12 July 2019

'There is need of only one thing.' Sunday Reflections, 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C

Christ in the House of Marth and Mary, Tintoretto [Web Gallery of Art]

This is Sunday Reflections for 21 July 2019, which I am posting early because of going on retreat. You will find Sunday Reflections for 14 July here. 

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

Readings (Jerusalem Bible: Australia, England & Wales, India [optional], Ireland, New Zealand, Pakistan, Scotland, South Africa)

Gospel Luke 10:38-42 (New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Catholic Edition, Canada)  

Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, ‘Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.’ But the Lord answered her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.’


Luke 10:38-42 in Filipino Sign Language


Perhaps the poorest man I've met in my life was Billy Smith. Despite his name, he was a Filipino, though as far as we Columban priests knew his father was an American. He was known to all the Columbans in northern Mindanao where in the 1970s we had many parishes, now staffed by Filipino diocesan priests. Billy would do his rounds of the parishes over a period of months and in each would get some food, some clothing, a little money and a place to sleep. He was tall and thin and in his latter years was going blind. He had a number of illnesses. He carried a sturdy staff. Sometimes children would make fun of him and even throw stones at him.

One afternoon more than 35 years ago in a place where I had been parish priest for a couple of months, the last Columban to serve in that role, but was in charge of a spiritual pastoral formation year for seminarians from five dioceses, I heard the 'clump, clump, clump' of heavy boots coming up the stairs to the living quarters. It was Billy. At the time I had a visitor, a young friend named Patricia who was in Grade 5. She never knew her father as he had died when she was an infant. She 'adopted' me as a father and called me 'Tatay' (Dad) and often dropped by after class before heading home. (She is now a widowed grandmother and still calls me 'Tatay'.) The family lived in a small house built on stilts that looked as if it might fall over at any minute. Her mother managed to make a living. 

When Patricia saw Billy she immediately went over to him, took him by the hand, sat him down at the table and brought him something to eat and drink. I doubt if Billy had ever received such service in his life. My young friend was unaware that I was taking all of this in.

Patricia had little in life and Billy had even less. But the young girl showed respect, kindness and hospitality to this man of the roads. She did this spontaneously, from the heart. When I told her about this incident years later she couldn't remember it.

The story in the First Reading of Abraham's welcome to the three strangers and the story of the welcome Martha and Mary to Jesus in the Gospel show us how blessed we may be by hospitality. Abraham didn't know that the strangers were visitors from God, who blessed him and Sarah, childless and well beyond the normal age for having children, with a son, Isaac, within the year. It is through Isaac that we can refer to 'Abraham, our father in faith' in Eucharistic Prayer I (The Roman Canon).

God blessed Billy through the hospitality of Patricia, a child, and he gave me a lifelong blessing through that incident.

Very often what a visitor looks forward to is something to eat and drink. And in the Scriptures when it gives us stories of hospitality such as in the First Reading, there is more than enough. Vincenzo Campi's painting below emphasises the extent of Martha's hospitality and the amount of work that faces her. We can understand her frustration with her sister Mary. The painting also reflects the boundless generosity of God.

However, there are times when the hospitality needed is simply someone to listen. From what we read about Martha, Mary and their brother Lazarus in the gospels of St Luke and St John it would seem that Jesus felt very much at home with them and quite possibly had many meals with them. But on this occasion he simply wants the ear of Mary and Martha. Mary senses this. 

There is need of only one thing, Jesus tells Martha. That, basically, is to know what God wants from us at a particular time and then to do that. In the last chapter of St John's Gospel Jesus is telling us the same thing in his conversation with St Peter when he asks him three times 'Do you love me?' When Peter says 'Yes' on each occasion Jesus tells him, 'feed my lambs, feed my sheep'. But the basic question is Do you love me?

There is need of only one thing.

Christ in the House of Mary and Martha
Vincenzo Campi [Web Gallery of Art]

Kyrie, Missa Papae Marcelli by Palestrina

11 July 2019

‘Go and do likewise.’ Sunday Reflections, 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C

Moses, Carlo Dolci [Web Gallery of Art]

Moses said to the people: 'No, the word is very near to you; it is in your mouth and in your heart for you to observe' (Deuteronomy 30:14, from today's First Reading).

Because I am going on retreat I have posted Sunday Reflections for both 14 July 2019 and for 21 July. You will find the latter here.

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

Readings (Jerusalem Bible: Australia, England & Wales, India [optional], Ireland, New Zealand, Pakistan, Scotland, South Africa)

Gospel Luke 10:25-37 (New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Catholic Edition, Canada)  

Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. ‘Teacher,’ he said, ‘what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ He said to him, ‘What is written in the law? What do you read there?’ He answered, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbour as yourself.’ And he said to him, ‘You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.’
But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbour?’ Jesus replied, ‘A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan while travelling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, “Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.” Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?’ He said, ‘The one who showed him mercy.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Go and do likewise.’


Luke 10:25-37 in Filipino Sign Language


 
The Good Samaritan (after Delacroix)
Vincent van Gogh [Web Gallery of Art]

Fr Kevin McHugh, a Columban confrere in Our Lady of Remedies Parish, Malate, Manila, sent me the following by the late Monsignor Thomas Waldron (1929 - 1995) of the Archdiocese of Tuam, Ireland. Father Kevin transcribed it from a cassette tape.

Instead of a homily I am going to take a risk . . . I am going to tell the story in the words of the lawyer who asked Jesus the Question that you just heard in the Gospel ‘Who is my neighbour?’

So, I am the lawyer.

We lawyers make our living by asking questions . . . especially when in the court room. Well, I was one of those standing in the crowd that day . . . and I asked a very basic question.

‘Master, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’

I admired him . . . I liked him . . . but I just wanted to test him. He didn’t answer me! Like any good lawyer he shot back the question . . . two questions.

'What is written in the Law? What do you read there?'

I gave the standard answer: ‘Love God with all heart etc . . . and your neighbour as yourself.’

He said: ‘Exactly! Do this and you will live!’

I suppose I could have left it there but I wanted to show off . . . to show the others how smart I was . . . so I asked, ‘But who is my neighbour?’

He gave me a little look as if to say, ‘You are a clever one alright . . .but listen to this!’

And then he went on . . . you know the story . . . Jewish priest . . .. sacristan went down the road . . . passed the man lying at side of road. Samaritan came along and helped to save his life.

It was a beautiful answer to my question.

But he wasn’t finished with me.

‘Which of these three,’ he said to me, ‘would you think was neighbour to the man?’

Made his question personal!

Now the roles were reversed. Jesus was not my witness . . . he was my judge! I was more like a defendant!

‘The one who took pity on him,’ I said.

A few bystanders approached him so I took my leave. I had certainly met my match!
But later on that day I met Jesus in the marketplace; he came over to me and said: 'Good question!'

And I said to him, ‘Great answer!’

Lawyer: 'I presume that the part you yourself would have played in the story would have been that of the Good Samaritan?’

Jesus: ‘Well, actually, no. I think I would have been the man who was injured and beaten . . . lying on the road. It was from that point of view that I told the story: with the ears of a man who heard people pass by when I shouted out for help; with the eyes of a man who saw feet walk by him - on the other side – when he needed some one on his side; and I told the story with the thanks of a frightened man . . . thanks for the fellow who stopped. 

'The man on the ground – that’s me – is grateful for anyone that stops . . . man, woman or Samaritan. When you’re down, you don’t care what colour, class, creed or nationality is the hand that helps you up.'

And he looked at me . . . and he looked at us all gathered here this evening when he said: ‘Go . . . and do likewise.’



Antiphona ad communionem  Communion Antiphon.. 
Cf Ps 83[84]:4-5 

Passer invenit sibi domum et turtur nidum, ubi reponat pullos suos.Altaria tua, Domine virtutum, Rex meus et Deus meus!
Bea ti qui habitant in domu tua, in saeculum saeculi laudabunt te.

The sparrow finds a home, and the swallow a nest for her young: by your altars, O Lord of hosts, my King and my God.
Blessed are they who dwell in your house, for ever singing your praise.

Alternative Communion Antiphon


Antiphona ad communionem  Communion Antiphon.. 
John 6:57

Qui manducat carnem meam et bibit sanguinem meum, 
in me manet et ego in eo, dicit Dominus.

Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood
remains in me and I in him, says the Lord.

Sung by Camerata Kobe, Japan

04 July 2019

'Rejoice that your names are written in heaven.' Sunday Reflections, 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C

Madonna and ChildFrancisco de Zurbarán [Web Gallery of Art]

For thus says the Lord:
I will extend prosperity to her like a river,
    and the wealth of the nations like an overflowing stream;
and you shall nurse and be carried on her arm,
    and dandled on her knees.
As a mother comforts her child,
    so I will comfort you;
    you shall be comforted in Jerusalem (Isaiah 66:12-13).
From today’s First Reading.

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

Readings (Jerusalem Bible: Australia, England & Wales, India [optional], Ireland, New Zealand, Pakistan, Scotland, South Africa)

Gospel Luke 10:1-12, 17-20 [or Luke 10: 1-9] (New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Catholic Edition, Canada)  

After this the Lord appointed seventy others and sent them on ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself intended to go. He said to them, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest. Go on your way. See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves. Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals; and greet no one on the road. Whatever house you enter, first say, “Peace to this house!” And if anyone is there who shares in peace, your peace will rest on that person; but if not, it will return to you. Remain in the same house, eating and drinking whatever they provide, for the labourer deserves to be paid. Do not move about from house to house. Whenever you enter a town and its people welcome you, eat what is set before you; cure the sick who are there, and say to them, “The kingdom of God has come near to you.” 
[But whenever you enter a town and they do not welcome you, go out into its streets and say, “Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet, we wipe off in protest against you. Yet know this: the kingdom of God has come near.”  I tell you, on that day it will be more tolerable for Sodom than for that town.
The seventy returned with joy, saying, ‘Lord, in your name even the demons submit to us!’ He said to them, ‘I watched Satan fall from heaven like a flash of lightning. See, I have given you authority to tread on snakes and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing will hurt you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice at this, that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.’]

Note: Some translations mention 70 disciples, others, such as the Jerusalem Bible and the New American Bible, 72. 



Luke 10:1-12, 17-20 in Filipino Sign Language


St Justin Martyr [Wikipedia]

The current issue of Magnificat, a pocket-sized monthly magazine that is a prayer book and Missal that I highly recommend, has this story of St Justin Martyr who died c.165. He was a philosopher who attached himself to philosophical schools in different places. 

One day, while walking along the beach in Ephesus, Justin met an old man who told him of the teachings of the Hebrew prophets and their fufilment in the person of Jesus Christ. 'My spirit was immediately set on fire,' Justin wrote later.

I remember the late Columban Fr Cyril Hally, a New Zealander, pointing out to us in the seminary that when the Apostles went to their different mission fields they found some Christians there before them. Christians who travelled, such as merchants, spoke about Jesus Christ to those they met and many a spirit was immediately set on fire.


The Legion of Mary: Its Global Mission Part 1

Columban Fr Joseph Hogan from Dublin, where the Legion of Mary was born, introduced the movement to China, where it later produced many martyrs. He died in Shanghai on 6 July 1946. And Columban Fr Seán Savage who died on 7 July 1994 is credited with introducing the Legion to Korea. May they both rest in peace.


During some summer vacations in my seminary years I went on Peregrinatio Pro Christo  - Pilgrimage For Christ - with the Legion of Mary. 'PPC', as Legionaries usually call it, was partly inspired by the spirit of Irish monks such as St Columbanus (Columban) and St Columcille (Columba) who left Ireland for other countries, Columban to the European mainland and Columba to Iona, Scotland, in the modern Diocese of Argyll and the Isles where I spent two months in parish work during the summer of 2013. I also spent two short periods working there in the summer of 1997.

Legionaries go to another country or to another region in their own country for at least a week, usually at the invitation of a particular parish. In 1963 I was in a parish near the centre of Liverpool, St Anthony's, I think, around the time The Beatles, from that city, were becoming known throughout the world. Two years later I was in St Fergus' Parish, Ferguslie, Paisley, very near Glasgow, and in 1966 in Pewsey, a lovely village in rural Wiltshire in England's beautiful West Country. I arrived there on the day England won the World Cup in football against Germany and watched the game in a cafe in Bristol.

On PPC most of the Legionaries have never met each other before but they establish a close bond very quickly. Instead of a weekly meeting, as they have in their own praesidium, as a branch is called (the Legion takes its terminology from the ancient Roman Legions), they meet daily. Each meeting includes prayers at the beginning, the middle and the end, a reading from the Handbook, reporting on work done, a short talk or allocutio from the spiritual director, and assignments for the coming week, two hours for senior members.

On PPC this takes place every day, as does the work. And it is usually much longer than two hours. Most of those taking part give up part of their own vacations and pay their own way, though they are usually hosted by local families, just like the 72 (or 70) in the gospel.

Just like the disciples in today's Gospel, Legionaries work in pairs. They may never work alone. If one doesn't turn up the assigned work can't be done. One of the central works of the Legion of Mary is to visit homes. In Liverpool the parish priest asked us to do a parish census. This served two purposes. It helped the parish update its list but, more importantly, it was an opportunity for personal contact with parishioners, especially with those who had lapsed.

I remember one particular home that I visited with my assigned partner. The parish index card noted that the family who lived there had become quite bitter towards the Church, why, I didn't know. But I felt nervous when I pressed the doorbell. A man opened the door and one of us said that we were from the Legion of Mary and that we were visiting on behalf of the local parish.

Instead of speaking angry words or slamming the door in our faces, the man gave us a big smile and said, 'O, you're from Ireland!' He then told us of vacations that he and his family had spent there and that they had received a warm welcome wherever they went.

I took this as a cue to speak of the hospitality and friendliness of the Irish people as being an expression of their Catholic faith. We had a long chat in which the man who had, as I recall, called his wife to meet us, expressed no bitterness at all towards the Church and it was clear when we were leaving that he was very grateful for the visit. 

I don't know if he and his family went back to the Church but he had experienced a welcoming Church through our visit. In a very real way we had done what Jesus had asked the 72 (or 70) to do: Cure the sick who are there, and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you'  The sickness in question wasn't a physical one but a spiritual one.

Our faith is a precious gift from God that must be shared. Otherwise it will die. In the gospel the 72 (or 70) are given a specific mission. That is what happens on PPC. But we're on mission all the time and we may never know how we can lead others to the faith. 

A few years ago when visiting Canada I was invited to give a talk to a prayer group. Afterwards over coffee I was chatting with one of the members, an immigrant from Germany. She had been a Lutheran but for years had been thinking of becoming a Catholic. However, she couldn't take the final step. One day she was passing a Catholic church and felt drawn to go in. As she was trying to share her hesitation with the Lord in prayer a group of teenage boys came in, genuflected to the Blessed Sacrament, spent a couple of minutes in silent prayer, got up, genuflected again and went on their way. This for her was the moment of grace when she let go of her hesitations. She didn't know who the boys were and they had no idea of the powerful impact their visit to the Lord had made on this woman.

The young future martyr Justin learned of Jesus Christ from an old man. The elderly woman I met in Canada, who did know Jesus Christ, found her way to becoming a Catholic Christian through the example of the teenage boys whom she didn't know nor they her.

Whether we're 'on duty' as missionaries, as the 72 (or 70) were and as I was on PPC, or 'off duty' the lives we lead can truly remind others that the kingdom of God has come near to you. The people that the Liverpool family met in Ireland, bus drivers, waiters, waitresses, newspaper vendors, so many others, probably weren't aware that they were gentle reminders of God's love to them. When we honestly try to follow Jesus despite our sinfulness and weakness we can take heart in the words he spoke to the 72 (or 70) as they reported what had happened during their mission, rejoice that your names are written in heaven.



Antiphona ad introitum    

Entrance Antiphon Cf. Ps 47[48]: 10-11



Suscepimus, Deus, misericordiam tuam in medio templi tui.
Your merciful love, O God, we have recevied in the midst of your temple.
Secundum nomen tuum, Deus, ita et laus tua in fines terrae;
Your praise, O God, like your name, reaches the ends of the earth;
iustitia plena est dextera tua.
your right hand is filled with saving justice.

28 June 2019

'Shared grief for a man of God, a true follower of Jesus Christ.' Sunday Reflections, 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C

Call of the Sons of Zebedee, Marco Basaiti [Web Gallery of Art]

The Sons of Zebedee were James and John, mentioned in today's gospel.

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

Readings (Jerusalem Bible: Australia, England & Wales, India [optional], Ireland, New Zealand, Pakistan, Scotland, South Africa)

Gospel Luke 9:51-62 (New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Catholic Edition, Canada)  

When the days drew near for him to be taken up, Jesus set his face to go to Jerusalem. And he sent messengers ahead of him. On their way they entered a village of the Samaritans to make ready for him; but they did not receive him, because his face was set towards Jerusalem. When his disciples James and John saw it, they said, ‘Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?’ But he turned and rebuked them. Then they went on to another village.

As they were going along the road, someone said to him, ‘I will follow you wherever you go.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.’ To another he said, ‘Follow me.’ But he said, ‘Lord, first let me go and bury my father.’ But Jesus said to him, ‘Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.’ Another said, ‘I will follow you, Lord; but let me first say farewell to those at my home.’ Jesus said to him, ‘No one who puts a hand to the plough and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.’



Columban Fr Rufus Halley (1944 - 28 August 2001) with friends in Mindanao

Jesus speaks clearly to us in Sunday's gospel about the cost of following him. Christians are still prepared to give up their very lives to follow Jesus. One example is Fr Rufus Halley, killed on 28 August 2001 in the Philippines. He was a very close friend of mine and a Columban confrere. Father Rufus was from County Waterford in Ireland. He entered the Columbans one year after me, in 1962, and was from a relatively wealthy family. But he lived very simply and chose to spend the last 20 years of his life in a predominantly Muslim area in Mindanao, an area where for centuries there has been distrust, and sometimes open hostility, between Christians and Muslims. 

Many of us tend to react as James and John did in a 'them and us' situation. Not Father Rufus. He chose the path of dialogue, learning two new Philippine languages in order to do that - he was fluent in Tagalog, the language spoken in Nabuka and in central Luzon where he had worked for many years - Maranao, the language of most of the Muslims in Lanao del Sur where he was based, and Cebuano, the language of most of the Christian minority there.

He was ambushed and shot dead while riding back to his parish in Malabang from the neighbouring parish of Balabagan. He had been at a meeting of Christian and Muslim leaders. Though the killers happened to be Muslims, both Christians and Muslims mourned him.

Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales, then Archbishop of Manila, now retired, wrote an article aabout Father Rufus, who was known to many as ‘Father Popong’, published in Misyon in July-August 2006

Fr Rufus Halley

In the last two paragraphs of his article Cardinal Rosales writes: 

I knew of the intensity with which Father Rufus lived his own Christian faith, how he began each day with an hour of adoration before the Blessed Sacrament, the centrality of the Mass in his life. A big influence on him was the life of Blessed Charles de Foucauld, 1858-1916, beatified on 13 November 2005. This Frenchman was also from a privileged background. Unlike Pareng Rufus, he lost his Catholic faith and became a notorious playboy before re-discovering it, partly through the example of Muslims living in North Africa. He spent many years as a priest living among the poorest Muslims in a remote corner of the Sahara, pioneering Christian-Muslim dialogue by discovering himself as the Little Brother of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament and as the Little Brother of the Muslims who came knocking at his hermitage door.


On 1 December 1916 Charles de Foucauld died at the hands of a young gunman outside his hermitage and on 28 September 2001 Pareng Rufus died at the hands of gunmen who ambushed him as he was riding on his motorcycle from a meeting of Muslim and Christian leaders in Balabagan to his parish in Malabang. The local people, both Christian and Muslim, mourned for him deeply. The grief of the Muslims was all the greater because the men who murdered my Pareng Rufus happened to be Muslims. The death of this great missionary priest brought both communities together in their shared grief for a man of God, a true follower of Jesus Christ.




Composed by Branko Stark, performed by Thai Youth Choir conducted by Dr.Pawasut Piriyapongrat.

Psalm 46[47]:2-3, 6-7, 2-3


The setting above by contemporary Croation composer Branko Stark includes the words of today's Entrance Antiphon, in bold below, taken from the Latin Vulgate version of the Bible.

Antiphona ad introitum  Entrance Antiphon Ps 46[47]:2


Omnes gentes, plaudite manibus; jubilate Deo in voce exsultationis: quoniam Dominus excelsus, terribilis, rex magnus super omnem terram.



Clap your hands, all you peoples; shout to God with loud songs of joy. For the Lord, the Most High, is awesome, a great king over all the earth.

Ascendit Deus in jubilo, et Dominus in voce tubae. Psallite Deo nostro, psallite; psallite regi nostro, psallite;

God has gone up with a shout, the Lord with the sound of a trumpet. Sing praises to God, sing praises; sing praises to our King, sing praises.

Omnes gentes, plaudite manibus; jubilate Deo in voce exsultationis: quoniam Dominus excelsus, terribilis, rex magnus super omnem terram.

Clap your hands, all you peoples; shout to God with loud songs of joy. For the Lord, the Most High, is awesome, a great king over all the earth.

Sacrosanctum Concilium (Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy) 36. 1. Particular law remaining in force, the use of the Latin language is to be preserved in the Latin rites.

Vatican II, while it introduced the use of the mother tongue, did not banish Latin from the Mass and other liturgies!






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