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.


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.



Ash Wednesday Hunger

HungryWith Ash Wednesday looming in sight one of the brothers was asked what the season meant for him and he said with a laugh “hunger”. His ‘smart answer’ in a sense is right because Lent is about getting in touch with the hunger for God buried in every human heart. This hunger according to St. Thomas Aquinas is the result of us being created for God. Creation is God’s way of inviting us into the sheer ecstasy of being in loving friendship with Him. This will be achieved when we see God as He really is face to face. The Angelic doctor teaches that the true desire in all our willing is really this ‘beatific end’ whether we are aware of it or not. So on Ash Wednesday when the Lord summons us through the Prophet Joel in the first reading  to “return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning” (Jl 2:12) we could say in a sense God is calling us to cleanse our hearts from all its disordered desires and vices so that we can, through his mercy, experience that internal hunger for Him as our beatifying end.


But we know all too well that we tend to fill this hunger for God with other things. These other things Aquinas says are typically pleasure, power, wealth, honour, fame and glory. The last three are particularly appropriate for our Ash Wednesday liturgy since Jesus in the Gospel tells us not to undertake prayers, penances and fasts for the sake of gaining people’s good opinions and praise. Instead of seeking applause and honour for our works, which is nothing but ambition, our Lord wants us to be virtuous, that is acting in accord with His will. He wants us to realise that what truly matters is our interior dispositions and not what other people see us doing. He desires us to be hungry for Him and not for people’s praises.


I am reminded of an episode in the life of St. Therese of Lisieux. In her autobiography she recounts an episode from her community life: she felt like rushing to do a certain chore but sacrificed not doing it in order to give another sister the opportunity to be charitable. Neither did she want to draw any attention to herself. Despite her hidden sacrifice she was castigated by a fellow nun for being so lacking in generosity.  When Jesus calls us to act in secret for our Father not only do we loose the admiration of others we can even become misunderstood. This is part of carrying our daily Cross by which God’s grace sanctifies us and makes us joyful in our hunger for God. 


Lent is about rending from our hearts  the many things in which we seek our happiness apart from God. It is about rediscovering  the hunger in us for God as our ultimate happiness. This hunger instils in us a sense of wonder and awe because of the reality that lies before us. The Christian singer Laurie Mangano sums up this hungry heart when she sings, “ I can only imagine what my eyes will see when your face is before me, I can only imagine… surrounded by your glory what will my heart feel? Will I dance for you Jesus or in awe of you be still? Will I stand in your presence or to my knees will I fall? Will I be able to speak at all? I can only imagine.”


Reflection on First Reading and Gospel for Ash Wednesday – Year A (JL 2: 12-18) and (Matthew 6: 1-6, 16-18)

No Man Can Be The Slave Of Two Masters

horsey horseyThe American sociologist Charles Wright Mills once wrote that ‘many whips are inside men, who do not know how they got there or indeed that they are there.’ He is alluding to the whole array of forces, both internally and externally, that shapes our behaviour. ‘No man is an island’ as the old saying goes and none of us are untouched by the world we live in. Even our Lord Jesus was influenced by the society he lived in. He spoke a particular language and adhered to certain political, social and religious norms.

If as Mills suggests, there are many whips inside of men, the question of who is cracking them needs to be asked. Who or what is cracking the whip in our lives? What person, thing or habit are we slaves to? That we have masters is undeniable. Who those masters are can be challenged. Jesus says ‘no one can be the slave of two masters.’ By situating himself as Master among masters, He acknowledges the whole plethora of forces acting on us. Those who say ‘I am my own master’ fail to appreciate this. Many in our time reject all authority, seeing it as an imposition on their freedom. They plough ahead, enslaved by a flawed and unattainable notion of individual autonomy.

However, in a very real sense, we are like that horse St. James speaks of. We have the bit in our mouth, directing all our subsequent movements (James 3:3). The question is who do we want to be at the reins, guiding us to our end? Who can we trust with the unique and delicate gift of our lives? This is where we exercise our freedom, our agency. The stakes are high. Jesus is challenging us to let Him lead. It is the pagans of today’s Gospel we are told, who are slaves to all sorts of temporal desires but we as believers are told that life is more than this. Elsewhere in the Scriptures Jesus teaches that ‘the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath’ (Mark 2:27). In a similar way in relation to today’s Gospel passage it can be said that food and clothes are at the service of people, not the other way round. The course is for the horse, not the horse for the course.

There are so many whips working on us in our modern world, lashing tirelessly, desperate to prevent us from looking beyond creation to the Creator. So many people think of life as a given and yet strangely, not as a gift. Of course, whips are nothing new to the people of God. Did not the Israelites escape their tormentors in Egypt to enjoy the freedom of the Promised Land? Did not Christ endure the scourging of His tormentors and die on the cross before rising to new life on Easter Sunday? This is our journey today also. It is a journey through the Red Sea, by way of the cross of Calvary, from death to life. Let us cast off the yoke of our oppressors, whoever or whatever they are in our lives, and shoulder the load of Him whose ‘yoke is easy and whose burden is light’ (Matthew 11:30). It is only in this gentle mastery of Christ that we find true rest for our souls.

Gospel Reflection for 8th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year A (Matthew 6: 24-34)


Gentle Jesus Meek and Mild?

jesus-do-you-reallyThere is a great temptation in all of us to develop a caricature of Jesus as non-demanding, a Jesus who is overly docile and passive. We can often imagine and invent a Jesus whose actions and words conforms to our will and to our idea of life. As a result we manipulate the Gospel to fit our self-made ideals. But this Jesus is lifeless and can be an excuse for us to be spiritually stagnant and lukewarm.


The real Jesus is far more provoking and far more challenging to our tendencies for comforts and for the easy way. In this Sunday’s Gospel if we are really open to let Jesus himself speak to us we will discover a great challenge. We will discover a Jesus who demands us to go beyond the narrow confines of our ego and selfishness to discover true discipleship.


The first exhortation in the Gospel that Jesus says to us is to turn our cheek when people strike us. It takes great inner strength and courage to offer our other cheek to those who are persecuting us or being violent to us. It is much easier to run away or even to retaliate. Similarly it takes great character and magnanimity of heart to have the generosity to not only give our clothes to those in need but also to give our cloak as well. Here, Jesus is really telling us to give everything we have and to risk even our own securities and comforts for love of others. If you think about this, it takes great heroism. Likewise when he demands us to go those extra miles for service he is calling us to be true servants who always do more than what is expected.


These exhortations and other ones in the Gospel show us that Jesus expects us to step beyond our own limited notions of bravery, love and service. They teach us of a Jesus who is very demanding. But we know he demands only what he himself demands of himself.


As much as these commands outline to us attitudes of the disciple it also reveals Jesus’s own disposition and inner life to us. They show Jesus’ total gift of self to us. For despite all our sins and even our hostility to him, he does not flint, he offers us his other cheek. He stands his ground in patience waiting for us to come to our senses. He not only gives us his clothes and cloak, he gives us his body, blood, soul and divinity in the Eucharist; his very being and life. He not only walks with us two extra miles he walks with us every second of the day bringing us to heaven. He walked the way of the Cross for us. It is this going out of himself in love that he  invites us to imitate.


  We know he will never demand anything from us without his own strength and grace to help us. Jesus may be demanding but he is not unreasonable nor is he intent on weighing us down with commands. Instead he helps us himself to live the way of love. It is in his strength that we live out our daily struggle against sin and self-complacency. It is  he who carries the heavier yoke making our burden light. Let us keep our eyes on him, trusting in his mercy and love to help us in all that he demands of us.

Gospel Reflection for the 7th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year A (Matthew 5:38-48)

The Messianic Banquet

FoodJesus’ style of teaching in today’s Gospel is challenging. He begins each teaching by saying something like ‘you have heard how it was said’…‘but I say to you.’ This kind of formula has a twofold structure. It initially recalls the common wisdom for the minimalist right ordering of society before proposing a higher standard aimed at something more than merely obeying the law. It is the difference between existing and living; enduring and flourishing. In the God-fearing society of Jesus’ time He could rightly draw upon examples from Scripture, especially the Ten Commandments, and because the people were familiar with them they could have understood Him. In our modern post-Christian society such examples would mean very little yet our message is the same. We have to encourage people to aim higher and to grasp hold of the prize for which they are made.

Imagine what a similar style of teaching might look like in our time. Perhaps you have heard how it is said ‘we are here for a good time, not a long time’ but I say to you ‘is it not a miracle that we have any time at all?’ Or maybe you have heard how it is said ‘I do no harm to anybody; I live a good life and pay my taxes’ but I say to you ‘surely life is more than taxes and the absence of harm to others.’ Or again you have undoubtedly heard how it is said ‘I am spiritual but I don’t go to Mass; sure most religions say the same thing anyway’ but I say to you ‘not all religions speak of God becoming human, being crucified, dying and rising from the dead.’

There is a certain minimalism that too often pervades our thinking about life. We are sometimes like kids at Christmas, enthralled by the wrapping paper and indifferent towards the gift. We are like a foolish person at a fancy restaurant settling for bread and filling up on it before the main course arrives. What Jesus proposed to His hearers, we need to propose to our contemporaries – the kingdom of heaven. Jesus is not rejecting the minimal standard but setting it in its proper relation to the kingdom. Like that bread in the restaurant the Law is but a first step, a starter. Of course with Jesus we Catholics go the whole way, dessert and all!

Today we are asked to think about what we have heard said. That means which ideologies, which cultural trends, which television programmes or newspaper columnists have we heard and ultimately, amid all those cluttering voices, what is it that we have heard Jesus say? What are the things that shape the way we live and how do they relate to the kingdom, if at all? The invitation to the Banquet demands a response.

Gospel Reflection for the 6th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year A (Matthew 5:17-37)



Light of the World!

jumping_joyIn this Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus reminds us of who we are as Christians namely the “light of the world” (Matt 5: 12). But what does this mean? We should first understand what ‘light’ means within the context of the Gospel acclamation, “I am the light of the World, says the Lord, anyone who follows me will have the light of life,”. The acclamation makes it clear that Jesus himself is the light. It also teaches us that if we follow Him we will have light which is life. This is how we will be the “light of the world”.

So our light is Christ’s light! The life of our soul is Him!

The challenge this Gospel poses however is for us to think about how we can facilitate this, how we can allow God’s light of life and grace to shine through to the world. How do we become the light of the world? Or put in other words, how can we grow in to Christ who is the light​​?

The answer is not as complicated as we may think. This growth in light ( of divine life) according to Bl. Columba Marmion is principally through the sacraments and through the exercise of the virtues. Firstly we must recognise that the sacrament of baptism establishes us as Children of God by sanctifying grace. This sanctifying grace given at baptism also gives our actions and good works a supreme dignity and a supernatural efficacy. It allows for us to live out Christ’s own life and so we can say with St. Paul “it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” ( Gal 2:20). However Marmion , a Thomist at heart, says out of all the sacraments the Eucharist causes us to grow the most in the divine life. It is the source and summit of our whole spiritual edifice and in a very real way it causes us to be filled with light and life and enables us to be the light of the world that Jesus talks about in the Gospel.

Now besides the sacraments the exercise of the virtues ( especially the theological virtues of Faith, Hope and Love) are the next means by which the life of grace grows within us. Like the sacraments they are means by which we become more and more the light of the world as they perfect the supernatural life in us. When we practise and live out the virtues we earn more merit because according to St. Thomas every meritorious act is a source for an increase in grace. It follows then that the more virtuous we become the greater is our interior life and the more efficacious are the effect of our good works. Therefore the more interior life we will possess the brighter will be our light to the world!

And so like the the city on the hill-top in the Gospel the soul built on the mountain of the sacraments and built with the bricks and mortar of the virtues stands out and is inevitably seen and noticed. As the hill suggests elevation, the beauty of a soul filled with the divine light and life will cause others to look up to it with a certain reverence and awe because they see in it something ‘out of this world.’ This is why the Gospel goes on to tell us that people seeing the good works of the Christian soul, perfumed with the light of Christ, will praise our Father in heaven. In other words the soul whose being and actions radiates the light of Christ and so radiates Christ himself, will draw the minds of others to heavenly realities and so ultimately to God himself. For me this is what Christ meant by calling us to be a light for the World.

This is our faith and it is a concrete reality. I remember in my own journey of faith how I marvelled at certain Christians who had a ‘light’ and a virtuosity about them that seemed supernatural. I am thinking here of people like Mother Teresa and her total self-giving to the underprivileged but also members of my own parish and family. For me they looked superhuman and impossible to imitate. But now I realise they were truly human because they were flourishing with God’s grace becoming the imago dei of God HimselfTheir witness summoned my own mind to rise towards God and heavenly realities though I may not have known it. They were being to me what Jesus calls all of us to be namely the ‘light of the world’.


Matthew 5: 13-16
Jesus said to his disciples:
“You are the salt of the earth.
But if salt loses its taste, with what can it be seasoned?
It is no longer good for anything
but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.
You are the light of the world.
A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden.
Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket;
it is set on a lampstand,
where it gives light to all in the house.
Just so, your light must shine before others,
that they may see your good deeds
and glorify your heavenly Father.”


The Presentation of the Lord

Giotto_di_Bondone_-_Presentation_of_Christ_in_the_Temple_-_WGA09082This Sunday we read St Luke’s account of the Presentation of the Lord. St Luke begins by giving the reasons for the Lord’s presentation. It was written in the Law of Moses that every first born male should be consecrated to the Lord. When we contemplate this event in the Gospel, it is easy to think about the idea of giving oneself to the Lord. I am reminded of Samuel who was confused when the Lord called him, Samuel had thought it his master Eli was calling Him. (1 Samuel: Chapter 3) Eli told Samuel to say “Here I am Lord”. When Jesus is presented in the Temple, He is in effect saying the same thing to His Father, “Here I am, Father”. This “Here I am” is the response that we all hope to give when the Lord calls us. Within the feast of the Lord’s presentation we can see the inspiration of our own vocations. Nonetheless, the feast and the Gospel account contain in one sense the whole mystery of salvation and much can be learned from contemplating this Sunday’s Gospel.

When we contemplate the unspoken “Here I am”, of Jesus in the temple, our minds and hearts are drawn to the cross. The presentation of Jesus to His Father cannot be thought about without recalling that it was the Father’s will that Jesus die on the cross. It is the Father’s will that humanity was to be redeemed by the sacrifice of the cross. This is why Simeon is able to say: “my eyes have seen the salvation which you have prepared for all nations”. (Luke 2:30-31) When Jesus is presented to the Lord in the Temple, it is the salvation of Humanity that is being prophesied by Simeon. The “Here I am” which is not spoken by the baby Jesus, is an anticipation of His words in the Garden of Gethsemane, “not My will, but Thy will”. (Matthew 26:39) In the time of Jesus, the presentation of the first-born in the temple would have been a joyous affair, yet for us who understand that the presentation is an anticipation of the Cross, the feast is tinged with sadness. This was especially true for our Lady.

We can place ourselves in the shoes of Mary, who heard Simeon’s words: “A sword of sorrow will pierce your own soul”. The feast of the presentation is one of Our Lady’s seven sorrows, and in the list it is called the prophesy of Simeon. This sword of sorrow is the cross, and St Luke is reminding us of Our Lady’s presence at the Crucifixion. When I think about the fact that Our Lady was present at the Crucifixion, I am struck by the fact that Our Lord permitted her to be there. A son who loves his mother, does not want her to see him suffer terribly. It is one thing to want one’s mother when one is slightly ill, but when one is suffering terribly as Jesus did on the cross, I do not think that Jesus as a man wanted to see his mother’s heart break to see Him hurt so. As God, He could have arranged things providentially, in such a way that He would have spared her the sight of His sufferings. I think that the very fact that Jesus’ did die in the presence of His mother, meant that there was a good reason for this. The reason can be seen in some of Jesus’ last actions on the Cross.

“When Jesus then saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing nearby, He said to His mother, “Woman, behold, your son!”Then He said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” From that hour the disciple took her into his own household.” (John 19: 26-27) A simple reading of these words, we could conclude that Jesus is merely asking the disciple to look after His mother. However, His words are addressed to all disciples: “behold your mother”. In this we can see the plan of the Lord for His mother, she is to become the mother of all disciples. So when we hear this Sunday’s Gospel, let us be reminded of the reality of the cross which is present in this feast and think about the words of Simeon addressed to Mary. Let us also remember the sorrows of the Mother of God and the fact that she is Our Mother also.