Many of us join groups or societies or whatever there is security in being part of a group of like minded people with the same goals in life. Rejection is a clear signal of disapproval and this is what the Gospel reading is all about this Sunday; Rejection of those who are not of our religious belief or whatever. The exorcist in the Gospel is put before us this weekend as the example of someone who was rejected and the gospel then goes on to tell us about the acceptance that Jesus has for those people such who were rejected. Don’t forget that Jesus suffered the ultimate rejection on the Cross of Good Friday. The disciples consider Jesus their own personal treasure and they want him for themselves. They seemed to have been an ambitious group last Sunday we heard them arguing over who was the greatest among them. This Sunday they complain that they saw someone who was not part of their group performing a healing in Jesus’ name. If there had been laws concerning copyright way back then I think the Apostles would have copyrighted Jesus name and the power that went along with it. I can just imagine them using Calamus to license the use of Jesus’s name and then asking “How many times do you want to use Jesus’s name that will cost so much.How many times do you want to cure someone in his name that will be so much more It’s as if Jesus is a rock star and the Apostles are his agents, with exclusive rights over what he does and says.
What they really wanted was a tidy little religious box, clearly in their control but they hadn’t factored in Jesus and what he had been sent into the world to do. They forgot the size of his heart, remember it had no limits. They forgot how big his compassion was, remember it never ran out and wasn’t limited to the few who under the law had the proper credentials or disposition to receive it. There was and continues to be plenty for everyone in terms of faith then as there is now. Jesus is the visible face of the God that we can’t see and yet we believe; we believe in the God who wants to speak words of love and joy to all, not just a few; who wants to reach out and touch all those broken of limb, and broken of spirit, not just those who belong to our club or carry the right credentials. After they see Jesus crushed on the cross and later, when he rises from the dead, the apostles finally get the message and understand what had happened to them as a result of their involvement with Jesus. Then they would do exactly what we’re doing right now, retell the stories about Jesus as they set out to continue the story without restrictions or limits of any kind; When they did all of this they would have been speaking and acting in Jesus’ name, not just for a select few, but for everyone they met, or came to them in any need.
In Jesus’ name they opened the eyes of the blind, cured the cripples, and even raised the dead. At first they got it wrong, but then they learned what it meant to speak and act in Jesus’ name everything was possible for them. We need to remember as we go forward that we don’t always get it right we are sinners and remember that everything is possible to those who have faith in the name and person of Jesus Christ the Son of God.
This weekend our Gospel story is all about being small as the little child in the Gospel story. This is a great gospel reading for the times we live. Towards the end of this Gospel Jesus brings the child to centre stage and instructs his disciples: “Anyone who welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and anyone who welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me.” In this instance Jesus doesn’t ask his disciples to become like children; he asks his disciples to welcome them. The disciples have a problem about welcoming littleness because they think that they are at the top of the tree and are above this. This basic Christian teaching, common to all the Gospels, is one that has not always been honoured. “To be first in the group is to occupy the last place and to be a servant to the group.” That means to be the greatest you must make yourself the least in service of other people especially those around you. Look around you see the likes of Saint Vincent de Paul and other charitable services helping those who are in need.
Jesus taught his followers the true meaning of leadership. Leadership does not mean power but service. Power often strangles life and brings a slow death. But, service brings life, even from death itself. An attitude of serving others should not be a triumphal attitude lording it over everyone else, yet much of our history has been about individuals seeing themselves as better than everyone else. In this passage we listen to the words of Jesus about the child he tells us “Whoever receives a child like this in my name receives me. Whoever receives me receives God”. In the first part, the disciples are told that a measure of their discipleship is their attitude to power. In the second part, discipleship can be judged on the disciple’s attitude to children who are powerless in many ways. Jesus offers us a permanent challenge to welcome the powerless, to take to heart the weakest members of the community. He places himself in their company. Their vulnerability is something that Jesus not only shares but values. May we understand that to be be first in the group is to occupy the last place and to be a servant to the group.”
May we take up the challenge that Jesus places before us in this gospel reading and that challenge is to become humble servants of those who need us whoever they are wherever they may be in our troubled world.
As we continue our faith journey we celebrated the Exaltation of the Holy Cross on Friday of this week. Jesus invites us to take up our crosses as he took up his own on Good Friday. Our faith is tested in the real world where we live, and reality comes to us often in the shape of a cross you know what your cross is as you read this and there are many crosses. In taking the cross up, in accepting its burden, we live up to our true name as Christians.
In our gospel reading this weekend we hear Jesus asking Peter and the disciples the famous question “Who do you say I am the guesses all lead us to someone else, Elijah or John the Baptist or one of the prophets, figures who were celebrated for pointing forward to the Messiah. In contrast to what others think, Peter speaks on behalf of the disciples who have shared Jesus’ life intimately: he identifies Jesus as the Christ. Jesus then tells his disciples that his way to glory is only via suffering and the cross. The first reading is one of the great poems of Isaiah on the theme of suffering. The servant of God is described in clear unambiguous terms. God gifts the disciple with a well-trained tongue.
This is not an orator’s tongue, capable of delivering prize-winning speeches, but a tongue with the ability to rouse the weary from despair, the ability to bring comfort and compassion to the suffering. We know this response to the pain of the other does not require words but is an attitude of the heart and spirit. In the Gospel Jesus speaks to us about himself using the figure of the Son of Man, the suffering servant who will be rejected and put to death. Not only must he suffer, but experience comfortless suffering in being rejected. hat rejection robs the suffering one of his dignity. He has to face the forsakenness and the loneliness of the cross. He will not die of natural causes, but be put to death. And this experience of dereliction will be answered by God who will raise him up on the third day. Although the message given to the Disciples was only vaguely and dubiously grasped, Christ had forewarned his Apostles, in order to prepare them for the scandal and folly of the cross. While it did not really prepare them because they were still too worldly-minded, it did help to strengthen their faith once the facts of the empty tomb convinced them of the resurrection. When they realized that their beloved Master was more than Messiah, that he was in fact the Son of God, who freely accepted his humiliations and shameful death for their sakes and ours.
The apostles gladly gave their lives to bringing the Good news of God’s great love for men to all the nations. From being a scandal the cross became the emblem and the proud standard of God’s love for mankind. If Jesus was to stand beside us today and ask who do you say I am? What answer would we give would we answer the same way as Peter when he said you are Christ the son of God or would we answer something else given all that is going on around us these days?
As we celebrate the feast of the exaltation of the Holy Cross on Friday I thought that it might be an opportune moment to reflect on the recent events that have happened in the Catholic Church. Over the past few days I have been thinking about the McCarrick affair, the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report as well as the fallout from the Vigano testament. Many things have come into my mind. I feel very sad at the thought of all that has happened over the years. I felt exactly the same way about the abuses that took place in Ireland when they were uncovered a number of years ago back in the 1990’s. Then as now there seems to be a sense of helplessness and hopelessness. My prayer is that out of all this will come some good for everyone especially the victims. There are so many who have been hurt by the misdeeds of the few,
Again all of us have been reminded very forcefully of the hurt caused by those who were priests in the Church and also by some bishops in charge of the Church over the decades. In Ireland the catalyst for the Church to get its act together was the Murphy report. The Murphy report was the result of a judge led inquiry conducted by the Irish government into the sexual abuse scandal in the Catholic archdiocese of Dublin and it seems to me that the same could be said of the Philadelphia Grand Jury Report. It will be a catalyst for good. As a result of the Murphy report there was an Apostolic Visitation to the Church in Ireland which was a good starting point to get to where we are today but a lot more work will have to be done in the Irish Church as we move forward and we are moving forward. Then we had the explosive testimony from the retired Nuncio Archbishop Vigano and a lot has been said by many people Conservative, Liberal and all the in-between Catholics on his statement.
There is much in the testament that requires clarification and there is much that will cause division between the so called Conservative and Liberal parts of the Church in the USA and other places which I regret. In relation to the Archbishop’s demand for the Holy Father’s resignation let me point out what the Canon Law says about a papal resignation: Canon 332 §2 says, “Should it happen that the Roman Pontiff resigns from his office, it is required for validity that the resignation be freely made and properly manifested, but it is not necessary that it be accepted by anyone.” Putting canonically invalid pressure on the pope to resign through the media achieves a schism. It achieves a sede vacante. Consequently the resignation is not valid. Consequently any one elected by a conclave is an antipope. Is this what the Church really wants I don’t think so.
If what the archbishop says is the truth why is he afraid of the consequences of telling the truth to be seen and heard telling the truth for the truth sets you free. Jesus Christ told the truth to the people of his time and paid the price by dying on the Cross. The cross reminds us that God is in charge and has a plan for our ultimate well-being. We trust God who has made a promise to be faithful to us, and through the cross, he guarantees to see that promise come to completion. We sign ourselves with the cross as we enter and leave church and as we begin and end our prayers. Each time we do that we remember the God of the Promise, the God who was, who is and will be the one who will always be part of our journey. Signing ourselves with the cross also reminds us of God’s promise to be faithful to us when often times people are not as the scandal of abuse within the Church has shown.
Over the years so many people asked me in view of what has happened relating to the abuse and other church related scandals why did I stay. Well I remained because it was the right thing for me to do and continues to be the right thing because the Church means so much to me and so many others and that’s why we are hurt by all of this. I thank God that many of the ways of the past are gone. As we now know in many cases the people involved in the past were proven to be shamefully wrong with what they did. What has happened over the years certainly was not what we expect of the members of the church clergy or otherwise. Now is not the time for us to stick our heads in the sand ignoring what has gone on and what is now going on around us. Instead it is time for us start afresh looking for new ways to proclaim the old truths, the truths that were there at the beginning of the Church.
We cannot forget the Last supper in the upper room, the Cross of Good Friday and the Resurrection on Easter Sunday. They are part of what we as Church and faithful individuals are. We cannot forget all those who by their lives and witness over the centuries have brought many people to faith in God. We should not forget that Jesus Christ was the beginning and will be there at the end the alpha and the omega. At times it would have been so very easy for me and so many others to throw in the towel and that would be the easy solution and if the truth be told it would be no solution at all. Running away is easy but staying the course no matter how desperate the situation may seem to be at the time is what is required of all of us in order to make things the best they can be for the future. The Church in the USA at this time is bruised and hurting, much the same way we were in Ireland and as such we need to begin moving away from being confined to ourselves looking inwards staying in our own circles with their points of view. We need to get up and dust ourselves down and get going again. That is what the Cross calls us to do. We need to move away from the security of being on one side of the arguments or the other to looking outwards in order to bring the Gospel of Jesus to all those we meet. The question to be asked is what should be done to deal with the awful events that have been perpetrated over the years. It is not an easy question to answer in much the same way as many of the questions of recent times are not easy. But this is a question that we need to answer and I feel that the answer lies in honest open accountability. Accountability for all those who work in Church settings at all levels including the clergy. Civil law and the Canon law should be the same in that anyone found guilty of the crime of abuse or covering up abuse within the Church should be out no matter who they are or the job they hold.
Those who hold any office in the Church should be accountable at all times and in every place for what they have done and also for what they failed to do.We need to renew the faith community by creating new understandings, and new enthusiasms relating to faith and our great tradition of faith and all of these will lead to renewed life of faith. We need to acknowledge where we were in the past where we are now and we need to work out exactly where we need to be going into the future together. We need to reaffirm what we ourselves believe in as individuals and as communities so that we will inspire others to begin or continue their own faith journeys. I have heard so many people saying the Church is done for and I am sure the Apostles felt the same after Good Friday and here we are over 2000 years later wondering as they did what is going on and what are we going to do.
I am sure there has been and will be much discussion on how we as the Church in the world at large deal with the issue of abuse and the issues in the Church and all of that will be a matter of debate. But I hope that it will be a proper debate as we need to speak frankly and openly with each other. Seeking God’s will in our strengths and weaknesses. We should not be afraid of the opposite opinions to our own because seeing the other side will mean that we understand the decisions that we will make from both sides of the argument and as a result we will come to the right decisions with proper consideration of all the points of view. Over these days I have read many reports on the media about all of this and I hope that something will be done to begin to address the issues of Clerical Abuse in the USA and the other church related issues properly.
The beginning of the process here in Ireland was the Apostolic Visitation to the Irish Church in 2010 much good came from that visitation and that work continues today. But my fear is that any attempt to make things better in terms of how the Church deals with the issue of Abuse or anything else will be hijacked by those in the Conservative or Liberal wings of the Church and if that happens nothing will be achieved except division when there should be unity about getting this sorted. Unity of mind and purpose in defence of the good in the Church while remembering all who have been affected by the bad that was perpetrated over the years. I have been blessed by the priests and religious that have been part of my life as well as the many good faithful people of God who are trying to keep the faith despite the odds.
On August the 18th I attended Mass that was in honour of Our Lady of Good Counsel and the gospel reading was the Wedding at Cana. As we know in this gospel reading our Blessed Mother tells the servants to do whatever he (Jesus) tells you. That is what we need to be praying for that we will be able to do what god tells us to do in this present situation and bring it to fruition . Recently at a meeting I used the Adsumus prayer below and prayer is what is needed in our decision making processes as we go forward with God in his Church at this time. As we celebrate the Exaltation of the Cross we remember in the words of the Antiphon at the beginning of the mass for the feast that we should glory in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, in whom is our salvation, life and resurrection, through whom we are saved.
The “Adsumus” prayer has been historically used at Councils, Synods and other Church gatherings for hundreds of years.
We have come, O God the Holy Spirit, we have come before Thee, hampered indeed by our many and grievous sins, but for a special purpose gathered together in Thy name. Come to us and be with us and enter our hearts.
Teach us what we are to do and where we ought to tend; show us what we must accomplish, in order that, with Thy help, we may be able to please Thee in all things. Be Thou alone the author and the finisher of our judgments, Thou who alone with God the Father and his Son dost posses a glorious name.
Do not allow us to disturb the order of justice, Thou who lovest equity above all things. Let not ignorance draw us into devious paths. Let not partiality sway our minds, nor respect of riches nor persons pervert our judgment. But unite us to Thee effectually by the gift of Thy grace alone, that we may be one in Thee and never forsake the truth; inasmuch as we are gathered together in Thy name,
so may we in all things hold fast to justice tempered by mercy, so that in this life our judgment may in no wise be at variance with Thee and in the life to come we may attain everlasting rewards for deeds well done. Amen.
This Sunday everyone is back in the swing of things with the schools, colleges and various clubs and societies back in full swing with the summer holidays a now distant memory. Many people are asking themselves where did the summer go it seems like a blink of an eye since the end of June and many things have happened all over the world since then. For us here in Ireland the highlight was the visit of the pope to the world meeting of families in Dublin and it was a grace filled time for everybody whether you went to Dublin or not.
In this Sunday’s Gospel Jesus comes face to face with a deaf man who has a speech impediment. The man is doubly afflicted: he is a Gentile, regarded by the Jews as unclean, and is also physically disabled. Jesus takes him aside, away from the crowd, and cures his deafness and his stutter. Mark emphasises the response of the crowd, who publish their judgement that Jesus has done all things well. Thus the messianic prophecy of Isaiah heard in the first reading is seen to be fulfilled: “the ears of the deaf [are] unsealed… and the eyes of the blind are opened”.
Jesus’s love is available to everyone, without any conditions attached. He is not disconcerted by the disabled; neither is he prejudiced against those weren’t members of his own race or religion as we see with this man. The uniqueness of Jesus was not employed to lord it over others, but to be of service to them. In his presence there is no need to hide one’s disability, no one has to remain isolated in a godless world, and no one has to be rejected. Jesus’ acceptance and love open up new possibilities; for him, nothing is settled. Prejudice, on the other hand, tries to settle everything and in reality settles nothing and causes so much hurt and anxiety. We are people of faith, but our spiritual focus is often based on what we want. Many times we struggle between our “real needs” where god works through us and what we think we need. These shortcomings can lead us to discouragement many say that the “church does not fulfill my needs anymore”. On the other hand those same shortcomings can be turned around into a challenge for us to grow. Through growth in faith, we begin to listen and understand. Then, we can speak clearly. Our ears are no longer blocked. Our tongue is no longer held bound. Despite our shortcomings and weaknesses and all of us have many shortcomings, Jesus will touch our lives and call out to us.
Are we prepared to open our ears to the call of Jesus and open our eyes to see the needs of all those around us as we are asked to do, so that people around us may say that united to Jesus in faith we have done all things well.