Today the meeting about the scourge of clerical sexual abuse of minors has concluded in the Vatican. Once again the horrible nature of abuse has been brought into sharp focus and we pray for all those who have been hurt by those who should have known and done better. We are a Church of sinners but the betrayal of so many by the few is hard to take at any stage especially the abuse of the young by clergy and religious. There is so much negativity around at this time as a result of this we forget the good that is going on out there. I have been blessed by the examples of so many good priests over my lifetime who gave everything to serve the people of God and I have also come across those who turned out to be rotten to the core. It is right to condemn those like McCarrick who did wrong and caused so much damage and some of that damage will never be repaired. It is also right to remember the good that is going on quietly in our parishes and dioceses by the great body of good holy and loyal priests and religious who have largely been forgotten as a result of the scandal of abuse in the Church .
This weekend we think about the things the Lord asks us to do in following Him, nothing is more difficult that the teaching in this weekend’s Gospel. “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. To the person who strikes you on one cheek, offer the other one as well, and from the person who takes your cloak, do not withhold even your tunic. Give to everyone who asks of you, and from the one who takes what is yours do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you It is much easier to sacrifice our wants for the needs of others, then it is to avoid lashing out at someone but that is what Jesus is calling us to do. And what does God do besides showing us extraordinary compassion, mercy and patience? What he does is love us. And his love for us is so immense that he makes the greatest of all sacrifices for us by giving for our salvation the life of his own dear Son. What we are talking about then in today’s Gospel is not some ethical system for the good of society or for our own self-interest but something way beyond this. What Jesus gives us is the very principle behind the creation of the universe: God’s infinite love for us all. This is the extraordinary challenge that he lays before us: To love the people around us just as he loves us, just as he loves them. It is not easy and we won’t achieve it often but we know that this is what God wants from us and it is something that deep in our hearts we are glad to do. The way God treats us is to be the guideline for our life as Christians.
God is infinitely compassionate and merciful, he is extraordinarily patient with our many shortcomings and he puts up with all sorts of foolishness on our part. It is our task as a true disciple to imitate our master, to imitate the behaviour of God himself. In the words of Micah this is what God asks of us: only this, to act justly, to love tenderly and to walk humbly with our God.
This weekend we pray for all those who have requested prayers for any reason. Last Friday in Ireland we prayed prayers of atonement and lit candles to mark the day of atonement for the Churches lack of care when it comes to Abuse in all its forms that took place in Ireland. This weekend We also pray for the forth coming meeting in the Vatican concerning the response to the scandal of Abuse. I hope and pray that the meeting will be an agent for the continuing healing for the Church in the world as there are many people out there who have been so badly harmed by members of the of the clergy and religious of the Church.
This and next week’s gospels are from the “Sermon on the Plain,” – a parallel to Matthew’s “Sermon on the Mount.” While similar, both evangelists are writing for different audiences and tailor their material accordingly. Jesus speaks to his disciples, those who are already following him. How many of the crowd who heard him were attracted to the good news he was sharing? Did they become his disciples too? Did what he said affect their lives; change their notion of God? Has the Sermon had similar affects on us? After listing the four situations in life that make people blessed, Luke then lists their opposites, declaring the “woes.” The word for “blessed” is not a description of happiness as we know it; but is a gift bestowed by God. You don’t earn the blessings; you just need them and God notices. Those who have nothing – no material wealth, or food, who are weeping and hated, because of Jesus, will receive God’s favour.
St. Luke addressed his gospel to the downtrodden, the lowly. He sees a tremendous virtue that the poor have: Because they recognize that what they have comes from God, they are generous with others believing that God will provide for them if they give the little they have to those more needy then themselves. Blessed are you poor. St. Luke also quotes Jesus as saying, “Woe to the rich.” Jesus is not concerned with the amount of money a person has. He’s concerned with the false sense of security that money often gives people and we see that in todays world. Many people are tempted to trust in their possessions instead of trust in God.
We should aim to live our lives for others in accordance with the Gospel values and, in this way, we will acquire virtue and so become great in the eyes of God. If we live our lives in this way but then find ourselves experiencing some of those things that Jesus is talking about in the Beatitudes, such as periods of poverty or hunger or bereavement or persecution, we will not see these things in a negative way. We will see them rather as gifts from God which are intended to strengthen us.
We will realise that they have been given to us for our spiritual growth. Of course, we will still suffer privation and perhaps even extreme need but we will know that these outwardly negative things actually have a true and lasting spiritual value. What we should be attempting to achieve is true authenticity as human beings. What we should be striving for is to live real and genuine lives. What we should be cultivating is human warmth, generosity and goodness. We might not end up as people with fame or wealth but we will most definitely end up as people who are appreciated by others. We will most definitely end up as well-rounded human beings who are making a real and effective contribution to our families and to society at large. We will most definitely end up as people who have a real and deep spirituality and find ourselves being led into an ever-closer union with our loving Saviour.
This Sunday we celebrate the 5th Sunday in Ordinary time and we remember and pray for all those who are sick as we celebrate the world day for the Sick on Monday 11th February. We also pray for all those who are caring for our sick in any way Doctors nurses, care workers and Family members to name just a few. We ask God through the intercession of Our Lady of Lourdes to bless our sick and all those who look after them.
Our Gospel story for this Sunday recounts the story of the of Peter’s calling to be a fisher of men. After a fruitless night’s fishing, Peter obeys the word of Jesus and catches a huge number of fish. He feels unworthy before Jesus; but he is now called to be a fisher of men. Peter recognises the hand of God in what has happened and at the same time realises his own sinfulness but Jesus comes to show us the mercy of his Father. Jesus did not come to be a hermit with an unreachable address in the desert; rather, his whole mission moves in the opposite direction, for he has come “to seek out and save the lost” (Luke 19:10). So Jesus travels into people’s lives, into our lives not away from them.
He entertains sinners he enters their homes, meets their families, eats at their table, listens to their stories, and calls them as well as ourselves to a new way of life when he says follow me. Throughout his life Jesus is never far from sinners he is not far from all of us as well for we in simple terms are also sinners. Jesus doesn’t write us off because we are sinners; Jesus has other plans because he believes that we sinners have a future, not just a past. Simon Peter received his call while he was doing his work. He said, “Yes,” and responded by changing his life. Every day, in the midst of our routine, at work, home, school or play, there are opportunities to respond to Jesus’ call to follow him. In innumerable ways our Christian vocation must guide what we say and how we act. In big decisions and small, we are asked to live what we profess as Jesus’ followers; to be attentive to what God may be asking of us at this moment of our lives. This may entail being faithful to the commitments we already have; responding to a need we see, or taking the opportunity to witness to what we believe. Of course such responses may seem small and insignificant. They may be small, but they are never insignificant! In addition, who knows where the next “Yes” we say to Christ may lead us? Let us not be afraid to take up the challenge of saying yes to Jesus and the faith in God the Father we have through him and see where the road we take will lead us.
This weekend we celebrate the fourth Sunday of the year. Time is as always passing by and life goes on and sometimes life can be very cruel as the death of the four young men in Donegal (Ireland) last weekend shows and we pray for their families and friends at this sad time. We also pray for all those who need our prayers and all of us know someone who needs a prayerful boost.
In the Gospel reading Jesus’ preaching begins with affirmation from the hearers. “All who were present spoke favorably of him.” Almost immediately the mood changed. The use of the reading from Isaiah was welcomed. It is good news that the people have waited a long time to see fulfilled. But, somehow conveyed in the words was the suggestion that Jesus himself has a role to play in the inauguration of the eternal Jubilee and it is this that is not acceptable. The examples that follow indicate that Jesus was hinting that the word of God was spoken universally, not to one particular person or group of people. The stories of the prophets, Elijah and Elisha, show that God’s love and mercy are to be found wherever there is a need and the faith to receive it. The reaction from the group was swift and indignant. They rose up and wanted to throw him not only out of the synagogue but out of the town.
The hearers hardened their hearts to the word as many today harden their hearts to the word.. Why did the crowd rise up against Jesus? Because he stepped outside the box they had constructed for him. He was no longer the local boy who made good; he was a self-proclaimed prophet. And his signs were not for the edification of the mob, but for the glory of God. In these ways, he rejected the expectations of those in Nazareth, and, so, they rejected him. As a last sign to them, Jesus walked safely through them and, according to Scripture, he never returned to his hometown.
For all of us expectations are always really hard to fulfill as we hear from the readings of this weekend. But, faith is not based upon expectations, but on a relationship with God. We must recognize the difference between the two. And as we recognize that difference we place our expectations before God and he will help us to do what he asks of us. There is a great saying that was often quoted to me by a friend who passed on a few years ago she always pointed out that man proposes and God disposes meaning that god will see and do whatever is good for us whether it is what we want or not for sometimes what we think is for our good is in fact the opposite !!