‘Enter into the joy of your master.’ Sunday Reflections, 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

Woman Sewing, Van Gogh [Web Gallery of Art]

She seeks wool and flax,
and works with willing hands. 

(Proverbs 31:13, First Reading)

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

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

Gospel Matthew 25:14-30 [Shorter form, 14-15, 19-21] (New Revised  Standard Version, Anglicised CatholicEdition) 

Jesus told his disciples this parable:

 ‘For it is as if a man, going on a journey, summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them; to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. [The one who had received the five talents went off at once and traded with them, and made five more talents. In the same way, the one who had the two talents made two more talents. But the one who had received the one talent went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.] After a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them. Then the one who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five more talents, saying, “Master, you handed over to me five talents; see, I have made five more talents.” His master said to him, “Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.” [And the one with the two talents also came forward, saying, “Master, you handed over to me two talents; see, I have made two more talents.” His master said to him, “Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.” Then the one who had received the one talent also came forward, saying, “Master, I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed; so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.” But his master replied, “You wicked and lazy slave! You knew, did you, that I reap where I did not sow, and gather where I did not scatter? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent from him, and give it to the one with the ten talents. For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. As for this worthless slave, throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”]

Jesse Robredo 

(27 May 1958 – 18 August 2012) [Wikipedia]

There was real sorrow throughout the Philippines when news broke that the small plane in which Jesse Robredo, Secretary of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) in the administration of President Benigno Aquino III of the Philippines had crashed offshore while trying to make and emergency landing on Masbate Island. Secretary Robredo had been on official business in Cebu but wanted to be present at a swimming competition in which his daughter was taking part in their home town, Naga City in the heart of the Bicol Region at the southern end of Luzon. So he hired a small plane to fly from Cebu to Naga City.

Naga City, Camarines Sur [Wikipedia]

During his six terms as elected Mayor of Naga City Jesse Robredo was noted for being close to ordinary people and for working for the improvement of the lives of all Nagueños. He saw his role as one of service.

Shortly after the Secretary’s death Fr Lucio Rosaroso, a chaplain to the Philippine National Police (PNP), spoke in a homily at a Mass for the soul of Jesse Robredo of the sense of service that he had:  Service is a time-honored value, however, the span of time in service does not matter — it may be long or short. What is more important is how much love one puts into his or her service.

The late Secretary Robredo, though his service to our country was cut short due to his untimely demise, but that is not what matters. What matters most is the LOVE that he put into his service. By that he gives us the best example of servant-leadership, he stressed.

Fr Rosaroso continued: Robredo’s heart was after the heart of the Good Shepherd. He was not only a good public servant but first and foremost a father to his very own family.

I remember reading at the time of his death that Jesse Robredo, who was based in Manila during his time as Secretary of the DILG, made a point of going home each weekend to Naga City to be with his family. By air this takes about 45 minutes but by road maybe six or seven hours, as I recall from going there from Manila a number of times in the 1990s when I was a vocation director of the Columbans. It’s never easy for a politician or someone in public service to balance family life with public responsibilities. But Jesse Robredo made his wife and three daughters a priority.

Our Lady of Peñafrancia [Wikipedia]

The shrine of Our Lady of Peñafrancia is in Naga City.

I remember reading too that the day before his death Jesse Robredo went to confession at a church run by the Divine Word Missionaries in Quezon City, the largest component in area and size in Metro Manila. Fr Rosarosa of the PNP in his homily testified to the fact the DILG Secretary confessed regularly: The late secretary used to come here in Crame Church. In fact, every week he would go to confession. We are six priests here in Camp Crame and each one of us experienced being asked by the late secretary to administer to him the Sacrament of Reconciliation from time to time. He really believed in the sanctifying graces of the sacraments. He was a practicing and devout Catholic. He was a holy man in our midst!

Jesse Robredo’s confession the day before he died is a powerful example of what St Paul speaks about in today’s Second Reading: For you yourselves know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night . . . But you, beloved, are not in darkness, for that day to surprise you like a thief (1 Thess 5:1-6).

The shorter version of the Gospel has a specific focus: You have been trustworthy in a few things. I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master. Because President Aquino saw how well Jesse Robredo had managed Naga City he made him responsible for local government throughout the Philippines. 

The longer version shows how harshly the master dealt with the servant who simply buried what had been given to him. The investigation into the accident that killed Jesse Robredo suggests that three people lost their lives because others were not trustworthy in a few things.

The parable of the talents reminds us that whatever gifts God has given each of are not just for ourselves but are meant to be used in the service of others. What we do with them has consequences in the lives of others. Jesse Robredo, whose Catholic faith was at the centre of his life, used his talents in serving the people of Naga City from the time he was elected Mayor at the age of 29 and later in serving the people of the Philippines. He gave his wife and children first priority. The reason for his wanting to fly from Cebu to Naga, a journey that ended in his death, is a testimony to this.

The failure of some to use their talents, to carry out the responsibilities they were given, led to unnecessary deaths.

When the Lord will come like a thief in the night which words do we wish to hear from him: As for this worthless slave, throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth – harsh words that call us to be responsible for what God has given us – or you have been trustworthy in a few things . . . enter into the joy of your master?

Antiphona ad communionem   Communion Antiphon  Mk 11:23-24

Amen dico vobis, quidquid orantes petitis,
credite quia accepietis, et fiet vobis.

Amen, I say to you, Whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you will receive, and it shall be given to you, says the Lord.

This is also the Communion Antiphon for Mass in the Extraordinary Form on the 23rd Sunday after Pentecost.

‘You know neither the day nor the hour.’ Sunday Reflections, 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

Christ and the Wise Virgins

Mediaeval German Sculptor [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 Matthew 25:1-13 (New Revised  Standard Version, Anglicised CatholicEdition) 

Jesus told his disciples this parable:

‘The kingdom of heaven will be like this. Ten bridesmaids took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. When the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them; but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. As the bridegroom was delayed, all of them became drowsy and slept. But at midnight there was a shout, “Look! Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.” Then all those bridesmaids got up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish said to the wise, “Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.” But the wise replied, “No! there will not be enough for you and for us; you had better go to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.” And while they went to buy it, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went with him into the wedding banquet; and the door was shut. Later the other bridesmaids came also, saying, “Lord, lord, open to us.” But he replied, “Truly I tell you, I do not know you.” Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.’

In the unlikely event of a sudden loss of cabin pressure, oxygen masks will drop down from the panel above your head… Secure your own mask before helping others.

I have heard those words hundreds of times before a flight takes off. I have never experienced having to use one of these masks and I hope that I never will. The others mentioned in the instruction refer to children and persons with disabilities of one kind or another who would need help. But the instruction is clear: Secure your own mask before helping others.

Oxygen masks dropping [Wikipedia]

The introduction to today’s Mass in Magnificat, a wonderful monthly daily missal that reflects the beauty of God and also includes daily morning and evening prayer, reads: Why do the five wise virgins not share their oil with the five foolish ones? Because it is something that simply cannot be shared. The oil is our personal virtue. ‘The wise maidens represent all those who possess the ensemble of virtues which characterise a complete Christian life. The burning oil lamps which they carry . . . symbolically portray Christian wisdom . . . This Christian wisdom empowers all those who embrace prudence and the other moral virtues to fulfil the requirements of an integral and holy life’ (Fr Romanus Cessario OP). ‘God, through Jesus, will bring with him those who’ seek wisdom with the same ardour with which the wise virgins seek the bridegroom. For Christ is the Bridegroom.

Airlines instruct adult and able-bodied passengers to put on their own masks first. If they don’t they may not be in a position to help others for whom they have a responsibility. The situation is an emergency and everything has to be done quickly. Adults are asked to behave as responsible adults.

The ten virgins in the parable are also adults, albeit young. Every one of them made a decision. The five wise virgins decided to buy the oil necessary for lighting their lamps even though they did not know when exactly they would be using them. The five foolish virgins decided not to buy the oil they needed. There was no ’emergency’ as there is in a plane if the oxygen masks drop. Being ready to meet the bridegroom whenever he might arrive wasn’t a priority with them. It was for the five wise virgins.

If we see the bridegroom in the parable as representing Jesus  we can see that Jesus is asking us to direct our lives constantly towards him. 

[Wikipedia]

At the vigil in Toronto during World Youth Day 2002 St John Paul II said to the young peopleI say to you this evening: let the light of Christ shine in your lives! Do not wait until you are older in order to set out on the path of holiness! Holiness is always youthful, just as eternal is the youthfulness of God.

Perhaps the heart of the parable is expressed in those words of the great pope: Do not wait until you are older in order to set out on the path of holinessThe five wise virgins did not wait.

The path of holiness is following Jesus, as the wise virgins knew. And we are never too young, or too old, to decide to ‘buy the oil needed for our lamps’ to decide to set out on the path of holiness by following Jesus in every aspect of our lives, strengthened especially by the Bread of Life that we are invited to receive when we celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and, when we fall through sin, by the Sacrament of Reconciliation/Confession/Penance.

We know neither the day nor the hour when or where the path of holiness this side of death will end. But the end of that path is meant to bring us to our eternal home as St Columban tells us in his Eighth Sermon : Since we are travellers and pilgrims in the world, let us ever ponder on the end of the road, that is of our life, for the end of our roadway is our home.

Communion Antiphon (Cf Ps 23 [22]: 1-2)

 

Dominus regit me, et nihil mihi deerit:

The Lord is my shepherd: there is nothing I shall want.

in loco pascuae, ibi me collocavit:

Fresh and green are the pastures where he gives me repose,

super aquam refectionis educavit me.

near restful waters he leads me.

Music by contemporary Japanese composer IZAWA Nobuaki (伊澤 信昭)

‘The greatest among you will be your servant.’ Sunday Reflections, 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

Christ as Saviour, El Greco [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 Matthew 23:1-12 (New Revised  Standard Version, Anglicised CatholicEdition) 

Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, ‘The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat; therefore, do whatever they teach you and follow it; but do not do as they do, for they do not practise what they teach. They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on the shoulders of others; but they themselves are unwilling to lift a finger to move them. They do all their deeds to be seen by others; for they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long. They love to have the place of honour at banquets and the best seats in the synagogues, and to be greeted with respect in the market-places, and to have people call them rabbi. But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all students. And call no one your father on earth, for you have one Father—the one in heaven. Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Messiah. The greatest among you will be your servant. All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted.

Apostle St Matthew, El Greco [Web Gallery of Art]

The Philippine Daily Inquirer carried a a story of extraordinary courage on 28 October: How Scout Ranger commander won hostages’ release.
MARAWI CITY—He took off his helmet and bullet-proof vest, laid down his firearm and turned on the megaphone to speak to the Islamic State-inspired gunmen here on Oct. 19.


“I just wanted to get the children, the women and the injured (hostages),” Capt. Jeffrey Buada said through the megaphone.

At the risk of being shot, Buada, commander of the Army’s 15th Scout Ranger Company, slowly walked through the rubble and tried to get near the building, where hungry and thirsty hostages were anxiously waiting to be rescued.
The Battle of Marawi started on 23 May and ended on 23 October. The fighting was basically between militants connected with ISIS and the Armed Forces of the Philippines. At the beginning the militants destroyed part of St Mary’s Cathedral in this city where the vast majority are Muslims. Fr Teresito ‘Chito’ Suganob, the parish priest, and a number of parishioners were taken hostage the day the battle began. Father Chito, whom I know, was released on 17 September.
As the battle intensified most of the residents of the city evacuated. There were stories of how Muslim students at Marawi State University protected their Christian friends and enabled them to escape and similar stories of Muslim members of the Philippine National Police protecting Christina construction workers.
On 19 October, while covering one of his men who was trying to rescue a wounded hostage, Captain Buada saw an opportunity to rescue some more and decided to negotiate with the militants. He removed all his battle gear and armour, against the advice of his men. The militants did not attack him and asked for food and water. The Captain ordered his men to bring them what they needed. The young officer, a father of two young daughters, drank some of the water to assure the enemy that it was safe.
As five hostages came out some of the soldiers removed their battle gear and armour, imitating their officer. They managed to rescue at least five hostages. But gunfire broke out again before they could rescue more. However, the soldiers and the rescued hostages were unharmed.

Captain Jeffrey Buada [PDI]

In today’s Gospel Jesus recognises the authority of scribes and Pharisees as teachers of the Law of Moses. But he also says, do not do as they do, for they do not practise what they teach. He tells us what to do: The greatest among you will be your servant. All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted.

Captain Buada was ‘the greatest’ – the highest ranking – among the soldiers in his unit. But he put his own life on the line first and some of the others did the same. But my thought was if I die, at least we got the hostages, the brave soldier said later.

This man was a servant in the truest sense, ready to die for his men and for the rescue of the hostages.

I know nothing about the inner life of Captain Jeffrey Buada but I see St Paul’s words in the second reading being lived out by him: We also constantly give thanks to God for this, that when you received the word of God that you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word but as what it really is, God’s word, which is also at work in you believers.

God’s word was surely at work in him. May we constantly give thanks for this and for the many other examples we can see around us, often in the midst of horror and evil,  of God’s word at work in believers.


Antiphona ad Introitum      Entrance Antiphon

Ne derelinquas me, Domine Deus meus; ne discesseris a me.

Forsake me not, O Lord, my God; be not far from me!

Intende in adjutorium meum, Domine Deus salutis meæ.

Make haste and come to my help, O Lord, my strong salvation!

‘He brought forth compassion, a loving compassion that embraced the world.’ Sunday Reflections, 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

The Good Samaritan (after Delacroix), Van Gogh [Web Gallery of Art]

You shall love your neighbour as yourself (Mt 22:39).

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

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

Gospel Matthew 22:34-40 (New Revised  Standard Version, Anglicised CatholicEdition) 

When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. ‘Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?’ He said to him, ‘“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.’

Stephen Cardinal Kim Sou-hwan

Archbishop of Seoul (1922 – 2009)

This time three years ago I visited Korea to attend the ordination to the priesthood on 1 November of Fr Lee Jehoon Augustine, a Columban who spent two years working in the Manila area as part of his preparation for the priesthood. He is now serving in Myanmar.

While there I went with two Columban priests, Fr Liam O’Keeffe, a classmate from County Clare, Ireland, Fr Con Murphy from County Cork, Ireland, who has been in Korea for more than 50 years, and a woman named Pia to visit the graves of five Columbans in a cemetery owned by the Archdiocese of Seoul, but outside both the city and the archdiocese.  One of the five Columbans buried there, Fr Mortimer Kelly from Gort, County Galway, was a classmate of Father Liam and myself. Pia had known Fr John Nyhan, from Kilkenny, Ireland, another of the five, since her childhood.

The cemetery is on hillsides, as is the Korean custom. A little higher on the hill where my companions are buried is the grave of Stephen Cardinal Kim Sou-hwan, a man who was revered in Korea, not only by Catholics but by nearly all South Koreans.

While we were there Father Con told me of a homily that Cardinal Kim once preached at a Mass in a Catholic university. He took out two daily newspapers and began to speak in such a quiet voice that those present had to strain forward and ‘eavesdrop’. Cardinal Kim was flipping over the pages of both newspapers and some were thinking he was unprepared. Then he came to a particular story about young women working on the railways who collected fares of last-minute passengers and helped ‘push’ people into trains at rush hour.

The report in both papers was about accusations by higher authorities that some of these young women were perhaps pocketing some of the fares. Cardinal Kim’s voice grew stronger as he spoke about this. Then he began to remind the students of how privileged they were, getting higher education and an opportunity to find better jobs than the young women working for the rail company who were at the bottom of the heap.

Cardinal Kim, who was noted for his love for the poor and who knew many poor people personally, now speaking in a very strong voice, asked the students if they were going to treat others with the contempt that some showed towards the young women in a menial job or if they were going to use their professional qualifications in the service of others.

Cardinal Kim

In that homily the late Archbishop of Seoul was bringing together the two Great Commandments that Jesus gives us in today’s gospel and between which there is no conflict. In the First Reading, to which the Gospel is linked by theme, God reminds the Hebrew people of how they are to treat those who are poor or different – aliens, widows, orphans. If you take your neighbor’s cloak in pawn, you shall restore it before the sun goes down. That cloak was what a person particularly a poor person, slept in.

In other words, Jesus is asking us to see each person through his eyes. GK Chesterton in one of his biographies, maybe that of St Francis of Assisi or of St Thomas Aquinas, has a wonderful image of a huge crowd looking up at God on a balcony, rather as in St Peter’s Square when the Pope is on the balcony there or at his window for the Sunday Angelus. However, Chesterton didn’t see himself among the crowd but with God on the balcony, looking down on the people and seeing them as God sees them.

Cardinal Kim was doing something similar. He was looking at both the university students and the railway workers through the eyes of God. Rank means nothing to God as he looks on his children. As Psalm 149 so beautifully expresses it, God takes delight in his people [Grail translation].

I don’t have my copy of the Handbook of the Legion of Mary with me but in it members are told to look upon each person they meet as higher than themselves. The Legion was born in the slums of Dublin in 1921 and to this day is involved to a large degree in serving people who have little or nothing.

God is constantly blessing the Church and the world through persons who embody the Gospel in their lives. I know from my friends in Korea in particular that Cardinal Kim was an embodiment of the Two Great Commandments, an embodiment of what each of us is called to be in virtue of our baptism in the different situations in which we find ourselves.

Cardinal Kim’s grave 

A Columban colleague who is a published poet and has taught at a university in Seoul, Fr Kevin O’Rourke, captured something of the grace that Cardinal Kim was and still is, not only to the Church in Korea, but to the Church throughout the world, in a poem he wrote after the death of the Cardinal. 

In Memory of Cardinal Kim Suwhan

Dust of snow,
a wind that chills to the bone,
pinched mourning faces,
collars raised, hats pulled low,
the shiver of death everywhere.
Cardinal Kim Suhwan
is lowered to his final resting place.

He brought forth simplicity,
a water simplicity that quickened
every root it touched.
He brought forth patience,
a medicament patience that salved
the wounds of the poor.
He brought forth compassion,
a loving compassion that embraced the world.
Simplicity, patience, compassion,
these three:
timber for a master carpenter,
clay for a master potter,
the hub of a master priest’s wheel.
“If you bring forth what is inside,
what you bring forth will save.”

‘I die His Majesty’s good servant – but God’s first.’ Sunday Reflections, 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

‘I die His Majesty’s good servant – but God’s first.’ St Thomas More

A Man for all Seasons

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

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

Gospel Matthew 22:15-21 (New Revised  Standard Version, Anglicised CatholicEdition) 

Then the Pharisees went and plotted to entrap Jesus in what he said. So they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, ‘Teacher, we know that you are sincere, and teach the way of God in accordance with truth, and show deference to no one; for you do not regard people with partiality. Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?’ But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, ‘Why are you putting me to the test, you hypocrites? Show me the coin used for the tax.’ And they brought him a denarius. Then he said to them, ‘Whose head is this, and whose title?’ They answered, ‘The emperor’s.’ Then he said to them, ‘Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.

A denarius from 44 BC showing the head of Julius Caesar and the goddess Venus [Wikipedia]

In the time of Jesus a denarius was a day’s wage for an ordinary working man.

I spent three months in the latter part of 1982 working in a hospital in Minneapolis as a chaplain. I was one of seven doing a ‘quarter’ of Clinical Pastoral Education. One day I had to go to a bank and got chatting with an employee at the information desk. When he heard I was based in the Philippines he told me that in the previous elections in the USA he had considered, among other things, what impact his vote would have on the lives of Filipinos and others outside the USA.

I was very struck by his attitude. We never got into partisan politics nor did we discuss religion. The man was almost certainly a Christian, probably a Lutheran if he was from Minneapolis or a Catholic if from St Paul, the other ‘Twin City’. I saw in him a person reflecting the teaching of Vatican II.

One of the major documents of that Council, Gaudium et Spes, addresses the political life of society. No 75 says: All citizens, therefore, should be mindful of the right and also the duty to use their free vote to further the common good. The Church praises and esteems the work of those who for the good of men devote themselves to the service of the state and take on the burdens of this office . . . 

All Christians must be aware of their own specific vocation within the political community. It is for them to give an example by their sense of responsibility and their service of the common good. In this way they are to demonstrate concretely how authority can be compatible with freedom, personal initiative with the solidarity of the whole social organism, and the advantages of unity with fruitful diversity. They must recognize the legitimacy of different opinions with regard to temporal solutions, and respect citizens, who, even as a group, defend their points of view by honest methods. Political parties, for their part, must promote those things which in their judgement are required for the common good; it is never allowable to give their interests priority over the common good.

Robert Schuman [Wikipedia]

A politician of the last century who may be beatified one day is the Servant of God Robert Schuman, one of the founders of what is now the European Union. His politics of reconciliation in post-World War II Europe flowed from his deep Catholic Christian faith. Yet he was never an ‘agent’ of the Catholic Church. He was an embodiment of the vision of Gaudium et Spes, promulgated by Pope Paul VI in December 1965.

Incidentally, Robert Schuman, when Foreign Minister of France – he had been Prime Minister in 1947-48 despite having been born a German citizen in Luxembourg – said at a congress in 1950 to mark the 1,400th anniversary of the birth of Ireland’s greatest missionary saint: St Columban, this illustrious Irishman who left his own country for voluntary exile, willed and achieved a spiritual union between the principal European countries of his time. He is the patron saint of all those who now seek to build a United Europe.

Robert Schuman’s deepest identity was as a Christian. It was as such that he became a patriotic Frenchman and a visionary European. St Thomas More was one of the greatest Englishmen in the history of his country. However, he was His Majesty’s good servant – but God’s first. In 2000 St John Paul II proclaimed him patron saint of politicians and statesmen.

Jesus doesn’t give us any detailed way of being involved in the political life of whatever country we belong to. But he gives us the values to live by. We cannot leave those values at the entrance to the polling booth or at the entrance to the legislative chamber if we happen to be elected to public office. Nor can we leave them at the door of the church after Mass on Sunday.

As voters and politicians Catholic Christians may have very different views on most matters of policy. But there are certain issues on which we must all take a Gospel stand. We may never advocate abortion or support the very new idea of ‘marriage’ between two persons of the same sex. 

In 2013 a member of the Irish parliament who voted in favour of legalising abortion in certain circumstances was aggrieved when his parish priest told him that he could no longer be an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion. It is far more important to try to live as Gaudium et Spes teaches – All Christians must be aware of their own specific vocation within the political community – than to be an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion or a lector, important though these roles may sometimes be. But they are simply roles. No one has a ‘vocation’ to be either of these or to take on similar roles. But the Council tells us that each of us has a specific vocation within the political community.

Robert Schuman lived that vocation to the full. St Thomas More was martyred because he lived that vocation to the full.

St Thomas More, Hans Holbein the Younger [Web Gallery of Art]

The words of today’s alternative Communion Antiphon were sung as the Alleluia verse at the canonisation of St Pedro Calungsod and others, 21 October 2012.

Antiphona ad communionem  Communion Antiphon Mt10:45

Ritus hominis venit,

ut daret animan suam redemptionem pro multis.

The Son of Man has come

to give his life as a ransom for many.

World Mission Day

This Sunday is World Mission Day. You may wish to read the Message of Pope Francis for World Mission Day 2017. The Pope quotes his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI: Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a Person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction.

‘Once more Jesus spoke to them in parables.’ Sunday Reflections, 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

Supper at Emmaus (detail), Caravaggio [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 Matthew 22:1-14 [22:1-10] (New Revised  Standard Version, Anglicised CatholicEdition) 

Once more Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying: ‘The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding banquet, but they would not come. Again he sent other slaves, saying, “Tell those who have been invited: Look, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready; come to the wedding banquet.” But they made light of it and went away, one to his farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his slaves, maltreated them, and killed them. The king was enraged. He sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city. Then he said to his slaves, “The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.” Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad; so the wedding hall was filled with guests.

[‘But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing a wedding robe, and he said to him, “Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe?” And he was speechless. Then the king said to the attendants, “Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” For many are called, but few are chosen.’]

Swing made of tyres, East Timor [Wikipedia]

A friend of mine who has four young children and who now lives in California posted on her Facebook that the authorities in some school are removing the swings from its playground because they are ‘dangerous’ for children. I wonder if the committee in the Vatican who drew up the Lectionary we have been using since 1969 thought that some of the words of Jesus might be ‘dangerous’ for us since they have given us the option today of leaving out the last four verses of the Gospel [in square brackets above].

In Matthew 3:7 Jesus addresses some Pharisees and Sadducees with the words, You brood of vipers!, which he repeats in 12:34 and in 23:34 he’s even more scathing: You snakes, you brood of vipers! How can you escape being sentenced to hell?

The words of Jesus aren’t always ‘nice’. And not all the words in the homily of Pope Francis on 5 October 2014 at the Holy Mass for the opening of the Extraordinary Synod on the Family were ‘nice’. Addressing the assembled participants, mostly bishops, he said, And to satisfy this greed, evil pastors lay intolerable burdens on the shoulders of others . . . We are all sinners and can also be tempted to ‘take over’ the vineyard, because of that greed which is always present in us human beings. God’s dream always clashes with the hypocrisy of some of his servants. We can ‘thwart’ God’s dream if we fail to let ourselves be guided by the Holy Spirit

Laid Table with Cheeses and Fruit (detail) 

Floris Claesz van Dijk [Web Gallery of Art]

The First Reading and the Gospel speak clearly of God’s desire for all of us to be with him, sharing in the abundance of his riches, symbolized in both readings by a lavish banquet.

President Ramon Magsaysay of the Philippines (died 1957) wearing a barong Tagalog [Wikipedia]

More than 30 years ago I officiated at a wedding in Sacred Heart Church, Cebu City. The reception was held next door at a centre attached to the church, which belongs to the Jesuits. At the reception I noticed an elderly man wearing a barong Tagalog, which is formal dress for men in the Philippines, especially at weddings. But it turned out that nobody knew him. He wasn’t a guest, but had invited himself along. As there were weddings almost every day at Sacred Heart Church I figured that maybe he invited himself along whenever the reception was held at the adjacent centre.

But nobody minded. Filipinos are hospitable and nobody is ever turned away. Many of us were amused and I had noticed the man at Mass. In other words, he wasn’t a freeloader but participated in the wedding ceremony, something that many invited to weddings an baptisms don’t do. They just turn up for the meal.

The harsh words of Jesus, which I suspect many priests won’t read at Mass, jolt us out of our complacency. The man who turned up at the banquet without bothering to dress for the occasion clearly thought that cultural norms and good manners didn’t apply to him. It’s not a crime to turn up at a wedding or some similar event dressed casually but to do so shows a lack of respect for the celebrants and for oneself.

However, in the parable, Jesus isn’t telling us to be ‘nice’ and well-mannered. He’s telling us forcefully that in order to share in the ‘dream’ that he and our heavenly Father have for us we have to do the Father’s will. Pope Francis referred to this in the closing words of his homily: My Synod brothers, to do a good job of nurturing and tending the vineyard, our hearts and our minds must be kept in Jesus Christ by ‘the peace of God which passes all understanding’ (Phil 4:7). In this way our thoughts and plans will correspond to God’s dream: to form a holy people who are his own and produce the fruits of the kingdom of God (cf. Mt 21:43).

We have to make choices. We often choose to sin. God is merciful, bending down to welcome us back, to acknowledge our sins and to ask for and receive his forgiveness. Jesus has given the Church the wonderful Sacrament of Reconciliation/Confession/Penance, precisely so that he can meet us in our sinfulness, forgive and heal us. And the Church teaches us clearly that when we have committed a grave sin we must avail of that sacrament. By the same token, he wants us priests to be available for penitents and to go to confession  regularly ourselves.

When God gave us the gift of freedom he also placed some ‘swings’ in our ‘playground’, knowing that we would sometimes fall and ‘graze our knees’ or even hurt ourselves more seriously. He didn’t protect us from all possible eventualities. Had he done so he would have made prisoners of us. He invites us to his heavenly banquet, paid for by the sacrifice of his Son on Calvary.

In the parable the king’s servants went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad; so the wedding hall was filled with guests. Both good and bad had a sense of being blessed and honored by the invitation, except for one – we don’t know if he was one of the ‘good’ or one of the ‘bad’ – with an insolent sense of entitlement rather than a wondrous sense of being graced.

Vase with Cornflowers and Poppies, Van Gogh [Web Gallery of Art]

‘You are the heirs of a great testimony, a precious witness to Christ.’ Sunday Reflections, 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

The Virgin of the Grapes, Pierre Mignard [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 Matthew 21:33-43 (New Revised  Standard Version, Anglicised CatholicEdition) 

Jesus said to the chief priests and elders of the people:

 ‘Listen to another parable. There was a landowner who planted a vineyard, put a fence around it, dug a wine press in it, and built a watch-tower. Then he leased it to tenants and went to another country. When the harvest time had come, he sent his slaves to the tenants to collect his produce. But the tenants seized his slaves and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. Again he sent other slaves, more than the first; and they treated them in the same way. Finally he sent his son to them, saying, “They will respect my son.” But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, “This is the heir; come, let us kill him and get his inheritance.” So they seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him. Now when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?’ They said to him, ‘He will put those wretches to a miserable death, and lease the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the produce at the harvest time.’

Jesus said to them, ‘Have you never read in the scriptures:

“The stone that the builders rejected
    has become the cornerstone;
this was the Lord’s doing,
    and it is amazing in our eyes”?

Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that produces the fruits of the kingdom.

First Reading, Isaiah 5:1-7 [English Standard Version]

The young Fr Edward Galvin in China

Just over a century ago the young Fr Edward Galvin of the Diocese of Cork, Ireland, was sent by his bishop to work for some years in the Diocese of Brooklyn, New York, because he had no place to put him. This was common at the time and many young Irish diocesan priests spent their early years on loan to English-speaking dioceses in other countries. While in Brooklyn Father Galvin found himself answering God’s call to go to China. This was to lead eventually to the formal founding of the Missionary Society of St Columban, to which I belong, in 1918 with Fr Galvin and Fr John Blowick, another young Irish diocesan priest, as the co-founders. Later Fr Galvin became Bishop of Hanyang, China, and was expelled by the Communist authorities.

When I was growing up in Ireland people who were critical of the Church, sometimes with good reason, often used the term ‘priest-ridden’ to describe the country. Today there are parishes without priests and the average age of priests is, according to reports, approaching 70. In twenty years or so it could well happen that priests will be a relative rarity in the country.

When I was young almost every Catholic in Ireland went to Sunday Mass and the seminaries were full. Today only a minority take part in Sunday Mass, the seminaries have nearly all closed and only a handful of young men are preparing for ordination in the two or three that still remain open. More and more young people are choosing not to get married and not to have their children baptised.

In 1961, the year I entered the seminary, Ireland celebrated the 1,500th anniversary of the death of St Patrick, the Apostle of Ireland. Very few could have foreseen the falling away, not only from the Church, but from the Christian faith, within two generations.

St Paul tells us in the Second Reading today: Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

I sometimes get disheartened at the situation of the Church in my native land and in other Western countries. The First Reading and the Gospel remind us that many have rejected God’s love, God’s gift, especially the gift of faith. Through the Prophet Isaiah God poignantly asks, What more was there to do for my vineyard  that I have not done in it? When I expected it to yield grapes, why did it yield wild grapes?

St Andrew Kim Tae-gon

Myeongdong Cathedral, Seoul [Wikipedia]

But in the readings the Lord is really asking us to see what he has given us, to treasure it and to pass it on. In his homily at the beatification of 124 martyrs in Korea on 16 August 2014 Pope Francis said: The victory of the martyrs, their witness to the power of God’s love, continues to bear fruit today in Korea, in the Church which received growth from their sacrifice. Our celebration of Blessed Paul and Companions provides us with the opportunity to return to the first moments, the infancy as it were, of the Church in Korea. It invites you, the Catholics of Korea, to remember the great things which God has wrought in this land and to treasure the legacy of faith and charity entrusted to you by your forebears.

The following day in the opening sentence in his homily at the concluding Mass of Asian Youth Day Pope Francis said, The glory of the martyrs shines upon you! These words – a part of the theme of the Sixth Asian Youth Day – console and strengthen us all. Young people of Asia: you are the heirs of a great testimony, a precious witness to Christ

The Pope was reminding the young people, and all of us, of the legacy of the Christian faith that we have received.

Beatifications, Seoul [Wikipedia]

The Bishop of Rome touched on this again on 21 September when he celebrated Mass in Mother Teresa Square, Tirana, very conscious of the persecution that had ended less than 30 years ago. He concluded his homily with these stirring words: To the Church which is alive in this land of Albania, I say ‘thank you’ for the example of fidelity to the Gospel. Do not forget the nest, your long history, or your trials. Do not forget the wounds, but also do not be vengeful. Go forward to work with hope for a great future. So many of the sons and daughters of Albania have suffered, even to the point of sacrificing their lives. May their witness sustain your steps today and tomorrow as you journey along the way of love, of freedom, of justice and, above all, of peace. So may it be.

The Lord is calling each of us today to look back with gratitude for the gift of faith we have received individually and as community so that we can live that faith fully in the present as we move in hope and love into the future.

But the readings also remind us of the reality that the precious gift of the Christian faith has been lost, not only by individuals but in large areas of the world such as North Africa not that long after the time of such giants as St Augustine.

‘All our love, then, must be fraternal.’ Sunday Reflections, 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

The Inspiration of St Matthew, Caravaggio [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 Matthew 21:28-32 (New Revised  Standard Version, Anglicised CatholicEdition) 

Jesus said to the chief priests and elders of the people:

‘What do you think? A man had two sons; he went to the first and said, “Son, go and work in the vineyard today.” He answered, “I will not”; but later he changed his mind and went. The father went to the second and said the same; and he answered, “I go, sir”; but he did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?’ They said, ‘The first.’ Jesus said to them, ‘Truly I tell you, the tax-collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him, but the tax-collectors and the prostitutes believed him; and even after you saw it, you did not change your minds and believe him.’ 

The above scene, at the Coliseum in Rome, comes shortly before the end of the 1983 made-for-TV move, The Scarlet and the Black, which tells the true World War II story of Vatican-based Irish priest Monsignor Hugh O’Flaherty, known as ‘The Vatican Pimpernel’ and played here by Gregory Peck, and Colonel Herbert Kappler, head of the Gestapo in Rome during the Nazi occupation from September 1943 till June 1944, played by Christopher Plummer. The priest has managed to save the lives of many Allied soldiers and others, getting under the skin of Kappler.
When the German knows that the Allies are about to liberate Rome he sends for the Irishman at night, guaranteeing his safety. The Wikipedia article on the movie tells us what happens after their exchange of ‘pleasantries’ above. 

[Wikipedia]

Colonel Kappler worries for his family’s safety from vengeful partisans, and, in a one-to-one meeting with O’Flaherty, asks him to save his family, appealing to the same values that motivated O’Flaherty to save so many others. The Monsignor, however, refuses, disbelieving that after all the Colonel has done and all the atrocities he is responsible for, he could expect mercy and forgiveness automatically, simply because he asked for it, and walks away in disgust . . .

Kappler is captured in 1945 and questioned by the Allies. In the course of his interrogation, he is informed that his wife and children were smuggled out of Italy and escaped unharmed into Switzerland. Upon being asked who helped them, Kappler realizes who it must have been, but responds simply that he does not know.

At the very end we read on the screen: After the liberation Monsignor Hugh O’Flaherty was honored by Italy, Canada and Australia, given the U.S. Medal of Freedom and made a Commander of the British Empire.

Herbert Kappler was sentenced to life imprisonment for war crimes. In the long years that followed in his Italian prison, Kappler had only one visitor. Every month, year in and year out, O’Flaherty came to see him.


In 1959 the former head of the dreaded Gestapo in Rome was [received] into the Catholic faith at the hand of the Irish priest.

Memorial to Monsignor Hugh O’Flaherty (1898 – 1963), Killarney, Ireland [Wikipedia]

[You can view the whole scene between the Colonel Kappler and Monsignor O’Flaherty on Gloria TV here, starting at 06.10. The whole movie is available on Gloria TV here.]

St Paul tells us in the Second Reading, Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. The priest has been putting his life at risk time and again to save the lives of others, while the soldier has been taking the lives of others. But now Kappler looks beyond himself and wants to save the lives of his wife and two children.

St Paul tells us that Christ Jesus emptied himself, taking the form of a slave. Kappler in a real sense can be said to have emptied himself when he compares himself to a beggar and lame dog as he requests the priest to help his wife and children get to safety. Saving others is all part of your faith, he says to the priest. Brotherly love and forgiveness – that’s the other half of what you believe.

When the priest storms off with I’ll see you in hell first! Kappler says to himself, You’re no different from anyone else. Your talk means nothing. Charity, forgiveness, mercy – it’s all lies.

But when Kappler is being interrogated by officials of the Allies [here from 1:30 to 3:06]  we discover that the Irish priest too had emptied himself by overcoming his anger at the request to help his enemy’s family to escape, and by enabling them to get to Switzerland. 

Very few of us will have to face the kind of danger that Monsignor O’Flaherty faced. But every day we have to make choices, often between good and bad. The choice to forgive his enemy that the Irish priest made is the kind of choice that faces all of us, even if the perceived crime or ‘crime’ of our enemy or ‘enemy’ is rarely on the scale of those of Colonel Kappler. But the latter, in his need, felt the stirrings of hope in his heart, the stirrings of faith in a merciful God, when he approached his nemesis with his plea. 

Those stirrings were dashed by the priest’s angry refusal. Charity, forgiveness, mercy – it’s all lies. But those stirrings were raised again when he learned that his wife and children were safe and knew that only one person could have seen to that. Then he knew he was wrong when he said, Charity, forgiveness, mercy – it’s all lies. Now he knew it was all true.

I don’t know if the Irish priest was familiar with these words of St Caesarius of Arles (c.470 – 27 August 542): Whenever you love brothers or sisters you love friends, for they are already with you, joined to you in Catholic unity. If they live virtuously you love them as people who have been changed from enemies into brothers and sisters. But suppose you love people who do not yet believe in Christ, or if they do, yet believe as the devil believes – they believe in Christ but still do not love him. You must love just the same, you must love even people like that, you must love them as brothers and sisters. They are not such yet, but you must love them so that they become such through your kindness. All our love, then, must be fraternal.

‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ He answered, ‘I will not’; but later he changed his mind and went.

[You can read a fine article by William Doino Jr published in First Things, November 2013: Hugh O’Flaherty, Ireland’s Shining Priest.]

Antiphona ad communionem   

Communion Antiphon Cf Ps 118 [119]:49-50

 

Memento verbi tui servo tuo, Domine,

Remember your word to your servant, O Lord,

in quo mihi spem dedisti;

by which you have given me hope.

haec me consolata est in humilitate mea.

This is my comfort when I am brought low.

   

 

 

Columban Fr Bernard O’Connor RIP

Fr Bernard O’Connor

(1934 – 2017)

Fr Bernard O’Connor was born on 18 April 1934 in Ballymote, County Sligo, Ireland, and educated in Ballymote Boys National School and St Joseph’s College, Ballinasloe, before joining in the Columbans in St Columban’s, Dalgan Park, Navan, in 1952.

O’Connell Street, Ballymote [Wikipedia]

Fr O’Connor was ordained in St Columban’s, Dalgan Park, on 21 December 1958 and appointed to the Philippines. After language studies in Tagalog he began his many years of work in the Archdiocese of Manila. His first years were spent in Silang and Binangonan but from 1969 he was engaged in Student Catholic Action. This was a dynamic ministry of leadership-training among university students in Manila founded by Columban Fr Edward J. McCarthy in 1936. Father Barney served, mainly in Far Eastern University, during the turbulent years of Martial Law when all student organizations were suspect and many banned.

Far Eastern University, Manila [Wikipedia]

Having served as Superior in the District of Luzon he returned in 1988 to parish ministry in Our Lady of Remedies, Malate, until he was appointed to Britain in 1995. Mission Awareness and House Manager were two of the roles he carried during his thirteen years in Solihull and, as he put it, up to the last he was still seeking new veins on the coalface of British mission.

‘Spaghetti Junction’, M6, near Birmingham [Wikipedia]

Father Barney made his way through this many times while going on weekend mission appeals.

During all these years Fr Bernard suffered from poor health and he returned to Ireland to begin dialysis treatment in 2009.

Eventually he needed treatment three days every week but always tried to bounce back as quickly as possible. As one of the first Columbans to develop computer skills along with his cryptic crosswords and stamp collection he always had ways of coping with the long hours of treatment and recovery.

Father Bernard will be remembered for his droll humour, for his hope and indomitable courage, a witness to all of us on how to cope with life’s difficulties.

Irish airmail stamp (1948-65) [Wikipedia]

Fr O’Connor died suddenly on 17 September 2017. May God reward this generous and faithful missionary priest.

May he rest in peace.

‘The Hearty Boys of Ballymote’

‘Or are you envious because I am generous?’ Sunday Reflections, 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

The Red Vineyard, Van Gogh [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 Matthew 20:1-16a (New Revised  Standard Version, Anglicised CatholicEdition) 

Jesus told his disciples this parable:

‘For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire labourers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the labourers for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard. When he went out about nine o’clock, he saw others standing idle in the market-place; and he said to them, “You also go into the vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.” So they went. When he went out again about noon and about three o’clock, he did the same. And about five o’clock he went out and found others standing around; and he said to them, “Why are you standing here idle all day?” They said to him, “Because no one has hired us.” He said to them, “You also go into the vineyard.” When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his manager, “Call the labourers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and then going to the first.” When those hired about five o’clock came, each of them received the usual daily wage. Now when the first came, they thought they would receive more; but each of them also received the usual daily wage. And when they received it, they grumbled against the landowner, saying, “These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.” But he replied to one of them, “Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? Take what belongs to you and go; I choose to give to this last the same as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?” So the last will be first, and the first will be last.’

Vineyards with a View of Auvers, Van Gogh [Web Gallery of Art]

I spent a grace-filled year in Toronto in 1981-82 doing a sabbatical at Regis College, a Jesuit school. The programme I was in was for persons with pastoral experience. Nearly all of us were priests or religious brothers and sisters, with one or two laypersons. One of the graces of that year was making new friends. 

Five or six of us men used to go for an hour’s brisk walk almost every night after supper. One of them was Brother Luke Pearson FMS, a member of the Marist Brothers of the Schools, from New Jersey whose father was a Scottish Presbyterian and his mother an Irish Catholic. Brother Luke identified with his mother in terms of his faith but considered himself Scottish rather than Irish, even though he was American.

In the 1990s Brother Luke came to be a member of the staff at the Marist Asia Pacific Center in Marikina City, part of the urban sprawl that is Metro Manila, where junior professed brothers from the region have ongoing formation. Sadly, he later died of cancer.

At the end of our academic year most of us went to Loyola House in Guelph, Ontario, for what is now called The Full Spiritual Exercises Experience, which includes a retreat of 30 days. Many of the retreatants were persons we hadn’t met before. We got to know them a little during the preparatory days before we moved into the total silence of the 30-day retreat, apart from three separate ‘repose days’ when we were off silence from after breakfast until late afternoon.

I began to notice as each repose day came about that I was finding it harder to remember who had been on the nine-month programme in Toronto and who hadn’t. In the silence we were gradually becoming a real community, even though after leaving most of us would never meet each other again.

St Michael’s Cathedral, Toronto [Wikipedia]

At the beginning I saw myself and my companions from the Regis College programme as my core group who had borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat, as it were, while the others were those hired about five o’clock.

Unlike the parable, there was no sense of resentment but rather a sense of joy. We were all receiving an abundance of the Lord’s unbounded generosity with the graces he was showering on each of us, and on all of us as a community growing in the silence of prayer. 

And my friendship with Brother Luke had grown deeper during that silence.

I recalled all of this while reflecting on and praying with today’s Gospel. There’s a great freedom in being able to acknowledge and to rejoice in the gifts that God has given others that may be different from those he has given me. When I can do that I will have a sense of gratitude to God not only for the gifts that others have but for those that I have. 

I remember reading an obituary of a Columban who had spent 53 years in Japan and who died in Ireland, Fr Bede Cleary. He was described as a happy, enthusiastic, committed missionary and that people were touched by his friendliness, hospitality and selfless dedication. Among other things, he was  involved with other Christians in bringing on pilgrimages of reconciliation to Japan former prisoners of war from Britain and other places who had suffered cruelly from Japanese soldiers during World War II and who carried bitterness and hatred in their hearts. One of the things that had led to these pilgrimages ws the discovery that young Japanese, born long after the War, were tending the graves of POWs who had died in Japan.

But what I remember most from the obituary written by another Columban in Japan, Fr Eamonn Horgan, now retired in Ireland, was his description of three of the shortest books you could find in a library. One was How to Maintain a Car by Fr Bede Cleary. Father Bede was truly loved by his fellow Columbans as well as by the Japanese people he so faithfully served. But the Columbans in Japan could also see clearly that there were certain gifts he lacked! 

Being able to laugh at what we and others lack while recognizing and thanking God for the many gifts each has is one of the graces that God wants each of us to receive.

If we are truly grateful to God for everything that he has given us, and for what he has given others that we may not have, when we come to receive the usual daily wage, which, if we follow his will, will be eternal life, we won’t provoke him to ask, Are you envious because I am generous?

Antiphona ad introitum     Entrance antiphon

Salus populi ego sum, dicit Dominus.

I am the salvation of the people says the Lord.

De quacumque tribulatione clamaverint ad me,

Should they cry to me in any distress,

exaudiam eos, et ero illorum Dominus in perpetuum.

I will hear them, and I will be their Lord for ever.

 

Ps. 77 [78]:1. Attendite, popule meus, legem meam:

Give ear, O my people, to my teaching;

inclinate aurem vestram in verba oris mei. 

incline your ears to the words of my mouth.

Gloria Patri, et Filio et Spiritui Sancto;
Glory to the Father, and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit;
sicut erat in principio, et nunc, et semper, in saecula saecolurm. Amen.
as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever. Amen

 

Salus populi ego sum, dicit Dominus.

I am the salvation of the people says the Lord.

De quacumque tribulatione clamaverint ad me,

Should they cry to me in any distress,

exaudiam eos, et ero illorum Dominus in perpetuum.

I will hear them, and I will be their Lord for ever.

 

The text above in bold, in Latin and English, is used in Mass in the Ordinary Form. That and the rest is used in the Mass in the Extraordinary Form on the 19th Sunday After Pentecost.