Weekly Reflections

Second Sunday in Lent

It is good for us to be here

If you are anything like me, this year's unusually early arrival of Ash Wednesday and the formal launch of Lent last week has truly felt like a shock. This year, Lent began barely seven weeks after Christmas, which makes it one of the earliest starts to this wonderful season of repentance and renewal.

Today, on this second weekend of Lent, we are invited to reflect on an extraordinary event in the life of Jesus, the moment he was transfigured in the presence of his friends, Peter, James, and John. It was an experience which took their breath away.

The story of the Transfiguration, as recounted in today’s Gospel comes from Mark, and takes place at a critical moment in the ministry of Jesus. He has just left behind his beloved Galilee and is making his way south, on the most difficult journey of his life, towards Jerusalem, where he knows he will meet the same fate as the prophets before him. He has already warned his disciples that the Son of Man is destined to ‘be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and be killed (Mk 8: 31). And he has sternly rebuked Peter for trying to deflect him from Calvary: ‘Get behind me, Satan! Because the way you think is not God’s way but man’s’ (Mk 8:33). There can be no side-stepping the Cross in Christianity.

About to enter the final phase of his mission, Jesus withdraws to the top of Mount Tabor to pray and reflect, taking with him three of his closest friends, Peter, James, and John. In their presence he is transfigured: ‘His clothes became dazzlingly white, whiter than any earthly bleacher could make them’ (Mk 9:3). At that moment, he is re-affirmed in his baptismal identity and vocation by his Father’s voice: ‘This is my Son, the Beloved. Listen to him’ (Mk 9:7). It was surely this assurance of being loved by Abba that gave Jesus the strength to face the challenges that lay ahead of him. His intense experience of the Father’s love confirmed the truth to which Paul attests in today’s second reading: ‘With God on our side, who can be against us’? (Romans 8:31).

The transfiguration experience was important not only for Jesus but also for Peter, James, and John. Their eyes were opened and they caught a glimpse of Jesus in all his glory, and their ears were opened to hear the Father’s confirmation of Jesus’ identity as the ‘beloved Son’ to whom they are commanded to listen. It was like a foretaste and preview of Easter, indeed of heaven itself. Overwhelmed by the experience, Peter wants to freeze and capture that moment and remain up on the mountain in the exalted company of Elijah, Moses, and Jesus: «Rabbi, it is wonderful for us to be here, so let us make three tents, one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah».

But to stay on the top of a mountain lost in contemplation is not the vocation of a follower of Jesus. The disciples’ task is to listen to Jesus, ‘This is my beloved Son. Listen to him’. That is our task too. We spend our lives listening to the Lord as he speaks to us in his word, not up on a mountain top, but in and through the circumstances of our daily lives down in the messiness of every-day life. Mark’s Gospel tells us that the disciples continued to reflect on what they had seen and heard, wondering what it all meant. The same holds true for us. We too need to take time to linger and ponder on the meaning of events in Jesus’ life. Lent is an excellent time to do so.

Today’s Gospel prompts us to recall that we too have ‘transfiguration moments’ in our own lives, moments when we catch glimpses of transcendent beauty and meaning beyond the horizon of our usual routines. Such moments may not change us all at once, as they are always fleeting. But they can break open our horizons to a sustaining presence in our lives and help us cope with times of great fear and uncertainty – such as we are experiencing globally at present in Gaza and in the Ukraine – uplift our spirits, and carry us forward in hope of a better future.

Lent is a time to recall such Mount Tabor moments of transcendence in our own lives and draw strength from them. It is a time to trust radically in the Lord, like Abraham in our first reading, even when the odds seem stacked against us. It is a time to withdraw in prayer with Jesus, to listen to him, and allow him to lead us on our journey towards Easter.

Lent is meant to be our time of transformation. We have forty days to ask: What change needs to occur in our own lives so that we grasp our calling as disciples? What change needs to occur in me so that I truly listen to the Beloved Son? Whenever, wherever we connect with Jesus - «it is good to be here»!

Eamonn Mulcahy CSSp


LENT: A TIME FOR SELF-DISCIPLINE, SELF-DENIAL, AND ABSTINENCE.

OPENING REMARKS

A worried mother took her daughter to a wise man, complaining that the girl was addicted to eating sweetmeats. She wanted the saintly man to counsel her to give up this harmful habit. The wise man sat a while in silence and then said; “Bring your daughter back in three weeks and then I will speak to her”. After three weeks the woman returned with her daughter, the wise man took the girl aside and spoke to her about the harmful effects of indulging in eating too many sweetmeats. He urged her to give up the habit. The woman appreciated the effort of the wise man and asked why he did not speak to her daughter the first time they visited. The wise man replied, “Three weeks ago, I, myself was addicted to eating sweetmeats, so I had to discipline myself first, before talking to your daughter”.

Lent is forty days set aside by the Church to help us prepare spiritually for Easter. Forty is a very significant number in the bible, symbolizing a long period, a time for trials, temptations, and a time for repentance (Gen.7:12, Ex.24:18, 34:1-28, Num.13:25, Jonah 3:4, Ez.4:1-6, I Kng.19:8, Mt.4:1-11, Lk.4:2). Lent is a period for abstinence, self-discipline, and self-denial, it is a time for us to drop our harmful habits. Lent is the time for us to go to confession and get reconciled with God on the other hand and our brothers/sisters (II Cor.5:20). During this period the Church invites us to discipline our senses through prayer, almsgiving, fasting and other penitential acts (Mt. 6:1-6, 16-18).

PRAYER

How often do you pray, only in emergencies? Lent is a time we create time for more prayer, hence many of us are always busy, without a time for God. Jesus himself could create some time to go and pray (Lk.5.16, Mk.1:35, Lk.9:28). Lent is a time set aside for us by the Church to pray more. To be with Jesus Christ in his suffering, death, and resurrection. Jesus told Martha that Mary has chosen the best part - being with the Lord (Lk.10:41-42). It is pertinent to observe that, a life without prayer is not the best, we must pray consistently and persistently (Lk.11:5-8, Lk.18:1-8).

FASTING

What is behind our fasting, to reduce weight? Jesus fasted in the desert and was able to overcome the devil (Mt.4:1-11). The essence of fasting is to help discipline our senses and to create more room in our hearts for God. The prophet Isaiah describes the best way to fast, "To loosen the bonds of justice, to undo the tong of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? To share your bread with the hungry, bring the homeless poor into your house and to cover the naked” (Is.58:6-8).

ALMSGIVING

During this period, we also embark on almsgiving and works of charity - corporal works of mercy, in the footsteps of Jesus, who went about doing good to all (Acts.10:38). However, almsgiving should be a constant thing in the life of a Christian, not only in Lent, although this time is set aside for us to make more efforts to reach out to those in need. It is a time for us to be more sensitive to the poor around us (Mt.25:33-45). Let us learn to do good while we have the opportunity (Gal.6:10).

CONCLUDING REMARKS

Lent invites us to go into the desert of our hearts, re-examine our consciences and make amends. Of course, the desert is the best place to listen to the word of God, in silence and solitude, “I will allure you into the desert and speak comfort to you” (Jer.2:14). The desert is the place we can have an encounter with God. During this period, our prayer, almsgiving and fasting must be done in secret so that the Father, who sees in secret will reward us (Mt.6:1-6, 16-18). Of course, this goes against our human inclination, we tend to show off, and we want people to notice us. Jesus condemns this type of attitude, we should rather fast, pray and give alms for the sake of the kingdom of God (Mt.25:34) and not for human admiration or approval. Our Lenten observances should be motivated by the love of God and our neighbours (Mt.22:35, Mk.12:28-34). As we begin our Lenten observances, let us discipline our senses and fast especially from sin.

Kwaghtaver C.S.Sp.


If you want to, you can cure me

Even today in the 21st century, the disease of leprosy is viewed as a stigma and deemed a terrible scourge, its victims, often grossly disfigured, being shunned by those who encounter them. But at the time of Jesus a person suffering from leprosy was treated like a “dead man walking” and was subject to rules of extreme social distancing.

The Book of Leviticus ordered that anyone with the disease had to live outside the city walls, stay 50 paces or strides away from any other human being, wear their hair dishevelled, have their garments torn, their mouths covered, whilst shouting out in warning to passers-by, “unclean! unclean!” Leprosy was thought to be highly contagious. But not only was there fear of sickness and catching infection - there was also real taboo, for lepers were considered to be impure, and healthy people were afraid they would contract ritual uncleanness if they came anywhere near, and that is why lepers had to stay “outside the camp” on the margins of society, at a safe distance from any others.

Against this background, the encounter between Jesus and the leper is startling and moving. The leper in today’s Gospel breaks all the rules, courageously flinging himself down on his knees at Jesus’ feet, he pleads desperately for help. We can hear the pathos in his voice: «if you want to», he begs, «you can cure me». Jesus had every right to send the man away - but he does just the opposite. Moved by deep compassion and pity for the leper he reaches out and touches him, saying, «of course, I want to - be cured», in so doing, Jesus was breaking the law of Levitus and becoming himself ritually contaminated and impure.

The amazing thing about leprosy is that it is not so physically painful because the nerve endings die, and limbs become numb and lose their feeling. No, the pain of leprosy is not physical. The pain of leprosy is unspeakable loneliness, unimaginable isolation. When was the last time this leper had touched the skin of another human being? When was the last time anyone had hugged or embraced or kissed him?

So, Jesus doesn’t just physically cure him - he relationally recreates him! He tells him to go and show himself to the priest so that he can be reinserted into the faith community and be reinstated into civil society. Jesus opens up a whole new world of relationships for him.

Jesus sternly orders the leper to say nothing to anyone. Jesus tells this man to keep his mouth shut, but the guy is so overjoyed he broadcasts the story to everyone. And, paradoxically, while the cured leper now moves freely and openly around the town, Jesus himself has to hide in places where no one lives. Strangely, Jesus and the leper seem to have changed places. There has been a «marvellous exchange».

Today’s beautiful encounter between the leper and Jesus in this passage from Mark’s Gospel on the last Sunday before Ash Wednesday raises questions for me. What do I need to ask healing for this Lent? What do I need to be cured from? What stigma or taboo is clinging to me? Do I dare to approach Jesus in faith like the leper? Can I turn to Jesus and confidently say «if you want to - you can cure me», knowing full sure that Jesus is bound to reply, «of course, I want to - be cured».

Eamonn Mulcahy CSSp


5th Sunday in Ordinary Time

How do you handle pain?

A story is told of a medical doctor who was called for an emergency, he answered the call and went to the hospital. He arrived at the hospital and went straight to the surgery room. He found the boy’s father pacing in the hall anxiously waiting for the doctor. On seeing him, the dad yelled: “Why did you take all this time to come? Don’t you know that my son’s life is in danger? Don’t you have any sense of responsibility? The doctor smiled and said: “I am sorry, I wasn’t in the hospital, and I came as fast as I could after receiving the call. And now, I wish you calm down so that I can do my work”. Calm down? What if your son was in this room right now, would you calm down? If my son dies now, what would you do? Said the father angrily”. The doctor smiled again and replied, “Please pray for your son, we will do our best to help him”. “Giving advice when we’re not concerned is so easy” - murmured the father. The surgery took some hours after which the doctor came out. “Thanks be to God, he said, your son is saved, if you have any questions, ask the nurse”. And without waiting for the father’s reply, he carried on his way running back to his car. Minutes after the doctor left, the man complained to the nurse, “Why is he so arrogant? He couldn’t wait for some minutes so that I could ask about my son’s state”. The nurse answered, tears coming down her face: “His son died yesterday in a road accident, he was planning for his burial when we called him for your son’s surgery. And now that he saved your son’s life, he left running to finish his son’s burial plans”.

Our first reading on the Fifth Sunday of year B taken from the book of Job (Job 7:1-4,6-7) invites us to reflect on our immediate response in the face of crisis and pain. When the world gives you more than you can handle, what do you do? Do you curse God for allowing you to pass through such crucibles or do you turn aggression on people and make them feel the pinch of your anger? Or do you invite God to help you? We can learn a lesson from the life of Job, who mourns the loss of his family, his possessions, and his future was bleak. He was afflicted with sores, from the soles of his feet to the crown of his head (Job 2:7). Caught up in his pain and suffering, Job offers an analysis of the human condition that is dismal and helpless. For Job and many of us, life is all drudgery and slavery. He laments, “Months of delusion I have assigned to me, nothing for my own but nights of grief. Lying in bed I wonder, “When will it be day?” Risen I think, “How slowly evening comes!”

In Old Testament times it was thought that suffering was directly connected with people’s conduct and that anyone who suffered had sinned – virtuous living equates success (Lk.13:1-5). This view is represented by Job’s friends who come to console him. They argued and mocked him that he might have sinned; he should admit his guilt before God (Job 4:7-8, 8:20, 11:14-170. Job protested by saying that he has not sinned, he has always loved God and his neighbour, honouring them both. Job refuses to believe that his suffering is a consequence of sin. Even his wife told him to curse God and die, but Job said, “We have received good things from God, why can’t we receive bad ones too?” (Job 2:10). Despite his misery, Job remained faithful to God, “I believe my redeemer lives” (Job 19:25).

Job’s pain and lament is the cry of all human beings amid pain and suffering. We all feel bad when we become ill or when someone we love is ill. But Jesus came into this world of pain and suffering to take away our pains and infirmity, he came to heal us and our world. So, why not come to him with that problem troubling your heart, that problem you think nobody can solve for you, remember he says, “Come to me all you who labour and are overburdened, and I will give you rest” (Mt.11:28). This is evident in our gospel text for this Sunday (Mk.1:29-39). Jesus went to the house of Simon Peter and healed his mother-in-law, who was down with a fever. Also, people were crowding around the door bringing their sick ones to Jesus and he healed them all because he came to take our sorrows and pains away (Is.53:4). Whenever we are in pain or trouble, we should turn to Jesus for support and not to vent our anger on people. Also, as Christians, we should be mindful of the words of St Paul, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us” (Rm.8:18).

Kwaghtaver C.S.Sp.


4th Sunday in Ordinary Time 

Just some random thoughts… If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts

Today’s Responsorial Psalm contains the beautiful line: «Oh, that today you would listen to his voice: Harden not your hearts».

We can be certain that God is speaking to us today. But will we be able to hear his voice among all the noise and din we usually surround ourselves with? What is God saying to you today? And will you harden your heart?

Today’s Gospel from St Mark takes place on day one of Jesus’ ministry and presents us first with Jesus the teacher and then Jesus the healer.

«The people were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority… All were amazed and asked one another: "What is this?” Here is a new teaching with authority.

The people are amazed, astonished, astounded, marvelled, gob-smacked, filled with wonder. The power of words.

Today the people immediately recognize that Jesus was a different kind of teacher. ‘His teaching made a deep impression on them’ (Mk 1:22). Why did the teaching of Jesus have such an impact? In what way was it different from the teaching of their usual scribes? Jesus’ words do something in the hearts of his listeners. His words had the power to move people’s hearts. They had the ring of truth about them because they came from his personal experience. They were authentic, genuine, they rang true. Jesus did not just repeat what others had said. He spoke with his own voice, his own authority.

People listened to Jesus primarily because he was a living witness to the truth of God’s love. He showed this love by the way he lived. He made them experience something. People experienced God’s mercy and compassion in his actions. He reached out to the sick and less privileged, those who were neglected or excluded by society. His words heal. In today’s Gospel we see him freeing a man tormented by an ‘unclean spirit’ (cf. Mk 1:23-26), a man possessed by a demon. Who are our demons today? What possesses me?

Jesus uses his authority to liberate people from the evil forces that dominate their lives, and to bring them the blessings of health and healing, freedom and hope. Jesus came, as he himself states, ‘to serve - not to be served, and to give his life for us’ (Mk 10:45). And he wants us to imitate his example. ‘You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them… No, this is not the way it is to be with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant’ (Mk 10:42-43).

I like this little reflection on today’s Gospel from the pen of the Irish Salesian priest, Fr. Flor McCarthy SDB.

‘Ideally words should always be preceded by deeds. When people who have done something begin to speak, people tend to listen. Their words carry enormous weight. They have real authority. The weakness of a lot of words arises from the fact that they are not preceded, or accompanied, or even followed by deeds. At the root of so many wrongs in our world is the discrepancy between word and deed, the gap between what I say and what I do. It is the weakness of Churches, parties, and individuals. It gives people and institutions split personalities.

Lord, grant that what we have said with our lips, we may believe with our hearts, and practice with our lives.’ AMEN.


3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time 

Come Follow Me.

Dear Friends, have you heard the story of the Hermit (sadhu) who owned nothing but a pair of loincloths and lived a life committed to God? Once, a rat nibbled a hole in one of his loincloths and so he got a cat to protect it. However, he had to beg for extra food and milk to feed the cat. “I’ll keep a cow to get milk for the cat and myself, he said”. So, he got a cow but had to find fodder for the cow. Then the task of feeding the cow became enormous, so he decided to marry so that his wife would be helping him to look after the cow. With a wife, cow, and cat to feed, he got some land and hired labourers to work on it. Soon, he got children and became the richest man in town. When asked about why he renounced discipleship, he explained, “This is the only way I could preserve my loincloths!”

Our gospel text for this Sunday (Mk.1:14-20) is the call of the first four disciples, Peter, Andrew, James, and John. A disciple In Latin, is discipulus which means follower. In Greek, it is Mathetes, which means learner or pupil. A disciple is a learner, a novice, or an apprentice, who receives instructions from the master. So, when Jesus began his public ministry, he recruited people who would learn under him and help propagate the message of the coming of God’s kingdom. In contrast to the Rabbis of his time, people chose the masters they wanted to learn under or follow in their footsteps. On the contrary, Jesus chose those who would be with him, "You choose not me, but I chose you" (Jn15:16).

It is pertinent to observe that the disciples were not called at once. They were called at certain points during Jesus' ministry. The first four disciples; Simon Peter and his brother Andrew, James, and John the sons of Zebedee were called simultaneously, (MK.1:14-20, Mt.4:18-22, Lk.5:1-11). While Matthew (Levi) was called sitting at the customs office (Mt.9:9, Lk5:27-28). Jesus met Philip on his way to Galilee and asked him to follow him and he complied (Jn1:43-33). On his part, Philip found Nathaniel (Bartholomew) and told him that he had found the Messiah. Nathaniel made some cynical comments, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?" (Jn.1:45-51). One cannot exhaust how the disciples were called, but the fact remains that they were not called at once.

However, all the disciples left their previous engagements to follow Jesus Christ. In essence, the call to discipleship entails detachment from our comfort zones. Both Peter, Andrew, James, and John were fishermen, this was a flourishing business during their time, but they abandoned everything to follow Jesus Christ, the lamb of God (Jn.1:29). In essence, Jesus’ first disciples renounced everything, they left their lucrative businesses to answer the call of Christ, what are you ready and willing to renounce for the sake of the kingdom of God?

Kwaghtaver C.S.Sp.


2nd Sunday in Ordidnary Time 

Come and See

Probably the first thing that will catch your eye this weekend is that we are back to wearing green vestments. We haven’t seen the colour green on the altar since late November. Violet has been the colour of Advent and white, of course, is what we have been wearing all through the Christmas season which ended with the Baptism of Jesus last Monday. Green is a sign that we are back to the Sundays of Ordinary time.

While it has been lovely to celebrate the extraordinary Feasts of Christmas, Holy Family, New Year, Mary the Mother of God, the Epiphany, and the Baptism of Jesus, we don’t normally live our lives with the high octane energy of extraordinary events. Our lives are lived out in the ordinary everyday run of the mill realities. And it is reassuring to know that God is to be found not so much in the spectacular, the dramatic and in the extraordinary but in the humdrum banality of the ordinary - everyday life in the kitchen, the living room, the office, the workplace, the school.

Today and next week’s liturgy focus on discipleship, a sign that our “ordinary” lives unfold as a following of Jesus. The theme of «call» and «response» permeate today’s Readings. Samuel receives a three-fold call while sleeping and finally responds with the beautiful “Speak, Lord, your servant is listening”. In the silence of the night, he hears the Lord calling him. Has it ever struck you that the two words SILENT and LISTEN have exactly the same identical letters? By creating silence around us, we can listen to catch what the Lord is saying to us in the events of our everyday lives.

John’s Gospel today depicts the «call» and «response» of Jesus’ first followers. Isn’t it fascinating that the very first words on the lips of Jesus in the 4th Gospel are a question! «What do you want? What do you seek? What are you looking for?». How beautiful that Jesus is asking you and me: «What do you desire?» What do we desire from the Lord? What are our deepest hearts’ desire?

In answer to the disciples’ question «Where do you stay?», Jesus replies «Come and See». He doesn’t give them his address and postcode. He invites them personally to follow him and come and see where he lives. So, they went and they saw and they stayed with him. They abided with him for the rest of that day. And they never forgot the time of that meeting. It was about the tenth hour. The time of the day when you don’t expect anything important to happen, when you are winding up, shutting up shop, pulling down the shutters, the most significant encounter of their lives took place.

In his question, Andrew had called Jesus “Teacher”: «Rabbi, where do you live?» But then he runs to his brother Simon and says, «we have found the Messiah». The journey of moving from Rabbi to breaking through to Messiah can only be achieved by someone who has replied to the invitation «come and see», someone who has gone to Jesus, saw where he abides and stayed with him. In the ordinary events of our lives at the beginning of this New Year can we make time to stay with Jesus? Can we go to Jesus and stay with him in his abode and break through to his deepest identity.

Eli helped Samuel hear God’s call. Andrew helped Simon-Peter. None of us goes alone to Jesus. Who first introduced me to Jesus? Andrew ran to his brother Simon and then took him to Jesus. Andrew introduced Simon-Peter to Jesus. Who am I introducing to Jesus? Who can I run to, to lead them to Jesus? If I believe that Jesus is the best thing that ever happened to me, I will be only too happy to lead someone else to Jesus so that they can find the same joy and fulfilment as I have in following the Lord. Not a bad way to begin 2024!

Eamonn Mulcahy CSSp



WELCOME TO 2024

It is typical that as we begin the New Year, we make resolutions. But a myriad of thoughts may be going on in our minds as we begin this year. Many of us are grateful for the gift of life and the wonderful things God bestowed on us in the past year. We also have our regrets too, some of these regrets could be the disappointments we met despite our plans, the many opportunities we wasted and the death of our beloved ones. But sadness, and feeling guilty about the past will easily lead us to discouragement and we may simply ask, “What is the point of making New Year resolutions if we cannot keep them?”

Nevertheless, the New Year is not all about making resolutions but also a time for stock-taking, just like what people in business do. We have to take stock of our lives, look back at the past year and look forward to the future. January takes its name from the Roman god, Janus. In ancient Roman religion and myth, Janus is the god of beginnings. Janus is often depicted as having two faces, each having its pairs of eyes looking in the opposite direction, looking to the past and the future. Thus, in January, we look back to the past year and make resolutions concerning the coming year. One basic problem we have in terms of making New Year resolutions is that we often set our targets too high. Let us embark on things that can be attained, things that are more realistic like living simply, taking up charity works, becoming ushers, readers, Catechists and Eucharistic ministers in the Church etc.

As we begin this year, we also have to thank God for both the good and bad things that happened to us last year. Of course, the Psalmist says; “It is good to give thanks to the Lord” (Ps.92:1). Similarly, St Paul says; “Give thanks to God in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (I Thess.5:18). As we thank God for sustaining our lives in the previous year, we also pray that he will continue to bless our dear ones, our families and parish community in this year and the subsequent ones. May the Lord bless and keep you. May the Lord let his face shine on you and be gracious to you. May the Lord show you his face and bring you peace (Num.6:24-26). Amen.

Fr Kwaghtaver C.S.Sp.


Have you made your New Year’s Resolutions yet?

On this last Sunday of the year, we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. Family is Sacred - here we are on holy ground! Family is the foundational keystone of society. It is the space for the transmission of values, of identity, of tradition and of faith. Every family is called to be a holy family! At a time of massive family breakdown, the message from the Book of Ecclesiasticus is as meaningful today as it was when it was first written some 2,200 years ago - if not more so.

God, in his infinite wisdom, saw that a family which respected and honoured all its members was the key to finding happiness and fulfilment. A united family would be the source of not only a sense of belonging and a home, but where honour, duty, justice, and compassion were taught, and comfort and love were found. A family would be the wellspring of strength in times of challenge and need and the best space to celebrate together the joyous occasions of life.

There is also very wise family advice from Paul’s Letter to the Colossians. He urges each of us at home to «put on … heartfelt compassion, in kindness, humility, gentleness & patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another as soon as a quarrel begins… The Lord has forgiven you; now you must do the same. Over all these clothes, put on love. And may the peace of Christ reign in your hearts. Always be thankful». What a perfect recipe for family harmony in 2024!

I think we all would agree that being part of a loving, caring family is truly a great gift from God, a blessing that we deeply cherish. So, why not share this gift with others? Why do we so often withhold our love and caring from those who are not members of our biological family, but who need the love, comfort, and support we find in our family just as much, if not more, than we do?

Just think what the world might have missed, had Jesus decided that his love and compassion were limited only to his mother, Mary and to his foster-father, Joseph. If he had not willingly laid down his life for those outside of his family, people he did not know, we would have had no hope of salvation. It is as simple as that!

As we celebrate this Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph and prepare to go into the New Year of 2024, let us strive to be more inclusive in our definition of family. Let us include the lonely, the homeless, the housebound, those whose lives are confined to nursing homes, our neighbours, work-colleagues, and class-mates who sometimes annoy us, and those whose religious, political or sporting persuasions are not the same as ours.

If we can be more Christlike in expanding our definition of family, then we, too, can make our town, our community, a better place for our children and for future generations.

And since Monday will be January 1st, how about us making some family orientated New Year’s Resolutions? Such as spending more time together, having more meals together sat around the same table with no mobile phones or TV on, talking and listening to each other? How about reactivating the old saying: the family that prays together, stays

together - by praying a decade of the Rosary together each day or coming to the same Mass together as a family every weekend? How about deciding to say more often to each other: please… thank you… I am sorry… and yes, why not even, I love you!

Valuing our family as a priority will make sure that we do not turn our homes into just board and lodgings, like any B&B, hostel, or hotel.

So, today in thanking God for the gift of the Holy Family of Nazareth, let us also thank the Lord for our own grandparents, our Mums and Dads, our sisters and brothers, our children, and the wonderful gift that we have been given in our own unique family.

On this feast of the Holy Family, let us recommit ourselves to building up the human family, to strengthening and enshrining the sanctity of marriage, to blessing and nurturing children, and to making our homes, families and parish communities holy, warm, welcoming places for women and men of every race, language, orientation, and way of life.

Fr Eamonn Mulcahy CSSp


SAY, "I LOVE YOU", BEFORE IT WILL BE TOO LATE.

After 21 years of marriage, my wife wanted me to take another woman out for dinner and a movie. She said, “I love you, but I know this other woman loves you and would love to spend some time with you”. The other woman that my wife wanted me to visit was my biological mother, who has been a widow for 19 years. Still, the demands of my work and my three children had made it possible to visit her only occasionally. That night I called to invite her to go out for dinner and a movie. “What’s wrong, are you well?” she asked. My mother is the type of woman who suspects that a late-night call or a surprise invitation is a sign of bad news. “I thought it would be pleasant to spend some time with you,” I responded. “Just the two of us.” She thought about it for a moment, then said, “I would like that very much”.

That Friday after work, as I drove over to pick her up, I was a bit nervous. When I arrived at her house, I noticed that she, too, seemed to be nervous about our date. She waited in the door with her coat on. She had curled her hair and was wearing the dress that she had worn to celebrate her last wedding anniversary. She smiled from a face that was as radiant as an angel’s. “I told my friends that I was going out with my son, and they were impressed, “she said, as she got into the car. “They can’t wait to hear about our meeting.”

We went to a restaurant that, although not elegant, was very nice and cosy. My mother took my arm as if she were the First Lady. After we sat down, I had to read the menu. Her eyes could only read large print. Halfway through the entries, I lifted my eyes and saw Mom sitting there staring at me. A nostalgic smile was on her lips. “It was I who used to have to read the menu when you were small,” she said. “Then it’s time that you relax and let me return the favour,” I responded. During the dinner, we had an agreeable conversation – nothing extraordinary but catching up on recent events in each other’s lives. We talked so much that we missed the movie. As we arrived at her house later, she said, “I’ll go out with you again, but only if you let me invite you.” I agreed.

“How was your dinner date?” asked my wife when I got home. “Very nice. Much more so than I could have imagined,” I answered. A few days later, my mother died of a massive heart attack. It happened so suddenly that I didn’t have a chance to do anything for her. Sometime later, I received an envelope with a copy of a restaurant receipt from the same place where my mother and I had dined. An attached note said: “I paid this bill in advance. I wasn’t sure that I could be there; nevertheless, I paid for two plates – one for you and the other for your wife”. You will never know what that night meant for me. I love you, son.” At that moment, I understood the importance of saying in time: “I LOVE YOU” and giving our loved ones the time, they deserve.

Christmas is the time we celebrate God’s unconditional love for us. He loved us first (I Jn.4:19) and sent his only Son to liberate us, “For God so loved the world that he sent his only Son, that whoever believes in him will not perish but have eternal life” (Jn.3:16). As we celebrate God’s love for us during this period, we are called to appreciate and reciprocate God’s love by showing love to our brothers and sisters. Let us learn to say, ‘I love you to our loved ones before it will be too late’. Wishing you a Blessed Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Kwaghtaver C.S.Sp.


Rejoice in the Lord always - again I say rejoice!

Advent is the precious gift that the Church gives us every year to prepare our hearts for Christmas - but have you noticed how short Advent is this year? Usually, we get four whole weeks of it, as sometimes it starts as early as November 27th and seems to go on forever, but this year of 2023, Advent is the shortest possible it ever could be - only 22 days! Next Sunday, which is the 4th Sunday of Advent, will actually already be Christmas Eve!

Because this year Advent is so short there is a danger that this season could pass us by and be over before we even start to take it seriously. That would be a huge pity, because it is only if we have kept awake, alert and attentive, only if we have waited and watched and worked our way through the days and weeks of Advent that we will have a chance of grasping the true meaning of Christmas. So, what have you done so far to make Advent your own?

In the dark depths of winter, Advent is a time of joy and hope, light and warmth. This weekend the emphasis is on Joy, as the 3rd Sunday of Advent is also famously known as «Gaudete Sunday» or Rejoice Sunday - with the Word of God highlighting the joyful news that a Saviour is on the way, coming to heal the broken-hearted, to set captives free and proclaim the Lord’s favour to all the afflicted. ««Rejoice! Be happy at all times» … What reassuring words to hear from St Paul in our 2nd Reading, as we come together in these darkest days of December.

Today’s Gospel gives us a second instalment of that strangely clad wild man, ranting and raving in the desert, the one we were introduced to last week - John the Baptizer, a man on fire, burning with zeal to bring us all closer to God. The Priests and Levites are intrigued by this strange figure living out, in more ways than one, on the edge - and want to know who he really is.

If somebody asked you «Who are you?» or «What do you have to say about yourself?» Would you begin with a negative? Would you answer by saying who you are not? I don’t think so. But that is exactly what John does. As strange as this is, it is consistent with the picture we have of John in the Gospels. He constantly deflects attention away from himself and points towards Jesus. His purpose is not to focus on himself but to prepare the way of the Lord. He wants us to be perfectly clear about his own role: he is not Christ; he is not Elijah; he is not the Prophet; he is not the Bridegroom. He is only a voice, crying in the wilderness, a witness to the light, the friend of the Bridegroom. He is the Voice - Christ is the Word. A voice disappears - the word remains.

John’s mantra is: «He must increase I must decrease». John has to get out of the way to make room for Christ. It is not about him. John is not interested in saying who he is but rather who Christ is. John’s purpose, then, is to become smaller, to take up less and less room so that there is more room for Jesus. This is also true about us - a hard truth. Ultimately, it is not about me! That is why each of us needs to remind ourselves: “I am not the prophet. I am not Elijah. I am not the Christ. I am just a voice crying out: ‘Make ready the way of the Lord’”. Make ready, then in these days before Christmas. Set yourself aside, and let Christ come through you to others. It is not about me!

And as we approach the end of our Advent journey, let us not forget today to pray in a special way for Pope Francis as he celebrates his 87th Birthday on December 17th, wishing him health and happiness and many more years to inspire us. Have a Happy Birthday, Holy Father, on this Gaudete Sunday!

Fr Eamonn Mulcahy CSSp


Second Sunday in Advent

Repent for the Kingdom of God is close at hand

According to Henry Nouwen, "Conversion is an inner event that cannot be manipulated but must develop from within". Just as we cannot force a plant to grow but can take away the weeds and stones that prevent its development, we cannot force anyone to a personal and intimate change of heart but can offer the space where such change can take place. John the Baptist, the messenger and forerunner of the Messiah gave the people an opportunity to mend their ways and reform their lives. He gave a clarion call to the people at the river Jordan, “Repent for the kingdom of God is at hand”. He pointed out the dangers of sin and the impending disaster and called the people to repent in preparation for the coming of the Messiah. The Gospel of Mark (Mk.1:1-8) tells us that all the people of Judea and Jerusalem heed his voice, so, they made their way to the Jordan to receive a baptism of repentance.

To repent is to change your way of living, to turn a new leaf, to move away from evil, to embrace God and to produce the fruits of repentance (Mt.3:7-8). For example, when Jonah preached to the Ninevites, “Only forty days and Nineveh shall be destroyed” (Jonah 3:4 - 10). The people listened to his message. Because of this, the king ordered the people to embark on a fast, for both beasts and human beings. They repented from the king to the commoner and God spared the city. The period of Advent invites us to repent in preparation for the coming of the Messiah. Of course, God is giving us ample time to get converted but we should not take things for granted, hence we do not know when the demand for our souls will be made (Lk.12:20). St Peter writes, “The Lord is not slow to fulfil his promise as some count slowness, but he is patient towards you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance" (2 Pet.3:9).

Have you heard the story of the two thieves? Two brothers were convicted of stealing a sheep many years ago. Following the punishment of those days, they were branded on the forehead with the letters “ST” for sheep thief. One brother, unable to bear the stigma, fled to a foreign country where he died full of bitterness and was buried in a forgotten grave. The other brother chose not to run away. He said, “I can’t escape the fact that I once stole a sheep, but I will remain in the village and make the best of it. I’ll change my way of living, do what’s right, redeem my image and win back the respect of my neighbours.

Years passed, so, he repented and regained his reputation and was respected by everyone in the community. Then one day a stranger was in town, and he happened to notice this old man with the letters “ST” branded on his forehead. He asked one of the local people what that meant. After pondering for a while, the villager said, “It all happened so long ago that I can’t remember the particulars. But I think the letters “ST” are an abbreviation for the word “Saint”.

Kwaghtaver C.S.Sp.


First Sunday in Advent

Waiting in Joyful Hope

I don’t know about you - but not being a patient person, I hate having to wait. Have you ever thought about how much time we spend waiting in an average day? Waiting in queues for the bus or the train to arrive, waiting at the crowded check-out till of a busy supermarket, waiting on the phone to speak to a human voice from customer services, waiting to connect to the Internet, to download a podcast or stream some music. I am not so sure that we are naturally good at waiting and I know that not all waiting is of the same calibre. I think we can identify, at least three different kinds of waiting: boring waiting, anxious waiting, and joyful waiting.

Examples of boring waiting would be - being stuck in a traffic jam gridlock in rush hour on a rainy Friday evening, crawling bumper to bumper up the M6 or having to wait for 3 or 4 hours in the Departures Lounge at Manchester airport for your delayed Ryanair or EasyJet flight, or waiting for the seemingly interminable homily of the priest to end at Sunday morning Mass.

An example of anxious waiting would be when you are sitting in the Dentist’s waiting room hearing someone scream under the drill and knowing you are the next one in the chair. Or you’ve been for a scan at the hospital and you want to know whether you have tested positive or negative. Or you are waiting for the outcome of a job interview or for the results of your GCSE or A-Level Exams. I can’t even begin to imagine the anxiety of the Israeli families waiting each day this week to know if their kidnapped loved one will make it on to the next list of hostages to be released by Hamas.

But thankfully, apart from experiences of boring and anxious waiting we also have many experiences of joyous waiting: like when you are looking forward to going off on your holidays, or getting away for that weekend break or celebrating some special anniversary, or going out on a date or a just having a Friday night pizza & drink with a significant friend.

The new liturgical season we are starting this weekend is also all about waiting - so, which kind of waiting is Advent? Surely, these next four weeks will be crazy and frantic, but certainly not boring and, hopefully not anxious. Instead, they are meant to be days of joyous waiting - waiting in joyful hope for the birth of our Saviour. But with so much going on, is there not a danger that we might miss the meaning of that birth?

Hard to believe - but it’s already December. How many Shopping days left to Christmas? Have we got the decorations up yet? Have we bought a tree? Have we untangled the lights? Are we having a Crib? How many Christmas cards are we going to send? Have we got them yet? Have we thought about who we are going to give Christmas presents to this year? Have we bought them already? Selecting the food? the drink? Who’s cooking the turkey? Which parties will we go to? Concerts? Carols? Pantomimes?

Countless questions of this kind jump into our minds and it’s easy to get overwhelmed during this most wonderful but frantic time of the year. It’s tempting, too, to rush through these December days, checking items off our “to-do” lists in preparation for our family’s Christmas while forgetting that the main event of the season is the birth into my heart of the Christ-Child.

Advent is given to us at this frenetic time of the year precisely as a gift to slow us down, to help us re-assess our lives and sort our priorities out. Let us make sure that we savour and relish these next 25 days of waiting - waiting awake, attentive, alert - waiting in Joyful Hope for the coming of our Saviour!

Fr Eamonn Mulcahy CSSp


34th Sunday in Ordinary Time / Christ the King

JESUS CHRIST THE SERVANT KING

The solemnity of Christ the King marks the end of the Church’s Liturgical Year. Next Sunday we will begin the season of Advent year B. This feast of Christ the Universal King was instituted by Pope Pius XI in 1925 in response to the growing nationalism and secularism. The feast was introduced to serve as a warning against the totalitarian governments of the 20th century and to present Jesus Christ as a model for all kings, rulers, and leaders. Jesus’ style of leadership stands in contradistinction to the rulers of this world, he does not rule with military might or financial strength, instead, he is a Good Shepherd, who lays down his life for his sheep" (Jn.10:11-18). The kings of this world want to be served but Jesus came to save and to give his life as a ransom for many (Mt.20:20-28). Of course, the worldly kings demand that they be defended and protected, even at the cost of the lives of their servants and soldiers. In contrast, Jesus told Peter, who wanted to protect him from being handed to the Jews to put back his sword in its scabbard (Mt.26:52). This feast poses a challenge to all who hold key positions in the society, in government, public offices, Church, schools, and homes to use their positions to serve others, “The greatest among you must serve” (Mk.10:42-43). Jesus left us an example to follow, at the last supper he stooped low to wash his disciples' feet (Jn.13:1-17).

As we celebrate the feast of Christ the King ask yourself this pertinent question, ‘is Jesus Christ the king of my heart?’ Today’s celebration would be of no use if you have not given Christ the chance to reign in your life, heart, family, businesses, and the entire world. Rather than that our celebration of Christ the Universal King will be in vain and a perfect waste of time. It will simply be a confirmation of the prophecy of Isaiah, "These people honour me with only their lips, but their hearts are far-fetched from me" (Is.29:13, Mat.15:8). If Jesus Christ reigns in every heart, our world would become a better place.

Our gospel text for this Sunday (Mt.25:31-46) describes the coming of Christ the Universal King in his glory to separate the sheep from the goats or to judge the world. Through this judgment, we will be rewarded or punished, and our reward or punishment will be based on how we have treated our brothers and sisters, and how we have shared our love and blessings with others through genuine acts of charity. Those of us who do nothing for the hungry, thirsty, naked, ill, and imprisoned will be condemned, while those who do something for the poor and needy will have eternal life. Today we are invited to follow in the footsteps of Jesus Christ the universal king, by embarking on the corporal works of mercy. Have you heard the story of Saint Teresa of Calcutta (Mother Teresa), observing a novice using tweezers to pluck maggots from the leg of a dying leper? The novice stood at arm’s length to perform the odious task. Gently but firmly, Mother Teresa corrected her by taking the tweezers and putting her face quite near the wound, she said, “You don’t understand, my dear. This is the leg of Christ our Lord. For what you do to this man, you do to him”.

Kwaghtaver C.S.Sp.


33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time 

Dare to Risk or Freeze by Fear?

In mid-to-late November, not only are we clearly getting nearer to Winter, we are also winding down to the end of the Church’s liturgical year. Next Sunday will already be the last Sunday in Ordinary Time when we celebrate the Solemnity of Christ the King and then the following week the Season of Advent begins. Where did 2023 fly to?

At the same time, we are coming toward the end of Matthew’s Gospel, which we have been listening to for most of the Sundays of 2023, and in these very last chapters Matthew throws at us several of Jesus’ most challenging parables. Last week we heard about the wise and foolish bridesmaids at the wedding feast. Today it’s the parable of the talents. Next week it will be the parable of the sheep and the goats.

In each instance there is a story about harsh judgment landing on those who fail to act: the foolish virgins forgetting to bring oil for their lamps; the “goats” ignoring the sufferings of others and failing to see the face of Jesus in the little ones; and, this week, the poor guy who instead of investing the talent given him, buries it down a hole!

Such parables are stories with a hard-hitting message. They are wake-up calls meant to shake us up, moving us to be alert. Matthew is warning us: there are dire consequences if we don’t act now or if we decide to play it safe.

In today’s Gospel it is important right from the start to realise that a “talent” is a huge sum of money and not an ability, skill or aptitude. In fact, a talent was the highest unit of currency in the Palestine of Jesus’ time and was probably worth about £15,000 in today’s money. So, this landowner is very generous indeed and has high hopes for his servants when he entrusted £75,000 to one, £30,000 to another and £15,000 to a third.

We all know what happens. Servants one and two are both resourceful - they use their ingenuity to invest wisely and they doubled what they had received, whilst servant number three, either paralysed by fear or out of sheer laziness, does absolutely nothing with the talent - he just digs a hole in the ground and buries what had been given to him on trust. The landlord is thrilled with the industry and inventiveness of the first two, but he is furious at the uselessness and sloth of the third.

What’s the point of this parable for us?

Though Jesus used the word “talent” to mean money, there is no harm for us today to use it as we normally understand the word “talent” - as a skill or ability or aptitude that we have been gifted with. Are we resourceful, inventive and imaginative in developing our talents?

In the Gospel, good servants are those who take risks with what they have been given. They are not fearful and over-cautious, they do not cling to what they possess, but put it to good use. The reason we have gifts is so that we can be gifts for others. The third guy froze and was paralysed by the fear that he might lose the talent and so he played it safe and didn’t dare risk anything. We know that when it comes to playing a new musical instrument or learning a new language or practicing a sport, if you don’t use it - you lose it! You have to be adventurous and takes risks and never give up.

How does this parable of Jesus challenge you to share your talents with others? Do you think your gifts were given to you just for yourself, to keep hidden away where no one can see them? Are you willing to take risks, or are you paralyzed by fear? Have I buried the trust that God has in me?

Remember: if I share my talents faithfully in the simple little ordinary things of everyday life, Jesus will invite me to share in the Joy of the Master. 

Fr Eamonn Mulcahy CSSp


32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time 

Be Ready, Be Prepared!

Four men were playing cards and they discussed what each one was going to do if they learnt that the world was going to end in the next hour. One of them said, “I will go and take a final look at my beautiful wife, I love her so much”. The second man said, “I will go and have fun, commit all the sins I can afford with the little time”. The third fellow said, “I will run to the church to pray”. While the fourth man said, “I will continue to play cards”. As followers of Jesus Christ, we must live a holy and spotless life, to be perfect like God our Father (Mt.5:48). This will prepare us to face death at any moment.

The parable of the Ten Bridesmaids (Mt.25:1-13) has a significant message for all Christians. It invites all of us to always be ready and prepared for the coming of the Lord. The foolish Bridesmaids missed the wedding party because they were unprepared. They expected the bridegroom to arrive on time, so they took their lamps without extra oil. The other five virgins were wise because they anticipated the delay of the bridegroom’s arrival and took extra oil. In essence, they were fully prepared for the wedding feast. Of course, the bridegroom delayed in coming and the Ten Bridesmaids became drowsy and slept off. However, the announcement was made that the bridegroom’s arrival was imminent, to this regard, the wise virgins replenished their lamps with extra oil, while the foolish virgins asked the wise ones to share some of their oil with them, but the oil was not going to be enough for both, thus the foolish virgins had to go to the town to get some oil. On their return, the bridegroom had arrived, and the door was shut.

The immediate significance of this parable is Jesus’ reaction to the Jews, who were called first but were not ready to welcome the Messiah, so, they were shut out. The kingdom of God was taken from them as Jesus mentioned in the parable of the Tenants, “Therefore, I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit” (Mt.21:43). Nevertheless, the parable of the Ten Bridesmaids has a universal meaning. It is an invitation to all Christians to always be ready and prepared for the coming of the Lord, hence no one knows the day or hour that Jesus will return, “So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour you do not expect” (Mt.24:44).

Someone once asked me, “Jesus said the greatest commandment is the love of God and neighbour (Mt.22:38-39), so, why, were the wise virgins not disposed to share their oil with the foolish ones? The point is clear, that there are things in life that cannot be borrowed. We cannot borrow relationship with God, it is a personal experience and encounter. So, you must try to have a personal relationship with God. Jesus was fully aware of this when he charged his listeners, “Try to enter through the narrow gate” (Lk.13:24). The parable of the Ten Bridesmaids is meant as a warning for all of us, the Church is made up of both the wise and foolish disciples, so we should remain watchful, and always be ready like the wise virgins hence, we do not know the time and hour the demand for our souls will be made (Lk. 12:20).

Kwaghtaver C.S.Sp.


31st Sunday in Ordinary Time 2023

What do you think about titles? 

Myself, I’ve always found it rather strange that in the Church priests and nuns are often referred to as Reverend Father and Reverend Sister - and the higher up the ladder they go, the more the titles intensify: “Most Reverend Father”, “Most Reverend Mother”, “Rev. Superior General”, Monsignor, Your Lordship, Your Grace, Your Excellence, Your Eminence... Your Holiness. Some priests I know with two PhDs even insist on being addressed as “Reverend Father Doctor Doctor”!

But when we were baptised weren’t we all consecrated, anointed twice with oil and called to be holy? Our own Mums and Dads and grandparents have often displayed greater holiness and reverence in their everyday lives than any of us who minister as Priests or Sisters.

Just last Sunday, the First Session of the Synod on Synodality ended in Rome. What was striking about this Synod’s process was that the 350 official Delegates of Cardinals, Archbishops, Bishops, Priests, Religious, Lay Women and Lay Men were not seated in rows according to ecclesial precedence (as in previous Synods) - they were all sat on 35 round tables, all on the same level, on the ground floor. On a circular table, there is no places of honour, no head of the table - all are equal.

At the very beginning of each session as they were introducing themselves to the other Delegates on their table, they were asked how they would prefer to be addressed. With so many Eminences and Excellencies, Lordships and Monsignori, as well as University Professors and Mothers General present, what was inspiring was that most Delegates dropped their titles and sense of entitlement and said simply, “Just call me Jim.” “Call me Chito.” “Call me Sarah.” It was an encouraging sign to see that at last the message of Jesus seems to have struck home in the very engine room of the Church at the Vatican with some of our leaders taking on board what Our Lord is trying to teach us about titles in today’s challenging Gospel.

Jesus says: You must not allow yourselves to be called Rabbi…, you must call no one on earth your father, … Nor must you allow yourselves to called teachers. Jesus is, of course, not referring to the leader of a synagogue or one’s biological father or to school-teachers in class. He is referring to those in any community who assume to lord it over others in a spirit of superiority and pride. There is nothing wrong in addressing clergy with titles such as Reverend or My Lord or Your Grace, Excellency or Eminence - as long as those on the receiving end of such honorific titles walk the talk and realise that in Jesus’ dictionary the most important of all titles will always be «servant» - “the greatest among you must be your servant”!

Eamonn Mulcahy C.S.Sp


30th Sunday in Ordinary Time 

LOVE COVERS A MULTITUDE OF SINS.

A story is told about an incident that happened during the Thirties in New York, on one of the year's coldest days. The world was in the grip of the Great Depression, and the poor were close to starvation all over the city. It happened that the judge was sitting on the bench that day, hearing a complaint against a woman who was charged with stealing a loaf of bread. She pleaded that her daughter was sick, and her grandchildren were starving, because their father had abandoned the family. But the shopkeeper, whose loaf of bread had been stolen, refused to drop the charge. He insisted that an example be made of the poor old woman, as a deterrent to others.

The judge sighed. He was most reluctant to pass judgment on the woman, yet he had no alternative. ‘I’m sorry,’ he turned to her. ‘But I can’t make any exceptions; the law is the law. I sentence you to a fine of ten dollars, and if you can’t pay, I must send you to jail for ten days.’ The woman was heartbroken, but even as he passed the sentence, the judge reached into his pocket for the money to pay off the ten-dollar fine. After the sentence was passed, he took off his hat, tossed the ten-dollar bill into it, and addressed the crowd: ‘I am also going to impose a fine of fifty cents on every person here present in this courtroom, for living in a town where a person has to steal bread to save her grandchildren from starvation. Please collect the fines, Mr Bailiff, in this hat, and pass them across the defendant.’ On that fateful day, the accused went home from the courtroom with forty-seven dollars and fifty cents – fifty cents of which had been paid by the shame-faced grocery storekeeper who had brought the charge against her.

In our gospel text for this Sunday (Mt. 22:34-40), Jesus tells us that the greatest commandment is the love of God and neighbour (Dt.6:5, Lev.19:18). Although, among the Jews, love of neighbour meant loving a fellow Jew. However, Jesus changed this notion of neighbour to cover every human being in need of our help. He illustrated this in the story of the good Samaritan (Lk.10:25-37). For Jesus, a neighbour is neither your relative nor your friend, but anyone in need of your help and support, irrespective of religion, race, gender or language. St Peter writes, “Above all, have fervent and unfailing love for one another because love covers a multitude of sins” (I Pet.4:8).

Kwaghtaver C.S.Sp.


29th Sunday in Ordinary Time

SOME GIVE TO MISSION BY GOING: OTHERS GO, BY GIVING.

One of my challenging moments as a priest was in the year 2014 when I was posted to the Catholic Diocese of Yola, in North Eastern Nigeria. This was at the peak of Boko Haram activities in that axis. The primary target of Boko Haram was Churches, Mosques, banks, schools and public places. With the incessant attacks on public places and places of worship, many people were afraid to gather for activities in public spaces and many people stopped going to church. The random attacks by Boko Haram left many people homeless and without food. Boko Haram attacked the neighbouring towns and Yola town, where I was working was their next target. To this effect, we became very alert and careful, and we had to beef up the security around the church. In view of this, the security outfit of the church had to check everyone entering the house of God to worship, bags were scanned with a metal detector to find out if they were not sneaking into the church with a bomb or an explosive. Besides, motorbikes and cars were forbidden to pass near the church premises during Mass. Working in Yola during this period was a serious test of my faith. During these days, I was living in perpetual fear. Of course, the word of God says, “Be calm and vigilant. Your enemy the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (I Pet.5:8). One day, a displaced woman from Madagali, came to the parish, with her four children looking for food. Her husband was killed by Boko Haram, and they had virtually nothing to live on. But with the meagre resources of the parish, it was difficult to help them concretely.

The above scenario is one of the predicaments of the missionaries. This Sunday is set aside by the Church for us to pray for missionaries and to support the work of the missionaries. The work of missionaries can be challenging, especially for those working in war-torn areas. They are like sheep among wolves (Mt.10:16), so. they need our prayers. Also, for many of the poor missions of the world, it is very difficult for the missionaries to cope financially, so they need our financial support in this regard. Remember that God loves a cheerful giver (II Cor.9:6-7).

Finally, it is pertinent to note that the mission of the Church is the mission of every member of the Church and is not reserved for the priests, the religious, and the active missionaries alone. It is a collaborative ministry and we all have a role and part to play. Jesus urged his disciple, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you” (Mt.28:19). The mandate given to the disciples is also our mandate. The motto of the Society of African Missions is, “Some give to mission by going: others go, by giving”. So, today we are called to support the work of the missionaries in all ramifications.

Fr Kwaghtaver C.S.Sp.


28th Sunday in Ordinary Time

The Best Garment (Col.3:12-15).

A woman was waiting at the airport one night, with several long hours before her flight. She hunted for a book in the airport bookshop, bought a bag of cookies and found a place to relax. She was engrossed in her book but happened to notice that the man sitting beside her, as bold as he could be grabbed a cookie or two from the bag in between them, which she thought was hers, but tried to ignore him to avoid creating a scene. So, she munched the cookies and watched the clock, as the gusty cookie thief diminished her stock. She was getting more irritated as the minutes ticked by, thinking, ‘If I wasn’t so nice, I would blacken his eye’.

With each cookie she took, the man took one too. When only one was left, she wondered what he would do. With a beaming smile on his face, he took the last cookie and broke it in half. He offered her half, and as he ate the other, she snatched it from him and thought, Oh, my God! This guy has some nerve and he is also rude, why he didn’t even show any gratitude? She had never known when she had been so galled. Well, she sighed a sigh of relief when boarding for her flight was announced. So, she gathered her belongings and headed to the gate, refusing to look back at the ingrate and cookie thief.

She boarded the plane and sank in her seat, then she sought her book which was almost complete. As she reached for her bag, she gasped with surprise, there was her bag of cookies, in front of her eyes, staring at her. If mine are here, she moaned in despair, the others were his, and he tried to share. But it was too late to apologize, she realized with grief, that she was the rude one, the ingrate and the cookie thief!

St Paul talks about the best garment we can wear as Christians, “Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Above all this put-on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful (Col.3:12-15).

Kwaghtaver C.S.Sp.


27th Sunday in Ordinary Time

A LESSON FROM THE CRACKED POT

An elderly woman had two large pots, each hung on the end of a pole, which she carried across her neck. One of the pots had a crack in it, while the other pot was perfect and always delivered a full portion of water. At the end of the long walk from the stream to the house, the cracked pot arrived only half full. This went on daily for two years, with the woman bringing home only one and a half pots of water. Of course, the perfect pot was proud of its accomplishments. But the poor cracked pot was ashamed of its own imperfection and miserable that it could only do half of what it had been made to do. After two years of what it perceived to be a total failure, the pot spoke to the woman; “I am ashamed of myself, because this crack in my side causes water to leak out all the way back to your house”. The old woman smiled and said, “Did you notice that there are flowers on your side of the path, but not on the other pot’s side? That’s because I have always known about your flaw, so I planted flowers on your side of the path and every day while we walked back, you water them. For two years I have been able to pick these beautiful flowers to decorate the house. Without you being just the way, you are, we would not have got flowers to beautify the house.”

We can draw a few lessons from the story of the cracked pot. First of all, we should learn to accept people the way they are and look for the good in them. Secondly, we all have unique flaws, but these cracks and flaws make our lives together very interesting and rewarding. Finally, we can become gloomy and feel that we have little to show for our lives, but on the contrary, we might be achieving a great feat.

Kwaghtaver C.S.Sp.