28 October 2023

'If ever you take your neighbour's cloak in pledge, you shall return it to him before the sun goes down.' Sunday Reflections, 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A


The Good Samaritan (after Delacroix)
Van Gogh [Web Gallery of Art]

You shall love your neighbour as yourself (Mt 22:39; Gospel).

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

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

Gospel Matthew 22:34-40 (English Standard Version Anglicised, India)

When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbour as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

Léachtaí i nGaeilge

Stephen Cardinal Kim Sou-hwan 
Archbishop of Seoul (1922 - 2009)

Earlier this year the Archdiocese of Seoul formally opened the cause for the beatification of Stephen Cardinal Kim Sou-hwan. Many of my Columban confreres in Korea knew him well. He inspired many priests in the Philippines by being a great pastor. I have used the material here before but have no hesitation about using it again.

This time nine years ago I visited Korea to attend the ordination to the priesthood on 1 November of Fr Lee Jehoon Augustine, a Columban who spent two years working in the Manila area as part of his preparation for the priesthood. He is now serving in Myanmar.

While there I went with two Columban priests, Fr Liam O'Keeffe, a classmate from County Clare who returned to Ireland last year, Fr Con Murphy from County Cork, who came back to Ireland in 2018 after 57 years in Korea, and a woman named Pia to visit the graves of five Columbans in a cemetery owned by the Archdiocese of Seoul, but outside both the city and the archdiocese.  One of the five Columbans buried there, Fr Mortimer Kelly from Gort, County Galway, was a classmate of Father Liam and myself. Pia had known Fr John Nyhan, from Kilkenny, Ireland, another of the five, since her childhood.

The cemetery is on a hillside, as is the Korean custom. A little higher on the hill where my companions are buried is the grave of Stephen Cardinal Kim Sou-hwan, a man who was revered in Korea, not only by Catholics but by nearly all South Koreans.

While we were there Father Con told me of a homily that Cardinal Kim once preached at a Mass in a Catholic university. He took out two daily newspapers and began to speak in such a quiet voice that those present had to strain forward and 'eavesdrop'. Cardinal Kim was flipping over the pages of both newspapers and some were thinking he was unprepared. Then he came to a particular story about young women working on the railways who collected the fares of last-minute passengers and helped 'push' people into trains at rush hour.

The report in both papers was about accusations by higher authorities that some of these young women were perhaps pocketing some of the fares. Cardinal Kim's voice grew stronger as he spoke about this. Then he began to remind the students of how privileged they were, getting higher education and an opportunity to find better jobs than the young women working for the rail company who were at the bottom of the heap.

Cardinal Kim, who was noted for his love for the poor and who knew many poor people personally, now speaking in a very strong voice, asked the students if they were going to treat others with the contempt that some showed towards the young women in a menial job or if they were going to use their professional qualifications in the service of others.

Cardinal Kim

In that homily the late Archbishop of Seoul was bringing together the two Great Commandments that Jesus gives us in today's gospel and between which there is no conflict. In the First Reading, to which the Gospel is linked by theme, God reminds the Hebrew people of how they are to treat those who are poor or different - aliens, widows, orphans. If ever you take your neighbour's cloak in pledge, you shall return it to him before the sun goes down (Exodus 22:26; First Reading)That cloak was what a poor person slept in.

In other words, Jesus is asking us to see each person through his eyes. GK Chesterton in his biography of St Francis of Assisi, if my memory is correct, has a wonderful image of a huge crowd looking up at God on a balcony, rather as in St Peter's Square when the Pope is on the balcony there or at his window for the Sunday Angelus. However, Chesterton didn't see himself among the crowd but with God on the balcony, looking down on the people and seeing them as God sees them.

Cardinal Kim was doing something similar. He was looking at both the university students and the railway workers through the eyes of God. Rank means nothing to God as he looks on his children. As Psalm 149 so beautifully expresses it, God takes delight in his people [Grail translation].

Frank Duff, Founder of the Legion of Mary
7 June 1889 – 7 November 1980 [Photo]

On pages 296-297 the Handbook of the Legion of Mary, nearly all of which was written by its founder the Servant of God Frank Duff, quotes from Chesterton's biography of St Francis. St Francis only saw the image of God multiplied but never monotonous. To him a man was always a man, and did not disappear in a dense crowd any more than in a desert. He honoured all men; that is he not only loved but respected them all. What gave him his extraordinary personal power was this: that from the Pope to the beggar, from the Sultan of Syria in his pavilion to the ragged robbers crawling out of the wood, there was never a man who looked into those brown, burning eyes without being certain that Francis Bernardone was really interested in him, in his inner individual life from the cradle to the grave; that he himself was valued and taken seriously.

This is how members of the Legion of Mary, which is strong in Korea, are told to look upon each person they meet, indeed to see them higher than themselves. Fr Bede McGregor OP, former Spiritual Director of the Concilium, the central body of the Legion of Mary in Dublin, tells how Frank Duff himself lived that. When he was postulator of the cause for the beatification of Frank Duff he interviewed a man who lived in the Morning Star Hostel, run by the Legion of Mary in Dublin for men who are down on their luck. Father Bede explained tp the man that he was seeking testimonies for the Vatican and needed him to swear on the Bible that anything he said concerning Frank was true. He added that the man was an alcoholic and had lived a tragic life. The man agreed and then he said these beautiful words: Frank Duff was the only man who ever looked up to me

The Legion was born in the slums of Dublin in 1921 and to this day is involved to a large degree in serving people who have little or nothing.

God is constantly blessing the Church and the world through persons who embody the Gospel in their lives. I know from my friends in Korea in particular that Cardinal Kim embodied the Two Great Commandments; he was an embodiment of what each of us is called to be in virtue of our baptism in the different situations in which we find ourselves.

Cardinal Kim's grave 

평화의 기도 The Prayer of St Francis (in Korean)

이승희 SeungHee Lee Composer

서울가톨릭싱어즈 Seoul Catholic Singers ▫

지휘 유근창 Conductor Simon, Geun-Chang Riu ▫

반주 남효주 Pianist Angela, Hyo-Ju Nam ▫

2019. 6. 29 @신천동 성당 SinCheon-Dong Church

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 10-29-2023 if necessary).

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

Christ Before Pilate
Mihály Munkácsy [Web Gallery of Art]

Pilate entered the praetorium again and called Jesus, and said to him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” (John 18:33; Gospel)

21 October 2023

'The Church's universal mission is born of faith in Jesus Christ.' Sunday Reflections, 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A


Tribute Money
Vecellio Tiziano (Titian) [Web Gallery of Art]

"Show me the coin for the tax.” And they brought him a denarius. And Jesus said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” (Matthew 22:19-20; Gospel).

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

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

Gospel Matthew 22:15-21 (English Standard Version Anglicised, India)

Then the Pharisees went and plotted how to entangle him in his words. And they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are true and teach the way of God truthfully, and you do not care about anyone's opinion, for you are not swayed by appearances. Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, “Why put me to the test, you hypocrites? Show me the coin for the tax.” And they brought him a denarius. And Jesus said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” 

They said, “Caesar's.” Then he said to them, “Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's.”

Léachtaí i nGaeilge

 World Mission Day 2023

This Sunday is World Mission Day (or Mission Sunday). It happens that the readings for the Mass of the day have a strong missionary dimension. They include the sense of God calling us by name and of our receiving the mission to make Jesus Christ known to the world: I call you by your name . . . I equip you, though you do not know me, that people may know, from the rising of the sun and from the west, that there is none besides me; I am the Lord, and there is no other (First Reading).

Psalm 95 (96) used for the Responsorial Psalm adds to the missionary dimension: Oh sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth! Declare his glory among the nations, his marvellous works among all the peoples! . . . Worship the Lord in the splendour of holiness; tremble before him, all the earth! Say among the nations, 'The Lord reigns! . . .  he will judge the peoples with equity.'

Though in the Sunday in Ordinary Time the Second Reading is not linked thematically with the First Reading and the Gospel, today's Second Reading is very much in harmony with the other two. In writing to the people of Thessalonica St Paul thanks God for their work of faith and labour of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction.

The Gospel too calls us to be missionaries. Jesus tells the Pharisees trying to trap him: Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's.

Often enough these words, I think, are interpreted as if rendering to Caesar what is Caesar's and rendering to God what is God's were in opposition. That is not so. Our involvement in the world of Caesar is meant to be in harmony with God's will. Two things that struck me very clearly during and after the Second Vatican Council, which occurred when I was in the seminary in the 1960s, was that it reminded us that God calls every single one of us to be a saint, not only priests and religious. The second was that lay people by virtue of their baptism  were called to be fully involved in what we may call the world of Caesar, working for the good of all.

This includes the world of politics, whether we are elected officials or voters. Our faith has a bearing on what we do. I remember in the autumn of 1982, when I was on a three-month intensive pastoral programme in Minneapolis, going to a bank there. When the official I was dealing with discovered I was based in the Philippines he told me that in the previous election in the USA he considered, among other things, how his vote would affect the Philippines, which was under martial law at the time.

We weren't talking party politics and I don't think the man was a Catholic. He was probably a Lutheran, since most of the people in Minneapolis have roots in Norway and Sweden, where the vast majority are Lutherans. (The other Twin City, St Paul, has a large Catholic population, the majority of those having Irish and German roots.) I saw in that man who took his vote so seriously an example of what the Vatican Council had in mind for us Catholics as citizens.

Most issues that politicians and voters deal with are matters of prudential judgements on what is best for the common good. People may take different positions on what they consider best for the good of all. Whether to build a road here or there, for example, isn't a matter of right or wrong but of what legislators think is best for the common good. They may have different views on this.

But there are political issues where as followers of Jesus Christ we can make only one choice because the choice is between what is right and what is wrong. No Catholic may vote or legislate in favour of abortion, for example, promote 'marriage' between two persons of the same sex, push for the 'right' to change from one sex to another, a biological impossibility, that has led to the scourge of minors in some countries being genitally mutilated, this being allowed by the law.

Yet there are heads of government and other politicians who claim to be practising Catholics who promote these things and many Catholic voters who vote in favour of these policies. This is a form of rendering to Caesar what is in clear opposition to God's will. It is a form of rendering to Caesar that is extremely harmful to Caesar, not to mention to the souls of those who take these positions.

It is a rejection of the teaching of the Church that the Second Vatican Council re-emphasised and can lead, if we do not repent, to an eternity where Caesar will no longer exist and where it will be impossible to render anything to God.


St John Paul II, 1984

The optional memorial of Pope St John Paul II is observed on 22 October, but Sunday takes precedence over it this year.

This extract from his encyclical Redemptoris Mission [1990] is most appropriate for World Mission Day [emphases added]. 

In my first encyclical, in which I set forth the program of my Pontificate, I said that 'the Church's fundamental function in every age, and particularly in ours, is to direct man's gaze, to point the awareness and experience of the whole of humanity toward the mystery of Christ.'

The Church's universal mission is born of faith in Jesus Christ, as is stated in our Trinitarian profession of faith: 'I believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father.... For us men and for our salvation he came down from heaven: by the power of the Holy spirit he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary, and was made man.' The redemption event brings salvation to all, 'for each one is included in the mystery of the redemption and with each one Christ has united himself forever through this mystery.' It is only in faith that the Church's mission can be understood and only in faith that it finds its basis.

Laudate Dominum
Composed by Jacques Berthier
Sung by Bethlehem Choir, Catholic Church of the Nativity,
Festac Town, Lagos, Nigeria

Laudete Dominum (Praise the Lord)

Omnes Gentes (All the People) Alleluia!

Composer Jacques Berthier composed hymns for the ecumenical  Taizé Community where Scripture verses are repeated, the refrain in Latin and the verses and sometimes the refrain in a contemporary language, as in the video above. Latin/French here. Latin/Malayalam here; Malayalam is spoken in Kerala, India, where most of the Christians are members of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church, in full communion with Rome.

6 that people may know, from th rising o the sunand from the west, that there is none besides me;I  is no other.

Traditional Latin Mass

Twenty-first Sunday After Pentecost

The Complete Mass in Latin and English is here. (Adjust the date at the top of that page to 10-22-2023 if necessary).

Epistle: Ephesians 6:10-17. Gospel: Matthew 18:23-35.

The Preaching of St Paul in Ephesus
Eustache Le Sueur [Web Gallery of Art]

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might (Ephesians 6:10; Epistle).

14 October 2023

‘O wondrous gift indeed! / the poor and lowly may / upon their Lord and Master feed.’ Sunday Reflections, 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

Pope Benedict elevating the Body of Christ
[Wikipedia; photo]

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

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

Gospel Matthew 22:1-14 For the shorter form (22:1-10), omit the text in Brackets.] (English Standard Version Anglicised, India)

And again Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son, and sent his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding feast, but they would not come. Again he sent other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited, See, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding feast.’ But they paid no attention and went off, one to his farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them. The king was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding feast is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find.’ And those servants went out into the roads and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good. So the wedding hall was filled with guests.

[“But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment. And he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ For many are called, but few are chosen.”]

Léachtaí i nGaeilge

Words by St Thomas Aquinas, music by César Franck
Sung by Patricia Janečková (18 June 1998 - 1 October 2023) with The Janáček Chamber Orchestra

Latin of St Thomas Aquinas

Panis angelicus
fit panis hominum;
Dat panis cœlicus
figuris terminum:
O res mirabilis!
Manducat Dominum
pauper, servus et humilis.

English translation by John David Chambers

Thus Angels' Bread is made
the Bread of man today:
the Living Bread from heaven
with figures dost away:
O wondrous gift indeed!
the poor and lowly may
upon their Lord and Master feed.

The First Reading, the Responsorial Psalm and the Gospel can be understood in a  Eucharistic sense. The Prophet Isaiah's words can be seen as a description of the heavenly banquet to which we are all invited.

The words of St Thomas Aquinas set to music by César Franck remind us that in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Christ to nourish us on our journey through life, whether that journey be long or short. In Psalm 22 [23] we pray, you have prepared a banquet for me. In the Mass we are invited to participate in that banquet  where Manducat Dominum pauper et humilis - The poor and lowly may upon their Lord and Master feed.

The words of the hymn, figuris terminum, translated above as with figures dost away,  mean that what we receive in Holy Communion is not a symbol but the Lord Jesus Christ himself. And to receive such a precious Gift we need to prepare, with God's grace, to be as worthy as possible.

In the last part of the Gospel, the section that may be omitted, Jesus speaks very harshly about those who choose to turn up at the banquet unprepared by choice. St Paul deals with this in the context of celebrating the Eucharist in 1 Corinthians 11:27-30: Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgement on himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died.

Jesus gave a precious gift to the Church to help us to be prepared to receive him in the Eucharist when we have turned our backs on him through mortal sin, which breaks our relationship with God and can have eternal consequences: the sacrament of confession. Nobody is turned away from this, unless priests don't make themselves available.

God extends his invitation to all of us. Like some in the gospel we may ignore it because we are 'busy' with other things; we may reject it violently as some did; we may accept it while showing contempt towards the One who extended the invitation. Or we may accept it by preparing with God's grace to be worthy of the occasion.


The news this last week has unexpectedly been dominated by the conflict between Israel and Gaza. More than a thousand deaths have been recorded on each side, the majority civilians, many of them children and young adults. Two earthquakes in Afghanistan this month have resulted in many deaths. 

I first posted the video above of Patricia Janečková, the German-born Slovak soprano, singing Panis angelicus on 16 June last year. I added this note: Patricia Janečková was born on 18 June 1998 and was 19 when the video above was made. Last February she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Please pray for her full recovery. Sadly, Patricia died on 1 October. Last June she married actor Vlastimil Burda.

It is always difficult to come to terms with the death of someone who is young, whether the cause of death is war, an accident or illness. Jesus wept at the death of the young Lazarus. Part of the pain of loss iw what might have been in the future.

Yet our Christian faith gives us the hope of sharing in the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. Today's readings point towards the heavenly banquet and the Eucharistic Banquet where we receive the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus as our nourishment on our journey through this life.

We pray for the dead, those we have known personally, those we have known through their public lives, and those who have no one to pray for them by name. May the video below of Patricia Janečková singing Andrew Lloyd Webber's Pie Jesu be a prayer for her soul, for the souls of those who have died in the Gaza-Israel war and in other conflicts, for those who have died in recent natural calamities, for those who have nobody to pray for them by name and for those like Patricia who have died young.

At the same time may we thank God for the gift that each of those has been to those who knew and loved them and for the gift of Patricia who continues through her recorded voice to be an expression of God's beauty.

May we all sit down together at the heavenly banquet.

Pie Jesu
Composed by Andrew Lloyd Webber
Sung by Patricia Janečková with the Kühn Children’s Choir and the Czech Army Central Band.
Subtitles in Latin and English

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 10-15-2023 if necessary).

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

Christ Healing the Sick
István Dorffmeister [Web Gallery of Art]

Jesus said to him, “Go; your son will live.” The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and went his way (John 4:50; Gospel).