Monday, March 26, 2012

5th Sunday of Lent

The Gospel passage we read at Mass today from St. John, is very full and pregnant with food for thought and reflection as we approach the holiest week of the year. As I reflected on the text I could see glimpses of the entire life of Jesus from the beginning of his public ministry, his death, Resurrection and glorification – a text that can surely help us ‘come to know the Lord’ and put us in touch with what is happening at this stage in his life.

The pilgrims are arriving in Jerusalem for the feast of the Passover, including some Greek converts who want to “see Jesus”. This is the desire in the heart of all of us. “I would like to see Jesus”. Jesus responds as He always does throughout the Gospels, and very pointedly in St. John’s Gospel, which always has many layers and levels of meaning, e.g. in response to “where do you dwell?”, Jesus says “come and see”. In response to John the Baptist’s disciples' questions – “are you the one who is to come or are we to look for someone else”? Jesus’ replies “go and tell John all you see and hear – the blind see, the deaf hear – lepers are cleansed and happy the one who does not lose faith in Me”. Here in our text today Jesus’ reply was “Now the hour has come” the kairos time of God for the ‘Son to be glorified’ is at hand. His words or his reply to the questions are never direct, but they are authenticating who He is.

“I tell you most solemnly unless a wheat grain falls on the ground and dies, it remains only a single grain, but if it dies, it yields a rich harvest. Even the ‘dead grain of wheat yields a rich harvest’. Seeds left in a packet are no good. Plant them, they die, they multiply, they flower and they bear fruit. Jesus observed this principle of life within the natural world, namely, that life is born from death. Until the seed is buried, it remains one, if planted, it will produce many. Jesus saw his own death mirrored in this process of nature. He lived to die and his death meant life for the world. This opens a horizon for us where all our little deaths are understood in a new way. Jesus has gone before us and understands all our struggles and efforts at dying and we are confident that he is with us. We also have the example of Mary and all the saints gone before us who had to die in order to have real life with Christ. Tomorrow we celebrate the transferred feast of the Annunciation and there we see clearly, Mary’s total letting go or dying to her own plans to do God’s will, and Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador, murdered in March 1980 at the Altar as he celebrated the Eucharist, wrote just before he died “to each one of us Christ is saying: ”if you want your life and mission to be fruitful like mine, do as I. Be converted into a seed that lets itself be buried. Let yourself be killed. Do not be afraid. Those who shun suffering will remain alone. No one is more alone than the selfish. But if you give your life out of love for others as I give my life for all, you will reap a great harvest”. As the Dalai Lama said “suffering is not overcome by leaving pain behind; suffering is overcome by bearing pain for others”.

Jesus, the Suffering Servant of the Lord is to be exalted and glorified in consequence of His Passion and Death. Jesus will be lifted up from the earth. In St. John, we know this is a twofold, simultaneous lifting up – the physical crucifixion of Jesus on the Cross and Jesus’ glorification. As people gaze in faith on Jesus lifted up in his kenosis ‘He will draw all of them to Himself’ lifting their minds and hearts upwards towards the vision of God and Eternal Life.
Only now in this second last sentence of today's Gospel text is the request of the Greeks and all of us fulfilled – “We want to SEE JESUS” (Jn.12:22).

Prayer – Lord Jesus, your cross is the source of all blessing and the cause of every grace. Your Father glorified your name and you are continually glorified in heaven. Grant me the grace to see that I must lose my life in order to gain your life, blessing and grace. Amen.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Who can top good news like this?

As the Christian ethos in our Churches, schools and hospitals come under attack on all sides, a sentence in a recent Sunday liturgy stood out large and clear.
"With God on our side who can be against us, since God did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, we may be certain after such a gift that he will not refuse anything he can give." {Romans 8.11}

Again and again both Old and New Testaments reassure us of Gods continual care of his own people. Perhaps Psalm 121 would be an appropiate prayer for our Irish people at this time:
I lift my eyes to the mountains:_______Where is help to come from?
Help comes to me from the Lord______Who made Heaven and earth.
No letting our footsteps slip!______This guard of yours, he does not doze!
The guardian of Israel______does not doze or sleep.
The Lord guards you, shades you._______With the Lord at your right hand
sun cannot strike you down by day,_______nor moon at night.
The Lord guards you from harm,________ He guards your lives,
He guards your leaving, coming back,______Now and for always.

What Jesus wants more than anything else is our FAITH - courage to WAIT and BELIEVE that all will be well. He tells us himself through the prophet Jeremiah. {Chapter 31}
"I have loved you with an everlasting love, so I am constant in my affection for you I build you once more and you shall be rebuilt.
Is [Ireland] then a son to me, a child so favoured, that after each threat of mine, I must still remember him, still be deeply moved for him and let my tenderness yearn over him."
Again we listen to the prophet Isaiah {Chapter 45} telling us-----"No need to recall the past, no need to think what was done before. See I am doing a new deed, I will bring your offspring from the East and gather you from the West; bring back my sons from far away, my daughters from the end of the earth,all those who bear my name whom I have created for my glory, whom I have formed, whom I have made" Because you my dear Irish people who were so dear to my servant Patrick. are precious in my sight, because you are honoured and I love you.

Jesus himself tells us in {Luke 12} "Can you not buy five sparrows for two pennies? And yet not one is forgotten in God's sight. Why every hair on your head has been counted. There is no need to be afraid :you are worth more than hundreds of sparrows"
And in the final words of the New Testament we read these reassuring lines---
"Then I heard a loud voice call, You see this city? here God dwells among men. He will make his home among them, they shall be his people and he will be their God. He will wipe away all tears from their eyes, there will be no more mourning or sadness. The world of the past is gone. Write this: that what I am saying is sure and will to pass."

With God on our side who can be against us?
Who can top good news like this ?
{Anne Frank}

Monday, March 12, 2012

3rd Sunday of Lent

Towards the end of today’s Gospel passage (Jn 2.35) , St. John shares with us the empathy he has with Jesus. He tells us: “many believed in Jesus’ name when they saw the signs he gave – but he knew them all and did not trust himself to them – he could tell what a person had in him” – or as another translation puts it …”Jesus would not give them his confidence; he had knowledge of them all, and did not need assurances about any one, because he could read all hearts”. (R.Knox).

Among those referred to in this passage, there were obviously some who were enthused about Jesus and his miracles but it seems there was no real depth to their enthusiasm; among the crowd too, would no doubt have been some of the hypocrites who so often tried to catch Jesus out in what he said and did during his ministry. How Jesus detested hypocrisy; with sinners he was always so compassionate and forgiving, but hypocrisy brought forth strong condemnations from him. How dear the quality of sincerity is to Jesus is highlighted in his words to Nathanael (Jn.1:45-51) - ‘behold an Israelite in whom there is no guile’–a beautiful compliment which utterly amazed Nathanael; truly Jesus could read his heart, as he can read all hearts, and that can be a source of great consolation because it means he so well understands our weaknesses.

There is not one of us who would wish to be included in the group in whom Jesus had no confidence, no trust – yet many of us realise when we reflect on our lives that we have failed his confidence, his trust, perhaps many times – the wonderful fact is, Jesus, who is madly in love with each of us does trust us again and again – he forgives all our failures small and great endless times, in fact as we read in the prophet Isaiah (Is.30.18) in today’s Liturgy – ‘the Lord waits, yes waits, to be gracious to us; he exalts himself to show mercy,’ and he longs once again to tie the bond of loving friendship with us ever more strongly. Not only does he forgive and forget our failures but he longs to come into our very hearts and be completely one with us, again and again, in the precious gift of Himself in Holy Communion What immense joy and peace this gives to us when our hearts are weighed down with a deep consciousness of our failings.

St. Elizabeth of the Trinity encourages us in the words of St.Paul: “where sin abounded Grace did more abound” and she goes on to say ‘never let yourself be cast down by the thought of your wretchedness, it seems to me that the weakest soul, even the one that is most blameworthy, is the one that has the best grounds for relying on God’s mercy – by forgetting itself and throwing itself into the arms of God, it glorifies him and gives him more joy than by all its falling back upon self examination that makes it live with its infirmities, whilst all the time it possesses at the centre of itself a Saviour who wills to purify every moment’.

Let us then take new heart and encouragement as we continue our Lenten journey, knowing that Jesus will most certainly entrust himself to every sincerely contrite heart; let us respond to his loving invitation in the Gospel – ‘Come to me all you who labour and are overburdened and you will find rest for your souls’.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Dominican Family Vocations Day - March 24th 2012

Young women interested in attending this informative event are very welcome to contact me at as soon as possible.

Participants will have an opportunity to hear vocation stories from a member of each of the four branches - a friar, lay Dominican, apostolic sister and contemplative nun.

As prayer is central to this day, we will pray Lauds/Morning Prayer together shortly after arriving and we will have the celebration of the Eucharist before we leave.

More information about this day is available from the Friars Vocations Blog here.

To view/download poster in .pdf format, click here.

Lent Week 2 - Monday

A few words on to-day’s Gospel – Lk 6:36-38:
It opens with the words: “Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Be compassionate as your Father is compassionate.’ Perhaps the most important words in this passage are: ‘as your Father’. God is our Father! As the Christmas Preface puts it: “the wonder of our making is only surpassed by the wonder of our coming to life in Christ” (old translation) – i.e. by our Baptism we are inserted right into the heart of the Blessed Trinity – into the family and inner life of God. We are sons and daughters of God the Father, sisters and brothers of Jesus, the Son of God and we have the Holy Spirit living in our spirit- thus making us cry out ‘Abba, father’ and to proclaim Jesus as Lord. So that is why Jesus can ask us to have the beautiful attitude He annunciates in this Gospel passage - being compassionate, not judging, not condemning, granting pardon and giving. These attitudes do not come naturally to us – they must be desired and prayed for, cultivated and practised – then the light of Christ will shine forth in our life and actions and so glorify our Father in heaven.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

2nd Sunday of Lent - The Face of Christ

This morning’s Gospel account of the Transfiguration is so rich and full in ideas and teaching (as is every event in the life of Christ) that it is difficult to pick one out for reflection. We all know the story so well – Jesus becoming radiant – aglow – transfigured in the presence of the three chosen Apostles, Peter, James and John – then Moses and Elijah appeared in glory also and were talking with Jesus about his ‘passing’ which he was to accomplish in Jerusalem.

There is one little detail I want to say a few words on – “His face shone like the sun” this is in the account given by Matthew and Luke not in Mark from which today’s account is taken.

I have been struck very, very often by the number of times the word ‘face’ comes into the Psalms, the Hymns etc. in the Liturgy, e.g. “how long will you hide your face from me?” “I will behold your face in righteousness” and in Psalm 26 “Of you my heart has spoken, seek his face” – “It is your face, O Lord, that I seek, hide not your face” – “Turn your face against my sins” - and Psalm 41 – The Psalmist longs to stand once more in the Temple, to appear before God’s face – “when can I enter and see the face of God?” Ps.69 – “Hide not your face from me” – “I diligently seek your face”.

The face or countenance is so important a part of every person. We know we cannot see the Face of God. In Exodus 33.20 the Lord says to Moses: “You cannot see My Face, for no one can see me and live”. But God has now become incarnate in Jesus Christ and Jesus’ answer to Philip in St. John’s Gospel 14.9 is:“to have seen Me is to have seen the Father

In today’s Gospel we have seen the face of Christ in glory but as we move through Lent and especially nearer to Easter when we move towards Jerusalem, we are going to see the Face of Christ, the abandoned, the rejected Christ until once again at Easter, we see the Risen Christ’s Face, glorious and radiant.

Many saints and holy people have written widely on devotion to the Holy Face especially a Carmelite Nun, Sr. Marie of St. Peter of Tours in France. Her writings were approved by Pope Leo XIII in 1885, and in 1958 by Pope Pius XII who declared the feast of the Holy Face of Jesus to be kept on Tuesday before Ash Wednesday (Shrove Tuesday). Sr. Mary of St. Peter was beatified by Pope Benedict on 30th May 2010. The prayers given by Jesus to Sr. Marie of St. Peter were primarily against blasphemy, abusing the Holy Name of Jesus and making reparation for all the attacks against religion and Holy Church. We surely need that prayer today!

The devotion to the Holy Face of Jesus so inspired St. Thérese that she added it to her name. Our Lord said to Sr. Maire - “Every time my Face is contemplated, I will pour out my love into the heart of those persons, and by means of my Holy Face the salvation of many souls will be obtained” – and again: “I firmly wish that my Face reflecting the intimate pains of my Soul, the suffering and love of my Heart, be more honoured! Whoever gazes upon me, already consoles me”. St. Gertrude and St. Mechtilde also received wonderful promises from Jesus for those devoted to His Holy Face. Pope Pius IX said - “This salutary reparation to the Holy Face of Jesus is a Divine Work destined to save modern society”.

Of course, we are all familiar with the Holy Shroud of Turin since it was exposed to the public as recently as 2010 – there we see a living face, its expression a mingling of majesty and sorrow, of peace and calm power, in strange contrast with the cruelly tortured body. It is a face that bears the impress of a superior spirit, unbroken by suffering and unconquered by death. “After 19 centuries human eyes could again look upon the likeness of the Saviour as He was in death, still bearing the emblems of His sacrifice and with the expression in which His Face was moulded by the hand of death”.

Pope Paul VI as a very young priest in 1931 said “It seemed so true, so profound, so human and so divine, such as we have been unable to admire and venerate in any other image”. And again, Paul VI said in 1967 – “Perhaps only the image of the Holy Shroud gives us something of the mystery of this human and divine Face”.
The French writer Paul Claudel said of the Shroud – “Something so frightening and yet so beautiful lies in it that a man can only escape it by worship”.

Pope John Paul II in 1998 wrote – “What counts above all for the believer is that the Holy Shroud is a mirror of the Gospel. The Holy Shroud invites modern man to wonder on the mystery of suffering and to deepen his knowledge of the causes. It is the Icon of suffering of the innocent of our times. The Holy Shroud not only pushes us to stop being so selfish but it brings us to discover the mystery of suffering that ,sanctified by the Sacrifice of Christ, engenders salvation for all humanity. Believers in front of the Shroud have to exclaim ‘Lord, you cannot love me more’ and immediately realise that the responsibility of this suffering is linked with sin, to the sins of every human being”.

In May 2010 our present Pope Benedict XVI went on pilgrimage to pray before the Holy Shroud and said: “This is the power of the Shroud from the face of this “Man of Sorrows”, who carries with him the passion of man of every time and place, our passions too, our sufferings, our difficulties and our sins Passio Christi. Passio hominis from this face a solemn majesty shines, a paradoxical lordship. This face, these hands and these feet, this side, this whole body speaks. It is itself a word we can hear in the silence. How does the Shroud speak? It speaks with blood and blood is life! The Shroud is an Icon written in blood, the blood of a man who was scourged, crowned with thorns, crucified and whose right side was pierced. The image impressed upon the Shroud is that of a dead man, but the blood speaks of life. Every trace of blood speaks of love and of life. Pope Benedict concludes – “Let us always praise the Lord for his faithful and merciful love. When we leave this holy place, may we carry in our eyes the image of the Shroud, may we carry in our hearts this word of love and praise God with a life full of faith, hope and charity”.