29 October 2022

The door of the confessional is the door to the heart of Jesus. Sunday Reflections, 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C


Woman Holding a Balance
Johannes Vermeer [Web Gallery of Art]

Because the whole world before you is like a speck that tips the scales (Wisdom 11:22; First Reading).

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

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

Gospel Luke 19:1-10 (English Standard Version Anglicised: India)

Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. And there was a man named Zacchaeus. He was a chief tax collector and was rich. And he was seeking to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was small of stature. So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was about to pass that way. And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.” So he hurried and came down and received him joyfully. And when they saw it, they all grumbled, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.” And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

Léachtaí i nGaeilge 

Niels Larsen Stevns [Wikipedia; photo]

Fr James Moynihan was a Columban from New Zealand who died in the Philippines in 1992 at the age of 68. During World War II he served in the Royal New Zealand Air Force and Army. What Jesus said about Nathanael, could be said about Father Jim: he truly was a person in whom is no guile! (John 1:47). In his latter years he spent many hours each day in the confessional in Cagayan de Oro Cathedral. Many came from far and near to confess to him and receive absolution from God himself through Father Jim's priesthood.

In those days the main means of rapid communication in the Philippines was the telegram. Someone who knew Father Jim was filing a telegram with a message of condolence to the Columbans. The clerk, a young man with a ponytail, asked, 'Is that the priest who was always hearing confessions in the cathedral?' When told that it was he asked where the wake was. As soon as the transaction was finished he left the office and went on his motorcycle to pay his respects. Clearly, he had experienced God's forgiveness through the ministry of this priest from New Zealand in the convessional.

Fr James Moynihan

Two other Columbans continued Father Jim's work in the confessional in the cathedral of Cagayan de Oro. One was Fr Frank Chapman, an Australian, who heard confessions in the cathedral for hours almost every day up to a few weeks before his death in 2004 at the age of 91. The other was Fr John Meaney from Ireland who died in 2006 at the age of 86 after having spent 58 years in Mindanao. These three priests are buried in Cagayan de Oro.

People came from all over to confess their sins to these priests who made themselves so available to bring to them the mercy that Jesus showed to Zacchaeus.

The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel are the first words of Jesus in St Mark's Gospel (1:15). The sacrament of confession, sometimes referred to as penance and the sacrament of reconciliation. Whatever name we give it, it is the beautiful means that Jesus left the Church to enable us to be in full Communion with Our Lord and with his Church when we cut ourselves off from him through mortal sin, that is sin involving grave matter of which we are fully aware and to which we give full consent. But regular confession is also a great help when we struggle with venial sins, which don't cut us off from God. But even when we deliberately cut ourselves off from God's love he is still watching for ways to bring us back to him, as Jesus was when he spotted Zacchaeus in the tree, as the father was constantly watching out for his son who had abandoned him for a life of sin in the parable of the Prodigal Son.

Jesus wants to say to each of us what he said to Zacchaeus: Today salvation has come to this house . . . For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.

When we acknowledge our sins we open the door to Jesus and to his merciful forgiveness. And the door of the confessional is the door to the heart of Jesus.

Traditional Latin Mass

Feast of the Kingship of Our Lord Jesus Christ

The Complete Mass in Latin and English is here. (Adjust the date at the top of that page to 10-30-2022 if necessary).

Epistle: Colossians 1:12-20Gospel: John 18:33-37.

Christ Before Pilate
Mihály Munkácsy [Web Gallery of Art]

21 October 2022

'Then I felt a huge weight lift away from me.' Sunday Reflections, 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C


Church Interior with the Parable of the Pharisee and the Publican

Dirck van Delen [Web Gallery of Art]

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

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

Gospel Luke 18:9-14 (English Standard Version Anglicised: India)

Jesus also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Léachtaí i nGaeilge 

Model of The Second Temple

The tax collector ('publican' in older translations) acknowledges his sinfulness when he prays, God, be merciful to me, a sinner! Jesus tells us, This man went down to his house justified. That means that God had forgiven him and lifted the burden of his guilt from him.

The tax collector asked God for mercy and received it. The parable calls us to ask for mercy and to give it when we are asked for it, in that way sharing God's mercy with another. The act of asking for mercy and the act of showing mercy both lead us to an inner freedom.

The story below from Rwanda is a powerful witness to God's mercy shown through a murderer begging for forgiveness from the daughter of the man he killed and through her forgiving him. 

Ntarama Church, Rwanda
Over 5,000 people seeking refuge here were killed by grenade, machete, rifle, or burnt alive during the Rwandan Genocide in 1994.

A religious sister from Rwanda, Sr Genevieve Umawariya, speaking during the Synod on Africa held in Rome in 2009, the theme of which was The Church in Africa at the Service of Reconciliation, Justice and Peace, spoke of an incident that parallels today's gospel. Here is what she said:

I am a survivor of the Tutsi genocide in Rwanda 1994.

A large part of my family was killed while in our parish church. The sight of this building used to fill me with horror and turned my stomach, just like the encounter with the prisoners filled me with disgust and rage.

It is in this mental state that something happened that would change my life and my relationships.

On August 27th 1997 at 1 p.m., a group from the Catholic association of the 'Ladies of Divine Mercy' led me to two prisons in the region of Kibuye, my birthplace. They went to prepare the prisoners for the Jubilee of 2000. They said: 'If you have killed, you commit yourself to ask for forgiveness from the surviving victim, that way you can help him free himself of the burden/weight of vengeance, hatred and rancor. If you are a victim, you commit yourself to offer forgiveness to those who harmed you and thus you free them from the weight of their crime and the evil that is in them'.

This message had an unexpected effect for me and in me . . .

After that, one of the prisoners rose in tears, fell to his knees before me, loudly begging: 'Mercy'. I was petrified in recognizing a family friend who had grown up and shared everything with us.

He admitted having killed my father and told me the details of the death of my family. A feeling of pity and compassion invaded me: I picked him up, embraced him and told him in a tearful voice: 'You are and always will be my brother'.

Then I felt a huge weight lift away from me . . . I had found internal peace and I thanked the person I was holding in my arms.

To my great surprise, I heard him cry out: 'Justice can do its work and condemn me to death, now I am free!'

I also wanted to cry out to who wanted to hear: 'Come see what freed me, you too can find internal peace'.

From that moment on, my mission was to travel kilometers to bring mail to the prisoners asking for forgiveness from the survivors. Thus 500 letters were distributed; and I brought back mail with the answers of the survivors to the prisoners who had become my friends and my brothers . . . This allowed for meetings between the executioners and the victims . . .

From this experience, I deduce that reconciliation is not so much wanting to bring together two persons or two groups in conflict. It is rather the re-establishment of each in love and allowing internal healing which leads to mutual liberation.

And here is where the importance of the Church lies in our countries, since her mission is to offer the Word: a word that heals, liberates and reconciles

Pope Francis echoes this last sentence of Sr Genevieve in his message for World Mission Day 2016: Mercy finds its most noble and complete expression in the Incarnate Word. Jesus reveals the face of the Father who is rich in mercy.

[This Sunday is World Mission Day and the theme of the message of Pope Francis is You shall be my witnesses,]

Nyina wa Jambo (Mother of the Word)
You can read about Our Lady of Kibeho here

The man who killed Sister Genevieve's father experienced God's mercy through her as she did through him. Each was freed of the very different but related heavy burdens that they carried. And the man had no more fear of whatever punishment he might receive for his crime. Like the tax-collector in the gospel, he made no excuses. He simply asked for mercy.

The tax-collector in the parable, Sr Genevieve Umawariya and the man who had killed her father experienced the truth of the First Beatitude (Matthew 5:3) usually translated into English as Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. For years I never quite understood what this meant until I read the translation in the New English Bible: How blest are those who know their need of God; the kingdom of Heaven is theirs.

May each of us, like the tax collector, like Sister Genevieve, like the man she forgave and who accepted her forgiveness, know our need of God and of his mercy. 

Alleluia from Exsultate jubilate
Composed by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Sung by Leontyne Price
Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Herbert von Karajan

[If the video above does not work try this link]

Traditional Latin Mass

Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost

The Complete Mass in Latin and English is here. (Adjust the date at the top of that page to 10-23-2022 if necessary).

Epistle: Ephesians 5:15-21. Gospel: John 4:46-53.

St Paul
Pierre Etienne Monnot [Web Gallery of Art]

14 October 2022

'God has created me to do Him some definite service.' Sunday Reflections, 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C


Michelangelo [Web Gallery of Art]
(First Reading, Exodus 17:8-13)

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

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

Gospel Luke 18:1-8 (English Standard Version Anglicised: India)

Jesus told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man. And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’ For a while he refused, but afterwards he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.’” And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge says. And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”


Léachtaí i nGaeilge 

St John Henry Cardinal Newman
Sir John Everett Millais [Wikipedia]

The Opening Prayer in today’s Mass starts with these words: Almighty ever-living God, grant that we may always conform our will to yours and serve your majesty in sincerity of heart . . .

This prayer is a synopsis, a summary of what the Christian life is: following Jesus and, with him, submitting our own will to the will of the Father., as Jesus himself did. In John 6:38 Jesus tells us: For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me.

We receive the gift of faith through baptism and God nourishes that faith through the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and the sacraments. We cooperate with God when we pray.

The First Reading and the Gospel today are specifically about prayer. Moses prays for the Hebrew soldiers as they battle with the Amalekites. He holds his arms outstretched as he prays, Aaron and Hur supporting them. Jesus in the gospel invites us to continually pray for our needs and assures us that God will hear us and respond: 
And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? (Luke 18:7).

St John Henry Cardinal Newman's Coat-of-arms

Our baptism and our prayer bring us into relationship with a loving God. Pope Francis canonised St John Henry Newman on 13 October 2019. The saint's motto as a cardinal was Cor ad cor loquitur – Heart speaks to heart. This goes right to the heart of the Christian life in every sense. Pope Benedict spoke beautifully about this at the Mass during which Cardinal Newman was beatified in Birmingham on 19 September 2010: 

Cardinal Newman’s motto, Cor ad cor loquitur, or ‘Heart speaks unto heart’, gives us an insight into his understanding of the Christian life as a call to holiness, experienced as the profound desire of the human heart to enter into intimate communion with the Heart of God. He reminds us that faithfulness to prayer gradually transforms us into the divine likeness. As he wrote in one of his many fine sermons, ‘a habit of prayer, the practice of turning to God and the unseen world in every season, in every place, in every emergency – prayer, I say, has what may be called a natural effect in spiritualizing and elevating the soul. A man is no longer what he was before; gradually … he has imbibed a new set of ideas, and become imbued with fresh principles’.

St Paul puts it this way: Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5). While Moses didn’t know Jesus Christ, he tried all his life as leader of the Hebrews, the position to which God called him, to have this mind in him that was in God, with whom he spoke heart to heart. And he persisted in praying to God on behalf of his people, most especially when they sinned. While scolding his people he never ceased to pray for them. Like the widow in the parable ‘pestering’, ‘bothering’, ‘wearing out’ - different English translations - the unjust judge, Moses did the same to God in his prayer.

St John Henry Newman was a great theologian, a great preacher and, above all, a great priest. Pope Benedict in his homily focused on how Newman lived the priesthood, a pastor of soulsvisiting the sick and the poor, comforting the bereaved, caring for those in prison. No wonder that on his death so many thousands of people lined the local streets as his body was taken to its place of burial.

The Pope made reference to the beautiful description of the Christian life that Newman wrote and that recognises the specific, unique call or vocation each of us has: God has created me to do Him some definite service; He has committed some work to me which He has not committed to another. I have my mission—I never may know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next. Somehow I am necessary for His purposes, as necessary in my place as an Archangel in his—if, indeed, I fail, He can raise another, as He could make the stones children of Abraham. Yet I have a part in this great work; I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection between persons. He has not created me for naught. I shall do good, I shall do His work; I shall be an angel of peace, a preacher of truth in my own place, while not intending it, if I do but keep His commandments and serve Him in my calling.

Therefore I will trust Him. Whatever, wherever I am, I can never be thrown away. If I am in sickness, my sickness may serve Him; in perplexity, my perplexity may serve Him; if I am in sorrow, my sorrow may serve Him. My sickness, or perplexity, or sorrow may be necessary causes of some great end, which is quite beyond us. He does nothing in vain; He may prolong my life, He may shorten it; He knows what He is about. He may take away my friends, He may throw me among strangers, He may make me feel desolate, make my spirits sink, hide the future from me—still He knows what He is about.

These words of the English saint expand on our Opening Prayer: Almighty ever-living God, grant that we may always conform our will to yours and serve your majesty in sincerity of heart . . .

Praise to the Holiest in the Height
Words by St John Henry Newman, music by RR Terry
Sung by The Symphonials, Ghana, conducted by Emmanuel Ayi

Traditional Latin Mass

Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost

The Complete Mass in Latin and English is here. (Adjust the date at the top of that page to 10-16-2022 if necessary).

Epistle: Ephesians 4:23-28. Gospel: Matthew 22:1-14.

Wedding Banquet
Jan Brueghel the Elder [Web Gallery of Art]

The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a marriage feast for his son (Matthew 22:1; today's Gospel).

11 October 2022

The Mysteries of the Rosary with the Great Painters

Madonna of the Rosary 
Lorenzo Lotto [Web Gallery of Art]

Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a sabbath day’s journey away. When they had entered the city, they went to the room upstairs where they were staying, Peter, and John, and James, and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James son of Alphaeus, and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. All these were constantly devoting themselves to prayer, together with certain women, including Mary the mother of Jesus, as well as his brothers (Acts 1:12-14).

First Reading, Mass of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary.

Still-Life with Symbols of the Virgin Mary 
Dirck de Bray [Web Gallery of Art]

In October 2014 I published here a series of posts on the Rosary under the general title The Rosary with the Great Painters, each post featuring five mysteries. Here I give links to each of those posts.

The Virgin Mary 
El Greco [Web Gallery of Art]

Continue here.

Virgin and Child with Rosary

Continue here.

Mater Dolorosa
Jusepe de Ribera [Web Gallery of Art]

Continue here.

The Coronation of the Virgin 
El Greco [Web Gallery of Art]

Continue here.

The Virgin in Prayer
Sassoferatto [Web Gallery of Art]