Saturday, September 27, 2014

26th Sunday Year A (Gospel: Matthew 21:28-32) For the forgiveness of sins

I am 16 years a priest this year.  It has been the greatest privilege of my life, although not an easy one, but by God’s grace I am still here.  Ever since I was ordained there is one line in the mass which always strikes me more than any other. It’s the line where the priest holds the chalice in his hands and he says, ‘This is the cup of my blood.  It will be shed for you and for all for the forgiveness of sins…’ The priest is repeating the words of Jesus at the last supper. That phrase is what explains the whole mass: ‘for the forgiveness of sins.’

We are used to the idea that Jesus becomes present in the form of bread and wine in each mass.  It is not something we understand, but we believe it.  And although we believe it, I think we can often forget the reason why.  This line of the mass is absolutely central to what it’s all about, the forgiveness of sins.  This is why God the Son took on human flesh and came into our world as a human being, to teach us about God, about what our life is about and to sacrifice himself for us, for the forgiveness of sins.

When you think about it, sin must be pretty serious and the consequences of it must be very serious, if God the Father allowed Jesus to take on human flesh and then come to such a bloody end.  What would cause God to do such a thing? The reason is the seriousness of sin and the fact that the human race was in danger of being lost through its own sinfulness.  What do we mean by being ‘lost’? It means we could no longer reach the happiness that God intended for us, which we call heaven. Can you imagine what it would be like if we believed there was no happiness after death, nothing to look forward to, nothing to give us hope? That is what sin meant. Eternal death.

The Jewish people found it almost impossible to accept the idea that God would become man anyway; the same with the Muslims.  In fact the Muslims consider the idea that God would become man blasphemy.  They say it is impossible.  So if God permitted this to happen there must have been a really serious reason for it.  There was, the forgiveness of sins.  We could not take away our own sins; God was the only one who could do this for us.  What would you not do for your own children if you thought they were about to ruin their own life and their possibility of happiness? I’m sure most parents would do just about anything.  This is what the Lord has done for us, his children.

In some ways we have lost a sense of what sin is and it really comes down to two things.  Either we have no idea of how much damage our sins can do to ourselves, or the mass, which is the sacrifice of Jesus to the Father, is meaningless, a total waste of time. 

When people come to me for confession, people frequently say, ‘It’s three months or three years since I was at confession, but I haven’t really sinned.’  I haven’t sinned.  They might as well say, ‘The mass isn’t necessary father.  Jesus was wasting his time.’  That is really what we are saying if we think we have no sins.

Obviously I am exaggerating to make a point, but I think you see what I’m getting at.  We have become used to sin, so used to it that it no longer occurs to us that there’s anything wrong with it.  The TV and cinema have made us dull to sin, because everything is seen as acceptable.  Yet if we read the teachings of Christ, the commandments of God, we hear something very different.  God tells us that it is wrong to kill, to steal, to commit adultery, to lie.  It is wrong to misuse the name of Jesus, to ignore God.  This is what God teaches us.  This is why we keep reading the Scriptures each week, to remind us of what God is teaching us, which is very different to what the world around us teaches us.

What is so important about confessing our sins is that it is a way of acknowledging that we are sinners and always in need of God’s mercy.  We confess whatever sins we can remember and these are like a representation of our sins, because we can never know them all, but that’s not important.  What is important is that we continually come before God asking for his mercy and thanking him for his mercy.

However, we have also come to see confession as unnecessary, or even a burden that the Church has told us we need.  It is not a burden, but rather one of the  beautiful gifts that God has given us to help us remember what He has done for us and to give us new courage, new strength.

Satan has managed to convince us that it is outrageous that the Church tells us we should confess to a priest.  Why should I have to confess to a priest, and a priest who is probably no better than I am?  I can just tell God I’m sorry myself. Yet it is God who gave us this extraordinary gift, so that we could be reconciled to him and so that we can be healed.

If we want to see less evil in the world and an improvement in the way our society is going, then we must begin by repenting ourselves. I have to begin with myself. We must be reconciled to God ourselves first and the way to do that is by confessing our sins.

The holy sacrifice of the mass is what happened on Calvary. Each time we celebrate it we become present to this extraordinary event where God the Son is offered to God the Father. It is God’s gift to us, so that we can be free from sin, so that we can reach the happiness that the Father wants for us. 
This is the chalice of my blood, which will be poured out for you and for many, for the forgiveness of sins.’

Saturday, September 20, 2014

25th Sunday Yr A (Gospel: Matthew 20:1-16) Seek the Lord while He is still to be found

An interesting thing is happening in the world at the moment.  A huge number of people are beginning to come back to their faith.  Young people are discovering their faith for the first time.  Not just beginning to go to mass again, but learning to pray and really trying to live their faith every day.  How do I know this?  Because I’ve seen it and know of many people that it has happened to.  There are friends of mine who are converting people at their work place, by the way they live and because of the zeal they have for the Lord Jesus.  There are prayer groups springing up all over the place, with people of all ages.

Why is this?  Because we are living in a time of grace, where God is giving us a chance to find him again.  Our Lay has appeared all over the world in the last century and is asking us, as her children, to come back to God, because the world is living as though God doesn’t exist, and we cannot live without God.

The Lord is aware of how lost we are, people young and old committing suicide because they feel they have nothing to live for.  Marriages breaking up because people don’t know where to turn to for help.  A friend of mine, a married man who came back to God several years ago, said to me recently that he would have separated by now only for the fact that he had become a Catholic.  In other words it was his faith that had given him the strength that he needed to keep going when things were difficult.  And now they are going fine.  We are not half as strong as we like to think we are.  And we are not half as independent as we like to think we are.  We are full of pride and slow to admit that we need help and men are usually worse than women this way.

I work a lot with the sick and dying and I am constantly amazed at how much people are consoled when they are sick, when the priest comes to visit them.  It seems to remind them that God hasn’t forgotten about them; and it reminds them of the more important things and so they don’t feel so alone.  God never forgets about any of us.  God is simply waiting for us.  Many people have forgotten about God, but God hasn’t forgotten about us.

No matter what stage we are at in our life, it is never to late to turn to God, even for the first time and to ask him for his help.  But pride prevents us a lot of the time.  We are too stubborn, and we say, ‘Oh I couldn’t begin to pray now, because I’ve never done it before, or because it’s not cool.  What would my friends think?’  What kind of an argument is that?  Who cares what your friends think.  They won’t be there when we are alone before God. 

Some time back I spoke to a man in the hospital who was very sick and he knew it, and I asked him if he would like to receive the sacrament of the sick.  And he began to cry and say that he couldn’t because he had stopped practicing a long time ago and it wouldn’t be right to start again now.  And I knew he wanted to, but he was too proud, too stubborn.  I felt sorry for him, but there was nothing I could do.  Pride is a terrible thing.

The Gospel today is a reminder that all of us have an equal chance, whether we have been walking the path of faith from the beginning of our lives or whether we turn to God at the last minute.  No one has any advantage over anyone else.  This story is an encouragement to us, to persevere and also to help others who are searching themselves.  The best way we teach others about our faith is by the way we live it, not by what we say.  When your children see you trying to live your faith, that teaches and encourages them.  It shows them that God is something real and an important part of what we are all about.

None of us knows what is going to happen tomorrow, we only have today; in fact we only have the present moment.  Right now the Lord is inviting us to begin again; to come closer to him and to remember what’s important. 

‘Seek the Lord while he is still to be found, call to him while he is still near.’

Saturday, September 13, 2014

The Triumph of the Cross (Gospel: 3:13-17) ‘…so that we may have eternal life’

There is a story told of some missionaries who went to a very remote part of the jungle in South America. There they set up a few small huts for living in and also a small chapel.  The local tribesmen were cautiously watching the new settlers from a distance. After a few days one of them got the courage to make his way into the chapel to see what was inside. After a few moments he ran out screaming because of what he saw: on the wall of the chapel there was the image of a man crucified.  What kind of horrible people were these settlers?

The image of the cross is a really horrible one.  It is the image of a man being tortured to death, but we have gotten used to it. We don’t see the gruesomeness of it any more. It is also the greatest symbol of God’s love for us, because it is the symbol of the ultimate sacrifice that God has made for us, so that we might have eternal life with God when we die.  The last line of today’s Gospel sums up what the Christian faith is about: ‘God loved the world so much that He gave his only Son so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life’ (John 3:17). …so that we might have eternal life.

I always think it is very sad when I hear of someone who believes that there is nothing after death.  Trying to face sickness and death must be very difficult if you believe there is nothing afterwards.  For me it would beg the question, ‘Then what is the purpose of our life?’ In one of his letters St. Paul puts it this way, ‘If our faith in Christ is for this life only, then of all people we are the most to be pitied’ (1 Cor 15:19). In other words, if we think our faith is about this life only, then we have completely missed the point. The core message of our faith is that Jesus died for us, so that our sins may be forgiven.  We say this in every mass at the end of the consecration: ‘This is the chalice of my Blood…which will be poured out for you and for many, for the forgiveness of sins.’  That means that we don’t have to live in fear of our sins, so long as we keep coming back to the Lord and asking him to forgive us: so that sins may be forgiven.  If we really believe this, it brings with it a great freedom, because we realize that our getting to heaven when we die does not depend on us being ‘good enough’, but rather our being open to what God has done for us.  Of course we continually repent and ask the Lord to forgive us our sins, but it is God himself who makes it possible for us to get to heaven through the death and resurrection of Jesus.  That is why the symbol of the cross is so powerful.  The demons are terrified of it because they know what it means.

Ever notice in movies when they show an exorcism, what does the priest always hold up? He holds up the crucifix and the person possessed squirms in front of it.  That is one thing that Hollywood got right. That is what happens, although that is generally in extreme cases, but it is real. Isn’t it interesting that this dreadful extremist group ISIS have crucified many Christians in an attempt to mock the Christian faith?  It goes to show you what evil is behind it.

If you don’t have a crucifix in your home, get one, get a priest to bless it and put it in a prominent place, so that whoever enters your home will see that you are a follower of Jesus and that you believe that eternal life has been won for you through the death and resurrection of Jesus on the cross.  When we die—and this goes for those who are not Christians too—we will immediately be aware of what Christ has done for us and then we will have the choice to accept or reject God.  That is what the second reading says.
At the name of Jesus
every knee should bend,
of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue confess that
Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

23rd Sunday Year A (Gospel: Matthew 18:15-20) Owe one another nothing except the debt of mutual love

A few years ago when I was working in a small rural parish, young man stopped me on the street and said, ‘Father, you know the way when you’re talking at mass on Sunday?’  I said, ‘Yes?’, ‘Well’, he said, ‘I think the only thing you should be telling us to do is that we should be loving each other, not about all the other stuff.’  And with that he just walked away.  He didn’t even give me a chance to respond to him.  Another man said something very similar to me at a wedding one time.  I was thinking afterwards about what he said, and of course in one way he is absolutely right.  The most important thing that we are asked to do, is to love one another.  The Lord said this was the most important commandment after loving God above everything.  ‘Love one another as I have loved you.’  One of the lines in the second reading says, ‘Owe one another nothing except the debt of mutual love.’

The difficult part is that we set out with great intentions but then people hurt us, or do us wrong, often right in our faces, and we find it so hard to forgive them.  And so we pull back, and we say, ‘Yes, I will love my neighbour, but only certain neighbours’!  Needless to mention that is not what the Lord meant.  Since just about all of us experience these kinds of hurts, what exactly does it mean to love your neighbour?

It means first of all that we tolerate the people we find difficult.  It doesn’t mean that we allow ourselves to be walked on, but it does mean that we show people respect, even if they don’t show us respect.  It also means that we don’t wish them evil.  We are asked to be prepared to forgive.  Now that is not easy, and the Lord knows that very well, but God doesn’t ask us to do what is impossible, so it must be possible.  What is key here is that our ability to do this comes from our relationship with God.  If we stay close to God in whatever way we know how, then this difficult command becomes possible.  It is never easy, but it is possible if we stay close to the Lord. 

Most of us expect God to bless what we do: our lives, our family, our work.  But we will not receive God’s blessing if we don’t make some effort to do what He asks of us, to love the people around us, to put up with them, to tolerate them.  So we must be careful if we find ourselves hating certain people we live with or work with, and then turning and asking God to help us.  We have to try to make an effort to love those around us and it is often the people closest to us who hurt us the most.

Loving people also means not being afraid to challenge them when what they are doing is wrong.  That’s what the Gospel presents us with.  If people are blatantly wrong we must challenge them to change.  That is also part of what it means to love someone.

What about some of the extremists such as ISIS that we are hearing about on TV, who are involved in such terrible evil? Surely we can’t be expected to love them too? Well, if to love means to pray for them that they will wake up to the evil they are doing and repent of it, then yes we are meant to pray for them too.  They are also people God created, even if they are very misguided and carrying out terrible atrocities in God’s name. Jesus forgave those who were killing him, while they were killing him, so we too are asked to pray even for those who carry out these terrible things, that they will change and repent of their ways.  God does not want them to be lost forever any more than He wants us to be lost forever and that is what awaits them if they continue on the path of evil.

So going back to what the young man said to me on the street.  Yes, I should be talking about our need to love each other, but this very ability to love others is something that comes from God, not from us.  God is the first and greatest lover.  The key to us being able to love the people around us is that we grow closer to the Lord.  We keep our sights on him, we continually receive the Eucharist and listen to the Scriptures, because that is the spiritual food we need to be able to live the way of Jesus.  If we only listen to the news and the world around us it is impossible, because it doesn’t nourish us.  Only the Lord can give us the strength to love those who are difficult and even those who persecute us.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

22nd Sunday Yr A (Gospel: Matthew 16:21-27) Unless you pick up your cross and follow me, you cannot be a follower of mine.

 Recently AT & T ran a series of commercials with Kindergarten children which were very cute.  They asked the children questions and just let them respond naturally.  In one of the commercials the children were asked, ‘Is it better to get what you want now instead of later?’  One little girl said, ‘You don’t want to wait to eat your raisins.’ When asked why not, she replied, ‘Because they’ll turn into grapes!’ The company was advertising the fact that with them you can get what you want straight away and you won’t have to wait.  Nothing strange about that, in fact it is what we are continually told through commercials. We should be able to have whatever we want right away, we shouldn’t have to make sacrifices for anything, or at least the absolute minimum.  Then we have today’s readings which take a very different view.

Did you ever think that Jesus would have called the first Pope, St. Peter, Satan?  It seems a bit extreme, doesn’t it?  In the context that Jesus used it, it doesn’t actually mean ‘the devil’, rather ‘enemy’.  But why was he calling St. Peter an enemy, when he was entrusting his Church to him?  Jesus was teaching the disciples that they must learn to think in a different way.  The way of Christ and the way of the world are different, radically different.  If we want to walk the path of Christianity and follow the way of Jesus, then it will cost us.  Make no mistake about it, it will cost us.

One of the difficulties we face is that we are continually told that we should and can have everything that we want.  ‘If you want something, get it.  And if you can’t get it, remove whatever is preventing you from getting it.’  ‘Have everything your way.’  That’s the teaching of the world.  And people listen to the world and that’s why there is so much corruption around us, because too many people are thinking of themselves only.

God gives us a choice when it comes to being Christian, and the choice is this: do you want to follow the way of Jesus Christ, or your own way?  The way of Christ is quite demanding and Jesus made it very clear that it was and that it will cost us. ‘If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself take up his cross and follow me.’  Ironically many people leave the Catholic Church to follow more demanding forms of religion because they feel that our faith is too easy.  That’s why many young people follow eastern religions.  They haven’t fully understood what our faith is about.

When Jesus referred to his future suffering, Peter said to Jesus, ‘Heaven preserve you Lord, this must not happen to you.’  Things had been going very nicely up to this point.  Jesus was working miracles and becoming very popular and more and more people were following him.  So the Apostles held privileged positions as well.  But now if Jesus was going to be tortured and put to death, that would ruin all that.  Lord you mustn’t let this happen, we like it the way things are, we don’t want pain and suffering and to be unpopular.  But Jesus says to him, ‘The way you think is not God’s way but man’s.’  It is the way of the world that we shouldn’t have to suffer or make sacrifices.

You could say that we have become spoiled Christians.  What do I mean?  We tend to do the things that we like and when it suits us.  We are happy to shop on Sundays because it suits us, even though it is directly breaking one of God’s commandments to us.  Many people don’t bother fasting for an hour before they receive Holy Communion, because it’s too much trouble.  We use the name of Jesus as a swear word, even though this is breaking one of God’s commandments as well.  And then people say that they haven’t sinned, even though this is why Jesus died, because we do sin.  But people say to me all the time, ‘Oh no, I haven’t any sins.’  Let me assure you as I say this, that I am as guilty as anyone else.

If we were to follow the more popular version of Christianity, then priests would be married, there would be women priests, we wouldn’t have to fast, we could teach divorce and contraception as the obvious solution to difficult problems, because these things suit us.  But that’s not what our faith is about.  Being a Catholic involves a certain way of life. It involves making sacrifices and doing things that don’t always suit us.  Going to mass on Sundays when we would rather be asleep or having coffee; confessing to God regularly that we have sinned.  Following his teaching as passed on by the Church and not just the bits that suit us.

Perhaps what is most important to mention is that although it is a difficult path it is also the path that leads to life.  That’s why Jesus didn’t give in to Peter and say, ‘You know, you’re right, your way is much better’.  God knows what it is that will lead us to life and that’s why He encourages us to persevere in the way that He asks us to follow rather than compromise.

I think it’s no harm to remind ourselves every so often, that the path to heaven is meant to involve sacrifice.  This life is the time when we are asked to put up with difficulties and make sacrifices.  Only in the next world will we be totally fulfilled.

Sometimes people ask me why I became a priest.  I always think that the first reading sums it up very well, where Jeremiah says, ‘You have seduced me Lord and I have let myself be seduced.’ And then he goes on to say, ‘I tried not to speak in God’s name, but it was as if there was a great fire welling up within me and I could not resist it.’  The desire to be married has always been there for me, but the call to priesthood was stronger.  It involves a lot of sacrifice, but I think married life involves even more sacrifice.  It is not something we should be afraid of, it is simply part of our path to heaven.

Let me finish with the words of St. Paul from the second reading which sum up what I’m trying to say:

Do not model yourselves on the world around you, but let your behaviour change, modeled by your new mind.  This is the only way to discover the will of God…’

Saturday, August 23, 2014

21st Sunday Yr A (Gospel: Matthew 6:13-20) We keep focused on the Lord

There is a place in my hometown of Galway called An Tobar Nua (which means The New Well), which is run by some Baptist friends of mine.  Their aim is to help people come back to their own faith, whatever Christian group they are part of.  They do great work.  For two years they asked me to give a lecture to a group of protestant students from America who were with them for several months.  They asked me to give an overview of the development of the Christian faith in Ireland.  The idea was that they could then ask me questions about the Catholic faith.  I enjoyed it and the questions were interesting.

They are usually the same questions that come up: why do we ‘worship’ Our Lady?  So I try to explain that we certainly don’t worship Our Lady as this would be idolatry, but we do give her great honor just as Jesus did.  Another question is: how can a priest claim to forgive sins?  This question is a particularly interesting one, because it brings up a lot of other things.  The truth is that the priest himself does not forgive sins, because the priest is only a human being, but that God forgives sins through the priest.  But even this understanding, where does it come from?

You will remember in some of the Gospel passages where Jesus said to one or two people before he healed them, ‘Go, your sins are forgiven.’  When he said this the religious people of the time were shocked because they said ‘Only God can forgive sins.’  Then he showed his authority to forgive by also healing the person.

This Gospel passage today is connected to this, because in it is the answer to why we take the teaching of the Church seriously and also where the power of the priesthood comes from.  God the eternal Father, revealed to Peter who Jesus really was, and straightaway Jesus points this out to him and then appoints him as the first one to lead his Church.  Then Jesus says this extraordinary thing: ‘Whatever you bind on earth will be considered bound in heaven; whatever you loose on earth will be considered loosed in heaven.’  And in another passage Jesus says: ‘Whatever sins you forgive will be forgiven, whatever sins you retain will be retained.’

What Jesus was saying was that he was giving his authority to Peter and the Apostles, not because they had all the gifts and talents needed to continue this movement by themselves, but because it would be God who would work through them, teach through them and forgive through them. 

All around us at the moment there is terrible confusion.  Even all the arguments to do with gay marriage and everyone being told they have the right to do pretty much everything, and if they don’t then they are being discriminated against.  It is disturbing to say the least.  What are we to do about it?  We have only to stay calm and remember who it is that is guiding us, God himself.  So it is our job to stay focused on the Lord, on his teaching through the Church and not worry about all the craziness around us which can be both confusing and frightening as everything we believe in seems to be being undermined.  Throughout the ages this has always been the way, but perhaps it is more 'in our face' now than usual.

You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church; and the gates of the underworld can never prevail against it.’

Jesus gave Peter and the apostles his authority because God himself would be working through them and God continues to work and teach through them and through the priesthood; to offer his forgiveness through them and to make Jesus present in each mass through the priesthood.  I don’t know why He did this, but I believe it, and that is enough. 

It says in the second reading ‘How impossible to understand God’s motives!’  So much of what God does makes no sense to us, including God’s Church and how it works.  But all that is really important is that we believe that this is from God and that it is not from people.  If I believed that this was a human institution I can assure you I would not be here as a priest.  I am a priest because I believe God called me to be a priest and to continue to pass on his message as best I can.  I sometimes wish He had picked someone else instead, because it is often quite difficult, but at the same time I am very grateful because it is a huge privilege.

So our job is to try and be faithful to the Lord’s teaching which is given to us through the Church and not to be afraid of the chaos that is going on all around us in society.  We keep the Lord Jesus at the center; we keep coming back to listen to what He is teaching us through the Scriptures and we receive Jesus continually in the Eucharist.  That is enough.  It is the Lord’s Church, the Lord’s teaching and there is nothing for us to be afraid of if we keep focused on him.

 ‘You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church
And the gates of the underworld will never hold out against it.’

Saturday, July 26, 2014

17th Sunday Year A (Gospel: Matthew 13:44-52) The hidden treasure


 There are two lady friends of mine whom I’ve known for 27 years now:  Maura and Marina.  Both were accountants, with good jobs and a nice lifestyle; great party-goers and very popular.  Then one day Marina announced to us all that she was going to leave everything and enter the Poor Clare convent.  About two years later Maura did the same thing.  The Poor Clares are an Order of contemplative sisters founded by St. Claire of Assisi.  These sisters live a life of prayer and enclosure, meaning that they never come out except for things like going to the doctor.  This meant that they would give up their job and salary, their independence and nice lifestyle, the chance to get married and have children.  They will spend the rest of their lives in that convent praying and interceding for people, helping us by the sacrifice of their lives.

Every year quite a number of people decide to dedicate their lives to the service of God, in Religious life.  There are also many married and single people I know who have changed the direction of their lives and begun to live more closely to God, trying to give time each day to prayer and to living out the faith that they believe in.  They continue to work just as before, but they have begun to make a conscious effort to live by the Gospel they believe in.  I’m sure many of you here are the same.

In 1999 Pope John Paul II invited representatives from 54 different groups around the world to come to Rome.  These groups were all started over the last several decades and were all started by lay people, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.  To give you an example, some of the groups were the Focolare movement, Marriage Encounter, Cenacolo, Charismatic Renewal.  All of these different movements within the Church have been started by lay people and are really about different ways of living out the Gospel in daily life.  These movements have been so successful that most of them have spread all over the world.  There were over 400,000 people present representing these 54 different movements.  It was a celebration of what God is doing all over the world.  


Why are people willing to give up their whole lives to pray or live apart from the rest of society?  Some people say it is an escape.  The Church says it is the highest calling that God can give to anyone.  But what makes someone want to do this, or to become a priest, or to really try to live out their faith like in those many lay movements that gathered in Rome?  They have found the hidden treasure, or pearl of great price that Jesus talks about.  They have recognised that it is worth everything and so they have given up everything for it.  It is what the Lord often calls ‘The kingdom of heaven’.  It is the discovery or realisation that God is real and that what Jesus has told us about God is true.  It’s as if this suddenly clicks into place and they can see it and it makes sense, so much sense.  They realise that God isn’t just an optional extra, but that God is at the center and we are a part of his world.  Our life only makes sense in relation to him and in relation to what Jesus told us about him.  Apart from God, our life makes absolutely no sense and this is worth everything, because it is the truth.

Most people are not called to be priests or religious, in fact only a very small percent.   Most people are called to continue on as normal in society, working, having families and giving witness to the reality of God by the way they live.  That’s what most of us are called to.  But the fact that some people are prepared to live a life dedicated to God, reminds us of the value of what we believe in.  It testifies to the fact that what we believe in has a greater and more lasting value than anything we can know in this world.  It’s a sign that we believe there is more to come and that it’s worth waiting for, it is worth making sacrifices for.

There is a lovely line in one of St. Paul’s letters which reads: ‘If our hope in Christ has been for this life only, we are of all people the most to be pitied’ (1 Cor 15:19).  The whole point of what we believe in is that not only is there a life after this one, but that that is what God has created us for and that is what we are preparing for. 

Often when I’m finding it tough going and wondering why I’m a priest or what it’s all about, I think of my two friends in the Poor Clares and their witness makes me say yes, it’s worth the effort.  This is the pearl of great price, the treasure which we have discovered.