Friday, December 24, 2010
Friday, December 17, 2010
Saturday, December 11, 2010
Tuesday, December 7, 2010
Saturday, December 4, 2010
Saturday, November 27, 2010
Saturday, November 20, 2010
Saturday, November 13, 2010
Every so often we hear people say that the end of time is coming, or that the Lord is about to come again, or that God is about to punish the earth for all the evil that is around. Is this true? We don’t know. But what we do know is what the Lord himself said about this kind of thing. We have it in the Gospel reading today. He said: ‘Take care not to be deceived, because many will come using my name and saying, ‘I am He’, and, ‘the time is near at hand’. Refuse to join them.’
The Lord simply asks us to persevere; to persevere with the daily struggle of trying to be a Christian, of trying to pray, to go to mass, to get on with whatever the Lord has given us to do, in married life, in single life, wherever we find ourselves.
If you were to ask what is the most important thing for a Christian to do to keep us going from day to day, I would say without a doubt it is prayer. Prayer is simply our relationship with God and like any relationship with another person it takes many different forms. It is as important as eating and sleeping. If you stop eating and sleeping you die physically. If you don’t pray in some form, you die spiritually. It is the exact same thing. When we have some kind of relationship with God it puts things in perspective for us. It helps us to see what is important and what isn’t. It helps us to remember what our life is about and what we are called to do each day. It also helps us not to become overwhelmed by all the gloom and doom around us. If you know what the purpose of your life is, then it is a lot easier to keep going especially when we are hearing so much negativity around us. Sure we are in difficult times, but if God is with us, guiding us, then what have we to be afraid of?
But how, you might ask, are you supposed to pray in this crazy and very busy world? Well it’s like anything else, if you don’t make time for it, it won’t happen. If you just try and fit it in when everything else is done, you won’t pray, don’t be fooled. If you see it as a necessary thing, you will make time for it; but if you see it as an optional extra, then you will never pray.
Our prayer is the communication line between us and God. It is our relationship with him. The more we are in tune with God through prayer, the more we will begin to think like God, the more we will begin to reflect the image of God that is in each of us, which is a very beautiful thing. People who are close to God are beautiful, because they reflect this light of God which is in each of us.
How do I pray? Think of all the time you spend in your car, or indeed any time you are alone. We don’t always have to be listening to the radio. We can choose to turn it off and simply talk to Jesus and tell him about our fears and hopes. That is prayer. Spend some time each day thanking God for all things, good and bad. Tell God about your joys and ask him for your needs. Spend time in silence before the Blessed Sacrament. Read the Scriptures, the living Word of God. Stay on for a few minutes after mass and thank God for coming to you in Holy Communion. Ask God to bless your families and those people you are worried about. Prayer doesn’t always change the situations that we are praying for, but it does change us. So we grow and mature and we learn the ways of God.
There are almost as many ways to pray as there are people, and we will all live our relationship with God slightly differently, but what is important is that we do have this relationship with God in some form.
Do you find that your faith seems empty and boring? Do you wonder why you even bother with it half the time? Ask yourself, are you praying, are you reading the Word of God? And if not, are you surprised that your faith seems boring?
Jesus says to us, ‘do not be deceived…’ the way to him is very ordinary and involves the same perseverance that anything else requires as well, just like any relationship with another person. But the Lord also says, ‘your endurance will win you your lives.’ The path to God isn’t easy, but it is well worth it.
Saturday, November 6, 2010
Saturday, October 30, 2010
Saturday, October 23, 2010
Saturday, October 16, 2010
There is a lot of confusion these days as to what comes from God and what does not. I am talking in particular about things like going to fortune tellers, Tarrot card readers, psychics, playing the Ouija board, or going to mediums, and many other practices that come under the general term of Occult. A lot of people just consider them harmless fun; besides what could possibly be wrong with them?Well the first thing is that God expressly warns us in the Scriptures to stay away from them. In the book of Deuteronomy it says:
You must not have in your midst anyone... who practices divination, or anyone who consults the stars, who is a sorcerer, or one who practices enchantments or who consults the spirits, no diviner, or one who asks questions of the dead. For the Lord abhors those who do these things (Deuteronomy 18:10-12).
And in another book it says, ‘Do not have recourse to the spirits of the dead or to magicians; they will defile you. I, the Lord, am your God’ (Leviticus 19:31).
Now I would like to try and explain why these things are a problem for us, because the Lord God doesn’t just give us rules for the sake of rules. If God tells us to stay away from something it is with good reason, just like you will tell your children to stay away from the fire or they’ll get burned. The Lord does the same for us, telling us what to avoid if we want to stay healthy.
So why are these things, which are now available everywhere, a problem? The first and most important reason is that they interfere with our free will. Our free will is an extraordinary gift which the Lord has given us, because it means that we have the freedom to do anything we choose, be it good or evil, although of course the idea is that real freedom is freedom to choose what is good. We can even reject God if we choose. It is an extraordinary thing that the Lord who has created us respects us enough even to giving us the freedom to reject him, and sadly some people do this by the way they live. Going to fortune tellers or any of these other things that I mentioned is basically an attempt to gain knowledge of the future. The problem is that if we have any kind of knowledge of the future it is going to influence our freedom to choose, because we will probably start acting out of fear or what we think might be going to happen. The Lord does not want us to be afraid, but to be at peace. That is why the Lord does not reveal the future to us. We don’t need to know it. If we did, He would show us, because He wants the very best for us.
The second reason why these things are a problem for us, is that by dabbling in them we are going directly against something God has asked us, which is a way of creating an obstacle between us and God. We sin when we do this. And spiritually speaking they can also have a hold or influence over us. If God does not reveal the future to us, then where is this information coming from? It is not coming from the Lord, even if the fortune teller starts off by praying the Hail Mary, which I know some of them do.
I worked with an exorcist priest friend of mine for a while and saw first-hand the mess that some people get themselves into by dabbling in these things that the Lord tells us to keep away from. They are very real. Satan is cunning and will do anything to lead us away from God, because he hates us as God’s creation. And yes I did say Satan, which may surprise you, but if Satan is not real then Jesus is a liar, because Jesus frequently mentioned him in his teaching.
I guess we have to ask ourselves do I believe what Jesus said is true or not? Either the Bible (the Scriptures) is the word of God or it isn’t. If it is, we have good cause to listen to it. If it’s not true, then what are we doing here?
The Lord wants the very best for us and will continually guide us along the right path, the path that will help us to reach our full potential as human beings. But sometimes we get misled and go astray. That’s not a problem so long as we recognise it and come back again. I’m sure you want God’s blessing for your lives and for your families, just as I do. But if we mess with what God expressly tells us to stay away from, we will be blocking God’s help from us.
If you have dabbled in any of these things at any stage, confess it, which is what the Lord asks us to do. By confessing it you break any spiritual hold that it can have over you. By repenting of it you also open the door to God’s grace as well.
In the readings today the Lord is assuring us that He does and will answer our prayers. We have to trust the Lord in this. God only speaks truth. If God has assured us of his help, then we would be foolish to look for any spiritual help from any other source. We know that God wants the very best for us and if we believe that then we must also listen to what He tells us to do and what He tells us to avoid.
‘I have come that you may have life and have it to the full.’
Saturday, October 9, 2010
I often find it amusing when it is lashing rain and someone says to me, ‘isn’t it an awful day?’ And I say, ‘yes it is, thank God’. I usually get a weird look that says, ‘what do you mean ‘thank God’?’ But why should we not thank God just because it is raining? The rain may not suit us always, the sun may not suit others always, but that’s no reason not to give thanks to God for it. It is a gift from him, like many other things, even if it doesn’t suit us.
We tend to see our world or universe as being the center of things, often with God as an optional extra as it were; someone on the outside. However, it is in fact the other way around. God is at the center of things and we are the optional extra. We were created by God and we need not be here. Now you might think that that makes us pretty small and insignificant in many ways. Well it does. We are. We like to think of ourselves as extremely important, especially the higher up we get in the world. But the fact is we are all the exact same with the same need for God. Once we begin to recognise this it actually makes life a lot easier because it takes a lot of pressure off us. The world doesn’t depend on us alone to save it. The future of the human race isn’t being sustained by me alone. The people of Galway aren’t depending on me as a priest to say the right thing, to make sure they all get to heaven and it’s just as well!
The governments today often talk about their decisions as though they themselves were God, as though the future of the human race was solely in their hands. Fortunately for us all it is not. We are important of course, and we certainly have a big responsibility to do the right thing in the world and to make sure that there is a good future for those who come after us, but the Lord God of heaven and earth is also there helping us. So we have a lot to be thankful for.
At the moment we are living in a time when we are hearing almost nothing but bad news, how awful everything is and how little hope there is. It is very hard not to be affected by it when we are getting this from the news on an hourly basis, not to mention all the chat shows. By their nature news programs tend to dwell on bad and dramatic news, but I think it is important for us not to let that be the main influence on the way we think, or we will begin to see the world as a very dark place. Sure we are in harder times and there are plenty of problems, but the fact is that most of us are surviving. I would imagine that everyone here has enough to eat, has a roof over their heads at night. We probably have a car to get around in and we are probably able to provide for our children, even if it is not as lavish as we would like. The truth is we have an awful lot to be grateful for.
When I find myself becoming negative and wishing things were better—and believe me I complain just as much as anyone!—I find it a great help to start giving thanks to God for as many things as possible. In the morning I say, ‘thank you Lord for a good night’s rest; thank you for a hot shower and a breakfast to eat. Thank you that I have decent clothes to wear and enough money in my pocket to survive. Thank you for the friends I have and also for the people I don’t like. I also try not to listen to too many news programs during the day as they tend to get me down. Remember that all of the things we listen to during the day do affect how we think and how we see the world.
Think for a moment about the teachings of Jesus during his life on earth. They are very positive, very encouraging and very compassionate. Even when he spoke about the end of the world and the disciples said, ‘when will this happen?’ He basically said, ‘don’t worry about that. It doesn’t concern you.’ The Lord asks us to do our best to love and serve while we are here on earth. Then when our time is complete He will bring us home to be with him. That makes it very simple. We just do our best and try to stay focused on the one who gives us life and gives us everything we have.
So maybe the next time you want to ask God’s help for something in prayer, and rightly so, take a moment first to thank God for the many things He has given you and then ask for your needs. And maybe even thank God for the rain the next time it’s lashing and you’re about to get soaked!
‘In the world you will have trouble. But do not be afraid, I have overcome the world.’
Saturday, October 2, 2010
By the age of 18 most people have seen approximately 30,000 murders on TV. That is quite a staggering number. When soldiers went to Vietnam and shot the enemy, they expected to see the enemy get up again. Killing them wasn’t real. Life has become cheap.
As a priest I worked in a local hospital for a few years and also in the hospice for the last four years. When you see many people die in the hospital it makes you think a lot. People say to me, it must be very depressing; but it’s not, it’s just very real. It can be very beautiful, especially if you have faith, because what you see happening is someone going from this life into the next, and that is a great privilege. It is also a very spiritual experience. One minute you are looking at a living breathing person, with a personality and different characteristics peculiar to them. The next minute you are just looking at a body. Something has changed. It’s not just that the body has stopped working, there is much more to it than that. The spirit has gone, the soul has moved on to the next world; and this is so real. What’s left in front of you is only a body. It’s not the person you knew, only part of that person, because we are body and soul.
If we were just a body, just flesh and bones, then we wouldn’t be able to have ideas, or hope, or faith, and above all, we wouldn’t be able to love. Love is very much a mark of the human soul. It is God given. It tells us that there is something of God in us.
If you didn’t know the patient lying in the bed in a personal way, they could be just anybody. But when you know them then their soul speaks to you and that’s why death hurts so much, because of the separation, the loss of love. This is one of the gifts that God has given us which resemble him: the ability to love. It is this ability to love that makes us beautiful. Even if I don’t have the most beautiful body, it doesn’t matter, because the soul is what is really attractive, not the body. The more we learn to love, the more beautiful we become.
When God creates us he gives us a spirit, which will live forever. Imagine all of us here in this church will live forever. The people you know who have died are still alive in a different world. We will see them again. When God creates us, we are created in his image and this means that we have the potential to become more like him. The more like him we become, the more beautiful we become, because God is beautiful. That’s what holiness is: closeness to God. As we come closer to God our spirit or soul becomes more beautiful because we are becoming more like God. Holy people reflect God best and that is why they attract others like magnets, because they are beautiful. That is also why God keeps calling us to holiness, because God wants us to be beautiful.
We believe that our souls are there since the first moment of conception and this is why life is sacred, because it comes from God, and returns to God.
Much of Mother Teresa’s work in India, was taking dying people off the streets and helping them to die with dignity. She didn’t try to convert them, or try to make them live longer, she just helped them to die with people around them who showed them love. Why? because God is in each of us and so each life is sacred.
Sometimes you will hear it said that protecting life has nothing to do with God or religion, but I would say the opposite. It really only makes full sense when you remember where we come from. If God had nothing to do with it, then it couldn’t really be that sacred. But we believe that life is totally sacred and so we must protect it always, no matter what the arguments are against it. Every life is sacred, since it comes from God.
‘I have come that you may have life and have it to the full’ (John 10:10)
Saturday, September 25, 2010
A few years ago I was driving somewhere and I gave a lift to a man. He was a musician, a busker and basically lived by busking on the streets; not an easy way of life. He had practically all his possessions with him. He told me he knew over 350 songs, which was quite impressive. When he realised that I was a priest he began asking me about religion. I can’t remember much of what he said except for one thing. He said that he wasn’t very religious but that he preferred to stay out of it and sit on the fence. When we spoke about death and meeting God he said that he would plead ignorance. That was the thing that struck me the most. He said, ‘I’ll just plead ignorance.’
I suppose if God were just another human being, we might get away with pleading ignorance, but since God knows everything about us, including our motivations, all the things that have influenced us during our life that cause us to act as we do, how free or not we are to make choices, I don’t think that pleading ignorance will be much use! This is not to just focus on the negative as if we should be afraid of God because He is out to get us. On the contrary, the Lord loves us and wants to help us in every way possible. He knows our weaknesses and what we struggle with, but He also knows when we avoid responsibility.
In the readings today we are presented not so much with the rich and the poor, rather with those who deliberately turn their back on justice. We are shown the two extremes. The poor man Lazarus was at this rich man’s gate. In other words the rich man couldn’t have missed him because he was right under his nose. And it says that ‘Lazarus longed to fill himself with the scraps that fell from the rich man’s table’, which implies that he was offered absolutely nothing, not even a small amount. So it’s not as if the rich man did a certain amount and it wasn’t enough. Jesus is telling us that he did absolutely nothing. That is why he lost heaven, not because he had riches. There is nothing wrong with having riches. What you do with it is what’s important. If I am wealthy then that is the situation God has put me in in this life (provided I acquired it in a just way, of course!). What I do with it is what’s important.
Equally you might think that Lazarus could have got off his back-side and done something for himself. But the fact that he ‘lay’ at the rich man’s gate and that he was covered in sores, tells us that he was sick and helpless. You could say that God put him there deliberately to allow the rich man to help him, but he chose to do nothing. I have no doubt that God often puts people in our path who may need our help, but we always have the choice to help them or not. God has given us that freedom. And the help we give people may not even be financial help. It may be something as simple as a smile or an encouraging word that is needed. All the time we are coming across people who need our help and if we are open to it we will recognise them. If we have plenty, well thank God for it, but it does mean that we also have an obligation to help those who are in need and there is no shortage of them, both in this country and all over the world. ‘The poor will always be with you.’
So you could say there is a double message here. First, let us thank God for what we have. Second, let us also ask God to help us make good use of what we have. God has given us freedom to do what we want in this life, but we are also asked to be responsible. There is a common misconception today that being free means being able to do anything you want, good or bad. However, true freedom is the freedom to choose what is good. That is what the Lord wants for us and that is also what will help us the most.
Saturday, September 18, 2010
A few years ago, a woman by the name of Maura Grealish—a good friend of mine—took her final vows in the Poor Clare convent in Nun’s Island. She took four vows: poverty, chastity, obedience and enclosure. She will never own anything of her own, she will not get married, and she will spend the rest of her life enclosed in a convent, dedicating her time and energy to God and to praying for all of us and for many others. Some would consider this a useless waste; others see it as the gift of God which it is, the highest calling in the Church. Her life lived in this way—as with any religious—is a sign that we believe in the life to come and that it is worth making sacrifices for it. If we didn’t believe in the life to come, then it would be a waste of time.
How are the two related? Well I suppose they are really the opposite of each other. Those in Wall Street and in the business world sometimes put everything into their money. Money becomes the only thing that matters. They work for it, they live for it, they may even lie and cheat for it. On the other hand Sister Gabriel, has given up everything for God, and is depending totally on God for everything.
Most of us are probably somewhere between the two. We are not millionaires, but we have not given up everything for God either. We work and try and put bread on the table and provide for our families and loved ones. This is what we are called to. Most people are also under a lot of pressure to pay their bills and mortgages, etc.
Money is an important tool. It would be very difficult to live in our society without it, but it is only a tool. If we lost everything over night it would be very difficult, but we would still be alive. It happens to people every so often, but we do survive. But if God disappeared, what would we have left? When we died there would be nothing. Thankfully God does not disappear, regardless of whether we have more than we need, or barely enough to survive on. Either way God is with us and God is waiting to bring us home when we have served our time on earth.
In the Gospel Jesus doesn’t say ‘it is not easy to serve God and money.’ He says, ‘you can not’ serve God and money. You must choose who is going to be your master. That doesn’t mean that we can not enjoy our money or the things we have, but we must be careful to use it wisely. It is meant to be a means to help us, but not what we live for. At the end of the day it is only a tool and if it was suddenly taken away from us, we would still survive.
As we live in a world that places so much emphasis on having plenty of money, it’s hard not to be affected by that. There is nothing wrong with having money so long as we remember that it is only a means to help us survive. It will not bring us happiness in itself and it is not primarily what our life is about. God has made us much deeper than just flesh and blood. We also have a spirit and that spirit will never be satisfied with material things alone. This is a reminder that we are not just animals and that we are called to something greater.
I just want to finish with a few verses from Psalm 49.
No one can buy his own ransom,
or pay a price to God for his life.
In his riches man lacks wisdom,
he is like the beasts that are destroyed.
Saturday, September 11, 2010
What happens to us when we die? I remember thinking in the last parish that it was amazing the number of people I had known who had died over the four years I was there and that is just in Renmore parish alone. Where are they now? Are they anywhere? We usually say they are in heaven and hopefully that is true. That is what God has created us for. I know that today most people are probably very sceptical about the idea of hell. That seems to be a medieval idea that is dead and gone. However, the reality is that if heaven is real and if we have free will, which we do, then it must also be possible to lose what God wants us to reach. God has created us for life with him, which we call heaven. I guess you could say it is the greatest happiness we could imagine, something wonderful beyond our wildest dreams. Every so often God allows a saint or mystic to experience something of what awaits us, no doubt to reassure us that it is real. Think of someone like Padre Pio, or indeed different places where Our Lady has appeared.
If being with God means light, happiness, joy, love, no suffering, no injustice and being with the people we love, then the opposite of that is darkness, isolation, pain, loneliness, etc. Since we have free will it means that we can lose what God wants us to reach. I think it’s important not to forget that. God offers us something wonderful but we have the freedom to accept or reject it.
I think the next thing that comes to most people’s minds is the fear of not being good enough, or perhaps the fear of what we have done wrong. I remember a priest friend of mine who died a few years ago. When he was dying he kept saying ‘I’ll never get into heaven. I’m not good enough.’ I was sorry for him and he was a holy man, but it seems to be a natural fear that many of us have. I’ve heard so many people express this fear.
Then we come to the parable of the prodigal son which we have today. I think it is one of the most wonderful stories in the Bible for several reasons. What it says more than anything is that God does not act the way we do. In spite of the way we can behave the Father in heaven has compassion for us in a way that we do not understand because we never experience that kind of compassion from other human beings. What it says more than anything is that God doesn’t care how badly we mess things up or whether we are the model child. The only thing God is interested in is that we reach the happiness that He has created us for. And God will do everything possible—apart from forcing us—to make sure we reach this happiness which we call heaven. However, because God completely respects the freedom He has given us He will never force us. The death and resurrection of Jesus is all about making sure that our sins can be forgiven and that we can reach this happiness that God wants for us. That’s also what the mass is.
In this story of the Prodigal son, the younger son was a disaster, but it says that ‘while he was still a long way off, the father saw him and was moved with pity.’ The older son appeared to be the loyal child who ‘turned out fine.’ Yet he was seething with resentment, but the father also showed him compassion.
God is not interested in how good or bad, successful or unsuccessful we are, rather that we will keep coming back to him. If we remain open to him, we have nothing to worry about. Think of the younger son, the one who basically said he wanted nothing more to do with his father or his family and took off. I’m sure there are many of you worrying about children who have said they want nothing more to do with the Church or religion. Well remember this parable. The Lord still loves them just as much as any of us and God will go on reaching out to them until the end of their lives, perhaps through ways that we never see or even think of. But that is where we also have a duty to pray for them. That’s what the first reading is about. Moses intercedes for the people and God has mercy on them.
To sum up: God has created us to experience the fullness of life and to reach a happiness that is more than our wildest dreams could imagine. God will do everything possible apart from forcing us, to make sure we and our loved ones get there. So let us have great confidence in this and never be afraid of our mistakes or of how our lives have turned out. All that matters is that we try and stay open to God. The rest is in God’s mercy.
‘While he was still a long way off, the Father saw him and took pity on him.’