25 November 2021

‘Jesus Christ . . . is also the foundation of hope.’ Sunday Reflections, 1st Sunday of Advent, Year C


Christ in the Storm on the Sea of Galilee

Rembrandt [Web Gallery of Art]


And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves . . . (Luke 21:25; today’s gospel).

We begin Year C, which highlights St Luke's Gospel

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

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

Gospel Luke 21:25-28, 34-36 (English Standard Version Anglicised: India)

Jesus said to his disciples:

“And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves, people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world. For the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.

“But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap. For it will come upon all who dwell on the face of the whole earth. But stay awake at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.”


Léachtaí i nGaeilge

Conditor Alme Siderum (Creator of the Stars of Night)

An ancient Advent hymn sung by the Christendom College Choir & Schola Gregoriana

Pope Benedict XVI in Auschwitz, 28 May 2006

[Wikipedia; photo]

The God in whom we believe is a God of reason - a reason, to be sure, which is not a kind of cold mathematics of the universe, but is one with love and with goodness (Pope Benedict in Auschwitz)

Pope Benedict's Angelus Talk on the First Sunday of Advent, 29 November 2009[I have highlighted some parts.]

Dear Brothers and Sisters

This Sunday, by the grace of God, a new Liturgical Year opens, of course, with Adventa Season of preparation for the birth of the Lord. The Second Vatican Council, in the Constitution on the Liturgy, affirms that the Church 'in the course of the year... unfolds the whole mystery of Christ from the Incarnation and Nativity to the Ascension, to Pentecost and the expectation of the blessed hope of the Coming of the Lord'. In this way, 'recalling the mysteries of the redemption, she opens up to the faithful the riches of her Lord's powers and merits, so that these are in some way made present for all time; the faithful lay hold of them and are filled with saving grace' (Sacrosanctum Concilium, n. 102). The Council insists on the fact that the centre of the Liturgy is Christ, around whom the Blessed Virgin Mary, closest to him, and then the martyrs and the other saints who 'sing God's perfect praise in Heaven and intercede for us' (ibid., n. 104) revolve like the planets around the sun.

This is the reality of the Liturgical Year seen, so to speak, 'from God's perspective'. And from the perspective, let us say, of humankind, of history and of society what importance can it have? The answer is suggested to us precisely by the journey through Advent on which we are setting out today. The contemporary world above all needs hope; the developing peoples need it, but so do those that are economically advanced. We are becoming increasingly aware that we are all on one boat and together must save each other. Seeing so much false security collapse, we realize that what we need most is a trustworthy hope. This is found in Christ alone. As the Letter to the Hebrews says, he 'is the same yesterday and today and for ever' (Heb 13: 8). The Lord Jesus came in the past, comes in the present and will come in the future. He embraces all the dimensions of time, because he died and rose; he is 'the Living One'While he shares our human precariousness, he remains forever and offers us the stability of God himself. He is 'flesh' like us and 'rock' like God. Whoever yearns for freedom, justice, and peace may rise again and raise his head, for in Christ liberation is drawing near (cf. Lk 21: 28) as we read in today's Gospel. We can therefore say that Jesus Christ is not only relevant to Christians, or only to believers, but to all men and women, for Christ, who is the centre of faith, is also the foundation of hope. And every human being is constantly in need of hope. 

Dear brothers and sisters, the Virgin Mary fully embodies a humanity that lives in hope based on faith in the living God. She is the Virgin of Advent: she is firmly established in the present, in the 'today' of salvation. In her heart she gathers up all past promises, and encompasses the future. Let us learn from her in order to truly enter this Season of grace and to accept, with joy and responsibility, the coming of God in our personal and social lives.


The Visitation

El Greco [Web Gallery of Art]

Three years ago on 24 November I was travelling on a bus here in Ireland. I overheard a passenger say to another person, It's Christmas now. Not quite. There was still a full month to go before the beginning of the Church's Christmas Season begins on the evening of 24 December either with the Vigil Mass in the early evening or, more commonly, with the Mass During the Night, formerly known as the Midnight Mass.

Advent is the liturgical season that has been largely sidelined, even in Catholic institutions such as schools which usually hold Christmas parties before Christmas has even begun. In my last few years in the Philippines I tried, with some success, to have these parties called Advent parties. Some groups I was associated with adopted the term while others compromised with the 'Pre-Christmas' party. I reminded them that a wedding banquet takes place after the wedding and a baptismal party takes place after the birth and baptism of the child.

In El Greco's painting of the Visitation above we see two women, Mary and St Elizabeth, vibrant with a dance of life, each carrying a child in her womb. Each was preparing for the birth of her child. And the young Mary, in the early stages of pregnancy, went specifically to be of help to her much older relative who was, according to tradition, about six months later in her pregnancy. Mary wanted to help Elizabeth prepare for the birth of St John the Baptist.

In the opening sentence of his Angelus talk Pope Benedict states clearly that Advent is a Season of preparation for the birth of the Lord.

In the weekday Masses in the earlier part of Advent we listen to a prophecy from the Old Testament and then a gospel reading that shows how that prophecy has been fulfilled with the coming of Jesus. This is meant to bring us hope for the future, that God who came into the world more than 2,000 years ago as a human being and is now risen from the dead will continue to be with us as individuals and as a community as we journey towards eternal life.

And Mary continues to bring Jesus her Son to us and to lead us to her Son, in accordance with the will of the Father. Pope Benedict's Angelus message ends with these beautiful words: In her heart she gathers up all past promises, and encompasses the future. Let us learn from her in order to truly enter this Season of grace and to accept, with joy and responsibility, the coming of God in our personal and social lives.

Ad te Domine, Alessandro Scarlatti 

Antiphona at introitum  Entrance Antiphon Cf Ps 24[25]:1-3


Ad te levavi animan meam, Deus meus,
To you, I lift up my soul, O my God.
in te confido, non erubescam.
In you, I have trusted, let me not be put to shame.
Neque irrideant me inimici mei,
Nor let my enemies exult over me;
etenim universi qui te exspectant non confundentur.
and let none who hope in you be put to shame.

American Thanksgiving Day

I'm posting this on American Thanksgiving Day. I am grateful for the Thanksgiving Days I spent in the USA, for the many American friends I have and for the wonderful hospitality I have received in the USA while studying and visiting there. I wish readers of this blog who celebrate today, a great family day where the stranger is welcome, a Happy Thanksgiving Day!

Thanksgiving Prayer
Sung by Johnny Cash for whom the song was written by Josef Anderson

19 November 2021

'She gave me a glimpse into the Kingdom of God, a gift that has lasted all these years.' Sunday Reflections, Christ the King, Year B


From The Gospel of John (2003) 

Directed by Philip Saville. [John 18:33-37, today's Gospel]

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

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

Gospel John 18:33-37 (English Standard Version Anglicised: India)

Pilate asked Jesus, “Are you the King of the Jews?”  Jesus answered, “Do you say this of your own accord, or did others say it to you about me?” Pilate answered, “Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered you over to me. What have you done?” Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.” Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.”


Léachtaí i nGaeilge


Christ Before Pilate
Tintoretto [Web Gallery of Art]

The Kingdom of God breaks into our lives very often in quiet, apparently insignificant ways. More than 50 years ago, shortly after I was ordained, I was stopped by an elderly woman in a poor part of Dublin, just around the corner from where I had gone to school. She wasn't well dressed but didn't ask me for anything. She simply wanted to tell me how lonely she was. She kept repeating that.

I never met that woman again but I have not forgotten her. I often pray for her soul and also pray that one day she will welcome me into the heavenly home that God wills for all of us. That encounter at a street corner in Dublin has been an on-going grace for me, an experience of the Kingdom of God breaking through in what would seem to have been a totally insignificant event.

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven, Jesus tells us at the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:3). Being poor in spirit means knowing one's need of God. The woman who stopped me in the street was expressing that because she saw that I was a priest and in some way a representative of the Lord.

The only thing I could give that poor woman, who was old enough to be my grandmother, was a listening ear. But she gave me a glimpse into the Kingdom of God, a gift that has lasted all these years.

My kingdom is not from this world, Jesus tells us in today's gospel as he stands before Pilate. But his kingdom is constantly breaking through in this world, in very ordinary, unplanned encounters when God gives us the grace to see and to hear - and we accept that grace. And our accepting of that grace is in itself a grace, a gift, from God.

Head of a Woman
Vincent van Gogh [Web Gallery of Art]

The story of the old woman I met on a street corner in Dublin reminded me of a poem by Irish writer Padraic Colum (1881 - 1972), An Old Woman of the Roads. The words appear on the video blow to the background of Carolan's Farewell played on the harp. When Colum wrote this poem there were many homeless men and women in rural Ireland who would find a welcome for the night from families along their way. Today the homeless are in the cities and larger towns.

And I am praying to God on high,
And I am praying Him night and day,
For a little house - a house of my own
Out of the wind's and the rain's way.

Hail Redeemer, King Divine
Words by Patrick Brennan CSsR, music by  Charles Rigby

The Last Judgment

PopePius XI established the Feast of Christ the King in 1925, to be celebrated on the last Sunday of October. When the new Church calendar came into effect in 1969 it moved the feast, now a Solemnity, to the last Sunday in Ordinary Time. Those who celebrate the Traditional Latin Mass observe the feast on its original Sunday.

11 November 2021

'The word of God, a seed of eternity that transforms this world from within.' Sunday Reflections, 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B


St Michael in Victory

At that time shall arise Michael, the great prince who has charge of your people. And there shall be a time of trouble, such as never has been since there was a nation till that time (Daniel 12:1. First Reading). 

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

Readings(New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

Gospel Mark 13:24-32 (English Standard Version Anglicised: India)

Jesus said to his disciples:

“But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. And then he will send out the angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.

“From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts out its leaves, you know that summer is near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates. Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

“But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”


Léachtaí i nGaeilge

Pope Benedict XVI n Zagreb, Croatia, 2011

This week I will use the Angelus talk given by Pope Benedict XVI on Sunday 15 November 2009 when he spoke about today's Gospel. I have highlighted  some parts.

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

We have reached the last two weeks of the liturgical year. Let us thank the Lord who has once again granted us to make this journey of faith old and ever new in the great spiritual family of the Church! It is a precious gift, which enables us to live the mystery of Christ in history, receiving in the furrows of our personal and community existence the seed of the word of God, a seed of eternity that transforms this world from within and opens it to the Kingdom of Heaven. This year, we have been accompanied along our itinerary through the Sunday biblical Readings by St Mark's Gospel, which today presents to us part of Jesus' discourse on the end of times. In this discourse is a phrase whose terse clarity is striking: Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away (Mk 13: 31). Let us pause a moment to reflect on this prophecy of Christ.

The expression Heaven and earth recurs frequently in the Bible in reference to the whole universe, the entire cosmos. Jesus declares that all this is destined to pass away; not only the earth but also Heaven, which here is meant in a purely cosmic sense and not as synonymous with God. Sacred Scripture knows no ambiguity: all Creation is marked by finitude, including the elements divinized by ancient mythologies; there is no confusion between Creation and the Creator but rather a decided difference. With this clear distinction Jesus says that his words will not pass away, that is to say they are part of God and therefore eternal. Even if they were spoken in the concreteness of his earthly existence, they are prophetic words par excellence, as Jesus affirms elsewhere, addressing the heavenly Father: I have given them the words which you gave me, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me (Jn 17: 8). In a well-known parable Christ compares himself to the sower and explains that the seed is the word (cf. Mk 4: 14); those who hear it, accept it and bear fruit (cf. Mk 4: 20) take part in the Kingdom of God, that is, they live under his lordship. They remain in the world, but are no longer of the world. They bear within them a seed of eternity a principle of transformation that is already manifest now in a good life, enlivened by charity, and that in the end will produce the resurrection of the flesh. This is the power of Christ's word.

Dear friends, the Virgin Mary is the living sign of this truth. Her heart was ‘good soil’ that received with complete willingness the Word of God, so that her whole life, transformed according to the image of the Son, was introduced into eternity, body and soul, in anticipation of the eternal vocation of every human being. Let us now make our own in prayer her response to the Angel: Let it be to me according to your word (Lk 1: 38), so that in following Christ on the way of the Cross we too may be able to attain the glory of the Resurrection.

The Sower
Vincent van Gogh [Web Gallery of Art]

Christ compares himself to the sower and explains that the seed is the word (cf. Mk 4: 14).

Antiphona ad communionem   

Communion Antiphon (Mark 11:23-24)

Amen dico vobis, quidquid orantes petitis,

Amen, I say to you: Whatever you ask in prayer,

credite quia accipietis, et fiet vobis, [dicit Dominus].

believe that you will receive, and it will be given to you [says the Lord].

04 November 2021

'I will bring my gifts in thanksgiving and love.' Sunday Reflections, 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B


The Widow's Mite
James Tissot [Wikipedia]

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

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

Gospel Mark 12:38-44 or 12:41-44 (English Standard Version Anglicised: India)

[In his teaching Jesus said, “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes and like greetings in the market-places and have the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honour at feasts, who devour widows' houses and for a pretence make long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.”]

And he sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the offering box. Many rich people put in large sums. And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny. And he called his disciples to him and said to them, “Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”


Léachtaí i nGaeilge

Head of a Peasant Woman in a Green Shawl
Vincent van Gogh [Web Gallery of Art]  

There are moments that remain a grace from God for a person for the rest of his life, moments when he was simply an observer rather than a participant. One such moment for me happened one night more than 45 years ago in Ozamiz City, Mindanao. It was quite late and I was looking out through an upstairs window in the convent (presbytery/rectory) of the Cathedral. As we say in Ireland, 'there wasn't a sinner to be seen' on the cathedral plaza except for two persons. One was a man, a beggar, maybe in his 30s. The other was Gregoria, known to everyone as 'Guria', a 'simple' woman and very gentle who would often wander in and out of classrooms in schools, doodle on the board and leave without having disturbed anyone. 

I noticed Guria, who was perhaps in her 40s, approach the man. She had two small pieces of bread, what is called pandesal in the Philippines. She gave one to the beggar, just like St Martin of Tours who, when still a  soldier, cut his ample cloak in two and giving one half to a beggar. (St Martin's feast day is 11 November.)

St Martin and the Beggar

What Guria did was pure, unselfish love. And yet she was probably unaware of this and certainly totally unaware of the fact that someone was observing her. She did not have a strong gift of reflection whereas God has given this to me and to most of us. But we don't always use that gift.

St Mark tells us, Jesus sat down opposite the treasury, and watched the people putting money into the offering box. And he saw 'Guria' there. Perhaps the widow in the gospel looked like the peasant woman in Van Gogh's painting above. But it would seem that his disciples hadn't observed her until Jesus drew their attention to her.

It is said that St Martin, after he had shared his cloak with the beggar, saw Jesus in a dream wearing that half-cloak. The reality is that Jesus Christ the Risen Lord shows himself frequently to us, if we have eyes to see, as he showed himself to me through Guria more than 45 years ago, and on many other similar occasions down the years.

A Bronze Mite

In Thanksgiving and Love
by Jude Nnam and the CACA Choir
(Catholic Archdiocesan Choir Abuja)

Abuja is the capital of Nigeria.