27 April 2012

'God's children . . . that is what we are.' Sunday Reflections, 4th Sunday of Easter Year B.

From The Gospel of John (2003) Directed by Philip Saville. Jesus played by Henry Ian Cusick; narrator, Christopher Plummer.

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

Second Reading 1 John 3:1-2 (Jerusalem Bible: Australia, England & Wales, India [optional], Ireland, New Zealand, Pakistan, Scotland, South Africa)

Think of the love that the Father has lavished on us, by letting us be called God's children; and that is what we are. Because the world refused to acknowledge him, therefore it does not acknowledge us. My dear people, we are already the children of God but what we are to be in the future has not yet been revealed;  all we know is, that when it is revealed we shall be like him because we shall see him as he really is.

An Dara Léacht 1Eoin 3:1-2 (Gaeilge, Irish)

A clann ionúin, breathnaígí cad é mar ghrá a thug an tAthair dúinn! go nglaofaí clann Dé orainn, agus is amhlaidh sinn. Sé an fáth nach n-aithníonn an saol sinne mar nár aithin sé eisean. chairde cléibh, is clann Dé cheana féin sinn, agus níor foilsíodh fós cé mar a bheimid; ach nuair a fhoilseofar é, is feasach sinn go mbeimid ina chosúlachtsan, mar go bhfeicfimid é mar atá sé.

When I was 11, for the first time in my life I spent a period away from my family. I went to a place called Cnoch na hAille, on the northern shore of Galway Bay in the west of Ireland, in the heart of the Gaeltacht, the Irish-speaking area there. (The same term is used for other areas where Irish Gaelic is still the main vernacular). I was there for a month’s summer-school cum holiday/vacation sponsored by trade/labour unions in Dublin for their members’ children aged between 10 and 14.
I experienced many things for the first time during those four weeks. I smoked my first cigarette with two or three other boys behind one of the many stone walls in the area. I didn’t finish it nor did I become hooked. I experienced real bullying for the first time, from one of the two boys I shared a room with in the home of the family with whom I stayed. He was a year older than me. Sadly, he died as a young married man and whenever I think of him I pray for him. I ‘fell in love’ for the first time, with a dark-haired girl name Joan. We were together on the train back to Dublin and never contacted each other again. I established a lifelong friendship with the family with whom I stayed.

One incident made a huge impression on me. A family from Dublin were staying in the same house as I was. The husband/father, whom I had never seen before, asked me ‘Are you John Coyle’s son?’ I had often hear people say that I looked like my father, even though I didn’t yet understand why. It turned out that the man who asked me the question, Paddy O’Neill was hi name, had worked as a carpenter, maybe as an apprentice under my Dad, with my father some years before that, and held him in great respect. I felt a great sense of pride in telling Paddy that I was indeed the son of John Coyle.

 During the Mass a few months ago where I baptised and confirmed some girls and where they and some others made their First Holy Communion. 

This week I’ve had a couple of baptisms. I don’t do them very often, not being based in a parish. The parents of one of those I baptised are not in a regular situation, not at all uncommon. However, their son became a brother of Jesus, a son of the Father, through the waters of baptism. St John, in the second reading today, says to the two children I baptised and to each of us, Think of the love that the Father has lavished on us, by letting us be called God's children; and that is what we are. That is our extraordinary dignity, the wonder of what happens at baptism. Someone once wrote that the sacrament of baptism is in a sense the climax of our lives as Christians, after which it is ‘downhill all the way’. A slight exaggeration, perhaps, but containing a real truth.

Not only is St John stating our extraordinary dignity as Christians but he is also stating our vocation. Paddy O’Neill, a stranger, recognised me as the son of John Coyle. Would a stranger or, maybe more importantly, someone who knows me, recognise me as a son or daughter of God?

When I arrived home in Dublin I discovered that my parents had missed me much more than I had missed them. Do I really appreciate the love that the Father has lavished on us?

During the Mass some months ago when I baptised and confirmed some of these girls and where all made their First Holy Communion.

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