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 St. Catherine's Church

Meath St.,  Dublin 8

Phone: 01-4543356

info@meathstreetparish.ie

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MASS TIMES

Mon to Fri 8 a.m. & 10 a.m.

Sat. 10 a.m.

Sun 10.30 a.m. & 12 noon

 

 

 

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 From Monday 10th May 2021

One Mass will be celebrated

Mon to Sat.  at 10 a.m.

SUNDAY MASSES

10.30 a.m. and 12 noon

 

WEEKLY NEWSLETTER

13th Sept 2020

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CORPUS CHRISTI - 14th June 2020

Julia, was a catholic of the old school, a person given to the rosary, pilgrimages endless novenas, and above all veneration of the blessed sacrament. There was not a novena or triduum in the whole of Louth that Julia did not attend, and her boast was that she had been to Lough Derg 149 times; she was a holy person by those standards at least.

But as well as being a holy person Julia was also a very kind and compassionate person, the two most often do not go together. The high point of Julia’s faith however was perpetual devotion to the Blessed Sacrament, and she was given to all night vigils in the local Blessed Sacrament chapel, in much the same way as some people might be addicted to alcohol or gambling, much I might add to the discomfort of her family who thought of this as somewhat dangerous.

Now one night Julia and some others of a similar pious ilk were doing their adoration. It was a wintry night, cold and wet and miserable, and into this holy gathering came a drunk seeking shelter from the elements. At first there was no problem, he settled down in the back of the little oratory and was quiet. Gradually the heat began to bring him to life and after a while he took the paper out of his pocket and began noisily to read the racing page. The assembled faithful gave a few glances in his direction. After another while he took a bottle of cheap wine from his coat pocket and began to take a few swigs. Again the faithful did nothing.

Then having relaxed into his surroundings and being full of his own welcome he took a cigarette from his pocket and lit it. This was the final straw, the assembled faithful in one body rushed at him, and just like Jesus in the synagogue in Nazareth the hustled him out of the oratory, to brave the wintry elements as best he could.

Now what Julia and her friends did was very consistent with the theology they had been thought. Their theology was that respect for the Blessed Sacrament in the tabernacle was paramount, because the bread was the real presence of Christ. There was nothing wrong with that, it was a very orthodox theology. The only problem was that it was a very restrictive theology. For while they were venerating the Christ who was present in the tabernacle they had no problem throwing the Christ who was present in the other person back out into the rain and cold. It was not their fault it was their theology which had been unbalanced.

The celebration of the Eucharist is central to the lives of catholic communities, we believe that Christ is present to us in the bread and wine, that is the foundation position of our faith. That accepted, it is important that we move beyond that, and see that our Eucharist is a lived sacrament.

Christ during his life on earth, hosted and was present at many dinners or feast, the last supper was simply one in a long line, was it different or more important than any of the others, that point is debatable.

A number of things characterised the dinners or feast that Jesus hosted or attended.

  • They were open and inclusive
  • Jesus served as he was served.

The dinners that Jesus hosted were very different from the other social gatherings of the time. These dinners were open to all who wished to come, we find for example Pharisees at these dinners, these were the most respectable people in society, but we also find tax collectors and prostitutes at these dinners, we also find women sitting down at these dinners. These three, the tax collectors, prostitutes and women, would never been allowed in polite society, yet here we have them all sitting side by side with the scribes and Pharisees.

The dinners included everyone was equal at these dinners.

Secondly at some of these dinners we find Jesus himself serving, while the women sat at table. In polite society the host would never serve, indeed men would never serve unless they were either servants or slaves. We find at the last supper Jesus washes the feet of the disciples, a job reserved for the lowest slave.

Again in this Jesus is making a statement, his function is to serve.

So the Eucharist is much more that the presence of the body and blood of Christ, it is an open invitation which includes everyone and excludes nobody, and it is an invitation for each member of the community to serve.

All of this puts an obligation upon all of us here. We cannot come to Eucharist and go away the same. Eucharist makes demands, it demands that we are changed, that we become the Christ that we have received, and that becoming that Christ we act like that Christ in that we include and we serve.

So Julia and her friends had a sound theology, yes Christ is present in the Eucharist, but it was a narrow theology, it did not take account of the implications of that presence. It did not take account of that fact that to receive Christ means obligation, to a wider community, to become the presence of Christ in that community, above all to include and to serve.

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Trinity Sunday - 7th June 2020

Today is the feast of the Holy Trinity. Not a subject to excite the blood, but believe it or not theological discussion on this very subject caused riots in Constantinople, so strong did various factions feel about the doctrine of the Trinity.

At one stage in my existence I was a frequent visitor to the courts, the reason being that many of my parishioners at that time spent time there. During those visits you have plenty time to look around and to observe, and one of the features I noticed was that no matter what the crime, no matter how frequently the person had offended, no matter what the pain and distress and shame and embarrassment the offender has caused, almost invariably the mother was there a bit like Mary at the foot of the cross, usually the mother and indeed sometimes the father stood by the child no matter what the crime. You see there was a bond there, a bond that went way beyond crime and punishment, a bond of family and of love which transcended everything else, and this bond could not be broken. Again when the offspring went to jail as most often they did the mother visited them on a weekly basis. The bonds of love transcended everything else.

There is a film entitled “there were times dear”. The theme of the film is not unfamiliar, indeed many, many people have lived through the experience, it is the theme of a wife looking after her husband who has progressive Alzheimer’s. The film shows him as he becomes more and more lost, and retreats into his own world, becoming a drooling invalided. She worries at night that she will wake up in the morning and he was wandered off and she doesn’t know where. She watches as slowly he doesn’t even recognise her anymore, he is no longer the same person, but she cares for him, feeds him dresses him washes him sits for endless hours with him. Her love keeps her these.

Why do such stories resonate with us, and what have they in common with the Trinity. These speak of loving relationships. We know that we are at our best, at our most moral at our most human, at our most divine, when we are in loving relationships. Because at these times our true identity is released. What Identity are we talking about? Our identity as being created in the image of the triune God.

Trinity tells us that God is not a solitary God, but that God is relationships, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and those relationships are relationships of love.

So forget all about that theological language which means absolutely nothing, the Trinity is about three persons bound in a relationship of love and it’s about me, because I am a reflection of that relationship”.

 

 

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Dove or Wild Goose? - Sunday 31st May 2020

From the earliest times the dove was the symbol of the Holy Spirit. We remember how at his baptism in the Jordan the Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus in the form of a dove.   This image remained with the church and in the middle ages it was the tradition to release flocks of doves in the cathedrals during Pentecost Sunday. While the symbolism was very nice the consequences were not great. For doves like the cousins the pigeons did what doves do best they rained down more than peace and light upon the congregation.

I have a theory that perhaps this is where the tradition, now gone, of women covering their heads in church came from, it was to protect their hair from the doves.

Also the church cleaners union were not too happy with the practice.

This aside the dove does have something to recommend it, it is gentle, sweet, cooing and seductive, it has no enemies, everyone likes the dove. However that is its limitation; it is too sweet and sentimental.

Now the Irish monks who thrived from the 6th to the 12th century were a contrary crowd and often found themselves in disagreement with the rest of the church in Europe. When it came to the symbol for the Holy Spirit they had their own ideas, instead of a dove they depicted the Holy Spirit as, wait for it, a wild goose. Now the wild goose is a different kettle of fish from the dove, it is noisy, it is uncontrollable, it hisses and honks and bites those who try to control them, it upsets things and demands to heard, it is unruly and causes commotion, they stir things up.

Today’s gospel sees the apostles, virtual prisoners, victims of their own fears, locked in a room, and kept there by their fears. For them there can be no future they are afraid to face it. Into that setting comes the Spirit and that spirit sets them free, they are at peace with themselves, and from Luke’s gospel we learn the consequence of that freedom they go out and preach boldly that Jesus is alive and risen. This is a dramatic transformation. Fear gives way to courage, despair gives way to hope and a new confidence is found.

There are parallels with today’s Christians. To a great extent we have lost confidence in ourselves and in the Christian message. We have suffered from our own self inflicted Good Friday of power and abuse and experienced the crucifixion for the same.                           The temptation is of course to remain in the room, holding what we have and fearing to put our heads above the parapets for fear of further criticism or attack. Yes it is easier to stay in the upper room and the safety it gives, but that self imposed safety is also a prison.

I think that we can say with an amount of certainty that the church as we know it is dying, its structures having served their usefulness will fade away, but the message of the first Pentecost is as relevant as ever, and the place of Christ in our lives is as necessary as ever. Our fear however prevents us from leaving the upper room of today and seeking the freedom of tomorrow. As someone put it lately “Pope John XXIII threw open the windows of the Vatican to let in the Holy Spirit. Pope John Paul II and his successor called in the treble glazers to insure that nothing of the type happened”.

The Irish monks were very wise in their own way, the dove is peace and security, the wild goose stirs things up, makes noise and disturbs people makes them uncomfortable , upsets their tranquillity and security, perhaps that is what is needed now.

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Not Adieu but AU REVOIR - Sunday 24th May 2020

To speak a foreign language well, one must learn to think in that tongue. Most beginners tend to translate literally from their mother tongue. When an Irish priest I know first started working in French – he was in a parish in Bordeaux, he was having this difficulty with the language. On one occasion a family in the parish invited him out to dinner. At one point during the meal, the mother offered him a second helping, which he declined. He should have said, Merci, non. J’ai bien mangé. (No thank you. I have eaten well.) Instead, he used an expression which was used in Ireland on such occasions and translated it literally into French. What he said was, Merci, non. Je suis plein (“No thanks. I’m full.”) There was a sudden burst of laughter from the younger members of the family. Later he discovered why. Their priest had just informed them that he was pregnant. “To be full” was a local expression to describe the state of pregnancy.

French is a more precise language than English. Often it has two words, where English has only one. “Goodbye” is a case in point. The French use Au revoir for those everyday temporary separations, like going out to do the shopping or going out to work, while Adieu is reserved strictly for final definitive departures. There is no exact English translation but it means roughly “until we meet in heaven.” Life is a succession of Adieus. The number grows with the passing years. Our memory is peopled with faces that once were dear to us. Some, like our parents, have died. Others have moved away out of our lives never to reappear again, face-to-face. Sometimes their names crop up in conversation and we say, “I wonder what became of so-and-so.” They probably think the same about us occasionally. Life is a series of little deaths until our own death which for us will be the last great Adieu.

We are, as never before, a pilgrim people. We need faithful friends who travel with us through life. In today’s gospel, Jesus speaks of his imminent departure, his ascension into heaven. He makes clear to his apostles that the road ahead is a difficult one, they are to go out and preach in his name. This mission is one which will bring them hardship and sorrow and even death itself. However, he gives them the assurance that they will not be alone, he will be with them in all that they do, their companion on the journey. He doesn’t say Adieu but Au revoir. “Know that I am with you always; yes, to the end of time.”

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Because my mother tells me so! - Sunday 17 mAY 2020

Some years ago I was at home on a visit at that time my mother was in decline, physically she was OK but her memory was slipping and she sometimes got confused. Perhaps she knew that she had not long more to live, but one day she rooted out a box of old photographs, and began to sift through them, they were memories of moments from her life. Some of the photographs were relatively recent ones and I knew everyone in them, but some were old photographs taken ions ago and many of the people in them were strangers to me, some were still alive but many had died, and some , and this was the surprising thing, were people I had not even known existed.

The peculiar thing about all of this was that while my mother’s recent memory was slipping badly she still knew everyone who was in every photograph and in most cases knew where and when it was taken, and the life history of everyone in the photographs. They were as I said, fossilised moments from her life.

One of the most intriguing photographs was one of three very solemn women sitting in the sunshine a photograph taken back from the start of the 20th century; it was probably the oldest photograph in the box by a long shot. This was my mother’s grandmother and her two of her daughters, one of whom was blind. There was a story relating to this woman which is to some extent the point of this sermon, that if it has any point. This woman as I said was blind, and had been from birth. When she was a child, her mother washed her and dressed and combed her hair every morning. Obviously she had no idea what she looked like or how she was dressed. One day when she was about seven she was heard in conversation with a cousin, and they were talking about appearances. This child said in conversations, “I know that I am beautiful” the other child being very logical, and perhaps thinking that this was some type of slur on her retorted, with all the venin she could muster. “how could you know that you are beautiful, sure you are blind you cannot see yourself in the mirror” to which the first child answered, I know I am beautiful because every morning after she dresses me and brushes my hair, I ask my mother how do I look, and she tells me that I am beautiful, I don’t need a mirror.

Well I would ask you to hold on to two points.

Ÿ  Photograph as a source of memory

Ÿ  The lack of a mirror in that child’s world.

The context of today gospel is the ascension of Jesus his leaving the apostles, Jesus is speaking to his apostles knowing that he is leaving them. At all leave taking there is an element of remembering and recalling, there is this element of looking back this sharing of all that has gone before, especially this sharing of the important things that he has taught them, he is asking them to remember what he has told them, and to apply the teaching that he has taught them.

For the apostles the memory of Jesus, what he has said, what he has done what he taught, these are to be hugely significant for they are to ones who are to preach his message. He is sending them the Holy Spirit to confirm them in all that he has taught them. he is sending them out to preach all that he has taught them

This is Jesus looking through his box of photographs, the memory of his life, saying to the apostles “remember that day, remember what I said, remember what I did.

He moves on then to what is the central part of his teaching. The two great commandments, the love of God and the love of neighbour. The emphasis here is not so much upon our love of God but Gods love for us. God loves us full stop. There are no conditions attached, yes it does say to us if I love you, then you must show that love to everyone else. But the emphasis is upon Gods love.

And so in a roundabout way we come back to the blind girl in the photograph. How does she know she is beautiful? because her mother tells her so every day. How do we know we are loved by God, because God has told us so in Jesus Christ.

So what is the gospel about? It is about the Jesus who is taking leave of his apostles, and looks back with his friends and reminds them of moments from his life and his teachings --photographs if you like. And it’s about the blind child who knows she is beautiful because her mother told her, and it’s about us who know we are loved by God because Jesus has told us.

 

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Same Story Different Words - Sunday 10th May 2020

 

We are all familiar with the Easter story, the story of the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We have heard this story so often, that like all things to which we are over exposed it loses its punch. We listen but do not hear, the words do not impact upon us anymore.

So I will retell the story.

Early one morning I met a strong young man walking down our street pulling a cart filled with bright coloured clothes. He was shouting at the top of his voice "new clothes for old rags, new clothes for old rags”. This intrigued me, why was he giving away new clothes for old rags, what did he mean, and why could a young strong man like this get no other work than that of a rag man.. I followed him, I was curious.

Soon the Ragman saw a young woman sitting outside a rundown house, she was crying, shedding a thousand tears, her whole body shook, and her face spoke of her pain. The Ragman stopped and went up to her. Give me your rags he said gently, and he took the old cloth she had been using to dry her tears and gave her a shining new handkerchief instead. She looked up, and glanced from the gift to the giver.

Then as he began to pull his cart he did a strange thing, he put her handkerchief to his eyes and began to cry a thousand tears, to sob as she had been sobbing; his whole body shook. Yet she was left without a tear and she looked after him and smiled. This is a wonder I said to myself and like a child I followed him as he shouted “new clothes for old rags”.

A little later the Ragman came across a girl whose head was wrapped in a bandage, whose eyes were empty. Blood soaked the bandage and trickled down her face. He looked upon the child with pity and drew out a yellow bonnet from his cart. “Give me your rags” he said “and I will give you this”. He loosened her bandage, and placed the bonnet on her head. I gasped at what I saw, for with the bonnet went the wound, and blood, his blood, ran down his cheek.

He moved on, crying a thousand tears and blood streaming down his face, he cried out new clothes for rags.

He stopped to talk to a man who was leaning against a pole... Are you going to work he asked. No said the man, I have no job, and as he moved away from the pole he revealed the arm of his jacket hanging limply, I have only one arm he replied.

Give me your jacket the Ragman ordered and I’ll give you a mine. The one armed man took off his jacket and the Ragman did likewise. I gasped at what I saw; now the man had two arms but the rag man had one.

After that he found a drunk lying unconscious on an old blanket, an old man hunched wizened and sick. He took the blanket for himself, but for the drunk he left new clothes.

By now he was weeping uncontrolled, bleeding from his wound, pulling his cart with one arm, and stumbling along, a battered old sick man. Always he went onwards in haste. Finally he came to a little hill, which he climbed with great difficulty. There he lay down, making a pillow of the jacket and the handkerchief and covering his battered body with the old blanket... There he died.

How I cried to witness that death. I slumped, to the ground and wailed and mourned, I sobbed as one who had no hope. I slept all through Friday and Saturday, and on Sunday I was wakened to a violent light. I looked and there I saw the ragman, folding his blanket, he was alive. Yes he had the scar on his forehead, but he was restored. There was no sign of sorrow or pain, and all the rags he had gathered shone like the light.

I get up and approached him, filled with shame, for besides him I was a sorry figure, then I stripped myself of everything and said dress me, make me new again. He put new clothes on me and I too shone like the light.

And that is the story of Easter, of Christ who took on our suffering and pain, Christ who identified with us in our sinfulness and brokenness, not because he had to but because he loved us, Christ who died for us and took away our sins, and just as he was transformed in his resurrection, as he received back his life, so we are also changed, we are shown what we are capable of doing and what we are capable of becoming, we are a resurrection people, a people transformed, for we are one with Christ.

 


"GOD IS LOVE" - Sunday 3rd May 2020

Each and every week we look at politicians or celebrities on TV, we feel that we know them, but in fact we don’t, what we know is the image they project, the idea they want us to buy, and very often the reality is so different. We have no access to the real person - and this is the important thing, the image they project is what we relate to, if we like the image we like the politician or celebrity, if we don’t like the image we don’t like them.

The same applies in our knowledge of God. Very often we are dealings with images, what image of God do we have, for the image of God is very important for it determines just how we relate to him, for example if we think of God as harsh, judgmental, and vindictive, then we fear him and we spend our time trying to do what is right in case he punishes us. We live in a continuous relationship of fear. If we see God as kind and forgiving then we live in freedom and in a relationship of love. However most of us are still children in our understanding of what God is like. We get an image of God in childhood, it may be of God as an old man with a beard sitting in heaven watching and noting everything, it may be of God as a God that notes our failings and punishes, it may be God who a bit like the Greek Gods acts on a whim and sends accidents here cancers there, or good luck to someone else and that image never changes as we grow.

What I am saying is that as Christians we need to know God. The God whom Jesus revealed to us, then and only then will our Christian living be true Christian living we need to base our image of God our knowledge of God upon the gospels and the God that Jesus reveals to us there

Let me give you an example of what I am talking about. When I was a child, my brother and myself attended 10 o clock mass each Sunday in Ballinroad about a mile from our house. The ten o clock mass was the children mass, and the only difference between this and any other mass was the fact that the priest did not preach. The result was this was always the most popular mass.

At any rate, as I said we went too this mass every Sunday, we used to walk. Before going we were each given two old pennies, the ones with the hen on them, these were for the church collection. Now the collection was taken up at a table at the church door.                      One Sunday we were a little later than usual and there was a bit of a rush at the door when we arrived. We discovered that it was possible in the rush to walk past the collectors without paying at all, it was great discovery. Now we could get mass and still hold on to our two pennies. Each Sunday after that we timed our entrance just at that moment when the crowd was thickest and we slipped in without paying. On the way home we visited the local shop, this was a pub with a bit of a groceries shop attached. There a child could buy lovely orange coloured ice pops for two pence. That is what we did each Sunday. Our luck could not hold.

One Sunday we must have got careless and arrived home without wiping our lips. So when we got home we looked as though we were wearing a type of bright orange lipstick.

Now my mother was an observant woman, and immediately noticed the lip stick. She asked in a casual way.

“Where did you get the ice pops”? Now I was only eight at the time but knew this was not the innocent question it seemed; this was a woman who could have taught the FBI or KGB interrogation methods.

I paused, trying to think. Then I said.

“We got them in “the shop”.

This I knew was not the answer my mother was looking for but it at least postponed the inevitable.

“I suppose they gave them to you for nothing”. She said

Now everyone knew the owner to be a real miser and certainly never gave away anything for nothing.

“No” I said “we bought them”.

The crisis point had been reached, the next question was inevitable.

“Oh, and where did ye get the money”, she asked

Now these were the days when the average eight year old did not have their own Bank Account or their own gold credit card. How things have changed. It was also a time when parents knew every penny a child might possess.

“We bought them with the chapel money”, I said

There was silence!

Now as any child will tell you, a clout in the ear is preferable to silence.                                      Silence is very hard to deal with.

Then when she did speak she said, “you mean to say, you stole the poor parish priests pennies”. Now I was only eight but I knew that this was not a time to point out the obvious, that the parish priest was not poor and probable could survive without these pennies.

So she went on to make it very clear that since the foundation of the world no greater sin had ever been committed. Yes there were murders whole nation’s slaughters, children killed peoples starved to death, but this beat them all. Never in the history of humanity had anyone stolen pennies from a poor parish priest. I was slowly coming to terms with my crime and the magnitude of the same, when she threw in the ‘cout de gras’-- God is watching you!

Here was the God of all creation, the one who had created the universe and all within it, who held that universe and all within it in order, now he had forsaken all his duties and was doing nothing else but watching me. So planets hurtled uncontrolled through space, seas flooded the land, famines raged, volcanoes erupted and killed thousands, but did God notice, no he was doing nothing else but watching me, this hideous thief who had stolen the parish priest’s pennies.

I was left on my own with God watching me, not knowing at what moment this harsh and vindictive God might pounce and what punishment he would meet out to me, or indeed if he would not snatch away my life completely.

The following morning my mother was speaking to me again as though nothing had happened, and I knew if she had forgotten the incident so to had God and he had now reverted to his usual duties.

 

The point I make is that very often when it comes to God we think like children, the images of our childhood still dominate out thinking, still dominate how we see God, and so dominate how we relate to God. The story I told is a story from childhood and from a different age which sees God as one who punishes, but above all which dominates how as a child I related to God, for me God was someone to fear, someone punished. This of course is a false God.                                                                                                                                     I was recently reading a book in which the writer contends that if our image of God was the same today as it was last year then we were failing as Christians. We do have the obligation to find the God who has been revealed to us in the gospels. There we find Jesus revealing, not a God of pain and punishment, but as St Johns says – a God who is love.

 

STORIES, STORIES AND MORE STORIES -  Sunday 26th April 2020

All of us like listening to stories and telling stories, they fascinate us, we tell our own story good or bad, and we listen to other people’s stories. The most significant story we tell is the story of our own lives, and when that story of good and successful we bubble with life as we tell it, when the story of our life is dark and painful we often remain silent and the story is never told, it is too painful. Today’s gospel is all about stories and the coming together of those stories and then the telling of more stories. So I will begin with a story.

Some year ago a man walked into a London hotel, he was well dressed and well- groomed and carrying an expensive suit case. He looked normal until he went to check in. When the receptionist asked for his name he became confused, and had to admit that he couldn’t remember who he was. He checked his pockets and his suit case but there was nothing there to given any inclining of who he was and where he came from.

Luckily for this man he was brought to a hospital where a psychologist recognised his condition and took a special interest in him. Little by little over the weeks and months he encouraged him to recall tiny things from his lost past. The psychiatrist suspected that there was something in his past so painful that he has blotted out all recollection of that past. The man has been an orphan, brought up in an institution. He had marries a rich girl who lived with her family. She had no need of the money he earned and he felt useless, and her family despised him and made fun of him. He had an affair with another woman and was just about to leave his wife for this woman when she suddenly took ill and died. He simply could not cope with so much pain and simply blotted it all out and had no memory of his past.

Yet in telling his story, in being listed to, he learned to accept his story and to accept himself and to move forward.

Today’s gospel is about the telling of stories. Two of Jesus disciples are on a journey, and they have a story to tell. It is a story of disappointment and disillusionment; it is a story of loss of faith and loss of hope. Jesus enters into the story and encourages them to tell of their disappointments, and so they do they unburden themselves.

 

Then Jesus having listened to their story begins to tell his own story. For the disciples the cross had signalled their end of hope and had signalled the end of their interest in Jesus. Yet he tells his story, they are changed; it is the same story, but the cross far from being the end is that which brings meaning to his story, it is through this cross that we are saved and through this cross that he is glorified, and all of scripture is simply a prologue to this. In his telling of his story Jesus open their eyes and they understand their own story, they realise that their story and that of Jesus are interlinked and because of this they then break the bread together.

At the end of all this story telling the disciples rush off to Jerusalem, there they meet the rest of the disciples and they begin again to tell a new story, the story of how they had met with Jesus and how through his story they had seen Gods plan and had regained faith and hope. This story is told over and over for the generations, and so our stories are linked with that of Jesus

Every human story is a story of journey, and often too it is a pain filled story. For the Christian however we do not journey alone, but are always in the company of the Christ whose presence we often do not recognise, but we are not lone travellers, but part of the community of God.

 

It Hurts Too Much To Hope - Sunday 19 aPRIL 2020

Mellissa came from a broken home, her father was an alcoholic her mother was a prostitute, and she was often neglected and left to herself with no one to care for her but an elderly grandmother. When her grandmother died she was taken into care and sent from one foster family to another in a few years she had stayed with fourteen different families, each one of which was more interested in the money they got for fostering Mellissa than in caring for her. Invariably the families decided she was too much trouble and so she moved on again.

Finally she came to stay with a Mrs. Bennett whose family were grown and who had fostered children for many years. When Mellissa arrived Mrs Bennett tried to make her as welcome as possible. She had a meal prepared for her, she had a room nice and clean and newly decorated, and she was kind and welcoming.

She asked Melisa if she was scared, she replied kind of, but I’ve been in many different homes.

Well Mrs Bennett tried to reassure her, let’s hope this time it turns out for the best.
Melisa simply replied without any change of tone... It hurts too much to hope.

Today’s gospel is a story of two sets of scars, one very visible and the other hidden, it is a story of hurts and hope.

Thomas is one of Jesus apostles, he has left everything and followed him, and that leaving everything cost him much. He had built hopes and dreams around what this Jesus could accomplish, and then came Good Friday and all those hopes and dreams were shattered, Thomas has been hurt, betrayed. So when the others tell him that they have seen the lord, his pain becomes very acute, he no longer trusts, he no longer hopes he no longer believes, because to do any of these would leave him very vulnerable, and he is afraid that the unseen wounds will be opened again, he has no capacity for more pain. His life is filled with fear, fear of more hurt. For him like, Mellissa it hurts too much to hope.

Let me move on to another story. A man was badly injured in a house fire, his face was seriously disfigured, indeed so disfigured was he that he could no longer face the world, he stayed in his own room with the door locked. His wife tried everything to entice him out but all to no avail.

Finally she went to a plastic surgeon and told her the story. The plastic surgeon said not to worry, that he could restore the man face. That is not why I have come said the women, I have tried everything he will not allow you to do surgery, no I want you to disfigure my face, that perhaps I can understand his pain and empathise with him.

 

The surgeon went to the man, explained his wife’s plan, and finally he relented had surgery and was restored.

Let me get quickly to the point. The disciples are like the husband, crippled with their wounds, their failure, their fears, their betrayal, they are afraid to face anyone, their fears overwhelm them. Then Jesus comes to them, he is wounded he is disfigured. Yes his wounds are physical rather than psychological but they are wounds. Maybe Jesus is like the wife, if he appears before them with his wounds perhaps they will let him back into their disfigured lives. His wounds the physical wounds of the nail, meet their psychological wounds of fear and shame and betrayal, and there is healing and they is new hope.                                                                                                                                                  

All of us have hopes and dreams and all of us know that we will not go through life always realising these hopes and dreams, there will be moments and times of disappointment. However for some at least we encounter that moment when all our hopes are shattered, when we are deeply hurt by what has happened to us, we feel betrayed, but worse we feel that we cannot trust again. It hurts too much to hope.

Are you getting the message? When it hurts too much to hope, when life has wounded us, when all faith is gone, know that the disfigured Christ with all his wounds wants to get into our lives and call us out of our fears. He wants to speak to us in our sinfulness in all our brokenness, in our woundedness and tell us that he loves us. The Easter massage speaks of healing and hope; yes we are a broken people yes we are disfigured by our weakness, but by his wounds we are healed.

EASTER 2020 – A time of HOPE

The Austrian Jewish psychiatrist Victor Frankl was interned in Auschwitz during the Second World War. During his time there he observed human nature and how the different prisoners reacted to the hardships that they had to endure. One of the conclusions he drew that hope was essential for life, without hope there could be no life.

He illustrated his point with reference to a particular prisoner named Franz.

Franz confided in Frankl that in February of 1945 he had a very vivid dream, in which he was promised that he could know anything he wished. He had asked for the date of the liberation of the camp, and dreamt that it would be liberated on the thirtieth of March.

It was the beginning of March when he told Frankl this story. As the days passed Franz worked away nothing seemed to disturb him. However as the end of the month drew near, news reaching the camp was not good, it now appeared that there was no chance of their being liberated by that date. On the 29th March, Franz fell ill, on the 30th March he lost consciousness, and on the following day he died.

Frankl says, he simply gave up hope and his body could not fight on, without the hope there was no future, without the hope he could not go on.

Hope is essential for the human spirit, and death is the great destroyer of that hope, there is no hope beyond death.

For the Christian then, faith changes our perspective. For the Christian faith focuses upon Christ risen from the dead, by his rising he has laid bare the limitations of death, he has pointed to new life, and he has given hope where there was no hope before.

Easter is the quintessential season of hope, the season which points to life beyond death.                                                                                             In the weeks and months after the crucifixion the disciples grew in their conviction that Jesus was still with them, and what we find in the gospels is a gradual moving from the terror and despair of Good Friday when they ran away, to a new optimism, that this man Jesus was so favored by God as to have conquered death, that he was and that he was still with them.

The movement from terror and dejection is not an instant one, it is not a case of seeing Jesus and then everything is fine, no the change is a gradual one, and it is a slow dawning conviction and a slow transformation. This is not an instant fix.

The second part of this resurrection process is that the disciples now begin to look back; they begin to see Jesus in a new light and begin to examine what he did and said in the light of what they now call the resurrection. Suddenly they begin to understand his message and identity, as Saint Luke says their eyes were opened. They now read the massage of Christ through the prism of their understanding of resurrection and they feel the compulsion to teach this message.”

So what we find is a movement from despair to recognition of that Christ is still with them, then a re-examining of Jesus teachings in the light of the resurrection and the compulsion to preach that message.

For the apostles, the meaning of Easter was hope; it posited a future and gave them a new direction.

Now I think that this Easter this message has particular significance for us. We are in the depths of a pandemic, our lives have been changed, we are surrounded by fear and foreboding, death is too present to us. It is at times like this that our faith should give us courage and hope. Christ says be not afraid for I am with you.

Even in the darkest times there is hope and we need to look to the future with hope.

“but all shall be well, and all shall be well

and all manner of things shall be well

                                                            Julian of Norwich

 

 Holy Week Schedule

ALL CEREMONIES WILL BE

BROADCAST LIVE FROM JOHN’S LANE

Available on line at https://johnslane.ie/watch-live

GOOD FRIDAY

Stations of the Cross at 11 o’clock.

Service of the Passion at 3 p.m.

HOLY SATURDAY

Easter Vigil at 7 p.m.

EASTER SUNDAY

Mass at 11 o’clock.

 

DAILY MASS LIVE FROM JOHN’S LANE at 11 o’clock.

The Augustinian Communities of John’s Lane and Meath St. join together every day at 11 a.m. in John’s Lane to celebrate Mass.

To join in and view on line – go to   https://johnslane.ie/watch-live

 

TIME FOR REFLECTION

Guy De Maupassant tells a story entitled “The Necklace”. The central character of the story is a woman called Matilda. Now Matilde was born into a lower middle class family, where while not impoverished she was not well off. Matilda always felt she belonged in the higher escalates of French society, and longed for wealth and all the luxuries that brought. Unfortunately this was not to be her lot and she married a minor clerk in the ministry of education.

Life for Matilde was very mundane. Always she longed for luxuries and excitement, but all she got was the boredom of life as a minor clerk’s wife. She did have one very rich friend, but had ceased visiting her as seeing her wealth and luxury only made Matilda’s own longing all the stronger.

Then one night into her darkness came some light. Her husband returned from work with an invitation to the department ball. This event was one of the highlights of the social year, and anyone getting such an invitation could count themselves chosen.

This however brought its own problems; Matilda had nothing suitable to wear. This was an opportunity that presented itself only once so all their savings were spent upon a most gorgeous dress. Even then the problems did not cease, Matilda needed jewellery to go with the dress. She went to her rich friends and asked for a loan of a necklace. Her friend gave her a most magnificent diamond necklace which complimented the dress perfectly.

Matilda and the husband went to the ball. It was a great success, as indeed was she; she even danced with the minister of education.

Matilda returned home in the small hours of the morning, still drunk with joy and excitement.                      

Then horror of horrors she discovered the necklace was missing, it was nowhere to be found. They searched high and low; they retraced their steps, but could find no sign of the necklace.

Eventually they decided there was only one thing to be done, they went and found a replacement, it cost 200,000 francs and this Matilda returned to her friends. They borrowed the money; but borrowed money must be repaid. Matilda took whatever jobs she could get sewing, washing scrubbing floors; her husband did all sorts of extra hours. Ten years passed and eventually the 200,000 francs was repaid.

Then one day Matilda met her one time friend on the street. Her friend did not recognise her she had grown so old and haggard. What happened to you Matilda she asked?

Matilda told the tale of how she had lost the diamond necklace, had borrowed to replace it and had worked ten years to repay the loan of 200,000 franc

Her friend looked at her in amazement and said, but that necklace was an imitation made of paste, it cost 100 francs.

The story warns us not to mistake the imitation for the real, or, put another way, not to mistake what is important for the unimportant.

There can be no doubting that this pandemic has brought its own hardships pain and sacrifice, and indeed we are not yet aware of the full extent of its impact upon us as individuals or as a society.

Even in the darkness of this pandemic we may be able to identify some positive spin offs, and I would like to focus very briefly upon what we might see as positives.

TIME

Life has become a rat race, our lives dominated by time tables and deadlines; we have become the slave of time and of doing. Suddenly doing and business is not so central to our lives, we suddenly find that we have time on our hands. At the very beginning of Lent Christ went into the desert for 40 days to reflect upon God’s call and what it meant for him. We find ourselves in a similar position, we have time to reflect upon our own lives upon what is important to us and what God may be calling us to do.

The Important Things in Life

We do tend to take many of our blessings for granted, and it’s only in their absence we realise their importance. Because we have been isolated we have lost so many things that matter. We can no longer shake hands or hug family or friends. We can’t stop to talk to family or fiend’s as we used to. We can’t go shopping, or go for walks, we miss the sports on telly, in many cases parents and grandparents are cut off from their children and grandchildren. Each one of us is losing out on little things that brought us joy and were part of everyday life. It is only in the loss that we appreciate what we had. Perhaps when all this ends, as it most assuredly will, we may find a new appreciation of the little things that bring daily joy to our lives.

Community

Society changes gradually and imperceptibly, and not all change is for the better. Recently an elderly woman was speaking to me of an old friend and neighbour, she said “if she had 10 shillings then I had five shillings”- meaning that they shared the little they had.

Over the years we have seen a decline in community, in the caring and concern for our neighbours. Not so long ago every neighbourhood had their own tenants association, there were numerous clubs and groups catering for children, there were all types of organisations which worked for the common good. The people who engaged in these organisations did so, not for financial or for any other gain, but because they believed that we are community and have an obligation to help each other especially the weak and elderly.

In more recent times we have seen the growth of the “atomised individual” the person who look out for himself/herself, but hardly knows who lives next door. This growing attitude seems to be I will look after myself, you look after yourself. Such attitudes are the death knell of community.

The advent of the Corona virus has challenged such attitudes, we again begin to realise that we are all bound together, we are responsible to and for each other, and only together can we progress. The corona challenge has given birth to all type of altruistic initiatives, all focusing upon our neighbours who may need help. Let us hope that when corona is dead and gone this new found community spirit may live on.

Matilda mistook the fake for the real and paid the cost.

This Corona pandemic may afford us the time to reflect, to see that which is important in life, and to rediscover that together there is nothing we cannot do.

 

 Reading for Sunday 29th March 2020