Saturday, June 30, 2018

prayer diary Saturday 30 June 2018

Jesus said 'Truly I tell you that this widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury.' 
Mark 12.43

Reflection
Of your weekly 'budget' of time and money, how much goes to the Lord? Is it only from what's 'left over', time that you don't miss? Or is it more; like the widow, everything that you have to live on?

Friday, June 29, 2018

prayer diary Friday 29 June 2018 (day of discipline & self-denial) St Peter

'Get thee behind me Satan!' 
Matthew 16.23

Reflection 
Even the holiest can become an unwitting agent of the powers of darkness. Be alert therefore, for as St Peter himself warns 'your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring line, looking for someone to devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith.'

Thursday, June 28, 2018

prayer diary Thursday 28 June 2018

(After the scribe had spoken publicly in support of Jesus' teaching) he said to him: 'You are not far from the kingdom of God.' 
Mark 12.34

Reflection
The more closely you align your heart and mind and soul to the will of God, the nearer you draw to him. This brings true happiness in this life; and in the next, eternal life.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

A Funeral in Muckalee

I was at a funeral in Muckalee last week. The man being buried was Father Martin Ryan. Most, I suppose, won't have heard of him. Although, of course, he'd have been 'world famous' in Muckalee, as the comedian Mel Brooks might have said. And world famous in the Philippines too. Fr Martin was a Columban missionary and spent over fifty years ministering in those islands. The good work he did there – God's work – is proven by the high esteem he's still held in by the people of that nation … something shown by the large group from the Philippine community in Ireland that made their way to pay their last respects in Muckalee.

I first came across Fr Martin when he was in the District Hospital in Castlecomer after he'd had his knee replaced sitting in a wheelchair as he was saying Mass for the other residents. There was something both beautiful and humbling in the scene. His knee had become infected after his operation, causing it to swell and cause him a quite a bit of pain. You'd imagine a man already well into his eighties and in such discomfort would have preferred to lie in his bed and take it easy. And yet there he was, elderly and frail though he was, bringing his fellow patients the sacraments of the Church.

We had some great chats during his time there. We talked about things like his time in the mission fields and how he had loved it and how, despite all his time away, Muckalee and the surrounding area had always remained in his heart and was the home he had wanted to return to. Naturally enough we talked also about things like prayer and his love of God. For all his physical limitations he radiated with a spiritual energy that made it both humbling and inspiring to be in his presence.

The full church on the day of his funeral was a testament to how well loved he was, how people had appreciated his many years of ministry to the people of God. His many years of service, his long decades of sacrifice and what I would call holy heroism, deserved such a tribute. And it is wonderful to see that, despite all cynicism that exists in the world today about religion, and all the bile that is spewed out by some about the Church, the people of Ireland still love their priests.

During the Mass people from the Philippines gathered around his coffin and sang the Our Father in their native language. They were joined by others who had ministered with him there. There was beauty in the moment, but sadness too because it is hard to believe that even a generation from now such a scene could be repeated. People love their priests but too few today can bring themselves to emulate the heroism of Fr Martin and those like him. But I was blessed, I think, to be there to witness it that day in Muckalee.

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















prayer diary Wednesday 27 June 2018

Jesus said: He is not God of the dead but of the living. 
Mark 12.27

Reflection
Eternal life is ours in Christ. Never forget to live your life in the knowledge that how we live our lives in this life determines our fate in the next.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

prayer diary Tuesday 26 June 2018

Render unto Caesar what is Caesar's; and unto God what is God's 
Mark 12. 17

Reflection
We fret if we are late with some trivial bill or how we will pay some new tax. Do we give even a fraction of the same concern over what it is that we owe to the God who created us and sustains us?

Monday, June 25, 2018

prayer diary Monday 25 June 2018

'Judge not, that you be not judged.' 
Matthew 7.1

Reflection
Judging the eternal destiny of any soul lies in the hands of God alone. That does not mean, however, that we should not warn people of the danger they face when they break God's law. Indeed, Scripture itself commands us to do so.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

why fear death?


May my words be in the name of the Holy and Undivided Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

When I was being interviewed for the Theological College, as part of the process to discern whether I would go forward for training for ordained ministry, one of the interviewers asked me an interesting question. He said 'What would your reaction be if you found out that you only had a short time to live?' Now as it happens I had had not long before had something of a health scare. A large and rather painful lump had appeared on my hand; I hadn't bumped it or suffered any injury to it that I was aware of. And, naturally enough, the first thought that pops into anyone's head under such circumstances is – what if it is cancer? And if it is cancer, then what are my chances of surviving this? It turned out not to be very serious. I had been overdoing the DIY and the lump on my hand was only what is called a ganglion – basically a kind of fluid filled cyst that disappeared on its own after a few weeks.

So as close-calls with death go it doesn't really compare with the one faced by the apostles in today's Gospel reading. They are caught in a sudden and violent storm in a small boat miles from shore on the Sea of Galilee. Many among them are fishermen who not long before had earned their living in these waters. They would have been very familiar with the sudden squalls that could come out of nowhere; and they better than anyone would have known how dangerous they could be. So if they felt their lives were in danger that day – that at any moment they might day – then we have to accept their expert testimony as to how serious the risks they faced were.

Christ's response to their terror is therefore interesting indeed. He rebukes them for their lack of faith. What does he mean by this? It might mean that their fear indicates a lack of faith in him, because they thought they might die even though he was in the boat with them. And yet their response to the storm was to wake him – they had taken their very immediate problem straight to Christ – and their asking him did he not care that they were perishing seems indicative of their belief that he could do something about it.

No, it would seem that his rebuke his aimed at something else, something deeper – their fear of death itself. The message conveyed by our Lord's response is that the Christian should not fear physical death – because they know that this life is not all there is. There is something greater beyond it; and those who are strong in their faith need never fear death.

And if the Christian should not fear what we might call ordinary death – death that comes as part of the usual course of life such as disease, accident, or – hopefully for most of us – old age – much less should they fear death when it is suffered for the sake of the faith. Physical danger has always been a real consequence of faith. See, for example, our Old Testament reading today when King Saul tries to kill David, the Lord's anointed. He feared him because God was with him. And we read of many places elsewhere in Scripture where Saul attempts to bring about David's destruction, deliberately trying to thwart God's plan for Israel.

Yes, faith is a risky business and always has been. Look at the litany of ill treatment that St Paul gives us in our Epistle today – he suffered much for the sake of the Gospel during his life … and finally he died for it. In doing so he was simply walking in the footsteps of his master – and our master also – the one who suffered and died for our sins. And did so willingly. Long before Calvary he said that it would be so. And he also said that only those who would deny themselves and take up their own cross could follow him.

So to be a Christian is to take up the cross. But why should anyone wish to do so? Let me suggest three. The first is naked self interest. We wish to be saved and when this life ends spend eternity in heaven. This may not be the noblest of motives, but it is a practical one … and it is perhaps somewhere to begin for those who struggle with the demands of the faith. For I do not think that one lives the faith for even such a reason can long resist doing it for a higher one.

The next reason, which is a higher one, is out of love of God. He is the Father who created us, the Son who came into the world to save us, and the Holy Spirit who inspires us and leads us into all truth. Love is the natural response to the Holy and Undivided Trinity; and those who love God will wish to show that love by humble obedience to his commandments – no matter what the cost.
The third reason I will put forward is the love of others. We are called not only to love God but to love our neighbour. And to love someone is to want what is truly the best for them – which, it should go without saying, may not always be what they claim to want for themselves. And this 'true best' that we should will for all others is that they will at the end of their lives be welcomed into heaven. And as Christ has told us that he is the way, the truth, and the life, and that no one comes to the Father except through him then we must show our love for them by doing all we can to bring them to Christ. It is not an easy task; the world, the flesh, and the devil will do more than resist, they will fight against us tooth and nail. But we have Christ on our side. If we suffer we suffer in a good cause; and we die then we receive a martyr's crown and the reward of eternal life.

But waiting on a diagnosis for the little health scare I mentioned earlier had given me some time to reflect on the possibility that I might be facing the end. So when the interviewer asked the question how I thought I would respond in such a situation, my honest response to that was that I was OK with that; this life comes to an end sooner or later … and what really matters is that you die in a state of grace so that you can return to the One Who made you. The interviewer must have been satisfied with my answer; had he not been I suppose I would not be standing before you today. But it is something I truly believe: death is not to be feared; the only thing we should ever fear is that after this life we do not gain the prize that Christ died that we might have – eternal life in heaven. And so I end with the prayer that, by faith, you will nothing fear, and that by faith you will live forever with God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

prayer diary Saturday 23 June 2018

'The day will come when the bridegroom is taken from them, and then they will fast.' 
Matthew 9.15

Reflection
Fasting, along with many traditional penitential practices, have gone somewhat out of favour. Yet we know from Sacred Scripture that they were recommended by Christ himself. Should not then we, who call ourselves his followers, follow his teaching as much concerning this as we do with all other matters?

Friday, June 22, 2018

prayer diary Friday 22 June 2018 (day of discipline & self-denial)

'For I have come to call not the righteous, but sinners.' 
Matthew 9. 13

Reflection
And we know, of course, that Christ came to call all people to himself; for all indeed are sinners. But woe onto those who think they are without sin; for in that way they reject Christ's mercy and his promise of eternal life.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

prayer diary Thursday 21 June 2018

When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic 'take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.' 
Matthew 9. 2

Reflection
We all remember that Jesus told the man to take up his mat and walk; how many remember that he did so that he might display to the world he had the authority to forgive sins? For that was why he came, to save us from our sins. Do not deceive yourself, and thereby reject Christ, by believing you have no sins to be forgiven of.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Father's Day


I got something of a surprise Father's Day gift this year. I was rooting through a drawer looking for something and I came across a small box. It had a few old tie-clips and things of my dad's in it – stuff my sister couldn't bring herself to throw away when she was clearing out the house but didn't want either. Her solution was to give it it to me! I didn't really want it either but, like her, I couldn't bring myself to dump it.

It sat in a drawer, forgotten until the other day. Looking through it, I noticed again something in the box that had always struck me as rather odd – what looked like a small piece of brass pipe-fitting of some sort. I had always wondered why my dad had it in with what was essentially jewellery. But the light must have been better that day, because it suddenly looked different. I picked it up and looked at it more closely. And realised that it wasn't brass, but discoloured silver. A little tingle ran down my spine. Because as far as I knew my dad had only ever owned one silver ring in his life. And I had seen him make it.

You see, years ago when I was about ten, I remember my dad explaining to me about how you could make a ring out of a shilling, provided it was one of the old ones that had a high silver content. Apparently someone had once shown him how to do it. The conversation must have put a little bee in his bonnet about it, because for weeks after you'd see him examining his change, looking for a really old shilling. Finally he found one. And then he began.

First he hammered it flat until he had a thin, smooth disc. With a metal punch he cut a hole in the middle, so that he had what was essentially a washer made out of silver. And then the work really started. He threaded it over an iron spike. For an hour here and an hour there after work he patiently tapped at it, gently folding it down upon itself. You couldn't rush it, he explained. If you did, it would crack and be ruined. Finally, after weeks, maybe months, he was finished. A shilling had been transformed into a shining band of silver.

I'd always wondered what had happened to it. I couldn't believe that I might actually be holding it in my hands after all these years. I took it to a friend, Dani who has a jewellery shop, Artists by Night, in the Estate Yard in 'Comer. And as far as he could tell it was what you'd expect if it had been made from a coin.

That was all the confirmation I needed. It couldn't be anything other than the ring I had watched my father make. We polished it and trembling with excitement I put it on. A Father's Day gift to me – from my father.

published in the Kilkenny Reporter, 20 June 2018 

prayer diary Wednesday 20 June 2018

Thomas answered him 'My Lord and my God.' 
John 20.28

Reflection
the phrase 'doubting Thomas' has entered indelibly into common parlance. Yet this is the same man who was the first to clearly and unambiguously recognise and declare the divinity of Christ. We who walk the path he first trod should daily give thanks for his inspired witness to the truth of whom Christ is.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

prayer diary Tuesday 19 June 2018

And Jesus said to them 'why are you afraid, you of little faith?' Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a dead calm.
Matthew 8. 26

Reflection 
Death comes to us all. But for those who put their faith in Christ, there is nothing to fear in this world.

Monday, June 18, 2018

prayer diary Monday 18 June 2018

'Foxes have holes, the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.' 
Matthew 8. 20

Reflection 
The material things of this world matter little. All that matters is following Christ.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

A sermon for Father's Day


May my words be in the name of the Holy and Undivided Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Today, as I am sure you all know, is Father's Day. It is a kind of an 'invented celebration' … thought up to be a sort of male equivalent of Mother's Day … no doubt in the interest of some notion of equality … and, perhaps, more importantly very likely in the interest of selling more greeting cards and all kinds of consumer goods as presents for dads. As a father myself I know that dads all over the country today are getting gifts of things that they don't really need … the real gift being the joy of seeing the excitement on a child's face as he or she waits for their dad to unwrap the present that they got for them … It wasn't really 'a thing' as I was growing up, so I don't really have any memories of it … but I do, of course, have memories of giving gifts to my father.

One particular present was a small wooden box I had made. To say 'I had made' is not perhaps particularly accurate. I received a great deal of assistance from my father in its construction. When I was around ten I had gotten a carpentry set for Christmas and in teaching me how to use it my dad had helped me mark out a series of small squares on a sheet of sheet of half-inch ply, using a the carpenters square to make sure the angles were right, then cut them out using the saw, and then nail them together with panel pins. The result was a small, open box without a lid … which I then proudly gave my father as a gift for him to put things in in the garage … and he accepted it with great solemnity, put it on a shelf, and used it to store old nails and screws.

Giving gifts to our fathers, whatever the day, is a great joy … but of course it should be noted that the creation of Father's Day as a counter-part to Mother's Day has a certain false equivalence to it. Because Mother's Day, or more properly mothering Sunday, as I am sure you are all aware had nothing to do with our natural mothers, but rather had to do with our Mother the Church … the idea of the Church as our mother is an ancient one … St Cyprian of Carthage said in the third century 'no one can have God has Father who does not have the Church as Mother' … and the origins of Mothering Sunday goes back to the idea of gathering in the local cathedral, the mother church of the diocese, on the fourth Sunday in Lent … or at the very least trying to get back to your home parish on that Sunday if you lived away.

So there is a religious dimension to Mother's Day, at least in how it came about, that does not exist for Father's Day. And that, I think, is a pity; for just as the idealisation of motherhood that occurs on Mother's Day can help us better understand the role of God's Church in his plan for us in Salvation; so too it would be helpful to us all indeed to have day set aside when we thought particularly about what it means for us to have God as our Father.

There are, of course, bad fathers; fathers who are not there, or who are but might as well not be for all the attention they pay to their children, or worse, those who are cruel and it would have been better if they were not there. But let us not think of such as them today – let us consider good fathers and what is so very special about the love of such a man for his children. He is, it should go without saying, both a provider and a protector, and also a teacher of his children both in his words and by the example of his life; but what is most important about the love of a good father is that he loves his children not for what they are, but who they are. The world may care about appearance and achievement, the world may care whether someone is clever, or witty, or rich. But your father loves you simply because you are his child. Whatever your faults – and a good father knows his child has many – still he loves you.

But for even the best father there is much he does not know about his child. God, on the other hand, knows us perfectly. But as we read in the Old Testament, when the prophet Samuel is called to select the one who will replace King Saul, the Lord does not look upon someone's external appearance, but on the heart. He knows everything we do, even those things done in private when we think no one can see; he hears everything we say, even the cruel things we say in private to others with no one else to hear; and he knows our every thought, even those dark ones we have behind the mask we present to the world, our worst and secret thoughts that would shame us deeply if they somehow were to become known to others. He even knows those wrongs we have done to others, things that we and perhaps even they have long forgotten, things that may for some reason float to the top of our memory, things we may regard with some horror and cause to think to ourselves 'could I really have done such a thing?'

Our Father in heaven knows all these thoughts, words, and deeds – and he loves us anyway. And he will forgive us them all if only we will truly repent, with a firm commitment to amending our lives. There is no greater sorrow for a good father than for a child to turn his back on him; and no greater joy than when that child returns to his bosom. And for our Father in heaven the sorrow that comes from a child who rejects him can be infinitely greater; for some of those children will be lost to him not just for some years, or even a lifetime, but unto all eternity.

After my father died and we were clearing out his garage I found that box still there, sitting on a shelf, still with old nails and screws in it. He had kept it and used it for 40 years or more. And it would be nice to think that every time he took it down it brought a little smile to his face as he remembered it had been a gift from his small son. This Father's Day, it would be good to think of the joy we can bring God our Father through sincere repentance and conversion of heart. As his Son who came into the world to save us from our sins tells us in St Luke's Gospel, there is greater rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who have no need of repentance. I pray that we will all, this day, and every day, give our Father the gift of our repentance … not only because of the joy it brings him, but because it is a gift that gives the giver far more in return … the chance of being with our Father in heaven and sharing in his joy for all eternity. Amen.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

prayer diary Saturday 16 June 2018

(Jesus said): 'The day will come when the bridegroom is taken from them, and then they will fast.' 
Matthew 9.15

Reflection
Fasting, along with many traditional penitential practices, have gone somewhat out of favour. Yet we know from Sacred Scripture that they were recommended by Christ himself. Should not then we, who call ourselves his followers, follow his teaching as much concerning this as we do with all other matters?

Friday, June 15, 2018

Mother Cabrini


For as long as I can remember my late father – may God be good to him - wore a religious medal on a chain around his neck. Every night before he went to bed he took it off, pressed it to his lips, and then laid it on the night-stand. And every morning he took it up, venerated it once more by touching it to his lips and put it back on again. It depicted the face of a woman, so I presumed it was of our Lady. It was only when my father was well advanced in his Alzheimer's that I took a closer look one day. I realised then that it wasn't the Blessed Virgin, as it showed an elderly woman in religious habit. I turned it over. There was an inscription on the back. And it said that the face belonged to St
Frances X Cabrini, the first American saint.

Now, I had never heard of her so I had to look her up online. She was a nun from Italy who had been sent to America to help the many Italian immigrants who were struggling to make a life for themselves in a new country at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th centuries. The website showed that she had a shrine in New York city where her body lies beneath an altar, encased in a glass coffin. Seeing the images of her coffin online came as a bit of a shock as I realised I had been there. One of the abiding memories of my childhood is going for a walk with my father one day when I was four and being taken to a church where a lady lay beneath the altar.

At this point I suppose I should mention that when I was a child we lived in New York. My parents did what many Irish immigrants did back in the 50s and 60s – they went to America when times were tough, married and began a family, and then returned home when things picked up. I checked the address of the shrine. And sure enough it was only a short walk from where we had lived.

I have no idea why my father was so devoted to this saint that he wore a medal of her for over fifty years. By the time it occurred to me to ask he could not answer. But as I remember standing before that glass case, I can see my father's lips moving. I know he is explaining to me why he has brought me here. But I cannot hear the words. The answer to my question of his devotion stands at the edge of memory, tantalisingly close; but I can not reach it.


Perhaps I one day will. Until then I have the comforting thought that it was indeed something he wanted to share with me. And I hope I will some day get the answer. Not in this life, of course; but in the next. 

published in the Kilkenny Reporter, 13 June 2018 

prayer diary Friday 15 June 2018 (day of discipline & self-denial)

'For I have come to call not the righteous, but sinners.' 
Matthew 9. 13

Reflection
And we know, of course, that Christ came to call all people to himself; for all indeed are sinners. But woe onto those who think they are without sin; for in that way they reject Christ's mercy and his promise of eternal life.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

prayer diary Thursday 14 June 2018

When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic 'take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.' 
Matthew 9. 2

Reflection 
We all remember that Jesus told the man to take up his mat and walk; how many remember that he did so that he might display to the world he had the authority to forgive sins? For that was why he came, to save us from our sins. Do not deceive yourself, and thereby reject Christ, by believing you have no sins to be forgiven of.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

prayer diary Wednesday 13 June 2018

Thomas answered him 'My Lord and my God.' 
John 20.28

Reflection
The phrase 'doubting Thomas' has entered indelibly into common parlance. Yet this is the same man who was the first to clearly and unambiguously recognise and declare the divinity of Christ. We who walk the path he first trod should daily give thanks for his inspired witness to the truth of whom Christ is.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

prayer diary Tuesday 12 June 2018

And Jesus said to them 'why are you afraid, you of little faith?' Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a dead calm.' 
Matthew 8. 26

Reflection 
Death comes to us all. But for those who put their faith in Christ, there is nothing to fear in this world.

Monday, June 11, 2018

prayer diary Monday 11 June 2018 (St Barnabas)

'This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.' 
John 15. 12,13

Reflection
Christ died for our sins. We therefore, if we are to be like him, must be willing to lay down our own lives in order to lead others to him and away from their sins.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

all the cool kids are doing it, why can't we?


May my words be in the name of the Holy and Undivided Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

As a child I often used to spend holidays and weekends with my grandparents or aunt and uncle on their farms in Newmarket in North Cork. One summer, when I was about eight or nine, I was staying with my aunt and uncle; it was glorious sunny weather, much like that we have had so much of recently. As I was walking past the door of the farmhouse I heard a fierce rattling coming from it. I knew at once what was happening; the door, an old plank one, covered with many layers of brown emulsion paint, had one of those old-fashioned drop latches … and all during the holiday I had noticed it was sticking … sometimes you could spend a minute or more struggling with it trying to get out of the house … but for some reason when it was sticking it was much easier to open it from outside. I knew my aunt was alone in the house, so I guessed immediately that she was stuck inside trying to get out. 

I rushed over to help; and in a moment I had the door open. I stood there beaming as my aunt emerged red-faced from her exertions and blinking in the sudden glare of the sunlight.
I waited expectantly for the big 'thank you' that I was sure I was about to receive for coming to her aid. It didn't come. Instead my aunt misread the situation completely. Seeing me standing there with a big smile on my face she jumped to the wrong conclusion:

'How dare you hold that door closed while I was trying to get out!' she shouted. And instead of a 'thank you' I got an almighty slap across the face. And off I went, roaring crying, not so much because of the slap, which children were well enough used to in those days, but because of the injustice of it all – I'd been punished for doing something nice.

It is one of the hard truths of the world that often those who are trying to do good are accused instead of doing wrong … and are sometimes even punished for it, their good deeds treated as crimes. We see this happening to our Lord today. He has been casting out unclean spirits – demons – and the scribes say that he is doing so not by the power of God but by the power of Beelzebul – essentially Satan. He is doing not just good, but great good and he is accused of doing evil – that he wants to trick people into thinking he has been sent by God by pretending to cast out demons while being in league with the devil all along. And we know, of course, that his enemies will not limit themselves to accusations. In last week's Gospel we saw them being their conspiracy to bring about his destruction … and, as history records, when the chance presents itself to do so they do not hesitate and have him condemned to death and nailed to a cross to die.

The irony of accusing Christ of being a minion of Satan is, I hope, evident to all – for it was to save the world from the effects of the evil wrought by the devil when he tempted our first parents to sin and brought about the Fall that our Lord came into the world. But it is, of course, as a result of the Fall that mankind has its sad tendency to prefer its own sinful desires over the will of God. We have a good example of this in our Old Testament reading today. The people have decided that they want a king to rule over them like all the other nations. The prophet Samuel is appalled; there is only one true king who is lord over his chosen people – God himself. And he warns the people against their desires … and warns them, I hope you noted, with words sent to them by God himself. And yet they persist in asking for a king. They desire to be like all other nations – pagan nations who follow false gods, and sacrifice their children to Molech, a demon whose name in Hebrew has the same root as that for king – Melek – is too strong for them to resist.

The temptation to follow the example of other nations in their sinful ways is one that is not limited to ancient days. How often do we hear those arguing we should move away from our traditional values pointing to what goes on in other countries. It is the 'every one else is doing it, why can't we' argument … the type of logic we used as children when we wanted to do something and our mothers told us 'no' … and if your mothers were anything like mine you were probably told as well 'if everyone else jumped off a bridge would you want to do that too?'

The idea about mindlessly following the behaviour of others without considering rationally the merits of what they are doing as being like jumping off a bridge has always struck me as apt. Failing to logically think about any behaviour before engaging in it obviously can lead us into physical danger. And failing to consider the moral implications of any behaviour can lead us into spiritual danger. All the cool kids are smoking risks lung cancer and heart disease. All the cool kids are going to a house party where the parents are away and the drink will be flowing risks not only drunkenness but debauchery.

And, of course, just as the young people who not only refuse to bow to peer pressure but actually dare to name what the cool kids are doing for what it is – childish, stupid, and dangerous – are called names, excluded, and sometimes physically bullied, so too Christians face the wrath of the world when they stand up for what is right. We are called by God to name evil for what it is … and our thanks is often to be called evil ourselves. And that is painful … just as it was painful when my aunt slapped me when I was trying to help her. 

My poor aunt, of course, almost at once realised her mistake and was very upset. And I got a very fulsome apology indeed … along with a large dish of ice-cream and a great many chocolate biscuits! We can not, of course, expect those who abuse and misuse for our faith to apologise – though, of course, we must pray always that they will repent and return to God – but Christians should know that the reward for their fidelity comes not in this life but the next. For we have only one king whose throne is in heaven … and those who remain faithful to him to the last will one day, with his grace, be filled with the joy of bowing before him and singing his praises into all eternity – a joy that I pray will be experienced by all here, in the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit … Amen.

Saturday, June 9, 2018

prayer diary Saturday 9 June 2018

'Let your word be “Yes, Yes” or “No, No”; anything more than this comes from the evil one.' 
Matthew 5. 37

Reflection:
There are, of course, times when it is necessary to take an oath. But in general, an honourable man adds nothing by calling on God when he gives his word; and a dishonourable one mocks God by the dishonest invocation of his name.

Friday, June 8, 2018

prayer diary Friday 8 June 2018

‘You have heard that it was said, “You shall not commit adultery.” But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.' 
Matthew 5. 27,28

Reflection
Our Lord makes it clear that we may sin in thought as well as in deed. Guard your thoughts therefore lest you become like the 'whited sepulchres ' Christ condemned – appearing pure on the outside, but inside are foul indeed.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

prayer diary Thursday 7 June 2018

'This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.' 
John 15. 12,13

Reflection
Christ died for our sins. We therefore, if we are to be like him, must be willing to lay down our own lives in order to lead others to him and away from their sins.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

The day after

I was surprised when I woke to overcast skies on May 26th . There had been a red sky the night before, something that never once in my experience had failed to produce sunshine the following day. And then I remembered the exit polls from the evening before, predicting Ireland had voted two to one to repeal the Eighth. The grey skies seemed more fitting. I was tempted to wonder if it was a sign that heaven was frowning down upon us … but decided that might be a bit fanciful.

I had a month's mind of a relative to go to in Portlaoise that morning. As I drove along from 'Comer, going by way of the Swan and Timahoe, I wondered if the exit polls could be mistaken. I switched on the radio. Counting had begun. And as boxes all over the country were opened they showed it was no mistake. It was going to be a landslide.

The Gospel at Mass was from St Mark. The disciples were trying to stop people from bringing children to our Lord so that he might bless them. And Jesus was displeased and said to them 'Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not; for of such is the Kingdom of God.' And, of course, given the day that was in it hearing those words wrenched at my heart. You really can't make this sort of thing up.

In the car afterwards I switched the radio back on. Some of the count centres had reached the final tally and announced that those constituencies had voted overwhelmingly in favour of repeal. The cheers from the crowds in the background were like a punch in the gut. I know they weren't cheering abortion; they were expressing their delight and conviction that Ireland was now a better place. But if this wasn't the result you wanted or expected, if you didn't believe this heralded a better future, then it was hard not to see it the other way.

The big vote in favour of repeal had the radio commentators claiming it gave a clear mandate to the government to introduce the legislation they had been talking about, abortion on demand up to 12 weeks. I'm not so sure. One elderly woman I was talking to told me she had voted 'yes' so that women could have a termination when they really needed one, but she didn't want it abused for abortions when both the mother and baby were fine.
'That would be sinful,' she said.

So maybe the government will have to tone down the legislation. Things may not be not be as bleak as they first seemed. But then again back home as I sat down to my dinner, suddenly the skies opened and the rain began to pour down.

'Where did that come from?' said my wife. 'That wasn't in the forecast.'

Perhaps they are tears from heaven, I thought. But I said nothing. I didn't want to seem too fanciful.

published in the Kilkenny Reporter, 6 June 2018 

prayer diary Wednesday 6 June 2018

‘Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfil.' 
Matthew 5.17

Reflection
Part of Christ's fulfilment of the law was that things such as the ceremonial law, for example things relating to sacrifice in the temple, are now redundant. But as our Lord makes clear again and again in the Gospels the moral law, as is encapsulated in the Ten Commandments, remained in effect for all the ages.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

prayer diary Tuesday 5 June 2018

'Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.' 
John 12.25

Reflection
This life and the things of it will pass. Do not get so caught up in what is temporary that by doing so you miss out on what is eternal.

Monday, June 4, 2018

prayer diary Monday 4 June 2018

'Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.' 
Matthew 5.10

Reflection
This verse from the Beatitudes may seem like a reminder from a by-gone age. Yet more Christians were martyred in the 20th century than in all those that went before; and today thousands more die for the faith each year. Giving faithful witness unto death is as real today as it ever was. Is it something that you would be willing to do?

Sunday, June 3, 2018

to save life or to kill?


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

A few nights ago there was great excitement in the Rectory – a bat had made its way into one of the bedrooms and was circling the room endlessly trying to find a way out. We opened the windows as fully as possible, thinking that its echo location would then allow it to find the exit. But no, for some reason it still couldn’t get out. So my son Jeremiah went and got a shrimping net and managed to gently scoop it out of the air and then take it to the window where, to the delight of us all, it flew off into the night.

We spent around 10 or 15 minutes trying to get the little creature safely out of the house. Some might say – why bother? It’s only a bat. And true, it was only a small wild animal and it would have been easier and quicker to take a tennis racket, smash it out of the air, and throw its broken body out the window for the cats to feed upon. Some might regard that as the most sensible option. Others, I think, would be horrified at the idea. Some because bats are a protected species and it is illegal to kill them or do them harm. Others because even the smallest creatures are precious; their lives come from God and to take the life of one needlessly, for the sake of convenience, is wrong.

The latter, I would suggest, is the correct view. As our Lord told us, even a sparrow does not fall to the ground unheeded by God. And of course how much more sacred is the life of a human being. As we hear in our Psalm: ‘You yourself created my inmost parts; •  you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I thank you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.’ This is why we hear Jesus say in our Gospel: ‘Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the sabbath, to save life or to kill?’ His question is, of course, rhetorical. Human life is sacred; and when it comes to protecting it things like custom, or convenience, or even cost must be set aside. This is why he then stretches out his hand and heals the man. The Sabbath is important; indeed it is sacred for we are commanded from God that it be a day of rest and worship. But that sacredness can not be used as an excuse not to help others; and so when something touching on the sacredness of human life arises, such as helping the sick or saving a life, then even the Sabbath rest must set aside temporarily.

Yes, our lives are precious. Yet even that must be in seen in the proper context. For we have not been given our lives so that we spend our time upon the earth in ease and comfort. The wise fool thought that way – eat, drink, and be merry, he said. And how great was his downfall, for that very night his soul was required of him … and rich though he was upon this earth he had neglected to lay up any treasure in heaven. And our Lord, in the telling of that parable, leaves us in no doubt that the result was the loss of his eternal reward in heaven.

Yes, God gave us our lives and they are precious – but, as it says in the advertisements, terms and conditions apply. And we, if we are not to be like the rich fool, must always remember that we are to keep God’s commandments in this life if we are to be with him in the next. And how foolish we would be to think that God is not watching or God does not care. The story we have of the prophet Eli from the Old Testament today is a good illustration of this. Old Eli was a good man, indeed a holy man, for the most part. But his sons did great evil. They blasphemed God with their lives and with their lips. And Eli knew all that they did; and he did not act to stop them. I am sure all here can feel for his difficulty. It is hard to challenge those close to us in their in their sins. But Eli had a duty to so; as their father, as a prophet in the land, and simply as another human being. And God held him to account for his inaction.

The fate of Eli should serve to remind us of the dangers of a similar inaction on our own parts. Sometimes we see evil in the world; and we say and do nothing. We think that it is none of our business, it is their right to do as they please. And they do indeed have free will – they may choose to sin if they wish. But we have a duty to name what they do as sin and not make ourselves accomplices in their sins by letting them think we approve by our silence. Worse, sometimes we let our emotions take control of us and we fall prey to the sad stories people tell. They tearfully tell us how hard it would be for them to obey God’s law in this matter or the other … and tell us how they are sure that they can, in good conscience, act as they do for they know that God is forgiving … and so our hearts are moved and we say, in a parody of what our Lord said to the woman taken in adultery, go and sin some more.
Compassion is good; it is a noble virtue. But when in the name of compassion we put our arms around someone and say that God does not see, or if he does he does not care that his laws are broken, then it is a false compassion. Christ nowhere tells us in scripture that sin is not sin provided we are faced with a difficult situation and so neither must we. For God, we must remember, held both Eli and his sons to account. Both the sinners and the one who did nothing to stop them continuing in their sins were judged by God and found wanting.

It is good and pleasing to God to show kindness to the smallest and most vulnerable members of his creation. And given the sacredness of every human life, each one created by God, it is even more pleasing to him to help those in need, particularly when it comes to healing the sick and acting to protect all those whose lives may be in danger. But trying to do our very best to ensure that all we meet love God and show that love by obeying his commandments – that above all is what is pleasing to God. For it in that way that souls will be saved; something that we know is the dearest thing to the heart of God … for it is for that reason that he made us … and for that reason that he sent his Son into the world … so that all might be saved. And, of course, in helping others in this way we also help work out our own salvation in fear and trembling so that one day we may, with God’s grace, be welcomed into his eternal kingdom … something that I pray will be granted to all here: in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Friday, June 1, 2018

prayer diary Friday 1 June 2018

Jesus said, ‘David himself, by the Holy Spirit, declared, “The Lord said to my Lord, ‘Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet.” ' 
Mark 12. 36

Reflection
Thus Christ himself attests that the Holy Scriptures are divinely inspired. And if our Lord and Saviour tells us that they are the word of God, we must believe it to be so.