14 June 2024

'Ag Críost an síol - To Christ the Seed.' Sunday Reflections, 11th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B


'Even unto the complete sacrifice of my life.'
Execution of Blessed Miguel Pro SJ, 23 November 1927, Mexico City

June is the month of the

Sacred Heart of Jesus

Blessed Miguel Pro’s Sacred Heart Of Jesus Prayer

Heart of Jesus, I give my heart to Thee; but so enclose it in Thee that it may never be separated from Thee. Heart of Jesus, I am all Thine; but take care of my promise so that I may be able to put it in practice even unto the complete sacrifice of my life. Amen.

The Sower
Vincent van Gogh [Web Gallery of Art]

The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground. 

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

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

Gospel  Mark 4:26-34  (English Standard Version, Anglicised)

Jesus said to the crowds:

“The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground. He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how. The earth produces by itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. But when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.”

And he said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable shall we use for it? It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when sown on the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth, yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes larger than all the garden plants and puts out large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.”

With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it. He did not speak to them without a parable, but privately to his own disciples he explained everything.


Léachtaí i nGaeilge

Reaper with Sickle (after Millet)
Vincent van Gogh [Web Gallery of Art]

But when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle.

Just over 30 years ago I was parish priest of Lianga, on the east coast of Mindanao for 11 months, One evening in a nearby barrio I gave a talk on the beginnings of life, how from the moment of conception what we will come to be, the colour of our eyes, of our hair, our sex - male or female, whether we’ll be tall or short, the talents that will emerge, are already there. I could see that the people were awestruck at the wonder of our creation.

Today’s First Reading and Gospel give us an insight into that wonder, showing how God’s creatures are interrelated. Ezekiel tells us how a shoot of a cedar will sprout branches and bear fruit, and become a noble cedar, for every kind of bird will live beneath it, every winged creature rest in the shade of its branches. St Mark echoes this: The kingdom of God . . . is like a mustard seed which at the time of its sowing . . . is the smallest of all the seeds on earth . . . yet  . . . grows into the biggest shrub of them all and puts out big branches so that the birds of the air can shelter in its shade.

Humans are the only creatures on earth who can know this: God created man in the image of himself, in the image of God he created him, male and female he created them. Only we can know, love and serve God here on earth and be with him for ever in heaven, as we learned from the catechism so many years ago.

Between the Solemnity of the Mother of God on 1 January 2019 and the end of last year more than 30,000 human beings made in the image of God were legally, violently and permanently denied entry into the Republic of Ireland before birth, denied the possibility of ever knowing a loving God in this life, of ever being loved by other humans, of ever loving others, of ever discovering their own giftedness and that of others, of ever discovering the wonders of God’s creation in this life.

In Laudato Si’ Pope Francis addresses this situation very clearly in the context of the interconnectedness of creation that the readings speak about today: Since everything is interrelated, concern for the protection of nature is also incompatible with the justification of abortion. How can we genuinely teach the importance of concern for other vulnerable beings, however troublesome or inconvenient they may be, if we fail to protect a human embryo, even when its presence is uncomfortable and creates difficulties? ‘If personal and social sensitivity towards the acceptance of the new life is lost, then other forms of acceptance that are valuable for society also wither away’.

However, Jesus tells us in John 10:10, The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. Today’s readings speak of that abundance. St Mark tell us, A man throws seed on the land. Night and day, while he sleeps, when he is awake, the seed is sprouting and growing, how he does not know. Of its own accord the land produces first the shoot, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. We are blessed in St Columban's where I live here in Ireland to be surrounded by so many examples of new life as we go through the four seasons. And at the many funerals of elderly Columbans in the last few years I have seen young children, reminders of God’s abundance in constantly creating and nourishing new life, especially human life, passed on from one generation to the next.

I remember too  being at the Menin Gate in Ieper (Ypres), Belgium, in 2002 where each evening the Last Post is sounded by buglers for British and Commonwealth soldiers who died in the Great War (1914-18) in which the city was destroyed, Many of these were Irish. One was Corporal Laurence Dowd, a half-brother of my maternal grandmother. Anther was Fr Willie Doyle SJ, an army chaplain, who is now being proposed for canonisation. The Last Post ceremony particularly remembers the thousands of soldiers listed on the monument whose bodies were never found. When I was there a very old man laid a wreath. He was possibly one of the last survivors of the First World War. Standing near me was a mother with a baby not more than a week old in her arms. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly

We have all been blessed by knowing married couples, including our parents, welcoming children into their lives, trusting in the providence of a God who gives abundantly and raising their children in the faith. Some have children who need special care right into adulthood and until death, drawing out of their parents a love that is truly heroic. Such families for me are signs of hope, signs of God’s presence among us, of God’s presence in my own life, preventing me from being discouraged by some aspects of a very changed world so different from the one that we older people grew up in.

The Entrance Antiphon reminds us that God is merciful and loving: O Lord, hear my voice, for I have called to you; be my help. Do not abandon or forsake me, O God, my Saviour! One of the expressions of God’s love and forgiveness is a movement I am familiar with, Rachel’s Vineyard (Britain, Ireland, USA) . This offers healing weekends rooted in the Gospel for persons who have been directly affected by abortion: mothers, fathers, grandparents of aborted children, spouses of someone who has had an abortion before they met. So many of these carry a hidden and deep sorrow and shame, often for many years. On a Rachel’s Vineyard weekend they can experience God’s forgiveness, enter into a relationship with their aborted child. And most of the team conducting the weekend, along with the supporting team, have themselves experienced God’s loving and forgiving mercy through it and are now ministers of that mercy to others like them.

The Responsorial Psalm speaks directly to those of us who are no longer young: Planted in the house of the Lord [the just] will flourish in the courts of our God, still bearing fruit when they are old, still full of sap, still green, to proclaim that the Lord is just. In him, my rock, there is no wrong.

As we celebrate the Eucharist, the great act of thanksgiving, may we allow the response to today’s Responsorial Psalm take root in our hearts: It is good to give you thanks, O Lord.

Sheaves of Wheat
Vincent van Gogh [Web Gallery of Art]

. . . because the harvest has come.

Ag Críost an Síol
Sung by Laudis Domini of the Second Presbyterian Church, Memphis, Tennessee. 
Arranged by Mark Armstrong and directed by Dr Gabriel Statom

Words written in 1916 by Fr Micheál Ó Síocháin (later Coadjutor Archbishop of Sydney), music by Seán Ó Riada in 1968. This hymn in the Irish language was intended by Ó Riada as an Offertory hymn but is often sung during or after Holy Communion. Fr Micheál Ó Síocháin (Michael Sheehan) was also author of Sheehan's Apologetics, used in religious education in Ireland's Catholic secondary schools in the 1950s and 1960s. The book was one of the seeds of my own vocation to be a Columban missionary priest. 

Ag Críost an Síol - To Christ the Seed

le Micheál Ó Síocháin /English translation by Thomas Kinsella

i n-iothlainn Dé go dtugtar sinn.

Ag Críost an mhuir, ag Críost an t-iasc;
i líonta Dé go gcastar sinn.

Ó fhás go h-aois, is ó aois go bás,
do dhá láimh, a Chríost, anall tharainn.

Ó bhás go críoch, ní críoch ach athfhás,
i bParthas na ngrást go rabhaimid.

To Christ the seed, to Christ the crop,
in barn of Christ may we be brought.

To Christ the sea, to Christ the fish,
in nets of Christ may we be caught.

From growth to age, from age to death,
Thy two arms here, O Christ, about us.

From death to end, not end but growth,
in blessed Paradise may we be.

Traditional Latin Mass

Fourth Sunday after Pentecost

The Complete Mass in Latin and English is here. (Adjust the date at the top of that page to 06-16-2024 if necessary).

Epistle: Romans 8:18-23GospelLuke 5:1-11.

Miraculous Draught of Fishes

But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, 'Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord' (Luke 5:8). 

06 June 2024

Sacred Heart of Jesus. Sunday Reflections, 10th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B


The Sanctuary of Christ the King in Almada, Portugal, a monument dedicated to the Sacred Heart

June is the month of the

Sacred Heart of Jesus

Come to me, all you that labour and are burdened; I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon yourselves, and learn from me; I am gentle and humble of heart; and you shall find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light (Matthew 11:29-30, Knox).

Young Jew as Christ
Rembrandt [Web Gallery of Art]

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

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

Gospel  Mark 3:20-35  (English Standard Version, Anglicised)

Then Jesus went home, and the crowd gathered again, so that they could not even eat. And when his family heard it, they went out to seize him, for they were saying, “He is out of his mind.”

And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem were saying, “He is possessed by Beelzebul,” and “by the prince of demons he casts out the demons.” And he called them to him and said to them in parables, “How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but is coming to an end. But no one can enter a strong man's house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man. Then indeed he may plunder his house.

“Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the children of man, and whatever blasphemies they utter, but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin” for they were saying, “He has an unclean spirit.”

And his mother and his brothers came, and standing outside they sent to him and called him. And a crowd was sitting around him, and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers are outside, seeking you.” And he answered them, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” And looking about at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.”

Léachtaí i nGaeilge

Beggar Resting
Giacomo Ceruti [Web Gallery of Art]

The note that goes with this painting on Web Gallery of Art - a wonderful website - says: The stick of the sitting figure of about seventy years of age, the knapsack on his shoulders, and the wicker basket all identify him as a pilgrim rather than as a beggar seeking alms.

Pilgrims often are beggars in the sense that some depend entirely on the goodness of others for food and lodging along their way. The Columban seminarians in the Philippines used to go on such a pilgrimage as part of their spiritual formation as Kurt Zion Pala, now ordained and serving in Myanmar, describes in The Road to Agoo. (I'm not sure if our seminarians still do that).

But sometimes we can see individuals simply as beggars and, in a sense, dismiss them from our thoughts, never knowing their stories, never knowing their humanity. That has been my experience a number of times down the years.

One such experience was during my seminary years, in the summer of 1964, while working for two weeks at The Morning Star Hostel, run by the Legion of Mary, less than a 15-minute walk from where I lived in Dublin. It was a place of refuge for 'down and out' men. It was far from being a luxury hotel but was a place where every man, whether short-term or long-term, was respected. The facilities have improved since then. 

While at the Morning Star I had a couple of long chats with a man I knew by sight. I'll call him Michael, a man aged 40 or thereabouts. He was a street singer, going around different parts of the city singing popular songs and hoping that people would give him a few pennies. Anytime I saw him he was just another beggar to me. 

But in our conversations I met in Michael a man who had a spirituality that in a real sense was beyond me. He was highly intelligent and reflected on life. He wasn't from Dublin and didn't tell me how he had ended up in the Morning Star. But I got a sense of a person for whom God was very real. I wondered if he was somewhat out of his mind or if he was some kind of mystic. I felt blessed by knowing him and figured that more likely he was a mystic, certainly a man close to God. And I saw his dignity as a person made in the image of God, the serene dignity of the beggar/pilgrim that Giacomo Ceruti captured in his painting, the serene dignity of the young Jew expelled from his native country captured by Rembrandt.

When his family heard it, they went out to seize him,  for  they were saying, ‘He is out of his mind.’ These words in today's Gospel remind me of Michael. It is clear that the perception of some of those who knew Jesus was that he was somewhat 'off-centre'. Jesus is here identifying himself with every person who is, in some way, 'off-centre' or perceived to be such. Such persons are not always taken seriously by the rest of us. They are on the margins.

The note that goes with Rembrandt's Young Jew as Christ says, The sitter of the painting is a young Jew evicted from Spain and settled in Amsterdam in the neighbourhood of Rembrandt. Another person on the margins, evicted by followers of Jesus from his native country because he was ethnically the same as Jesus and his mother. 

I once showed a very poor black and white copy of this painting during a Sunday homily at a Mass in a home for girls in the Philippines where most of the girls had been sexually abused. One, aged 14 or 15, asked if she could keep the copy. I later had a proper print made and framed and gave it to her. I asked her what had drawn her in Rembrandt's painting. She replied, 'He looks so human'.

In today's gospel we see the utter humanity of Jesus, God who became Man. We see his utter vulnerability, allowing himself to be dismissed by some as one who has gone out of his mind.

And then the extraordinary statement by Jesus: Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.

Whatever our nationality, our ethnic origins, our social standing, our level of education, our intellectual or physical abilities, our language, Jesus calls us his brother and sister and mother. His own Mother is the only one, apart from Jesus himself, who carried out God's will perfectly. Nevertheless he considers all who desire, with God's grace, to carry out the Father's will his brother and sister and mother

Jesus showed himself to me 60 years ago through Michael, whom I had seen only as a beggar before I met him. He shows himself to me through Ceruti's Beggar Resting, through Rembrandt's Young Jew as Christ. And Jesus, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, showed his humanity through a very poor print of Rembrandt's painting to my young friend in the Philippines who had been so badly treated!

May the words of Jesus and his presence among us in so many ways fill us with courage and hope!

Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus
Friday 7 June 2024

Readings (New American Bible)

Sweet Heart of Jesus
Sung by Regina Nathan

Traditional Latin Mass

Third Sunday after Pentecost

The Complete Mass in Latin and English is here. (Adjust the date at the top of that page to 06-09-2024 if necessary).

Epistle1 Peter 5:6-11. Gospel: Luke 15:1-10.

Parable of the Lost Drachma
Domenico Fetti [Web Gallery of Art]

Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin which I had lost (Luke 15:9; Gospel)..

29 May 2024

Mass in the trenches in the First World War. Sunday Reflections, Corpus Christi, Year B


St Margaret Mary Alacoque Contemplating the Sacred Heart of Jesus
Corrado Giaquinto [Web Gallery of ArtWeb Gallery of Art]

June is the month of the

Sacred Heart of Jesus

He guides the humble in the right path; 

He teaches his way to the poor (Ps 24[25]:9).


Supper at Emmaus
Caravaggio [Web Gallery of Art]

Corpus Christi, Year B

The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, Year B 

In most countries  this solemnity, formerly celebrated on the Thursday after Trinity Sunday, is now celebrated on the Sunday after Trinity Sunday, this year replacing the Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time. In communities where the Traditional Latin Mass is celebrated Corpus Christi is observed on the traditional day, the Thursday after Trinity Sunday, this year 30 May.

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

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

Gospel Mark 14:12-16, 22-26 (English Standard Version, Anglicised)

And on the first day of Unleavened Bread, when they sacrificed the Passover lamb, his disciples said to Jesus, “Where will you have us go and prepare for you to eat the Passover?” And he sent two of his disciples and said to them, “Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him,  and wherever he enters, say to the master of the house, ‘The Teacher says, Where is my guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ And he will show you a large upper room furnished and ready; there prepare for us.” And the disciples set out and went to the city and found it just as he had told them, and they prepared the Passover.

And as they were eating, he took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to them, and said, “Take; this is my body.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, and they all drank of it. And he said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. Truly, I say to you, I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.”

And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.

Léachtaí i nGaeilge

British Army Trench, First World War
The Somme, France, July 1916

Alfred O'Rahilly in his Father William Doyle SJ, a biography of an Irish Jesuit who served as a chaplain in the British army in the First World War and who was killed on 16-17 August 1917, writes on page 474 about a Mass celebrated in the trenches. Normally he was not allowed to have Mass with the men there because of the danger. 

On February 2nd [1917], however, he was able to offer the Holy Sacrifice in the trenches , his chapel being a dug-out capable of holding ten or a dozen. 'But my congregation numbered forty-six,' he says, 'the vacant space was small. How they all managed to squeeze in I cannot say. There was no question of kneeling down; the men simply stood silently and reverently round the little improvised altar of ammunition boxes, "glad," as one of them quaintly expressed it, "to have a say in it." Surely our Lord must have been glad also, for every one of the forty-six received Holy Communion, and went back to his post happy at heart and strengthened to face the hardships of these days and nights of cold.' What a difference the Real Presence made in the ministrations of a Catholic chaplain!

The Catechism of the Catholic ChurchNo 1374 states: The mode of Christ's presence under the Eucharistic species is unique. It raises the Eucharist above all the sacraments as "the perfection of the spiritual life and the end to which all the sacraments tend." In the most blessed sacrament of the Eucharist "the body and blood, together with the soul and divinity, of our Lord Jesus Christ and, therefore, the whole Christ is truly, really, and substantially contained." "This presence is called 'real' - by which is not intended to exclude the other types of presence as if they could not be 'real' too, but because it is presence in the fullest sense: that is to say, it is a substantial presence by which Christ, God and man, makes himself wholly and entirely present."

The Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, popularly known by the Latin name Corpus Christi, celebrates this reality, the same reality that Fr Willie Doyle and the 46 soldiers celebrated in the trenches in Flanders, Belgium, on that cold Candlemas Day in 1917.

Pope Benedict XVI celebrating Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament

Tantum ergo, sung at Benediction, consists of the last two stanzas of Pange lingua, the Latin hymn written by St Thomas Aquinas for the feast of Corpus Christi and sung at Vespers (Evening Prayer) on the evening before the feast and on the feast itself.

Tantum ergo sacraméntum
Venerémur cérnui:
Et antíquum documéntum
Novo cedat rítui:
Præstet fides suppleméntum
Sénsuum deféctui.

Genitóri, Genitóque
Laus et jubilátio,
Salus, honor, virtus quoque
Sit et benedíctio:
Procedénti ab utróque
Compar sit laudátio.
Amen. Alleluia.

Down in adoration falling,
Lo, the sacred Host we hail,
Lo, o'er ancient forms departing
Newer rites of grace prevail:
Faith for all defects supplying,
When the feeble senses fail.

To the Everlasting Father
And the Son who comes on high
With the Holy Ghost proceeding
Forth from each eternally,
Be salvation, honor, blessing,
Might and endless majesty.
Amen. Alleluia.

Holy Communion at Wedding Mass

Traditional Latin Mass  

Thursday after Trinity Sunday, Feast of Corpus Christi

The Complete Mass in Latin and English is here. (Adjust the date at the top of that page to 06-02-2024 if necessary).

Epistle: 1 Corinthians 11:23-29.  Gospel: John 6:56-59.

Last Supper

He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him (John 6:56; Gospel).

Second Sunday after Pentecost 

The Complete Mass in Latin and English is here. (Adjust the date at the top of that page to 05-30-2024 if necessary).

Epistle: 1 John 3:13-18.  Gospel: Luke 14:16-24.

St John the Evangelist
Bernardo Cavallino [Web Gallery of Art]

By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren (1 John 3:16; Epistle).