Saturday, October 20, 2018

Prayer diary Saturday 20 October 2018

“Sir, let it alone for one more year, until I dig round it and put manure on it. If it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.” 
Luke 13.8,9

Reflection
The parable of the barren fig tree reminds us that God grants sufficient time to all to work out their salvation – indeed, often in the eyes of the world a super-abundance of time. But the day comes to us all when that time is ended. Pray that you will be found to have been fruitful.

Friday, October 19, 2018

Prayer diary Friday 19 October 2018 (day of discipline and self-denial)

'Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division!' 
Luke 12.51

Reflection 
Christianity is not the faith of 'anything for a quiet life' or trembling at the thought that someone may take offence at what you say. The Gospel truth must be preached boldly so that all may have the hope of being saved.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Prayer diary Thursday 18 October 2018 (St Luke)

After this the Lord appointed seventy others and sent them on ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself intended to go.Luke 10.1

Reflection
Our Lord sent all these men out to prepare the way for him, St Luke among them. All who would follow our Lord are also sent, each with a different task. Listen carefully and prayerfully at all times; for the Lord will speak to your heart as to what task in his kingdom that he calls you to do.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Courting trouble


It will be a long time, I think, before the dust settles on Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation hearings. Some lucky few may have been able to avoid the controversy. For those, a brief summary is in order.

Kavanaugh is an American judge who was nominated to the US Supreme Court by Donald Trump. Democrats, unsurprisingly, said he was an appalling choice; Republicans, as expected, thought him a fine candidate. However, as the senate is controlled by the latter it would have taken quite the bombshell to shake his chances of being confirmed.

And bombshell there was, with an accusation of sexual impropriety being brought forward at the eleventh hour, after the hearings were over but before the vote was taken. The FBI investigated and found the claims lacked credibility; so the Senate voted and confirmed his nomination.

His supporters think the whole thing was a stitch-up; his detractors that the investigation was a white-wash. Which makes the whole thing deeply disturbing whichever side you're on. But there is something about the affair that both sides should find troubling. And that is the weaponising of accusations of sexual violence.

By this I mean that it has been established that the faction in the US Senate that opposed Kavanaugh's nomination had been contacted by his accuser many weeks in advance of his confirmation hearings. They chose to keep that information to themselves until the hearings were over. And call me cynical, but I find it hard not to suspect that they feared that the allegations would not stand up to rigorous scrutiny, which means if they had gone public with the story at once it would have fizzled out long before the hearings and done nothing to damage Kavanaugh's prospects. So they chose instead to wait until the process was almost over in the hope of derailing the process and costing him his seat on the Supreme Court.

It's all quite dreadful. I find it difficult to believe that someone who truly wanted justice for this woman would have behaved this way. Someone who had her best interests at heart would have taken her story to the authorities immediately and allowed a discrete investigation to take place at once. If her claims were found to be credible then, and only then, would the information be used against Kavanaugh. If not, then nothing would have been said and the woman would have been allowed to go quietly back to her life with her privacy intact. Instead, because they wanted to throw him to the wolves they flung her to them also.

But at least it is over now. Or is it? The circus that these hearings became could only happen in a society that is deeply divided, one in which the concept of shared values has been lost. Being liberal or conservative is no longer different points on the political spectrum, they are the identifying labels of hostile tribes, ones that find it increasingly difficult to live peacefully alongside each other. War is coming. And it will be ugly. 

this article appears in this week's issue of the Kilkenny Reporter

Prayer diary Wednesday 17 October 2018

'You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.' 
Luke 12. 40

Reflection
Again and again our Lord warned that the moment when we will stand before him will come without warning. If we live as if we may be called home within the next instant we will not be found wanting.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Prayer diary Tuesday 16 October 2018

'Blessed are those slaves whom the master finds alert when he comes.' 
Luke 12. 37

Reflection 
Jesus – or death – may come at any moment. Blessed is he who lives all his life with this thought to help keep him from sin.

Prayer diary Monday 15 October 2018

And Jesus said to them, ‘Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.’ 
Luke 12.15

Reflection 
Greed is not confined to a desire for riches. Some, while caring not for wealth, may burn with desire for other things – and would do anything rather than give them up. If they get between you and love of God, then they are as much a danger to you as love of money.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

'what must I do to inherit eternal life?’

Almighty, eternal, and merciful God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit: inspire the hands in the writing, the lips in the preaching, and our hearts in the pondering so that we may be led deeper into your truth, better know and do your will, and grow in holiness day by day. Amen.

Our Gospel reading this morning begins with the detail that it is just as Jesus is setting out on a journey that the rich man comes to him. And I think we may place some significance on that fact. Jesus, if we look at the passages of scripture that precede this incident, has been going from place to place teaching; he would have, it seems fair to assume, spent a reasonable amount of time in each town or village or place on the road he stopped at. So he has been at the place he is leaving now for a while – many hours at least; possibly days.

But the man must only have heard of his presence. Perhaps he was away from the town on business and had just returned; perhaps other affairs have kept him occupied. Whatever the reason, he heard about the fact that the 'good teacher' is near only very late in his visit; and so he comes running, finds Jesus preparing to leave, throws himself on his knees before him, and asks him the most important question of all: 'what must I do to inherit eternal life?’

Jesus responds to him with what might be described as a summary of the Ten Commandments; and the man replies that he has kept these all his life. And we may believe that he speaks the truth, for Christ looks at him and loves him. This is more than simply the love that God has for all of his creatures; this, I think, is our Lord responding on a human level to a man who not only has tried all his life to be good, but seeks to know what more he must to go to heaven.

Perhaps this love our Lord has for him is evident to all standing there, shining forth in the way he gazes upon this man, and is later remembered and recorded by the evangelist St Matthew as he stands there watching; or perhaps Jesus shares this with his Apostles as they are walking down the road later, on the journey whose beginning the man interrupted. But we can be certain that the Son of God loved this man in a special way and that the answer he gave him was the one he needed to hear in order that he might inherit that eternal life he so earnestly sought.

But the answer he receives shocks him: ‘You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.’ And he goes away grieving. Why grieving? Remember what his question was – what must I do to inherit eternal life. And Jesus, the good teacher, tells him that there is one thing more that he must do, as well as all the rest he does already, if he is to enter into eternal life. And he can not do it; he can not give up the material things of this world.

Why will this man not inherit eternal life? He seems to be a good man; we know he keeps the commandments; and we can trust that a man who does that, who is a faithful Jew, does more as well. He surely gives alms to the poor; and is scrupulous about the paying of tithes. By any objective standpoint he is a good man; and yet, because of the one thing he lacks, he will not, it seems, go to heaven. Why should this be so?

Because he makes the mistake – a mistake that is common today – of thinking of religion as being an ethical system. How many times have your heard someone say something like 'why do I need religion to lead a good life? I can make perfectly fine moral and ethical decisions without any need to believe in any kind of god.' And that is perfectly true – although, it must also be said that one need only look at the competing ethical systems at play in the secular world today to realise that seemingly any kind of behaviour can be justified if one puts one's mind to it. No, the point is that Christianity is not merely yet another ethical system among many.

Yes, it expects people to behave in a manner that is moral according to the lights of its teachings; but it expects more than that – far more. If it did not, then the rich man we read about today would have had no problem. But the Christian is called not only to be good, but to be holy. Think what the Apostle Paul teaches us in first Thessalonians – he asks that God make us perfect in holiness. Think about what God tells us in Leviticus – be holy as I am holy.

And what is holiness? There are many long answers, but a short one would be to be set apart from the world and totally devoted to God. Using that, we can see the difficulty faced by the rich man. Yes, he was good, as the world defines good; but he could not set himself apart from the world. His possessions meant too much to him; and because of that he could not bring himself to devote himself entirely to God by following Christ. This was the 'one thing' he lacked; and even for the sake of eternal life, he could not bring himself to embrace it.

What of us? Must we give up all things to enter into eternal life? Not necessarily. Jesus spoke directly to the young man that day, to his specific needs. Perhaps he would say something different to you if you were to throw yourself on your knees before him and ask the question that poor young man asked that day: Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?' Perhaps it is something that you should do, every time you pray, morning, noon, and night. We can be sure that as you make your request he will look upon you with love, and seek to tell you what it is that you lack. Perhaps it would be as well to pray also that you will not be brought to grief by his answer, because you can not, like the rich man, find it within yourself to let go of what it is that stands between you and following Christ completely.

To the Almighty and Eternal God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, to him be all Glory, both now and unto ages of ages: Amen.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

prayer diary Saturday 13 October 2018

'Everyone who acknowledges me before others, the Son of Man also will acknowledge before the angels of God; but whoever denies me before others will be denied before the angels of God'. 
Luke 12. 8,9

Reflection 
Fear of this world can cause us not only to fear declaring ourselves to be Christians, but also fearing to live as if we were. But the cost of such peace is a poor bargain indeed; for it trades the joy of heaven of a few quiet years in this life.

Friday, October 12, 2018

prayer diary Friday 12 October 2018 (Day of Discipline and self-denial)

‘I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that can do nothing more. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell' 
Luke 12. 4,5

Reflection 
It is tempting to fear those who can harm us in this life; but is an easy life worth risking eternal life for? Better to fear God and let the world do what it may.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

prayer diary Thursday 11 October 2018

When he went outside, the scribes and the Pharisees began to be very hostile towards him and to cross-examine him about many things, lying in wait for him, to catch him in something he might say. 
Luke 12.53,54

Reflection 
Christ told the scribes and the Pharisees where they were in error; their response was not thanks but hatred. So also may you expect many of those you seek to help to hate you.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

It's a dog's life

I was reading an article the other day about how some researcher has done a study and concluded that dogs aren't as smart as most people think they are. Goats, in her estimation, are just as clever. And a wide variety of other domestic animals can do most of the things that people are so proud of when their pet pooches do them, such recognise human faces, or being able to know one person from another by smell.

Ho hum, with a great big yawn, is my attitude to such stuff. Just another researcher needing another article to put on their CV to justify the big office and the big salary in whatever university they teach at.

The thing that surprises me just as much as the fact that anyone can be bothered to think this is a topic worthy of study is the fact that there are people out there who are truly convinced that dogs are smart. Not all dogs, of course. Just their dogs. Other people's dogs are, mostly, dumb as rocks. But their Fido or Rex or Prince is a genius.

Hardly. Here is the truth. Most dogs are not very smart. Many dogs are very smart when compared to other dogs, but that is not the same thing. I am very fond of dogs. We had dogs at home when I was growing up; and we have a big, loveable mutt in the house now on whom much money is spent for food, toys, and bedding, and much time and energy is expended on keeping him exercised. I have loved all of them. But I have never made the mistake in thinking that they were smart. As dogs go they are not the dumbest, but they are not particularly smart, even for dogs.

I remember one once getting hold of an old light bulb and playing with it. Before anyone could stop him he had managed to bite into and break it. And he kept on chewing even as the blood ran over his lips. We had some trouble getting him to let go of the bits and some anxious moments as we pieced them together trying to assure ourselves that he hadn't swallowed any and was going to die a horrible death as a result. He didn't, but no credit to him for surviving. I guess you could call it dumb luck.

No, we don't keep dogs because they're all that smart. But, by golly, their loyalty and affection is hard to beat. A dog will love you even if you don't treat him all that well. And if you're decent to him he'll adore you. And that unconditional love really melts the human heart.

And the numbers prove it. There are almost nine million dogs in Britain right now. Their closest wild cousin, the fox, numbers less than 300,000. Loving and being loved by humans is something that has really worked as a survival strategy for our four-footed friends. Pretty smart, if you ask me.

this article appears in this week's issue of the Kilkenny Reporter

prayer diary Wednesday 10 October 2018

'From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required; and from one to whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded.' 
Luke 11. 48

Reflection
Much has been entrusted to us – not only the faith, but the duty to pass it on. Do not be found to have been an unworthy servant when the Final Trump shall sound.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

prayer diary Tuesday 9 October 2018

'Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit; be like those who are waiting for their master to return from the wedding banquet,' 
Luke 11.35, 36

Reflection 
Those who follow Christ must live as if their lives might end at any moment. Do not neglect the duties of this life; but never forget that this life will pass.

Monday, October 8, 2018

prayer diary Monday 8 October 2018

'And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.” 
Luke 11. 19,20

Reflection 
How many of us live as if we had all the time of the world and concern ourselves near exclusively with worldly things, paying scant attention to God? The day will come for all who live thus when they hear the words 'You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you.' And what then of their souls?

Sunday, October 7, 2018

what God has joined together


Let us have a short look at our Gospel reading for today. You know, I always am a bit taken aback when I read this passage from Mark – our Lord is so uncompromising on the topic of marriage and the fact that it is indissoluble – once you are married, you are married as long as the other person is alive. St Matthew completes our Lord's teaching on this matter in his Gospel, based on which the Church both East and West allows in some very limited circumstances the possibility of someone marrying another while the spouse of a previous marriage is still living. But these exceptions are very stringent - and seem even more so in our very secular, just about any goes sexually society -  and outside of them any attempt at remarriage is regarded as adultery. And adultery is, of course, a serious sin, the commission of which is a breach of one of the Ten Commandments.

And if I find our Lord's very strict interpretation of the moral law on this issue easy to see as being difficult for many to accept, imagine what it must have been like for those listening to him at the time. I at least have grown up with this idea my entire life; and live in a culture where this has been the norm for almost 2000 years. This was not the case for the Jews listening to him. They were used to being able to get divorced when they wanted to; and in fact, there were various rabbinical schools of thought that suggested that it was acceptable to get divorced for what we might consider today to be quite trivial, if not indeed sexist, reasons – essentially if your wife burned the dinner! They must have been blown away by what Jesus was saying.

And so they argue with him. And so Jesus reminds his hearers of what it says in Genesis, where God's original plan for marriage is written. When a man and woman marry, they become one flesh, joined together by God; and what God has joined together, man may not separate.

Now there is not space in a short reflection to deal adequately with so complex an area of moral theology, especially one that for many can be so sensitive. But perhaps we may consider one small point. Why does God think marriage to be so important that he will join together as one flesh those who marry in an unbreakable bond? Let us step away for a moment from the more obvious reasons such as the bringing into the world of children and providing them with a secure and stable place in which to grow up; or even to provide companionship for the spouses. Let us think instead of why we have been created – which is to be in heaven eternally with God. And during this life that is to be our primary aim – to grow in holiness so that at the end of this life we may enter into eternal life. God wants this more than anything – was it not for this reason that he sent his only Son into the world? And if God became man for our salvation, we must also look at the relationship between husband and wife in that context as well – that marriage, along with all other relationships, is intended to help us grow in holiness.

Viewed in that light, the primary work of the husband is to work work for the salvation of his wife; even as it is the job of the wife to do her utmost that the soul of her husband be saved. Not all marry, of course, but those who are called by God to do so and answer that call must not look on it as some kind of temporary arrangement that lasts as long as the two parties are both getting what they want out of it; but rather that it is a divinely ordained state of life, where the one looks to the ultimate good of the other, even as they trust that the other will look to their ultimate good also. A challenging task, no doubt; but to help God grants the couple his grace by changing them on day they make their marriage vows from two into one; one flesh from that moment until the day they are parted by death.

This may seem difficult; but is it too difficult a thing? Not if we trust that God grants us the grace needed. As I said earlier, marriage is a calling, and, as the Apostle St Paul tells us, God equips those whom he calls. And above all else, we can have no doubt as to whether the permanence of marriage is part of God's plan for us, for we have nothing less than the words of Christ himself to assure us that this is so. Christ said elsewhere that blessed are those who listen to God's word and obey; and so the prayer I end with today is that all of God's children will listen to his word and obey – in marriage, and in all things. Amen.

Saturday, October 6, 2018

prayer diary Saturday 6 October 2018

A woman …. said to him, ‘Blessed is the womb that bore you ...!’ But he said, ‘Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it!’ 
Luke 11, 27,28

Reflection 
Christ's words here do not in any way denigrate his Mother. No, he speaks in order to stress that there is nothing more important than listening to God and obedience to Him.

Friday, October 5, 2018

prayer diary Friday 5 October 2018 (day of discipline and self-denial)

Some of them said, ‘He casts out demons by Beelzebul, the ruler of the demons.’ Others, to test him, kept demanding from him a sign from heaven. 
Luke 11. 15,16

Reflection 
Do not be discouraged when there are those who call the Gospel message evil or challenge you to provide extraordinary proofs of its truth. For they did the same even before the face of Christ himself.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

The Next Amendment

Most of the attention concerning the soon occur visit of the people to the polling booth has focused on the presidential election. There has been far less public reflection on the fact that there will be another vote taking place that day; one that will decide as to whether to remove the blasphemy provision from our Constitution or not.

No doubt some will shrug and say that is how it should be. 'The presidency is more important; and who cares about blasphemy anyway?' they may argue. That, I would suggest, is to take rather a blinkered view of the situation. Who our next president will be is, of course, of great importance. But whoever that person will be their tenure will be of a relatively short duration, and their powers while in office will be limited indeed. The Constitution, on the other hand, is the fundamental law of our land; changes to it can have far-reaching and unforeseen implications. They should not be made lightly. And they certainly should not be trivialised by burying it beneath a presidential election that was always bound to occupy the vast bulk of attention as both campaigns were being run in tandem.

Mind you, I find the whole push to remove blasphemy from our Constitution, shortly followed by the removal of the offence from our statue books, more than a little odd. There hasn't been a prosecution for it within living memory; yet still those arguing for it claim it is necessary so that |Ireland can be seen as a modern, secular state.

Secularism, of course, has its own form of blasphemy, political correctness; and anyone offending against it can and will be swiftly and severely punished by way of an online lynch mob baying for their blood … a mob whose demands are always quickly yielded to. So we'll still have 'laws' against blasphemy. They'll just be unwritten and there will be no appeal against them. And they will apply only to offences against whatever has to be in fashion with the politically correct crowd rather than against God and religion. Still, that's the world we live in. A bit strange when the vast majority claim to have some sort of religious affiliation every time a census is conducted.

And, of course, we can expect more of the same kind of amendments in the years to come. Because there are quite a few references to God and religion in our Constitution. And the secularists pushing for this amendment have made it clear that they want them gone as well. They won't be happy until the Constitution is scrubbed free of anything to do with the Almighty. And all of public life as well. Prayers before government meetings. Local clergy blessing the opening of a new town hall or school or the like. They'll want it all gone.

And it's hardly surprising. After all, anything to do with God and religion has become pretty politically incorrect … a blasphemy against secular sensibilities, if you will.

this article appears in this week's issue of the Kilkenny Reporter











prayer diary Thursday 4 October 2018

‘So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you.' 
Luke 11. 9

Reflection 
Christ taught us to persevere in prayer, for God will surely answer us. Sometimes, however, we may not like his answer. What we desire is not given us; or the pain continues. Perhaps then what we are to pray for is the strength to endure.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

prayer diary Wednesday 3 October 2018

‘Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.' He said to them, ‘When you pray, say: Father, hallowed be your name.' 
Luke 11. 1,2

Reflection
Christ teaches us that not only is God our Father, but that he is holy. We then, who are his children, must also strive to be holy as he is holy.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

prayer diary Monday 1 October 2018

'Which ... was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?’ He said, ‘The one who showed him mercy.’ ... ‘Go and do likewise.’ 
Luke 10. 36-37

Reflection 
All are our neighbours and all are entitled to our help. But do not care for their material needs and neglect their spiritual ones. Mercy demands that you do your best to help them with both.

prayer diary Tuesday 2 October 2018

‘You are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.’ 
Luke 10.41,42

Reflection 
In our busy world it can be easy to forget the importance of sitting quietly and prayerfully in the presence of the Lord. Make time for prayer in your life; nothing you will do all the day long will be as important as that time you spend with God.

Sunday, September 30, 2018

trusting that God has a plan for each and every one of us.


May my words be in the Name of the Holy & Undivided Trinity: + Father, Son, & Holy Spirit. Amen.

Our Old Testament reading from the book Esther is a good example of what it means to be responsible for the safety and well-being of others, even if doing so involves great personal risk. It is perhaps necessary for me to give a short summary of the story as, sadly, I fear there may be some here for whom the story is not entirely familiar.

It is a story of courage, and daring, and intrigue; of great risks taken and evil plots overthrown; a tale where the stakes could not be higher – the lives of hundreds of thousands of people. It is set at a time when many of the children of Israel as a result of war no longer live within the boundaries of the Promised Land. They are dispersed among the lands of those who conquered them, first the Babylonians, and then the Medes and Persians who conquered the conquerors. And just as Daniel became a person of importance at the court of King Nebuchadnezzar, so also does the Jew Mordecai become someone who is valued by the king of his time, Ahasuerus; in this case Mordecai uncovered a plot to assassinate the king and so Ahasuerus owes him his life.

The person who is second only to the king in all the empire is Haman, a man full of pride and ambition. He hates Mordecai, because he, alone of all men, will not bow before him. He does not care that this is not intended as a slight towards his honour and dignity and that the reason that Mordecai will not bow is that he is a faithful Jew and will not treat any man as if he were a God. But with a sinful pride that mirrors that of Satan himself, Haman can not bear that even a single man does not treat him as he thinks he deserves.

So, driven by his irrational hatred, he determines to destroy not only Mordecai, but all the Jews dwelling within the borders of the empire. He proceeds with cunning; Mordecai has saved the king's life after all. So Haman goes to the king and deceives him; he tells him that there is a people dwelling within the empire who are dangerous to its safety and security, a people who will not obey its laws. He does not, of course, tell the king that they are the people of Mordecai, the man who had saved his life. He asks for permission to root out and destroy this threat to the peace and stability of the empire; and the king, trusting the man who is second only to him, gives him the authority to proceed as he sees fit.

So a decree goes out, in the name of the king, that on a certain day all the Jews are to be killed – man, woman, and child. Mordecai learns of the plan and determines to do what he can to save his people. There is one slim hope for survival; his niece Esther. For unbeknownst to Haman, or anyone else, she is the queen. And this was a more slender hope than one might think. Firstly because a decree of the king was irrevocable, even by himself; and secondly for anyone to appear before the king unless summoned the penalty was death, even for the queen, unless he chose to forgive the transgression. And it was more likely than not that he would not do so – for this king was a temperamental sort of fellow, and, although no Henry the Eighth, had a record of getting rid of queens who breached royal protocol.

Esther is terrified. But her uncle reminds her of the faithfulness of God – if she does not act, then he will surely find some other way to save his people, and then her failure to act in order to save her own life will surely come back to haunt her; and in any case what if it was by Divine Providence that she is now queen, placed in this role by God so that the Jewish people may be saved?

So despite her fears, Esther decides to risk death to save her people. She prepares herself by three days of prayer and fasting, and asks that her people do the same; and then she puts on her royal robes and, uninvited, enters the presence of the king. It is a tense moment – will she be struck down by a furious king? Or will he smile upon her and invite her in? But her gamble pays off; the king spares her life.

But that, of course, is only the beginning. She must now persuade the king to find a way to do the seemingly impossible – save a people who have been condemned by royal decree in an empire where even the king himself may not revoke his command once given. Does she succeed? Well, you will know from the short fragment we heard read earlier that she does. We do not have time this morning to go into the details – I must ask you to open your Bibles when you return home and read the full story for yourself later!

But her success proves true the prophetic words spoken by Mordecai, that it was Divine Providence that Esther was queen at this time of danger, God putting her in this position so that through her he might save her people. The Fathers point to many important lessons to be learned from the book of Esther; but today I wonder does it not speak to us of trusting in God, trusting that he has a plan for each and every one of us. What is his plan for you? To save countless thousands of lives? Perhaps not; but perhaps it is a task even greater – to save some few souls from spiritual death. We see from today's Epistle our duty to bring back those who wander from the faith – are there those in your life whom you can help in such a way? But remember first that you must begin with yourself – the blind cannot lead the blind. In fact, if you are not living the faith yourself you are more likely to cause others to stumble, as you lead others astray by the poor example of un-Christian living; and what does our Lord say in our Gospel today about those who cause others to stumble? That it were better that a millstone be tied about their necks and they be cast into the depths of the sea.

So, as I finish this morning, I conclude with a prayer: I pray that you will open your hearts to be faithful to Christ and all his teachings; that in that faithfulness you will strive daily to help others to be faithful also; so that in that fidelity you will learn what it is that God wills for your life; and in so doing, attain at last unto eternal life in heaven. Amen.

Saturday, September 29, 2018

prayer diary Saturday 29 September 2018 (St Michael and all Angels)

War broke out in heaven; Michael and his angels fought against the dragon. The dragon and his angels fought back, but they were defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. 
Revelation 12. 7,8

Reflection
We may well give thanks to St Michael and all the angels this day for the witness of their fidelity to God. We should also tremble at that fate of all who will not do God's will.

Friday, September 28, 2018

prayer diary Friday 28 September 2018 (day of discipline and self-denial)

‘Whoever listens to you listens to me, and whoever rejects you rejects me, and whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me.’ 
Luke 10. 16

Reflection:
The cry of the modern world is 'you have your truth and I have mine.' But that is not what Jesus taught. There is only one truth - his truth. And to reject it is to reject God himself.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

prayer diary Thursday 27 September 2018

Jesus said 'See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves.' 
Luke 10. 3

Reflection
The hostility to the Gospel truth has always been immense. But we need not fear; though in fidelity to God we may seem as lambs to the slaughter in the eyes of the world, we know that it was the Lamb of God who conquered the world.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

The Next President

An election for the presidency, the highest office in the land, is in the offing. And there has been a certain amount of media hoopla concerning it in the lead up to that event. There also has been many jokes made about the fact the several of the candidates were what are called 'dragons' on a TV show titled 'The Dragons' Den'. Well, I suppose there would be. One good one, what with the incumbent being called Michael, involved one about St Michael having to slay the dragons. Although no doubt Michael D. might consider it wrong for anyone to refer to him as a saint … not because he doesn't consider himself good, but rather because I'm not at all sure he believes in such things as saints ...

But, of course, the reason we have all these candidates from outside of the political spectrum is really down to Dana. She was the first person to go down the route of looking for nominations from county councils. Prior to that who might run was essentially in the hands of those sitting in Leinster House (although, of course, the President could always decide to run again if he or she chose to). Dana's bold move opened up the possibility of a much wider field of candidates running for the Áras … and certainly in the run-up to this election variety certainly seems to define those who would be president. All kinds of everything is Dana's legacy in more ways than one!

All the same, I think it is a good thing. The office was in danger of being viewed as a place where senior politicians go to retire (which, based on the exemplary record of those who held office prior to her intervention, it most certainly was not). And that those sitting in the Dáil and Seanad could effectively decide there would be no election if they didn't feel like one was good neither for the democratic process or the legitimacy of the office. And so I think it must be said that we owe Dana quite a debt of gratitude.

Every silver lining has its cloud, however; and this alternate method of securing nominations has brought with it a slew of presidential hopefuls whose grasp of the very few powers the president has under the Constitution seems rather limited. Thankfully, our local representatives have proved very adept indeed at weeding out the wheat from the chaff in this regard. After all their hard work of nominating candidates, we'll have no one to blame but ourselves if we end up electing someone we later consider to be unworthy of that office.

So the upcoming race should prove to be an interesting one; perhaps even an exciting one. However, I do hope we are done with all these dragon jokes. There's only so many times you can laugh at what's essentially the same joke. And if a line isn't drawn under this and one of them gets in I suppose the jokes will 'drag on' for years!

this article appears in today's issue of the Kilkenny Reporter





prayer diary Wednesday 26 September 2018

Jesus said to him, ‘No one who puts a hand to the plough and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.’ 
Luke 9. 62

Reflection:
Many say to God 'I will serve you' and then allow the cares of this life to distract them; soon their life is no different to what it was before. Always remember that you were created for and called to God's kingdom. Let nothing prevent you from getting there.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

prayer diary Tuesday 24 September 2018

Jesus said 'Nevertheless, do not rejoice at this, that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.’ 
Luke 10. 20

Reflection 
Great was the power Christ granted his Apostles. And yet he told them not to rejoice in the miracles they wrought thereby; for they were as nothing compared to the greatness that comes from faithfully walking the path that leads a soul to heaven.

Monday, September 24, 2018

prayer diary Monday 24 September 2018

An argument arose among them as to which one of them was the greatest. But Jesus, aware of their inner thoughts, took a little child and put it by his side. 
Luke 9.46, 47

Reflection
God sees our secret thoughts and knows how we sin in our hearts. Heed the Gospel message and ask for the grace to be pure in thought, as well as in word and deed.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

the great reward of true humility

May my words be in the Name of the Holy & Undivided Trinity: + Father, Son, & Holy Spirit. Amen.

Our Epistle and Gospel today both speak of the importance of humility. Our Lord takes his disciples to task for arguing among themselves which of them was greatest; and St James rebukes those he writes to for their selfish ambition. But such pride is not the Christian way; ours is to be a life of humble service. This is exemplified in the life of Christ – God became man, the son of poor parents, lived the life of an itinerant preacher, and then, in obedience to the father, endured a humiliating death. And if a life of humility is preferred by God the Son over that of worldly glory, then so it must be for us.

But how to achieve such humility? It is not easy in a world that tells us endlessly how fabulous we are, and deserving of only the best that money can buy. And knowing that we are told this not because the ad-men believe it to be true but because they wish to manipulate us and persuade us to spend our hard-earned money on products that are often shoddy and seldom needed does not make it any easier to resist their flattering words.

This, in fact, is not a problem of the modern age. From the beginning of the Church Christians sought ways to resist the temptations of the world, temptations that made it difficult to lead a Christ-like life. The Desert Fathers, in fact, went to great lengths to cultivate the humility Christ had called them to – humility that they hoped would not only help them save their souls, but aid them in saving the souls of others also who would learn from their hard-won experience.

It may help you a little to hear the story of one such Desert Father. St John Kolobos was born around the year of our Lord 339 and was by all accounts a cranky and quarrelsome youth. This may have been due to the fact that he was very small in stature and people can often be cruel to those who are a little different – and he was so small that he is also known as John the Short or even John the Dwarf. At any rate he seems to have realised that being ill-tempered in his dealings with others was not a help to his spiritual development – you will recall, no doubt, our Lord's teaching that to be angry with your brother was a breach of the commandment 'thou shalt not kill' and a sin you would be held accountable for on the day of judgement … and the words of St James that to have a foul tongue was a wicked thing indeed – and he took himself off into the desert region of Scetes in Eygpt and placed himself under the spiritual authority of St Pambo, another of the Desert Fathers.

St Pambo must have been a man of remarkable discernment. He knew that one of the best ways to develop humility in a person whose soul was in his care was to teach them unquestioning obedience. And so he set St John what will to most of you at first hearing I am sure seem a very peculiar task. He set a dry rod in the ground – a stick, a piece of wood really – and gave his pupil the task of watering it twice daily. Pointless, but not very arduous you may imagine … until you recall they were in the desert. In fact the nearest water was 12 miles away. And so St John had to travel to the well twice a day and back – around 48 miles in total – to water this dry stick. A great deal of walking, you will agree, for someone whose legs were not long to begin with; almost two full marathons each day in the dry and dusty desert.

How long would you remain obedient to such a seemingly unreasonable instruction? A week? A couple of days? Would you refuse to do it even once? St John endured for many days, for many weeks, for many months – in fact he was obedient to his master's command for three long years, each day making that double journey there and back to the well to fetch water to pour into the ground beneath a dry and dead old stick. But at the end of those three years something strange and wonderful occurred. The dead stick began to develop green shoots and in time it grew into a tree which bore fruit. And St Pambo picked some of this fruit and offered it to the some of the other monks of his community saying 'take, eat of the fruit of obedience.'

Now perhaps there are not many here who would think St John Kolobos' obedience a good thing, even if at the end it was rewarded with a near miraculous event – an event, may I point out, that should echo in our minds as a mirror image of the disobedience of our first parents in the garden. But the point is not that the tree blossomed, or that it bore fruit. The point of the story is the persistent obedience of St John.

Does three years of obedience in carrying out a hard task seem a very long time? If it does, consider your life – it has already been much longer than three years for most here; and most, I suspect, hope to be spared for at least three more – most for much more – and for many that is quite a reasonable expectation. But however long each of us has left, at the end of that time there waits something even more miraculous than a dry branch restored to life – there is eternal life in heaven.

The humility to be obedient – to those in spiritual authority over us, trusting that they have been called by God to this task, and most particularly obedient to God himself when he speaks to us by in Sacred Scripture, through Holy Tradition, and the Church his Son our Saviour established – such obedience is necessary for our salvation. I pray that all here will not only seek that humility, but learn to live it out in obedience; and not as some chore, grudgingly done, but joyfully, knowing that it is part of the way that God helps his children find their way to him in heaven. In the Name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit; Amen.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

prayer diary Saturday 22 September 2018

Jesus said: 'Let these words sink into your ears: The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into human hands.’ 
Luke 9.44

Reflection
How often did Christ before his passion forewarn his disciples what he would endure in obedience to the will of the Father. So also we should learn to deny ourselves the empty pleasures of the world for the sake of the greater prize that awaits all those who are obedient to God's will.

Friday, September 21, 2018

prayer diary Friday 21 September 2018 ( St Matthew, day of discipline and self-denial)

As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth; and he said to him, ‘Follow me.’ And he got up and followed him. 
Matthew 9.9

Reflection
Christ calls us all no matter how deep in sin we are, for all are sinners and all have fallen short. But by answering that call we may become what we were created to be, saints in heaven.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

prayer diary Thursday 20 September 2018

‘John I beheaded; but who is this about whom I hear such things?’ 
Luke 9. 9

Reflection
Herod murdered John for speaking out against his transgressions of the moral law. The law did not change as a result of the king's evil actions. Such wicked deeds bring the perpetrator only self-condemnation - even as they bring the glorious crown of martyrdom to the one who has been faithful unto death.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Bleak fifty-six


I had a birthday last week. Fifty-six. Not a huge age by any means, but one that has always filled with a peculiar sense of foreboding.

Let me explain. That is the precise age my father was when I graduated from UCC at the end of 1983. I have a photograph taken that day. My mother and father are in it with me. They both look so proud and happy. Well, why wouldn't they? A university degree is a big deal; and frankly it was a much bigger deal thirty-five years ago than it is today.

My father looks well and strong in the picture. You'd never think he was a man in the final days of his working life. But he was. My dad worked in the Ford's plant on the Marina in Cork. A few weeks after the photo was taken, in January of 1984, it was announced without warning that it was to close. Eight-hundred men lost their jobs when it shut; eight-hundred families lost their wage packets. Times were tough in Ireland at that time and a lot of men never worked again. My dad was one of them. Jobs were scarce and with so many to chose from, employers preferred to opt for younger men.

My parents were luckier than most. Ford's gave their people good redundancy packages. They had no mortgage and their children were reared. My mother was a nurse and, although she hadn't worked since her children were small, she had kept up her qualifications and was able to get night work here and there. They had more than enough money to live on and to spare.

But there's more to life than having enough cash to pay the bills. My dad had left school at fourteen and worked every day of his life for forty-two years. And then one morning – nothing. No reason to get out of bed. The four walls to look at all day, trying to figure out a way to fill the hours until it was time for bed. And there's only so many times you can cut the grass, put up new shelves, and paint the ceilings. Pretty soon you realise you are just engaged in a more useful version of twiddling your thumbs.

Did it break my father's heart? No – he was stronger than that. But he would have rathered to be working, doing something useful and not make-work tasks he invented for himself to fill the hours.

Of course, having finally reached fifty-six myself, I suppose it is important to note an important difference between my father's situation and my own. He worked for a business; and all businesses ultimately fail. I on the other hand work, so to speak, for the Church … something that has been in existence for nearly two thousand years. And the usual thinking is that the Church will last until the end of times. And when that day comes we'll all have more to worry about, I think, then our jobs … whatever age we happen to be!

this article appears in today's issue of the Kilkenny Reporter



prayer diary Wednesday 19 September 2018

Jesus called the twelve together and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God. 
Luke 9. 1,2

Reflection:
Christ gave great authority to his apostles. This authority continues in the Church he established. This is why we proclaim in the Creed that his Church is 'One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic.'

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

prayer diary Tuesday 18 September 2018

But he said to them, ‘My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it.’ 
Luke 8. 21

Reflection
Jesus does not denigrate his mother with those words; rather he elevates us. He tells that by obedience we may achieve holiness, and being holy be found worthy to be numbered among the saints.

Monday, September 17, 2018

prayer diary Monday 17 September 2018

'The Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.’ 
Luke 9.22

Reflection:
Do not scorn suffering. Did not Christ suffer? Did not many great saints find the way to faith and holiness of life by painful paths? And did not Lord our say that those would follow him must, like him, take up their cross?

Saturday, September 15, 2018

prayer diary Saturday 15 September 2018

As he said this, Jesus called out, ‘Let anyone with ears to hear listen!’ 
Luke 8.8

Reflection
Jesus' words are for all and God has made us all with the ability to hear what he says. But some will not, for there are none so deaf as those who will not hear. Pray for them that they will listen while they still have time.

Friday, September 14, 2018

prayer diary Friday 14 September 2018 (day of discipline and self-denial)

The twelve were with him, as well as some women … and many others, who provided for them out of their resources. 
Luke 8. 1-3

Reflection:
It was a joy and a privilege for these disciples to support Christ and his apostles. Be ye joyful also in what you give to Christ's Church, for the Lord loves a cheerful giver.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

prayer diary Thursday 13 September 2018

Those who were at the table with him began to say among themselves, ‘Who is this who even forgives sins?’ 
 Luke 7.49

Reflection
God alone can forgive sins; therefore a claim to forgive sins is a claim to be God. Remember that when you hear people try to say Jesus was a great teacher who never said he was God.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Ireland of the welcomes?

So – Donald Trump is coming to Ireland. And from the furore in some circles you'd think he wasn't visiting but invading.

Now, I get it that Trump is not the most well-liked US president in living memory. Some of this, arguably, is down to the fact that the mainstream media hates him with a passion. That's understandable. He did, after all, bring their dreams crashing down, not to mention providing a rude wake-up call to the fact that they are not the ones actually ruling the world, by defeating 'their' candidate.

That said, he would try the patience of a saint. Even leaving individual policy decisions aside, the man can be extremely irritating. For my own part, for example, I hate his way of conducting diplomacy via Twitter. If nothing else, his propensity for hitting buttons, apparently without thinking things through in advance, is deeply troubling. It especially does not bode well if we were ever on the threshold of a nuclear war. And his denigration of John McCain's war record during his election campaign (may he rest in peace), a man who suffered greatly for his country did not sit well with me. I am an old soldier myself and it makes my blood boil when someone who not only never wore the uniform but was probably at his tailors when he should have been at boot camp takes petty pot-shots at a true hero.

So I'd be just as happy if he never came. But he is coming. Because he was invited. We invited him – not just once, but twice. Enda Kenny invited him; and then Leo Varadkar went and did it again. They did so on our behalf. And invited guests must be treated with courtesy. But listening to some on radio and television – a few of them government ministers, no less – it sounds like they are hoping to bring out the same kinds of crowds who went to see the pope for the sake of roaring abuse at the man.

No doubt those trying to get a mob going are thinking what does it matter? It's only Trump – sure all the world hates him. But here's the problem. It's one thing if someone barges into your house uninvited and you are rude to him. It's another thing entirely if you ask him round and then start giving him a rash of abuse. And that's what is shaping up to be the case with the Trump visit.

And really it doesn't matter if you think he deserves it. Trump already knows what those who don't like him think. Nothing new will be said by hoards of protesters. But it will be said in a new context – the context of an invited guest being roundly abused by his hosts. Context says a lot. And that particular context, while it says nothing at all about Trump, will say a lot about the people of Ireland. Things about us that I would think are best left unsaid. 

this article appears in today's issue of the Kilkenny Reporter



prayer diary Wednesday 12 September 2018

'For John the Baptist has come eating no bread and drinking no wine, and you say, “He has a demon”; the Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, “Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax-collectors and sinners!” 
Luke 7. 33,34

Reflection:
They condemned Christ and they condemned John, for there are always those who will seek to justify their own evil by reviling virtue. Be joyful then if they also hate you.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

prayer diary Tuesday 11 September 2018

When the Lord saw her, he had compassion for her and said to her, ‘Do not weep.’ 
Luke 7. 13

Reflection
The compassion Christ for the widow of Nain is the compassion he has for us all. He suffered and died for us so that we may have hope of eternal life.

Monday, September 10, 2018

prayer diary Monday 10 September 2018

'For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.' 
John 3.16

Reflection
What love God has for us, that he would become man and die on the Cross of us. Yet it was by that death that we are saved; that is the triumph of the Cross

Saturday, September 8, 2018

prayer diary Saturday 8 September 2018 (The birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary)

'For the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation.' 
Luke 1. 49, 50

Reflection
Even as she carried the Christ-child within her, our Lady spoke of the need to be 'God-fearing'; that we must be in awe at the holiness of God and obey his laws. For we cannot claim to have faith if we will not live as if we were faithful

Friday, September 7, 2018

prayer diary Friday 7 September 2018 (day of discipline and self-denial)

Jesus also told them a parable: ‘Can a blind person guide a blind person? Will not both fall into a pit?' 
Luke 6. 39

Reflection:
Our mission in life is to become a saint. This is no easy task. That is why God helps us with his Grace and established his Church to assist us. He also sends those who will teach us the faith; therefore, take care that those you choose as teachers are not blind guides who can not help you on your journey to heaven.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

prayer diary Thursday 6 September 2018

But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you.' 
Luke 6.27

Reflection
Christ commands that we must love those who do not love us. Love then is not some emotion which we cannot help. It is an act of will. We decide who it is we love.

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

This is Ireland, after all!


The truth of the phrase 'it's a small world' has been brought home to me with particular force a few times over the years. There was, for example, the time I was in a swimming pool in Illinois and got chatting to a man … and it turned out his brother had married a Cork-woman! We ended up having a long conversation about his favourite pub when he went over to visit, the Briar Rose on the Douglas Road, not too far from my parents' house. Or the time I was living on a tiny island in the Atlantic, one of the Azores, a place with not a huge population … but one of the other inhabitants was a young man from Kerry whose home-town was only a few miles from Newmarket in North Cork, where my parents were from and I had lived for a while as a child.

But if the world is small, then Ireland is even smaller. I am really starting to think that it doesn't matter where you go in this country – you are sure to bump into someone that you know. A few incidents this summer made that very clear to me.

The first was on Lough Derg in Donegal. A pretty remote place, all will agree. And yet who did I run into on my three days there? Only Fr Tom Lalor who used to be the parish priest over in Old Leighlin, just on the edge of my own parish.
'I'm amazed to see you here,' he said. Not as surprised as I am to see you, I thought but didn't say.

Not long after, I was 'doing' Croagh Patrick with one of my sons. We had just struggled to the top and were feeling mighty proud of ourselves when a young man came up to us and said 'well done' … and then reminded me that we had met before, at a talk I had given to a small group he belonged to in Dublin. And, indeed, I remembered that he and I had had a good long chat over the coffee after the talk.

The icing on the cake of all this was Mount Leinster a few days ago. My youngest son had done a 'bucket list' before the holidays of the things he'd like to do over the summer. The last remaining item was climb a mountain. So off we went on a quiet Monday afternoon. So quiet we saw less than a dozen others our whole time there. Half-way up, we met a man coming down. As we drew near, he gave me a big smile.
'Good afternoon, Patrick,' he called out. 'Fancy meeting you here! There's a grand view from the top today.' It was a priest I know based in Carlow town, enjoying some fresh air on his day off.

So, small world … and even smaller country. Something to keep in mind, I suppose, if you're ever tempted to get up some 'nonsense' while away from home!

this article appears in today's issue of the Kilkenny Reporter


prayer diary Wednesday 5 September 2018

‘Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man.' 
Luke 6. 22

Reflection:
Christ promises you will be blessed for what you suffer in his name. Why then do you fear to risk suffering for the faith?

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

prayer diary Tuesday 4 September 2018

'No good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit; for each tree is known by its own fruit.' 
Luke 6.43, 44

Reflection
Consider how many there are today who claim that what the Church teaches is evil. They say it so loudly and so often sometimes even the faithful may begin to wonder. At such times think of what Jesus said: if the tree is good, so then must its fruit be. The Church, founded by Christ, must be good; and so, therefore, what she teaches must also be good.

Monday, September 3, 2018

prayer diary Monday 3 September 2018

The scribes and the Pharisees watched him … so that they might find an accusation against him. Even though he knew what they were thinking, he said to the man who had the withered hand, ‘Come and stand here.’ 
Luke 6.7,8

Reflection
There have always been those lying in wait so that they might condemn the virtuous words and deeds of others. Christ by his example teaches us that we must not let such people stand between us and doing God's will.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

being clean - inside and out

May my words be in the Name of the Holy & Undivided Trinity: + Father, Son, & Holy Spirit. Amen.

I always think today's Gospel reading, where Jesus does not seem too fussed about washing one's hands, must bring a smile to the face of children. I know that as a father, when we sit down to a meal as a family, I am constantly having to remind my boys about the need to wash their hands before eating. Perhaps girls are different. And I imagine children gleefully telling their parents that they were paying attention that morning when the Gospel was read and that Jesus didn't think hand hygiene was all that important – in fact, he seems to frown on it – so that it is OK for them to tuck into their Sunday lunch with their own little paws as dirty as they like – it is the Christian thing to do!

Alas, for these mucky children – Jesus is not talking about hygiene here at all. In fact the knowledge that cleanliness and good-health are connected is quite a modern thing. As late as the mid-19th century, for example, doctors were quite happy to go from patient to patient without cleaning their hands in between, causing quite a number of deaths as a result, because at that time nobody knew about bacteria. Of course once they knew hygiene in hospitals became quite rigorous; and today even as a visitor you are expected to disinfect your hands before entering one.

No, the washing that is being talked about in our Gospel is ritual washing – notice that the Scribes and Pharisees do not accuse the disciples of eating with dirty hands but with defiled hands; that is hands that are ritually unclean or impure. It would have involved pouring water over one's hands and then rubbing them together – no soap involved and certainly no disinfectant or anti-bacterial liquids like we have today. It was a religious custom of the day designed to try and bring a religious significance to the meal and had nothing at all to do with hygiene.

Jesus responds to their complaints by repeating the words of the prophet Isaiah 'This people honours me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.' What our Lord is talking about is what is the point of following all the customs and rituals and seeming to be 'pure' on the outside when inside your heart is far from pure. To continue with the theme of hygiene: you could well imagine a doctor telling you that there is little point in engaging in a huge amount of personal hygiene – showering carefully, brushing and flossing your teeth after every meal, and thoroughly washing your hands before eating – if everything you put into your mouth is total rubbish – loads of sugary and deep-fat fried food, free from all taint of fruit and vegetables or anything healthy. A diet like that would do you more damage than the occasional set of dirty fingers; you might be clean on the inside, but inside you'd be full of all the rubbish that the fast-food industry can provide and the damage that it does.

And it is like that with religion too. There's not much point in following all the outside trappings of religion – in Jesus' day all the different kinds of ritual washings we read about in the Gospel; in our own time it might be going to Church every Sunday and Holy-day, fasting during Lent, saying our prayers morning and evening, and reading the Bible regularly – if our hearts are full of vile and sinful thoughts. Because the sins we commit begin first in our thoughts – before we steal, we think about wanting the object we steal; before we commit an act of violence, we are first angry with the other person in our hearts; before we say horrible things about another person, whether they are true or not, we think about saying them first; and anything else wrong that we do, we first imagine doing them. And even if after we have thought about these things in our hearts we do not later do them, that does not mean we have not done wrong. For Jesus teaches us elsewhere that it is as wrong to have such sinful thoughts in our hearts as it is to carry them out.

So what Jesus is teaching us here is that his followers are to have absolute purity of heart. Now that is not to say that we are therefore to neglect the practise of our religious duties; that would be like your doctor telling you that you didn't need to wash yourself or brush your teeth as long as you ate healthy food. No, the obligation to practise our faith remains the same. But with purity of heart, that practise becomes different. Will not the heart that no longer seethes with evil thoughts and desires partake more worthily and joyfully in the Body and Blood of of our Blessed Saviour in the Holy Eucharist? Will it not give more fervent and sincere worship to the God who created and sustains us? Will it not be more eager to pray and more alert and focussed as it does so, freed from the distractions and temptations of unholy thoughts? And will it not be filled with desire to hear and read his Holy Word as revealed to us in Sacred Scriptures, more open to the promptings of his Holy Spirit, more aware of how it shows his great love for us, and the purpose for which we were created, to be be with God in heaven for all eternity?

So, I am sorry to disappoint any of our young people here today who thought our Gospel today might serve as an excuse when they appear at the dinner table with hands looking like they had spent an hour pulling up turnips followed by another mucking out cow stalls followed by a third taking apart the engine of a tractor. But I hope they have learned something far more important – the Christian needs to be clean, in the sense of being pure, on the inside as well as the outside. And it something that I pray that everyone else here today has learned as well. Amen.

Saturday, September 1, 2018

prayer diary Saturday 1 September 2018

Then he said to them, ‘The Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath.’ 
Luke 6.5

Reflection
Who is Lord of the Sabbath but God himself? This then is a divine claim. And just as in this matter, so is all his teaching underpinned by his divine authority.

Friday, August 31, 2018

prayer diary Friday 31 August 2018 (day of discipline and self-denial)

Jesus said to them, ‘The days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast in those days.’ 
Luke 5. 35

Reflection:
Thus did our Lord declare the ancient practise of holy fasting a necessary part of the Christian life. For it is in denying ourselves those things that God allows us that we develop the discipline to resist those that he does not.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

prayer diary Thursday 30 August 2018

But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, ‘Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!’ 
Luke 5. 8

Reflection
All are sinners, yet Christ calls us all. But happy are those who, even as they are called, like St Peter, acknowledge before God their sinfulness; for in such humility begins the road to salvation.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Weather Wonders

Talking about the weather often falls into the category of 'small talk' – the topic of conversation when there is nothing else to talk about or you don't know the other person very well and need something to break the ice and get things going. It is therefore somewhat ironic that the weather has become an increasingly important item on most people's list of things that really need to be discussed of late. First there was the unusually cold and wet spring; then there was the very hot and dry summer. Whoever thought that water shortages would ever be a thing in Ireland? Ireland of all places!

All the experts agree that we have been abusing our planet – the only home in this life that we have – and we are suffering the consequences. The word 'we' is used, of course, rather broadly. Ireland isn't alone when it comes to climate changing behaviour … nor, arguably, are we the worst offenders. However, taking the view that others do more damage than we do or that there are so many people around the world wrecking the environment that our efforts to do better are meaningless would only compound the problem. Every little counts, whether to harm or to do good. And we are each responsible for our own actions. We may not be able to change the world. But we can change our own behaviour. And that is a good place to start.

Some, of course, argue that this whole global warming thing is bogus. Yes, weather patterns are changing, but it is nothing to do with people. Patterns have varied all through the ages ever before men existed. It had nothing to do with us then; it has nothing to do with us now.

Let's say, for the sake of argument, they are right. So what? It doesn't hurt us to change how we live a little so that we pollute less, even if it has no real impact on the environment. And if they are wrong, and we are doing real good, then so much the better.

One last thought. … how many, I wonder, prayed for an improvement to the weather during those miserable days of Spring? Did an equal number give thanks to God when things improved? How many then prayed for rain during our time of drought over the Summer as the grass in fields and gardens was burned brown? Did they all, when the heatwave at last broke and clouds filled with life-giving rain returned, get down on their knees to praise the Almighty? I cannot know, of course, if those who prayed for relief did or did not give thanks when their prayers were answered; but I may be forgiven, I trust, for hoping that the miracle of the ten lepers is not applicable … where of the ten who were cured, only one returned to throw himself at the feet of the Lord. Something to ponder, perhaps, as we head into the time of harvest.

this article appears in today's issue of the Kilkenny Reporter

prayer diary Wednesday 29 August 2018

But he said to them, ‘I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to the other cities also; for I was sent for this purpose.’ 
Luke 4.43

Reflection:
The Good News of Jesus Christ is for all people in all places of all times. And Jesus has commanded his Church to share that News. It is both our privilege and our duty to obey him in this and everything he asks of us.

Saturday, August 25, 2018

prayer diary Saturday 25 August 2018

'As for this worthless slave, throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.' 
Matthew 25. 30

Reflection
There are many who like to think that God does not care how we live. Yet Christ himself warned us that at the end we will all face judgement – a judgement that will not be pleasant for all.

Friday, August 24, 2018

prayer diary Friday 24 August 2018 (day of discipline and self-denial; St Bartholomew)

'The greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like one who serves.' 
Luke 22.26

Reflection 
Our Lord spoke these words to his Apostles, men whom he only moments later told would in his kingdom sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel. If they were commanded to live lives of humble service, must not do so also?

Thursday, August 23, 2018

prayer diary Thursday 23 August 2018

'Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.' 
Matthew 24. 44

Reflection
We know not when our Lord may call us to stand before him. It is for good reason, then, that great teachers, from the Fathers of the early Church to the great spiritual fathers of our own time, remind us to keep the thought of death always before us; for in that thought may lie the salvation of our soul.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Cry for us, Argentina


Argentina was in the news recently. The South American nation refused to allow an abortion regime along the lines of the one we voted in not long ago in Ireland. Argentina came under intense international pressure to follow the prevailing trend on this – just as we did. Argentina, however, resisted going with the flow – even though a raft-load of Irish politicians rowed in on their debate, pushing them to be lead by our example, to show the world that they were progressive like us. Thank God they didn't to bow to all the pressure.

Why did Argentina refuse to make this change when we did not? Well, perhaps people there don't care as much as what outsiders think about them as many in Ireland seem to. Maybe they simply don't pay attention to what the world 'elites' think and expect of them. The reason I say this is based on a conversation I once had with the late Fr Joe Campion, a man who had spent many decades in the Argentine, may God be good to him. We were in the vestry (or sacristy) of St Mary's in Castlecomer getting ready for the Christmas Carol service. Fr Joe was there to give the service it's usual ecumenical dimension.

One of the things that had been getting a lot of media attention at the time were the extraordinary remarks that the militant atheist Richard Dawkins had been making about the Catholic Church, who had said that raising a child Catholic was worse than being sexually abused (he really said this – it was December of 2012 – look it up if you don't believe me).

'Richard who?' he said without skipping a beat, a little furrow to his brow.

'Dawkins. Richard Dawkins.'
'I don't think I know the name.'
'Oh, I'm sure you must. Author of the 'God Delusion.' Big name in the militant atheist movement. Oxford scientist turned polemicist in the cause of showing the world how dangerous religion is.' There wasn't the slightest spark of dawning recognition in his eyes.

'No, I'm afraid I haven't heard of him.'

'Really? His book was a best seller. He's on TV and radio all the time.'
'His fame must never have made it to Argentina.'
'Oh dear. I don't think he'd like to hear that,' I said with a laugh.

We left the topic and got on with getting ready with the service. At the time I thought it was funny to think that the world-famous Richard Dawkins was only world-famous in those parts of the world that have heard of him! But now I wonder how much of the stuff that we are increasingly told is so important is irrelevant to the people there – and those other parts of the globe we often refer to condescendingly as 'undeveloped'?

The politically correct crowd are hopping mad that Argentina rejected abortion. But perhaps there's a lesson in their decision about not worrying about what others think. A lesson for others to heed.

this article appears in today's issue of the Kilkenny Reporter