Open heart, open eyes.

Alleluia! He is Risen!! Rejoice, Jesus is with us, He is Alive! In a nutshell this is the Easter message and the greatest truth of our faith. God became man, suffered and died and out of love rose from the dead in accordance with the sacred scriptures. Yet, how many times do we read or hear this truth and we never stop to let it really sink into our hearts and minds? How often do we allow the risen Jesus, to pass us by? The reality is that our hearts can be closed and so our eyes are blinded. Nevertheless, the Gospel this Sunday gives us some hope, our eyes can still be opened.


In the Gospel, we are told two disciples set out on their way to Emmaus talking “together about all that happened” regarding Jesus’ passion and death (Lk 24:14). Imagine their conversation, their heavy and desperate hearts trying to make sense of life without Jesus. They must have been trying to pick up the bits and pieces of their broken expectations and dreams. However, Jesus does not leave them in their ignorance and lack of understanding, he comes to them. However “something” prevents “them from recognising him” (Lk 24: 16). We are not told explicitly what this something is, instead, the scriptures invites us to reflect on our own ‘somethings’ that prevent us from recognising Jesus on our pilgrimage of life.


 Even though the disciples did not recognise him at first it does not mean they are doomed to stay like that. The good news is their obscurity of mind and heart can be ‘healed’ because of their potential for openness and generosity of heart. We can easily overlook the fact that the disciples could have chosen to stay enclosed in their talk of gloom and despair between themselves without allowing Jesus into their lives. They could have kept their hearts locked up. They need not have replied to Jesus’ questions. However the very openness and love for sharing that made them disciples in the first place was still there even in their despair and confusion. Their openness to talk about their faith, even their lack of it, was an entrance for Jesus to dialogue with them bringing the disciples to an understanding of the scriptures and eventually to a recognition of himself as their Lord in the breaking of bread. The lesson here is that if we persist in our closed hearts we will remain blind but if we are willing to be open to the questions of our faith and our lives we too can be like the two disciples and come to see Jesus in our lives.



Hence, this Gospel speaks to us of the journey of faith which can only be made with an openness of heart. It teaches us that if we are willing to be open to discuss with the Lord our disillusionment and doubts, we can provide Jesus with an opening through which he can come to heal and transform us. As the disciples eyes were opened to reality, we too can journey from the seeming absence of the Lord to an intimate encounter with Him.




Gospel reflection for The Third Sunday of Easter– Year A (Luke 24:13-35)

Forgiving and Forgetting

heart images“Never shall I forget that night, the first night in camp, which has turned my life into one long night, seven times cursed and seven times sealed…. Never shall I forget those moments which murdered  my  God  and  my  soul  and turned  my dreams to ashes. Never shall I forget these things, even if I am condemned to live as long as God Himself. Never.”
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       (Elie Wiesel, Night)


How can it be possible to forgive if we cannot forget? Hurtful memories have an amazing ability to endure over time. They can be difficult to let go of. Some like Elie Wiesel, rather than trying to forget past injustices, think it necessary to remember those traumatic experiences and learn from them. How though, if our lives are shaped by the constant reminder of past hurts, can forgiveness take root?

Forgiveness seems to go against the often understandable desire we have for retribution. It can be so hard to turn the other cheek and to pray for our persecutors as the Lord commands. Forgiving one’s enemies is too idealistic for some people. To them, it is impossible in practice, bearing no connection to the cold and brutal reality of evil. This cannot be the way for Christians. When we speak of forgiveness, mercy and love, we must believe they have some real life application; even in the darkness of a concentration camp. It is then most of all perhaps that Christ’s words need to effect reality. If they do not, they are merely words on a page devoid of all meaning.

Christians are commissioned to preach that such forgiveness is possible. It is the story of Christ’s righteous suffering. Today, Divine Mercy Sunday, marks the canonisation of John Paul II who forgave his would-be assassin, Mehmet Ali Ağca. Saints are those who have spent their lives trying to be like Jesus. The late Pope forgave just as Jesus forgave while hanging on the cross. In this saintly act, John Paul shows how forgiveness demands far more of a person than the desire for retribution. Forgiveness draws upon the deepest reality of a person’s being, calling to mind not only the nature of one’s own existence but that of their persecutor also, setting it squarely in relation to God.

There is some truth to the saying ‘to err is human; to forgive is divine.’ Absolute forgiveness of otherwise unforgivable acts is a Christian concept. It is something the world cannot offer. Hope in forgiveness of this sort is a plea for God to intervene in our misery – not necessarily the misery of injustices suffered but the paralysis wrought by an unforgiving heart. The power to forgive sins given to the disciples in today’s Gospel is an extension of Jesus’ own mission, reconciling people with God and with each other. It is not a denial of past wrongs but an enveloping of them in the abundance of God’s mercy.

That is not to say that forgiving is easy, especially given the fact that past hurts plague us endlessly. Only in God is it possible to forgive, wounded as we are by our past. Indeed it is precisely because we can dare to forgive, though burdened by the weight of troubled memories and injustices suffered, that makes forgiveness the divine thing that it is.

Gospel reflection for The Second Sunday of Easter (Divine Mercy Sunday) – Year A (John 20:19-31)

The Good News of Easter

unnamedToday is the day when we Christians rejoice as our Saviour has conquered death and sin. We take comfort in the Good News of Jesus’ resurrection, because in his resurrection we find hope.

Over the last few days we have experienced Jesus’ passion, as he was arrested and sentenced to death. We saw what looked like a certain defeat, and now we see Jesus bringing victory out of his defeat. This gives hope to all humanity as we struggle to overcome sin and imperfection in our lives. It can often seem when we look both at ourselves and our world that sin and evil triumph. Indeed, when we look at the last few days, where we sacramentally experienced the death of Christ, it is easy for us to imagine how the disciples of Jesus must have felt. It must have looked like sin and evil won.

For the disciples of Jesus, Good Friday must have felt like the end of the road. They were scattered, and one of their number – Judas Iscariot- had betrayed them. None of them could have known how things would turn out in the end. None of them could have understood fully that it was not the end of the road but rather the beginning.

This new beginning on the day of the resurrection changed everything. At the news the tomb was empty, hope stirred in their hearts. They ran to the tomb to find it empty. Instantly they believed the Lord was alive. They knew God had triumphed over darkness. They did not fall into cynicism but they embraced hope. We too are called to have this Hope. We too must learn not to become discouraged by sin and weighed down by evil around us, but to have a firm hope in God. We too must embrace the resurrection and have faith that no matter the difficulties we face God can and will triumph in our lives if we cling to Jesus.     

Overcoming sin and evil may look like impossible tasks, but when we see things from the vantage point of the resurrection, we realise that Jesus’ resurrection also looked like something impossible. Yet, the resurrection did happen, and because it happened, we can have faith that God always triumphs over evil. We can have faith that sin and evil are always defeated in the end by those who put their faith in the Jesus Christ.

Rejoice, therefore, in the Good News of Easter. God has conquered sin and death, and opened the gates to paradise.

The Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ



 Jesus is sentenced to death, he is scourged, he carries his cross, and he is finally crucified. Besides His Mother Mary, Mary Magdalene, St John and Joseph of Arimathea, Jesus seems to have few friends left in his darkest hour. And yet, in one very important line we are told of an encounter he has with a man called Simon of Cyrene. We hear that “ On their way out, they came across a man from Cyrene, called Simon, and enlisted him to carry his cross”(Mt 27:32). Simon is understandably reluctant to help Jesus carry His cross to Calvary. He would rather be elsewhere, but unfortunately for him, life has a way of throwing the unexpected at us- Simon must help carry the cross. Simon is not unique- in fact, each of us are in Simon’s shoes. Each of us is in the place of Simon every time a cross enters our life that we must carry it.

 Simon reluctantly agrees to help Jesus carry the cross, and we can imagine what he might be thinking as he helps Jesus pick up the cross. Perhaps he thinks he is helping Jesus? He is helping to carry a cross that belongs to Jesus, not to himself. Yet, the fact is that the cross Jesus carries belongs to us all. It is for our sins that he is being crucified. Jesus has never done anything wrong, yet he is carrying the cross- our cross- to save each one of us. It is ironic then, that Simon thinks he is the one helping Jesus carry His cross. In fact, it is Jesus all along who is helping Simon carry Simon’s cross. Jesus carries all our crosses, and brings them to Calvary.

 Simon for his part, had an encounter that day that changed his life. He encountered the Son of the Living God who was, like himself, real flesh and blood, and struggling under the weight of the cross. Simon encountered God precisely because he accepted the burden of the cross. Had he chosen to not help shoulder the cross, he never would have met Christ that day.

 It is like that for each one of us every time a cross comes into our life; maybe it comes in the form of a tragedy in one’s life, or a struggle against sin, or a broken relationship of some kind. Whatever form the cross takes, each one of us stands in the place of Simon. Wherever the cross is, there is Christ. It is in embracing this cross that we come to a deeper encounter with Christ. He is there beside each of us, helping us to carry our cross. Just as he helped Simon.      


Resurrect Your Faith

amboAt the heart  of today’s Gospel, is the call to be unwavering in our faith. Lazarus was dead and was brought back to life, but he never would have been raised back to life had Mary and Martha not had some amount of faith. They could not have known that Jesus would raise Lazarus from the dead, but they knew that he was the Lord, the Son of God, and that he could heal people. When Lazarus is raised to new life, the Gospel tells us that “Many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary and had seen what he did believed” (John 11:45).    What is interesting here is the emphasis on “Many” and not “All”. You would think that having seen a dead man raised to life, every single person in that village would have faith in Jesus as the Son of God. Yet, according to the Gospel, while many did come to believe, some must not have, otherwise we would have been told “all came to faith”. Why were there people still unconvinced- and who were these people?


These are the people who, while showing a great interest in Jesus as someone spectacular, nevertheless refuse to follow Him. He was not someone they would call “Lord”, and follow with their whole lives. They had no faith in Jesus when he came into the village, and they had no faith in him when He left the village with Lazarus healed. These individuals are the people who, seeing Jesus show up say “He opened the eyes of the blind man, could he not have prevented this man’s death”?  These people are so cynical that it does not matter what miracles are wrought, they still remain without faith. Such people existed in Jesus’ own day, and they continue to exist today. They are the people for whom God and the Church can do nothing right. If you tell them of something good that has happened, they complain it is not enough.


At some time or another, every Christian who discusses their faith with others will encounter just such people. They are the ones who remain cynical no matter what is said or done. If Jesus were to come and raise their neighbours from the grave, it would not be enough for them. Rather than rejoice at such a miracle- they’d wonder why everyone else has not been raised from their grave and complain about that too!


At the heart of this Gospel then, is Jesus entering the village not to raise Lazarus from the dead – that is the easy part. He enters the village to call everyone to Faith in Him. Those in that village whose hearts were open to the Truth, believed that day and their lives were transformed. Those whose hearts were not open but were hardened remained without faith. There are then in this Gospel as in real life, two kinds of people. One group of people looks towards Jesus and everlasting life, while the other group does not. Which of these two groups would you prefer to be in on the Last Day?   


Well, well – well?

well-w-bucket‘There were two wells and three water jugs…’ It sounds like the beginning of a bad joke yet this is the scenario St. John presents us with. The woman and her water jug both come to be filled at the well. There they meet Jesus who is both a water jug and a well; He thirsts and He satisfies. There are two different understandings of thirst at play here which Jesus gradually helps the woman to appreciate.

In the Scriptures Jesus speaks of thirst at a deeper level than that of simple bodily needs. For example He says, ‘blessed are those who hunger and thirst for uprightness’ (Matthew 5:6); or again while hanging on the cross, ‘I thirst’ (John 19:28). However, by asking the woman for a drink after the ardours of His missionary activity, He clearly recognises the importance of physical thirst too. On this, St. Augustine writes: ‘Jesus is strong and weak: strong, because in the beginning was the Word; weak, because the Word was made flesh.’ Just as in the parables, Jesus draws on everyday mundane examples familiar to His hearers in order to bring them to a deeper awareness of God’s love.

Who among us therefore, does not know what it means to thirst? We can identify with this because we know it and because we know it, we know the struggle involved to satiate it. There is something profound about the woman’s desire and her request of Jesus to give her some of that living water He offers ‘so that she may never thirst again’ (John 4:15). It is the story of our limited human nature that while striving for ultimate fulfilment, understands the disillusionment with temporal goods. ‘Into the sea go all the rivers and yet the sea is never filled and still to their goal the rivers go’ (Ecclesiastes 1:7). Though necessary for our physical well-being, material things are unable to satisfy our deepest longings and still we continually devour those externals in the hope of filling that internal, God-shaped void He alone can fill.

We consume food and drink, alcohol and drugs, fashions and trends, art and literature, music, sport and culture and so much more. To stay at that level though is a problem for Jesus. Consumers are good for business but to settle for being mere consumers is a poor substitute for any person, whom God has made in His own image and likeness. Jesus is our mirror and our compass, reminding us of our humanity and our relationship with God. Rather than remaining at the level of consuming externals, important as they are, Jesus promises a spring of living water internally, welling up to eternal life. It is an invitation to relationship with God. It shows itself as a disposition or state of existence in which a person is so convinced of God’s love for them that they become lovers in return. The spring of living water gives life perspective, meaning and hope. This is something the market cannot offer.

Of the two wells then, Jesus and the water well, which of them should we draw from to be well? This is the key question; where is life in its fullest sense to be found? We should reasonably draw from both since we have physical and spiritual needs alike but there is certainly an order of importance. We are more than the consumers the economy tells us we are. We are more than the posh apes coughed up by the universe that the human sciences would have us believe we are. Many centuries ago Pope Saint Leo the Great joyfully exclaimed ‘O Christian, be aware of your nobility’ as he pondered the mystery of Christ’s incarnation. By highlighting the inability of the water well to satisfy our deepest desires, Jesus points us to the source of that nobility – God; the source of all life.

The Third Sunday of Lent Year A (John 4:5-42)

St. Joseph – The wordless teacher of discernment.


The most profound knowledge we can learn from another person need not be from their own words. In his book “Adam, God’s Beloved”, written by the widely celebrated spiritual master Fr. Henri Nouwen, this is certainly true. Nouwen admits that despite his years of mingling with the best theological minds and spiritual gurus, he was most enlightened by a seriously handicapped young man, Adam Arnett, who never spoke or wrote a word in his life. Adam by worldly standards would doubtfully be considered ‘great’ or  worthy of being recorded in the annals of history: he was never a politician, nor a movie star nor a lawyer nor even an ‘ordinary man.’ Despite this Adam became the spiritual master and guide to Nouwen. Adam’s strength, perseverance, humility, cheerfulness and love in the face of wordless suffering transformed Nouwen’s life to the extent that Nouwen felt compelled to tell the world how he found Christ in the disfigured and speechless Adam. Therefore through Nouwen, Adam, who never spoke or wrote, has touched and changed thousands of lives.

To an extent, isn’t this similar to our experience with the humble ‘wordless’ Joseph of Nazareth? Admittedly Joseph was not handicapped but like Adam he was by no means a ‘somebody’ in society. In the scriptures he is silent but similar to Adam his life and ‘silent’ witness has the ability to affect ours. Therefore, can we not learn from St. Joseph’s silence? While the wordless records of Joseph may give the impression of his insignificance, Joseph like Adam is a preacher and teacher in his own right. Joseph teaches us through what is written of his actions and decisions of faith and prudent discernment. His actions speak louder than any word he could utter, they reveal the essential dispositions of a true servant of Christ.

In the Gospel of the solemnity of St. Joseph Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary, we are given a significant insight into Joseph’s soul, into the kind of man he was. St. Matthew tells us “he was a just man”(Matt 1: 19 RSV). This comment can easily be overlooked in our eagerness to read about Joseph’s great dream, but this would be a mistake. Because understanding Joseph as “just” is the key to unlocking his hidden life and appreciate the remainder of the Gospel passage. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI in Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives points us to the description of a just man in Psalm 1 as a portrait of Joseph. The Pope comments that on reading Psalm 1 we come to know Joseph the man. We get the sense of Joseph as one who whose roots are in the living waters of God’s word, whose life is spent in unceasing dialogue with God and who, therefore, is constantly fruitful.

This insight into Joseph as one who is intimately close to God, pondering His ways, helps us penetrate the deeper meaning of the dream event in the Gospel. No longer is the dream solely a dramatic scene enthralling our imaginations, instead, it preaches to us of the virtues of faith and discernment.  For Joseph the dream is a moment of prudential judgement and a response of faith. He distinguishes the dream as reality and not illusion. Once he discerned this, Joseph responds to the extraordinary demands of the moment with great faith in the Lord. This action speaks to our hearts of a man who is inwardly perceptive to the divine, who can acutely discern God’s will and who as a result is sensitive and responsive to the promptings of the Spirit. The many years of meditating on God, in the law day and night (Psalm 1), has made Joseph the person who God can entrust his household to, who as the Collect of the Mass tell us, can oversee the “unfolding of the mysteries of human salvation.”

St. Joseph therefore is a model for us of one who has a ‘tender conscience’; a conscience that is not lax but is openly attuned to hearing God’s voice affording the soul to make the kind of prudent judgements that God delights in. He is a man of deep faith. Like Adam Arnett his ‘silence’ has much to teach us. Like Adam, his life comes to us through the words of others. Though long gone are the ‘greats’ of society who remain as mere fading memories, even forgotten icons, Joseph and Adam live on in the hearts of many. They live because “ whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”(Matt 23:12) Their wordless existence is a witness to their humility.

St. Joseph, Patron of the Universal Church, Pray for us.

Solemnity of St. Joseph Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary – (Matthew 1:16, 18-21, 24a)

St. Patrick ‘Come and Walk Amongst Us’

St. PatrickThe Feast day of St Patrick is a day of great celebration here in Ireland and across the world. The figure of St Patrick continues to enliven and capture the imagination of many people. In order to ensure that this great Saint may not get lost amidst all the festivities we may ask, ‘what is the Church through the Liturgy saying to us about the figure of St Patrick? And what does his story teach us today?

If we go behind the folklore, mythology and fables to the real St Patrick, we find a fascinating man; a man whose faith life deepened in the midst of great suffering. Many aspects of St Patrick’s life can compare in many ways to some great biblical figures; two of which are Abraham and Joseph.  In the entrance antiphon of the Mass the Church uses the text from Genesis 12:1-2, ‘The Call of Abraham,’ to highlight the radical nature in which they both left all to respond to the call of God: “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.”

If we look at Scripture we can see that St Patrick’s capture, transport and enslavement is reminiscent of the Patriarch Joseph in Genesis. When Joseph was handed over and brought down to Egypt would he ever have thought that he would one day save that country from famine and that he would be vice-regent of the same country? The unfortunate events in the lives of Saint Patrick and the Patriarch Joseph give us a great insight into the providential plan of God to turn what seems like disaster into good.  Joseph recognized this in faith when he said to his brothers,  “The evil you planned to do to me has by God’s design been turned to good, to bring about the present result: the survival of a numerous people (Gn 50: 20). The evil done to Patrick was also turned to good by the grace of God. He introduced the person of Christ and His Gospel to some, and he strengthened the faith of others: how we need his help and prayers once more in our own time.

In the life of St Patrick and the Patriarch Joseph we see how seemingly hopeless situations can turn out in life to be the places where the greatest growth happens in our spiritual life. If we keep our eyes on Christ He will give us the light to see His action in our lives, even in the midst of seemingly unfortunate situations.


A central theme in the stories of both Patrick and Joseph is that of ‘enslavement.’ When we think of slavery we mostly concentrate on the physical, external sense of being enslaved, yet, there is a deeper reality underlying physical enslavement, and this is spiritual enslavement which can manifest itself physically in terms of addiction of all kinds. When Our Lord in St John’s Gospel tells us “You will know the truth and the truth will set you free” He is not talking about physical enslavement, but is speaking of an interior spiritual reality that is the remedy for the bondage in which many people find themselves today.


The Irish once cried out to Patrick in a dream, ‘We are asking you, holy boy, to come and continue to walk among us’ (Confessions: Par. 23). Let us ask this day for St Patrick’s intercession in asking the Lord Jesus to ‘come and continue to walk among us’ so that the Church in Ireland may be renewed in the spirit of zeal for the Gospel that so characterized our Holy Patron.


Transfiguring Eucharistic Adoration

Anybody who has ever attended benediction of the Blessed Sacrament will most likely have heard the last two verses of a beautiful hymn of praise called the Pange Lingua (better known as the ‘Tantum Ergo’) being sung. Composed by St. Thomas Aquinas, one line in particular speaks of the complete inability of our bodily senses to grasp the mystery of the Eucharist. ‘Sensuum defectui’ we sing, readily acknowledging that our eyes fail to see Christ truly present in what looks like bread. Tasting the Eucharist would yield a similar outcome. We could not know what we taste is anything more than bread merely by our sense of taste. However, St. Thomas believes that faith supplements our sensual shortcomings when he writes, ‘Praestet fides supplementum.’ Faith assures us of a reality our bodies cannot perceive.

How different it was for Peter, James and John as they adored Jesus on the mountain. Their bodily faculties were all too sensitive to the reality of whom it was they were in the company of. The Eucharistic sense of our Lord’s transfiguration is unmistakable. The mountain in a way, resembles a monstrance lifting our Lord on high to be worshipped.  The Apostles were so amazed by what they saw. They were so captivated by what they heard from the cloud, they fell trembling on their faces. They felt Jesus’ touch as He told them not to be afraid. Peter even asked if he could build tents (tabernacula in the Latin text) to shelter our Lord but in a mysterious way, it was the Apostles who found shelter in the divine cloud. It is the same for us. When we consume Holy Communion at Mass, we are the ones consumed by God.

It may be a blessing for us that these sorts of tangible privileges are not granted to everybody. God’s presence is so immense that it is quite simply too much for our frail bodies to endure. Indeed after His resurrection from the dead, Jesus calls those people blessed ‘who have not seen and yet believe’ (John 20:29). How though, given our sensual limitations, can we appreciate more deeply Christ’s true presence in the Eucharist?

Faith is the key. Earlier in the Pange Lingua St. Thomas commented that our faith in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist is founded upon Christ’s own words, ‘This is My Body.’ Not everybody can accept this. We don’t claim to understand how Christ’s words change the very fabric of reality but we believe in His power to do it. Our faith is a confidence in Him, not in ourselves. We confess Him who first confesses to us. When we come to the Church for our holy hour we should try to say like Peter, ‘Lord it is wonderful for us to be here.’ Transfiguring our attitude to the Holy Eucharist will transfigure our lives.

The 2nd Sunday of Lent – (Matthew 17:1-9)

Testing in the Desert

lent imagesCan you imagine how Jesus is when we meet him in this Sunday’s Gospel? After forty days of fasting in the desert how hungry and thirsty he must have been. This is why the devil chooses this time to tempt him, when he is at his weakest. He is hungry and vulnerable.

In our own lives, it is often at our most desperate times that we fall into temptation and sin. This is when our hunger or desire for something is so great that we are unable to see anything but the object we desire, be it a new job, a bigger car, perfect grades, to be more popular and liked by everybody, good health or simply that new pair of shoes. These are the times that we are so focused on what we want that we cannot see God, we forget to see what God wants for us.

In this week’s Gospel we see Jesus face such a situation head on. We see him tempted in the desert, but most importantly, we also see him overcome this temptation ‘Away with you, Satan!’  Jesus gives us encouragement and hope. We are reminded that like He did in today’s Gospel, we too are called to resist temptation and sin. If we do this we grow closer to God and play our part in the Christian mission to go out and build His Kingdom in the here and now.

The season of Lent offers us a yearly opportunity to undergo a conversion from sin. It is only when we abandon sin that we can truly begin to build up the Kingdom of God. Sin alienates us from God so it is imperative that we do all we can to avoid temptation. As with Jesus during his temptations in the desert, God the Father does not abandon us to sin. That is why we have the sacrament of reconciliation. Lent is a particularly appropriate time for us to go to confession and in the spirit of true repentance, to be assured that our sins are forgiven. Today’s Gospel shows us the commitment the Father has to the Son, the same commitment he has to each one of us. Now in Lent, it is time for us to turn from temptation and sin and renew our commitment to building up the Kingdom of God here and now.