Saturday, October 30, 2021

31st Sunday Year B (Gospel: Mark 12: 28b-34) Love God and do what you like

 

 



Most of us were brought up being taught that we must love our neighbour. That is very much part of what it means to be Christian. That means we are to respect the people around us, even if we don’t like them. We respect them because we believe that we are all children of God, created by the one God, no matter what our race, colour or religion. We try to see them as human beings before anything else.

 

I often think of the accounts we have of how Jesus dealt with the various people he met of other faiths and nationalities. He healed the Roman soldier’s dying slave. The Jews would have hated and feared the Romans, as they were the occupying force of Palestine and a particularly brutal force at that. He healed the Syro-Phoenician woman’s daughter. She was a pagan. He spoke to and encouraged the Samaritan woman at the well. The Samaritans were despised by the Jewish people. We are also invited to try and see people through the eyes of Jesus, that is, to see people as people, before anything else.

 

Sometimes it can be very difficult to love, or respect, the people around us. It is often easier to give to charities supporting people in other countries, than to show respect to the people living next door, or in our workplace, especially when people have done us wrong.

 



It is interesting that when Jesus is asked which is the first Commandment, He mentions two. We are to love God above all else, with all our heart and soul, with all our strength and then love your neighbour as yourself. The two are connected, which is why He mentions them together. It is our relationship with God, that gives us the strength to love others. The more we are filled with the love of God, the more sensitive we become to the needs of the world around us. It is then we begin to notice people in trouble and people in need. God’s Spirit within us shows us these things and helps us to see others as people with needs, rather than just Christians, or Muslims, Mexicans, or Irish. First, they are people; human beings with the same needs and desires as anyone else. As our love of God grows, we begin to see the world around us in a different way. We start to see it through God’s eyes and it develops a desire to make the world as God wants it to be.

 

How do I love God? By keeping his Commandments. If you love anyone you show your love by trying to please them and by trying to do what they ask. It is the exact same with God. There is no point in saying that I love God if I’m not prepared to keep his Commandments. There is no point in sleeping with your boyfriend, or girlfriend, or promoting abortion and then saying that I love God, when God tells us not to do these things. Who am I kidding? We cannot justify stealing, or not paying taxes and then praying to God to help us. If we hope for God’s blessing and help, or to grow in our spirit, we must try to live his Commandments. They are commandments, not suggestions and this means sacrifices. It means that we will be different from others who don’t believe in God, but this is how it has been throughout the centuries. Christians have always been different. If I want to call myself a Christian I have to try to live as a Christian, otherwise, it means nothing.

 




All of us will all have to give an account of ourselves before God when we die. And we will be on your own then. We won’t have friends, or politicians, or attorneys standing behind us, to argue on our behalf. We will not have any earthly status either. It will just be each of us before God. Does that mean we need to be afraid? Not if we try. If we sin, or fall, or do what is wrong, we should never be afraid to ask forgiveness. God promises forgiveness, if we turn to him and repent. There is a difference in falling into sin sometimes, versus persisting in some way of life that is contrary to the laws of God. The Lord teaches us what is sinful, so that we cannot say we didn’t know. We must be careful that we’re not rewriting the Commandments for ourselves. God doesn’t ask for 100% success, only effort. 

 

St. Augustine has a great saying which sums it up. He says, ‘Love God and do what you like.’ If we really love God, we will try and do what He asks. While trying to live as God asks can seem like a burden initially, the reality is the opposite. Living by the teachings of Christ brings a great freedom and happiness, because your spirit knows that you’re on the right track and that takes away fear. Once we begin to come closer to God this way, then we begin to be filled with a love for him that gives us the strength to look out for the people around us.

 

There are many people I know whom I would call ‘people of faith’, who really try to live what they believe, and they are always keen to help people around them who are in need. It comes quite naturally to them, because of their love of God and I’m sure there are many of you here too. If we focus on growing closer to God, looking after our neighbour comes quite naturally. The same goes for a lot of the moral teachings of the Church, which people love to argue about so much. If we start arguing about these problems before we have faith, they will just remain an obstacle between us and God. But if we grow in faith first, these things naturally fall into place.

 

Rwanda


In 1994 in Rwanda, an horrific genocide took place. In Rwanda there were two main tribal groups, the Tutsi and the Hutu. As often happens, one group despised the other and under a new Hutu president, the Hutus decided to rid the country of the Tutsi. In just over three months, approximately one million Tutsi were murdered. One Tutsi woman, by the name of ImaculĂ©e Llibagiza, survived the holocaust. At the time it occurred she was 24. She came from a family of six and by local standards they were well-off. During the massacre, all but one of her brothers were slaughtered. She survived by hiding in a restroom, which was 3’x 4’, along with five other women, for three months. A sympathetic pastor hid them, risking his own life. His house was searched regularly, but they had pushed a wardrobe across the door of the restroom and it wasn’t noticed. They eventually escaped and managed to get to a French UN camp, where they were safe, although by then they were half starved.

 

While in hiding, they were in constant danger of being discovered. She describes her ordeal in a book called Left to Tell. During her time in hiding she found herself praying the rosary for hours on end. As she continued to hear about the slaughter of her loved ones and friends, she found herself wanting to inflict the same pain and torture on their killers, but she also found through prayer that God kept calling her back from that hatred. It was a battle within herself.

 

When the war was over and the Hutus had been overrun, she came to know one man in power who had arrested and interrogated many of the killers. Because of this she was given a chance to go to the prison to face the man who had murdered her family. When he was dragged before her, she recognised him immediately. His name was Felicien and he had been a close friend of the family. Felicien was too ashamed to even look at her. The prison warden said to her, ‘What do you want to say to him?’ She replied, ‘I forgive you.’ When he had been taken away again, the warden said to her in astonishment, ‘What was all that about? How could you forgive him? Why did you do that?’ She said, ‘Forgiveness is all I have to offer.’ Her relationship with God was what brought her to that place, where she could see more than just a killer. She now lives in the US and works for the United Nations.

 

Hear O Israel, the Lord our God is Lord alone!

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart

and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.

You shall love your neighbour as yourself.”


Saturday, October 23, 2021

30th Sunday, Year B (Gospel: Mark 10:46-52) What do you want me to do for you?






Imagine for a moment if at one time before you die, Jesus himself appeared to you and asked you one question: ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ What would you ask him? Maybe it would be a cure for a physical illness, or for someone you know. Maybe it would be to resolve a difficult situation such as a marriage that’s in trouble, or maybe for help for your children. Perhaps it would be for more faith. If you are foolish it might be for lots of money.

 

I think I might ask God to give me more faith, faith to recognise what we already have. We ask for help all the time, we ask God to be present to us, we ask God to forgive and heal us… and He does, but we often don’t recognise it.

 

I think that if we had greater faith to recognise what God has already given us, we would ask for very little else, because God has given us everything that we need. We would like to know that Jesus is close to us and looking after us: and He is. In the mass Jesus becomes present to us in the Eucharist, when the bread and wine really and truly become the Body and Blood of Christ through the priest and we can receive him into our own bodies. How much closer could we get to the Lord than to receive him into our own bodies? And we can receive him every day if we wish.

 

We want to know that we are forgiven, so that we can be at peace and we want to be healed. The Lord offers us this gift through confession, but we often see it as seen as a burden, something the Church tells us we have to do. If we could really see what it is, no one would have to tell us that we need to go. Everyone would want to go, because each time we go to confession we experience the forgiveness and healing power of God’s grace. Confession is one of the sacraments of healing, but Satan is clever and has managed to convince many people that this is just a power trip for the priests and that we don’t need to confess to anyone except God directly. He does not want us to go to confession because he knows how powerful confession is and how close it brings us to God. It always makes me sad when I visit people who are dying and I ask them if they would like to make a confession and they say ‘no.’ God has sent them a priest, but they don’t take advantage of it.


 




When I was working in Venice (Florida), I got to know a lady whose family were originally from my hometown of Galway, in Ireland. After I had left the parish, she asked if I would come and see her, which I did, even though I was now in Fort Myers, which is an hour south. I ended up visiting her twice. Each time she complained bitterly that her Church had abandoned her and would not come to her help, or visit. I pointed out both times that not only had God sent her a priest, twice, but a priest from her hometown, but she still complained. She could only see what her Church had not done for her.

 

If we believe that Jesus is Lord of all things, who has made everything and who has power over everything, the One who will come to judge the living and the dead, then why would we be afraid of any situation, or anyone we encounter? Why should we be afraid of the world, or of anyone in it, if God is with us? Abraham Lincoln said, ‘Sir, my concern is not whether God is on our side. My greatest concern is to be on God’s side, because God is always right.’

 

In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus says, ‘So do not say, what are we to eat, what are we to drink, what are we to wear? Your heavenly Father knows all your needs. Seek first the kingdom of God and everything else will be given to you as well.’ (Mt 6.31)

 

How do we become more aware of the presence of God around us? Through prayer. That’s why Jesus spent so much of his time trying to teach people to pray, so that they would become aware of the reality of God with them and around them. When we pray, and give time to God and the things of God, we start to recognise how much God is all around us, in everything we do, in people we meet. I always think it is great to see so many people calling into the church during the day, sometimes just for a moment; to be silent, or to speak to the Lord, or to ask for something. These are all different ways of praying, of being with God and simply acknowledging God’s presence.

 

We talk about God sometimes as if God were an optional extra in our world. You can choose to believe in God or not. The truth is the other way around. We are the optional extra. God is there one way or the other, whether we acknowledge him or not, but we are only here because God has created us and keeps us in existence. We need not exist, but God exists no matter what.

 

I heard a priest say once, ‘If God isn’t in your money He isn’t in your life.’ In other words God must be in every part of our life, if He is there at all. Otherwise we are practical atheists. We can know that God is there but do nothing about him. That is practical atheism. You know that your next-door neighbor exists, but if you never speak to him, or meet him, or bother with him, he or she might as well not be there. That is practical atheism and there are a lot of practical atheists around. 

 



If God is to be part of our life, we have to continually communicate with him. That’s what prayer is. If you find yourself saying that you don’t have time for prayer, ask yourself how much time you give to your cell phone. When was the last time you decided that you would no longer eat or sleep, because you don’t have time? We make time for what is important to us.

 

Talk to God in your car on the way to work; that is prayer. Being aware of God in your home, even if it is noisy, is prayer. Reading the word of God; spending some time in silence. God has plenty to say, if we take the time to listen. The more we pray, the more we will recognise that God has already given us everything we need. God is deeply concerned about us, about every aspect of our lives and God always answers us when we pray. We have his word for it. ‘Ask and it will be given to you. Seek and you will find. Knock and the door will be opened to you’ (Luke 11:9).

 

One of the down sides of all the wonderful technology we have, especially our cell phones, is that it consumes so much of our free time. You will seldom see people sitting by themselves doing nothing. They are nearly always on their phone. This means that we are not giving as much time to thinking of eternal things. Instead, we are focused on a screen, with endless information, most of which doesn’t help us. The things of earth will not help us on our eternal journey, but the things of God will. 

‘Seek first the kingdom of God and all these other things will be given you as well’ (Mat 6:33).

 

 


Saturday, October 16, 2021

29th Sunday Year B (Gospel: Mark 10:35-45) The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve.

 



We are living in a time when we are seeing a lot of religious extremism. You could call it religion at its worst, when people do terrible things in the name of religion and it gives religion a bad name. What it often amounts to is the weakness of human nature and how one group can decide that they are right, while everyone else is wrong and that they have the right to force their ideas on others. It can happen with any religion. I suppose one thing it brings up is the question of what the purpose of religion is in the first place. Why do we have a Church and what is its purpose? 

 

We believe the Church is here because Jesus established it. The reason Jesus established it was to pass on his teaching about God; so that all people might come to know God and what God has done for us. Jesus commissioned Peter and the Apostles to pass on his teaching and to let everyone know what God has done for us and what awaits us in the world to come. He wants us to know that our life has a purpose and that our decisions have consequences.

 

Jesus said to Peter:

You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church and the gates of the underworld can never overpower it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of Heaven: whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven; whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven’ (Mt 16: 18-20).

 

Jesus established his Church, with Peter as the first pope. The Church’s task was and is, to pass on the teachings of Christ. God wants everyone to know who He is, why He created us and what awaits us in the world to come. God wants us to know our purpose on earth.

 




The difficulty is that the Church is made up of weak, sinful human beings. In Jesus’ life-time on earth, he was let down several times by the very people he chose to lead his Church and that pattern continues to this day. Because we are dealing with the weakness of the human condition, we are continually faced with similar problems. People in charge forget what they are about, or get caught up in the need for power, or whatever it might be. It is interesting how we see repeatedly when people are given positions of power, they find it hard to let it go. Often you see leaders of countries change the laws of the country so that they can remain in power, almost indefinitely. It has always been this way and probably always will.

 

It is interesting what happens in today’s Gospel. James and John ask for ‘power’ and recognition. ‘Grant that we may have places at your right and left hand…’ And then Jesus tells them and us something interesting: 

You know that among the pagans their so-called rulers lord it over them…This is not to happen among you… For the Son of man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.

 

The first reading also confirms this:

The Lord has been pleased to crush his servant with suffering. 

 

God is showing us that his way is a very different way to what we are used to. It is not the way of power and might, but of littleness and of transformation through suffering. This is not easy to understand. We want our Church to be big and powerful. We want everyone to be part of it and to see how ‘right’ we are, but Jesus tells us that that is not how it works. ‘The Son of man did not come be served, but to serve…and to give his life as a ransom for many.’ We are not meant to be big and powerful. God seems to like to work in small, hidden ways.

 

Eucharistic Miracle in Buenos Aires 1996



Think of the Eucharist, which really and truly is the body and blood of Christ. God continues to show us this through the many eucharistic miracles and yet so few people recognize this, or believe this. Yet God remains hidden and accepts being misunderstood. Think of the crucifixion. The Son of God dies to save the human race from eternal death. Yet all people saw was an innocent man being put to death. Why didn’t God show his glory and then everyone would have bowed down before him? God works in hidden ways. We will not recognize his presence unless we are open to it and searching for it. Why does God keep himself hidden in this way? God wants us to freely choose him, not our of fear, but out of love. Just as you cannot force someone to love you, God works the same way. He wants us to come to know him and freely choose him. If God continually showed his awesome power and glory, would we really choose him freely, or would we be choosing partly out of fear of what might happen if we didn’t?

 

So what exactly is the mission, or purpose of the Church? Jesus’ coming among us had a twofold purpose. He came among us to teach us about God; who God is and how God looks after us; about the reality of life after death; about the reason why we are here in the first place: to love and serve.

 

The second reason Jesus came among us was to die for us. Think of the line in the mass where the priest prays over the chalice: ‘This is the cup of my blood which will be poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins.’ That is why Jesus came among us; so that our sins could be forgiven and that we would be able to reach the happiness that God created for us, which we call heaven. You could say that Jesus came among us for our happiness.  The mission of the Church is to make that known to all people. If it is really true, as we believe it is, then all people have a right to know this. They don’t have to believe it or accept it, but they do have a right to know about it and it is our mission to make that message known to everyone we can, because Jesus asked us to. Is this mission still being fulfilled today?  It certainly is. Here am I in front of you 2000 years after Jesus walked on earth, proclaiming the same message.

 

In the news we continually read about all the terrible things that are done in the Church and in the name of religion and there are terrible things done. However, we don’t hear about the wonderful work that is continually done all over the world and we don’t hear about the fact that the Church continues to preach this message of Jesus—what we call the Good News or Gospel—all over the world. I’m sure it will continue to be done in messy, inefficient ways, because we are dealing with human beings, but none the less it is being done.

 




How do we know that the Church is from God at all?  To me the greatest proof of this is the fact that it is still there at all. When you think of all the great superpowers that have come and gone: the Roman Empire, the Chinese dynasties, the great European superpowers. All were highly organized and efficient, yet the Church, in spite of bad example, scandals, bad preaching, etc., is still here. How can that be? Because it is the power of God working in and through it. It is not dependent on human beings, but on the power of God and so we continually turn to the power of God and pray that we will continue to be the kind of messengers and servants that He calls us to be.

 

Jesus Christ is Lord and Son of God. He was born of the Virgin Mary. He taught us about God and he suffered and died for us. Because of him we can have happiness with God when we die. He is the one who makes sense of why we are here. This is the message we believe and this is the message we will continue to try and pass on to all peoples.

 

The Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve 

and to give his life as a ransom for many.’

 

 

 


Thursday, October 7, 2021

28th Sunday Year B (Gospel: Mark: 10:17-30) For God everything is possible



 


There is a priest by the name of Benedict Groeschel from New York, he died in 2014. He founded the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, a reformed branch of the Franciscans. Fr. Groeschel is an excellent speaker and in one of his talks he was saying that there is a man he knows in New York who is a multi millionaire, with more money than he could ever spend, or knows what to do with.  Benedict goes on to say that he was talking to this man at a particular conference and he—let us call him John Goldman—was saying to Benedict that he would like to put his money to good use, but he didn’t know what to do with it.  He admitted straight out that he had more money than he could ever spend.  Benedict said that if he wanted he could give a donation to one of the orphanages that they run in the Bronx, as it would make a big difference to them.  In spite of the fact that it was John Goldman himself who brought up the subject and admitted that he didn’t know what to do with all his money and wanted to put it to good use, by the end of the conference he still hadn’t agreed to part with one cent of his money. Benedict was saying that it was as if he was possessed by his wealth. He had no freedom. His wealth controlled him.

 

Most of us don’t have that kind of problem. In fact, most people have the opposite problem, but it is still very easy to become consumed even with the desire for money, or riches, or indeed anything. The problem is not the riches themselves, but our attachment to them.

 

In the Gospel which we have just heard, see how Jesus responds to the rich young man who is keen to live the right way.  When he asks what he should be doing to get to heaven, Jesus doesn’t say ‘You should sell all your possessions.’  First he just says, ‘You know the commandments; live them.’ It is only when he is pressed further that Jesus says, ‘Go and sell all you own...’  What is he doing? Jesus is showing the young man that he is not as free as he thinks he is. In spite of the fact that he could probably buy anything he desires and do anything he wants because of his wealth, he is in fact a slave to his riches. Jesus is not just trying to make the young man feel bad, or guilty, rather, since he did ask, Jesus is pointing out where the problem is for him. The problem is not in having riches, but that we get so attached to them that we are no longer free. No doubt the young man felt he was living a good life, and he probably was, but the Lord wanted him to see that he was not half as free as he thought. You don’t have to be very wealthy for that to happen. 

 

St. John of the Cross says that if you become too attached to your rosary beads, get rid of them. He also says there is no point in taking a vow of poverty if you are still consumed with the desire for the things that you have given up. The freedom from them is what is really important.

 


There is a story of two monks out on a journey. They come across a creek and they meet a young lady who is trying to get across, but she is afraid. So one of the monks offers to carry her across. She accepts and he carries her across the creek and then they part ways. After some time the other monk says, ‘You shouldn’t have carried that lady across the creek. You are a monk!’ The first monk says, ‘When I carried her across, I left her down and walked away, but you are still carrying her in your mind.’ We can become obsessed with anything.

 

Thank God for what we do have, but ask yourself are you free from it, or a slave to it? Because if you are a slave to it—thinking that you could not do without it—then it is the master. Think of your cell-phone. Most of us would find it pretty hard to do without it.

 



God wants us to be free to open ourselves up to God. God is the only thing that is really important. Everything else is going to be left behind when we die, even our bodies. They will disintegrate. That is why Jesus is telling us not to get caught up with what is ultimately trivial and forget the only thing that matters. Enjoy what you have of course, but don’t let it become the master.

 

For those of you who have children. How much time and energy do you put into preparing them for this life, which is temporary? A lot! But how much time do you put into preparing them for the world to come, which is eternal? Probably not as much.

 



Most of us are probably much more attached to the things we have than we would like to be, but perhaps the most important part of this Gospel is the last part. First of all Jesus says ‘How hard it is for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God’ and the apostles are astonished, just as most of us probably find this hard to understand too, since the general thinking is that if we had enough money it would resolve most of our problems. But when the Apostles ask, ‘Then who can be saved?’, or in modern English ‘Who can get to heaven?’ then Jesus says, ‘For people [by their own strength] it is impossible, but not for God.  Everything is possible for God.’ That is the really important thing to remember. Everything is possible for God. By our own strength we are very limited in what we can do, despite our best efforts, because we are weak and we easily get distracted by wealth, or work, or relationships or whatever. God knows that we get caught up in all the wrong things, just like the rich young man in the story, but God is bigger than all of this. God is bigger than the mistakes we make, bigger than our mixed motivations for what we do. That is why we just keep coming back to him and asking him to help us, to forgive us, to guide us: and He does. The wonderful thing that God continues to teach us, is that it is never too late to come back to him.

 

The disciples said: ‘If that is the case, then who can be saved?’

Jesus said: ‘For people it is impossible, but not for God;

because everything is possible for God.’

 



Friday, October 1, 2021

27th Sunday of Year B (Mk 10:2-16) When vocations don’t work out

 




 

Three years ago in our diocese we lost five priests. They all left for different reasons, which is sad. Each time that happens it makes all of us priests question our vocations and it brings up questions as to whether we will be able to persevere. Marriages don’t always work out and I’m sure when you know a couple who have just split up, it probably brings up fears and questions about your own marriage too. But just because Religious life, or married life, doesn’t always work out as we had hoped, it doesn’t mean we give up on them. We still do our best to hold onto the values that are important and to teach our children the same thing. Over 80% of people still believe in the value of marriage, which is good to know and thousands of young people are continually inspired to dedicate their lives to God in Religious life. Two of my family are divorced and I’ve already done one of my best friend’s weddings twice and he is divorced twice. I told him I’m not doing a third one! I also know of many priests who have left the priesthood.

 

It is interesting that in the time of Moses 3,500 years ago, they had the same issues. People’s marriages didn’t always work out then either. When Jesus is questioned about this, he makes the point that this was not God’s intention, but that doesn’t mean we give up when things don’t work out. The Lord never gives up on us, no matter how badly things turn out, rather He comes to us in our situation, to help and encourage us.

 

God is the one who created marriage. In the book of Genesis it is the Lord who says, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone.’ It also says that when Adam looked among the animals for a helpmate, he could not find one ‘who would be his equal.’ Animals can be of great help to us, but they are not equal to human beings. So the story says that God took a rib from the side of Adam and created Eve. That is a biblical way of saying that man and woman are made of the same stuff. And when a woman and man are united in marriage, they complete each other. The two become one flesh. Man and woman are meant to complement each other. Marriage helps both the man and the woman to mature as human beings.

 

God’s intention is that marriage is for life. Then the Pharisees ask Jesus, ‘Why did Moses allow the people to divorce?’ and Jesus’ reply is, ‘Because you were so unteachable.’ In other words, just because we don’t always manage to live as God intended, doesn’t mean that He will abandon us. God comes to our aid and helps us in our situation.

 



You know the story of Jesus meeting the Samaritan woman at the well. He meets her in the middle of the day, on her own, which means that she was being shunned by other women. It would be normal for her to be with other women early in the morning, when it is cool. Jesus tells her he knows that she has been married five times and is now with another man who is not her husband. But instead of being judgmental of her, he reaches out to her, gives her hope and courage. That is always what the Lord does. Jesus is always the one to encourage us. Satan, who hates and wants to destroy God’s creation, always discourages. He is the one who tells us we are useless, we are hypocrites and there is no point in going on. Jesus called him ‘the Accuser’ and the father of lies. He constantly accuses us, points out our faults and tries to shame us. If you are surprised to hear me talk about Satan, look at the Scriptures. Jesus frequently mentioned him. His existence is real and he works to destroy us and make us despair. Jesus is always the one to encourage us and who tells us not to be afraid.

 

When Jesus was asked directly about this, He said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife and marries another, commits adultery against her.’ Divorce is not what God intended, but even when it happens, the Lord does not abandon us, but works with us, to help us move on. That is also what an annulment is about. It is the Church’s way of allowing a person to move on, by dissolving the previous sacramental marriage. An annulment doesn’t say that a marriage never existed. What it says is that all the elements for the sacrament of marriage were not there and therefore that marriage can be dissolved, so that the person can be free to marry again. You could say it is the merciful side of the Lord’s teaching, to allow people to begin again.

 

I am often asked if it is wrong to receive Holy Communion if someone is divorced. Being divorced is not a problem with regards to receiving Communion. The problem is when someone is then in a second relationship. If someone is in a second relationship without having the first one dissolved, or annulled, then technically they are committing adultery. That’s why we try to help people to get an annulment, so that they can move on. God is always merciful and always with us, but He also shows us how to move forward the right way and most people I have met want to do things the right way.





A few years ago I was talking about this in a homily. Afterwards a couple came to me and said they needed to get annulments and get married in the Church. They had been married for 38 years, but God spoke to their hearts and they both realized they needed to put things right before the Lord. So they both applied for annulments and a year later got their annulments and then they got married here in the Church. I give them great credit for doing that after 38 years being civilly married. It would be easier to say ‘It doesn’t matter,’ but God never tells us it doesn’t matter. Instead, He shows the path and invites us to take the right steps, even when they are difficult.

 

One of the reasons Pope Francis often unnerves people, is because he reaches out to people who are in the ‘grey’ area, which is exactly what Jesus did. He hasn’t changed any Church teaching, but he is reminding us that things are rarely black and white and reaching out to people is what we are meant to be about, because that is what Jesus did.

 

I often think of the line where Jesus is critical of the Pharisees (the religious leaders of the time) and he says, ‘Oh you Pharisees; you place great burdens on people’s shoulders, but you don’t lift a finger to move them.’ In other words, it is easy to just state the God’s law, but we must also help people when things have gone wrong. The Lord is always the one to encourage us and He never abandons us, no matter what happens.

 

God also wants to help couples in their marriage, because it is a holy thing. Not only will He guide us but He gives very specific instructions, which are in the Scriptures. When you follow his instructions, his Commandments and teachings, it works.

 



I want to finish with this story about a couple I know.

John is a friend of mine and he told me this story about his own life. When he was in high school, he met Maria and they got into a lustful relationship. He was 16 she was 17. She became pregnant and graduated 9 months pregnant. John wanted to be there for the child, even though he didn’t love Maria, so they decided to get married. He said the first year was very difficult and the next nine years were just a matter of endurance. They just put up with each other. Whenever they could they spent time apart. For vacation she went to her family and he to his.


After 10 years of marriage, they began to take their faith more seriously. They had been going to church, but just in a routine way. She began to go to bible study and one of the things they discussed was what the bible says about the role of wives and husbands, how wives are to behave towards each other. At the same time he was reading a book called Every Man’s Battle. Here he began to read what the scriptures say about the role of a husband, that is, laying down your life for your wife. Serving her and looking after her every need. It is a life of sacrifice for the other, not a life of fulfillment for oneself.

 

They decided to both really try and live God’s word in their marriage and once they did things quickly began to change. He told me that they actually began to fall in love for the first time. Since then their marriage has turned into a happy marriage and they are now about years married.

 

There is an order to God’s creation and if we recognize that order and try and live by what He teaches us, it works.