Wednesday, May 27, 2015

prayer diary Wednesday 27 May 2015

'Whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all.' 
Mark. 10.43,44

It is one of the seeming paradoxes of the Christian life that greatness is attained through humility, and lordship by humble service. But in truth, there is no paradox at all, for the things of the world are a passing splendour; and the things that bring greatness in this life matter not at all in the next.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

haiku: Sunshine on stained glass

Sunshine on stained glass
    ~a butterfly flutters against it
           inside the church

prayer diary Tuesday 26 May 2015

'There is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields, for my sake and for the sake of the gospel, who will not receive a 100-fold now in this age—houses, brothers and sisters, mothers and children, and fields, with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life. 
Mark 10.29, 30

The sacrifices one makes in this life are abundantly made up for by one's joining into the fellowship of the family of Church. What is more, things that will soon fade away are given up for the sake of what is eternal.

Monday, May 25, 2015

prayer diary Monday 25 May 2015

Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, ‘You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.' 
Mark 10.21

It was out of love, for the sake of his immortal soul, that Jesus told the rich young man to let go of the things of this world. How does this warning apply to your life? Do the treasures of this life - including the praise of others - mean more to you than those of heaven?

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Pentecost - what were they waiting for?

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

What were the disciples waiting for in the Upper Room, or Cenacle as it is properly known, on the day of Pentecost? Truthfully, I don't think they really knew. Christ had told them he would send the Holy Spirit – whom he called the Paraclete, which means Advocate, Councillor, and Comforter – but there's no indication that they understood what he had meant by that, any more than they had understood what he meant when he said that the Messiah must suffer and die and rise again. So we may see their actions that day, their quiet abiding in the Cenacle as one of faithful obedience. They did not know what to expect; but they did know they had been asked to do this by the One they had seen both rise from the dead and then ascend into heaven – returning, he told them, to the place he had come from.

But we know that what they were waiting for was one of the great moments in Salvation History. It might be good, at this point, to remind ourselves of what some of those other great moments were. The first is the promise of the Messiah, which is hinted at immediately after the Fall, where God tells the serpent, the devil, that there will be enmity between his offspring and that of Eve's, and that 'he shall strike at your head.' Many Church Fathers have seen in God's use of the word 'he' there – meaning a singular man – as being the first foretelling of the New Adam, Christ, who will defeat Satan and restore a right relationship between God and man. Even as he cares for their physical needs by providing them with clothes and the means to live, albeit now by the sweat of their brow rather than at their ease in the paradise they have lost by their own free will by chosing sin over obedience, so also he cares for their spiritual needs by the promise of a Saviour. That promise is, of course, made far more explicit elsewhere in the Old Testament. And we might see the time between that promise being made and the time of the New Testament as one extended moment, the time of preparation; the preparing of mankind for the time when that promise would be fulfilled.

The fulfilment of that promise began in the next great moment of Salvation History, the Incarnation, when during what is often called the Annunciation, the Blessed Virgin Mary said 'thy will be done' to God's request and she was overshadowed by the Holy Spirit and the Christ child was conceived within her womb. Next is the Nativity, a moment so wondrous that the angels of heaven could not help but come down and sing for joy. And then, after his hidden years, our Lord begins his earthly ministry – which we might again consider an extended moment in our Salvation History, for the teaching of the One who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life – and our obedience to that teaching - is such an essential part of God's plan for our Salvation.

After that we have several moments in rapid succession: our Lord's Institution of the Holy Eucharist at the Last Supper, his suffering, crucifixion, and death, followed by his Resurrection – his dying for our sins and his rising from the dead to destroy the power of death being of almost inexpressible importance to the salvation of us all. After Christ's Resurrection we have the 40 days of his appearances to his followers until his Ascension, his return to the Father to sit at his right hand in heaven. And in many ways we may hold that the Ascension and Pentecost are inextricably linked, given that Jesus said that it was necessary that he send the Holy Spirit to us, but that it was something that he could not do until he had ascended to the Father. So the Ascension not only stands alone, as a moment by itself, it also serves as the guarantee of the next moment, Pentecost itself.

And that moment came like a bomb-shell, like a spiritual hand-grenade going off in that upper room. Tongues of fire hovering over the heads of those present, a sound like that of a rushing wind, speaking in other languages – not babbling, mark you, but the named and recognisable languages of those present - crowds gathering in the street to wonder both at the noise and the sudden ability of these people to speak in foreign tongues. And the spilling forth from the Cenacle, like a wave of living water, of the disciples who were now filled with the Holy Spirit, people who until he descended upon them were still afraid despite their faith in the Risen Lord now boldly going forth to preach the good news of Jesus Christ.

This sudden outpouring from the Cenacle should not surprise us. The day of Pentecost is often called the birth of the Church; but it might equally be called the beginning of another long moment of the Salvation History of the world – the time of Evangelisation, the time when the followers of Christ must carry out his Great Commission of making disciples of all nations and baptising them in the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. That is the moment that we now find ourselves in, a time powered by that outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the Cenacle that day, an outpouring that continues down to this very moment, and will continue until that last important moment of Salvation History, the Parousia, the second coming of Christ, that great and terrible day when he will come to judge the living and the dead, a day which Jesus spoke of in Matthew 25, in the parable of the sheep and the goats, where those who have not lived out his teachings 'will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.'

But look at how much God has done in order that we should be with him in the place he created us to be, which is with him in heaven; and look at how every moment in the Salvation History we have reminded ourselves of this day has been at his gracious initiative. He wants us to be saved, and he acts that all may be saved. This day as we celebrate that wondrous first day of Pentecost, I pray that you will open your hearts to be filled with God's Holy Spirit that you may be at the last saved, even as I pray that you will strive daily for the salvation of others as well as yourselves, in the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen

Examin Sunday 24 May 2015

Let the Abbot always bear in mind that he must give an account in the dread judgement of God of both his own teaching and of the obedience of his disciples. And let the Abbot know that whatever lack of profit the master of the house shall find in the sheep, will be laid to the blame of the shepherd. On the other hand he will be blameless if he has faithfully shepherded his restless and unruly flock, and took all pains to correct their corrupt manners.'
The Rule of St Benedict, Ch 2. 6-8

We all are under the spiritual authority of some other person. Just as in the monastic community it is the faithful abbot, so in the parish and diocese it is the faithful priest and bishop. All must teach teaching according to the Lord's decrees, for which reason all of their flock must pay them careful heed.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

graduation address - Castlecomer CS 2015

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

It is a privilege and a pleasure to speak you on this occasion and I thank your principal and your chaplain for their kind invitation. It is made all the more special by the fact that we may well be making history this evening – as far as I am aware, this is the first time the priest who is preaching at this Graduation Mass has been one of the parents of the graduating class. It shows just how far ecumenicism has come in Ireland – it is a sign of a mature society when the differences between different groups of people are no longer a cause for automatic discomfort; and that we are able to respect differences without trying to pretend that they do not exist.

The fact that things are changing in this country brings us rather neatly, I think, to the theme you all chose for this Mass: 'Learn from the past, Live in the present, Believe in the future.' Now I'm a great fan of programmes like Dr Who, and the whole past, present, and future motif rather puts me in mind of Time Travel. So perhaps you'll forgive me if there are a few references relating to time travel in this talk – especially if you don't find any of them funny! So let us begin with an experiment. If you're a fan of the Big Bang theory, you may recognise this. Time travel, as you know is not possible – yet! But you look like a smart group of young people; perhaps one of you will be the person who invents it. So let us make a deal. I would like you all to agree that if you do, you will promise to return here, to this very night, five seconds from now – do you agree? Very well, so let us count it down: five, four, three, two, one … Ah … I guess not. Still, not to worry; just because none of you invent time travel, I'm sure that doesn't mean that you're all not still very clever people.

Or perhaps one of you was not only clever enough to invent time travel, but also wise enough not to come back. Those of you who watch Dr Who will know that the past is not something to interfere with lightly. The past is important – think about all your memories, all your experiences; they are a very important part of who you are – would you really want them taken away from you? I realise that with the leaving cert looming, some of you may very well be wishing you could travel back in time and spend more time studying for your exams; and that all those episodes of Breaking Bad or those evenings hanging out with your friends that seemed so vital then, may not seem quite so important now. But don't worry about it: not only can you do nothing about it, it probably wouldn't be a good idea to try even if you could. We learn from our mistakes; and if we don't make them, we can't learn. And in any event, in a few weeks the exams will be over, in a few weeks more you'll have the results, and no matter how well you did or didn't do, life goes on.

Time for another joke about time travel. As it happens, I heard a very good one about time travel tomorrow … and I'll tell it to you yesterday. But that brings me to the next phrase in your theme: live in the present. Yesterday is gone, tomorrow may never come, so don't spend so much time going over and over things that are over and done with that you can't change, or worrying so much about things that may never happen that you miss out on the here and now. In a very real sense this present moment is all we have. If there's someone you know you should help, do it now; tomorrow may be too late. Have you done wrong to someone else and it is eating you up, going round and round in your head? Stop wasting your time thinking about it; go say sorry to that person now. Is there a change you need to make in your life, something important? Do it now, because tomorrow may never come. Because though you are not able to change the past, and you don't know what the future holds, you can act in the present. Today was a very good example of that, as it was the first opportunity many of you will have had to vote. No doubt some of you could have registered and did not; others were registered and did not go.

And if you are not happy with the result that emerges tomorrow you may well have some regret. But there will be nothing you can do, for today was the day to act. Those of you who did vote, I congratulate you – I may not agree with the way some of you may have cast your votes – personally, I think that 21 is too young to be the president, but that is only my opinion – but you took action and for that you deserve much credit.

Time for another joke, this one about travelling to the future. A scientist, a business man, and a comedian was each allowed to travel into the future for a few minutes. The scientist came back grinning and said 'I went 10 years into the future and I looked up lots of future Nobel prize winning ideas and I'm going to publish all those works myself. I'm going to be the greatest scientist that ever lived!' The business man came back with a huge smile on his face and said 'I went 15 years into the future. I looked up which companies are doing really well on the stock exchange; I'm going to invest in them and become the richest man that ever lived!' The comedian came back, looking rather sad. He said 'I went 20 years into the future. Does anyone know how to make nuclear war sound funny?'

That bring me to the last part of your theme: believe in the future. That's rather a no-brainer, isn't it? It is something we all have pretty much no choice but to do – after all, if we didn't, there wouldn't be much point in getting up out of bed in the morning. You all already know what it means to believe in the future – for the last five or six years you have essentially worked hard every day – in the present moment – toiling toward the future goal of your Leaving Cert exams, believing that the sacrifices you were making would ultimately prove to be worth it. Many of you are doubtless hoping to go on to third level, where you will again make sacrifices in the now for the sake of making a better future for yourselves. You will all be looking to the future in some way: jobs, careers, relationships, starting a family, travel … all of which depend on action in the present with an eye on the future result, a belief that the hopes and dreams of the present are possible and can be realised in the future if only you make the effort to make them happen. And I certainly hope that all of you are able to make real in your future lives the ambitions that you have in the present moment.

And now comes to the point to bring a little bit of religion into this – you may have been thinking that I was perhaps going to let this occasion go by without it, but seriously – get real! This is a sermon, and this is your graduation Mass – it really is obligatory for me to bring religion in it! Let's say for the sake of argument you all achieve your wildest dreams … you all become fabulously wealthy, you have perfect lives with big houses, fast cars, husbands or wives that look like movie-stars, foreign holidays every second week, and children who don't give you even a fraction of the hassle that you gave your parents … what then? Well for that, it would perhaps be appropriate to consider a little warning about the future that Jesus Christ gave us in what is called the parable of the rich fool; it goes like this: The land of a rich man produced abundantly. And he thought to himself, “What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?” Then he said, “I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.” But God said to him, “You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?” So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich towards God.’ And what Christ is saying there is that this life will pass; and if all your thoughts for the future have only been concerned with this life, to the exclusion of the next, then your future is rather bleak. Don't get so caught up in dreams about the future you hope for in this life that you forget about the reality of life in the next, and so, for the sake of something that is passing, lose out on something that is eternal.

One last joke: After years of mockery from his colleagues at the university, who told him he was wasting his time, a scientist finally perfected his time travel machine. Sadly, on the same day, his dog died. His assistant, a very sympathetic young lady, said 'Professor, I'm so sorry about Rover. Shall we bury him before we take the machine for a test run?'
'Naw,' said the Professor. 'Let's do both at the same time.'
'What do you mean?'
'I mean I want to take Rover back about 100,000 years, dig a hole on the side of the Iron Mountain, and bury him there. Wearing a crown and holding a machine gun!'
'Why on earth would you want to do that?'
'Because Bob in archaeology has been the worst of all those giving me a hard time over the years and he has a dig starting tomorrow in the exact spot I'm going to bury Rover. Let's see him try to explain that!'

If any of you do invent time-travel, I hope you make better use of it than that. But whatever your future holds, I would like to end this evening by thanking God for all that he has given you in the past, ask that he bless you in the here and now, and guide every step of your future lives, particularly over the important weeks to come, through all of this life and into the next. Amen