Saturday, July 30, 2022

18th Sunday Year C (Gospel: Luke 12:13-21) 'This very night the demand will be made for your soul...'


Any time there is a natural, or human disaster, it makes me think; like the recent mass shootings. Think of any one of those people who died. One moment they are just getting on with their lives, at school, or at a shopping mall, then suddenly they are before God knowing what their whole life was about. That could be any of us.


If you were suddenly told, like in the Gospel, ‘This very night the demand will be made for your soul,’ what would you focus on for the rest of the day? Would you be worried about paying off bills, or loans, or about people who had done you wrong? I doubt it. I’d imagine my focus would turn to the people I love and also to wondering how I have lived my life so far. How did I use the gifts and talents that God gave me?


At the moment many people in our society—including Christians—are living as though there is no after-life, as though our life on earth is everything. At funerals I often hear people talking about the deceased as though that were it. Their existence is over. If that were so, then we might as well grab all we can and make our life as comfortable as possible, because we only have one chance. But our faith tells us something completely different. Perhaps the most important thing it tells us is that we will not find full happiness in this life, but in the next, if we choose God. Complete happiness is not to be found in this life. We will have moments of great happiness, and hopefully we will find overall contentment, but that’s about as good as it gets and that is how it is meant to be. Our focus is meant to be on the world to come, because that is our greatest hope. In the second reading St. Paul writes: ‘Think of what is above, not of what is on earth’ (Col 3:2-3). That doesn’t mean that we ignore the world around us. On the contrary, we are called to better the world around us, to love the people around us, so that when we come before God we will have something to show for it. We are meant to use our gifts and talents as best we can.


When I watch movies or documentaries about organised crime, or the drug cartels, even though I find it interesting, it also makes me sad for those people, because they are doing the exact opposite of what Jesus taught us. They are putting all their energy and skill into acquiring goods for this world, at the expense of their soul. ‘What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his own soul?’ (Mark 8:36).


When Our Lady appeared to Bernadette in Lourdes 150 years ago, one of the things she said to her was, ‘I cannot promise you happiness in this life, but in the next.’ It is so important that we don’t forget what our life is really about.  We are only on this earth for a short time. How we live our life on earth is very important.


In Jesus’ time the problem of greed for money was just as much of an issue as it is now and probably always will be. When this man said to Jesus, ‘Tell my brother to give me a share of our inheritance,’ straight away Jesus pointed out to the disciples the danger of this desire. He said, ‘Watch out for this.’ ‘A person’s life is not made secure by what he owns.’ The problem is that our society tells us the opposite.  We are constantly being told that if we have enough of everything, we will be happy, but that is not what the Lord teaches us. That’s not where our happiness comes from.


There was a priest called Benedict Groeschel (d. 2014) from the Bronx, in New York. He was a Capuchin Franciscan and he founded the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal which is very similar to the Missionaries of Charity, founded by St. (Mother) Teresa. They live very simple lives and usually work in very poor areas. He was a great preacher and he tells the story about a man he knew, who was extremely wealthy. At a particular function this man spoke to Fr. Groeschel, and he said, ‘You know Father, I have more money than I could ever spend, or use and I would really like to be able to put it to good use.’ Fr. Groeschel suggested that he could make a donation to one of the orphanages they run, or something similar. But by the end of the evening the man still had not agreed to part with one cent.  It’s as if he was possessed by his wealth. He knew he had way more than he could use, but he was still unable to part with it. He was a slave to his own money. Instead of bringing him freedom and joy, which is what we usually associate with lots of money, it had enslaved him.


In confession I have heard so many heart-breaking stories of families divided over inheritance. It is so sad, because it is not important. Of course it is not good when someone in a family is left out of what should come to them, but sooner or later we will leave it behind anyway. ‘There is no hitch on the hearse,’ as they say! Is it really worth causing such division in a family for this? When you are on your death bed, will it still matter? I suppose it is another sign that we believe we will find happiness if we have enough of everything materially. If we get the right car, house, job, furniture, etc, then we will be happy. The reality is we won’t. It is very nice to have these things, but these things won’t bring happiness because we are much deeper than this. We are body and spirit and our spirit can never be content with just material things and that is why there is always this deeper longing in us for ‘something’ although we’re often not quite sure what that something is. You could call it a God shaped hole, which only God can fill.


God has made us in such a way that we will only be fulfilled in him. It’s interesting that up to recently at least, one of the most popular areas of sales in book stores, was the occult, which is another kind of search for the spiritual. Everyone is searching, even if we are searching in the wrong place.


Our time here on earth is a time for love and service; to choose for God or not; and this is a choice that each one of us has to make individually. That is why each week we come to listen to the Word of God and to receive Jesus in the Eucharist, so that we remember what our life is about, so that we keep the right focus. Keep listening to God’s word. Make sure God is at the center. We don’t want to come before God and be able to show him a full bank account and a comfortable life-style, but nothing else. God has entrusted us with whatever gifts and talents we have been given and He expects us to use them for good, not just for our own comfort. Thank God if you have done well. It is a blessing for sure, but make sure you also use it well.

This very night the demand will be made for your soul; and this hoard of yours, whose will it be then?’ 


Friday, July 22, 2022

17th Sunday Year C (Gospel: Luke 11:1-13) 'Ask and it will be given to you'


There is an American writer called Scott Hahn, who used to be a Presbyterian and was very anti-Catholic. He was an excellent preacher, so much so, that his church asked him if he would consider preaching full-time. He agreed and began studying more, to help him preach better. When he began to study the Fathers of the Church, who were some of the earliest writers who came after the Apostles, he kept noticing that the various aspects of the faith that they wrote about, the Catholics believed. As he came across more and more teachings of the faith that the Catholic Church believe, he realized that the Catholic Church had got it right and he converted, much to the consternation of his church. He is now a lecturer in theology in Stubenville, University. His conversion story called, Rome Sweet Home, is well worth reading. It is especially good for addressing arguments against our faith, because he has both sides.


In one of his talks he mentions that he had arranged to have a public debate with a Muslim about the differences between Christianity and Islam. Before they had the debate he met the Muslim and he mentioned to him that he would be talking about the fact that Christians understand God as a loving Father who looks after his children. Before he was able to go any further, he said that the other man got extremely upset and said that it is not right to talk about God as a Father. He said God is master and that it was insulting to speak about him as Father. The Muslim ended up refusing to have the debate at all. Scott says that this really brought home to him the difference in the way we understand God. 


Jesus taught us to see and address God in a way that was difficult for many people then and now, to understand. The Jews in Jesus’ time were scandalised that Jesus would talk about God as Father, especially the way Jesus used the word ‘Abba’. A few years ago I was on a pilgrimage to Israel and I remember hearing a boy jumping up and down in front of his dad saying ‘abba’. It really brought home to me what it meant and how extraordinary it was of Jesus to tell us to address the Father in heaven in this way.


While God is all-powerful and doesn’t need us in any way, yet He invites us to be involved in what happens in the world. He asks us to take part in his creation, by interceding for each other, by being responsible for our actions, by making his world a better place; his world. That is the action of a good father with his children. Any parent doesn’t need their children’s help, especially when the children are small, but they love to allow the children to take part in things, for the sheer joy of having them there and helping them to learn. God does the same with us, even though there is the risk of us making a mess of things, which we regularly do.


In the first reading Abraham intercedes for the people of Sodom and Gomorrah. The towns have become so evil and depraved, God reveals to Abraham that He is going to wipe them out completely and in the classic Middle Eastern way, Abraham bargains his way down to the best deal. The wonderful thing is that God is happy to let him do this. God wanted him to intercede for the people. God wants us to intercede for the people around us. That’s why in each mass we have the prayers of intercession and they are general prayers, for the Church, world leaders, the needs of our community, those who have died.

When the Apostles ask Jesus to teach them how to pray, He teaches them what we know as the Our Father. But the Our Father is not just a prayer, but a template for how to pray. To me one of the most important things is that it doesn’t start by asking for our needs. It begins by acknowledging God’s existence, God’s holiness and that He is our Father, meaning someone who has created us and is intimately interested in our wellbeing. It is only in the second half of the prayer we ask for our needs.


Throughout the Bible it is striking how in so many situations where people are in need of God’s help, they don’t begin by praying for his help, but by acknowledging him and praising him. Only then do they ask for their needs.



In the prophet Daniel, when God reveals to Daniel the interpretation of the king’s dream, his first reaction is to praise God:

May the name of God be blessed for ever and ever,

since wisdom and power are his alone...

To you, God of my fathers, I give thanks and praise

for having given me wisdom and strength (Dan 2:20, 23).


The three men in the furnace

In the same book, Daniel and two others refuse to worship a statue of the king. As a result they are thrown into a fire to be burnt alive. As they begin to pray to God to help them, Azariah begins:

May you be blessed and revered, Lord, God of our ancestors,

may your name be held glorious for ever. (Dan 3:26)


Then the other men begin to sing as well:

May you be blessed, Lord, God of our ancestors,

be praised and extolled for ever.

Blessed be your glorious and holy name... (Dan 3:52)


Tobit’s prayer when he goes blind

When Tobit goes blind, he prays to God to restore his sight to him, but he begins by saying:

You are just, O Lord, and just are all your works.

All your ways are grace and truth,

and you are the Judge of the world.

Therefore Lord, remember me... (Tobit 3:2-3)


And St. Paul writes, ‘Give thanks in all circumstances. For this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus’ (1 Thes 5:18). He doesn’t say, give thanks when things have worked out well for you, but ‘in all circumstances.’


That is also why we begin the Sunday mass by acknowledging that we are sinners and then we praise God: ‘Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to people of good will. We praise you, we bless you, we adore you…’ No matter what the situation, begin by praising God for his greatness and holiness and all He has done for us and then ask for your needs.


Then we come to the question that everyone wonders: 'Does God hear and answer my prayers?' So often I have heard people say, ‘God doesn’t answer my prayers.’ If that is true then Jesus was lying, because He said: ‘Ask and you will receive,' and 'The one who asks always receives.’ And something else he said, which is almost surprising, is where He told us to pray to the point of being annoying. If someone comes to the door to ask you for something, even if you don’t want to help them, if they ask often enough you will give it to them just to get rid of them. That’s how Jesus tells us to pray, which is not what you would expect. Don’t stop asking.


Then the question comes up with most of us, ‘How come I’m always asking for things and those prayers often aren’t answered?’ God sees all things and what we ask for is not always the wisest thing to ask for, or maybe it’s not the right time to get what we are asking. If your eight-year-old son asked for a chainsaw for his birthday, would you give it to him?  Hopefully not. Now your child may think that you are really mean and never give him what he asks for, but you can see a bigger picture than he can, because you are older and wiser and God is the same with us. God does answer our prayers, but He doesn’t always answer them in the way that we expect, or understand, or even recognise. That is where we have to believe and trust that God knows what He is doing, even though it often makes no sense to us. The answer may not be what we want, or like, but we have to trust that when we get to heaven, or maybe before, we will understand why God answered us the way He did.

So, the Our Father teaches us to acknowledge and give praise to God first and only then to ask for our needs and we should keep asking for our needs, because the Lord always answers our prayers.


And I tell you, ask and you will receive;                                                                                                              Seek and you will find.                                                                                                                                           Knock and the door will be opened to you.'

Friday, July 15, 2022

16th Sunday Year C (Luke 10:38-42) Only one thing is necessary


You are familiar with the expression ‘going like the hammers of hell’. We use it for a lot of things; to describe frenzied or relentless work; no stop; no let up. I’d imagine that most of you would agree with me when I say that our society has gone a bit like this. Our whole society is going like the hammers of hell. We don’t seem to know when to stop, or even how to stop. There is now no stop during the week. Sunday is the busiest shopping day of the week. That’s not just my opinion, the people in the stores will tell you that. Even apart from a religious point of view, this cannot be good for us. We need to be able to rest, to just stop and do nothing, or have a lazy day. We are not machines.


Martha, Martha, you worry and fret about so many things.’ Look at what Martha was saying to Jesus. ‘Can’t you see how much work there is to be done. Tell my sister to be busy too.  She shouldn’t just be sitting there.’ But Jesus’ reply is interesting. He says that only one thing is necessary and that what Mary has chosen is the better part. He doesn’t just say that there is nothing wrong with her sitting and listening to him; he says it is necessary and that she shouldn’t be stopped from doing that. Stopping and listening is not just a nice idea, but it is necessary. Why is it so important?


There is an order to God’s creation. It works a certain way. The Commandments are what God tells us to do so that our society will work, as God intends it to work. Keep the Commandments and society will work as God intended it to. The third commandment that God gave us, is to keep the Sabbath, or Sunday, holy. Sunday replaced the Sabbath, because it is the day of the resurrection. It is to be a day of rest, where God is given priority. We take time to worship God, since everything we have comes from him. Without him we would not exist, and God asks us to acknowledge and worship him. God should be worshipped because God is God; but it is also a day where we can rest and recover. It says that on the seventh day of creation, God rested. Rest from toil is meant to be part of our life.


When the people of Israel (who represent all of us) were wandering through the desert, they had nothing to eat. So God provided them with manna, a food that they could collect each day, which sustained them. But He also told them that they should only collect enough for that day; but on the day before the Sabbath they should also collect enough for the Sabbath, so that they could rest and give God priority that day. To put it in modern English, He said do enough shopping on Saturday so that you don’t have to go shopping on Sunday. Sunday is to be a day of rest from unnecessary work, where we can worship God, relax, take a walk with family or friends. Why? because we need it. It is necessary for our sanity. It is part of the order that God created and God knows our needs better than we do.


God also asks us to rest so that we can stop and listen to him. I know that a lot of us often wish that God would speak to us more. The truth is that God is speaking to us all the time, but mostly we are not listening. Indeed, to a large degree we don’t even know how to listen any more, because we have gotten used to being so busy. You know the way in a lot of clothes stores, especially for younger people, you have loud music pumping. Do you know why that is? so that you get hyped up and don’t think as clearly. As a result you are more likely to buy more. That is a fact. Our society has become like that on a larger scale and that is one way that Satan is working against God’s people, upsetting the order that God has given us.


Up until a few years ago in Ireland, sports games and practices were never held on Sunday mornings, because they knew that was a time when people went to Church. Just a few years ago that changed and they started putting on games and training on Sunday mornings. The bishops asked them not to, but they ignored it. Satan is clever and knows that by putting parents under more pressure, it is harder for them to bring their kids to church. So even Sunday worship is being eroded. We have had parents tell us that they can’t bring their kids to religious education every Sunday, because they have games on, even when they are preparing for Holy Communion. Holy Communion is being reduced to the same level as other sports and interests. We must stand our ground and say, ‘No. We will worship the Lord and He will come first.’ Teaching your children that is a tremendous witness. If going to church on Sunday is disposable when other sports are on, what are you telling your children?


We must teach them that Sunday is not just another shopping day, but a day of worship and rest. ‘But everyone does it!’ That’s why we must be different, because we are Christian. We go by what the Lord teaches us, not by what society teaches us and that means we will be different.


In order to hear God speaking to us, we have to stop and listen. In the book of the Prophet Hosea, the Lord says, ‘I will lead her into the wilderness and there I will speak to her heart.’ (Hos 2:16). It also means that in prayer, while it is good to pray devotional prayers like the rosary and the Divine Mercy chaplet, it is also important to just stop and listen, so that we can hear what God has to say to us. Many people feel drawn to silence, but don’t know how to be silent. That’s also where any kind of method that helps us to be silent, can be a great help. Centering prayer is one method that I learnt and it’s just one way of helping you to be silent and rest in God’s presence. There are many other methods too.


In the western world, we are not good at just being silent. We live in a world of productivity and we don’t generally appreciate the value of being still. We see it as a waste of time. But it is not a waste of time. What could be more important than listening to God and Jesus himself says it is necessary and the better part. Stopping and listening is better than being productive. You might argue that you don’t have time to stop and listen. Even if it’s for ten minutes, or when you are driving to work, it is worthwhile. Turn off the radio and be quiet. Speak to God and share your thoughts with him. You will find that God has lots to say to you. That’s also why we try and be quiet in the church before the mass. It is not just a time to socialize, but to prepare for meeting and listening to God.


What would God have to say to me?’ you might wonder. If God has created us and loves us intimately and wants us to reach eternal life with him and was willing to die for us, then God has a lot to say to us. He wants to guide and teach us, just like any parent does. The more you give yourself to God, the more God will speak to you. You will be amazed at what the Lord will teach you. God also helps us to make sense of why we are created and what our purpose on earth is. Reading the Scriptures is also a great way to hear what God has to say to us. If we don’t stop and listen, then the only values that we will hear are those of our society, which for the most part are the opposite to what God teaches us.


Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part. It will not to be taken from her.’



Saturday, July 9, 2022

15th Sunday, Year C (Gospel: Luke 10:25-37) There is good in everyone



I remember hearing a story of a priest who went to stay with his niece and her husband.  They were a young couple and were into occult practice. He knew that and they knew that he knew that, so it was going to be awkward and they were nervous about him staying. But when he came and stayed with them, he never said anything to them about it. He was just very loving and considerate of them both and their needs. They were so moved by this, that it actually brought about their conversion. This story taught me a lot. The power of love and seeing good in others. Frank Duff, who started the Legion of Mary, had this expression, ‘Win an argument, lose a soul.’ Love is what wins people over.


All of us grow up with prejudice. We aren’t even aware of most of it, but it is there. Before we see human beings, we tend to see someone who is American, Irish, Polish, or black, white, Asian, or Muslim, or Christian. But these are all human categories that we apply to people, and even though they may be a way of telling us something about a person, we have a lot of associations with each category. If they are American, then I will probably be accepting of them, since I am an American. If they are from somewhere else, we may think we have to be careful, if they are a priest maybe we have to be careful too. But if you take away all the different labels, then first of all you have another human being before you and that is the only thing that matters.


This was really brought home to me visiting two prisoners in Dublin over two years while I was in the seminary. It was a great education for me and very humbling. One thing that really struck me, was that if I had grown up with the same circumstances as they had, the chances of me being in that prison would be very high. One man was in for a very serious murder, which he deeply regretted. It was a freak meeting and a provoked fight, which resulted in a murder. If you were to form a picture of him from the papers, you would write him off as a monster, but he wasn’t a monster, rather someone who committed a very serious crime. Visiting him over the two years helped me to see that he was a very decent human being, even though he had committed a terrible crime.


It says in Genesis that ‘God saw all that He had made and indeed it was good.’ God’s creation is basically good and every human being is basically good. The good in them/us may have gotten buried because of the different hurts we have encountered, or because of what we were taught growing up, but there is good in everyone and that goodness is what we must try and find in each person.


In the parable of the good Samaritan, Jesus was showing the people that there could be good even in someone like a Samaritan. They were prejudiced in thinking that there could not be any good in a Samaritan, simply because someone was a Samaritan. Ironically we now associate the name Samaritan with someone who does good to others, but at the time that Jesus gave this parable it would have been the opposite. It would have been like trying to convince someone in the Ukraine, that there could be good in someone in the Russian army, or vice versa.  They would have found this very difficult to believe.  But Jesus in his wisdom used this parable to force them to admit that there could be good even in someone that they were totally prejudiced against. He was helping them to see their prejudice.


All the people around us, no matter what they believe, or where they come from, are human beings before they are anything else: ordinary people trying to raise their families and make their way in the world, just like the rest of us. Even if they have a totally different understanding of God to ours, or indeed don’t believe in God at all, there still can be goodness in them.


I suppose a prejudice closer to home that we fall into, is to see the migrants coming across the southern border as a problem, rather than as human beings. The political side has to be sorted out for sure and every country has a right to protect its borders, but the place to start is by seeing a human being with their needs, before the political side. If someone standing in front of me is hungry, or thirsty, then the Lord calls me to help them with their human needs. Only then, should the political side be looked at. That’s what Jesus is teaching us through this parable. Don’t ignore someone’s needs because they are a Samaritan, or whatever group they belong to. Start off by seeing them as a human being. The Missionaries of Charity, started by St. Teresa of Calcutta, spend much of their time taking people in off the streets who are dying. They clean them up and allow them to die with dignity. Most of the people they are dealing with are Hindu and Muslim, but they don’t try and convert them to Christianity. They simply help them because they are human beings in need. Needless to say they teach the people they help more about God by their love for them, than by anything they could ever say to them.


At a time when there is so much hatred and selfishness in our society, we bring God to each person we meet by the way we treat them, more than by anything we could say to them.


One of the reasons why we keep coming back to meeting Jesus in the mass, is because it is only in him that we find the strength to live with and love the people around us, especially those we may not like, or agree with. Our strength comes from Jesus himself. Every time we receive the Eucharist we are renewing our bond with the source of love, the one who is Love itself.  Love comes from God, not from us. The more closely we are united to God, the more we can see his creation through his eyes.


So if you want to tell other people about God as we understand him, the best thing we can do is to love them. That will say more than anything else.


Let me finish with this prayer which is the perfect answer to when you find yourself wanting to give up on the world.




People are unreasonable, illogical and self-centred.

Love them anyway.


If you do good people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.

Do good anyway.


If you are successful, you win false friends and true enemies.

Succeed anyway.


The good you do will be forgotten tomorrow.

Do good anyway.


Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable.

Be honest and frank anyway.


What you spent years building, may be destroyed overnight.

Build anyway.


People really need help, but may attack you if you help them.

Help people anyway.


Give the world the best you have and you’ll get kicked in the teeth.

Give the world The best you’ve got anyway.


You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and God; It was never

between you and them anyway.