11 February 2020

'But I say to you .. .' Sunday Reflections, 6th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

The Sermon on the Mount
Carl Heinrich Bloch [Web Gallery of Art]

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

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

Gospel Matthew 5:17-37 (New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Catholic Edition, Canada)  

Jesus said to his disciples:

‘Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfil. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
‘You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, “You shall not murder”; and “whoever murders shall be liable to judgement.” But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgement; and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, “You fool”, you will be liable to the hell of fire. So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift. Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are on the way to court with him, or your accuser may hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison. Truly I tell you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.
‘You have heard that it was said, “You shall not commit adultery.” But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to go into hell.
‘It was also said, “Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.” But I say to you that anyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of unchastity, causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.
‘Again, you have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, “You shall not swear falsely, but carry out the vows you have made to the Lord.” But I say to you, Do not swear at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. Let your word be “Yes, Yes” or “No, No”; anything more than this comes from the evil one.
Shorter form of the Gospel
Gospel Matthew 5:20-22a, 27-28, 33-34a, 37 (New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Catholic Edition, Canada)

Jesus said to his disciples:

I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

‘You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, “You shall not murder”; and “whoever murders shall be liable to judgement.” But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgement.

‘You have heard that it was said, “You shall not commit adultery.” But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

‘Again, you have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, “You shall not swear falsely, but carry out the vows you have made to the Lord.” But I say to you, Do not swear at all. Let your word be “Yes, Yes” or “No, No”; anything more than this comes from the evil one.

Léachtaí i nGaeilge


Responsorial Psalm (NAB Lectionary, Philippines, USA)

Nearly forty years ago I spent part of a summer working in a parish near New York City. One day when I was on duty I answered the phone. The man calling gave me his name, which I wrote down. He told me he was living in an irregular situation, having been divorced from his wife. He was asking what the Church could do for him in that situation. I tried to tell him about programmes that the Church had in the diocese for Catholics who were divorced and re-married civilly or living with someone else. The latter situation wasn't nearly as common then as it is now.

But he was getting more and more angry, though I remained calm. He eventually hung up.

I was able to find his mailing address easily on the parish register and wrote him a letter letting him know that I had understood his situation and the reason for his anger and frustration. Again, I informed him of the ways the Church was trying to be with those who found themselves in situations such as his.

The following day I had another phone call from the man. He thanked me profusely for my letter, for having listened to him and for having heard what he was trying to say. He also acknowledged that he was in a situation that he himself had created.

Today's Gospel shows us a Jesus who is somewhat different from the 'domesticated' meek and mild Jesus that we often imagine or create. He speaks of hard things: the consequences of breaking God's law, the necessity of forgiving and accepting forgiveness, the fruits of anger - not the feeling, which is something spontaneous, but the decision to remain angry/to hate - and the effects of adultery. Some of the most difficult parts of the gospel may be omitted and probably will be by many priests, for various reasons.

The media at the moment are giving lots of coverage to how the Church approaches those who are living with someone not their spouse. One might be led to think that the Church is being harsh for the sake of being harsh, imposing impossible difficulties on some of its members and failing to be 'merciful' and 'pastoral'.

In 2014 Fr Edward McNamara LC replied in zenit.org, a Catholic news agency, replied to a question about this very matter. He quotes from The Catechism of the Catholic Church, Nos 1650 and 1651. The latter says, Toward Christians who live in this situation, and who often keep the faith and desire to bring up their children in a Christian manner, priests and the whole community must manifest an attentive solicitude, so that they do not consider themselves separated from the Church, in whose life they can and must participate as baptized persons: 'They should be encouraged to listen to the Word of God, to attend the Sacrifice of the Mass, to persevere in prayer, to contribute to works of charity and to community efforts for justice, to bring up their children in the Christian faith, to cultivate the spirit and practice of penance and thus implore, day by day, God's grace.

I have close friends in such situations and in visiting parishes in Britain to do mission appeals for the Columbans I met couples in irregular situations who were very much involved in their parishes, but who accept the teaching of Jesus, expressed through his Church, and live with that painful reality which they know they have created for themselves, for whatever reasons.

Christ and the Woman taken in Adultery
Rembrandt [Web Gallery of Art]

In the story of the woman caught in adultery (John 8:1-11) we find this exchange at the end:

Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus straightened up and said to her, 'Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?' She said, 'No one, sir.' And Jesus said, 'Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again.'

Jesus shows the woman the greatest respect. Part of that respect is not denying that she had sinned. She knew that she had. God alone knew what had been going on in her heart. Jesus restored her dignity to her, gave her hope: Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again.


Jesus has taught us very clearly what marriage is: Some Pharisees came to him, and to test him they asked, 'Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any cause?' He answered, 'Have you not read that the one who made them at the beginning "made them male and female,"and said, "For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh"? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate' (Matthew 19:3-6)

This is a hard saying. Many utterly reject it, even the part about male and female. Others wrestle with the consequences of not accepting the teaching of Jesus when they find themselves in difficult situations.

Some think, wrongly, that the Church does not anyone who is divorced to receive Holy Communion. That is not quite accurate. Some are. An ongoing seriously sinful situation is created when two persons, at least one of whom is married in the eyes of the Church, choose to live together whether after a civil wedding or otherwise. The same, of course, applies to any two persons not married to each other who live together in a sexually intimate relationship. That is a choice people make. But if a divorced person lives a chaste life he or she isn't living in a sinful situation.

The First Reading (Ecclesiasticus 15:15-20) makes it very clear that God gives us the freedom to choose - and that there are consequences to the choices we make:


If you choose, you can keep the commandments,
    and to act faithfully is a matter of your own choice.
He has placed before you fire and water;
    stretch out your hand for whichever you choose.
 Before each person are life and death,
    and whichever one chooses will be given.
For great is the wisdom of the Lord;
    he is mighty in power and sees everything;
his eyes are on those who fear him,
    and he knows every human action.
 He has not commanded anyone to be wicked,  
    he has not given anyone permission to sin.

The response in the responsorial psalm, which is an echo of the first reading, is Blessed are they who follow the law of the Lord! (NAB). This is taken from Psalm 119 [118], as are the verses used in the responsorial psalm. this is the longest psalm, 176 verses in groups of eight in praise of God's law as something that makes us free.

In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus challenges us in every aspect of our lives. He challenges us to think with a new mindset. St Paul expresses it well: Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5).

That means taking to heart the words that Jesus repeated a number of times in the Sermon on the Mount: You have heard that it was said . . . But I say to you . . .


Adoramus te, Christe
Setting by Claudio Monteverdi, sung by Voces8


Adoramus te, Christe, et benedicimus tibi
Quia per sanguinem tuum pretiosum
redemisti mundum, miserere nobis.

We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you,
because with your precious blood
you have redeemed the world. Have mercy on us

04 February 2020

‘You are the light of the world.' Sunday Reflections, 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

A View of Toledo (detail)
El Greco [Web Gallery of Art]

'A city built on a hill cannot be hidden' (Mt 5:14).

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

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

Gospel Matthew 5:13-16 (New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Catholic Edition, Canada)  

Jesus said to his disciples:

‘You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot.
‘You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hidden. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.


Matthew 5:13-16 in Filipino Sign Language

Childhood of Christ
Gerrit van Honthorst [Web Gallery of Art]

'Let your light shine before others . . .' (Mt 5:16).


One of the darkest periods in the history of the world was 1939 to 1945 when much of the world was at war. At the heart of the darkness was Nazi Germany, where freedom had been almost entirely suppressed. But not quite. Between June 1942 and February 1943 a small group of students at the University of Munich with their philosophy professor Kurt Huber formed The White Rose, a non-violent resistance group working against Hitler and the Nazi regime. 

Sophie Scholl in 1942 
(9 May 1921 - 22 February 1943) [Wikipedia]

Among the leaders were Sophie Scholl and her older brother Hans. They were executed together. Both were devout Lutherans. It is said that she was influenced by the writings of St John Henry Cardinal Newman. Others in the group, such as Willi Graf, were devout Catholics. Not all were Christians but they shared a commitment to speaking the truth, even if it cost them their young lives. Most were in their early 20s.

Blessed Clemens August Graf von Galen [Wikipedia]

One German Catholic who had a great impact on the group was Blessed Clemens August Graf von Galen, Bishop of Münster, Germany, who died just after being made a cardinal in 1946, a giant of a man physically (6 feet 7 inches /2.01 m tall), morally and spiritually. He was known as 'The Lion of Münster'. In a series of sermons in 1941 he denounced some of the policies of Hitler, including that of euthanasia. Hans and Sophie Scholl used one of these in a leaflet that The White Rose printed and distributed secretly.

It was while distributing leaflets - the movement produced a total of six, their only means of communication - at the University of Munich, that Hans and Sophie were caught and then executed.


The members of The White Rose are remembered and honoured today and a number of films have been made about them. The video above contains footage from one of those.

White Rose Memorial, University of Munich

Hans and Sophie Scholl and their companions knew that their lives were in danger. But their Christian faith led them to be the salt of the earth . . . the light of the world. Through them at least some experienced the truth of the words of Isaiah 9:2 quoted in Matthew 4:16, the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawned

Salt is of use only when it is mixed with other things. The light of the sun doesn't exist for itself, for us to look at it. If we did we would be blinded. It is meant to light up everything around us, as we are meant by being salt and light to bring others to taste and see the joy of knowing Jesus the Risen Lord.

Not many are called, as some of the members of The White Rose were, to be the salt of the earth . . . the light of the world by laying down their lives. But those in The White Rose got their Christian faith, their moral values from others who for them were the salt of the earth . . . the light of the world. Some of them had belonged to various Nazi movements for young people but saw through the false values being promoted and left. In other words, they had been formed in solid values by others, older persons such as parents, some teachers perhaps. others trying to live honest and upright lives as followers of Jesus, 'missionary disciples', as Pope Francis calls us to be in Evangelii Gaudium No 120, without even being aware that they were such. The Pope reminds us there: In virtue of their baptism, all the members of the People of God have become missionary disciples.

+++ 

If you google 'Sophie Scholl' or 'The White Rose' on YouTube you will find many videos about the movement. The Film Sophie Scholl - the Final Days  (with English subtitles), directed by Marc Rothemund, was made in 2005. The trailer is below.


29 January 2020

'My eyes have seen your salvation.' Sunday Reflections, The Presentation of the Lord



The Presentation of the Lord, as a Feast of the Lord, takes precedence over the Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time.

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

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

Gospel Luke 2:22-40 [or 2-32] (New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Catholic Edition, Canada)  

When the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the law of the Lord, ‘Every firstborn male shall be designated as holy to the Lord’), and they offered a sacrifice according to what is stated in the law of the Lord, ‘a pair of turtle-doves or two young pigeons.’
Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; this man was righteous and devout, looking forward to the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. Guided by the Spirit, Simeon came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him what was customary under the law, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying,
‘Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace,
    according to your word;
 for my eyes have seen your salvation,
     which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
a light for revelation to the Gentiles
    and for glory to your people Israel.’

[And the child’s father and mother were amazed at what was being said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to his mother Mary, ‘This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed—and a sword will pierce your own soul too.’

There was also a prophet, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, having lived with her husband for seven years after her marriage, then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshipped there with fasting and prayer night and day. At that moment she came, and began to praise God and to speak about the child to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.
When they had finished everything required by the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favour of God was upon him.]



The late Stephen Cardinal Kim Sou-Hwan, Archbishop of Seoul, with a young friend. The cardinal's paternal grandparents were sentenced to death during the last persecution of Catholics in Korea, in 1869. His grandfather was killed but the persecutors spared his grandmother because she was pregnant. The child in her womb was the Cardinal's father.


Front cover, Misyon, November-December 2007
Renante and Christine Alejo-Uy  with Kiefer Thomas, their first born


About ten years ago while celebrating Sunday Mass in St Brigid's Parish, Blanchardstown, just north-west of Dublin city, where my brother and his wife live, I saw a young couple coming in at the back of the church a few minutes after Mass had begun. I smiled inwardly when I realised they were Filipinos. But then they came right up to the front pew and I was really touched to see the husband/father carrying their little child.

In the video of the Presentation in the Temple, produced by 'Rosary Priest' Fr Patrick Peyton's Family Theater, it is St Joseph who carries Jesus. St Luke doesn't specify this. But he does tell us that Simeon took him in his arms. The photo of the late Cardinal Kim above evokes this scene for me. What fills me with awe is the fact that his grandmother was spared by the persecutors in 1869 because she was pregnant, while his grandfather wasn't.

In Jewish law the man who named a child was considered his legal father. When I was a child I always heard St Joseph spoken of as the foster-father of Jesus. But St Matthew tells us: Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins' (Matt1:19-21). 


You are to name him Jesus
 means that St Joseph is being called by God to be a true father to the Son of his wife Mary. And the Church honours St Joseph above all as the Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary. And it is through Joseph, son of David being his legal father that Jesus is of the line of David as God had promised.

Pope Francis has spoken a number of times about the faith of one of his grandmothers and how she helped to form him. The God-fearing mother, facing all kinds of adversity as she brings up her children in the faith has become almost a cliché. I don't mean any disrespect whatever to such mothers or to any mothers. But the emphasis on the role of the mother and grandmother in the raising of children in the faith tends, I think, to take away from the equally important role of the father and of the grandfather.


When I was a small child it was my father who brought me to Sunday Mass while my mother would stay at home with my brother, three years younger, when he was an infant. She would go to another Mass. I saw my father, who spent his working life on building (construction) sites, where he was a highly respected general foreman, get up very early every morning, go to Mass, come home and prepare my mother's breakfast and bring it to her in bed. (For many, breakfast in bed is a treat. I hate the idea!) 

I saw how deeply he respected my mother, even when they had disagreements, never raising his voice to her or to anyone else, including us his two sons. I saw the same when I worked with him on a building site the summer before I was ordained. He never raised his voice there either and he never swore. He led by example and the men had profound respect for him. Some of those told me how great a mentor he was when they were still young and learning their trade. He had been blessed in a similar way when he started as an apprentice carpenter at 15.

My father taught me how to swim and how to ride a bicycle, letting go when he judged that I could go solo. I can still recall the joy in each instance when I realised that I was indeed going solo.


As I said above, St Luke doesn't specify that it was St Joseph who carried Jesus into the Temple. But the director of the video of the Presentation gives us an insight into the role of St Joseph. He was, as her husband, to be the protector of Mary and of her Son and he was, as his legal father, to be the mentor/teacher of Jesus in how to grow into manhood and in how to be a carpenter.


There is one telling scene when Simeon reaches out to take Jesus in his arms. Joseph doesn't hand him over without looking at Mary and getting her approval. As I grew older I could see that my parents made important decisions together such as which school they should send us to.

Simeon and Anna Recognise the Lord in Jesus
Rembrandt [Web Gallery of Art]

Simeon and Anna show us the importance of older persons in the lives of young parents and of children. When we are children the most significant older persons are our grandparents. Each Sunday morning my father would bring us to meet our grandfather who was widowed a couple of days after my brother was born. And I saw my maternal grandmother, widowed when I was less than two, very often. When I was in secondary school I often dropped into our parish church on my way home in the afternoon. There were always old people, including my grandfather, praying silently in front of the Blessed Sacrament. I sometimes dropped into other churches and would find the same.

There are many things we can reflect on as we celebrate the Presentation of the Lord. But for me it stirs up once again immense gratitude to God for my late father and an appreciation of the great responsibility that the vocation to be a husband/father carries, something, I think, that we as Church need to emphasise more.


The young Filipino husband/father carrying his child right up to the front of the church in Dublin, even though he and his wife were a little late, reminded me of the wonder of that vocation. And when we were choosing a photo of the Uy Family for the cover of Misyon,of which I was editor from 2002 until 2017, I simply had to go for the one above.

Nunc dimittis (Canticle of Simeon)
Setting by Palestrina, Sung by The Tallis Scholars

Nunc dimittis servum tuum, Domine, secundum verbum tuum in pace:
Quia viderunt oculi mei salutare tuum
Quod parasti ante faciem omnium populorum:
Lumen ad revelationem gentium, et gloriam plebis tuae Israel (Luke 2:29-32, Latin Vulgate).


Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace,
    according to your word;
for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
a light for revelation to the Gentiles 
and for glory to your people Israel (NRSVCE).

23 January 2020

'For those who sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawned.' Sunday Reflections, 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

Neubrandenburg
Caspar David Friedrich [Web Gallery of Art]


Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

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

Gospel Mathew 4:12-23 [or 12-17] (New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Catholic Edition, Canada)  

Now when Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee. He left Nazareth and made his home in Capernaum by the lake, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, so that what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled:
‘Land of Zebulun, land of Naphtali,
    on the road by the sea, across the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles—
the people who sat in darkness
    have seen a great light,
and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death
    light has dawned.’
From that time Jesus began to proclaim, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.’
[As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the lake—for they were fishermen. And he said to them, ‘Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.’ Immediately they left their nets and followed him. As he went from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John, in the boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets, and he called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed him.
Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness among the people.]


Matthew 4:12-23 in Filipino Sign Language

Last Sunday in the Philippines was the Feast of the Santo Niño (Holy Child). The gospel was Matthew 18:1-5, 10 in which Jesus tells us, Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. I saw his words come to life six years ago at the end of Mass in Holy FamilyHome for Girls in Bacolod City. I lived in that city from 2002 until 2017.

In January 2014 four new girls arrived at the home. One, whom I'll call 'Josie', was aged 14 and was profoundly deaf. Her main way of communicating was Sign Language. The Sisters, staff and some of the girls began to learn some Sign Language. The other three new girls included two aged ten and one aged six.

At the end of Mass I saw 'Josie' sitting and quietly crying. I wasn't quite sure why. One of the ten-year-old new girls, rather small for her age but very lively and whom I'll call 'Grace', went over to 'Josie' and put her arms around her to comfort her. Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

The majority of the girls in Holy Family Home have had horrific experiences, in most cases within their own family circle. They truly have sat in darkness.

['Josie' was able to go home in 2016. We discovered that she had some hearing and, with hearing aids, she has improved her speech and hearing considerably. The other three girls were still at Holy Family Home when I left the Philippines in 2017].

The Virgin and Child with St Martina and St Agnes
El Greco [Web Gallery of Art]

In my latter years in Bacolod City I used to celebrate Mass again in Holy Family Home on to mark the feast of St Agnes, 21 January. Each year we combined a celebration of St Agnes the Martyr (c.291 - c.304), patron saint of chastity, of young girls and of rape victims, and Blessed Laura Vicuña (1891 - 1904), a patron of abuse victims who offered her life for the conversion of her mother and whose feast day is 22 January.

Each year I told the girls that the life of Blessed Laura, whose father died when she was young, was so like their own and that she became a saint in the midst of and through her sufferings, especially the cruelty of her stepfather who wasn't married to her mother. Despite her young age she had the maturity, generosity and holiness to offer her life so that her mother would return to the Lord. She told this to her mother when she, Laura, was dying. It was the physical abuse of her stepfather that led to her death. Laura's prayers were answered.

Blessed Laura Vicuña [Wikipedia]

Laura understood the stark reality of the words of Jesus in today's gospel: Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near. She also understood the power of God's mercy. 

Holy Family Home exists because of the sins of adults against girls, some only small children. It is a place where most of the girls have sat in the region and shadow of death. I have brought many visitors there and the one word they nearly all have used to sum up their experience is 'joy', a joy they find among the girls and among the Capuchin Tertiary Sisters of the Holy Family and the staff. Those who live there are a testimony to the truth of the words of Isaiah that we listen to in the First Reading and the Gospel this Sunday and that we listened to at the Mass During the Night at Christmas: 

The people who sat in darkness    
   have seen a great light,
and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death   
   light has dawned.


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

The second part of today's gospel tells us of the call of the first disciples who were later called to be apostles, the brothers Simon Peter and Andrew, and the sons of Zebedee, James and John. Immediately they left their nets . . . Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed him. Yet we know from the gospels that they continued to fish from time to time and to encounter stormy weather.

In the Philippines most fishermen are poor and go to sea in very small boats. In some countries larger boats go far from land and often encounter very dangerous weather. And a very large percentage of international seafarers are Filipinos.

In our prayers to day let us remember our fishermen, our seafarers and those involved in rescue work at sea. Let us also remember the members of a number of European navies who have saved countless refugees in the last couple of years travelling in unsafe boats from north Africa to southern Europe. Tragically, many refugees never make it.


Mass for Four Voices, Sanctus
Composed by William Byrd
Sung by The Tallis Scholars


For those who sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawned.