Saturday, May 31, 2008

Ninth Sunday of the Year A

The Wise Man built his house upon the Rock

Jesus' parables are often a challenge to me. He speaks from the experience of people around him, so they are often about agriculture - like the parable of the sower - or occasionally from his own profession - the building trade.

I’m afraid I am a very poor gardener - not in the sense that I can’t get things to grow - but they all grow too fast and too many of them in the wrong places. It’s shameful really as it was my grandfather’s profession and as a little boy I spent many happy hours helping him in his greenhouses.
And then when it comes to DIY … well, I can change a light bulb, and I am safest as far as possible away from any other practical project.

So how can I approach the parables? Well thankfully you do not need to be skilled in either area to understand them. No technical terms, notice, in this story about the houses, but they do have both a practical and a spiritual sense.

The practical meaning is pretty obvious to all. The quickest way to achieve something is not necessarily the best. The house built on sand was built much more quickly and more easily. It would have looked just as good - perhaps even better - than the house on rock. But it had a fatal flaw.

And there is also a spiritual meaning. Faith is a hard road. It may not make life easier. There are those who seem to have more fun, less anxiety, are richer, healthier. Those who follow the faith may struggle forcing foundations into the rock. It may take time to see results. There may be hardship, sorrow, crises of conscience along the way. Faith does not rescue us from suffering, but it does give us a hope. The house on sand is beautiful till the storms come. The storms batter the house on rock too, but it has the foundations to stand firm.

Friday, May 30, 2008

The Sacred Heart of Jesus

Why say it all again? I said it all here.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Corpus Christi

Yesterday I took part in a wonderful mass. It was the Year 11 leavers’ mass at St Margaret Ward. 

Well to be sure, not everything about it would have pleased everyone. The teenagers were a little excited. At one point they applauded a singer during the mass. There was a reading from outside Scripture before the Gospel. The ‘psalm’ wasn’t really a psalm at all. If you are a purist you might have been offended. 

But there was a wonderful atmosphere. The pupils and staff had put much work and effort into the celebration. The music was played and sung by pupils. And when there needed to be silence in the Mass, there was. 

Now I know that many of these children are not at Mass every Sunday. That many do not practice the faith that is the foundation of the school’s life. I know too that they were there as much to celebrate friendship as anything else. 

Yet on this occasion, when they were celebrating five years of school life coming to an end, in great excitement, anticipation and sadness, the natural way to to this was the Mass. And they sung - they really sung - and they joined in the responses - and they listened and even politely laughed at the homily. 

To celebrate life, we Catholics celebrate Mass. It is the most natural thing to do. And even amid the imperfections of our Church life, and our worries about the observance of the faith, this is something which these children knew. For it is in the Mass that earth joins with heaven. The ordinary things of life, bread and wine, joys and sorrows, thanksgiving and tears, hope and dreams are filled with the glory of the divine. That is what we celebrate at Corpus Christi - earth joined to heaven. 

O saving victim, opening wide, the gate of heaven to earth below!

Sunday, May 18, 2008


I'll be honest, I've often struggled with the Trinity. Not because I didn't believe it or accept it - I've always seen the logic in saying that there can only be one God, so if we believe in Jesus as Divine and also in the Spirit, then the Trinity - three persons but one God, makes sense. But it was always for me a kind of theoretical meaning. It was a belief, a teaching, a dogma, not something that really moved me.

And then I heard an explanation that clicked with me and started to make a difference not to my belief, but to my prayer. It is an old explanation, but somehow now it just clicked. It goes like this. God is Love, so St John says. He doesn't say God loves, but he says God is love. Now the thing about love is that it is not just a feeling, or an idea, but an action. For there to be love there needs to a lover and a beloved, as well as the power of love itself.

And suddenly the Trinity starts to make real sense. God is Love because God is community, three in one, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.   

And love cannot be selfish. To love is to give. And God’s love, real love is so powerful that it overflows into his creation.

God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son.  And because God is love he gives himself to us. The love we know in this world is just a pale reflection of that wonderful love of God. That is what the Trinity is all about.

Saturday, May 10, 2008


Religion is the cause of conflict in the world. People will often tell you this. 

After all wasn’t Northern Ireland about Protestant v Catholic? And Bosnia was Orthodox Christians v Muslims? And the conflict in Israel is about Jews v Muslims? And Cyprus is about Muslims v Orthodox again? And isn’t terrorism often driven by religion - in Ireland in the past, in the Middle East in the present?

Of course, this is all too simple. People sometimes use religion as their badge of identity in a conflict. It doesn’t make them a good catholic or protestant or jew or whatever if they use that banner in their fight. Al-Qaeda don’t represent Muslims any more than the Provisional IRA represented catholics. 

And today there is something more that we can say. On that first Christian Pentecost people of all races, all backgrounds and all languages were gathered in the city. Huge crowds with different cultures and customs. It may have felt threatening and uncomfortable for the local people. It is a recipe for misunderstanding and conflict. An opportunity for crime and division. 

And the Gift of the Holy Spirit did not divide, but unite. He did not make everyone the same, but he celebrated their differences. He did not make people pretend they were all the same, but he helped them praise God for the colour and variety of the crowd. He did not set one against another, but brought them together in truth.