28 June 2024

'Give her something to eat.' Sunday Reflections, 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B


Basilica of the Sacred Heart, Montmartre, Paris

Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us.

June is the month of the

Sacred Heart of Jesus


Raising of the Daughter of Jairus
Paolo Veronese [Web Gallery of Art]

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

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

Gospel Mark 5:21-43 [or 5:21-24, 35b-43] (English Standard Version)

When Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered about him, and he was beside the sea. Then came one of the rulers of the synagogue, Jairus by name, and seeing him, he fell at his feet and implored him earnestly, saying, “My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well and live.” And he went with him.

[And a great crowd followed him and thronged about him. And there was a woman who had had a discharge of blood for twelve years, and who had suffered much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was no better but rather grew worse. She had heard the reports about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his garment. For she said, “If I touch even his garments, I will be made well.” And immediately the flow of blood dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. And Jesus, perceiving in himself that power had gone out from him, immediately turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my garments?” And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing around you, and yet you say, ‘Who touched me?’ And he looked around to see who had done it. But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling and fell down before him and told him the whole truth. And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”]

While he was still speaking, there came from the ruler's house some who said, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the Teacher any further?” But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the ruler of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe.” And he allowed no one to follow him except Peter and James and John the brother of James. They came to the house of the ruler of the synagogue, and Jesus saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. And when he had entered, he said to them, “Why are you making a commotion and weeping? The child is not dead but sleeping.” And they laughed at him. But he put them all outside and took the child's father and mother and those who were with him and went in where the child was. Taking her by the hand he said to her, “Talitha cumi,” which means, “Little girl, I say to you, arise.” And immediately the girl got up and began walking (for she was twelve years of age), and they were immediately overcome with amazement. And he strictly charged them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat.

Léachtaí i nGaeilge

The Garden of Saint-Paul Hospital, May 1889
Vincent van Gogh [Web Gallery of Art]

Lyn was someone I met when she was about 15. Three years later, when she was only halfway through her four-year college course, she quit to marry Roberto. (I’m not using their real names). Lyn was madly in love with Roberto, who had a good job and came from a relatively wealthy family.  Lyn’s family could not be described as poor either. I celebrated their wedding Mass and attended the reception in a classy hotel. In the Philippines traditionally it’s the groom’s father who pays for the reception. The young couple went to live in Manila, where Roberto was from. About a year later a daughter, whom I’ll call Gloria, was born. She had a learning disability. Another daughter, ‘Gabriela’, arrived a year or two later.

Then tragedy struck. Roberto discovered that his kidneys weren’t functioning properly and that he needed dialysis. Over the next couple of years Roberto and Lyn spent practically all they had on this and it ended in Roberto’s death. Meanwhile, Lyn’s parents both had serious illnesses and had to spend most of their resources on treatment.

Lyn returned to her own city with her two young daughters. She couldn’t find a job and had no qualifications since she hadn’t finished in college. With much embarrassment she came to see me and asked if I could give her a monthly ‘allowance’. She was able to survive the next few years with help from her siblings and friends and eventually remarried.

I’ve met so many ‘Lyns’ in the Philippines who are like the woman in today’s gospel, who have spent all their resources on doctors and medicine and are still sick. I’ve met families who have pawned their little bit of land in order to enable an aged parent to have surgery that ultimately leaves the whole family impoverished and the person on whom  they had spent the money, out of a perhaps misplaced love, ending up in the cemetery.

Most Filipinos have little access to good health care. Even those who have government health insurance have to come up with ready cash if they go to hospital, unlike in Ireland or the United Kingdom. They are eventually reimbursed but have to pay interest on money they have borrowed in the meantime. (I don't know if that system has changed in any way since I left the Philippines in 2017). I’ve heard people in Ireland and in the UK complain about poor health services. Some complaints are indeed justified but my own family’s experiences during the last few years has shown me how outstanding medical and social services in Ireland are. I have also heard many unsolicited words of praise for nurses from the Philippines working in hospitals in the UK and Ireland. 

But the sad reality is that most of these nurses, if they were still in the Philippines, would not have access to the kind of care they provide in Ireland and the UK. They would be like the woman in the gospel.

I met a Filipina in Reykjavík in 2000 who told me that she had had a kidney transplant in Denmark, paid for by the taxpayers of Iceland, a country of only 400,000 people or so. Had she been at home she would probably have ended up like Roberto.

Thirty-one years ago in a parish in Mindanao I buried Eileen, like the daughter of Jairus,  a 12-year-old. Again, poverty was a significant factor in her illness and death, despite the efforts of the doctors and nurses in the small government hospital where she died.

So the two stories interwoven by St Mark are stories that many have lived or are living, and not only in the Philippines.

But sometimes persons do experience healing in unexpected ways. I once gave a recollection day to a group of 11- and 12-year old children in a Catholic school in Cebu City. We reflected on the story of Jesus staying behind in the Temple when he was 12 and that of the daughter of Jairus, also 12. Before the afternoon session a group of the boys and girls came to tell me that Maria, one of their classmates, had a bad toothache and asked if we could pray with her. Maybe Jesus would heal her as he had healed ‘Talitha’, which they thought was the name of the daughter of Jairus. We prayed with Maria – and her toothache disappeared. The children were delighted.

St Mark gives us illustrations of the humanity of Jesus more than do St Matthew and St Luke when they recount the same stories. Scholars tell us that St Mark’s was the first gospel to be written and that the other two drew on his in writing theirs. St Matthew omits the detail of Jesus perceiving in himself that power had gone out from him. This shows us that Jesus wasn’t a ‘magician’. When he healed a sick person he gave of himself.

St Matthew leaves out another beautiful detail about the humanity of our Saviour. Jesus says to the people in the house, Give her something to eat. I can imagine the joy of everyone, including Jesus. I picture him with a smile on his face, a smile that reflects his joy – and his awareness that the girl’s family had forgotten the very practical detail that she was starving, as is anyone who has come through a serious illness. This detail of St Mark brings home to me the great reality that St John expressed in his gospel and that we pray in the Angelus, The Word became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14).

Dios de Amores
Ecuadorian hymn to the Sacred Heart of Jesus
Text: Aurelio Espinosa Polit SJ; Music: Belisario Peña; Sung by Harpa Dei.

Ecuador was the first country to be consecrated to the Sacred Heart. This hymn was written in the context of an increase in crime in the country. One can pray for one's own country while listening to the hymn, which has subtitles in English. The singers are siblings.

Traditional Latin Mass

Sixth Sunday after Pentecost

The Complete Mass in Latin and English is here. (Adjust the date at the top of that page to 06-30-2024 if necessary).

Epistle: Romans 6:3-11GospelMark 8:1-9.

A Workman's Meal-break
Vincent van Gogh [Web Gallery of Art]

And they ate, and were satisfied (Mark 8:8; Gospel)

21 June 2024

'And anchor at peace with God.' Sunday Reflections, 12th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

Christ in Majesty
Basilica of the Sacred Heart, Montmartre, Paris

 Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us.

June is the month of the

Sacred Heart of Jesus

Christ in the Storm on the Sea of Galilee
Rembrandt [Web Gallery of Art]

And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion (Mark 4:37-38; Gospel).

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

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

Gospel  Mark 4:35-41  (English Standard Version, Anglicised)  

On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”

Léachtaí i nGaeilge

St Colman’s Cathedral, Cobh, Ireland

Fr James Wilson was born in Cobh (KOHV), then known as Queenstown, on the south coast of Ireland in 1890. For many years it was the main port from which liners left for the USA. It was the last port from which Titanic left on 11 February 1912 on its fatal maiden voyage, bound for New York City. On 7 May 1915  a German U-boat torpedoed Lusitania as it was on a voyage from New York and was quite near Queenstown. Most of the 1,197 dead and the 763 survivors were taken to that port. 

Father Wilson was ordained in June that year for the Diocese of Cloyne of which St Colman's is the cathedral. He joined the Columbans in 1920 and spent most of the rest of his life teaching Columban seminarians in Ireland and in the USA. I was in our seminary from 1961 to 1968 in the building where I am now living, St Columban's, Dalgan Park. However, we were nearly 200 seminarians then, and now we are about 60 retired missionary priests and no seminarians. 

Fr Wilson was retired here during my student days and had become rather 'forgetful'. This venerable priest had a dignity that his mental decline could not hide and he had a great love for Cobh. Every time he met a student on the corridor he would talk about St Colman's Cathedral and would finish with the last two lines of a poem that I think he wrote himself: When St Colman's bell rings its last farewell and we're laid beneath the sod, / We'll raise the harbour at sunset and anchor at peace with God.

What called Fr Wilson and the last lines of his poem to my mind was this Sunday's First Reading, Responsorial Psalm and Gospel. In the First Reading the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind and asked him, who shut in the sea with doors when it burst out from the womb . . . and said, 'Thus far shall you come, and no farther, and here shall your proud waves be stayed'?

The Responsorial Psalm, 106 [107], echoes this, as is its purpose: For [God] spoke, he summoned the gale, tossing the waves of the sea up to heaven and back into the deep. And God responded to those who were terrified: Then they cried to the Lord in their need and he rescued them from their distress. He stilled the storm to a whisper: all the waves of the sea were hushed. They rejoiced because of the calm and he led them to the haven they desired. Let them thank the Lord for his love, the wonders he does for men.

Rembrandt, in his only seascape, captures the terror of the Apostles in the Gospel. And we can barely see Jesus in the dark, sleeping in the stern of the boat. That is so often where he seems to us to be. But the Apostles are awestruck when they see the power of Jesus: And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, 'Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?'

Right now we are going through a very stormy period in the life of the world and of the Church. There are a number of regional wars that could develop into something much bigger. There are great divisions in the Catholic Church and the rejection of some of its teachings by some bishops and priests, especially in the area of human relationships and of family, a non-acceptance of the biological reality that each of us is either male or female from the moment of conception. And, as the Book of Genesis teaches, each of us is made in the image of God.

Yet history teaches us that in the midst of the greatest darkness and evil, God has raised up people of extraordinary love and heroism. In so many ways God touches us gently when we sin and leads us to conversion and to accept his forgiveness, especially in the Sacrament of Reconciliation (Penance, Confession). And Rembrandt's painting shows a break in the black clouds, for me an expression of the hope we are called to place in Jesus our Risen Lord.

For all of this, as the response to the Responsorial Psalm says, O give thanks to the Lord, for his love endures for ever.


When Fr JamesWilson died on 9 January 1970 in a hospital in Dublin, his grave was dug here in Dalgan Park - before his will was read. In that he asked that he be buried in his beloved Cobh. So he had a funeral Mass here, and another in Cobh in St Colman's Cathedral.

When St Colman's bell rings its last farewell and we're laid beneath the sod, We'll raise the harbour at sunset and anchor at peace with God.  When our lives come to an end may all of us raise the harbour at sunset and anchor at peace with God.

Home from the Sea
Words and music by Phil Coulter
Sung by Liam Clancy

The Royal National Lifeboat Institute (RNLI) was founded 200 years ago. It has stations on the coasts of Britain, Ireland, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands and is staffed by volunteers who have saved countless lives. And more than 600 volunteers have died in rescuing others.

Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends (John 15:13).

Traditional Latin Mass

Fifth Sunday after Pentecost

The Complete Mass in Latin and English is here. (Adjust the date at the top of that page to 06-23-2024 if necessary).

Epistle1 Peter 3:8-15Gospel: Matthew 5:20-24.

The Mass of St Basil
Pierre Subleyras [Web Gallery of Art]

So if you are offering your gift at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift (Matthew 5:23-24; Gospel).

14 June 2024

'Ag Críost an síol - To Christ the Seed.' Sunday Reflections, 11th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B


'Even unto the complete sacrifice of my life.'
Execution of Blessed Miguel Pro SJ, 23 November 1927, Mexico City

June is the month of the

Sacred Heart of Jesus

Blessed Miguel Pro’s Sacred Heart Of Jesus Prayer

Heart of Jesus, I give my heart to Thee; but so enclose it in Thee that it may never be separated from Thee. Heart of Jesus, I am all Thine; but take care of my promise so that I may be able to put it in practice even unto the complete sacrifice of my life. Amen.

The Sower
Vincent van Gogh [Web Gallery of Art]

The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground. 

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

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

Gospel  Mark 4:26-34  (English Standard Version, Anglicised)

Jesus said to the crowds:

“The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground. He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how. The earth produces by itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. But when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.”

And he said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable shall we use for it? It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when sown on the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth, yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes larger than all the garden plants and puts out large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.”

With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it. He did not speak to them without a parable, but privately to his own disciples he explained everything.


Léachtaí i nGaeilge

Reaper with Sickle (after Millet)
Vincent van Gogh [Web Gallery of Art]

But when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle.

Just over 30 years ago I was parish priest of Lianga, on the east coast of Mindanao for 11 months, One evening in a nearby barrio I gave a talk on the beginnings of life, how from the moment of conception what we will come to be, the colour of our eyes, of our hair, our sex - male or female, whether we’ll be tall or short, the talents that will emerge, are already there. I could see that the people were awestruck at the wonder of our creation.

Today’s First Reading and Gospel give us an insight into that wonder, showing how God’s creatures are interrelated. Ezekiel tells us how a shoot of a cedar will sprout branches and bear fruit, and become a noble cedar, for every kind of bird will live beneath it, every winged creature rest in the shade of its branches. St Mark echoes this: The kingdom of God . . . is like a mustard seed which at the time of its sowing . . . is the smallest of all the seeds on earth . . . yet  . . . grows into the biggest shrub of them all and puts out big branches so that the birds of the air can shelter in its shade.

Humans are the only creatures on earth who can know this: God created man in the image of himself, in the image of God he created him, male and female he created them. Only we can know, love and serve God here on earth and be with him for ever in heaven, as we learned from the catechism so many years ago.

Between the Solemnity of the Mother of God on 1 January 2019 and the end of last year more than 30,000 human beings made in the image of God were legally, violently and permanently denied entry into the Republic of Ireland before birth, denied the possibility of ever knowing a loving God in this life, of ever being loved by other humans, of ever loving others, of ever discovering their own giftedness and that of others, of ever discovering the wonders of God’s creation in this life.

In Laudato Si’ Pope Francis addresses this situation very clearly in the context of the interconnectedness of creation that the readings speak about today: Since everything is interrelated, concern for the protection of nature is also incompatible with the justification of abortion. How can we genuinely teach the importance of concern for other vulnerable beings, however troublesome or inconvenient they may be, if we fail to protect a human embryo, even when its presence is uncomfortable and creates difficulties? ‘If personal and social sensitivity towards the acceptance of the new life is lost, then other forms of acceptance that are valuable for society also wither away’.

However, Jesus tells us in John 10:10, The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. Today’s readings speak of that abundance. St Mark tell us, A man throws seed on the land. Night and day, while he sleeps, when he is awake, the seed is sprouting and growing, how he does not know. Of its own accord the land produces first the shoot, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. We are blessed in St Columban's where I live here in Ireland to be surrounded by so many examples of new life as we go through the four seasons. And at the many funerals of elderly Columbans in the last few years I have seen young children, reminders of God’s abundance in constantly creating and nourishing new life, especially human life, passed on from one generation to the next.

I remember too  being at the Menin Gate in Ieper (Ypres), Belgium, in 2002 where each evening the Last Post is sounded by buglers for British and Commonwealth soldiers who died in the Great War (1914-18) in which the city was destroyed, Many of these were Irish. One was Corporal Laurence Dowd, a half-brother of my maternal grandmother. Anther was Fr Willie Doyle SJ, an army chaplain, who is now being proposed for canonisation. The Last Post ceremony particularly remembers the thousands of soldiers listed on the monument whose bodies were never found. When I was there a very old man laid a wreath. He was possibly one of the last survivors of the First World War. Standing near me was a mother with a baby not more than a week old in her arms. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly

We have all been blessed by knowing married couples, including our parents, welcoming children into their lives, trusting in the providence of a God who gives abundantly and raising their children in the faith. Some have children who need special care right into adulthood and until death, drawing out of their parents a love that is truly heroic. Such families for me are signs of hope, signs of God’s presence among us, of God’s presence in my own life, preventing me from being discouraged by some aspects of a very changed world so different from the one that we older people grew up in.

The Entrance Antiphon reminds us that God is merciful and loving: O Lord, hear my voice, for I have called to you; be my help. Do not abandon or forsake me, O God, my Saviour! One of the expressions of God’s love and forgiveness is a movement I am familiar with, Rachel’s Vineyard (Britain, Ireland, USA) . This offers healing weekends rooted in the Gospel for persons who have been directly affected by abortion: mothers, fathers, grandparents of aborted children, spouses of someone who has had an abortion before they met. So many of these carry a hidden and deep sorrow and shame, often for many years. On a Rachel’s Vineyard weekend they can experience God’s forgiveness, enter into a relationship with their aborted child. And most of the team conducting the weekend, along with the supporting team, have themselves experienced God’s loving and forgiving mercy through it and are now ministers of that mercy to others like them.

The Responsorial Psalm speaks directly to those of us who are no longer young: Planted in the house of the Lord [the just] will flourish in the courts of our God, still bearing fruit when they are old, still full of sap, still green, to proclaim that the Lord is just. In him, my rock, there is no wrong.

As we celebrate the Eucharist, the great act of thanksgiving, may we allow the response to today’s Responsorial Psalm take root in our hearts: It is good to give you thanks, O Lord.

Sheaves of Wheat
Vincent van Gogh [Web Gallery of Art]

. . . because the harvest has come.

Ag Críost an Síol
Sung by Laudis Domini of the Second Presbyterian Church, Memphis, Tennessee. 
Arranged by Mark Armstrong and directed by Dr Gabriel Statom

Words written in 1916 by Fr Micheál Ó Síocháin (later Coadjutor Archbishop of Sydney), music by Seán Ó Riada in 1968. This hymn in the Irish language was intended by Ó Riada as an Offertory hymn but is often sung during or after Holy Communion. Fr Micheál Ó Síocháin (Michael Sheehan) was also author of Sheehan's Apologetics, used in religious education in Ireland's Catholic secondary schools in the 1950s and 1960s. The book was one of the seeds of my own vocation to be a Columban missionary priest. 

Ag Críost an Síol - To Christ the Seed

le Micheál Ó Síocháin /English translation by Thomas Kinsella

i n-iothlainn Dé go dtugtar sinn.

Ag Críost an mhuir, ag Críost an t-iasc;
i líonta Dé go gcastar sinn.

Ó fhás go h-aois, is ó aois go bás,
do dhá láimh, a Chríost, anall tharainn.

Ó bhás go críoch, ní críoch ach athfhás,
i bParthas na ngrást go rabhaimid.

To Christ the seed, to Christ the crop,
in barn of Christ may we be brought.

To Christ the sea, to Christ the fish,
in nets of Christ may we be caught.

From growth to age, from age to death,
Thy two arms here, O Christ, about us.

From death to end, not end but growth,
in blessed Paradise may we be.

Traditional Latin Mass

Fourth Sunday after Pentecost

The Complete Mass in Latin and English is here. (Adjust the date at the top of that page to 06-16-2024 if necessary).

Epistle: Romans 8:18-23GospelLuke 5:1-11.

Miraculous Draught of Fishes

But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, 'Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord' (Luke 5:8).