we may not like what we find!

So I’ll ask the obvious question: Is it the will of God that a young single girl should find she’s pregnant?

Essentially, it’s a question about the context of sex. Catholicism argues that sex belongs toIMG_1007 love – most will agree with that much – but Catholicism goes further, defining the love required as married love, but a very particular married love that can be dissolved only in death, i.e., sacramental married love. Catholicism believes the physical act of sex has its own innate meaning; sex is the seal of a reciprocal gift of self which is irrevocable and therefore sex belongs to sacramental marriage.

I appreciate I’m threading on dangerous cultural ground here but we can say with confidence therefore, no, it’s not quite God’s will that a single girl should find herself pregnant. But it’s equally not God’s will that she should be abandoned as in the case of Philomena. At the moment Philomena fell pregnant she became – borrowing the Gospel image – like a vulnerable sheep needing the Shepherds special care.

Still, whether we like it or not, from a faith perspective we must also factor in Christ’s condemnation of fornication as a sin (Mark 7:21-23). The Catholic Church cannot deny the existence of an objective moral order, to do so is to deny the existence of God. If there’s no objective moral order then there’s no need for redemption, and if there’s no need for redemption there’s no need for Christ. We save ourselves!

The tragedy is that many of the women portrayed by Philomena feel ashamed of their big secret. Yet from the Cross Christ says to every sinner – I did not die on the Cross for you to bear the burden of your sin. That’s redemption – it refuses to collapse the moral order, refuses to deny the reality of sin, yet, it sets sinners free.

Next question: Is it the will of God that the young girl should seek an abortion? It is never God’s will that human life – from conception to natural death – should be directly terminated. In fact during the Rite of Baptism I have started to thank mothers, single or otherwise, for choosing life.

Next question: Is it the will of God that the young girl should be incarcerated in the name of ‘care’ and be forced to give up her baby for adoption, for a donation to her carers? I think I have made the answer obvious by now, no, absolutely not.

Next question: Is it the will of God that the same young girl should be abandoned by theIMG_1017 father of her baby (let us not forget the father’s sin; fornication and possibly adultery), her parents and family, and society generally? The answer is; certainly not. Abandonment is not Gods will. Whom exactly was Christ abandoning when he died on the Cross?

So from the perspective of the will of God what do we find when we begin to examine the lives of the women portrayed by Philomena? We find that the people involved directly and indirectly in a young girls crisis pregnancy all sinned and the young girl’s sin is in fact the least of the sins involved. No doubt about it; Jesus wept every step of Philomena’s journey – for everyone involved!

Finally, let’s remember there is no reason why a single mother (or a single father for that matter) can’t become the greatest Saint that ever lived.

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)