Thursday, 21 August 2014

Human Life is a Sacred Gift.

Psalm 3

How many are my foes, LORD!
How many rise against me!
How many say of me,
“There is no salvation for him in God.”
But you, LORD, are a shield around me;
my glory, you keep my head high.
With my own voice I will call out to the LORD,
and he will answer me from his holy mountain.
I lie down and I fall asleep,
[and] I will wake up, for the LORD sustains me.
I do not fear, then, thousands of people
                                                 arrayed against me on every side.
Arise, LORD! Save me, my God!
For you strike the cheekbone of all my foes;
you break the teeth of the wicked.
Salvation is from the LORD!
May your blessing be upon your people!

The above psalm is a lament. This is a prayer of one who believes in God, who fears God, who loves God, who is crying out in his need. The desperation of the words are not futile, but are a prayer of trust. Whatever assails him in life he will refer always towards the goodness of God, and his protecting love. His hope is in the Lord, his strength in his weakness is in the Lord.

The times we live in (though not that different from other times) are fraught with fears, anxieties, worries, persecution and the fragility of the precious gift of life. The shocking scenes from the Middle East, though far from home it would appear, are mirrored in the attitude of many people to life. Life is sacred, a gift, one that is taken away so easily in our world, a world in many quarters that seems to refuse to accept the gift that is life. Taking another’s life is wrong. The taking of  the journalist James Foley’s life, who was murdered so brutally in Iraq this past week, in such a senseless and cruel way, is shocking, appalling and an abomination to the notion that someone would do such a barbaric act, in the name of any God. My prayers and love go out to his family, his parents John and Diane, who are so dignified and at this dreadful time, so filled with pain and grief, attempting to deepen their faith in God, and entrust their beloved son, James, to God’s keeping. I offered Mass for them and will pray for them daily. The killing of innocent people is an outrage, and always will be.

This week Professor Richard Dawkins, an atheist and supposed learned man, said that women who discover they have babies in the womb with Down Syndrome, should have abortions and try again. His words are sickening, on many levels, because of the sentiment of them and the way they are delivered. Life is precious, it is sacred; to take away a life is wrong and to have such a total disregard for life is appalling and evil too. Weakness in the world is not a crime, being disabled is not punishable by death, life is not what I have and others are not entitled too because of an ideology or a scant disregard for the sanctity of life. When will we learn about life and its giftedness?

With the psalmist, with my own voice, I will call out to the Lord. I pray for life and for those who think they have the right to end life. Lord, preserve us, protect us, please change the hearts of all, with no just cause, would take life away.

Saturday, 16 August 2014

Homily Notes 20th Sunday Year A: Christianity is not about being Nice!

Christianity is not about being Nice!
Twentieth Sunday Year A: mt 15:21-28
Some times it feels that Christianity is nice. It is nice to feel  warm and cosy. Yet Christianity by definition is the very opposite of nice it is a challenge to our comfort zones, an unsettling dynamic within us that demands of us the compassion to act justly, to walk humbly and to love tenderly. It commands us to love God and our neighbour, to pray for enemies and forgive those who hurt us. There is not so much comforting and nice about being a Christian, more a challenge, a discomfort even.
The gospel today presents the words of Jesus, challenging our perception of him. Jesus says “It is not right to take the food of children and throw it to the dogs” Nothing nice there! Jesus is about faith, wholehearted faith, not lip service, what we discover from Jesus in the gospels is that he does not tolerate lip service. Ask the Pharisees what he thinks of that brood of vipers! Jesus challenges people to come to faith, to turn from sin, to set their sights on the Kingdom of Heaven, both here and now, and in the future too. When the woman responds in faith, Jesus responds in kind. A healing happens, one that is life changing and affirming.
So it is not niceness that Jesus wants from us but action, faith, justice. When we think about the world today and see the sufferings of so many who profess the name Christian we are alarmed, worried. Here our faith calls us to a deeper faith, to pray for a deeper trust in Christ, who encourages and compels us to work ever more harder, in bringing about the Kingdom. This begins by our own attitudes, the way we take Jesus’ words on board in our own lives. To be a Christian does not mean to be nice, or irrelevant, but it means to be working for the Kingdom, to be labouring in the field of the world, to be full of compassion, forgiveness, love and sincerity in our words and actions.
Let us pray that our Christian faith make draw us from our comfort zones and enable us to embrace the suffering and need of those who need our faith to be lived out.

Friday, 15 August 2014

Mary, Mother in heaven: Pray for us

It is no coincidence that the feast of St Maximilian Kolbe was celebrated yesterday, on the eve of the feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. For St Maximilian had a great devotion to the prayers and intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Maximilian, a priest who found himself in the concentration camp at Auschwitz, gave his life in exchange for another prisoner who had been chosen to be killed. The other prisoner was Franciszek Gajowniczek, (who lived to the age of 95 praying a rosary each night for the man who saved his life.) The man, the priest, Maximilian Kolbe, died at Auschwitz on August 14th 1941, he was beatified by Pope Paul VI in 1970, and canonized by Pope John Paul II  in 1981. He is a beacon of hope for goodness in a world of savagery and darkness, in a period of shame for human history. And today he shines out in hope to a world that seems hell bent on repeating the same savagery, cruelty and brutality of mankind’s worst qualities of hatred and evil. St Maximilian, pray for those persecuted for their faith, for those affected by the sheer blind hatred and bigotry of others.
Today is the solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, who in body and soul entered into the joy of heaven. Reunited with her Son, Jesus, she is the inspiration for us to follow. Her faithfulness, her humility, her resolute and gentle nurturing of her son and her sheltering in her son, is our amazement and wonder. Mary is the sure refuge of all who tremble before the enormity of God, and the providence of his holy will. She is ever faithful, the new Eve, whose “Yes” (Fiat) to God’s word “My soul glorifies the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour!” Luke 1:46-47 injects hope into the future of all who proclaim with their hearts and lips that Jesus is Lord.
Mary, in Heaven pray for us, help us, guide us to your son and save us from our selfish selves.

Thursday, 14 August 2014

The Journey

The Journey
Starting out, on the journey
with a vigour of youthful joviality,
experiencing joyful ecstasy,
unbridled curiosity,
a sure footing, striding on with ingenuity,
boldly, embracing humility
grasping at integrity,
until burdened by crushing responsibility
moving forwards more slowly,
becoming older, weary,
the atmosphere a little scary,
travailing upon this lifetimes journey, 
taking tentative steps of uncertainty,
until consumed by a welcome guest called honesty,
imbued with a vision of God’s promise of eternity,
a cloud of faith descends prayerfully,
received enthusiastically, gratefully,
fills the heart with a sense of familiarity
shrouds the senses completely,
makes sense of the journey
now entrusted to others generosity,
cared for by the best fruits of humanity
assisted on this faltering leg of the journey,
laboured breathing suddenly turns to a finality,
experienced eyes close upon this worlds reality,
leading to the continuation of the God given journey.

Fr Patrick Brennan © 2014 all rights reserved

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Breaking Hearts

This morning at the 8 am Mass I was reaching into the tabernacle and as I did so, I felt the words of St Peter from the gospel today resonate deep within me. St. Peter in the midst of a storm and fearing that he was sinking cried out; “Lord save me!” I felt a profound sense of those words at that moment, reaching into the tabernacle. I was with Peter in the storm, reaching out to Christ's presence. I was saying Lord, help me, help us, help them. I was genuinely moved, and tears welled up. My heart has been, like all of us, breaking over the last few weeks, seeing the brutal violence and butchery against Christians, and others in Iraq. In that moment the Lord was saying “Man of little faith…why are you doubting?”
And here before Christ in the tabernacle, reaching out, I felt a sense of the reality of the call to discipleship, of the call to be a Christian; it can and does often lead to persecution, suffering, rejection, and death. Tertullian, an early Church Father who been called "the father of Latin Christianity" and "the founder of Western theology. said once:
“If the Tiber rises too high, or the Nile too low, the remedy is always feeding Christians to the lions.”
I felt this keenly this morning.
As Christians our hearts are breaking, we are sailing in the midst of a storm, their seems very little we can do to make a difference to the storm. It is precisely here as our Hearts our breaking, and filled with sorrow that we are to look to Christ, to reach out in faith and trust to him, and ask him to save us.
Gracious Father,
you are our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
We ask that you would protect
our brothers and sisters around the world
suffering for the Name of Jesus.
Please be with Christians in Iraq
as they flee from persecution,
and face horror unimaginable.
Comfort them in their grief with your presence,
deliver them from evil.
Give wisdom to world leaders responding
to the Islamic State.
As you provided for your people
wandering in the wilderness,
provide Iraqi Christians with their needs.
Enable emergency relief to be received
swiftly and without hindrance.
Thank you for the forgiveness of sin found only in Jesus,
may all of your people know of this provision
and cling to the Cross of Christ.
Thank you that neither death nor life,
nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come,
nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation,
will be able to separate your people from
your love in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Give Iraqi Christians and all Christians,
by the work of your Holy Spirit,
the strength to endure to the end, looking to Jesus,
the founder and reason of our faith,
who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross,
despising the shame, and is seated at your right hand.
We ask these things knowing that you can do
immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine.
Be at work for your glory and the good of your people.
Through Christ, our Lord.

Saturday, 9 August 2014

Homily Notes: 19th Sunday Year A

The storms of life assail us to a lesser or greater degree, and there seems no way of avoiding them. Storms in life can take the guise of difficulties, that we can face personally, or on a more national or international scale. A storm can wreak destruction and do much damage. We cannot avoid storms but we can prepare for them, if we know they are coming our way.
The disciples are in the midst of a storm at sea in the gospel today. The waves are almost overwhelming them, they are worried and then they see Jesus walking across the water, their fear turns to terror. Jesus greets them but they think him to be a ghost. Peter in the confusion of his fear calls out to Jesus and is encouraged by Jesus to leave the boat and walk towards Jesus. As he leaps out of the boat and walks towards Jesus his fear gets the better of him and he begins to sink. Jesus reaches out to him and they both get back onto the boat, where the storm ends and all becomes calm. Jesus teases Peter by saying “man of little faith, why did you doubt?” I say tease, because Jesus is asking for faith in him as the Son of God and the miracles he demonstrates are still not enough to convince the hearts and minds of his closest companions. What does he have to do to convince them not to worry…rise from the dead perhaps!
When you read this gospel story you can ask well why did Jesus not just calm the storm from the very beginning? The fact that he does not tells us much about the nature of our lives. We are blest with free will, we determine our own lives by the choices that we make; good or bad ones can push the direction our lives take upon one path or another. Some choices are beyond our control, some things in life we are not able to change. Good and bad things happen to us. We are prone to be in the midst of a storm that is not of our own making. Jesus is with us in the storms of life, he calls to us reminding us of his presence. He calls to us reminding us that our lives are in God’s hands and he does not abandon us in our storms, but he cares for us, loves us, and has a home for us too. He has risen from death for us after all!
It is to his presence that we turn our lives when we embrace the Christian faith. Our prayer is Lord, your will be done. Our lives are a constant seeking, we look for things that will fulfil us, we seek after happiness, wealth, satisfaction of one kind or another, these things are not bad in themselves. But there is another search that overrides all other things, the search for meaning, for discerning and understanding why we are here, and what is our purpose. In the heart of this stormy question the Lord reaches out his hand and says “Come to me” he says to us, as he says to Peter “Why so little faith? Why doubt…for  I am here always.” There are things beyond our understanding, storms that assail our lives, and our world where can either give in to fear and sink beneath the waves of that fear, or increase our trust in God and follow him more closely. We are to trust that he will deliver us from harm, if not here on earth but as all time belongs to him, he is our hope and salvation. Even in death the storm that we cannot avoid, Jesus’ presence is there too, and to that presence we are to entrust our lives.