Archive for the category “ORDER OF MALTA”




This Sunday is the third Sunday of Advent  it is also known as Gaudete Sunday. In some places Rose vestments are used and we light the pink candle on the Advent wreath. It is a Sunday when we rejoice as we look forward to the birth of Jesus. In our parish  this year we are celebrating Bambinelli Sunday.  This  is a Roman tradition where  the pope will bless the baby Jesus from family cribs brought to the papal audience by the children on Gaudete Sunday.   Pope Benedict tells us that the blessing of the “Bambinelli” in Rome, reminds us that the crib is a school of life where we can learn the secret of true joy. This does not consist in having many things but in feeling loved by the Lord, in giving oneself as a gift for others and in loving one another. Let us look at the crib. Our Lady and St Joseph do not seem to be a very fortunate family; their first child was born in the midst of great hardship; yet they are full of deep joy, because they love each other, they help each other and they are certain that God, who made himself present in the little Jesus, is at work in their story. As we prepare for the birth of Jesus we have to ask ourselves is God made real through the baby Jesus present in our own life stories?  Our Gospel story tells us about John the Baptist who was the voice crying out in the desert, make straight the way of the Lord. John the Evangelist presented the Baptist as God’s witness, the one who spoke eternal truth in a transient world. John’s message and ministry of a repentant baptism prefigured Christ’s. John baptized in the spirit of hope and we live in the spirit of hope. The baptism of Jesus realized that hope. Those baptized by John looked forward to a life with God. Those baptized by the Christ lived in God as we live in God.

We rejoice and praise God on this Gaudete Sunday. We thank him for all he has done for us in our own lives and in the lives of all those who are near and dear to us, families and friends wherever they are.We rejoice that through the coming of his Son Jesus we have come to know God as our Father. We do our best to follow his Gospel of love in a spirit of joy. As we continue our Advent journey  along the road that lead to salvation let us prepare the way for the Lord in our own lives remembering that in  the words of the Entrance Antiphon  we should rejoice in the Lord always; for the Lord is near. 





John  The Baptist

Tomorrow we celebrate the Feast of the Birthday of St, John the Baptist. For the members of the Order of Malta it is the day when we celebrate our patron saint. John was the herald who went before Jesus to prepare the way for the Lord to make his paths straight. A desert prophet, he was outstanding for vigour, discipline and humility. In the Gospels the Baptist plays a unique roll he is the first witness who leads other people to Jesus who he identifies as the messiah, the Son of God.

As wondrous as the events of John’s birth may be, his greatness comes not from how he was born but from who he becomes a “light to the nations,” a herald of repentance His identity as light and herald is revealed and confirmed in his mission. Thus, his greatness derives from his fidelity to his mission: “I am not he.  Behold, one is coming after me and I am not worthy to undo the strap of his sandals.”

It is impossible to speak of John’s birth without noting his fidelity to his mission and his relationship to the Messiah. John the Baptist’s birth and mission remind us that God is always working in the world John is the manifestation of God’s working on behalf of all the world and its people.As the Apostles were witnesses to Jesus we to are called to be witnesses to Jesus, as members of the Church and members of the Order of Malta.  We need to be pointing away from ourselves to Jesus.

We are challenged to live lives of selfless service in defence of the faith and service of the sick and poor. In saying that many people have lost the courage to share their faith, their time and their talents. Being a caring and sharing individual within society means that we should give ourselves selflessly and without hesitation to people who need us without counting the cost this is what true service means. Service to those who are our Lord’s the sick and poor, is a great privilege and that is exactly what our service as members of the Order of Malta should be willingly and freely given to others.

May we as members of the Order of Malta be courageous in our defence of the faith and our service of the poor and the sick as we reflect on our mission on the feast of our patron John the Baptist.

22nd Sunday Of Ordinary Time


Here we are at the twenty-second Sunday in ordinary time at the beginning of September, doesn’t time fly! Some of our local schools here in Belfast have returned and began the new school year during the past week and the rest restart tomorrow. The old saying that time waits for no man rings true for me as I simply don’t know where the past two months have gone, perhaps I am getting old. That said of course I am getting older but the great consolation is that each of us one and all are getting older. I am reminded by the commentaries that I have about on this Gospel reading of my mother telling all of when we were growing up us to go up to the bathroom and wash our hands before we had our dinner. Indeed I see my brother and his  partner telling their children the  same thing when they are here in our house and of course it is the right thing to do.

In this Sundays Gospel We hear about the Pharisees and the  scribes who know both the original laws of Moses and those laws added to by the “elders” or rabbis down through  the centuries, they question Jesus about His disciples’ not observing exactly the traditions especially in their preparation for the feast.  The Pharisees have the evidence of the non-conformity of the disciples and so there is a certain amount of tension and there is also a teaching moment. The issue is far more important than a detail of ritual observance. Those who were leaders in Israel should have been helping the people to live according to the ways of God – so that they would be ‘a light to the nations’, as the prophets had taught. Instead they had lost sight of Israel’s great destiny, and worked against it, in fact, by elaborating a system of self-serving regulations. Jesus shows himself a true interpreter of Israel’s faith as he urges his followers to find integrity through the motives of the heart rather than in the observance of external rituals of purification. No wonder the people followed him so eagerly. Our Response to the Psalm for today expresses the message of the liturgy’s readings: ‘The just will live in the presence of the Lord’.

As the Sermon on the Mount (Mt chapters 5 and 6) teaches us, we are truly the People of God if our life together gives expression to the ways of our Father in heaven. We have to be open to God and the road he is asking us to take which in these present days is a rocky road with loads of pot holes. Many people ask themselves what road is God asking them to take and the simple answer is that all of us are asked to keep on  the road of the faith and that road will never be an easy one especially if our life of faith gives expression to the ways of our Father in heaven.

Let us offer ourselves and our prayers to the Lord in order to manifest his Glory in all of our lives and living in body, mind and Spirit. Let us cast our eyes towards Mary, the Mother of Jesus! Let us ask her to help us keep the faith as we travel along the roads of life which often times are rocky with many distractions. Let us remember that nothing is impossible for God and he does not let us down! Nothing is impossible with prayer and in particular the help of Mary’s prayer!





 Birthdays are a special time to remember and give thanks for the blessings that have come our way in our lives family, friends faith or whatever. In many churches of the East and West the birth of John the Baptist is remembered on this day. St Augustine points out that The Church observes the birth of John as in some way sacred; and you will not find any other of the great men of old whose birth we celebrate officially. We celebrate John’s, as we celebrate Christ’s. Augustine also points out that this point cannot be passed over in silence, and  he states if I may not perhaps be able to explain it in the way that such an important matter deserves, it is still worth thinking about it a little more deeply and fruitfully than usual. So in the spirit of St Augustine let us stop for a moment to think about this feast a little more deeply

John was born of an old woman who is barren; Christ was born of a young virgin woman. That John will be born was not believed, and his father is struck dumb; that Christ will be born was believed, and he is conceived by faith.  The Gospel of this day recalls that great figure: John the Baptist.  We hear in our gospel that Zachariah regained his speech when they came to name the child John. John’s task was to announce the coming of Jesus and to point to him when he came.

John’s work was extraordinary.  He was called to reawaken a sense of expectation among a people that had grown tired and distant from God as many have done in our present generation.   John was called to bring renewal to institutional expressions of religion which, at the time, had so often become fossilised into mere formulae or external ritual.  He attracted thousands to come out into the desert to see him. Tradition sees the desert as the place where God speaks to the heart of his people. It is from this solitary place of spiritual combat, the desert bordering the Jordan, that John appears “with the spirit and the power of Elijah” (Luke 7:17). By his word and his baptism with water, he must call the children of the covenant back to the Lord their God as he calls us today to come back to the Lord our God.

John was a man who stood out. His strange dress the wild camel hair shirt and the leather girdle   was not chosen as a publicity gimmick or a trademark as many things today are chosen because they are a trademark and gimmicky.  His message was one that spoke of rising above conventional ways of thinking, conventional expectations and attitudes.  He shunned the external amenities of a comfortable life because he wanted to show his absolute dependence on God.  His detachment from life’s comforts gave him the freedom to truly recognise the message of Jesus and who he was the Son of God. John is not only the fiery preacher of judgement  He also appears as the friend who leads the bride to the bridegroom and then withdraws. He relentlessly directs hearts and minds OUR hearts and minds toward Jesus. Then he seeks to decrease so that the Jesus may increase. Thus is the servant conformed to his master.

The figure of John serves as a warning to us today, to all believers, to the Church and to Church organisations of every age of our need to draw our strength from Christ alone, rather than identifying with the cultural patterns or the Fads and fashions of the time, which in any case come and go.The Church is here to proclaim and live out the message of Jesus in every generation in season and out of season whether people at large like it or not. It is not there in any way to be inward looking.  The Church that is the people of god, you and I  are called to constant renewal, to tear ourselves away from conventional expectations, attitudes and superficialities and centre ourselves completely on God.  The Church in every age must become like John the Baptist, an uncomfortable reminder of how we must allow the truth of Jesus to break into our lives to enlighten the darkness that can at any moment enter into our lives or the life of the Church.

The Christian message always has the ability to fascinate and challenge everyone in every age. It calls on all of us to interpret correctly the meaning of Christ’s coming for our lives and for the society in which we live. Young and old that is all of us one and all need to hear Christ’s message in its clarity with all its demands and challenges. We need to see that the true foundation of the meaning and the hope we have comes in its entirety from the message of Jesus: of whom john said “He is the one”. Like John the Baptist, the Lord invites each of us to make our life a free-will offering to God. God wants to fill us with his glory all the days of our lives, from birth through death. Today then let us renew the offering of ourselves and our lives to God and give him thanks for his mercy and favour towards us as we celebrate the birthday of John the Baptist


Since the earliest times people have had special places to which they traveled where they have withdrawn in search of the sacred.Ireland is rich in holy places, going back to prehistoric times. The Jewish tradition had many holy places where they worshipped the one who had appeared to Moses in the burning bush, revealing Himself as Yahweh, I Am — not the one who was or who will be, but the God of Now. The medieval pilgrims of Christianity traveled to Jerusalem until the expansion of Islam made that impossible and, later, to the great shrine of St. James at Compostella. Their tortuous and dangerous routes into Spain took them across the mighty Pyrenees through high narrow passes. On their way up into the mountains, many of them would have passed a hamlet clustered round a rocky outcrop at the bottom of a valley, where the mighty mountains subsided into the great gentle plains of France, Centuries later, and this inauspicious and forgotten little place was to become a centre of pilgrimage for all the corners of the world. In 1858, a sickly illiterate 14-year old from an impoverished family, Bernadette Soubirous, had eighteen visions of a beautiful lady in a niche in a rock at the old dump of Massabielle, there was a light, and in the light a smile.’

To that place, the lady called people to come in pilgrimage, to go and wash at the spring which appeared on the spot where Bernadette dug with her hands in the ground. And like the gushing waters that sprang up there, people have streamed unceasingly, seeking to come through Mary to Jesus, to wash at the fountain as they pray for renewal and healing. It is a holy place where the rough mountains of suffering lose their pride before the fertile plains of faith, in the presence of the of the God who Is.

On Sunday 6th May many members of the Order of Malta and ambulance corps members from Ireland and all over the world will descend on the holy city of Lourdes with our sick and infirm brothers and sisters for the 2012 International Lourdes Pilgrimage. I know that the members from the American associations are already there and we hope all will go well for all the pilgrims but especially for the Malades who are simply the royalty of Lourdes. There in Lourdes we see generous service given to our brothers and sisters who through their illness give all of us such a great example to all of us.

Lourdes and places like it are important because I feel that they offer the thing most needed by every human being: spiritual assurance, real solid spiritual ground to stand on.  And certainly in Lourdes we see the rock of faith and also that faith in action. Lourdes is run for and  by people who believe in the love of god for his people and they as a result of this belief are prepared to go that extra mile in service of those who need them. The people who are involved there also believe in the dignity of every individual no matter whether they are disabled in any way in mind, body or spirit. They also have a passion for life and for living and for loving, living their daily lives in the spirit and the love of God. Lourdes helps us to believe in God despite the mess we see around us. The advert for Red Bull says that it gives you wings  and makes the world go round but really its love that makes the world go round, and that love is present in those who serve the sick or disabled whether working in the hospitals, hotels, shops or the cafes along the streets.

Personally I often think that anyone who comes to Lourdes should think of their pilgrimage in terms  of giving themselves  away, in that giving yourself away to all those who need you get so much more than I can ever tell you about back from those you care for especially from those who have any type of disability. We are all called to make a pilgrimage to those special places where god dwells that means we make a prayerful journey, with no rewards or results guaranteed. The true pilgrim may seek to have specific needs met, but is open to whatever God chooses to grant, knowing that there will be graces and gifts, but trusting,  trusting that the giving is in the hands of God. This is certainly my experience of Lourdes 32 years after my first pilgrimage those friends I made are still very much part of my life.

I said above Lourdes is run for and  by people who believe in the love of god for his people and they as a result of this belief are prepared to go that extra mile in service of those who need them that too is our vocation as members of the Order of Malta to serve those who need us whether in Lourdes or wherever we are called to be and not be afraid of going that extra mile in service of our Lords the Sick and the poor and defense of our Faith.

Lenten reflection for the order of malta

Reading from Mark  Ch1: Vs 14 –  20

14 After John had been arrested, Jesus went into Galilee. There he proclaimed the gospel from Godsaying15 ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is close at hand. Repent, and believe the gospel.’16 As he was walking along by the Lake of Galilee he saw Simon and Simon’s brother Andrew casting a net in the lake — for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, ‘Come after me and I will make you into fishers of people.’18 And at once they left their nets and followed him. 19 Going on a little further, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John; they too were in their boat, mending the nets. 20 At once he called them and, leaving their father Zebedee in the boat with the men he employed, they went after him.

It was, I think, Origen, who said that it was not just the death that Jesus died but the life that he lived which was pleasing to God. If we think of Our Lord’s life, we see how he used his senses for others. He saw Zacchaeus up his tree, he heard Bartimaeus at the back of the crowd, he felt the touch of the woman with an issue of blood, he smelt the decaying body of Lazarus and spoke to the man with demons. He touched the untouchables; he ate and drank with publicans, tax collectors and sinners.

Or, to put it in the words of scripture from the First Letter of John, chapter 1, verse 1: “We declare to you what was from the beginning what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands.” This speaks of the sheer and impact of Jesus, given for us. So we must never underestimate how, in whatever we are called to do as members of the Order of Malta, our physical presence is a sign of God’s blessing and a sign of the Good News of Jesus Christ in our present day. It is also a sign of God’s abiding love for all and everyone whoever they are and wherever they are.

We are living in an age of information overload – driven by means of communication which have profoundly changed the nature of our relationships with one another and our lives and the way we live them. You can even have a “best friend” you have never met  through the internet and other computerised ways of communication– and before you scoff, we need to hit the “pause” button to reflect on how we relate to God?

But however we look at it, this is the age of vicarious living – and of vicarious religion. Many people want other people to do religion for them, no longer belonging to or believing in god. This results in a sense of the irrelevance of the church with many using the recent difficulties within the church as an excuse for not being there. There is much spiritual hunger out there and how are we doing when it comes to witnessing to the Christian and more especially the catholic message in our modern world?

Answering the call of Jesus Christ is based on listening and being ready to respond. Listening is an art in itself. It requires us to do more than just hear things that sound good to us. Listening requires us to filter out all the noise that is around us and begin listening for the still, small voice of God that usually comes to us quietly, often through odd connections with people, sometimes strangers, who see something unique in us and call it forth.

Recently someone who was and still is having difficulties with her only son voiced her concern about unburdening herself to me, expressing her fears and worries and even crying to me. I told her that it was a privilege for me to be there for her as it is for all of us to be a presence in so many ways for other people as members of the Order.

Being able  to respond is quite another thing. There is a musical play frequently performed around the Christmas season, called “Amahl and the Night Visitors,” which was composed by Gian Carlo Menotti.

In this story, Amahl is a young boy who must use a crutch to walk, and he has a bad habit of telling fibs.One night as he is sitting outside, his mother calls for him to come inside, and when he tells her that he sees an enormous star “as big as a window” over their house, she does not believe him. Later that night there is a knock at their door, and three kings, the Magi, stand before them, asking if they could rest overnight in the house, explaining that they are on a long journey to give gifts to a wondrous child. After the kings fail asleep, Amahl’s mother, who is worried that her son will become a beggar, tries to steal gold from one of the kings. When she is caught, Amahl tries to attack the king’s guard who is holding her. The king is filled with mercy when he sees Amahl’s pitiful defense of his mother, and the king tells her to keep the gold, explaining that the Holy Child, for whom the gold was intended, will not need it, because his kingdom will not be built on earthly wealth. Amahl’s mother, filled with shame and remorse, begs the kings to take back the gold, and wishes she had a gift to send the Holy Child. Amahl gives the kings his crutch, his only possession, to give to the child. And miraculously,

Amahl’s leg is healed, and he sets off with the kings to see the child and give thanks. In this marvelous tale, both music and story work together as we witness an intervention by God into the life of a poor family, an intervention that results in profound change. There are many such interventions in our lives and and as a result of these interventions we are able to do the work that god calls us to As members of the Order.

The call of Christ should  be seen as an intervention because that is what it is. “Follow me and you will fish for people,” says Jesus to the disciples. The call is not always a loud command; it is often a quiet suggestion, but it is always an intervention that challenges us to change direction, move to a new way of thought and life. How do we as members of the Order of Malta reflect the life that Jesus led in our dealings with other people, family friends and those whom we serve in our commitment to the Order our lords the sick and our lords the poor.  A calling that calls us to serve the faith and our Lord’s the sick and Our Lords the Poor in the here and now of today in the spirit of those who founded the Order over 900 years ago.

Most of us have moments when we wish we were other than ourselves. Stripped of our masks and pretence and all that we have accumulated to clothe us, standing naked before God we fear that we are not a pretty sight :  But God loves us and has called us, and remains faithful to us with all our masks and pretences lumps and bumps. Only when we return to this fact – and this fact alone, can we be agents of transformation. We can always be forgiven, re-shaped, re-molded and transformed so that we are made  and remade         as beautiful as God intended. After this remolding we are truly what god wants us to be, faithful and faith filled individuals not afraid of the message of the gospels and not afraid to pass the message on to others.

The summons in this gospel reading calls us as it called those who heard  to a radically new way of life that  he contradicted the old way, and offered happi­ness not in the material things of the world, but in the riches of the spirit that was given to all people  alike. Each person was to learn his need of God, be of a gentle spirit, Along the way, we shall have astounded both others and ourselves, converted them—and ourselves, with a new kind of merciful love. “I am the Way,” said Jesus. It is a way of ever new and deep discovery, advanced in humble love, sign-posted in the clear direction of an everlasting joy.

Let us not be afraid to follow the road that Jesus points us towards that is the road of loving mercy the mercy of the beatitudes which we hold dear in the order.

Let us go back to Origen, who said that it was not just the death that Jesus died but the life that he lived which was pleasing to God. If we think of Our Lord’s life, we see how he used his senses for others. He touched the untouchables; he ate and drank with publicans, tax collectors and sinners. Jesus was not afraid to be at one with all those who were the outcasts and so called sinners of his time as he is one with us in our time in the modern world of today. let us remember that The words of Jesus were there in his time and continue to be here today to afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted. May we who have ears listen and not be afraid to act, act to love the unloved, care for the those who have no one to care for them and show that we are not afraid to do so. My hope is that we will continue to listen to the voice of Jesus in the broken hearts, and in the victims of our society; and then we will be known for the love we show to one another as a caring and sharing community.

Attend to the pleas of your people with heavenly care,

O Lord, we pray,

that we may see what must be done

and gain strength to do what we have seen.

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,

who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.

Adapted fromOpening prayer 1st week ordinary time

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