‘We have done only what we ought to have done!’ Sunday Reflections, 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C

Boy ploughing with water buffalo, Laos (Luke 17:7) [Wikipedia]

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

Readings (Jerusalem Bible: Australia, England & Wales, India [optional], Ireland, New Zealand, Pakistan, Scotland, South Africa)

Gospel Luke 17:5-10  (New Revised Standard Version, Catholic Edition, Canada)

The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” The Lord replied, “If you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.

“Who among you would say to your slave who has just come in from plowing or tending sheep in the field, ‘Come here at once and take your place at the table’? Would you not rather say to him, ‘Prepare supper for me, put on your apron and serve me while I eat and drink; later you may eat and drink’? Do you thank the slave for doing what was commanded? So you also, when you have done all that you were ordered to do, say, ‘We are worthless slaves; we have done only what we ought to have done!’”

The Mulberry Tree, Van Gogh, 1889 [Wikipedia]

Responsorial Psalm (NAB Lectionary, Philippines, USA)

In the summer of 1964, after my third year in the seminary, I spent a couple of weeks working in the Morning Star Hostel in Dublin. It was within walking distance of my home. I had been in the Legion of Mary for most of my five years in secondary school and used to rejoin my praesidium during summer vacations. In the summer of 1963 I spent a week on Peregrinatio pro Christo in a parish in Liverpool and in 1965 did the same in a parish in Paisley, Scotland. My last experience of Peregrinatio was in Pewsey, Wiltshire, in the southwest of England in 1966.

Morning Star Hostel has had a small number of what are called ‘indoor brothers’ taking care of the men who stay there. These are laymen, Legionaries who devote themselves full-time to this work. I remember two from 1963, Tom Doyle and Sid Quinn. The webpage about the Morning Star gives a short biography of Tom, along with a photo. It describes him in these terms: Tom Doyle was the manager of the hostel for about 50 years and he is regarded as an unknown saint by most if not all the people who knew him.

Tom Doyle (1905 – 1992)

I didn’t get to know Tom or Sid well, certainly not their inner lives. Sid knew my father as they had grown up in the same area, where I also grew up. Most of the people in our neighbourhood were what were called ‘working class’. But I saw the utter dedication of Tom and Sid, or ‘Brother Tom’ and ‘Brother Sid’ as they were know within the hostel. During Legion meetings and Legion work members address and refer to each other as ‘Brother’ and ‘Sister’ but not outside of that.

As Pope Francis might put it, Tom and Sid well knew ‘the smell of their sheep’. That might be the smell of alcohol, the smell of unwashed bodies. Sometimes for Tom it might be the smell of his own blood: Rows and scuffles and fist fights were regular occurrences and poor Tom had the responsibility of calming every storm. No doubt Tom who was small in stature was on the receiving end of some of those blows and it is well known that near the end of his life one of the residents very badly beat him up so that he had to spend time in hospital but when he came out he made himself the best friend of that resident! 

When I read the words We are worthless slaves; we have done only what we ought to have done! in today’s gospel I immediately thought of Tom Doyle and Sid Quinn. The words of Jesus seem to be in contrast with what he says elsewhere, especially in St John’s Gospel, where he calls us friends, where he asks Peter, Do you love me? Feed my lambs.

Assisi, 4 October 2013, Feast of St Francis of Assisi

There are countless individuals around the world who gladly say, We have done only what we ought to have done! They may be adult children taking care of aged parents.

Dimayuga Family, 2009

They may be parents such as Miggy and Gee-Gee, my former assistant editor at Misyon, taking care of their son Mikko, born with multiple disabilities,with the help of their daughter Mica. Mikko went straight to God in 2014 and his parents brought his remains home from Atlanta, Georgia, where they live to be buried here in Bacolod City where Gee-Gee is from.

They may be those helping homeless people, refugees, drug addicts, alcoholics, those without work cope with their situation, attending to their urgent, basic needs and offering them hope.

They may be those taking care of the young persons with disabilities whom Pope Francis visited in Assisi three years ago on, the feast of St Francis. In the video above the Holy Father reminds us very strikingly, On the altar we worship the Flesh of Jesus. In the sick we see the wounds of Jesus. We find Jesus hidden in the Eucharist. Jesus can be found through your wounds. He needs to be listened to. We need to say: These wounds cannot be ignored.

Tom Doyle chose to worship the Flesh of Jesus every morning at Mass at 6, very early in Ireland, especially in winter. In the homeless men who came to Morning Star Hostel he was able to see the wounds of Jesus. He would have nodded in agreement with Pope Francis speaking directly to the young people with disabilities: Jesus can be found through your wounds. He understood that Jesus needs to be listened to in the men he served each day.

Despite having to go to hospital when already an old man because he was beaten up by a resident of Morning Star Hostel, Tom would have understood what Pope Francis said, These wounds cannot be ignored. Though conscious of his own physical wounds Tom was even more conscious of the inner wounds of the man who had attacked him as he showed when he came out of hospital and made himself the best friend of that resident! 

Thank God for the countless, largely anonymous, Tom Doyles throughout the world who, if asked about their unselfish commitment to others in need would answer, We have only done what was our duty. They are living examples of the words of St Francis, which Pope Francis repeated when answering the questions of young people in Assisi three years ago, Always preach the gospel. And if necessary use words. [Video below].

Pope Francis then asked the young people – and he is putting the same question to each of us in the name of Jesus – Can you preach the Gospel without words? Yes! Leading by example. First by example, then with words.

Pope Francis answers young people in Assisi, 2013

Sts Cosmas and Damian and the doctors of Aleppo, Syria

Arciconfraternità della Misericordia, Florence [Web Gallery of Art]
Tomorrow, 26 September, is the feast of Sts Cosmas and Damian. We don’t know too much about them but they were martyred around the year 287. They were physicians and believed to have been twins. They lived and served the people in the ancient Roman province of Syria and were known as the ‘unmercenaries’ because they didn’t charge for their services.
Devotion to them is strong among both Eastern and Western Christians and they are mentioned in the Roman Canon (First Eucharistic Prayer). They are patron saints of doctors, pharmacists, surgeons and barbers.
Channel 4 News (England) 17 August 2016
There are many other videos of the same hospital, its staff and patients on YouTube.
O Physicians of souls, Saints Cosmas and Damian, stand before the Lord of All and ask Him to heal me and all those dear to me of any spiritual ills we may endure. 
Drive away from us all sin and sadness of mind, all darkness and despair.  Make us then willing and loving servants of Christ, following your holy example of detachment from the things of this world and care for the needs of our neighbors.
On the glorious day of the Universal Resurrection may we shine with you in the full health of our nature restored by the mercies of Jesus who lives and reigns forever and ever. 
Channel 4 News (England) 9 May 2016
Living in Aleppo is a martyrdom project. We think of ourselves as living martyrs. If you’re in Aleppo you expect to die at any time in your home or in the street.
Please pray for all hospital workers in Aleppo through the intercession of the Syrian martyrs and physicians Sts Cosmas and Damian.
Sts Cosmas and Damian, Matteo de Pacino, 1370-75
North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh [Web Gallery of Art]
May you be magnified, O Lord,
by the revered memory of your Saints Cosmas and Damian,
for with providence beyond words
you have conferred on them everlasting glory,
and on us, your unfailing help.
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.

Welcome the Refugees. Fr Shay Cullen’s Reflections, 23 September 2016

Three boys in Aleppo, Syria [Wikipedia]

Welcome the Refugees

by Fr Shay Cullen

Two girls in Aleppo [Wikipedia]

The bombs keep falling and the barrels fall from the sky and burst with a massive boom and searing, burning flames consume the men, women and children. The chlorine chemical poison spreads among the ruins of Aleppo.

Aleppo, 2012 [Wikipedia]

The people are dead, others are suffering in agony, the children are screaming. The White Helmet Rescuers rush to dig out the bodies of the dead and the wounded. The paramedics rush to wash them down, give them oxygen masks to breath, if they have any. Others half-buried in the collapsed ruins of their houses, far from help, choke to death, scarred or maimed.

Syrian refugees, Greek-Macedonian border, August 2015 [Wikipedia]

They are starved, surrounded, killed one by one by the Assad snipers. The UN relief convoy of desperately needed food is bombed and burnt to ashes, seven more died. They flee the horror of violent death and hunger as the mayhem rained down on them. They are the Syrian refugees of war, and they flee the violence and indescribable cruelty. Who will give them welcome?

Syrian refugee camp, 80kms from Aleppo, hear Turkish border, 2012 [Wikipedia]

In other parts of Syria, the towns and villages are reduced to ruins as Isis moves closer to take over the villages and towns and impose their cruel regime of torture. Soon the chopping off of hands, arms and heads, the summary execution will begin. The rape and abuse of children, boys and girls, men and women follows. The sex slavery of thousands of people of this Isis regime is well known and the people flee. They are the refugees begging for help, asking for a place of refuge and safety, non-violence and peace.

Full post on Preda website.

‘If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets . . .’ Sunday Reflections, 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C

Parable of Dives and Lazarus, Unknown Master, c.1420

Musée Cluny, Paris [Web Gallery of Art]

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

Readings (Jerusalem Bible: Australia, England & Wales, India [optional], Ireland, New Zealand, Pakistan, Scotland, South Africa)

Gospel Luke 16:19-31  (New Revised Standard Version, Catholic Edition, Canada)

Jesus said to the disciples: “There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man’s table; even the dogs would come and lick his sores. The poor man died and was carried away by the angels to be with Abraham.  The rich man also died and was buried. In Hades, where he was being tormented, he looked up and saw Abraham far away with Lazarus by his side. He called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in agony in these flames.’ 

“But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your lifetime you received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in agony. Besides all this, between you and us a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who might want to pass from here to you cannot do so, and no one can cross from there to us.’ He said, ‘Then, father, I beg you to send him to my father’s house—  for I have five brothers—that he may warn them, so that they will not also come into this place of torment.’ Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; they should listen to them.’  He said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’”

Lazarus lives today in Aleppo, Syria

Last Monday an aid convoy to Aleppo was bombed.

Missionaries of Charity [Wikipedia]

An Indian Missionary of Charity who was based in Hong Kong for some years told me of something that happened there shortly before Christmas 2009. Yang was what Sister called a ‘street-sleeper’, ie, someone living on the streets. Strictly speaking he wasn’t, as he had a little place where he lived with his mother. Both were Buddhists. Yang was in poor health and couldn’t get a job. He mixed mostly with those who were ‘street-sleepers’.

He first came across the Missionaries of Charity when they were distributing lunch-boxes to very poor people in the street. He began to come to their place regularly for a meal and made a point of coming to the annual Advent celebration when gifts would be distributed and a meal provided. Yang’s mother often wondered where he got his regular meals. ‘From Sister’ was his answer to her queries but she didn’t know who ‘Sister’ was.

Yang didn’t attend the Advent celebration in 2009 because he was in hospital but he asked his mother to go in his place. When she arrived the celebration was over but the Sisters had kept one meal in case someone would arrive late. So they gave it to her.

A day or two later, around 19 0r 20 December, Yang died. Some time after that his mother came to the Sisters to express her profound gratitude to them for their kindness and hospitality to her son and to herself.

Yang and his mother experienced the personal love of Jesus for them through the Missionaries of Charity who took care of the many Lazaruses outside their door. And Sister told me that food never ran out. It was constantly supplied by hotels and restaurants.

Syrian refugees and migrants, Slovenia, 2015 [Wikipedia]

Jesus gives a name to Lazarus but not to the rich man, though ‘Dives’, the Latin for ‘rich’, is often used as a name for him, such as in the ballad below. It is difficult to give a name to each person in a refugee camp where there may be tens of thousands, a sight we are all too familiar with. Yet people are extraordinarily generous when a calamity occurs, whether caused by nature or by man. And there are many who leave the comfort of their own home and homeland to take care of those in such places who have nothing.

Lazarus also lives today in Dublin, Ireland

Each person in a refugee camp has a name, a family, a history, hopes, God-given talents, an invitation to live with God for ever in heaven. And even in the relatively affluent West many are in need because of the economic situation. The Capuchin Day Centre in Dublin, for example, which initially helped individuals really down on their luck, as we say in Ireland, is now helping families that in the past didn’t experience hardship. 

There is much to be done to bring the Gospel to change the lives of the many Lazaruses throughout the world – working for peace, working for justice at the level of legislation and so on. God calls some to serve Lazarus in this way. But while the slow work of peace-building and the rest goes on, Lazarus is outside our door each day in need of sustenance to help him survive till the following day.

‘Dives’ is the Latin word for ‘rich’. Though Jesus gave a name only to the beggar in the parable, Lazarus, ‘Dives’ is often used as a name for the rich man. Above is an old English ballad based on the parable. Some of you may recognize the melody as the same one used for the Irish song The Star of the County Down. I found the lyrics of the song here but adjusted them in places. Ballads have variationsDivès’ becomes ‘Diverus’ at times.

As it fell out upon a day,

Rich Divès made a feast,

And he invited all his friends,

And gentry of the best.


Then Lazarus laid him down and down

And down at Divès’ door:

‘Some meat, some drink, brother, Diverus,

To bestow upon the poor.’


‘Thou art none of my brother, Lazarus,

Lie begging at my door;

No meat, no drink will I give to you,

Nor bestow upon the poor.’


Then Divès sent to his merry men,

To whip poor Lazarus away;

They had no power to strike one stroke,

But flung their whips away.


Then Lazarus laid him down and down

Even down at Divès’ gate:

‘Some meat, some drink, brother, Diverus,

For Jesus Christ’s sake.”


“Thou art none of my brother, Lazarus,

Lies begging at my gate;

No meat, no drink will I give to you,

For Jesus Christ’s sake.’


Then Divès sent his hungry dogs,

To bite him as he lay;

They had no power to bite at all.

They licked his sores away.


As it fell out all on a day,

Poor Lazarus sickened and died;

There came an angel out of heaven,

His soul therein to guide.


‘Rise up! rise up! brother Lazarus,

And go along with me;

For you’ve a place prepared in heaven,

To sit on an angel’s knee.’


As it fell out all on a day,

Rich Divès sickened and died;

There came two serpents out of hell,

His soul therein to guide.


‘Rise up! rise up! brother Diverus,

And go with us and see;

A dismal place prepared in hell

From which thou canst not flee.’


Then Divès looked up with his eyes

And saw poor Lazarus blest;

‘Give me one drink, brother Lazarus,

To quench my flaming thirst.


‘O, was I now but alive again

In the space of one half hour!

O, then my peace would be secure

The devil should have no power.’


The Spread of Child Trafficking. Fr Shay Cullen’s Reflections, 15 September 2016

The Spread of Child Trafficking

by Fr Shay Cullen

Unpleasant as it is we must not turn the page, look away and ignore this social evil that is destroying the lives of hundreds of thousands of children and families. The spread of child sexual abuse all over the world is the terrible crime that few want to acknowledge and fight.

The high number of trafficked children, abducted and sold into the sex trade in developed and developing countries is unbelievable but at least 2.5 million are thought to be victimized at any given time and more are added to that list daily. The fact that so little is spent and done to combat it is an indictment of the international community and national government officials who tolerate it. Officials actually promote and license the establishments that foster sex tourism and human trafficking.

Hundreds of thousands of sex tourists from developed countries come to Southeast Asia every year to engage in pernicious acts of child sexual abuse and sex trafficking. The Philippines is notorious for these crimes of human trafficking and child abuse and many customers are coming from international pedophile rings. They abuse the children, make videos and sell them online. The international authorities do little to intervene and local authorities seem to condone and promote the trade in young people in the sex industry.

The institutional Catholic Church fails to challenge sufficiently this pernicious evil that destroys the fabric of family life. People of all beliefs and principles, social justice advocates and those who value human rights and dignity ought to be outraged and take action wherever they can. They can campaign with groups online and challenge their politicians to act to protect children and curb foreign aid to governments that fail to implement international child protection standards.

Full post here.

Prayer Intentions of Pope Francis, September 2016

Man Praying, April 1883, The Hague, Van Gogh

Private Collection [Web Gallery of Art]

Universal Intention – Centrality of the Human Person 

That each may contribute to the common good and to the building of a society that places the human person at the center.

Evangelization Intention Mission to Evangelize

That by participating in the Sacraments and meditating on Scripture, Christians may become more aware of their mission to evangelize. 

Reflections for both intentions here.

The material above is from the website of the Apostleship for Prayer.

‘Whoever is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much.’ Sunday Reflections, 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C

Girl with a Pearl Earring, Johannes Vermeer, c.1685

Mauritshuis, The Hague [Web Gallery of Art]

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

Readings (Jerusalem Bible: Australia, England & Wales, India [optional], Ireland, New Zealand, Pakistan, Scotland, South Africa)

Gospel Luke 16:1-13 (or 10-13)  (New Revised Standard Version, Catholic Edition, Canada)

[Then Jesus said to the disciples, “There was a rich man who had a manager, and charges were brought to him that this man was squandering his property. So he summoned him and said to him, ‘What is this that I hear about you? Give me an accounting of your management, because you cannot be my manager any longer.’ Then the manager said to himself, ‘What will I do, now that my master is taking the position away from me? I am not strong enough to dig, and I am ashamed to beg. I have decided what to do so that, when I am dismissed as manager, people may welcome me into their homes.’ So, summoning his master’s debtors one by one, he asked the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ He answered, ‘A hundred jugs of olive oil.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill, sit down quickly, and make it fifty.’  Then he asked another, ‘And how much do you owe?’ He replied, ‘A hundred containers of wheat.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill and make it eighty.’ And his master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly; for the children of this age are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light. And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of dishonest wealth so that when it is gone, they may welcome you into the eternal homes.]

Jesus said to his disciples: “Whoever is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much; and whoever is dishonest in a very little is dishonest also in much. If then you have not been faithful with the dishonest wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? And if you have not been faithful with what belongs to another, who will give you what is your own? No slave can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.”

Responsorial Psalm (NAB Lectionary, Philippines, USA)

Woman Sewing, Van Gogh, Oct-Nov 1881, Etten

Rijksmuseum Kröller-Müller, Otterlo, Netherlands [Web Gallery of Art]

Three years ago while on vacation in Ireland I dropped by the house of Brian, a childhood friend in Dublin. Over coffee we chatted about many things, ranging from the current situation of the Church in Ireland to the days when we were growing up.

In the course of our conversation the small Jewish community in Dublin came up. It has never quite reached 4,000 in Ireland and the majority of the now fewer than 2,000 live in Dublin. I told Brian that my father, who spent all his working life as a carpenter on building/construction sites, most of those years as a highly respected general foreman, had built a house for a wealthy Jewish couple in the late 1950s. 

Our house was the one on the right, 44 Finn St, Dublin

Shortly after the house was finished a very expensive car stopped outside our house, in a street of terraced houses, exactly like those in the photo above, where nobody had a telephone and very few had cars. The driver knocked on our door and turned out to be the owner of the new house my father had built. He came to invite our family to dinner the following week in his new home. My father had helped build many new homes over the 54 years of his working life but this was the only occasion when he had been thanked in such a way.

We enjoyed the gracious hospitality of the family and it was the only time I ever visited a Jewish home in Ireland.

Brian then told me a story about his father Jimmy, whom I had known well, a house painter and decorator. He had painted and decorated the houses of many Jewish families in Dublin over the years. This was mainly due to an incident the first time he was asked to work in a Jewish home. While scraping the old paint from the stairs he found a diamond ring stuck in a corner. He immediately brought it to the owner and said ‘I found this on the stairs’. ‘I know’, said the owner, ‘I put it there!’ 

The word spread through the Jewish community that Jimmy was trustworthy. Over the years he had many Jewish clients. 

Whoever is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much.

Jewish Museum, Dublin [Wikipedia]

When I told the story of Jimmy and the diamond ring to my sister-in-law Gladys she told me that her engagement ring had been stolen while she and my brother Paddy were having renovations done to their home a few years ago.

I remember too how upset my father was when he was renovating a Georgian house in Dublin. He discovered that the knocker on the front door had disappeared and it could only have been one of his workmates who took it. He was unable to trace the knocker or find out who the thief was.

Whoever is dishonest in a very little is dishonest also in much.

Georgian doors, Dublin [Wikipedia]

When I wrote these reflections three years ago the major story in the Philippines was the ‘pork barrel scam‘. PHP10 billion – roughly US$200,000,000 or €200,000,000 – of taxes paid by the people had disappeared. Some senators and members of Congress were alleged to have been beneficiaries of this along with others.

Today’s gospel speaks to situations like this. Corruption on such a vast scale begins in the classroom when a child learns that though cheating isn’t right the main thing is not to be caught. The man who stole my sister-in-law’s engagement ring and my father’s workmate who walked away with the valuable knocker from the front door of the Georgian house were earning salaries. What values were they passing on to their families?

One thing that both my parents instilled in me was that I must not keep anything that isn’t mine. When I was a toddler I came home from a park up the road from where we lived at the time with a leather football. This was in the mid-1940s, around the time World War II ended when such things would have been very scarce and expensive. They asked around the neighbourhood and it was only when nobody claimed the ball that our family kept it.

Honesty and trustworthiness at such basic levels are  a foundation for justice. I’ve known of individuals ‘working for justice’ who weren’t paying their own workers a proper wage. I’ve known many others such as my father, such as Jimmy, who didn’t talk much about justice. They simply behaved in a just and honest manner and treated others with respect.

God invites every single one of us to share for ever in the riches of eternal life. Eternal life begins in the here and now. We make our choices in the here and now.

No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.

Antiphona ad Communionem / Communion Antiphon (John 10:14)

Ego sum pastor bonus, dicit Dóminus;

et cognósco oves meas, et cognóscunt me meae.

I am the Good shepherd, says the Lord;

I know my sheep, and mine know me.

Engagement and wedding rings [Wikipedia]

I mentioned two diamond rings above. I couldn’t find a painting with a diamond ring but Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring is a work of such extraordinary beauty that I used it instead.

Vulnerable Children of the Philippines. Fr Shay Cullen’s Reflections, 7 September 2016

Girls from Preda Girls’ Home

Vulnerable Children of the Philippines

by Fr Shay Cullen

The deaths of two small Filipino children caught in the gunfire of vigilante assassins sent to kill suspected drug users and peddlers are an unfolding tragedy. The shoot-to-kill policy that has claimed as many as 2,500 [Editor’s note: as of 10 September it was 2,956 (and here)]  people marked as suspects and killed in the past few months is a descent into hell. 
Five-year old Danica Mae Garcia was shot dead when two men on a motorcycle stopped at the house of Maximo Garcia when he was having lunch with his wife Gemma and their two grandchildren in the village of Mayombo, Dagupan City. The men opened fire as Maximo Garcia jumped up and ran out the back. Danica, his granddaughter, was shot in the hail of bullets the assassins fired at Maximo. He was hit three times but survived and went into hiding. Danica died. Maximo had been called to the office of the barangay district official to confess he was a drug user and sign a paper. He said he had long stopped using drugs.
Althea Fhem Barbon, four-year-old girl from Guihulngan, Negros Oriental, died also in a hail of gunfire by police when they opened fire on her father Aldrick Barbon from behind while he was riding his motorcycle. Althea was sitting on the gas tank in front of him. The bullets passed through Aldrick’s body and hit the child. He died and so did Althea. He was listed as a suspect drug seller.
The shoot-to-kill is a policy that has divided the nation. There are those who want the police to uphold the constitutional rights of all and follow the rulebook of investigation and due process based on evidence. They want Universal Human Rights respected and the right to life upheld. They want the sanctity of their homes protected and safe from invasion without a detailed search warrant. They want their families protected from harm and violence and false charges and abuse of authority. They want a civilized society under the rule of law. They want their constitutional rights to be honored. 
There are those who support a shoot-to-kill policy where no evidence of a crime is needed to mark a suspect for a hail of bullets. No warrant or proof of guilt or innocence needed.  All those named as suspects are judged guilty by being on that list of suspects. The death list is a call to action by paid assassins, police and now under emergency powers, the military.
Local district officials and law enforcers draw up a death list based mostly on hearsay.  It is like the age of the Inquisition. You will be called to confess your crime and sign a paper that is your death warrant and you must accept the punishment. No trial needed. Such a policy has left anyone and everybody vulnerable to be listed as a suspect and marked for death.
The door is open to those with a grudge or an evil purpose against their rivals, enemies or competitors to denounce them as drug pushers. Then vigilante killers will shoot them and leave a placard with the words, ‘I am a pusher’. There will be no questions asked, no investigation. Case closed before it is opened.
It is a policy that has put the power of hearsay and the dubious list of suspects in the place of hard evidence. It has bypassed the rule of law and entered the realm of lawlessness. The gun has replaced the courtroom and the balance of right and wrong. There is no need to listen to the pleas of innocence or recognize the truth. No more the plea of guilty or not guilty, no more the presentation of evidence and the rebuttal. There is no place for reasonable doubt. There is no need to pass a just judgment. The judgment has already been made once your name is listed. Sentence is passed with a nod and a promise of payment and the motorbike killers target their quarry. Such is the process of extrajudicial execution. 
While the attention of government is apparently focused totally on the war on drugs, abuse crimes against children are increasing. The abduction of children by human traffickers who take them from their villages and pick them up on the streets and sell them to thriving and ever-increasing sex bars and brothels goes on right before the authorities.
This is not new. It is the cruel sex slavery that is common and ongoing in the Philippines for fifty years. The rights of the children and youth are being violated daily in a slow, spiritual death and at times by physical death as illegal drugs and the HIV-AIDS spread among the enslaved young sex workers. The new danger of the Zika virus being passed by sexual transmission is also present.
The sex industry is run on illegal drugs. ‘Shabu’ and other drugs are available in the sex industry, sex bars and brothels to elate the customers and keep the young girls docile and submissive. It is a business that is not a target of the war on illegal drugs. The girls are victims and can be rescued by the authorities, helped recover and testify against the operators and pushers. Justice will be done under the rule of law and not the rule of violence and the gun.

Birthday of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Pinacoteca Malaspina, Pavia [Web Gallery of Art]
The glory of the Virgin was all within
For a long time I have wondered and been at a loss to understand why the evangelists should have spoken at such length about John the Baptist and the apostles, and yet told us so little about the Virgin Mary, who in life and distinction excels them all.
Being at a loss, as I say, to understand this, all I can think is that it pleased the Holy Spirit that it should be so. It was by the providence of the Holy Spisit that the evangelists kept silent, because the glory of the Virgin, as we read in the psalms, was all within, and could more truly be thought of than described. 
The most important fact of her life, that Jesus was born of her, is enough to tell her whole story. What more do you want to know? What further inquire would you make concerning the Virgin? It is enough for you that she is the Mother of God. What beauty, I as you, what virtue, what perfection, what grace, what glory does not befit the Mother of God? (St Thomas of Villanova OSA) 
From Tradition Day By Day, compiled and edited by John E. Rotelle OSA, Augustinian Press 1994


‘But we had to celebrate and rejoice . . .’ Sunday Reflections, 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C

The Return of the Prodigal Son, Rembrandt, c.1669

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

Readings (Jerusalem Bible: Australia, England & Wales, India [optional], Ireland, New Zealand, Pakistan, Scotland, South Africa)

Gospel Luke 15:1-32 (or 1-10)  (New Revised Standard Version, Catholic Edition, Canada) 

Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to Jesus. And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.”

So he told them this parable: “Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it? When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’  Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.

“Or what woman having ten silver coins, if she loses one of them, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’  Just so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

[Then Jesus said, “There was a man who had two sons. The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the property that will belong to me.’ So he divided his property between them. A few days later the younger son gathered all he had and traveled to a distant country, and there he squandered his property in dissolute living. When he had spent everything, a severe famine took place throughout that country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed the pigs. He would gladly have filled himself with the pods that the pigs were eating; and no one gave him anything. But when he came to himself he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired hands have bread enough and to spare, but here I am dying of hunger! I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands.”’ So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him. Then the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son. But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly, bring out a robe—the best one—and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate;  for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!’ And they began to celebrate.

“Now his elder son was in the field; and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. He called one of the slaves and asked what was going on. He replied, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has got him back safe and sound.’ Then he became angry and refused to go in. His father came out and began to plead with him. But he answered his father, ‘Listen! For all these years I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never disobeyed your command; yet you have never given me even a young goat so that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came back, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fatted calf for him!’  Then the father  said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.’”]

The Return of the Prodigal Son (detail)

This week I’m going to borrow from others. Fr Paul Andrews SJ is a regular contributor to The Sacred Heart Messenger, a monthly publication of the Irish Jesuits. The general title of his column is One Page Wisdom and the specific title of his column in the September 2016 issue is Messy Families. I’m quoting it in full.

We know about families. We have all survived them, more or less. You remember the Gospel parable about the father of the prodigal son – and here Jesus is talking about God. the boy made a fool of him by squandering the family fortune and reputation. His older son was so envious of the kid brother that he would not attend the homecoming party. 

God knows about troubled families. They are nothing out of the ordinary. In that lovely parable, the father enjoys the being of his son even when he is in every way a thorn in the father’s heart. Scanning the horizon from his window he sees a forlorn, debauched figure slouching towards home, and runs out to meet him, speechless with joy. 

The Return of the Prodigal Son (detail)

We may dream of an ideal family with lively, intelligent, obedient children – who line up with their parents for Church on Sunday, pass their exams, compete in community sports, and visit their granny. 

Move away from such rosy pictures. There is no such thing as perfect parents, or perfect children. God is not the presenter of prizes at a high-powered graduation, but the one who helps us clean up the mess or live with it, and then approach the future as a friend, without a wardrobe (closet) of excuses.

The Return of the Prodigal Son (detail)

Rembrandt’s painting is in The Hermitage, St Petersburg, Russia [Web Gallery of Art]

Fr Andrews writes: His older son was so envious of the kid brother that he would not attend the homecoming party. I would disagree with him on that. Part of the genius of this parable is that it’s open-ended. We don’t know if the older son reflected on the matter and decided to join the celebration. Maybe he did, maybe he didn’t. But the story that Jesus told invites each of us to ask ourselves a number of questions. Which of the two sons am I more like? If there’s more of the older brother in me do I rejoice when my younger brother comes home? Do I thank God for his daily blessings? If there’s more of the younger brother in me do I trust in God’s mercy and decide to come home?

Christ on the Cross, Rembrandt, 1631

Collégial Saint Vincent, Le Mas d’Agenais, France [Web Gallery of Art]

My other ‘guest’ this week is the late Swiss theologian Fr Hans Urs von Balthasar (1905 – 1988). Here is part of his reflection on the Sunday readings from his book Light of the Word, published by Ignatius Press, San Francisco, USA.

In the third parable the father does not wait at home for the lost son, rather, he hurries to meet him and throws his arms around his neck. God’s search for the lost does not mean that he does not know where the lost one is. Instead, it tells us that he searches to find which paths will be effective, which paths will permit the sinner to find his way back. This is God’s ‘exertion’, which expresses itself in the culminating risk of giving his Son for the lost world. If the Son descends into the most profound abandonment of sin, to the point of losing the Father, then this is God exerting himself to the uttermost in his search for the lost. ‘when we were still sinners, God had mercy on us through the sacrifice of his Son’ (Romans 5:8).

Descent from the Cross, Rembrandt, 1634

The Hermitage, St Petersburg, Russia [Web Gallery of Art]

St Mother Teresa of Kolkata [Wikipedia]

Mother Teresa, in all aspects of her life, was a generous dispenser of divine mercy, making herself available for everyone through her welcome and defence of human life, those unborn and those abandoned and discarded. She was committed to defending life, ceaselessly proclaiming that ‘the unborn are the weakest, the smallest, the most vulnerable’. She bowed down before those who were spent, left to die on the side of the road, seeing in them their God-given dignity; she made her voice heard before the powers of this world, so that they might recognize their guilt for the crime – the crimes! – of poverty they created. For Mother Teresa, mercy was the ‘salt’ which gave flavour to her work, it was the ‘light’ which shone in the darkness of the many who no longer had tears to shed for their poverty and suffering. [Pope Francis, homily at canonisation of St Mother Teresa of Kolkata, 4 September 2016].

Misa Criolla, Kyrie

Señor ten piedad de nosotros. Lord, have mercy on us.

Cristo ten piedad de nosotros. Christ, have mercy on us.

Señor ten piedad de nosotros. Lord, have mercy on us.

A setting in Spanish of the Kyrie eleison (Lord, have mercy) from Misa Criolla by Argentinian composer Ariel Ramírez (1921 – 2010).