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

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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

Second Sunday of Lent – B

On the cellar wall of a bombed-out house in Cologne an unknown fugitive, obviously Jewish, left a testimony of trust that only came to light when the rubble was being cleared away after World War II. It read: “I believe in the sun even when it is not shining. I believe in love even when I do not feel it. I believe in God even when he is silent.” Today we are faced with a very disturbing story where Abraham is asked to sacrifice his beloved son Isaac.  Like the quotation above, Abraham was asked to believe in the sun when it is not shining and in love when there is no evidence of it.  Or as the psalmist puts it today, “I believed, even when I said, “I am greatly afflicted.”’ Continue reading

Sixth Sunday of the Year – B

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