25 November 2022

'Let us go to God's house.' Sunday Reflections, 1st Sunday of Advent, Year A

Old Woman Dozing
Nicolaes Maes [Web Gallery of Art]

Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming (Matthew 24:42; Gospel).

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

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

Gospel Matthew 24:37-44 (English Standard Version Anglicised: India)

Jesus said to his disciples:

For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. Then two men will be in the field; one will be taken and one left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one left. 

Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.

Léachtaí i nGaeilge 

The Infant Jesus Distributing Bread to Pilgrims

Since we are travellers and pilgrims in the world, let us ever ponder on the end of the road, that is of our life, for the end of our roadway is our home (St Columban, 8th sermon).

The above text is at the top of the home page of this blog. St Columban's words, written more than 1,400 years ago, remind me of the destination God desires for me and for all of us: heaven.

The texts of today's Mass invite us to focus on that end and on Jesus Christ, God who became Man. Put on the Lord Jesus Christ St Paul tells us in the Second Reading (Let your armour be Jesus Christ, in the Jerusalem Bible translation). In the Collect (Opening Prayer) the priest addresses God the Father on our behalf with these words: Grant your faithful, we pray, almighty God, to resolve to run forth to meet your Christ with righteous deeds at his coming, so that, gathered at his right hand, they may be worthy to possess the heavenly kingdom . . .

This prayer alludes to the The Final Judgment in Matthew 25, where those joyfully running forth to meet your Christ will be gathered at his right hand. And the words running forth remind me of the welcome his father gave to the Prodigal Son: But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him (Luke 15). Whether we are running forth to meet Christ or the Father is running to embrace and kiss us, there is that strong note of joy. I believe that this is what Jesus meant at the Last Supper when he said to the Apostles: These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full (John 15:11).

On the same occasion Jesus told the Apostles what heaven is: And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent (John 17:3).

These words of Jesus tell us absolutely clearly that our faith as Christians is one of relationship, coming to know our Father through Jesus Christ and to be with them for ever.

The Prayer over the Offerings focuses on the theme of eternal life: Accept, we pray, O Lord, these offerings we make, gathered from among your gifts to us, and may what you grant us to celebrate devoutly here below, gain for us the prize of eternal redemption . . . The prayer reminds us also that everything we have and the eternal life that the Father wants for us are pure gift from God.

The Prayer after Communion reinforces St Columban's words that the end of our roadway is our home. The priest prays on our behalf: May these mysteries, O Lord, in which we have participated, profit us, we pray, for even, as we walk amid passing things, you teach us to love the things of heaven and hold fast to what endures . . .

In Advent we prepare to celebrate at Christmas the First Coming of Jesus Christ - And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14) - and we prepare for his Second Coming in glory at the end of time when we hope to run forth to meet Christ at the Last Judgment. 

But during Advent we also prepare to meet Jesus in our daily lives, particularly through these mysteries in which we participate. These mysteries above all are the celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. From the earliest days of the Church this has been celebrated by Christians gathering together on Sunday, the Lord's Day, the day on which Jesus rose from the dead, the Resurrection being at the heart of our faith. (It is incorrect to refer to Sunday as 'the Sabbath', the Jewish holy day observed every Saturday.) The Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds usOn Sundays and other holy days of obligation the faithful are bound to participate in the Mass. And as the response to the Responsorial Psalm reminds us, I rejoiced when I heard them say: 'Let us go to God's house.'

Listening to the Word of God at Mass and receiving the Risen Lord, in Holy Communion prepare us to recognise Him in the many ways He comes to us in our daily lives. In the painting above, The Infant Jesus Distributing Bread to Pilgrims, Murillo is foreshadowing the Eucharist in which the same Jesus, now the Risen Lord, gives himself 'Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity' to us to strengthen our faith by putting on the Lord Jesus, as St Paul tells us. 

This is how the Lord prepares us to be ready whenever and in whatever way He will come.

Locus Iste
Music by Anton Bruckner, sung by Voces8

Locus iste a Deo factus est, inaestimabile sacramentum irreprehensibilis est.

This place is made by God, inestimably sacred, irreprehensible.

Response to Responsorial Psalm (Ps 121 [122]:1)

I rejoiced when I heard them say: 'Let us go to God's house.'

Traditional Latin Mass

First Sunday of Advent

The Complete Mass in Latin and English is here. (Adjust the date at the top of that page to 11-27-2022 if necessary).

Epistle: Romans 13:11-14. Gospel: Luke 21:25-33.

San Giorgio Maggiore at Dawn

The night is far gone, the day is at hand. Let us then cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light (Romans 13:12; Epistle).

18 November 2022

'In five hours I shall look upon Jesus.' Sunday Reflections, Christ the King, Year C


Taizé chant by Jacques Barthier (1923 - 1994) 
Luke 23:42 (today's Gospel)

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

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

Gospel Luke 23:35-43 (English Standard Version Anglicised: India)

The people stood by, watching, but the rulers scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself, if he is the Christ of God, his Chosen One!” The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” There was also an inscription over him,[a] “This is the King of the Jews.”

One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

Léachtaí i nGaeilge 

Jacques Fesch - A Murderer's Conversion
Jacques Fesch (6 April 1930 - 1 October 1957)

Traditional Latin Mass

Twenty-fourth and Last Sunday after Pentecost

The Complete Mass in Latin and English is here. (Adjust the date at the top of that page to 11-20-2022 if necessary).

Epistle: Colossians 1:9-14Gospel: Matthew 24:15-35.

The Martyrdom of St Paul
Tintoretto [Web Gallery of Art]
We have not ceased to pray for you (Colossians 1:9; Epistle).

11 November 2022

'This will be your opportunity to bear witness.' Sunday Reflections, 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C


Heuston Railway Station, Dublin

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

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

Gospel Luke 21:5-19 (English Standard Version Anglicised: India)

While some were speaking of the temple, how it was adorned with noble stones and offerings, Jesus said, “As for these things that you see, the days will come when there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.” And they asked him, “Teacher, when will these things be, and what will be the sign when these things are about to take place?” And he said, “See that you are not led astray. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he!’ and, ‘The time is at hand!’ Do not go after them. And when you hear of wars and tumults, do not be terrified, for these things must first take place, but the end will not be at once.”

Then he said to them, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and pestilences. And there will be terrors and great signs from heaven. But before all this they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors for my name's sake. This will be your opportunity to bear witness. Settle it therefore in your minds not to meditate beforehand how to answer, for I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which none of your adversaries will be able to withstand or contradict. You will be delivered up even by parents and brothers and relatives and friends, and some of you they will put to death. You will be hated by all for my name's sake. But not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your lives.

Léachtaí i nGaeilge 

Knock Shrine, County Mayo, Ireland

Many of the Gospel stories of the interaction between Jesus and individuals or groups take place on the road. They are not planned though Jesus, who is both God and Man, would have foreseen them. I am often uplifted and strengthened in my Catholic Christian faith by such encounters, usually totally unforeseen.

One such was in Heuston Railway Station in Dublin on Friday 4 November. I was waiting for the noon train from Dublin to Cork, where I was to be part of a team conducting a Marriage Encounter Weekend. At the spot from where the photo at the top of the page was taken I saw a tall young man with his three children, the youngest being carried in a kind of backpack. I was struck with a feeling of utter delight. I approached the man who knew by my Roman collar that I was a priest. When his wife caught up with him and their children he introduced her as 'Lizzie'. Their love for one another and for their children, a girl and two boys aged seven, five and three, was palpable. 

The family were from Texas and were waiting for the train to Claremorris, County Mayo, the station nearest Knock Shrine where they were going on a brief pilgrimage. (Unlike other major shrines to Our Lady, most pilgrims to Knock don't stay overnight.) We chatted for only a couple of minutes. Before we parted the couple asked me for a blessing. Lizzie knelt down for this, not in the least bothered by the many people around.

I know that God truly blessed them on that occasion but He also blessed me through them. I was uplifted and strengthened in my faith.

It brought to mind a similar experience in late 1968 or early 1969 when I was studying in Manhattanville College, Purchase, New York. The Religious of the Sacred Heart, who owned the school, had just dropped 'of the Sacred Heart' from its name. It was a time of deep crisis in the Church and, in the USA, of deep crisis because of the Vietnam War.

One Saturday morning after Mass, Sr Kathryn Sullivan RSCJone of the first women to become internationally renowned as a Scripture scholar, approached me in the sacristy. She told me she was about to go on a lecture tour overseas and knelt down and asked me for a blessing. As a young priest, about one year in the priesthood, I felt deeply humbled. I was blessed by her humility, which reminded me of what God had called me to be.

Today's gospel reads like today's headlines and 'breaking news' - as it has always done. But in the midst of great earthquakes, and in various places famines and pestilences Jesus tells us, This will be your opportunity to bear witness. The Texan family in Heuston Station and Sr Kathryn Sullivan, without being aware of it, took the opportunity to bear witness to me. 

The Prayer over the Offerings reminds us of what our lives are ultimately about : . . . may obtain for us the grace of being devoted to you and gain us the prize of everlasting happiness. The Communion Antiphon from the Old Testament (I wish the Church wouldn't include so many options throughout the Mass) reinforces this: To be near God is my happiness, to place my hope in God the Lord (Psalm 72 [73]: 28).

Whether in great earthquakes, and in various places famines and pestilences or in our ordinary day-to-day quiet lives, Jesus says to each of us, This will be your opportunity to bear witness.

Tom Kettle and Columban Fr John Henaghan

Tom Kettle Memorial, Dublin
9 February 1880 -  9 September 1916

November is the month when we pray in a special way for the dead. On 11 November 1918 the Great War, the First World War (1914 - 1918), ended at 11 AM. It was the slaughter of so many young men in that war that led Pope Benedict XV to allow priests to celebrate three Masses on All Souls' Day.

Tom Kettle was a devout Catholic, a husband and father, an Irish nationalist and Member of Parliament who died in the Great War. A couple of days before his death he wrote the poem below to his infant daughter explaining why he was prepared to die in that war.

The last line of the poem was the title of a collection of writings by Columban Fr John Henaghan, The Secret Scripture of the Poor, published in 1950. Father John was one of five Irish Columbans who died in February 1945 during the Battle of Manila, four of them, including Fr Henaghan, taken away by Japanese soldiers and never seen again.

To My Daughter Betty, the Gift of God
by Tom Kettle

In wiser days, my darling rosebud, blown
To beauty proud as was your Mother’s prime.
In that desired, delayed, incredible time,
You’ll ask why I abandoned you, my own,
And the dear heart that was your baby throne,
To die with death. And oh! they’ll give you rhyme
And reason: some will call the thing sublime,
And some decry it in a knowing tone.
So here, while the mad guns curse overhead,
And tired men sigh with mud for couch and floor,
Know that we fools, now with the foolish dead,
Died not for flag, nor King, nor Emperor,
But for a dream, born in a herdsmen shed,
And for the secret Scripture of the poor.

Communion Antiphon 
First Mass on All Souls' Day

I am the Resurrection and the Life, says the Lord. Whoever believes in me, even though he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will live for ever (John 11:25-26).

Fr John Heneghan
1881 - 10 February 1945

St Columban's Cemetery, Dalgan Park, Ireland

Traditional Latin Mass

Twenty-third Sunday after Pentecost

The Complete Mass in Latin and English is here. (Adjust the date at the top of that page to 11-13-2022 if necessary).

Epistle: Philippians 1:17-21; 4:1-3 . Gospel: Matthew 9:18-26.

Forest Landscape with Two of Christ's Miracles (detail)
David Vinckboons [Web Gallery of Art]

This painting shows the two miracles in the Gospel.

03 November 2022

‘It is meaningless to preach at a funeral Mass if we don’t mention the resurrection of Christ.’ Sunday Reflections, 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C


Moses with the Ten Commandments
Philippe de Champaigne [Web Gallery of Art]

Teacher, Moses wrote for us . . . (Luke 20:28, today's Gospel)

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

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

Gospel Luke 20:27-38 [or 20:27, 34-38] (English Standard Version Anglicised: India)

There came to Jesus some Sadducees, those who deny that there is a resurrection, [and they asked him a question, saying, “Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man's brother dies, having a wife but no children, the man must take the widow and raise up offspring for his brother. Now there were seven brothers. The first took a wife, and died without children. And the second and the third took her, and likewise all seven left no children and died. Afterwards the woman also died. In the resurrection, therefore, whose wife will the woman be? For the seven had her as wife.]

And Jesus said to them, “The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage, but those who are considered worthy to attain to that age and to the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage, for they cannot die any more, because they are equal to angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection. But that the dead are raised, even Moses showed, in the passage about the bush, where he calls the Lord the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. Now he is not God of the dead, but of the living, for all live to him.”


Léachtaí i nGaeilge 

Fr William Spicer 
(1949 - 2009)

Thirteen years ago a Columban colleague of mine, Fr Willie Spicer, died suddenly in Ireland at the age of 59. And in a very real sense he preached at his own funeral. The homilist, Columban Fr Michael Scully, a very close friend of Father Willie because of their many years in Japan, told a remarkable story of how central the Resurrection was in the late priest's preaching at funerals and of how a man was led to the faith by this. Here is part of the homily of Father Scully, who died on 29 September 2019. I have highlighted  some passages. 

Over that period of eight or nine years Willie and I enjoyed a game of golf together on a regular basis even though we lived quite far apart. Willie was pastor at the Church in Chigasaki City in the Diocese of Yokohama; I was assigned to a church in the Archdiocese of Tokyo about 80 miles away from where Willie lived. Sometimes before our game of golf I would stay overnight at Willie’s house.

On one of those occasions I noticed a painting which I had not seen before on the wall of his living-room. So, I asked him where he got the painting. ‘There is a story behind that’ was his answer. I would like to tell that story as Willie told it to me. These are his words: ‘About a year ago I did a funeral Mass here in Chigasaki Church. And, as usual, during the homily I emphasized that death was not the end of everything; and then went on to talk of Christian hope in the resurrection of the dead’. At this point, Willie paused and turned towards me: ‘I think it is meaningless’ he said, ‘to preach a homily at a wake or funeral Mass if we don’t make some mention of the resurrection of Christ and our own hope in the resurrection. Isn’t that what our Christian faith is all about? It’s because of that faith that we are on mission!’

Those words of Willie were for my benefit, but, needless to say, I was in complete agreement with what he said. However, Willie’s story did not end there. ‘You know’, he said ‘after that funeral Mass an elderly man approached me and said to me “Today was the first time I ever heard a talk like the talk you gave at the Mass. Until now, I had never heard of the resurrection of the dead – and somehow, it makes a lot of sense to me. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to hear that homily. If I had a chance I’d like to study the Catholic faith. Do you know if there’s a Catholic Church close to where I live?” And Willie continued, ‘That was about a year ago – something that I did not know at that time was that that man was an artist who lived about a hundred miles away. That painting came from him to me as an expression of thanks – thanks for my homily at the funeral Mass, but also as an expression of profound gratitude for the fact that he was studying the Catholic faith, and in hoping to be baptized in the not too distant future in a church close to where he lives’.

I have told this story because I believe that if Willie Spicer had a chance to speak to us today, he would say to us: ‘It’s all right to feel sad and to grieve on this occasion. I would feel the same way if I were in your place. But, don’t be carried away by sadness and grief. Today’s sadness and grief cannot compare with the joy and the happiness and the glory that will be ours if we but believe that the God who loves us, loves us so much that He gave His only Son for us’

The Resurrection
Glass painting behind the altar in Mariukirkjan (St Mary’s Catholic Church) Tórshavn, Faroe Islands
by Faroese artist, Tróndur Patursson.

Today's First Reading and the Gospel - they are always related by a common theme - look at the Resurrection. In the story of the martyrdom of the seven brothers in the Second Book of Maccabees the fourth brother When he was near death, he said, ‘One cannot but choose to die at the hands of mortals and to cherish the hope God gives of being raised again by him. But for you there will be no resurrection to life! (2 Maccabees 7:14)

The Gospel also has a story of seven brothers, in a situation put to Jesus by some Sadducees, a group that didn't believe in the resurrection, that strains credulity. This gives Jesus the opportunity to teach about the resurrection: But that the dead are raised, even Moses showed, in the passage about the bush, where he calls the Lord the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. Now he is not God of the dead, but of the living, for all live to him

St Columban's Cemetery, Dalgan Park, Ireland

I don't go along with the idea that seems to have crept in in recent years of a funeral Mass being 'a celebration of the life' of the deceased. There certainly is a place for celebrating a person's life during the wake or, in the Philippines, during the novena held  in the home of the one who has died or when the family and other mourners gather to eat after the burial. It is indeed fitting to thank God for ways in which the deceased has lived the Christian faith and shared God's love with others.  But I see the funeral Mass as an occasion above all to pray that the one who has died will share fully in the life that God desires for everyone and in the Resurrection of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Perhaps most of us will have to go through the process of purification that we call purgatory. The prayers of the living help those who know that they are saved but who also know that they need to be purified further before they feel worthy to enter the presence of God.

Preface I in Masses for the Dead puts it this way:

In him [Christ] the hope of blessed resurrection has dawned, 

that those saddened by the certainty of dying 
might be consoled by the promise of immortality to come. 
Indeed for your faithful, Lord, 
life is changed not ended, 
and, when this earthly dwelling turns to dust, 
an eternal dwelling is made ready for them in heaven.

Father Willie Spicer emphasised that belief in the Resurrection and the hope it gives when preaching at funerals. In Japan probably at every funeral Mass he celebrated there were people present who weren't Christians. To them he was proclaiming the central truth of our Christian faith. In for the artist Father Willie's proclamation of our faith and of the hope of the resurrection spoke to his heart and led him to Jesus the Risen Lord and to ask for baptism.

In November we remember and pray for the dead in a special way. The readings in this Sunday's Mass can lead us to reflect on the reality that one day each of us will be remembered and prayed for by others. May the Collect for the first of the three Masses on The Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed, 2 November, help us in this:

Listen kindly to our prayers, O Lord, 

and, as our faith in your Son, 
raised from the dead, is deepened, 
so may our hope of resurrection for your departed servants 
also find new strength.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, 
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, 
one God, for ever and ever.

Jesu, joy of man's desiring 
Johann Sebastian Bach
Sung in Chigasaki Catholic Church where Fr Willie Spicer served.

Traditional Latin Mass

Twenty-second Sunday after Pentecost

The Complete Mass in Latin and English is here. (Adjust the date at the top of that page to 11-06-2022 if necessary).

Epistle: Philippians 1:6-11Gospel: Matthew 22:15-21.

The Tribute Money (detail)
Jacob Andriaensz Backer [Web Gallery of Art]