Category: Gospel


AMDG            Yesterdays Homily for the feast of the Presentation given in Oxford 

touching-the-void-posterA few years ago I read a book called Touching the Void – it was one of those books that you can’t put down and I thing I read it in three sittings in the space of 24 hours…… it told the story of climber called Joe Simpson and his friend who had a climbing accident in a remote mountain in the Andes…….. After breaking his leg, his friend lowered him down, attached by a rope, in rapidly worsening conditions, till eventually he was lowered off a cliff. Finding themselves at a dangerous impasse, he had to make an excruciating choice, they wither both wait and die, or he cuts the rope abandoning his friend to almost certain death, but probably survives himself.

He cut the Rope.

Amazingly his friend was to survive, and crawl back to the base six days later.…………However  going back to that night when the rope was cut, he fell and landed on a ledge.  When he was sitting on the ledge, alone, forsaken …. and staring death in the face, Joe Simpson decided there was no God.  He encountered  a void……  He would have experienced what St Ignatius would refer to as an acute desolation.   The recently canonised Jesuit Pierre Favre, talks about intense experiences in prayer ‘where God withdraws his presence’. Not permanently ….. but in a way to teach us when we are in danger of taking God for granted.  In the time of the Ezekiel, about 600 years before the birth of Christ – he predicted a chilling prophecy ‘ That the Glory of the Lord would leave the Temple’ .  This would be devastating news for the people, that temple was where humans and God were reconciled;  it was the unique place to encounter God, the one place where sacrifice to God was allowed.  Can you imagine how the People must have felt when Ezekiel prophesied that the Glory of the Lord would leave the temple’.  The temple would soon be destroyed by the Babylonians,  for the Jewish People it was a communal experience of touching the void.

images (1)So we can appreciate today’s readings, and particularly the Joy of the Prophets Simeon and Anna in the light of this experience of desolation.   Firstly we heard the Prophet Malachi in the first reading,  ‘And suddenly there will come to the temple the LORD whom you seek,’  – this prophecy would give great hope….. but none would expect the manner of the Lord’s coming.  And so today we hear how the child Jesus is presented before God in the Temple. We are told that Simeon is awaiting the consolation of the people Israel – and as he holds this child in his arms he believes this promise is finally fulfilled .  With the eyes of a prophet he recognises the presence of the Lord in this small child, and utters the words of that beautiful prayer ‘The Nunc Dimitiss’ which is said by millions of us each night at Compline.  Similarly the prophetess Anna, having spent years of prayer and fasting in the temple in anticipation of this moment, she rejoices in the Lord having returned to the temple.

The return to the temple of the Lord has profound significance for Christians on two levels….. Firstly in the physical, historical presence of the Lord – the presence of God on this planet is transformed.  In the incarnation – God is no longer limited to the Temple…. No longer limited to one city, one place.  Christ’s Body becomes the Temple – so as he dies on the cross, the curtain in the Temple that veils the Holy of Holies mysteriously is torn into two.  Then on the second level – the temple is the place of sacrifice, bulls and goats, doves and incense were offered to be burnt as thanksgiving offerings, guilt offerings, offerings at key moments in life e.g. childbirth.    When the Lord is presented in the Temple he will become the sacrifice that fulfils all other offerings – and we continue this sacrifice every day when we pray the beautiful prayer of the mass.  However in the sacrifice of the mass, the most beautiful prayer we can make, we relive the greatest sacrifice of all, Christ giving his body and blood for the sins of the world.  His sacrifice trumps all else – and this prayer is being offered 24 hours a day, 7 days a week all over the world, in great cathedrals and in simple chapels, in the heart of great cities and on the tops of mountains, in schools and universities and in rainforests.

So as the Lord is presented in the temple – let us renew our devotion to the mass – to Christ’s presence in the Liturgy of the Word and in the Eucharist, and in and amongst each other.  We are not alone – we are not abandoned – sitting on an icy edge of life,  when we gather together for mass, mysteriously we are in the real presence of God – whose grace works quietly and patiently transforming our hearts and our lives.

Generosity & Happiness

AMDG

Todays Homily 

If you want to be happy in life then be generous – generous with God and generous with your neighbour……  There are phenomenal examples of generosity in today’s readings.

GenerosityFirstly we have the generosity of Jesus.  We are told today how he is informed about John the Baptists arrest and later his death. We remember that John was Jesus’s cousin – so this is not only the death of someone who Jesus esteems as the greatest of all prophets – this is also family. Jesus – fully human and fully divine – would have felt this like we would react to a close member of our family. Let us remind ourselves how John was killed.  After being imprisoned by King Herod – he was beheaded and his head was presented on a plate to Salome….  This is a particularly cruel and grotesque death – very public – humiliating….. How would you feel if your cousin died in such a manner?  How did the family of Lee Rigby feel when he was butchered to death on a London street and his crazed attackers.   Jesus doesn’t lick his wounds, he doesn’t harbour bitterness in his heart for Herod – he throws himself into his public mission – calling for repentance and calling his first disciples to follow him.  This is the generosity of Jesus -  Giving himself fully to his mission

Call-of-Simon-PeterSecondly let us look at the generosity of his first disciples Simon and Andrew, James and John.  We are told that they respond to Jesus invitation – I will make you fishers of men – immediately, they dropped their nets and followed him.  There is no haggling with Jesus – there is no …. Let me think about it …. Can I get back to you.  These are hearts open to God – and generous with their responses ….. in other Gospels we are told that James and John were with their boats , father and hired men, so it is clear they have a little fishing business going – if they can afford to hire others to work from them.  So their generous response is against the backdrop of this comfortable life.

Why are generous people happy – because it is in generosity that we imitate God.  The creation of the world and of life is understood by the Church as a free act of creative love – the generous creativity of the divine.  God will not be outdone in generosity – and in some ways our being generous triggers God’s blessings.  It is not like some pastors will have you believe that you will become materially rich – it is a different type of wealth – you will become rich in your spirit.   Gods blessings are already there – it as though being generous makes your heart grow, and it can contain Gods more and more of Gods blessings.

ST Ignatius Loyola – wrote a beautiful prayer about generosity – many of the pupils in our Jesuit schools have to learn this off by heart – it goes like this –

Lord, teach me to be generous.

Teach me to serve you as you deserve;

to give and not to count the cost,

to fight and not to heed the wounds,

to toil and not to seek for rest,

to labor and not to ask for reward,

save that of knowing that I do your will.

Lets sit quietly for a moment and think – in which areas of my life can I become more generous?

AMDG

Today’s Homily 

cute-old-cuoples-6Occasionally you meet these wonderful older married couples who have been together for many years and still seem to be in love each other.  They have a spark in their eyes, or a gentle touch between them, a concern for each other – and it makes you think – they are still as in love with other as they were those first days they met.  Sure, their love has changed – it may be more like a deep slow flowing river than those earlier years when it had all the energy of a waterfall.  But they still love each other – totally. And it is marvelous to behold – it gives us hope!  Even if we are in difficult relationships – or have a history of broken relationships – even if we feel a bit battered and bruised because of our experience of love…. We may feel a pang of jealousy… but if we are honest we are filled with admiration and hope.  This is in parallel with our faith – we are called to be in love with God our creator – we are called to return that love that he has for us – a love that never grows stale – a love that is eternally creative. And so at the beginning of this new year that is our challenge for us – how do we make sure that our Love for God isn’t growing stale – how do we make sure that we are always wishing to renew it – that we are not just here in this beautiful church out of habit or because it is a routine and we feel guilty if we miss Sunday mass.

Because our faith can be so much more than that.   Even if it feels like we are clinging on by our fingernails – we are still being called deeper and deeper into love. Those couples that stay in love – do not take each other for granted. It is as though they have this capacity to see each other with fresh eyes each day – with fresh wonder.   Can we do this when we look at Jesus?  John the Baptist introduces Jesus to us today saying four remarkable things about him – so in case we have got too used to him – let’s listen again.

John Says this

  1. He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world
  2. He is the Chosen one of God
  3. He is the one who will baptise with the Holy Spirit
  4. “ A man who is coming after me who ranks before me because he existed before me”

logos-300x225Let’s think about this last one. Jesus existed before John – well we know from Marys visit to Elizabeth when John leapt in the womb, that he’s not speaking biologically -  So we remember that electric opening to John’s Gospel – ‘ In the beginning was the word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.’  This is called the pre-existence of Christ – the word, the logos – that we believe Jesus, the son of God, existed from the beginning of time.  Jesus who we hear about in the Liturgy of the Word, Jesus who is with us in a unique way in the Liturgy of the Eucharist.  This pre-existence of God, that John proclaims in the Gospel is important as it touches on the power of God’s love for us. Why ?  because in order to become man, a historical man, Jesus son of Mary – son of God – step son of Joseph, – and also in order to be present to us in blessed sacrament every day as we celebrate the mystery of mass in this church and the chapel next door – God is emptying himself to be with us in a supreme act of Love.

This idea of Jesus’s pre-existence as the word is of crucial importance in an age were so many people wish to portray faith as irrational. Pope Emeritus Benedict has said that Christianity must always remember that it is the religion of the “Logos.” ….. according to him is our philosophical strength, that our faith and the created world comes from the rational – not the irrational;  this saves Christianity from becoming distorted by irrationality – prevents us from being sucked into violence.  When we are accused of being bigots – remembering that in the beginning was the word – and through him all things were made – reminds us that to believe in Christ is Rational no matter how unpopular this has become – or how inconvenient the power of this self emptying love is to a world that is so often selfish and only interested in domination.    What’s more, Benedict goes on to say – this ‘logos’ – is infinitely creative  - especially when the crucified God is manifested as love, it is only this that can really show us the way.  Its worth repeating that – The Word is infinitely creative especially when the crucified God is manifested as love.

So when we read the Gospel again – and when we come together like this to represent the Body of Christ, when we receive communion today – we can fall in love again.  Because He never gets tired of us.  Divine love never grows stale

My Homily Given Today on the Feast of the Epiphany 

CHRISTMAS_SHOPPERS1_1AMDG  I am going to let you into a secret – one of the things I like about being a priest at Christmas is that I don’t have to buy a lot of presents.  It’s not that I am means spirited – or stingy …….. honestly …….. but I am very happy that being a priest it allows me to concentrate on what is really important at Christmas.  But even I can’t get totally out of it – I went over to see my sister in Nottingham last week and two of my beautiful nieces, Charlotte and Emily.  Now they are only 4 and 6 so I don’t think they would understand if I turned up without presents – so briefly I had to join the crowds in the Arndale Centre – looking for presents – and it was stressful! Too many people – some very rude people pushing you out the way – and all just to get a couple of presents (they both love Barbie and Moshi Monsters) that I know were made in China – and probably will be forgotten about in a few week and thrown out when my sister decides there are too many toys cluttering up their bedroom.

Does that sound familiar to you?

Let’s contrast that experience with the presents given to Jesus by the wise men at the feast of the Epiphany. Gold, Frankincense and Myrhh – Gold – which represents the Kingship of Christ.  Isn’t it interesting that when there is a period of political or financial instability the price of Gold soars.  People buy Gold when they don’t trust their rulers or their economy – just look at what is happening in India now with such a frustration with corruption.  Gold has a value that lasts – its not another throwaway consumerist trinket.  In this baby in Bethlehem we see that if you invest your hopes and your dreams in his kingship it will bear dividends – not of more money but of peace, of joy, of love.   Frankincense – the gift of priesthood – like the incense that we use at mass to consecrate the altar, which I have just you to consecrate this book of the Gospels.  In this child born into poverty we have what Saint Paul was the ultimate high priest – whose sacrifice on our behalf brings us back into the loving orbit of God our creator.  And in Myrhh – we have an analgesic – a pain killer – something that we still use in dentistry and when we gargle mouthwash. This a prophetic gift which indicates the wise man forsee the suffering that this new king-priest will have to endure suffering to fulfill his Messiahship.

downloadGold, Frankincense and Myrrh – three prophetic, wise gifts laid at the feet of Jesus in the dirt, smell, damp and darkness of the stable in Bethlehem.

Lets compare the vision of the three kings to the that of King Herod.  Herod is the consummate political survivor – even being prepared to kill his own children to maintain his own power. He is ruthless and will do anything to consolidate his power.  That is the extent of his vision – raw power – and anyone or anything that gets in his way will be ruthlessly eliminated. If you read the historians of this time he was notorious for executing three of his own sons – Caesar Augustus even commented ‘It is better to be Herod’s dog rather than one of his sons’   What type of man is that?

We think that the magi came from Persia (Iran), India and Arabia and their exotic caravan would certainly have been noticed even in a bustling Jerusalem,  So Herod assembles his own wise man and discovers the prophecy of the messiah.  The Magi were looking for truth – seeking the star – and their gifts show how deeply they understood the prophecy.  The best gifts we receive come from people who understand us.  Herod – in his ego and his paranoia is seeking for threats to his power and as we will see is ruthless in his reaction.

King-Herod-300x300We all know that we can be like Herod in our lives and relationships – bearing grudges, playing games, manipulating people.  Ok we may not resort to murder or even physical violence – but so many of us like another form of assassination – gossiping, undermining someone’s reputation.  We become so obsessed with maintaining our own comfort that we stop seeking the truth. If you are seeking the truth, if you are seeking Christ, than expect opposition from the Herods of this world.  Expect to be scorned, to be laughed at.  But keep seeking – look for the gifts of the spirit – look for the gifts that will never grow stale – or be thrown away.  Truth, Freedom (and real freedom is spiritual – it is detachment), Peace and Joy.  They are gifts that come from kneeling and adoring – they are gifts that come from following those things that produce wonder in your heart.  You won’t find that Peace and Joy in the Arndale Centre – you may find it at the Holy Name.

 

 

Incarnation

AMDG

My homily for midnight mass – inspired by  Rob Marsh on Thinking Faith 

doctor_1416155cWe can probably identify life –changing moments…..  moments that make us think about life in a profoundly different way.  I would like to share with you a life-changing moment, that most of us have shared.  A few years ago, in Manila the capital of the Philippines, I had my first major operation – on my left knee.  I had worn out the cartilage and after the operation – the surgeon told me my football and running days were over.   My first reaction was – can I still go hill walking?    That hospital in Manila –was a turning point because suddenly my body became an obstacle to my dreams.  My left knee was screwed – and it forced me to reluctantly admit – there was no way I was going to ever going to become a midfield general, and score the winning goal in the Champions League Final……..  Ok maybe I knew that already…. It reminded me of when I was a little boy and coming out of the cinema after seeing Superman and being mildly irritated when I couldn’t fly – I even had the cape on….. but now it was definitive, the doctor told me I had worn my left knee out with training and running for marathons. This was a turning point for me and for so many of us because when  we are young it is as though our bodies are filled with unlimited potential. We admire youth because we see they can dream – and now my body had become an obstacle to my dreams……

downloadeThe opposite is at the heart of Christmas  – that God seems to love human bodies and choose them as the way of fulfilling God’s dreams. God the creator of the universal – and remember according to the Hubble Telescope the observable universe is hundreds of billions of Galaxies – and our Galaxy probably has 2 billion stars in it.  This all powerful – creator God – 2014 years ago (give or take a few years) – took on a finite human body – became a human being – a little baby – vunerable – flesh and blood – crying and going to the toilet – the God who created the universe.

Wow……

How does infinity dwindle to infancy?   Why did God choose to do this – in Bethlehem – in a country that was occupied by a ruthless foreign power? How does God fit into a body without making it explode?  This is the mystery of the Incarnation, remember incarnation – carne – flesh, meat – God became our flesh and blood – no other religion claims that – in fact if you were to claim to be God you are silenced…. Killed, incarcerated, and that is exactly what happened to Jesus.  It is such an amazing thing – to be the infinite God – who has become finitely incarnate.

download (1)Since I have been working at university – listening to so many students – sharing their joys, listening to their fears and worries.  I have seen the pressure so many of themselves are put under – academic pressure, financial pressure. But there is another kind of pressure which is deeper – a terrible kind of desolation – and it is all to do with self image, how they see their bodies.  I listen to beautiful young women telling me how they feel ugly, how they feel fat, their hair is the wrong colour , their breasts aren’t big enough.  And this deep unhappiness with their bodies is growing with men too – IT is being fuelled by the false images they are watching – airbrushed models,  unrealistic portrayals of sex, the culture of celebrity.   The financial and academic pressure will pass – but this type of pressure, self inflicted is much deeper and spiritually much more corrosive.

So remember the Incarnation – remember the real heart of Christmas – God, it seems, doesn’t hate bodies. In fact  God uses the human body – with all its limitedness – and all its mortality – to save the world.   How could we have allowed ourselves to be so far from that? There are websites know that encourage people to harm their bodies …… there is so much poison out there about how we think about ourselves… Christmas is the antidote to that poison.

download (2) And remember tonight is the start of Jesus’s human journey – the infinite all powerful God vulnerable in the hands of his mother – who will soon become refugees, immigrants, asylum seekers as they escape King Herod into Egypt.    Remember how the story ends – the Jesus the sun of God is tortured – his body nailed to the cross – and his heart stops beating, water and blood flowing out of his broken body.  This is no myth – this is history.  And when he rises from the dead – his glorious risen body – which is still carrying his wounds – becomes our hope, becomes our destination.

images Every day in this church – that body is made present to us in a unique way during the mystery of the mass – 365 days a year – twice a day when university term is on – three times a day on a Sunday – the incarnation of Christ during mass.  There is that famous saying – a dog is not just for Christmas – so let us remember the incarnation is not just for Christmas.  So all of you here tonight – who are occasional catholics – or visitors – you are very welcome, and it is great to see you.  Come more often next year – it would be wonderful to see you every Sunday  - this great mystery of God’s love – that he chose to take on the form of this life, on this planet, in this Galaxy – it is a mystery that we can never get used to.  But If we contemplate it, if we live it, if we renew it weekly – it is a mystery that brings us joy, a mystery that makes us appreciate life and our bodies, no matter how old they become.  When we forget it – and get caught up in the cares and worries of life – I can assure you one thing – we become miserable.

In a moment we will express our faith – this great story of God becoming Man – and tonight we will kneel after the words – God became man – to contemplate the immensity of the incarnation – to remember the Joy of Christmas.

Speaking Truth to Power

AMDG

This is my homily for tomorrow - the Second Sunday of Advent 

john_baptistSpeaking Truth to Power is a phrase that is often used to describe people who bravely stand up against injustice.  It takes courage, it takes integrity to put your head above the parapet.  It probably explains something behind the overwhelming reaction to the death of Nelson Mandela this week.  Whenever there is a media frenzy there is a lot of nonsense spoken about someone’s life – and this week is no exception to this – however it cannot be denied that Mandela become a powerful symbol for many people.  He spoke truth to power, and they tried to silence him, but in the end truth won out.  He was lucky – he wasn’t silenced – he didn’t become a political martyr.   Speaking truth to power is part of the job description for an Old Testament Prophet.  And today in the Gospel – on the second week of our Advent Journey we meet the greatest prophet of them all, according to Jesus, John the Baptist. Unlike Nelson Mandela – we know that John was eventually silenced – beheaded by Herod.  John is one of the great advent figures – bridging the gap between the NT & OT.  He speaks with great authority, and that authority is recognised by the people and so he attracts great crowds.

What is his message for this advent ?  I think that he is warning not to be complacent in our faith.  He calls the Pharisees and the Sadducees ‘A brood of vipers’.  He is not confronting the power of Herod yet – but a much more subtle power – the power of respectability and the power of a good reputation and keeping a public face.   So let us examine our own faith and our own lives.

roman-triumphSt Ignatius in the Spiritual Exercises writes very clearly about the seduction of power and honour.  In his meditation on the Two Standards – he talks about how the trappings of fame and honour are used by the enemy to seduce us …. to pull us away from God, so that we come to believe that we are all powerful.  There is a fascinating index called ‘The Power Distance index’ which measures how much a country respects authority and values hierarchies.  The higher the country is the more likely it is to be totalitarian and score high on corruption scales.  In ancient times when a Roman General or a Roman Emperor used to have a victory triumph (or parade) and was receiving the adulation of the masses – a slave would stand behind him and according to Tertullian whisper in his ear “Look behind you! Remember that you are a man! Remember that you’ll die”…..the famous memento mori.

So this Advent – let us heed John’s challenge.  Let us be honest about the little ways we are seduced into thinking that we are great, we are clever, lest we become complacent.  Advent is a time for our hearts to become humbler – that we dust away the complacency – as we would preparing a guest room – for a special guest.  But this time the room is our hearts – and for the grace of Christmas to go really deep – our hearts have to mirror that humble manger in Bethlehem.

AMDG

           This is a modification of Today’s Homily on the Gospel of Zacchaeus

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAs Jesuits when we pray, we often like to use our imaginations.  We call it imaginative contemplation.  You put yourself in the middle of the Gospel Scene – and watch, and listen and even try and smell & touch what is happening.  Today’s Gospel of Zacchaeus is a wonderful scene to do this with.  Zacchaeus the small tax collector, hated by many people for helping the Romans and becoming rich from his collaboration and probably his corruption.  Jesus is coming and as always attracting great crowds – so Zacchaeus  climbs the tree to see him pass, and Jesus invites him down – and we have this wonderful conversion of Zacchaeus – I’ll give half of what I own to the poor.  Notice the key dynamic with this story – it is through this encounter with Jesus, that his heart changes.   As he scurries down the tree he his joyful, even though everyone is complaining around him.   It is when we encounter Jesus – that our hearts change…..  In the mass we have the perfect setting to encounter Jesus.  We believe that the risen Lord is here amongst us now – that he is uniquely present in his word and in the Eucharist.  But just because we are present here – just because we are sitting in the pews – it doesn’t necessarily mean that we are encountering him.  Zacchaeus hears his invitation and comes scurrying down to meet him, joyfully.  We are here today at mass, and we maybe just going through the motions, here out of duty – it might even have become such a habit that we aren’t really noticing what is going on.  How can we encounter Jesus today if our hearts are not open to him, if we stay sitting up in the tree?  Even more dangerous – we may not feel the need for Jesus.  Zacchaeus knew he needed to be saved from his greedy ways. Look how he promises to give to the poor.  We may be a bit too complacent, a bit too comfortable to encounter Jesus.

NightFever2Pope Francis has a lovely image – of the shepherd who goes out to the save the lost sheep.  He says sometimes in the state of our church today, have lost the 99 sheep and only have one left.  And instead of going out to look for the 99 – we stay in and look after the one we have, like hairdressers fussing over the one sheep. How do we go out prudently and gently evangelise? On Friday night we had a group of 30 students praying in the church – they lit candles all over the place, had beautiful music, and then in groups of two – holding lanterns they waited outside the church and invited people in to light a candle.  Different people came in.  One man said that it was lovely to be invited in – he hadn’t been in a church for 20 years, and then he asked if he could stay a while and just sit.  Others came in and asked to speak to a priest after they had lit their candles.  It was a gentle way of reaching out to the lost 99 sheep as Pope Francis said.  We called the event – Nightfever ( a movement that started in Germany)  – and we will hold it every first Friday of the month.  So be careful that we don’t become too comfortable and too complacent in our faith.  Learn from Zacchaeus – what more can I do?  How can I help the poor – remember being in mass is not enough – we know we have encountered Jesus when our hearts our changed – so let’s sit in silence for a moment – and ask Jesus to help us to climb down from our trees.  How can we encounter him?   In what way can get more involved in our faith???  Don’t be frightened to ask him – here and now.

AMDG     Taken from today’s chaplaincy newsletter (click)

franshals_stlukeLast Thursday we celebrated the Feast of St Luke, apostle and evangelist. Each of the Gospels gives us a slightly different portrait of Jesus and what following him (discipleship) entails.  One of the themes that Luke is keen on in his Gospel is that of perseverance.  It is something that Luke would have valued himself as he accompanied St Paul on his many journeys and chronicled the events of the Early Church as he wrote the Acts of the Apostles.   Today’s Gospel is often referred to as the parable of the Persistent Widow, and develops this Lucan theme of perseverance.   As the nights get longer and colder and the summer fades away, it may be important to pray for this gift of perseverance. For some of us – even just making it to mass this Sunday or during the week is a victory of perseverance, especially when it is tempting to curl up at home.

Resilience

 

The path to joy and fulfillment can be made up of these small heroic victories. However God wishes us to thrive not just to preserve.   Persevering in the faith is a lot easier when we feed our faith regularly with the sacraments, in fact the more frequently we engage with God at this sacred level, whether at mass or confession, we can make that shift from a faith where we are just hanging on in there, to a faith that is alive, growing and flourishing.  I have heard people say – it is not about keeping the faith, but giving the faith away.  Jesus knows how hard it can be at times, when we are surrounded by cynicism and negativity – he knows how hard it is for the widow in the Gospel to get justice from the dishonest judge.  Let’s prepare for winter by strengthening our faith – even if all that means is putting 10 minutes aside each day to come and sit in the sacred silence of the Church.

AMDG

Attending the Jesuit Province meeting at the moment.  We enjoyed a beautiful morning prayer led by Fr Tom McGuiness yesterday on ‘Resurrection Encounter’.  It was interesting to hear the opening lines of Gospels account of Easter Sunday morning.

  • It was very early on the first day of the week and still dark….  (Jn)
  • On the first day of the week, at the first sign of dawn……  ( Lk)
  • Very early in the morning on the first day of the week….. (Mk)
  • ….. towards dawn on the first day of the week …………. (Mt)

dawn1

It is said that the darkest hour is before the dawn and maybe it was in this profound darkness that Jesus rose again.  This is why Christian Hope can be so enduring – it is in the darkest moments of our lives that God can act most powerfully.Tom then went onto share a beautiful 11th Century Irish Text called simply ‘The Dawn’. Written by an Irish monk, as he sat waiting in his cell – waiting for the light of the sun so he could continue his work on the manuscripts he was writing.

Welcome, bright morning,  enter my dark oratory

 Blessed is he who sent you, Victorious morning, self-renewing  

Maiden of a noble family,  The sun’s dark sister    

You touch the face of each house and illuminate both land and people   

Welcome to you of the white neck,  Covered in jewels, enter

 English Translation of ‘The Dawn’ – for original Gallic click here

 

AMDG

“I would like [the message of Christ's resurrection] to go out to every house and every family, especially where the suffering is greatest…”The power of these words were matched by an encounter, photos of which went viral yesterday of Francis hugging young Dominic Andrea who suffers from cerebal palsy.  I found this reflection from his dad – a professor of theology – On a blog called Catholic Moral Theology.  It is very beautiful

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“Small acts with great love,” Mother Teresa was fond of saying. Yesterday, Pope Francis bestowed an extraordinary Easter blessing upon my family when he performed such an act in embracing my son, Dominic, who has cerebral palsy. The embrace occurred when the Pope spied my son while touring the Square, packed with a quarter million pilgrims, in the “pope mobile” after Mass. This tender moment, an encounter of a modern Francis with a modern Dominic (as most know, tradition holds that St. Francis and St. Dominic enjoyed an historic encounter), moved not only my family (we were all moved to tears), not only those in the immediate vicinity (many of whom were also brought to tears by it), not only by thousands who were watching on the big screens in the Square, but by the entire world. Images of this embrace quickly went viral, and by Easter Sunday afternoon it was the lead picture on the Drudge Report, with the caption, “Change Hatred into Love” (a paraphrase of Pope Francis’ Urbi et Orbi message that followed shortly thereafter), where it remains even as I write this. Fox News, NBC Nightly News, ABC Nightly News, and CNN all showed clips of it. Lead pictures of it were found in Le Figaro, the New York PostThe Wall Street Journal, the Philadelphia Inquirerinter alia.

It is often difficult to try to express to people who do not have special needs children what kind of untold sacrifices are demanded of us each and every day. And as for Dominic, he has already shared in Christ’s Cross more than I have throughout my entire life multiplied a thousand times over. What is the purpose in all this, I ask? Furthermore, I often tend to see my relationship with Dominic in a one-sided manner. Yes, he suffers more than me, but it’s constantly ME who must help HIM. Which is how our culture often looks upon the disabled: as weak, needy individuals who depend so much upon others, and who contribute little, if anything, to those around them.Pope Francis’ embrace of my son yesterday turns this logic completely on its head and, in its own small yet powerful way, shows once again how the wisdom of the Cross confounds human wisdom. Why is the whole world so moved by images of this embrace? A woman in the Square, moved to tears by the embrace, perhaps answered it best when she to my wife afterward, “You know, your son is here to show people how to love.” To show people how to love. This remark hit my wife as a gentle heaven-sent confirmation of what she has long suspected: that Dominic’s special vocation in the world is to move people to love, to show people how to love. We human beings are made to love, and we depend upon examples to show us how to do this.

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One more thing. Pope Francis’ embrace of my son, Dominic, indicates that we should not interpret the new Pontiff’s expressed devotion to the poor, already a cornerstone of his pontificate, in facile, purely material (let alone political) categories. His Easter embrace of my son stands out as a compelling witness to the kind of “poverty” that he urges us to adopt, the poverty that he pointed to in the opening line of his Urbi et Orbi message yesterday: “I would like [the message of Christ's resurrection] to go out to every house and every family, especially where the suffering is greatest…” Parents of disabled children, stand up and find solace and encouragement in these simple yet profound words

See the encounter below (forward to 10.30)

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