10 February 2022

What I saw that day more than 40 years ago was an expression of God's pure love. Sunday Reflections, 6th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C


River Bank in Springtime
Vincent van Gogh [Wikipedia; source]

He is like a tree planted by water,
    that sends out its roots by the stream,
and does not fear when heat comes,
    for its leaves remain green,
and is not anxious in the year of drought,
    for it does not cease to bear fruit (Jeremiah 17:8; First Reading).

He is like a tree
    planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
    and its leaf does not wither (Psalm 1:3; Resposnorial Psalm).

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

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

Gospel Luke 6:17, 20-26 (English Standard Version Anglicised: India)  

Jesus came down with them and stood on a level place, with a great crowd of his disciples and a great multitude of people from all Judea and Jerusalem and the sea coast of Tyre and Sidon.

And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said:

“Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.

“Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you shall be satisfied.

“Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh.

“Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man! Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets.

 “But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.

“Woe to you who are full now, for you shall be hungry.

“Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep.

“Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets.”

 Léachtaí i nGaeilge

Prayer Before the Meal
Adriaen Jansz van Ostade [Web Gallery of Art]

More than 40 years ago when I was in charge of a small formation house for young men preparing for the diocesan priesthood in Mindanao, Philippines, I came to know a young girl named Patricia. She had just turned ten when we first met. I learned that her father had died when she was an infant. She 'adopted' me and called me Tatay, Dad, as she still does. She is now a widow and a grandmother.

The first time I visited her home, a small wooden structure built on stilts, I thought that it might fall over. Patricia's family, like most of the families around them, were poor, though not destitute. They struggled from day to day and managed to get by.

Very often after class in the public elementary school Patricia would drop by the formation house for a chat. One day when we were talking in the dining room upstairs we heard the 'clump-clump-clump' of somebody coming up the stairs wearing heavy boots and carrying a staff. It was a man named William Smith, probably the poorest person I have ever met. It was believed that his father had been an American soldier. William was tall and thin, never looked healthy, had very poor sight and had no home of his own. Sometimes children would tease him in a disrespectful way. He would go from parish to parish and the priests, mostly Columbans, would give him a place to sleep, food, clothes, shoes and some money. After a few days he would head off to another parish. Poor William went to his reward when struck by a truck one day. May he rest in peace.

When William arrived at the top of the stairs Patricia went over to him, took him by the hand, sat him down at a table and brought him something to eat and to drink. I asked her some years later if she remembered this incident. She had no recollection whatever of it.

The Infant Jesus Distributing Bread to Pilgrims

St Matthew's first beatitude reads, Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. The New English Bible translation of this is, How blest are those who know their need of God; the kingdom of heaven is theirs. I find that latter translation very helpful.

St Luke's version has a different emphasis. He shows us Jesus speaking about those who are economically poor. Jesus is also, I think, giving a message of hope pointing towards eternal life where the injustice that is the cause of so much economic poverty will no longer have any force, where God's will reigns. The words of Jesus also call us to work for a world in the here and now where economic poverty caused by greed and injustice no longer exists.

Jesus has very harsh words for those whose focus is only on the present life and the ultimately shallow 'rewards' so much of it offers: But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.

God reveals himself as Love in so many 'insignificant' moments. What I saw that day more than 40 years ago was an expression of God's pure love: a child who was poor serving an adult who had absolutely nothing of his own. Patricia was blessed by God in serving William and he was blessed by God in being served by a child. I have been blessed by this little incident ever since. The kingdom of God broke through that afternoon. 

Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God

Antiphona ad Communionem

Communion Antiphon (Cf Psalm 77 [78]:29-30).

Manducaverunt, et saturaviti sunt nimis, [They ate and had their fill,] 

et desiderium eorum attulit eis Dominus, [and what they craved the Lord gave them;] 

non sunt fraudati a desiderio suo. [they were not disappointed in what they craved.]

Traditional Latin Mass (TLM) 

Septuagesima Sunday 

The Complete Mass in Latin and English is here. (Adjust the date at the top of that page to 02-13-2022 if necessary).

Epistle1 Corinthians 9:24-27; 10:1-5.  Gospel: Matthew 20:1-16.

SAINT Valentine's Day

Shrine of St Valentine, Whitefriar St, Dublin

Monday 14 February is SAINT Valentine's Day, not 'Valentine's Day'. He was a Roman priest martyred for officiating at weddings when the pagan emperor of the day forbade that. His feast day is celebrated by those who use the Roman Missal of 1962 authorised by Pope St John XXIII in the year that the Second Vatican Council began.

You can read about the saint on the website of the Carmelite Friars (OCarm), Whitefriar Street, Dublin. 


Mariette VandenMunckhof-Vedder said...

Dearest Father Seán,
Great post and well written with examples from past and present.
Patricia did show some love and compassion in a natural way; very rare to see such actions.
Lovely painting by Dutch Vincent van Gogh, the awakening of nature at the river banks. It resembles life and faith.
Also Dutch painter Adriaen Jansz van Ostade captured the 17th century faith in the family so well. Prayer before the meal.
We continue to do so, wherever we are, in a restaurant worldwide, on a plane (not at present but during our 1,500,000 miles in the air).
That is the only way for feeding our body and our soul at the same time and being aware of all the riches.

Unknown said...

My ever dearest Tatay...
I Am happy to see your Post here. And I could not express my feelings when I read the story of that little child, was Me.
I miss you so much
My Tatay.
Specially that I have sons and grand childrens, I am now longing to see you again and hug you my Love Tatay... Thank you for loving me and Care me as your own child. The only Father I know such a very kind of heart, We Love you so much.♥️