Saturday, 26 July 2014

Sunday Homily Notes: 17th Sunday Year A

Solomon asks for an understanding heart to judge the people and distinguish between right and wrong. He does so because he is called to lead the people. He could have prayed to have power and control over them, but instead he wishes to serve their needs, by understanding them and distinguishing between what is right and wrong.
Those who lead our nations are concerned about their public images. Photo opportunities can go wrong, who would have thought that eating a bacon sarnie could prove so revealing, as the leader of the opposition found out to the amusement of the media! But these photo opportunities are designed to show the politicians in the best possible light. Spin is used to present a version of the truth most beneficial to the leaders of the day. I wonder if any pray for an understanding heart or an ability to discern what is right and what is wrong. We would hope so.
Solomon is not a typical leader though, his greatness is measured in his discernment of what is right and wrong in the sight of God. A trend of our modern society is that God is slowly being phased out of public life, replaced by other ideologies that speak of equality and fairness, but don’t always live up to their billing. Life is sacred, from conception to natural death, that is how we as Christians understand its dignity and worth. So that no one however weak, is considered a burden or a drain on the resources of society. Life is worth living, and living it to the full, having the freedom to live by faith, these are important aspects and enhance the quality of life.
The gospel story today entices the people to listen.  Jesus addressing the culture of the day, speaks of the most valuable things to those who listened .  He mentions treasure, huge catches of fish that would make you rich, pearls of great price. These addressed the aches of the hearts of those who listened. I suppose if he was addressing this modern world he would say; imagine winning the lottery and having riches beyond your wildest imagining. It gets our attention appeals to us on a deep level of our being. Then Jesus explains that God’s Kingdom is worth more than our deepest longing for riches. The kingdom of heaven will satisfy the cravings of the human heart and more, because the Kingdom is the greatest treasure we could ever reach for.
The kingdom of heaven is not about wealth or selfishness, it is about service, about love, about a treasure that lasts within, it is about celebrating the values of joy, happiness and peace. This Kingdom can be found by following Jesus, and putting his life, death and words at the forefront of our living. The kingdom is the greatest treasure in life that we can strive for. May we find it and through finding it inherit life eternally.

Friday, 25 July 2014

Let nothing disturb you...God does not change

Let nothing disturb you,
Let nothing frighten you,
All things are passing away:
God never changes.
Patience obtains all things
Whoever has God lacks nothing;
God alone suffices.

-- St. Teresa of Avila

On my desk I keep a copy of these words, over the years I have read these words and clung onto them as they speak to the changing and often bewildering events
that mark life’s journey. I feel that in my own life these words give me comfort,
grant me hope, awake my faith and trust in the goodness of God. But when I
turn on the news and engage in the events of the world, I have to really dig
deep, to encourage my faith not to falter.

The world has always been a big place, a thing out there just beyond reach,
not something that I worry about too much. The world can be a scary place,
so it is best to convince myself to be in the world but not of it. Yet the
world is very much part of each step, the world is not a distant place where
things happen beyond my control, the world is not what happens to other people.

The world impinges upon the silence of prayer. It disturbs the solitude of
a grateful heart, the world interrupts the flow of being content to rest in
the Lord. I always wanted to be a monk, but just did not have the courage,
did not possess the faith to see it through. I put monks up on a pedestal and
saw them as holy creatures, until I got to know some of them and then I realised
how human they were how like me they were how delighted I was to discover this.
 Monks are not separate from caring about the world, their prayer, their life,
their work engages the world, they care about the world they live in. I thought
once hidden from the world perhaps you could just ignore it, but no, that is
not the case. I too can be a monk in my life and embrace the world too.

I can pray and have a loving friendship with God and I can worry about the
world too. I can be aware of God’s presence, and yet horrified at the atrocities
inflicted upon people and I can wonder where is God? I can be in the world.
and though not of the world yet I am concerned at events that shape it at this
present time. 

The terrible events of the world make me uneasy at present, so much bad is
happening on a dreadful scale. Christians are being driven from their homes
in Iraq, being killed for their beliefs and it seems that the world sees it,
but chooses to shrug a shoulder. Nations are being bombed and responding with
violence and the world chooses which side it is on. An innocent plane journey
is interrupted by the hatred of a world, that sets one nation up against another,
taking the lives of so many and leaving families distraught and in grief. Being
in the world we all share the responsibility of shaping its future.

The world can be forgiven for wondering where is God? And yet it is in God
that we are called to trust. God is not absent from the world, but the world
is making God absent, so as to absolve itself from the crimes committed against
one another. God does not tell us to kill or hate, or injure or slander, or
cause harm. God tells us through his Son, to love our  neighbours, pray for
our enemies, live in peace, walk humbly, live justly, to love tenderly.  God
is not absent, for God never changes. 

So I look at the prayer card on my desk and I renew my heart, a heart that
has discovered God's loving presence, one that does not change

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Called to Sanctify

Called to Sanctify
The priesthood is a calling, a voice heard, spoken by the creator of all. The scriptures are full of examples of the nature of being called by God to follow him, here are but a few examples.

Gen 12:1-4   Call of Abram: Leave your country, your family, and come…

Mk 3:13        The Mission of the Twelve: “He summoned those whom he wanted and they came to him”

Jn 15:9-17    You did not choose me; no, I chose you

The priesthood is an invitation to follow and find life. The call is one to sanctify, to make holy. This begins as a personal invitation. The one being called is to prepare the ground for God to dwell within.

So I would say if you discern that God is calling you to the priesthood then look at the life you are leading, immerse it in the person of Christ. Do this through prayer, reading and praying scripture, by going to the source of life in the Eucharist and adoring and worshipping there. Make holy and sanctify yourself by thinking of others first, allow Christ to seep into the very pores of your being and realise from the earliest point that you are not worthy, you never will be, for it is not the self that is proclaimed to the world, but Christ. There is nothing attractive about proclaiming the ego to the world!

I felt called to the priesthood when I was 17 and happily working. I was at that stage, not in love with Christ, nor would I say at that early stage of being called, did I want to know Christ very much. There were other things that held my attention, and Christ was not really one of them. Christ called and my life changed. So that from not caring much about Christ, I developed a thirst to know him, and flowing from that, I came to experience being love by him.

The call from Christ has not gone silent in my life as a priest, as that call continues every day subsequently. Admittedly it is often far away in the background of life, but Christ is constantly calling, encouraging me to seek to sanctify and begin with self. So that everyday I am to start again. I am not to despair but to hope> I am not to choose death, I am to choose life! The call is to know Christ more deeply, and to become more aware of how loved by Christ I am. So the first aspect of being called to sanctify, is to begin at the source, to start with yourself.

I am called to sanctify, as a priest. I find that this is the expectation of the ministry I am called too. I am to stand at the altar, as a bridge between heaven and earth. This is the very heart of what the call to sanctify holds. I am to serve Christ, to do his bidding, to pray his words at Mass. I am to stand trembling in his shoes and bring the reality of the presence of Christ to others. Everything else in my priestly ministry flows from this. The preaching, the teaching, the care of the sick, the compassion, the empathy, the presiding at baptisms, at weddings, at funerals, all the day to day serving, the input made to schools, the answering of telephone calls or emails, the grinding maintenance of parish life, the joy of sharing life with others, all flows from the call to sanctify. It all comes from the privilege to celebrate the Mass.

Leading a parish community in faith, flows from serving Christ, by being aware daily of the call to sanctify. I am to sanctify by allowing Christ into my living, and then to serve by daily answering the invitation to follow Christ. From this I invite Christ to flow through me. I invite Christ into my living when I am willing to cooperate with his grace and I do so even when I am dull or uninspired, or tired or cynical, or weary. The call to sanctify is cemented in the call to serve. And this call is rooted in Christ, who is the one who calls, the one who loves and the one who plants and sustains hope. So I pray…

Lord, I am called to sanctify, to make holy, to prepare a place for you, the author of life.
Lord, I am called to serve with humility, with simplicity, so as to prepare a place for you.
Lord, I am called to life, to find its fullness in you, so as to prepare for it’s eternal reality.
Make me Holy Lord, for my holiness comes from you alone. Amen

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

The Nazarene

The Nazarene

Innocent voices crying, weeping in the wilderness
Abandoned, persecuted, driven out, left homeless
Frightened by an overwhelming tide of intolerance 
Children's hysterical tears herald hatred's advance
A symbol drawn on the houses, an identifying mark
To create despair, smothering light, a sinister dark
The Nazarene, a man despised, the man of sorrows
Rejected, crucified, yet the hope of our tomorrow's 
Father, do not forsake them in this the hour of need
Do not remain silent, as your innocent ones bleed
Reveal to them the comfort of your abiding shade 
By the Nazarene's holiest name, come to their aid.

Fr Patrick Brennan 2014 ©
all rights reserved

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Homily Notes: 16th Week Ordinary Time Year A

There is a phrase we use when we describe certain groups. We can say a group consists in having a mixed bag. For example, the Villa team are a mixed bag. A classroom has a mixed bag of students, differing strengths and weaknesses, gifts or lack of.  
Christians are a mixed bag of weakness and strengths, of good and bad, all kinds make up the mixed bag of Christianity. We tend to think that someone who professes Christ would be naturally a good person, but humanity is flawed, good intentions often walk hand in hand with laziness. Good is not far from bad, in fact it is only a choice away. Christianity proclaims Christ to the world and it is his goodness which makes Christianity authentic.
Christ is Christianity and we hold unto to him, doing what we can to be faithful and seeking forgiveness and mercy when we fail. We need Christ, especially when the rough seas of life threaten to overwhelm us or the inconsistency of our behaviour lead us to despair. As St Paul says we know what the right thing to do is, but for one reason or another we can fail to do the right thing.
The wheat in the gospel today grows side by side with the weeds, weeds that were planted by an enemy. In the culture of the day the people listening to Jesus would know that the  wheat and weeds looked exactly the same and became intertwined as they grew, indistinguishable one from the other, until fully grown, then the deception could be recognised and something done about it. Pulling them up before fully grown might harm the wheat, so the two grow side by side until harvest.
What this teaches us is about the nature of the goodness of God, who is the only judge. He allows a mixed bag but will be the one who separates one from another. Judgment is not ours to make but God’s.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Vocations: What have stats got to do with it?

Vocations:  What have stats got to do with it?
The change in football has been vast since I first started watching it, aside from the finance involved the fascination with statistics has increased to such an extent that we know how many passes one player made, and how many miles a man runs.  Mueller of Germany’s winning team ran the equivalent of two and a half marathons in the games he played! There are tables of stats on football websites, all designed to get us into the game! I must say stats do bore me slightly. A good game statistically could be 0-0 and a bore fest, a good game is not quantified by stats but the stats don’t lie either! Should we take notice of stats? In sport we do and why, so as to improve the game or be able to be aware of where the improvements need to be made.
Vocations to the priesthood interest me. As a priest I must say the life of “joy and sacrifice” in the priesthood is a rewarding one and a fulfilling one too. The Mass is the greatest gift left to the Church by Jesus. To celebrate the Mass is to tantalise the senses, to reinforce the hope of the people of God that the Lord is close by, abiding forever. The Mass, the blueprint for Christian life, is the reminder in an often hopeless world that hope has been restored once and for all by Jesus. On the Cross, by his obedience to the Father’s creating will, in his rising from death and opening the gates of life for all who profess his name and so become immersed in God’s eternal love. The Mass is the place where the ordained priest stands at the altar as the person of Christ, “In Persona Christi” and the whole point of Christianity is revealed, as Jesus is made present. A priest is called, chosen, ordained and commissioned to bear fruit, the Mass is the first fruit.
Back to the stats. The need for prayers for vocations to the priesthood are urgent. The stats tell us this. Taking a very brief glance at the clergy list at the directory for our diocese, shows the ages of the clergy and they are no spring chickens! Well over a hundred of the two hundred and sixty five priests will be over seventy five in the next five years. Many will want to retire but will feel obliged to carry on. The bottom line is we need more priests, and more young, or not so young men to respond generously to the call to priesthood.
Prayer is so very important, as is the wonderful work of vocations offices who are doing what they can to promote the priesthood. Our own diocesan vocations team are very visible and work very hard to encourage vocations. We can help by praying, and for me I feel it means to be a priest, to show how wonderful the calling to priesthood is. I keep close to my heart the prayer that “I am never worthy of the priesthood but sustained by it! I am never worthy of Christ, but sustained by him.”
The national vocations site for the UK quotes Pope Francis who understands the importance of prayer to allow vocations to develop. Both personal prayer by the one called and the prayers of the whole church, our prayers for vocations to the priesthood are in the form of a request, a question addressed to the Father.
Vocations are born in prayer

Behind and before every vocation to the priesthood or to the consecrated life there is always the strong and intense prayer of someone: a grandmother, a grandfather, a mother, a father or a community.  Vocations are born in prayer and from prayer; and only through prayer can they persevere and bear fruit.

Pope Francis: Regina Caeli Message, Fourth Sunday of Easter: 21st April 2013
Another quote from St Teresa says this and it sums up the emotions of love that inspire us to serve Christ.
 “I understood that it was love alone that made the church's members act, that if love ever became extinct, apostles would not preach the gospel and martyrs would not shed their blood. I understood that love comprised all vocations, that love was everything, that it embraced all times and a word, that it was eternal! Then, in the excess of my delirious joy, I cried out: O Jesus, my vocation, at last I have found vocation is love! Yes, I found my place in the church...I shall be love. Thus I shall be everything...”

St Therese of Lisieux
Love is at the heart of vocation, prayer too and hope resides in the midst of this heart of vocation also. Please pray for an increase in vocations to the priesthood as the stats don’t lie!