Fr Patrick’s Reflections of the daily readings

Now available as a book. All the proceeds from sales of the book are going directly to ‘Missionaries of Charity’ Ghana.


Wednesday 22nd Week Ordinary Time Year A
1 Cor 3:1-9 / Luke 4:38-44

One of the things that are among the top in our prayer list, is to pray for good health.  Certainly we know the importance of good health, and we would even say that health is wealth.  We also know how paralysing illness and sickness can be, and how depressing it is to be lying on a sick bed.

In the gospel we see Jesus where he most loves to be – in the midst of the sick and suffering, and healing, comforting, and consoling.

Jesus was always ready to serve.  He had just left the synagogue.  Every preacher knows what it is like after a service.  Virtue is gone out of him; he has need of rest.  The last thing he wants, is a crowd of people and a fresh call upon him.  But no sooner had Jesus left the synagogue and entered Peter’s house, than the insistent cry of human need was at him.  He did not claim that he was tired and must rest; he answered it without complaint.  Always, Jesus was ready to help; his followers must be the same.

Jesus did not need a crowd to work a miracle.  Some people will put out an effort in a crowd, that they will not make among their own private circle.  Some people are at their best in society and at their worst at home.  All too commonly we are gracious, courteous, obliging to strangers, yet the very opposite when there is no one but our own people to see.  But Jesus was prepared to put out all his power in a village cottage in Capernaum when the crowds were gone.

When Peter’s mother-in-law was cured immediately. she began to serve them.  Mothers are always like that.  She realised that she had been given back her health, and then to spend it in the service of others.  We would do well to remember, that if God gave us the priceless gift of health and strength, he gave it that we might use it always in the service of others.

This gospel is especially significant, in that it shows Jesus going out alone for prayer.  These lonely places in his life, these periods of solitude, are essential for him and for his work.  Early in the morning Jesus went out to be alone.  He was able to meet the insistent needs of people only because he first companied with God.  Before Jesus met people, he must first meet God.

We must learn from Jesus, not only from what he says, but from how he lives, how he sees the need to balance his life between action and prayer.  He shows us that is not so much what we do that matters, but what we are; and what we are, results mostly from the Father’s restoration of our spiritual being while we are at prayer.

There is no word of complaint or resentment when Jesus’ privacy was invaded by the crowds.  Prayer is great, but in the last analysis, human need is greater.  Pray we must; but prayer must never be an escape from reality.  Prayer cannot preserve we Christians from the insistent cry of human need.  Prayer must prepare us for it.

We can participate in Jesus’ healing mission, by praying for the sick, visiting the sick, helping and encouraging the sick.  We are called to continue Jesus’ preaching mission, primarily by bearing witness to Christ through our day-to-day lives; radiating Christ’s mercy, love, forgiveness and spirit of humble service to all around us.

 
Fr Patrick


Tuesday 22nd Week Ordinary Time Year A

1 Cor 2:10-16 / Luke 4:31-37

After Jesus’ sad experience in his hometown, Nazareth, Jesus went to the town of Capernaum.  There he started his preaching and healing ministry.  Unlike in Nazareth, ‘’his teaching made a deep impression’’ on the people because he spoke ‘’with authority’’

The people were astonished at Jesus’ power and authority.  Jesus’ authority was something quite new.  The Old Testament prophets had taught using God’s delegated authority, and the Scribes and Pharisees taught quoting Moses, the prophets and the great rabbis.  When Rabbis taught, they supported every statement with quotations.  They always said, ‘’There is a saying that…’’ Rabbi so and so said that…’’  They always appealed to authority

When Jesus spoke, he said, ‘’l say to you.’’  Jesus needed no authorities to buttress him; his was not a delegated authority; he was the authority incarnate.  Jesus’ authority was not the authority of domination.  It was the authority of someone who has access to special knowledge; the authority of someone who speaks in his own name and not just on behalf of others; the authority of one who empowers others and makes them grow.

In every sphere of life, the expert bears an air of authority.  When we need technical advice we call in the expert.  Jesus is the expert in life.  He speaks and people know that this is beyond human argument – this is God.

The second part of today’s Gospel, describes a healing which Jesus performed in the synagogue.  We are told how Jesus, using his authority as God, cast out the devil by just one command: ‘’Be silent, and come out of him!’’  The demon obeyed at once, throwing the man it had possessed, to the floor in the midst of the people in the synagogue on its departure.  The people were impressed with Jesus’ power and authority that could command even evil spirits.  They are astonished again at the power and authority of Jesus.  They realise they are in the presence of someone very special, in fact, the ‘’Holy One of God’’.

In our illness’, let us confidently approach Jesus the healer with trusting Faith.

Each one of us is given authority of some kind-as a parent, a teacher, our job responsibility…Let us make sure that we use it in such a way as to enhance the abilities of others, rather than diminish them.

Fr Patrick


Monday 22nd Week Ordinary Time Year A

1 Cor 2:1-8 / Luke 4:16-30 

We begin today with the reading of Luke’s gospel which will bring us up to the end of the Church year.  Luke’s gospel focuses on the poor and vulnerable.  Luke’s gospel is a gospel of tenderness and compassion, a gospel of the Spirit, and of joy.  A gospel of prayer and healing.

Now, as our reading opens, we find Jesus in Nazareth, the place where he grew up.  We find Jesus in the town synagogue.  It is a Sabbath day.  He gets up to read the scripture.

“Then comes the mission of this King:
To preach the gospel to the poor,
To heal the broken-heated,
To proclaim liberty to captives, and recovery of sight to the blind,
To set at liberty those who are hurt,
and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.”

 

There is nothing here of restoring the glories of Israel.  Nothing about conquering enemies and laying waste their lands.  No, it is about letting the poor of this world, hear the Good News of God’s love for them.  It is about healing and reconciliation.  It is about liberating those who are tied down by any form of enslavement.  It is about helping people to see clearly the true meaning of life.  It is about restoring wholeness to people’s lives and to societies.  It is about the inauguration of the Kingdom by its King.

The first reaction of the people in the synagogue to Jesus’ words was astonishment.  They were amazed, that one of their fellow villagers, could speak with such grace, eloquence and authority.  But their amazement turned into displeasure, when Jesus took upon himself the identity of a prophet, different from the image of the miracle-worker that people wished to see.  Their displeasure turned into anger, then hatred, when Jesus claimed that he was the Messiah of Isaiah’s prophecy.  They challenged his Messianic claim, a mere carpenter from their hometown Nazareth, could be the Messiah!

If Jesus had had better credentials, such as wealth and prestigious parents, he probably would have been readily acceptable to the populace.  As it was, everything about Jesus was too simple.

God’s ways are different from our own.  We do not understand all the reasons why God chooses to do things the way he does.  One reason is, that displays of power and majesty leave little room for faith.  God prefers the simple unassuming approach.  He is like the confident person, who is aware of his authority and ability, and does not feel that he must prove it to anyone.

God wants us to accept the simple words of sacred scripture, as his inspired words.  He wants us to see through the veil of bread and wine, and to the reality of the Eucharist, despite its ordinary appearance.  He wants us to accept that the son of a carpenter, is actually his own divine son.  Faith – a complete, fully accepting kind of faith – is the mark of one who is truly devoted to God and to his way of doing things, not our own.

We need to face rejection, with the courage of our Christian convictions and optimism, when we experience the pain of rejection, betrayal, abandonment, violated trust, neglect or abuse, because of our Christian faith.

Are we unwilling to be helped by God, or by others?  Does our pride prevent us from recognising God’s direction; His help and support in our lives through His words in the Bible, and through the advice and examples of others?  Let us not, like the people in Jesus’ hometown, reject God in our lives.

Fr Patrick


22nd SUNDAY, YEAR A

Jer 20:7-9  Rom 12:1-2  Matt 16:21-27

COST OF DISCIPLESHIP

If you’re looking for an easy life, don’t be a Christian because it is not an easy vocation.  We see an example in the first reading.

In the First reading, Jeremiah seems to regret that he was called by God to be his prophet.  He was so overwhelmed by the demands of his task, that he wanted to pack it all in.  ‘’There seemed to be a fire burning in my heart…The effort to restrain it wearied me, I could not stand it.’’  He just had to go on speaking God’s message, which was like a fire in his heart, to his people, whatever the cost to himself.  It is a situation like this, which explains why a person would risk insults, suffering and even death in order to witness to Truth and Love.  It is something which those who see life in terms of material comfort and power, simply cannot understand.

When Mandela decided to dedicate his life to his country, he didn’t know that it would mean spending twenty-seven years of his life in prison.  What drove him to make such a great sacrifice, was his love for his country.  This was the ‘cross’ he carried, because of his love for his people.

Many of us prefer to call ourselves Christians, as long as discipleship cost us nothing.  Today’s Gospel calls for us to walk the same road with Jesus.   ‘’If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross and follow me.’’  Jesus is asking each one of us to dedicate our lives in totally loving and serving others.

Jesus gives us three conditions for Christian discipleship:

DENY YOURSELF.  To deny oneself means, in every moment of life, to say no to self and yes to God.  To deny oneself means, to dethrone self and to enthrone God.  The life of constant self-denial is the life of constant assent to God.

TAKE UP YOUR CROSS.   That is to say, you must take up the burden of sacrifice.  The Christian life is the life of sacrificial service.  The Christian may have to abandon personal ambition to serve Christ.  The Christian life is the sacrificial life.  The Christian life, is a life which is always concerned with others, more than it is concerned with itself.  Letting go of one’s life to live for others, to live for truth, love and justice, is to live a full life.

FOLLOW ME.   That is to say; he must render to Jesus Christ a perfect obedience.  The Christian life is a constant following of Jesus; a constant obedience in thought and word and action to Jesus Christ.  Our following of Christ can be in small steps.  God is patient.  His challenge is an invitation.  Following Christ in practice, means faithfulness to one’s way of life; concern for others in whatever manner; the caring gesture, the kind word – these all add up.  The Lord does not overlook the painful decision, the unspoken sorrow, the secret suffering.  The Christian walks in the footsteps of Christ, wherever he may lead.  Sacrifice is not an easy road.  The only thing that makes sacrifice easy, is love.  Love enables us to turn the cross, from a stumbling block, into a stepping stone.

We call ourselves Christians – which means that we are called to be like Jesus.  That means that we will find Christ, every day, if we are willing to be humble, as he was; if we are willing to serve, to serve our imperfect family members, to serve our imperfect neighbours, to serve people who don’t deserve our love.  It is also willingness to do the dirty work, the thankless task…pouring away our love in service of others.

When we have the mind of Christ, then we can only see our lives in terms of loving and serving others, and not in the pursuit of purely self-centred ambition.  When we have the mind of Christ, the whole direction of our life changes, our whole concept of happiness changes.

The Christian life is a sacrificial life.  It is a life of service.  Let us love without counting the cost.

May the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, enlighten the eyes of our heart, that we might see how great is the hope to which we are called.

Fr Patrick

 


Wednesday 21st Week Year A

Matthew 23:27-32  

Today there is great emphasis on appearances.  The image is everything.  People put on a front, but deep down they are not like that at all.  You can’t go by appearances.

So it was with the Scribes and Pharisees.  On the outside they appeared to be good and holy people.  But inside they were anything but.  This is the danger that faces all of us.  Each of us has two ‘selves’ – an outer self and an inner self.  The outer self is the public self – the one that is seen only by others.  The inner one is the private self – the one seen only by ourselves.

Why do we feel the need to pretend, or to impress others?  Because most of us get our self-worth from what others think of us.  Hence, in our need for approval, acceptance and status, we may promote the outer self at the expense of the inner self.  But of what use is the appearance without the reality, the image without the substance?  We cannot achieve either happiness or holiness as long as we pretend to be what we are not.  The moment we try to be what we are not, we become a fictitious personality, an unreal presence.  Many religious people are not saints because they never succeed in being themselves.

When people concentrate on inner goodness they don’t have to shout about it, or even want to.  They know, with a quiet certainty, that they have something which no one can take from them; something which makes them feel worthwhile, no matter what others may think of them.  They have self-esteem and self-respect.

Christ was able to see beneath the appearances, behind the masks.  He saw the inner person.  Thus he looked at the scribes and Pharisees, and saw a pious exterior.  But on looking deeper he saw, sadly, that beneath the religious pomp and show, they were hollow inside.  On the other hand, it gave him great joy when he found a genuine person.

We have to try to be true to ourselves, otherwise we are false.  When we are false, the outward appearance ceases to be an expression – a revelation of the soul, but instead,  becomes a shell to hide the soul.  Our greatest task is to try to conform our lives with our convictions, and thus to make peace between our inner and outer selves.

What were the main faults Jesus found in the Pharisees and the Scribes?  They were hypocrites; they didn’t practise what they preached.  They made things impossible for ordinary people by multiplying rules, and demanding exact observance of these rules, without offering the slightest help to those who found them burdensome.  They sought their own glory, rather than the glory of God.  They put on an external show of religious perfection, but inside their hearts and minds were full of pride and hatred and contempt for their fellow human beings.  And the most damning thing of all – they lacked charity and compassion in their dealings with others.

The picture Jesus painted of them, is a mirror into which we too are invited to look.  If we do look into it, we will see our own face there, for we have some if not all of their faults.  Do we not sometimes consider ourselves better than others?  Do we not lay down the law for others?  Do we not demand sacrifices of others which we don’t demand of ourselves?  Do we not like to be noticed; to be admired and to take the best seat if we can get it?  Are we too not lacking in charity, compassion, a sense of justice and a spirit of service?

The real tragedy of the Scribes and Pharisees, wasn’t the fact that they had faults, but that they were blind to their faults.  Yet many of them were sincere and pious people.  But what good is piety if it doesn’t make us humbler, more loving and more compassionate?  Piety is no substitute for goodness.

We don’t have to put on an outward show, or pretend to be what we are not.  All we have to do, is try to be true to what we are – God’s sons and daughters.

May we strive to be men and women of integrity and character without any element of hypocrisy in our Christian life.

Fr Patrick

 


Tuesday 21st Week Year A

Matthew 23:23-26

Jesus had some harsh criticism to make of the Scribes and Pharisees.  He called them hypocrites, because they didn’t practise what they preached.  Which of us can truthfully say that our deeds match our words?  Therefore, to some extent, all of us are hypocrites.  But each time we come to celebrate the Eucharist, we are called by God to a life of truth and genuine goodness.

The Pharisees were so absolutely meticulous about the law on tithes, that they even applied the law to most insignificant of plants; while ignoring the important issues of justice, compassion, and love., There is nothing easier than to observe all the outward actions of religion and yet be completely irreligious.

One can meet Catholics who are more worried about not having observed a full 60 minutes of fast before Holy Communion, than focusing on what the wider implications of participating in the Eucharist really mean.

On the outside, the behaviour is impeccable but inside there is a total lack of a true Gospel spirit, the spirit of love and integrity, of compassion and a sense of justice for all.  Instead, there can be a heart full of self-righteousness, criticism, anger, resentment, contempt for those who do not think the same.

At the root of innumerable wrongs in our world, is the discrepancy between word and deed.  It is the weakness of Churches, political parties, and individuals.  It gives people and institutions split personalities.  This was chief fault Christ found with the Pharisees: ‘’They do not practice what they preach.”

If we practice what we preach; if we live by our beliefs, we ourselves will be the first to benefit.  But we will also set a good example for others.  People whose religion begins and ends with worship and ritual practices  are like footballers forever training but never playing a competitive game.  So are the well-chosen words of the person who does not act accordingly.

What great prophets have said is forgotten, but what heroes and saints have done is still remembered.  There can be no happiness for us, as long as the things we believe in are different from the things we do.

Let us try as Christians, to live a life of holiness, honesty, integrity, truth and genuine goodness.

Fr Patrick


Monday 21st week Year A

Matthew 16:13-20

FINDING OUR IDENTITY IN JESUS CHRIST

This is true story about a man called James.  James is 45 years old, and he has been angry for many years.

One day James, after listening to my sermon on who Jesus is, and the role Jesus is supposed to play in our lives, came to me after Mass.  He said to me that he found my sermon refreshing.  He said “I asked Jesus to be my saviour when I was 9 years old, but nobody has ever taught me WHO I AM IN CHRIST or if I AM accepted by God.”  So I asked him, what was he was taught?  James said, “when I was growing up, I heard all the time how perfect Jesus is, and how I should learn to live like Jesus, and if I didn’t, God will condemn me.”

James went on to say, it was in his teenage years, that he figured out that he was never going to be good as Jesus.  So he gave up trying.  Since then he had been living in guilt and running away from God.  He explained that, on and off over the years, he goes back to church, but all he heard in church was that he was a sinner, and felt that no matter what he did, God was going to condemn him.  Remember, James is 45 years old now, which means that even though he gave his life to Christ at a young age of 9, he has spent 36 years running away from God, because he didn’t feel he was good enough.

The true tragedy of this story is that, James’ experience is not unusual as thousands of us, who have sincerely responded to the gospel message were taught when we were young, have spent years struggling to work it out without much success.  I believe the reason so many of us, as Christians, struggle to live the Christian life, is because of a lack of understanding of who we are in Jesus Christ.

But the knowledge of our identity in Christ, is an essential foundational block for the Christian life.  It is impossible to make progress in our spiritual growth, if we are still unsure as to whether or not God has accepted us, despite our faults and mistakes.

JESUS ASKS, “WHAT ABOUT YOU.  WHO DO YOU SAY I AM?”

Jesus is the embodiment of love and all things loving.  What that means is that he loves us unconditionally, even when we are living in sin.  God’s compassion is impossible for us to understand.  God does not demand or expect perfection from us.  If God thought for a second that we could measure up, or even come close to his holy standard, he wouldn’t have allowed Jesus Christ to die for us.  God knows there is a gap between us and him because of our sinful nature, and that is what creates this constant tension within us.  That is what creates the guilt and discomfort in us.

But so many of us, instead of asking God to help us clean up our mess, we do one or two things.  Either we try to lower God’s standard or we try to live a life of perfection.  All God wants from us, is to place our faith in Jesus Christ; to receive him into our life, and he will take care of the rest.  He will forgive us and will lead us down the path of righteousness.

If we don’t understand his love and acceptance for us, we will forever avoid intimacy with God.  We will always shy away from knowing him more personally, and we will never grow spiritually.  Christianity is not a collection of truths to be believed, or laws to be obeyed.  Rather, Christianity is a person.  Christianity is Christ.  To be a Christian, in essence, is to know Christ.  If you take nothing away from this reflection, please take this away:  GOD LOVES YOU UNCONDITIONALLY and ABSOLUTELY ACCEPTS YOU, NO MATTER YOUR MESS.  No matter whether we are drunks, fornicators, thieves, liars, cheaters, etc., God love us, and he is willing to work with us, because Jesus is love.  So if this is who Jesus is, then we should ask the question, who am I?  Who am I?  If Jesus is love.

We all have this need for identity.  Tied up with this need for identity, is our God given need for meaning and purpose in life.  There are several answers to the question – WHO AM I?  But the answer we adopt for ourselves will determine the direction of our lives.  In our world today, the issue of identity is often presented under the banner of self-image or self-esteem.  The dominant believe is that most people have poor self-esteem, and so the solution is to develop a good self-image.  Thus our worldly interpretation of having a good self-image, is that we need to love ourselves more.  The problem is not that we have a poor self-image.  Our real problem is pride.  The same pride that cost Satan, originally a powerful and beautiful angel, to be cast down from heaven.  The same pride that was the root of Adam’s decision to strike out on his own, and introduce sin into the human race.  It is also the same pride that is in us now and has caused many of us, on several occasions, to ignore God’s rules, and to declare that we will do things our own way.

What God wants from us, is for us to humble our proud self-sufficiency, and to recognise that we cannot live up to his standard, but rather receive his free gift of grace, his free gift of salvation.  So when we come to Christ, we don’t need a good self-mage.  What we need, and indeed what we find in Jesus Christ, is a proper self-image based on the identity of Jesus Christ.

In Christ we find an image, that not only places us in a correct perspective with God, but also gives us the proper perspective with other people.  It is here that we discover a surprising truth which is this:  That, even though we are warned against thinking more highly of ourselves than we ought to; in Jesus we find that the identity given to us, by the grace of God, is more wonderful than we could have ever imagined.  So great, that we need the enlightening power of the Holy Spirit to enable us to fully comprehend it.

So Jesus Christ is not just love.  He is the one who through his love, transforms us beyond comprehension.  So if this is Jesus Christ, and we claim him as our Lord and Saviour, then again who are we in Christ?  Your identity and my identity as a believer in Jesus Christ is this: YOU ARE A CHILD OF GOD.  YOU ARE UNCONDITIONALLY LOVED and ABSOLUTELY ACCEPTABLE IN HIS SIGHT, NO MATTER WHO YOU ARE OR WHAT YOU HAVE DONE.

It is only through discovery, and resting in our identity as it is taught in the Word of God, that we can become free of the false identity, that this world is always trying to put on us.

The world is continuously trying to get us, to accept an identity based on our appearance.  Whatever you depend on in this world, for your identity, for your meaning and for your purpose in life, is what will control you, because control comes from dependency.  In other words, if I am dependant on what you think of me for my self-image, then it is you that controls me.  If I am dependent upon my job for my meaning and purpose in life, then it is my job that controls me.

So it is only as we learn and trust in the Word of God, that teaches us about our absolute acceptance of God, and that we can be free of what this world thinks.  Only then can we concentrate and focus on the Christian life, which is knowing Jesus Christ.  It is only as we learn and trust in God’s absolute acceptance of us, that we can go on to love and accept other people for who they are.

I would like you to reflect on these questions:

  1. Where are you in your understanding of who you are as you stand before God?
  2. Can you accept and believe that he loves you and accepts you just as you are?
  3. Can you understand that, because of God’s unconditional love for you, he sent only his begotten Son to die on the Cross, to completely forgive you of all your sins?

Nothing can be held against you because God holds nothing against us.

May God give us his grace to live out his love.

Fr Patrick


21st SUNDAY, YEAR A

Isaiah 22:19-23 / Romans 11:33-36 / Matthew 16:13-20

PETER’S PROFESSION OF FAITH.

In today’s Gospel we have an early example of an opinion poll.  It was Jesus himself who conducted it.

The question Jesus raised was a very serious question.  It is a question that resounds through the entire Gospel.  It is the main question of the Gospel.  It concerns the identity of Jesus.  It was a question that obviously was on the lips of everyone: ‘Who is this man Jesus?’  Having heard what others were saying, Jesus turned to his disciples and asked, ‘And you, who do you say that l am?’  Then Peter spoke up, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God’.

Peter’s response came out of his personal experience of Jesus over a period of almost three years.  During those years of hearing Jesus, seeing much evidence of his loving compassion in his miracles, praying with him; Peter came to know Jesus ‘’You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God’’

As with Peter, so our answer to the question Jesus asks us, has to come from our personal experience of Jesus, our deep faith in him.  It is no longer sufficient to repeat the official answers.  We have to make the faith our own.  We have to grow in our understanding of the faith.  A second-hand faith is a poor faith.  Our discovery of Jesus Christ must be a personal discovery.  A person might know everything about Christ, and might be able to give a competent summary of the teaching about Christ, and still not be a Christian.  Christianity does not mean reciting a creed, Christianity never consists in knowing about Jesus; it always consists in knowing Jesus.

Peter is one of the most interesting characters in the Gospel.  In the Gospels we see his ups and downs.  Sometimes he is very brave; other times he is very cowardly.  Sometimes he is like a rock; other times he is like a piece of jelly.  But it is very interesting to see how Jesus dealt with Peter, and how he helped him to grow into the man who was ready to lay down his life for him, and who eventually did.

Let us take a closer look at the relationship between Jesus and Peter.  It will help us to grow as human beings and as disciples of Jesus, and it will show us how best to help those we love to grow.  It all began when Jesus called him.  Obviously, Jesus saw potential in him.   We all need someone to believe in us.  It’s hard to believe in ourselves if no one else believes in us.

Peter didn’t think he deserved that call.  He said, ‘Lord, depart from me, for I am a sinful man’.  Jesus didn’t deny that Peter was a sinner, but challenge him to grow.  We need to be challenged.  Demands have to be made on us.  Jesus involved him in his work.  He made Peter a partner in it.  Responsibility helps people to grow.

When Peter made his great declaration of faith: ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God’; Jesus praised Peter and promised him further responsibility.  We all need recognition for work well done.  We all need affirmation.  This encourages further generosity.

Jesus would also correct him.  When Peter drew his sword in the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus said to him, ‘Put away your sword’.  It takes courage on the part of the master to point out mistakes.  To learn from one’s mistakes is an essential part of growth.  Jesus once told him off, when Peter wanted to prevent him from going to Jerusalem, Jesus said, ‘Get behind me Satan, you are more of a hindrance to me than a help’.  At times the master may have to reprove.  But there is an art in doing it.

Jesus understood that when Peter denied him, he did so more out of weakness than out of malice.  He forgave him, and gave him the chance to begin again.  We all need someone who can understand our weakness, and who doesn’t write us off when we don’t produce the goods right away.

The thread which runs right through their relationship was love.  Peter knew that Jesus loved him.  Love is the climate in which people can grow.  This was the rock in Peter’s life.

Peter’s story is our story too.  We too, blow hot and cold.  Sometimes we are strong, and other times we are weak.  Without a warm relationship with Christ, we are only on the fringes of Christianity.  We are like someone talking about love, compared with someone who is in love.  Each of us has high and low moments.  We must not let our low moments get us down, and we must draw encouragement from our high moments.  The Lord smiles on us in our good moments, and upholds us in our low moments.

The low moments of others, should not cause us to put them down or write them off.  Their good moments should help us to see their potential, and to affirm and encourage them.  We must try to seek the good in everyone, and to reveal it and bring it out, as Jesus did in the case of Peter.

May the Lord strengthen us when we are weak    May the Lord guide us in time of doubt    May the Lord raise us up when we fall.

Fr Patrick


Wednesday 20th Week Ordinary Time Year A

Ezekiel 34:1-11 / Matthew 20:1-16

Today’s Gospel reading is about generosity.  “Are you envious because I am generous?”  That is the key phrase in the story.  The story is about the generosity of God.

The eleventh-hour workers were not idlers who didn’t want to work.  They wanted to work.  It was just that nobody had hired them.  Imagine how they felt as the day drew to a close.  They felt rejected, useless and hopeless.  The idea that any employer would take these people on at the eleventh hour, and pay them a full day’s wage, was unthinkable.  Yet this is exactly what the owner of the vineyard did.  This is the strong point of the parable

The question in God’s mind is not how much do these people deserve?  But rather, how can I help them; how can I save them before they perish?  It’s all about grace, blessings and love.  There are not various degrees of that love.  God’s love does not discriminate.  They all got exactly the same love.  It is always 100 percent.

The parable was aimed at the Pharisees.  They were critical of Jesus because he befriended sinners.  Jesus gave them his answer in this parable.  In it, he showed them what God is like:  God is generous and full of compassion for the poor and the outcast.  God deals with us in ways, that are very different from the ways we normally deal with one another.  If one is into worthiness, completion, and rewards, this Gospel won’t make much sense.  Jesus’ parable makes little sense from the point of view of strict justice.  But which of us would like to be treated by God according to strict justice?  Do we not all stand, more in need of his mercy and generosity, than of his justice?

When we come into God’s presence, let us not parade our entitlements, our rights.  We can’t put God in our debt.  Everything comes to us as a gift from God, a gift motivated by his love for us.   The goodness of God is a great comfort to us.  But it is also a great challenge, because we are called to imitate it; to make our ways of dealing with one another, more like God’s way of dealing with us.  We need to follow God’s example and show grace to our neighbours.

A conversion is required before we can begin to act like God.  Not an intellectual conversion, but a conversion of the heart.  Faith is a call, which above all, is addressed to the heart.  In essence, it consists of a relationship of love with the God, who first loved us.  It is with the heart that we best grasp God.  Once God has touched our hearts, and warmed them with his love, we will begin to love in our turn.  Only then will we truly know what God is like.

God is love; God cannot not love; and he cannot not love totally.

Fr Patrick


Tuesday 20th Week Ordinary Time

Ezekiel 28:1-10 / Matthew 19:23-30

Jesus told the rich young man who had expressed his desire to follow him as a disciple, that he had to share his possessions with the poor as a condition for becoming a perfect disciple.  But when the young man heard this, he went away sad; for he had great possessions.  It was then that Jesus made the comment given in today’s Gospel.  Jesus is saying that it is not impossible, by the grace of God, for a wealthy person to keep his spiritual integrity, but it is extremely difficult and uncommon.

Why do riches prevent one from reaching God?  Firstly, riches encourage a false independence.  The rich think that they can deal with any situation which may arise.  The rich think everything has its price, that if they want a thing enough they can buy it, they can buy their way out of sorrow and into happiness, so they don’t need God.  However there comes a time when, the rich discover that their belief is an illusion; that there are things which money cannot buy, and things from which money cannot save them.  Secondly, riches tend to make one selfish.  However much a person possesses, it is human for a person to still want more.  Once rich people have possessed comfort and luxury, they always tends to fear the day when they may lose them.  Their instinct is to amass more and more for the sake of their safety and the security which they think wealth will bring.

Jesus condemns a value system that makes “things” more valuable than people.

But Jesus did not say that it was impossible for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.  Zacchaeus was one of the richest men in Jericho, yet he found the way in (Luke19:9).  Also Joseph of Arimathaea was a rich man (Matthew 27:57).  Nicodemus must have been very wealthy, for he brought spices to anoint the dead body of Jesus, which were worth a king’s ransom (John 19:9).  It is not that those who have riches are shut out.  It is not that riches are a sin – but they are a danger.

Jesus was so generous that he gave us his very self.  To follow Jesus, we must have a generous heart, and we should be willing to use it by sharing our blessings with others.  God does not ask us to give up our riches, but He does ask us to use them wisely in His service.  How do we use our talents?  What about time – do we use it for God?  We each get 168 hours every week.  How do we use our time?  Are we too busy to pray each day?  Who or what holds first place in my life – my possessions or Christ?

Jesus does not want us to fall into the trap of false independence, which leads to self worship.  Complete dependence on God, rather than on ourselves, is the expression of true faith.

Fr Patrick


Monday 20th Week Ordinary Time.

Ezekiel 24:13-24  Matthew 19:16-22 

In today’s Gospel, the rich young man who came to Jesus, was seeking for what he called eternal life.  He was seeking for happiness, for satisfaction, for peace with God.

But his very way of phrasing his question betrays him.  He asks, ‘’What must I do?’’  He is thinking in terms of actions.  He is like the Pharisees; thinking in terms of keeping rules and regulations.  He is thinking of piling up a credit balance sheet with God, by keeping the works of the law.  He clearly knows nothing of a religion of grace.

The young man claimed, that from childhood, he had observed all the Commandments Jesus mentioned.  Jesus told him that keeping the Commandments was good, it was not enough for perfection, and challenged him to share his riches with the poor.  ‘’There is one thing lacking.  ‘’Sell all you have and give to the poor, and then you will have treasure in heaven; then come follow me.’’

Jesus asked him to break his selfish attachment to wealth, by sharing it. But when the young man heard this, he went away sad; for he had great possessions.  His tragedy was that he love things more than he loved people; and he loved himself more than he loved others.  Jesus’ challenge expose what was missing in the young rich man’s life; a sense of compassion for the poor, and the willingness to share his blessings with the needy.

Jesus makes the same challenge to each of us today.  Our attachment may not be to money or material goods, but to another person, a job, my health, or my reputation, etc.

The great truth of this story lies in the way it enlightens the meaning of eternal life.  Eternal life, is life such as God himself lives.

The great characteristic of God is that he so loved and he gave.  Therefore essence of eternal life is not a carefully calculated keeping of the commandments and the rules and regulations; eternal life is based on an attitude of loving and sacrificial generosity to our fellow human beings.

If we would find eternal life, if we would find happiness, joy, satisfaction, peace of mind and serenity of heart, it shall not be by piling up a credit balance with God through keeping commandments, and observing rules and regulations.  It shall be through reproducing God’s attitude of love and care to others.

To follow Jesus, we must have generous heart, and the willingness to share our blessings with others.  Mother Teresa (St Teresa of Calcutta) puts it in her own style: 

‘’Do SOMETHING BEAUTIFUL FOR GOD.  Do it with your life.  Do it every day.  Do it in your own way.  But do it.’’

Fr Patrick

 


Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Apocalypse 11:19; 12:1-6, 10  1 Cor 15:20-26  Luke 1:39-56 

My former parish priest was a gifted singer.  One Sunday after Holy Communion he sang:  ‘’You raise me up, so I can stand on mountains, you raise me up, to walk on stormy seas….”

Then the next day he got the email from a parishioner, complaining about that song!  “How could you?” the email began.   “How could you sing that secular song in church?  How could you interrupt Mass with a love song?  How could a celibate priest sing a song about how loving someone raises him up above stormy seas?”  Well my parish priest was singing a love song about the fact that someone’s love does, in fact, raise us up!  But the key to the song is found in this question – WHO is it that does the raising?  Who is it, that has a love powerful enough to raise us up?  To whom was he singing a love song?

I hope you’ve guessed the answer: – GOD is the one to whom he was singing the love song!  God’s love is worth singing about!  God, is the one whose love raises us up!

In today’s Gospel, Mary herself sings a love song too.  Mary sings about a God who raises her up; a God who lifts up all those who feel weighed down.  In fact, all of today’s readings are about a God who raises us up, who lifts us up when we can’t lift ourselves.

In the first reading, we have the image of the Woman in the Book of Revelation: she gives birth to the Messiah.  And when that saving child is born, the Book of Revelation says that there is a threat to the child – a dragon, ready to devour the baby.  What does God do when the child is in danger?  God snatches up the child into heaven.  God saves the child, by lifting up, raising up the child.

God always does the heavy lifting of salvation.

This is the God we hear Mary singing about, in her love song in today’s passage from Luke’s Gospel.  As she sings her song, called the Magnificat, Mary praises the Lord who does the heavy lifting. She sings:

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
My spirit rejoices in God my saviour,
For God has looked upon his lowly servant…
God has shown the strength of his arm…
Yes from this day forward all generations will call me blessed,
He casts down the mighty…
God has lifted up the lowly….

Did you hear that? Mary sings about the God who lifts up, raises up, the lowly.  It was this same God who raised up Jesus from the dead, as Paul proclaims in the second reading. God did the heavy lifting.  God rolled away the stone that was across the tomb of Jesus after the crucifixion.  It was God who lifted the dead body of Jesus from its place in the ground.  God raised him up.  God lifted him up.  God does the heavy lifting that saves us!  God raised Jesus to eternal life.  Isn’t that kind of life-giving love, worth singing about?

But we can’t stop there, because the God who raises up Jesus, is going to share that same gift with everyone else who believes in his son.  In today’s feast of the Assumption, we proclaim that God is capable of doing the same thing for Mary.  At the end of her earthly life, God lifts up Mary, body and soul, into the glory of heaven.

But again, we can’t stop there, because Paul tells us that God will do that same heavy lifting for us.  God wants to raise you up.  God wants to raise me up.  God wants to raise us up.  What was done for Jesus, is done for Mary.  What was done for Mary will be done for us.

At the moment of your baptism, God came into the depth of your heart and claimed you as a child of his kingdom.  At the moment of our death, God will lift us up, raise us up, into the embrace of Divine love, where we shall sleep until we experience the fullness of resurrected life.

This feast of Mary, is the feast of our future.  A future lifted up, raised up, by the God who loves us.   And until that future comes, we have hope because we have Jesus… Jesus, the first one who was raised and lifted by Our Father.  Until that future comes, we have hope, because Mary keeps encouraging us, to believe in the God who can lift us up whenever life knocks us down.  Until the future comes, it is our privilege as brothers and sisters to try to lift each other up, with the help of God’s grace.  So many of us feel weighed down by life, worn down by our worries, wearied by our work, and brought to our knees because of our crosses.

No matter what pushes us down, God is the one who can lift us up.  No matter what tries to hold us down, God does the heavy lifting, and his love raises us up.  Isn’t it wonderful that we can share that gift with one another?  Isn’t it a privilege to try to bring that Good News to another, struggling soul?  Isn’t it a blessing, that, with Mary and all the saints, we can sing a love song to our Eternal God; a love song from the heart about the Lord who raises us up; a love song which brings us back to the table where bread and wine are lifted up, so that we can rise forever.

Pray for us, O holy Mother of God. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Fr Patrick

 


Thursday 19th Week Ordinary Time.

Ezekiel 12:1-12   Matt 18:21-19:1

FORGIVENESS

Today’s Gospel deals with a subject which concerns us all – forgiveness.

We always begin Mass by asking forgiveness for our sins, and the grace to able to forgive those who have sinned against us.

None of us can go through life without getting hurt.  How do we cope with these hurts?

Hurts are not easy to deal with.  As soon as we get hurt, self-pity walks in our front door which is natural.  But once self-pity is entertained, it produces a legacy of bitterness, resentment, and anger.  The memory of wrongs flows inwards where it festers.  It poisons our spirit, and destroys our capacity to love.  Some people have years of stored hurts inside them.

Forgiveness is never easy; though never easy, even from a human point of view, it makes great sense.  We rid ourselves of the burden of bitterness and resentment.  As a result, we experience a sense of freedom, relief, and cleanness.  Once again we are able to devote all our energies to loving, which is the only activity that befits a Christian.

Forgiveness is, first and foremost, a healing of our own hearts.  It is precisely our hearts that are wounded.  Forgiveness also works wonders for the person who is forgiven.  He/she is set free to walk in friendship with God, and with the person he/she has offended.

Forgiveness implies an understanding of our own poverty, brokenness and our sin, and therefore our own need of forgiveness.  This enables us to forgive with understanding and humility.  It is not good enough to forgive in word.  We must forgive, as the Gospel says, from the heart, which means it must be true, sincere, and warm.  It’s not a question of forgiving – if and when the offender repents – that would be relatively easy.  We are expected to forgive even if the offender doesn’t repent – this is what makes it so difficult, and why we need God’s grace.

Forgiveness clears a path for God to forgive us.  The only obstacle we can put in the way of God’s forgiveness of our sins, is our inability to forgive the sins of others.  We all need forgiveness.  People who cannot forgive, break down the bridge over which they themselves must pass.  There is no limit to God’s forgiveness for us; therefore, there can be no limit to our forgiveness for one another.  We all know how hard it can be to forgive.  At the same time, we know how lovely it is to be forgiven.

You’re blessed when you receive mercy and forgiveness from God.

You’re blessed when you show mercy and forgiveness to others.

Fr Patrick

 


Wednesday 19TH Week Ordinary Time.

Ezekiel 9:1-7; 10:18-22 / Matthew 18:15-20 

ON FRATERNAL CORRECTION

In the gospel reading today, we hear about the duty a Christian should follow to correct an erring brother or sister.  But there is a proper way of doing it.

Jesus says, ‘If your brother does something wrong, go and have it out with him alone’.  He doesn’t say, ‘Put up with it, suffer it, endure it.’

Jesus seems to suggest the following steps to repair a broken personal relation:

  • One-one-one encounter:  If you are sure that somebody has wronged you, tell the person lovingly and politely that he/she has hurt you.
  • The group encounter:  If the first step does not work, meet the person again in the company of two or three wise and honourable persons, and try to make the person realise what he/she has done wrong and hurtful.
  • Parish encounter:  If steps one and two do not work, bring the case to the priest or to the parish council.

The aim is not to score victory over the person, but to win the person over; to help the person to amend his/her ways, and to be reconciled with the person.  Let us have the good will and generosity to accept our mistakes, and ask pardon and forgiveness from the offended victim.  If someone wrongs you, the Christian way to go about it is not to gossip about it, or to post it on social media.  We have to love each other enough, to sit down with the person, have honest conversation, and say what needs to be said, with the aim to heal the broken relationship.

Sometimes we need to say to the person “I FEEL HURT BY YOUR WORDS, AND I FEEL HURT BY YOUR GOSSIP. “

Sometimes, all that we need to say is, I AM SORRY.

Sometimes, what need to say is, I FORGIVE YOU.

Sometimes, what we need to say is, I WANT TO HELP YOU

Sometimes, all that we need to say is I LOVE YOU.

Christian fraternal correction makes sense, but only when it is done in the spirit of love.  St Paul teaches us that ‘’we must avoid getting into debt except the debt of mutual love.’’ –  Rom 13:8.   Love is one thing that cannot hurt your neighbour.

May God make us his channel of his peace and love.

Fr Patrick


19th Sunday Ordinary Time Year A

1 Kgs 19:9.11-13 Rom 9:1-5 Matt 14:22-33

WALKING ON WATER

Some people think that if you have enough faith, life will be all plain sailing for you.  But this is not so.  Faith doesn’t shield us from the hard knocks of life and death.

We see this in the case of Prophet Elijah in the first reading.  Elijah was a man of great faith. He had defeated the 450 false priests of Baal with the help of a trusting faith in God for help, and because of his opposition to idolatry, Queen Jezebel wanted to kill him.  So he fled to the desert and took refuge in a cave.  A beaten and broken man, he just wanted to die.  However, in the cave he experienced the presence of God, and strengthened by that experience, he was able to go on.

In life we often are crossing rough and windy waters.  Today, the rough and windy times are financial instability, unemployment, lost of jobs, a broken health care system, a broken educational system, drug abuse, abortion, gun violence, marriages that are struggling, children that have not been taught basic manners, young adults threatening suicide, epidemic of depression, addiction, people who have forgotten how to forgive and how to treat each other with basic respect, and the ongoing corona virus pandemic.

It is understandable if we get scared sometimes.  There are times when it’s natural to feel afraid, but we get into trouble when we allow our fears to control us.  So the question today is what is a Christian supposed to do when the world is a scary place?  What does Christ invite us to do when we are afraid?

The scene in today’s Gospel passage can begin to show us the way.  Matthew describes this scene in such vivid detail, because l think Matthew want us to understand just how frightening the situation was for Jesus’ disciples who were in that boat.

Notice what Matthew tells us.  He made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side without him.  They were alone.  And where was Jesus?  He went up into the hills by himself to pray.   Matthew also said that the boat was being battered by the waves.  So they were alone, their boat is getting battered and the wind was against the boat.

Matthew says that something happens early in the morning.  But at the beginning of the passage we were told that this whole episode started when it was evening.  So it appears that the disciples in this little boat have been enduring the waves and the wind and the darkness for several hours, and now they have to deal with a ghost.  Something or someone coming toward them on the tempestuous sea, and the scream it’s a ghost.  They were terrified, and they cried out in fear.  That is what l would do.  Wouldn’t you?

It is comforting for us to see, that at times, the apostles and early Christians were weak and fearful.  In other words, they were just like us.  At the start of an adventure we may be convinced that we are full of faith.  However, as we go along, and difficulties arise, we discover that we have very little faith.  It is then that we have to turn to the Lord for help.  It’s in our weak moments that we experience the strength of God.  If we never felt ourselves going under, then we’d never know the rescuing power of God.

Faith doesn’t save us from trials and tribulations.  What it does, is give us strength to face them.  It’s not we who keep the faith.  It’s the faith that keeps us.  God’s grace upholds us when things are too much for us.

The disciples in that boat were practical people.  They looked at the storm, they saw the mess they were in, they were in danger, and they recognised that they were in trouble and they were terrified.  But pay attention to how Peter reacts.  Peter helps us to learn how to respond when we become frightened by our world or the circumstance of our lives.

Matthew tells us that Jesus was walking towards them on the water.  Peter catches a glimpse and he understands that Jesus is near, but Peter does not do what l probably would have done in that situation.  You see, when my life is in a mess, when the storm of this world threatened and frightened me, l usually pray something like this: “Where are you Lord?  Come and help me”, and then l kind of wait for Jesus to come to where l am so he can help me.  So if l had been in that boat, l probably would have shouted this kind of prayer – “Jesus get yourself over here and sit down in this boat with us and save us.”

But Peter does not say “Jesus come to me and help me.”  What Peter does say is “Lord if it’s you commanding me to come to you.”  Did you catch that?  Peter does not ask Jesus to come any closer.  Rather Peter said to Jesus tell me to come closer to you.  Jesus says to him “come”, and Peter gets out of the boat and he draws closer to Jesus and in that moment, and here’s the key – it is the command of Jesus and the response of Peter which shows us how to address our fears.  Because Peter in effect is saying to Jesus just tell me to come closer to you.

The other thing that inspires me is this.  Peter can indeed draw closer to Jesus by doing what Jesus was doing.  So when Jesus says to Peter come.  Peter understands.  If l am going to get closer to Jesus, then l must do what l see Jesus doing.  Peter saw Jesus walking on the water, and he understood the way to overcome this fearful situation, was to do what Jesus was doing – walking on water.

Peter did not wait for Jesus to come and sit down beside him in the boat, rather, Peter said tell me to come to you.  Peter understood if he wants to be close to Jesus and be safe with Jesus, he, Peter would have to get up and move towards Jesus, doing what Jesus was doing.

Are you scared in life right now?  Are there lots of storms brewing in your life and in our world?  But like Peter we can make a Christ-centered decision that fear is not going to control us, and exhaustion is not going to constrain us, that darkness is not going to dictate our behaviour.

We do not have to hide passively in the boat waiting for Jesus to show up and jump in.  We can listen when Jesus says come.  And l understand that l will only get closer to Jesus; I will only triumph over the storm, if l do what Jesus did, doing what Jesus did, doing what Jesus does.  Isn’t that the vocation and call of every Christian?  Isn’t that the task and joy of every Christian?  For Peter that meant leaving the security of the boat, walking on the water and Jesus walking on the water toward Peter.

For us it means, l think, that the storms in our life will only be overcome if we are willing to draw nearer and nearer to Jesus, and we will draw near to Jesus by doing what Jesus does.  For some us it might mean that we finally forgive, because that’s what Jesus does.  He forgives and we have to what Jesus does.  For some of us it might mean that we finally become more generous, because Jesus was generous.  We have to do what Jesus does.

In our low moments when we don’t even have the energy for formal prayers, let us imitate the short prayer of sinking Peter:  ‘’Lord save me!’’  or the prayer of the mother of the possessed girl:  ‘’Lord, help me’’, or the blind man’s prayer: ‘’Son of David, have mercy on me’’ or the repentant sinner’s prayer: ‘’Lord have mercy on me a sinner’’

For some of us it might mean that we respect each person because Jesus did that by relating to people with respect and dignity.  For many of us, it will mean that we trust God in everything, because that’s what Jesus did.  That we serve the Father, rather than serving any worldly gain because that’s what we see Jesus doing.

How will we break the power of fear? Do what Jesus did

Feed the hungry, because that’s what he did.

Break down the barriers, because that’s what Jesus did.

Pray about everything, because Jesus prayed.

Step out in faith and risk everything in order to stay faithful.  Jesus certainly did.

Open your arms wide with compassion, after all, Jesus did.

Do whatever is necessary to make a difference in the world.  Jesus did.

Speak the truth and stop lying, because that’s what Jesus did.

Pick up your cross, and be willing to sacrifice and pay whatever price is required, in order to stay faithful.  That’s what we see Jesus doing,

For two thousand years of Christian history, there have been men and women, boys and girls who learned the lesson of today’s gospel.  Two thousand years of inspiring examples of people who lived in troubled and stormy times, yet fear did not control them.

 These Christians experienced freedom in the face of fear, because they knew that it was in the Risen one who was inviting them out of the boat.  It’s in the Risen one that we will find the power to do what we see him doing.

Does their example inspire you?  And if anyone is still scared, remember Peter, he got up and got going toward Jesus by doing what Jesus did.  Peter only got into trouble when he took his eyes off of Christ and stared at the storm.  So stop staring at the storm in your life. Start moving toward Christ.

Jesus says to you; Courage, do not be afraid.  Trust in God still.  

Fr Patrick


Friday 18th Week Ordinary Time.

Matthew 16:24-28

Many of us prefer to call ourselves Christians as long as discipleship cost us nothing.

Jesus gives us three conditions for Christian discipleship:

DENY YOURSELF.   To deny oneself means; in every moment of life, to say ‘no’ to self and ‘yes’ to God.  To deny oneself means to dethrone self and to enthrone God.  The life of constant self-denial is the life of constant assent to God.

TAKE UP YOUR CROSS.    That is to say, you must take up the burden of sacrifice.  The Christian life is the life of sacrificial service.  The Christian may have to abandon personal ambition to serve Christ.  The Christian life is the sacrificial life.  The Christian life is a life which is always concerned with others, more than it is concerned with itself.  Letting go of one’s life to live for others; to live for truth, love and justice, is to live a full Christian life.

FOLLOW ME.    That is to say, we must render to Jesus Christ a perfect obedience.  The Christian life is a constant following of Jesus; a constant obedience in thought and word and action to Jesus Christ.  The Christian walks in the footsteps of Christ, wherever He may lead.

Sacrifice is not an easy road.  The only thing that makes sacrifice easy, is love.  Love enables us to turn the cross from a stumbling block, into a stepping stone.  Jesus supports all those who follow him, down the narrow road of sacrifice, and shares his Easter victory with them.

Don’t just  a be a Christian in name but stand up and be counted.

Fr Patrick

+ + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + +

“I AM A CHRISTIAN”

When l say, ”I am a Christian”

I’m not shouting “I am saved”

I’m whispering “I was lost”

That is why I chose this way.

 

When l say, “I am a Christian”

I don’t speak of this with pride.

I’m confessing that I stumble.

And need someone to be my guide.

 

When I say, “I am a Christian”

I’m not trying to be strong.

I’m professing that I’m weak,

And pray for strength to carry on.

 

When l say, “I am a Christian”

I’m not bragging of success.

I’m admitting I have failed,

And cannot ever pay the debt.

 

When I say, “I’m a Christian”

I’m not claiming to be perfect,

My flaws are all too visible,

But God believes I’m worth it.

 

When I say, “I am a Christian”

I still feel the sting of pain.

I have my share of heartaches

Which is why I speak His name.

 

When I say, “I am a Christian”

I do not wish to judge.

I have no authority.

I only know I’m loved.’’

Written by Carol Wimmer

 


Wednesday 18th Week Ordinary Time

Jeremiah 31:1-7  Matt 15:21-28

Faith Tested and Faith Answered

Motherhood is a very high calling.  Mothers will do anything, brave anything, suffer anything, and endure anything for the sake of her children.  We see this in today’s gospel reading.

The Canaanite woman in the gospel, refuses to take ‘no’ for an answer to her pleading.  Her daughter is troubled, so she cries to Jesus, ‘’Have pity on me.’’  Like all mothers, like Mary, like Jesus himself, she suffers with the suffering of the one she loves.  Her persistence wins Jesus’ admiration, and the cure of her daughter.  We must never give up praying for the ones we love.

There are certain things about this woman which we must note.  She had love.  She made the misery of her child her own.  The driving force of this woman’s heart was love; and there is nothing stronger and nothing nearer God than that very thing.  This woman had faith.  She was undiscourageable.  Prayer for her was the outpouring of the passionate desire of her soul, which somehow felt that she could not; and must not; and need not-take ‘no’ for an answer.  ‘’Woman, you have great faith.  Let your wish be granted’’

Jesus, by healing the daughter of a Gentile woman, as a reward for her strong and trusting faith, expressed by her patient prayer; Jesus shows us that God’s mercy and love are available to all who call out to Him in Faith.

We need to persist in prayer with trustful confidence.  We need to pull down the walls of separation we have built between ourselves and others, and share in the universality of God’s love.  Today’s Gospel reminds us that God’s love and mercy are extended to all who call on him in Faith and trust, no matter who are they are.  It is therefore fitting that we should pray that walls of our pride, intolerance and prejudice be razed, and should crumble.

May the Lord Jesus take pity on us, and look at our humble faith, and grant us what we need:

May God be good to us in all our days.

May God be kind to us in all our ways.

May God give us strength, peace and bless everything that fills our lives.

Fr Patrick

 


Monday 18th Week Ordinary Time Year A

Jeremiah 28:1-17   Matt 14:22-36  

Let us ask Jesus for his help and protection when we face storms of strong temptations, storms of doubts, fear, anxiety, and worries about the future as in the present COVID-19 pandemic.  In life we often are crossing rough and windy waters.  Today, the rough and windy times are COVID-19 and its impact on our lives.  There is fear and anxiety about the unknown.

As long as Peter keeps his eyes fixed on Jesus and concentrates on him, he does the impossible by walking towards Jesus across the water.  But as soon as his concentration on Jesus gives way to the distractions of the wind and the waves, he begins to sink.  Maybe like Peter we tend to focus on those storms battling us, rather than focusing on Jesus.  Let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus and our ears open to his word.  We can learn from Peter.  The wonderful thing about Peter is, that every time he fell, he rose again; and that it must have been true, that even his failures brought him closer and closer to Jesus Christ.  As has been well said, a saint is not a person who never fails; a saint is a person who gets up and goes on again every time he/she falls.  Peter’s failures only made him love Jesus Christ the more.

In the hour of the disciples’ need, Jesus came to them.  In life the wind is often contrary.  There are times when we are up against it, and life is a desperate struggle with ourselves, with our circumstances, with our temptations, with our sorrows, and with our decisions.  When we are in danger of being overwhelmed by the storms of life, at such a time we need not to struggle alone, for Jesus comes to us across the storms of life, with hand stretched out to save us, bidding us to take heart and not to be afraid.  Jesus is there to help and to save.

No matter whatever the storm we are battling now, whether it is our ill health, our finance, joblessness, family crisis, broken relationships – no matter how difficult things might get, we must go on believing, go on trusting in God.  What real faith does assure us, is that God is with us in the midst of our crisis.  It is that feeling, that conviction, that we are not alone, that we are not abandoned, which enables us to get through crisis.

Yes, sometimes the waves and storms of life frightened us, and the little faith that we have is shaken by worries of life.  Yet a person with a grain of faith in God never loses hope.

Jesus called out to us ‘Do not be afraid.’  Let us hand over our fears and worries to him so that he can conquer them.  Because this is God’s strength: turning to the good, everything that happens to us.  He will bring calm and peace into our storms, because with God life never dies.

Jesus says to you, Courage, do not be afraid. Trust in God still.

Fr Patrick


18th  Sunday Ordinary Time Year A

Isaiah 55:1-3 / Rom 8:35, 37-39  Matt 14:13-21  

FOOD FOR THE HUNGRY

The central theme of today’s readings is, that God takes care of our physical and spiritual needs if we put our trust in Him, and challenges us to share our blessings with others.

In the 1st reading, prophet Isaiah is inviting all of us who are hungry and thirsty, to come to God, and we will experience the true satisfaction we seek

Today’s responsorial psalm, has us saying, ‘’ The Hand of the Lord feeds us; He answers all our needs,’’ in praise of the mercy, forgiveness and maternal care of a loving and providing God.

In the 2nd reading, Paul argues that if you’re looking for a love that lasts, a love that will not let you down, then come to God.  God’s love for us is so immense and infinite, ‘’nothing can come between us and the love of God made visible in Christ Jesus our Lord.’’

In the Gospel we see this overflowing love of God in Jesus’ marvellous generosity.  To appreciate this, we need to consider the circumstances of the miracle.  It’s easy to reach out to others when it doesn’t cause us much inconvenience.  It is not so easy when a demand is made of us at an awkward moment.  Here a real sacrifice is involved.  We have to set aside our plans and forget about ourselves.

So it was with Jesus.  He had just learned that his cousin, John the Baptist had been murdered.  He needed peace and quiet.  That is why he and the apostles crossed to the far side of the lake.  But when he stepped out of the boat he found a crowd of people waiting for him.  He might have got angry and sent them away.  Instead he had compassion on them.  Now, Jesus is surrounded by at least 5000 hungry people.  Jesus and his disciples LOOK at the same crowd, but they SEE very different things. The disciples look at these thousands of hungry people, and they choose to see ….thousands of hungry people!  Even if they had sufficient money, there was no food shop nearby where they could buy food for them!  The disciples look at the hungry people, and they see – a problem without a solution.

But Jesus?  He looks at all those hungry people, and he sees… people that he loves.  There appears to be a practical stand off.  The disciples have decided that this hungry crowd is an insolvable problem, and Jesus sees hungry people whom he loves.  The world has never known a greater lover than Jesus.  He has a boundless capacity to love, so whenever he looked at someone, he decided to see…. a person that he loved.

He takes the five loaves and two fish, blesses it, breaks it, and… everyone was fed!  And furthermore, there were 12 baskets of scraps left over!  As the people went back to their homes at the end of that day they knew that they had fully been nourished in body and spirit and experienced the goodness and love of God.

And this real miracle teaches us great lessons.  What does this miracle teach us?

+ It teaches us that God’s generosity is always greater than our needs.

 + It teaches us that God’s faithfulness is always greater than our doubts.

+ lt teaches us that God’s strength is always greater than our weakness.

+ It teaches us that God’s wisdom is always greater than our questions.

 + It teaches us that God’s forgiveness is always greater than our sins.

+ It teaches us that God’s life is always greater than death.

+ It teaches us that God’s love for us is always greater than our ability to understand.

Sometimes a small deed takes on an importance far beyond its actual value.  When Jesus told the apostles to give food to the people, they said, ‘all we have with us is just five loaves and two fish.’  On hearing this Jesus might have said, that is no good.  Forget the whole thing.  Send the people home.  But he said no such thing.  Instead, he took the five loaves and two fish, bless it and, with them, fed the people.

When God’s love touches my smallest gift or my weakest attempt, something powerful occurs.  Christ does not ask us to focus on how big the problem is – Christ is focused on the love with which I offer the gift.  We are not supposed to focus on how small we are – we are to focus on how big our God is.

If we have never trusted God with our time, our talent, our treasure…all our resources; then this is the time to start.  Let us offer everything to God saying, ‘’Here is what I am and what I have Lord, use me.’’  And He will, bless and amplify everything beyond our expectations.  As we begin to give, we will discover that the Lord moves in where we are not adequate, and He abundantly supplies what is needed.  When we give what we have to God, and we ask Him to bless it, it is then that the miracle happens.

There is a tendency today to go in for the big gesture, and to neglect the small gesture.  We may be tempted to think that because our contribution is small, it will make no difference.  So we excuse ourselves from doing anything.  But everything helps.  Enough crumbs make a loaf.  Besides, our example may trigger a response in others.   It’s easy to give something that we won’t  really miss.  But when the gift is as desperately needed by the giver as by the receiver, that is true giving.  That is a sacrifice.

More often it is about giving of ourselves, of our time, our gifts.  Giving things can be easy, but giving of oneself is never easy.  Before giving himself as food and drink in the Eucharist, Jesus gave of himself to people in so many other ways.

Mother Teresa felt she was called to take care of the poor in India.  The need was overwhelming.  All she had to offer was her one, solitary life.  How could she make a difference?  Well, look what God did with that one, solitary life!  Today, tens of thousands of Sisters serve the poor, because they are following Mother Teresa’s example.  Mother Teresa once said ‘’it is not about how much you do, but how much love you put into what you do, that counts’’

We must give with joy-filled gratitude to God who has blessed us with so much.

We need to be generous in sharing God’s blessings with others around us.

Fr Patrick


Thursday 17th Week Ordinary Time Year A

Jeremiah 18:1-6   Matt 13:47-53  

Today’s Gospel presents the third in a set of three parables, that Jesus preached on the Kingdom of God, and the conditions for entering it. 

The parable of the fishing net:  In Palestine, there were  mainly two ways of fishing.  The first was with the casting-net, which required a keen eye and great skill in throwing the net at the correct moment.  The second was with a dragnet.  A Galilean dragnet was tied to two boats and drawn through the water.  The catch was sorted only afterwards, with edible fish going to market and unacceptable fish being thrown away.

It is in the nature of the drag-net that it does not, and cannot, discriminate.  It is bound to draw in all kinds of things in its course through the water.  Its contents are bound to be a mixture.  If we apply that to the Church, which is the instrument of God’s Kingdom upon earth, it means that the Church cannot be discriminative, but is bound to be a mixture of all kinds of people; good and bad, saints and sinners (viz, good and bad fish). 

This parable encourages the Church to adopt an open approach to Evangelisation.  There will be always a temptation on the part of some, who feel they are more “faithful” to separate themselves from the “unfaithful.”  But Jesus reminds us that the final judgement resulting in reward or punishment, is the work of God.  Thus, we must  learn to be tolerant, patient, compassionate and understanding of those who, seem to us, to fall far below the requirements of the Gospel and the Kingdom.  Let us acknowledge as St. Paul did, “I am what I am with the grace of God.

Fr Patrick


The Feast of Saint Martha

1 John 4:7-16 John 11:19-27

Today we celebrate the feast of St. Martha, the sister of Mary and Lazarus, who used to welcome Jesus into her house at Bethany during Jesus’ Jerusalem journeys.  Martha was a dynamo of action.  Jesus loved her and her family.  It was during the last month of his public life that Jesus visited her house for the last time.  Jesus praised Mary for finding time to listen to him, while giving Martha a gentle correction for complaining about Mary’s “laziness” while Martha was rushing about frantically, preparing a grand meal for Jesus.

Today’s Gospel describes how Jesus later came to Bethany during the seven-day period of deep mourning for the sudden death of Lazarus.  Although Lazarus had been in the tomb four days, Martha, grieving the premature loss of her brother, sprang into action and launched her heartfelt complaint, that her brother would have been healed if Jesus had come when notified that he was sick, but she assured Jesus that she knew that the Father would give Jesus whatever he asked, even now. Jesus consoled her declaring: “I am the Resurrection and the life; if anyone believes in me, even though he die, he will live, and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.”   Martha’s response was a great profession of Faith in the Divinity of Jesus: “I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, the one who was to come into this world.’’ (John 11:25-27).  Together with Peter’s affirmation, Martha’s is the most explicit confession of Jesus as the Christ.

Jesus asking where they had laid Lazarus, Jesus wept at Lazarus’ tomb, then called him forth and gave him back alive to Martha and Mary.

Jesus’ radical inclusion of women into his life and ministry, shows that Jesus welcomed the discipleship of women.  He overturned the social conventions.  He spoke to a woman publicly at a well, he forgave the adulterous woman, he allowed women into his inner circle, and were the first witnesses of the resurrection were women.  Did Jesus care when women assumed roles of discipleship or leadership?

Martha has become a symbol of action-oriented people, responsible people who get the work done.  How would the church survive if not for the Martha(s) who sing in the choir, readers, sacristans, Eucharistic ministers, catechist, alter servers, stewards, those who clean the church, do repairs, parish secretaries, those who serve in parish management and council teams, those who devote their precious time and skills to serve the church in various ways, and those who work for various charities and raised money for good causes.

The same is true with the family life.  Our homes will not run properly without the Martha(s).  We need responsible people to do the work in the house – to clean, to cook, to pay the bills, to keep the cars running, to take care of children.  In Martha we see ourselves – worried and distracted by all we have to do in the world and forgetting to spend time with Jesus.  It is, however, comforting to note that Jesus loved her just the same.  We need to be both Martha and Mary  – people of action and contemplation.  Jesus clearly said: be hearers and doers of the Word.

Like Mary, we must find time to listen to God speaking to us through His word.  We must learn to be in the presence of the Lord: present to His love,  present to His mercy,  present to His peace, and present to His blessing.

May we imitate Martha in her faith and be active to others, especially by acts of hospitality.

Fr Patrick


Tuesday 17th Week Year A

Jeremiah 14:17-22  Matt 13:36-43

Today’s Gospel text is Jesus’ explanation of his parable of the wheat and weeds.  This parable teaches us that, a very patient and compassionate God is hopeful that the so-called “weeds” among us will be converted, and that we should not be in a hurry to eliminate such elements from the Church, society, or the family, on the basis of unwarranted and hasty judgement.

Through the parable of the wheat and the weeds, Jesus assures us that we are the field of God.  We are the ground Jesus works as well as the seed he plants, and the seedlings he nurtures.  We are the people upon whom He rests his hopes, and in whom He plants the seeds — the Word of God.  We are the congregation He anoints with the Holy Spirit. 

In today’s parable, Jesus, presents a wise and patient God Who allows the good and the evil to coexist in the world, so that the evil ones may come to conversion before their time ends.  “Let the seed and the darnel grow together till the harvest time.”  In other words, God awaits repentant sinners, giving them the strength to acknowledge their weakness.

God calmly recognises that there is evil in the world, but sees that evil as no excuse for the good people, who have God’s grace at their disposal, not to do good.  Through the parable of the wheat and the weeds in today’s Gospel, Jesus calls us to be patient with those who fail to meet the high ethical standard expected of a Christian.  If we don’t spend all our time wondering why there is so much evil in the world, we may have a little left over for wondering why there is so much good!

We need to practice patience.  We need to be patient with ourselves and with others, especially those who annoy us and those who offend us.  Let us patiently and lovingly treat the “weeds” in our society as our brothers and sisters, and do all in our power to put them back on the right road to Heaven, especially by our good example and our fervent prayer for their conversion.

The parable of the seed can be interpreted to mean different things: the words of hope, truth, and life, spoken by Christ; the call to repentance; the invitation to discipleship; the need to hear and live by the commandments; the account we will be asked to give of our lives; the judgement we will all face.

In the Christian life, in our lives of faith, patient perseverance makes all the difference.  We need to remember this.  I’m reminded of those beautiful words from the Second Letter of St Peter: ‘Think of our Lord’s patience as your opportunity to be saved.’ (2 Pet 3:14).

Patient perseverance is essential to discipleship and indispensable for our prayer.  St Paul teaches that when we cannot pray properly, the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness, expressing our desires in ways that cannot be put into words.  How we need to reply on the Holy Spirit in our prayer.

St John of the Cross said that God hears best the silent language of love.  How much we need a prayerful spirit of patient loving in response to Christ’s presence.  How much we need to persevere in sharing our inner life with Him.

Our attempts at prayer, like at friendship, might not always be successful.  We need patient persevering love, that’s all; begun again each new day, in simplicity and faith.

Even if just for a few moments, we want to be in the presence of the Lord: present to His love, present to His peace, present to His mercy.

Prayer only ever makes things better.  So pray as you can, from your heart, with simple words, words of love.

Fr Patrick

 


Monday 17th Week Ordinary Time

Jeremiah 13:1-11   Matt 13:31-35

Today’s Gospel contains two of Jesus’ one-line parables about the Kingdom of God.  The parable of the mustard seed probably shows that Gentiles in the Church will one day outnumber Jews.  The parable of the yeast indicates that all are invited to salvation, and that the power of the Holy Spirit working within the Church will enable it to grow.

The small beginnings and great ending: Using a pair of mini-parables of the mustard seed and yeast, Jesus explains how the Kingdom of God, grows within us by the power of the Word of God, and power of the Holy Spirit living within us.  When we surrender our lives to Jesus Christ, and allow his Word to take root in our hearts, we are transformed and made holy by the power of the Holy Spirit who dwells in us.

In the parable of the mustard seed, the primary point of comparison is the contrast between the smallness of the seed and the greatness of the result (“the largest of plants”).  The life-principle in a small mustard seed, enables it to grow into a large bush by a slow but steady process.  The tiny yeasts within a small piece of leaven transform a thick lump of dough overnight into a soft and spongy bread.

Christianity had a small beginning, like a mustard seed or yeast, with Jesus and a band of twelve apostles in a remote corner of the world.  But through the power of the Holy Spirit living in individual Christians, Christianity has become the largest religion in the world, spreading in all countries embracing all races of people.

We need to allow the Holy Spirit to transform us, changing our evil ways and tendencies, to a life of holiness; from unjust and uncharitable conversations, to speaking with God and listening to Him (prayer).  From a judgemental attitude expressed in scornful criticism and destructive gossip, to a loving, welcoming attitude lived out in willing help, patience, with consoling encouragement, and inspiring support.

We need to act like yeast, influencing the lives of others around us: Just as Christianity in the past transformed the treatment of women, children, slaves, the sick, and the poor by the power of Jesus’ Gospel, so we Christians, in our time, have the duty to transform the lives of people around us by our exemplary lives, led according to the promptings of the Holy Spirit.

Fr Patrick


17th Sunday Ordinary Year A

1 Kings 3:5, 7-12  Rom 8:28-30  Matt 13:44-52

The theme of wisdom dominates today’s readings. Wisdom is a precious gift a person can have and is something we all need.

The first reading tells us how the young King Solomon opted for the great treasure of accepting God to rule his life and then doing God’s will.  That is why he asked of God “an understanding heart” to distinguish right from wrong, so that he might govern God’s people properly.  Yahweh was pleased with his request and granted him a wise and discerning heart which enabled him to surpass everyone in wisdom.

In today’s Responsorial Psalm (Ps 119), the psalmist says of the commands of God, “For I love Your commands more than finest gold.  That is why l rule my life by your precepts: I hate false ways.,” thus showing real Wisdom.

In the Gospel, Jesus teaches us that God’s Kingdom is something of extraordinary value, like a hidden treasure or costly pearl, and that safeguarding it within us calls for total commitment.  Through the parables, of the treasure and the pearl, Jesus teaches us that identifying God’s will and living according to the Gospel, both with His help, are the most precious and worthwhile things in life.  Through Jesus and his Gospel, we come to know and understand the real meaning of life and the most important things we must do to secure our eternal salvation.

Once there was a teacher who desired to make progress in his career and to climb the social ladder.  He worked very hard.  In fact, his work was his life.  He put his best hours and his best efforts into it.  He had little time to appreciate his family, and even less for the enjoyment of life.  It was clear to everyone where his treasure was.  But then he had a heart attack.  He was taken to hospital where he lay for days, drifting in and out of consciousness, and not knowing whether he would live or die.

When he regained his full consciousness he recognised immediately those by his bedside.  They were his wife and children who visited him faithfully everyday, and spent hours at his bedside.  In that moment he saw where his true treasure lay – it lay in his family, his home, in the gift of life, and in God.  He saw how foolish he had been up to then, and he prayed with all his heart: ‘Lord, give me back my life, and I will be happy.’  He resolved that if he got well, he would turn his priorities upside down.  He made a full recovery. The day he walked out of hospital he was happy.  Everything had been given back to him.  Through that painful experience he acquired much wisdom.  Prior to this, he was completely focused on himself and his career.  Now he decided to open himself to others and to work for them, and he was happier than he had ever been in his life.

In one way or another, all of us are treasure-hunters.  All of us are looking for something that will make us completely happy.  The goal is legitimate, but it may be that (like that teacher) we are looking in the wrong place.  Jesus said, ‘Where your treasure is, there will your heart be too.’  So, if we want to know what our treasure is, all we have to do is ask ourselves where our heart is.  What is it that we love, that we pursue with all our hearts?  There lies our treasure.

Christ compared the Kingdom of God to a rare pearl or a priceless treasure.  In other words, the Kingdom is worth everything we have.  Those who find it, are fortunate.  The pearl of great price in this life is also found in our human relationships: a happy family,  good friends, and people who love and accepts us, even if neither we nor they are perfect.  We must give all we have to possess this great pearl because, through selfishness and self-worship, we can entirely destroy the bond of love joining us to God and each other; a bond that otherwise would flourish, surviving in spite of sickness, disease or geographical distance, and growing stronger when death divides us.

In God’s eye, we are the treasure!  In God’s eyes, we are the pearl of great price.  We are beloved children of God.  We are such a precious treasure in the sight of Jesus that he was willing to give away everything – including his life – so that we could be God’s own.

Life is unbearable without God.  A close relationship with God is a real treasure.  It gives us a sense of who we are, and where we’re going.  Only God can give us what we are looking for.  If we find God, we find all.  It brings peace to the heart, joy to the mind and beauty to life.

JOKE OF THE WEEK

My treasure is apple pie.  Little Mary listened intently in Sunday school while the teacher explained the parable of the “treasure” and “pearl”, and gave a detailed description of eternal bliss in Heaven.  The teacher concluded her class by asking the question, “All those who are ready to go to Heaven, raise your hands.”  Every hand went up except one.  “Don’t you want to go to Heaven, Mary?” asked the teacher.  “Not this minute,” Mary replied, “Mummy was baking apple pie when I left home!”

May the Lord give us the peace to accept the things we cannot change; the courage to change the things we can; and the wisdom to know the difference and use wisely the blessings God has given to us.

Fr Patrick


PROPHET JEREMIAH

We started reading from Prophet Jeremiah on Wednesday and it is going to continue for two weeks, so I thought it will be helpful to know more about Prophet Jeremiah.

Jeremiah, the son of Hilkiah, a Levitical priest.  He was born in small village of Anathoth, about three miles northeast of Jerusalem.  Jeremiah was a man called to be a prophet to deliver God’s message to Judah.  In the 13th year of King Josiah of Judah (ca. 627 B.C), God called Jeremiah when he was still a youth.  Jeremiah served as one of God’s prophets through the rule of five kings of Judah (Josiah, Jehoahaz, Jehoiakim, Jehoachin and Zedekiah).  His prophetic ministry extended over a period of more than 40 years.

God called Jeremiah to his prophetic ministry about one year after king Josiah began leading the nation in a great reform from the widespread idolatry promoted by his father, Amon.  God’s people had broken their covenant with God (Jer 11:10).  They had forsaken God by worshipping the false gods and showing ingratitude toward God’s loving kindness.  It was against this background that Jeremiah was appointed to reveal the sins of the people, the grave consequences of ignoring them and that the people needed to return to God.

We are skilful at the art of making excuses, aren’t we?  “I don’t know how.”  “I didn’t understand.”  “I couldn’t find the right tools.”  “I have a Doctor’s appointment.”  “I have a relative coming to visit’’.  In the Christian world, we can find all sorts of excuses not to obey God’s voice: “It’s the preacher’s job.”  “It’s not my gift.”  “I’ve already served, let someone else do it.”  “I’m too busy or too tired or too old or too young.”  It has been said, “Excuses are tools of the incompetent, and those who specialise in them seldom go far.”  Ben Franklin wrote, “He that is good for making excuses is seldom good for anything else.”  Gabriel Meurier stated, “He who excuses himself, accuses himself.”  Jeremiah had every excuse ready when God called him to be a prophet.  His excuses are often our excuses for not heeding God’s voice when he calls.  Countering each excuse was a promise from God.

I.  The Excuse:   The Task is Demanding

Jeremiah was called to be “a prophet to the nations” (Jer. 1:5), not a priest like his father and his grandfather.  A prophet was a chosen and authorised spokesman for God who declared God’s Word to the people.  We often think of prophets as people who can tell the future.  But a prophet spoke messages to the present, that had future ramifications. They were forth-tellers, more than they were fore-tellers, exposing the people’s sins and calling them back to their covenant responsibilities before God.  Being a prophet was more demanding than serving as a priest.  The priests’ duties were predictable.  Everything was written down in the law.  The prophet never knew from one day to the next, what the Lord would call him to say or to do.  The priest worked primarily to preserve the past.  The prophet laboured to change the present so the nation would have a future.  Priests dealt with externals – rituals, sacrifices, offerings, services – whereas the prophet tried to reach and change hearts.  Priests ministered primarily to individuals with various needs.  Prophets, on the other hand, addressed whole nations, and usually the people they addressed didn’t want to hear the message.  Priests belonged to a special tribe and therefore had authority and respect, but a prophet could come from any tribe and had to prove his divine call.  Priests were supported from the sacrifices and offerings of the people, but prophets had no guaranteed income.

Jesus, too, was called to be a prophet.  He travelled from place to place challenging the people to change, so that their future in heaven would be guaranteed.  Jesus spoke to the hearts of people.  Most did not accept his message of repentance, for they did not want to change.

The Promise  

God assured Jeremiah: “I chose you before I formed you in the womb; I set you apart before you were born'” (Jer. 1:5).  God knew Jeremiah, chose Jeremiah, and appointed Jeremiah.  He was known by name, hand-picked by God, and commissioned to serve.  Those acts give one a great sense of purpose.  The promise of God’s purpose allows us to let go of our own plans and to receive God’s plan without fear.  Like Jeremiah and Jesus, we need to accept that our future is not our own.  We are God’s.  He has a distinct plan and purpose for our lives.

II. The Excuse:  My Talent is Inadequate

Jeremiah comes up with another excuse to God: “But I protested, ‘Oh no, Lord, GOD! Look, I don’t know how to speak since I am only a youth'” (Jer. 1:6).  Jeremiah felt inadequate as a public speaker.  God has a way to overcome weakness and our insufficiencies, doesn’t he?  God’s strength is made perfect in our weakness.  His glory is manifested through our flaws.

The Promise

“Then the LORD reached out His hand, touched Jeremiah’s mouth, and told him: I have now filled your mouth with My words” (Jer. 1:9).  The touch was not so much to purify, as it was to inspire and empower.  It was symbolic of the gift of prophecy bestowed on Jeremiah.  Our talent may appear inadequate, but God always equips those he calls.  Jesus experienced this touch in a visible, yet profound way.  Following his baptism, immediately coming out of the water, the heavens opened and the Spirit of God descended on him like a dove.  And God spoke, “This is My beloved Son. I take delight in Him” (Matt. 3:17).

God blesses not the silver-tongued orator, but the one whose tongue has been touched with coals from the altar.  God uses not the most gifted and talented person, but the one touched by the hand of God.  God uses the most unlikely persons to shake a church or a community or a nation.  Never underestimate the power of the touch; especially when God does the touching.

III. The Excuse:  The Time is Not Right

Jeremiah comes up with third excuse: Jeremiah said to God, “I am only a youth” Jer.1:6).   He felt inferior, inexperienced, and intimidated by the size of the task to which God was summoning him.

The Promise

God promise Jeremiah: “Then the LORD said to me:  Do not say, ‘I am only a youth,’ for you will go to everyone I send you to and speak whatever I tell you. Do not be afraid of anyone, for I will be with you to deliver you. This is the LORD’s declaration” (Jer. 1:7-8).  God’s call may come at an inopportune time, but he never sends forth his servant alone. God walks with us.  What a difference it makes knowing that when we are being sent, someone is going with us.  We know we do not have to walk the lonesome road alone, that we have a travelling companion.

IV. The Excuse:  The Teaching is Dangerous

The Lord did not give Jeremiah a joyful message of deliverance to announce, but a tragic message of judgement.  Consequently, Jeremiah would be misunderstood, persecuted, arrested, and imprisoned.  More than once his life was threatened.  The people did not want to hear the truth.  Jeremiah told them plainly they were defying the Lord, disobeying the law, and destined for judgement.  Jesus’ teaching contained mercy and judgement, grace and punishment.  Jesus’ teachings were dangerous, too.  In fact, it was his teaching that cost him his life.

The Promise

God’s promise to Jeremiah: “Today, I am the One who has made you a fortified city – against the kings of Judah, its officials, its priests, and the population.  They will fight against you but never prevail over you, since I am with you to rescue you” (Jer. 1:18-19).   God reassured Jeremiah: Attack you they will; overcome you they can’t.  The person who stands with God will prevail.  Alone we are helpless.  With God we prevail.

V. The Excuse:  Do I Have to Go Now?

God was expecting immediate action from Jeremiah.  God said, “Now, get ready.  Stand up and tell them everything that I command you” (Jer. 1:17).  God called Jeremiah to act.   He was called to deliver God’s message to the people.  He would not be welcomed, nor would he be accepted.  He would anger his hearers.

The Promise

God’s promise to Jeremiah: “Do not be intimidated by them” (Jer. 1:17).  Obedience is the only appropriate response when God calls.  

Jesus obeyed.  Whatever you think of Jesus, remember this, his heart was a willing and obedient heart.  He always did the will his Father.  There was no hesitation, no questioning, no circumventing. Only obedience.

Has God called you?  Then he will fulfil his purpose in you, he will equip you, he will enable you, he will protect you, he will accompany you.  Are you obeying his commands?  Then he is with you to protect you.  Are you sharing the word?  Then he will accomplish his purposes, no matter how the people respond.

Fr Patrick


St Mary Magdalene

Song of Songs 3:1-4 / John 20:1-2, 11-18

Mary Magdalene is one of the most significant characters in the Gospel narrative.  We first meet her in Luke’s gospel (Lk 8:2), where we are told that Jesus and the Twelve were accompanied in their preaching of the Good News by some women.  It is said that these women had been ‘’cured of evil spirits and infirmities’’.  Among them was Mary, called Magdalene, ‘’from whom seven demons had gone out’’.

The next time we meet Mary Magdalene is during the crucifixion of Jesus on Calvary.  There were ‘’many women’’ keeping vigil there, and among them was Mary Magdalene (Matt 27:61; Mark 15:47).  Then early on the Sunday morning Magdalene, with the same women, went to see the tomb (Matt 28:1; Mark 16:1).  Luke has Mary Magdalene with several women going to the tomb, and adds that they then went back to the disciples, to tell of a dialogue with angels who had told them Jesus was risen.

In John’s gospel however, Mary Magdalene goes to the tomb on her own early on Sunday morning.  Then, after Peter and the ‘Beloved Disciple’ have gone to the tomb to investigate the women’s report, Mary Magdalene remains there by herself and the Risen Jesus appears to her, after which she goes back to the disciples and tells them that she has seen the Lord

Mary Magdalene, at the tomb early in the morning of the Resurrection, was not able to recognise the Risen Jesus until he called her by name.   Mary Magdalene failed to recognise Jesus because of her false assumption that his body had been stolen.  Her attention was concentrated on the empty tomb.  Her tears of intense grief could also have blurred her vision.  Once Mary had recognised Jesus, he gave her a message to be conveyed to his Apostles about His plan to leave them and ascend to his Father.  Mary’s message to Jesus’ disciples, “I have seen the Lord,” became the basis and essence of later preaching and Christians’ witness-bearing.  St. Thomas Aquinas said that one old lady, might have more Faith than a host of learned theologians.

We can be open to experience the presence of the Risen Lord in our lives through our prayer, our Sacramental life and our meditative reading of the Bible.  These all enable us to bear witness to the Risen Lord in our daily lives.  It is our powerful conviction of the Real Presence of the Risen Lord, both in the Eucharist and in our lives, which gives us the strength to fight temptations and to serve our brothers and sisters.

Mary Magdalene was certainly a sinner whom Jesus saved, giving us an example of how no person is beyond the saving grace of God.  Mary Magdalene is patron both of repentant sinners and of the contemplative life, people ridiculed for their piety and pharmacists.

Fr Patrick


Tuesday 16th Week Ordinary Time Year A

Micah 7:24-15,18-20 Matt 12:46-50

In the first reading today, the Prophet Micah is calling on the Lord to be merciful to his people and to pardon their sins and transgressions.

The people wish to live under God’s blessing as in the past, and Micah’s prayer to God is on their behalf.  From Prophet Micah we hear this:  What god can be compared with You: Taking fault away, pardoning crime, not cherishing anger forever, but delighting in showing mercy.

Yes, God is also merciful and compassionate, loving and forgiving.  The Prophet Micah teaches us to pray like this: Once more have pity on us, tread down our faults, to the bottom of the sea throw all our sins.

Yes, let us implore the Lord our God to forgive our sins and grant us faithfulness, so that we will always walk in His ways and do His will.  The Psalm takes up this theme and asks the Lord to revive his people, to lead them in the right path.

Jesus in today’s gospel says: ‘’whoever does the will of Father in heaven, is my brother and sister and mother.’’  We should not understand this statement to mean Jesus’ rejection of His Mother and family.  If there is anyone who does the will of God perfectly, it is the Blessed Virgin Mary.  She is the one who hears the word of God and does it.  At the annunciation, she says: ‘’l am the handmaid of the Lord, let it be done to me accord to your word.’’  She was faithful in doing the will of God.

Jesus’ plain answer, “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it”, was indeed a compliment to his mother who always listened to the word of God and obeyed it.  Jesus was declaring “Blessed are those who have heard and kept the word of God as she is faithfully doing”.  In other words, this gospel passage emphasises that each one of us can be very close to Jesus if we strive to do God’s will.  To seek the will of God, is the first condition in order for us to be children of God.  Jesus was also using the occasion to teach the congregation a new lesson in their relationship with God.  Being a disciple of Jesus, a Christian, means, first and foremost, being in a relationship – a relationship of love and unity with God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and with all who belong to God as His children. 

Jesus changes the order of relationships, and shows us that true kinship is not just a matter of flesh and blood.  God’s gracious gift to us is His adoption of us as His sons and daughters.  This gift enables us to recognise all those who belong to Christ as our brothers and sisters.  Our adoption as sons and daughters of God, transforms all our relationships, and requires a new order of loyalty to God and to His kingdom.  Everyone who does the will of the Father, that is to say, who obeys Him, is a brother or sister of Christ, because he is like Jesus who fulfilled the will of his Father.  Blessedness can be found in our fidelity in doing the will of God, in our fidelity to obey and keep the word of God.

Happy are those who hear the word of God and keep it.

Fr Patrick


Monday 16th Week Ordinary Time Year A

Micah 6:1-4, 6-8   Matt 12:38-42   

If we were asked as Christians, how do we live a good life, just what will our answer be?  We may say things like we trust in God and live our lives honestly and charitably.  We may say a lot of other things to describe how we would live a good life.

But in the 1st reading, the prophet Micah summed it all in just a few lines, and that sets the direction of life.  “What is good has been explained to you; this is what the Lord asks of you: only this, to act justly, to love tenderly and to walk humbly with your God.”

That is so simple to understand, and yet it is so difficult to live out, because the fact is that we have failed in at least one of the aspects, and it is not likely that we can ever say we were able to live that out all the time.  But to do what is right and just and do it humbly and lovingly is what basic fundamental goodness is all about.  That is not some kind of ideology, but it is what God is asking of us.

That is what others want to see in us when they know that we are Christians.  We are made in the image of God; we carry the splendour of divinity within us.  We are capable of such things as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, mercy and compassion.  These are beautiful things, and bring out the best in us.

Lord, help us to believe in our own goodness, and to let the light of that goodness shine by acting justly, loving tenderly and walking humbly with God.

 Fr Patrick

 


16th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A

Wisdom 12:13,16-19 Rom 8:26-27  Matt 13:24-43

WEEDS AMONG THE WHEAT

Today’s readings tell us about a very patient and compassionate God, who is hopeful that the so-called “weeds” among us will be converted.

The first reading from the Book of Wisdom, shows us a merciful and patient God, rather than the disciplining and punishing God presented in the book of Genesis.  God is a lot more tolerant than we are.  Today’s first reading says of God, ‘You are lenient to all…mild in your judgement… you govern with great lenience.’

Take note of today’s Responsorial Psalm (Ps 85)  “Lord, you are Good and forgiving!”

The second reading from St Paul to the Romans, reminds us that the Spirit of God constantly empowers us in our prayers and in our weakness.  So we should be patient with ourselves and with others.

In the Gospel, parable of the wheat and the weeds, Jesus presents a wise and patient God who allows the good and the evil to coexist in the world, and blesses the evil ones for the little good they may have done, so that they may come to conversion before their time ends.  “Let the wheat and the weeds grow together till the harvest time.”  In other words, God awaits repentant sinners, giving them the strength and good will to get reconciled with Him.

Through the parable of the wheat and the weeds in today’s Gospel, Jesus calls us to be patient, tolerant and understanding with those who fail to meet the high ethical standard expected of a Christian.  God gives all of us sinners ample time to repent and, with His grace, change our lives.   No one understood this better than Jesus.  Even in the small ‘garden’ (the twelve apostles) which he tended carefully for three years, the weeds persisted, yet he didn’t write it off.   Isn’t it strange that Jesus who had no trace of weed in him, could be so understanding towards those who failed to measure up?  Why didn’t Jesus weed out Judas?  Why didn’t Jesus write off Thomas who will doubt him, and James and John, who cherish personal ambitions.  And why didn’t he weed out Peter?  Jesus saw the weeds in Peter’s life, but he saw the wheat too.  He knew that with encouragement, the wheat would prevail.  And it did.  Evil can be overcome only by good.

The Church can do no better than imitate its Founder.  It has to be big enough and loving enough to hold sinners in the fold.  If it did not do so, it would not be the Church of Christ.  A Church that admitted only saints, would make about as much sense as a hospital that admitted only people who are well, or a repair shop that accepted only things that are whole.  The church is not a museum for saints, but a school for sinners.  Jesus may be telling us to slow down and to exercise some Godly patience.  If we make judgements too quickly, we might give up on people too quickly.  We must aim at being as understanding and tolerant as God is.  The time for judgement is not yet.  The Kingdom of God is still at the growing stage.  Now is the time for conversion.  People can change.  We can change.

We must learn to be patient and lenient, towards ourselves in the first place.  We must be hospitable towards all that we are.  We must acknowledge the dark side of ourselves, without conceding victory to it.  We must struggle on in spite of the weeds, confident that with God’s help, the good will finally triumph.

Let us patiently and lovingly treat the “weeds” in our society as our brothers and sisters, and do all in our power to put them back on the right road to Heaven, especially by our good example, encouragement and our fervent prayers for their conversion.   Let us remember that most of us have been “weeds” in God’s field more than once, and God has showed us mercy.

Our acts of charity, kindness, mercy, encouragement, loving correction and selfless service, can prompt the “weeds” in our society to reassess their lives and change for the better.   God wants us to do good instead of evil, to bless instead of cursing, to praise instead of criticising, to help instead of standing aside, to love instead of hating, to forgive instead of resenting, and to tell the truth instead of lies. 

May we strive to imitate the compassion and understanding of Christ.

Fr Patrick

 


 

14th Anniversary of Priestly Ordination

It’s a remarkable thing, that an ordinary man would be chosen by God to make his presence known among his people.  14 years ago, as the bishop laid his hands on me and invoked the Holy Spirit, I was changed forever.  But changed not for myself.  My priesthood is God’s will, God’s choice, and God’s gift.  Who am I, to be worthy of that gift?  Priesthood is never something we can be worthy of.  Truly, it is pure gift.

This world desperately needs the priesthood.  The world needs this witness; it needs to be taught how to love.  To be Christ’s witness is not easy – to love is not easy either.

By virtue of our baptism, we are all called to love as Christ does.  To seek the good for the other, even at a cost of myself.  The world though, rejects this kind of love – a love that is not self serving in which nothing is received in return.  The world doesn’t understand this love, just as it doesn’t understand the priesthood: that a happy, normal man would give his life away for very little in return, confuses the world.  The reality though is that, as selfless disciples, we receive much more than we give.  The Cross teaches us that too, that it is in giving our lives away freely, that we are ultimately made free.  The world desperately needs the witness of love; of people willing to die to themselves; to lay down their lives so that others might have life, and have it to the full.  Priesthood is that symbol to the world.

After my ordination I said to myself, everything I will do as a priest, I will strive to bring people closer Jesus.

In preaching and teaching I will bring people closer to Jesus.

In celebrating the sacraments I will bring people closer to Jesus.

In doing my daily ministry as a priest, I will bring people closer to Jesus, especially when they feel paralysed by life, or lost or broken hearted.  Sometimes, I think that actually happens.

For the past 14 years, I have learnt that, if I allow myself, God’s Spirit can in fact work through me a sinner, so that other sinners may get closer to Jesus.  Fourteen years ago I thought that I will bring people closer to Jesus every day of my priestly life and, because of God’s generosity, there have been days that the Lord has worked through me to help someone else to know Jesus Christ.  But after 14 years as a priest, what I have learnt clearly is this: Most days, it is not me as a priest who is carrying the people of God closer to Jesus.  Most days, it is the people of God who are carrying me closer to Jesus.

Priests and deacons exercise significant ministry with and for the people of God.  But we hold this treasure in earthen vessels, and earthen vessels break easily, like hearts and lives and good intentions.  The Lord patiently teaches me that priesthood is not about me, my work, my abilities, is not about me!  Me!.

As I think about the people I have served since my ordination; (serving the sick as a hospital chaplain, serving prisoners as a prison chaplain, serving young people and students as school chaplain, and parishioners in parishes), I know in a unique way, each of you pick me up and carrying me closer to Jesus.  When my prayer life falters, your prayers pick me up and move me closer to Jesus.  When selfishness seizes me, your generosity picks me up and move me closer to the Lord.  When my faith is weak, the strength of your faith picks me up and moves me closer to the Lord.

As I think about the people, the men and women and young people of our parish, I think about the concrete ways that you have carried me when I couldn’t do it for myself, and you all carried me.  To all my friends in the parish, your love keeps carrying me closer to the Lord.  To my brother priests and deacons I have known over the years; your good example, your encouragement and honesty, have all carried me closer to the Lord.  I say thank you to you.  Thank you for picking me up and carrying me forward especially on days when you were not aware you were doing it.

And you, Parishioners; your dedication and faithfulness to Christ has lifted me up when I have been paralysed by fear or sin.  I think about husbands and wives whose faithful love for each other inspires me, and picks me up.  I think about parents whose selfless love for their children reveals what God’s love looks like.  I think about single people who live the faith and serve their neighbours.  I think about children who love without hesitation.  I think about old people who know the cost of love.

I have been able to serve as a priest for 14 years because your Faith, Hope and Love picks up this poor sinner and moves me closer to Jesus where I belong.

‘’There is one thing I ask of the Lord, only this do I seek: To live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life’’- Psalm 26:4

Fr Patrick


Monday 15th Week Ordinary Time

Isaiah 1:10-17 / Matt 10:34 – 11:1

HOSPITALITY

Jesus said, ‘If anyone gives you so much as a cup of cold water, he will most definitely not lose his reward.’  One of the nicest things in life is to meet an open, friendly, warm hospitable person.  Hospitality is a hallmark of a true follower of Christ.

Strange how our homes are always open to receive God’s sunshine and fresh air, but not always open to receive a child of God, especially when he comes in poverty.  Hospitality to a friend is no big deal.  There is no risk involved, and there is every likelihood that the favour will be returned.  But hospitality to a stranger is a great thing.  You don’t owe anything to a stranger, and there is a risk involved.  But Christ calls us to welcome the strangers in our midst.  To be hospitable does not mean making them like us.  It means accepting them as they are.  This enables them to shed their strangeness, and become members of the community.

Christ calls us to reach out.  The rewards are enormous.  He said that even a small act of kindness, like giving a cup of cold water, would not go unrewarded.  But there are earthly rewards too, and very great ones – the growth of understanding, friendliness, and cooperation, things our communities are crying out for.  For us Christians, hospitality is not an optional extra.  It is at the very heart of the Gospel, and the ultimate motivation is clear: To welcome the stranger is to welcome Christ himself.

Hospitality is not so much about open doors as about open hearts.  There is a risk in having an open heart.  One can get hurt.  But to open one’s heart, is to begin to live.  To close it, is to begin to die.

The spirit in which a deed is done, the person to whom it is done, and the circumstances, can magnify a small deed.  It’s not how much we do that matters, but how much love we put into it.  Few of us are given the chance to perform great deeds  But the chance to give a cup of water can come our way several times in the course of a day.  The ‘cup of cold water’ is a symbol of the small kind deed.  Little deeds may not look much, but they can bring peace.

An Australian priest visiting Ireland went into Dublin. That evening he was asked how he found Dublin.  He replied, ‘Dublin must be one of the few cities in the world where people will hold a door open for you, or say ‘’sorry’’ if they accidentally bump into you, or ‘’Excuse me’’ if they have to squeeze past you, was his reply.  The things he referred to were very small in themselves.  Yet the accumulation of those little things led him to conclude that Dublin is basically a friendly place.  Little flowers may appear to have no scent on their own.  But put a bunch of them together and they can fill a room with fragrance.  Deeds don’t have to be in order to be of help and comfort to the person for whom they are done.  They just have to have a certain quality.  What is this quality?  It is warmth.  All deeds which come from the heart have this warmth.

We cannot all be prophets, and preach and proclaim the word of God, but the person who gives God’s messenger the simple gift of hospitality, will receive no less a reward than the prophet himself.

Let those who have the often thankless task of making a home, cooking meals, washing clothes, shopping for household necessities and caring for children, never think of it as uninspiring and weary round.  It is God’s greatest task; and they too will receive the prophet’s reward.  We cannot all be shining examples of goodness.  We cannot all stand out in the world’s eye as righteous, but the person who helps a good person to be good receives a good person’s reward.

The church and Christ will always need those in whose homes there is hospitality, on whose hands there is all the service which makes a home, and in whose hearts there is the caring which is Christian love.

Fr Patrick

 


15th Sunday Ordinary Time Year A                                                                          Isaiah 55:10-11 / Rom 8:18-23 / Matt 13:1-23

THE SOWER

The Gospels are littered with parables.  This was Jesus’ favourite method of teaching.

Why does Jesus teach in parables?

Sometimes the truth can be so painful that we are not able to take it straight.  We have to dress it up.  We have to adorn it.  A story makes a bitter truth more palatable.  Also  a parable always makes truth concrete.  There are very few people who can grasp and understand abstract ideas; most people think in pictures.  In order to be understood, every great word must become flesh, every great idea must take form and shape in a person; and the first great quality of a parable, is that it makes truth into a picture which all people can see and understand.

What is Jesus saying to us in his parable of the sower.  Today’s Gospel teaches us that the word of the Lord is the seed, and our hearts and minds are the soil.  The parable of the sower challenges us to listen intently to God’s Word, to be open to it, and to allow our lives to be shaped by its power.

When Jesus first spoke this parable, his listeners may have looked at him and said he is not a good farmer.  Because this isn’t how it works.  Seeds were precious to ancient farmers.  So they threw seeds only on rich soil.  But in today’s parable, Jesus said the sower goes out and he is throwing the seeds everywhere – on edge of the path, patches of rock, among thorns and rich soil.  He is throwing the seed everywhere.  It is an image of a generous God.  God generously sowing seeds right and left, in abundant measure, so that we constantly receive the word in our hearts from a merciful and generous sower.

God is always scattering the seeds of His kingdom around us whether we deserve them or not, so that when the soil of our hearts is ready for the seed to germinate, the seed is already there.   Even the tiniest seed of God’s love can produce in us a harvest beyond our imagining.

In his parable of the sower, Jesus uses four different soil types, to represent four separate responses people can give to God’s saving word.  In fact, each one of us may display all four different types of soil at various times in our personal lives.

  • The soil along the path.  This soil is too hard to absorb the seed.   Soon the birds eat it up or passers-by trample it under foot.   Jesus explains that this soil is like the person who hears the word of God without letting it sink in.  The seed/word is then replaced by worldly concerns.  This type of soil represents people whose hearts and/or minds are closed because of laziness, prejudice, fear, pride, or immoral living.  You and I are called to “sow” God’s word in our children, and to live out the values that Jesus “sowed” in us but first we must open our hardened hearts and become true disciples.
  • The rocky soil.  This soil-type represents emotional people who are always looking for novelties, but never take a permanent interest in anything.  Jesus explains that this kind of person is at first impressed by the message, but quickly loses interest because of the effort needed to keep the word alive.  We have the example of a group of disciples, who followed Jesus for a long time until the day he announced that he was the “bread of life.”  They found that teaching “too hard to accept” and just drifted away.  The lives of some people are littered with things started but never finished.
  • The soil filled with weeds:   This soil represents people addicted to evil habits and tendencies, and those whose hearts are filled with hatred, jealousy, fear, and greed.  They are interested only in acquiring money by any means, and enjoying life in any way possible.  Jesus explains that these people are filled with worldly interests that undermine them.  The classic example is Judas who follows Jesus for a long time, but in the end, it seems, cannot let go of his worldly interests and so exchanges his Lord for earthly silver.
  • The good soil.  This soil-type represents the people who hear the word of God and diligently keep it.   They have open hearts filled with holiness and humility.   They are eager to hear the word and ready to put it into practice.  They are attentive to the Holy Spirit.  Fortunately, the Gospel is filled with people who have accepted the Lord’s message and whose lives have been changed.  In them, Jesus’ words, in spite of obstacles and challenges, will produce the Kingdom.

A challenge for examination of conscience.  The questions we need to ask ourselves are:  Am I merely hearing God’s word without understanding it?  Does God’s word meet with a hard heart in me?  Am I too anxious about money, security of life?   Is God’s word taking root in me?  Converting me?  Transforming me?  Enabling me to sacrifice?

And what about the “fruits” that we are being invited to produce:   Justice and mercy, the unborn, the single mother?  By refusing to consider these things, we may be missing the healing that the Word of God can bring into our lives.  The parable of the sower challenges us to see how deeply the word of God has taken root in our lives, how central God is to the very fabric of our day-to-day life.   Jesus also invites his followers to embrace the Faith of the sower; to trust and believe that our simplest acts of kindness and forgiveness; our humblest offers of help to anyone in need, may be the seeds that fall “on good soil” and yield an abundant harvest.

What kind of soil are we?  How do we respond to the Word of God and to the various Acts of God in our lives?  Do we allow the challenges of this world to overwhelm the tender seed growing within us?  Do we decide, because things are not working out the way we think they ought, that God doesn’t care for us, or that He is powerless, weak, and not to be heeded?  Do we allow the cares of this world, our ambitions, or our desires for success and happiness, to choke out the messages that God sends us through the various events of our daily lives, and through the various people we encounter?

How we respond to the Word of God is the key to how fruitful the Gospel is going to be in our lives.  Unlike the situation in nature, we can, as it were, change the kind of soil that we are.  God allows the seed to land on the hard paths; on the rocky ground, and in the thickets of our lives, in the hope that in those places it will find a place to mature and bear fruit; that those things which impede growth will be removed, and that the soil may be just a little deeper than it at first appears to be in those rocky places.  Jesus challenges us in the parable of the sower, to sow seeds of encouragement, joy, and reconciliation regardless of the “soil” on which it is scattered, and to imitate the seed’s total giving of self that becomes the harvest of Gospel justice and mercy.

God doesn’t speak to us like a dictator to his subjects.  He speaks to us as a Father speaks to his children.  His word is as gentle as weak, as defenceless as a seed falling into the soil.  Yet that word is more effective than the word of the most powerful dictator – it can change people’s heart.

When experience steals our hope, when our hosanna is fractured and our hallelujah broken, precisely then we need to open our hearts to the Lord Jesus’ word of life.  Into the soil of our heart, He wants to plant the seed of His love, the seed of His mercy, and the seed of His hope.  He wants His life to grow within us.

The word of God gives us guidance in times of doubt, reassurance in times of difficulty, comfort in times of sorrow, correction in times of foolishness, warning in times of danger, and hope in times of despair.

Through his Word, God is continually calling us to a better a more fruitful life.  Happy those who make the voice of God the most important voice in their lives.

Lord, soften our hearts with your grace, open them with your gentle love, so that the precious seed of your word may take root in our hearts and bear fruit in our lives.

Fr Patrick