One of the tragic consequences of leprosy is social. The leper was separated from family and community and destined to live out one’s days in caves off the beaten track — and no frail care centre either. The first reading spells it out. Once the person is declared unclean they must live outside the camp, that is, in a leper colony. How heartbreaking for a mother or a father to leave young kids behind and never have a family meal again. I was reminded of this a few years ago at the height of the Ebola crisis in West Africa when I saw a picture of a young mother being led away by two men in white overalls. The poor woman was terrified, and the children looked on aghast, forlorn and in tears. Continue reading
If we had a choice, all of us would, without hesitation, choose a life of ease and comfort. We would avoid like a plague all hardship and sacrifice. Yet we need hardship too. Those who cannot suffer can never grow up. Besides, hardship saves us from a life of mediocrity and superficiality. Continue reading
G.K. Chesterton, the English writer and wit, enjoyed literary lunches in the London restaurants. On one occasion he expounded on the relationship between power and authority. He described the difference in these terms: ‘If a rhinoceros were to enter the restaurant now, there is no denying he would have great power here, but I should be the first to rise and assure him that he had no authority whatever.’ The same goes for tyrants like Herod. Yes, they can lock up a John the Baptist and put him to death, but they have no authority.
With Jesus, things are different. It is the Sabbath and it’s the first time in Mark’s Gospel that Jesus sets foot in a synagogue to proclaim the Good News of God. What the people hear surprises them. They have the impression that up until now they have been listening to old news, spoken without authority. Jesus is different. He doesn’t repeat what he has heard from others. He speaks a truth that he lives and that speaks to their hearts. They must have sensed God’s life-giving liberating power working through him. This is the kind of authority he speaks with that made such a deep impression on them. Continue reading
Time was when religion was a very localised affair. Back in the fifties in Ireland when I grew up it was all things Catholic with just a sprinkle of Protestants. The Protestants were viewed upon as a more or less a lost cause although my mother always emphasised that there were some very good protestants — even saints among them. For all intents and purposes, however, we had the one ‘true’ faith and you didn’t have to look any further than that. How different today where religion has become a fascinating subject with an endless variety of religions to choose from. One can get lost in a sea of different religions all with their sacred books, rituals, and practices to engage the mind. These religions are not short on guidance of right or wrong, or again on the meaning of life here and hereafter. Continue reading
Spare a thought for Eli. He’s been in the game a long time. Now he is old, his vision dimmed and with nightfall, all he hopes for is a good night’s sleep. But on this night young Samuel wakes him up three times thinking Eli has called him. Doing this to an old man in the middle of the night is certainly moving to an edge but Eli shows endless patience. He simply replies that he didn’t call the boy and tells him to go back to sleep. On the third occasion, however, Eli reflects a little bit more and realises it is the Lord who is calling the young boy. It took some time for him to make out what was going on, but then he realised that it was his job to help the youngster to recognise God’s voice: he had no doubt taught Samuel much; he would have regarded him as his protégé, but he had the wisdom and the humility to see that all his teaching must lead Samuel to meet the living God, not just to be a clone of Eli. Sometimes if others are to learn of God from us we have to stand aside and let them move beyond our wisdom and discover the source of all wisdom. Continue reading
Today, the twelfth day of Christmas is called the Epiphany, which means manifestation. Today the birth of Christ is made manifest to the whole world. It’s the day when the Messiah will reveal his glory to all the nations. In the first reading, the prophet Isaiah makes extravagant promises for this day. He speaks of “splendor,” “glory,” “radiance,” and overflowing hear, and the “wealth of nations.” We are all invited to lift up our eyes and look around for there is magic in the air with all peoples from across the world descending on Jerusalem. This is symbolised by those mysterious Magi coming from afar to do homage to the child Jesus at Bethlehem. Continue reading
I just got a call last night from a friend saying that this Christmas is very special because it’s the first time in 4 years that they have been together as a family. They had some divisions in the past but now that’s all water under the bridge and they are together united as a family. Well, I think that’s fantastic. That’s the spirit of Christmas, it wants to heal rifts and bring about reconciliation. John B. Keane was an Irish writer and playwright. He talks about ‘the urging’ of Christmas. He tells of a man who in normal circumstances wouldn’t give you the crumbs from his table, but who, when imbued with the spirit of Christmas, phoned his estranged daughter in England and begged her to come home for Christmas. The daughter accepted the invitation, and on both sides, all was forgiven. John B. says he wasn’t half as mean afterward and concludes: ‘So, my friends, take Christmas by the horns – it can work wonders.’ Continue reading