31 March 2022

'Let us restore to the centre the Sacrament of Reconciliation, a true space of the Spirit . . .' Sunday Reflections, 5th Sunday of Lent, Year C

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

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

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

Gospel John 8:1-11 (English Standard Version Anglicised: India)  

Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him, and he sat down and taught them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”


Léachtaí i nGaeilge

The Gospel in Filipino Sign Language

In the summer of 1982 I did a number of brief supplies in parishes in one of the western states in the USA. In one parish, where I stayed only from Saturday till Monday morning, the Sunday gospel was one showing the mercy of Jesus. I forget which one, but know it wasn't today's. In my homily I emphasised God's love for us as sinners and how he wants to welcome us back when we turn away from him, partly or fully, by sinning.

The following morning I found an anonymous note that had been shoved under the front door of the priest's house. The style was that of a teenage girl. But the message was one for which I thanked God.

The writer said that for years she had hated God, thinking that God hated her. But whatever was in the gospel that Sunday and whatever I said in my homily had touched her deeply, making her aware of God's unconditional love for her precisely as a sinner, a love that led her to let go of the hatred she had been carrying.

From The Gospel of John (2003) directed by Philip Saville

Today's gospel shows so clearly the profound, merciful love that Jesus has for the sinner. We tend to focus on his mercy for the woman taken in adultery. She is indeed the main focal point. But we also see the merciful love of Jesus for those who had accused her. Jesus often spoke harshly to and about hypocrites. But on this occasion he brings the men who had wanted to execute the woman to reflect on their own sinfulness. Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her

And the men did respond. When they heard it, they went away, one by one, beginning with the older ones.

Today's gospel reflects that of last Sunday, the parable of the Prodigal Son. The older son couldn't see beyond the great sins of his younger brother and failed even to see his father's love shown each day. But the father gently points out, Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours.

The men in the gospel could see only the sin of the woman. And she had committed a grave sin. Adultery is never a peccadillo, a 'little sin'. It is among other things a sin of injustice and causes grief to the other spouse and to their children, as I know only too well from listening to young people on retreats over the years.

We live in a time when it is considered a 'grave sin' to be 'judgmental'. The 'grave sin' is not against God but against current 'thinking' and 'feeling'. Yet certain persons are called by their very professions to be 'judgmental': judges, referees and umpires, for example. And Canon Law No 978 tells us: In hearing confessions the priest is to remember that he is equally a judge and a physician and has been established by God as a minister of divine justice and mercy, so that he has regard for the divine honour and the salvation of souls.

And Jesus in this instance is both judge and physician. He first asks the woman, Has no one condemned you? He then goes on to say, Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.

Jesus judges the woman - but doesn't condemn her. He acknowledges her sin - but sends her away forgiven.

Jesus has given us through the Church a powerful way of experiencing what the woman in today's gospel did. It is the Sacrament of Reconciliation/Confession/Penance. We're not usually dragged to the confessional by people condemning us. But we acknowledge our sins while acknowledging God's mercy.

Among other things, 'The whole power of the sacrament of Penance consists in restoring us to God's grace and joining us with him in an intimate friendship.' Reconciliation with God is thus the purpose and effect of this sacrament. For those who receive the sacrament of Penance with contrite heart and religious disposition, reconciliation 'is usually followed by peace and serenity of conscience with strong spiritual consolation.' Indeed the sacrament of Reconciliation with God brings about a true 'spiritual resurrection,' restoration of the dignity and blessings of the life of the children of God, of which the most precious is friendship with God. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, No 1468).  

Confession, Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, Lviv

Let us restore to the center – and not only in this Jubilee Year – the Sacrament of Reconciliation, a true space of the Spirit in which all, confessors and penitents, are able to experience the only definitive and faithful love, that of God for each one of His children, a love that never disappoints. St Leopold Mandic reiterated that God's mercy outstrips all our expectations. He used to say to those who suffered, 'We have in Heaven the heart of a mother. The Virgin, our Mother, who at the foot of the Cross experienced all the suffering possible for a human creature, understands our hardships and consoles us'. May Mary, refuge of sinners and Mother of Mercy, always guide and sustain the fundamental ministry of Reconciliation. (Pope Francis, 4 March 2016.)

Traditional Latin Mass

Passion Sunday

The Complete Mass in Latin and English is here. (Adjust the date at the top of that page to 4-3-2022 if necessary).

Epistle: Hebrews 9:11-15Gospel: John 8:46-59.

Christ with a Cross
Rembrandt [Web Gallery of Art]

Deaths of Two Columban Priests

Please pray for the repose of the souls of Fr Patrick Dooher and Fr Richard O'Sullivan who died last weekend.

I have posted about them here.

Deaths of Two Columban Priests


Fr Patrick Dooher
21 January 1943 - 25 March 2022

Please pray for the repose of the soul of Fr Patrick Dooher who died suddenly on the evening of Friday 25 March, the Solemnity of the Annunciation. Father Paddy was from County Tyrone, Northern Ireland, and worked in both Ireland and Peru.

You will find his obituary here.

Fr Richard O’Sullivan
17 February 1936 - 26 March 2022

Father  Dick died peacefully in our nursing home here in St Columban's, Dalgan Park, Ireland early on Saturday 26 March. From Kilgarvan, County Kerry, Ireland, he spent many years in Fiji but also spent periods teaching in Australia and in Ireland. He was a gifted teacher.

His obituary is here.

Solas na bhFlaitheas ar an mbeirt seo sagart misinéireachta dílis.

The Light of Heaven on these two faithful missionary priests.

St Columban's Cemetery, Dalgan Park, Ireland

24 March 2022

'Let us contemplate the Heart of the Father.' Sunday Reflections, 4th Sunday of Lent, Year C


The Return of the Prodigal Son

Rembrandt [Web Gallery of Art]

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

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

Gospel Luke 15:1-3, 11-32 (English Standard Version Anglicised: India)  

Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear Jesus. And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”

So he told them this parable:

“There was a man who had two sons. And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’ And he divided his property between them. Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living. And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything.

 “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father's hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”’ And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.

“Now his older son was in the field, and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. And he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf, because he has received him back safe and sound.’ But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, but he answered his father, ‘Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!’ And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.’”


Léachtaí i nGaeilge

The Gospel in Filipino Sign Language

Seven or eight years ago while still in the Philippines I met a woman from a Western country who told me that the first lie her parents told her was that Santa Claus existed. Had I been alert enough at the time I would have asked her, So Jesus lied to us about the Prodigal Son, about the Good Samaritan? They never 'existed'.

As Pope Benedict XVI said in his Angelus Talk on today's gospel on 14 March 20: This passage of St Luke constitutes one of the peaks of spirituality and literature of all time. Indeed, what would our culture, art and more generally our civilization be without this revelation of a God the Father so full of mercy?

We would never have had Rembrandt's powerful and deeply moving painting above.

Here is the full text of Pope Bendict's talk that day with my emphases added. (I find it difficult to add emphases to anything by Pope Benedict since I find that his talks are so deep, so clear and so uplifting.)

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

On this Fourth Sunday of Lent, the Gospel of the father and the two sons better known as the Parable of the ‘Prodigal Son’ (Lk 15:11-32) is proclaimed. This passage of St Luke constitutes one of the peaks of spirituality and literature of all time. Indeed, what would our culture, art and more generally our civilization be without this revelation of a God the Father so full of mercy? It never fails to move us and every time we hear or read it, it can suggest to us ever new meanings. Above all, this Gospel text has the power of speaking to us of God, of enabling us to know his Face and, better still, his Heart. After Jesus has told us of the merciful Father, things are no longer as they were before.

We now know God; he is our Father who out of love created us to be free and endowed us with a conscience, who suffers when we get lost and rejoices when we return. For this reason, our relationship with him is built up through events, just as it happens for every child with his parents: at first he depends on them, then he asserts his autonomy; and, in the end if he develops well he reaches a mature relationship based on gratitude and authentic love.

In these stages we can also identify moments along man's journey in his relationship with God. There can be a phase that resembles childhood: religion prompted by need, by dependence. As man grows up and becomes emancipated, he wants to liberate himself from this submission and become free and adult, able to organize himself and make his own decisions, even thinking he can do without God. Precisely this stage is delicate and can lead to atheism, yet even this frequently conceals the need to discover God's true Face. Fortunately for us, God never fails in his faithfulness and even if we distance ourselves and get lost he continues to follow us with his love, forgiving our errors and speaking to our conscience from within in order to call us back to him.

In this parable the sons behave in opposite ways: the younger son leaves home and sinks ever lower whereas the elder son stays at home, but he too has an immature relationship with the Father. In fact, when his brother comes back, the elder brother does not rejoice like the Father; on the contrary he becomes angry and refuses to enter the house. The two sons represent two immature ways of relating to God: rebellion and childish obedience. Both these forms are surmounted through the experience of mercy. Only by experiencing forgiveness, by recognizing one is loved with a freely given love a love greater than our wretchedness but also than our own merit do we at last enter into a truly filial and free relationship with God.

Dear friends, let us meditate on this parable. Let us compare ourselves to the two sons and, especially, contemplate the Heart of the Father. Let us throw ourselves into his arms and be regenerated by his merciful love. May the Virgin Mary, Mater Misericordiae, help us to do this.

The Return of the Prodigal Son (detail)
Rembrandt [Web Gallery of Art]

Some thoughts of my own

Part of the genius of this parable of Jesus is that it doesn't have an ending, but an invitation. We don't know whether or not the older, dutiful son joined the celebration. He can  only see at this moment the wasted life of his younger brother and the immense suffering this had brought to their father, suffering that Rembrandt captures so movingly

The father doesn't argue with his older son. He is well aware of that son's sense of responsibility. The father also hears his angry and dismissive 'this son of yours'. He gently points out, Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. It was fitting to make merry and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.

The invitation in the parable is not only to the older son. It is to me. Is the Father inviting me to let go of sins that have separated me from him, a separation that he doesn't want, by asking his pardon, especially in the sacrament of confession? Or is the Father inviting me to let go of my self-righteousness, my lack of humility, my lack of gratitude for daily blessings, even though I am conscientious in doing what is right?

The Father has reserved a place for each of us at the celebration.

Communion Antiphon sung in Korean and Latin
Schola Gregoriana Abba Caelum, Seoul, Korea

Antiphona ad commuionem
Communion Antiphon Luke 15:32

Oportet te, fili, gaudere, quia frater tuus mortuus fuerat, et revixit; perierat, et inventus est.

You must rejoice, my son, for your brother was dead and has come to life; he was lost and is found.

Prayer for Ukraine
Sung by Chanticleer

Act of Consecration of Russia and Ukraine to the Immaculate Heart of Mary

Solemnity of the Annunciation, 25 March 2022

By Pope Francis with the Bishops of the World


O Mary, Mother of God and our Mother, in this time of trial we turn to you.  As our Mother, you love us and know us: no concern of our hearts is hidden from you.  Mother of mercy, how often we have experienced your watchful care and your peaceful presence!  You never cease to guide us to Jesus, the Prince of Peace.


Yet we have strayed from that path of peace.  We have forgotten the lesson learned from the tragedies of the last century, the sacrifice of the millions who fell in two world wars.  We have disregarded the commitments we made as a community of nations.  We have betrayed peoples’ dreams of peace and the hopes of the young.  We grew sick with greed, we thought only of our own nations and their interests, we grew indifferent and caught up in our selfish needs and concerns.  We chose to ignore God, to be satisfied with our illusions, to grow arrogant and aggressive, to suppress innocent lives and to stockpile weapons.  We stopped being our neighbour’s keepers and stewards of our common home.  We have ravaged the garden of the earth with war and by our sins we have broken the heart of our heavenly Father, who desires us to be brothers and sisters.  We grew indifferent to everyone and everything except ourselves.  Now with shame we cry out: Forgive us, Lord!


Holy Mother, amid the misery of our sinfulness, amid our struggles and weaknesses, amid the mystery of iniquity that is evil and war, you remind us that God never abandons us, but continues to look upon us with love, ever ready to forgive us and raise us up to new life.  He has given you to us and made your Immaculate Heart a refuge for the Church and for all humanity.  By God’s gracious will, you are ever with us; even in the most troubled moments of our history, you are there to guide us with tender love.


We now turn to you and knock at the door of your heart.  We are your beloved children.  In every age you make yourself known to us, calling us to conversion.  At this dark hour, help us and grant us your comfort.  Say to us once more: “Am I not here, I who am your Mother?”  You are able to untie the knots of our hearts and of our times.  In you we place our trust.  We are confident that, especially in moments of trial, you will not be deaf to our supplication and will come to our aid.


That is what you did at Cana in Galilee, when you interceded with Jesus and he worked the first of his signs.  To preserve the joy of the wedding feast, you said to him: “They have no wine” (Jn 2:3).  Now, O Mother, repeat those words and that prayer, for in our own day we have run out of the wine of hope, joy has fled, fraternity has faded.  We have forgotten our humanity and squandered the gift of peace.  We opened our hearts to violence and destructiveness.  How greatly we need your maternal help!


Therefore, O Mother, hear our prayer.
Star of the Sea, do not let us be shipwrecked in the tempest of war.
Ark of the New Covenant, inspire projects and paths of reconciliation.
Queen of Heaven, restore God’s peace to the world.
Eliminate hatred and the thirst for revenge, and teach us forgiveness.
Free us from war, protect our world from the menace of nuclear weapons.
Queen of the Rosary, make us realize our need to pray and to love.
Queen of the Human Family, show people the path of fraternity.
Queen of Peace, obtain peace for our world.


O Mother, may your sorrowful plea stir our hardened hearts.  May the tears you shed for us make this valley parched by our hatred blossom anew.  Amid the thunder of weapons, may your prayer turn our thoughts to peace.  May your maternal touch soothe those who suffer and flee from the rain of bombs.  May your motherly embrace comfort those forced to leave their homes and their native land.  May your Sorrowful Heart move us to compassion and inspire us to open our doors and to care for our brothers and sisters who are injured and cast aside.


Holy Mother of God, as you stood beneath the cross, Jesus, seeing the disciple at your side, said: “Behold your son” (Jn 19:26).  In this way he entrusted each of us to you.  To the disciple, and to each of us, he said: “Behold, your Mother” (v. 27).  Mother Mary, we now desire to welcome you into our lives and our history.  At this hour, a weary and distraught humanity stands with you beneath the cross, needing to entrust itself to you and, through you, to consecrate itself to Christ.  The people of Ukraine and Russia, who venerate you with great love, now turn to you, even as your heart beats with compassion for them and for all those peoples decimated by war, hunger, injustice and poverty.


Therefore, Mother of God and our Mother, to your Immaculate Heart we solemnly entrust and consecrate ourselves, the Church and all humanity, especially Russia and Ukraine.  Accept this act that we carry out with confidence and love.  Grant that war may end and peace spread throughout the world.  The “Fiat” that arose from your heart opened the doors of history to the Prince of Peace.  We trust that, through your heart, peace will dawn once more.  To you we consecrate the future of the whole human family, the needs and expectations of every people, the anxieties and hopes of the world.


Through your intercession, may God’s mercy be poured out on the earth and the gentle rhythm of peace return to mark our days.  Our Lady of the “Fiat”, on whom the Holy Spirit descended, restore among us the harmony that comes from God.  May you, our “living fountain of hope”, water the dryness of our hearts.  In your womb Jesus took flesh; help us to foster the growth of communion.  You once trod the streets of our world; lead us now on the paths of peace.  Amen.

[Video of prayer here]

Traditional Latin Mass

Fourth Sunday in Lent

The Complete Mass in Latin and English is here. (Adjust the date at the top of that page to 03-27-2022 if necessary).

Epistle: Galatians 4:22-31.  Gospel: John 6:1-15.

Feeding the Multitudes
Bernardo Strozzi [Wikipedia; source]

19 March 2022

'Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.' Sunday Reflections, 3rd Sunday of Lent, Year C


Burning Bush
Sébastien Bourdon [Wikipedia; author]

When the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” Then he said, “Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground” (Exodus 3:4-5; First Reading). 

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

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

Gospel Luke 13:1-9 (English Standard Version Anglicised: India)  

There were some present at that very time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And he answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”

And he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. And he said to the vine dresser, ‘Look, for three years now I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and I find none. Cut it down. Why should it use up the ground?’ And he answered him, ‘Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig round it and put on manure. Then if it should bear fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.’”

Léachtaí i nGaeilge

The Gospel in Filipino Sign Language

About 40 years ago  a friend brought me to visit a widow in her 80s in Long Island, New York. I was spending a month working in a parish near where she lived. I remember clearly that the woman, whom I never met again, was feisty and we had lively discussions on a number of matters, expressing different views but with good humour and respect.

But what I remember most clearly was that when I put something on top of her Bible on the sideboard she very gently but very clearly and firmly pointed out to me that that book was God's word and should be treated with the greatest respect. For the place on which you are standing is holy ground.

It was the same summer, 1982 if I remember correctly, when a fire broke out in a synagogue in Boston. It held precious copies of the Torah, the first five books of the Hebrew Bible (what Christians call the Old Testament), including the Book of Exodus from which today's First Reading is taken, and the rabbi wanted to save them. But the firefighters would not allow him to go inside because it was too dangerous. However, the Catholic chaplain of the fire department was there and insisted on going in. He was able to save these precious copies of God's word.

Both of these incidents, one personal the other public, reminded me of the respect we owe to copies of the Bible and to the lectionaries we use at Mass for the reading of God's word. Above all, we are called to respect and to take to heart the Word that these books contain.I felt chastened by the quiet reprimand of the elderly woman in Long Island and a great sense of pride and gratitude for what my brother priest in Boston had done. He risked his life to save precious copies of God's word.

In today's First Reading God reveals to Moses Who He is: God said to Moses, “I am who I am.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I am has sent me to you.’” God also said to Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ This is my name for ever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations.

God also shows himself to be a God who hears and loves his people: Then the Lord said, “I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters. I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them . . . 

The Responsorial Psalm reveals  a God who crowns you with love and compassion. The New English Bible, which is not used in any of our lectionaries, translates that line beautifully this way: God surrounds me with constant love, with tender affection.

A Fig Tree

We see the compassion of God in the parable of the fig tree that Jesus tells in today's gospel. The owner wants to cut it down as it hasn't given fruit for three years. But the vine-dresser intervenes: ‘Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig round it and put on manure. Then if it should bear fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.’”

This is an open-ended parable that invites us, with God's grace, to help bring about a life-giving conclusion to the story. Jesus told this story just after saying, No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.

Jesus is not a cuddly teddy bear but One preparing to die for us on the Cross. He is the Word of God who became Man to reveal God's love for us to the greatest extent possible.

Lent is a time of repentance, a time of fasting, a time to go to confession, a time for priests to make it possible for the people they serve to do that. We priests are like the vine dresser in the parable, pleading with God on behalf of the people we serve, as Moses did. One of his greatest traits of was how often he prayed for his people while at the same time expressing his frustration with them for not following God's law.

With the free will that God has given us comes responsibility: No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.

This hard saying of Jesus is also an expression of the word of God from the Word who became flesh and dwelt among us.

Communion Antiphon Cf Ps 83 [84]:4-5

The sparrow finds a home, and the swallow a nest for her young: by your altars, O Lord of hosts, my King and my God.
Blessed are they who dwell in your house, for ever singing your praise.

Traditional Latin Mass

Third Sunday in Lent

The Complete Mass in Latin and English is here. (Adjust the date at the top of that page to 03-20-2022 if necessary).

Epistle: Ephesians 3:1-9.  Gospel: Luke 11:14-28.

St Paul Writing his Epistles
Valentin de Boulogne [Wikipedia]