Second Sunday of Easter – B

I spent a few summers in Chicago in the early nineties.  One name that was held in high esteem was Cardinal Joseph Bernardin.  He was a deeply compassionate, warm-hearted and holy man.  In August 1996 he was told that a cancer which had been in remission had returned and that he had only a short time to live. He died about nine weeks later. During those two months, he wrote a book covering the previous three years of his life, entitled, ‘The Gift of Peace.’ One of the worst experiences of his final years was a much-publicized accusation of misconduct made against him by a young man called Stephen, who subsequently withdrew the accusation and admitted it was false. In his book, Bernardin describes meeting with his accuser. Stephen was dying of AIDS at the time, and he offered the cardinal an apology which was gently accepted. The cardinal offered Stephen a gift, a Bible in which he had inscribed words of forgiveness. Then he showed him a one hundred-year-old chalice, a gift from a man who asked him to celebrate Mass sometime for Stephen. The cardinal celebrated the Mass there and then in Stephen’s hospital ward. Later he described this meeting with his accuser as the most profound experience of reconciliation in his whole priestly life. Continue reading

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Easter Sunday – B

Way back in the past, when street lights, one by one, had to be put on and later put out, an old municipal lamplighter was asked by a reporter if he ever grew weary of his work. After all, it was a lonely job and the nights were cold and damp.  “Never am I cheerless,” said the old man, “for there is always a light ahead of me to lead me on.”  “But what do you have to cheer you when you have put out the last light?” asked the news writer.  “Then comes the dawn,” said the lamplighter. Continue reading

Easter Vigil – B

Way back in the past, when street lights, one by one, had to be put on and later put out, an old municipal lamplighter was asked by a reporter if he ever grew weary of his work. After all, it was a lonely job and the night was cold and damp.  “Never am I cheerless,” said the old man, “for there is always a light ahead of me to lead me on.”  “But what do you have to cheer you when you have put out the last light?” asked the news writer.  “Then comes the dawn,” said the lamplighter. Continue reading

Palm Sunday – B

In the last two days, Arnaud Beltrame has become a household name in France.  He was the  French police officer who willingly took the place of a hostage during a standoff with a rampaging gunman in France.  He died from injuries sustained in the incident early yesterday morning. Married and 45 years of age he still had a lot of living to do, yet his great act of selflessness saved not only the hostage but apparently many others in that supermarket also.  His bravery earned him recognition as a hero in a country that has been deeply shaken by a number of terrorist attacks over recent years.  This kind of courage is reminiscent of St. Maximilian Kolbe who also exchanged his place with a stranger in the death camp in Auschwitz. Continue reading

Fifth Sunday of Lent — B

Martin Luther King once wrote about a time when he knelt in prayer in the kitchen of his home in Alabama. Stones had been thrown through the window because of his call for civil rights for black people. His wife and children were in danger. He was already a respected academic and a promising career lay ahead. In prayer he found himself asking if it was right to put himself and them in danger? It was in that moment he decided to put the will of God and the welfare of his people before his own security and even that of his family. He chose to serve God by speaking out for those who were most oppressed. In a sense, he chose to die so that others could more fully live. It was a striking echo of what Jesus says in the gospel, that the grain of wheat must fall into the ground to yield a rich harvest. Continue reading

Fourth Sunday of Lent – B

A grimy painting hung for about 60 years on the wall of a dining room in a Jesuit house in Dublin. No one paid much attention to it until one day in 1990 an art expert realized that this could be a work of great value. Under close investigation, it turned out that it was the work of no less than the great Caravaggio of Rome. His painting of the arrest of Jesus in the garden now hangs in the National Art Gallery in Dublin and is one of the Gallery’s great treasures. All that time it had hung in the dining room, it was no less a treasure, but its real value went unrecognized. Continue reading

Third Sunday of Lent – B

Fr. Charles Ryan, who died some time back, was a good friend, and colleague of mine.  He worked in Esigodini parish in KZN some 15 years ago.  He once told me that one of his parishioners, a young man, won the lotto, not once, but twice and all in the space of two years.  Sadly, he wasn’t able to handle it.  Having received his rather immense bag of riches he lived the high life, contracted AIDS and died some 8 or 9 years later.  On his deathbed, he told Fr. Charles that the worst thing that ever happened to him was winning those two lottos.  A tragic story.  We can speak about the temptations that money puts in our way and agree that it is the root of all evil but the fact is that we live in a culture that idolises money.  It is one thing for a poor person who struggles to pay the bills to set one’s eyes on money, but the rich and even the very rich never seem to have enough of it.  Once they make their first million they are gung-ho on making the second. Continue reading