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2nd Sunday of Advent 2022 – Year A

4 December 2022

Isaiah 11:1-10                    Romans 15:4-9                    Matthew 3:1-12

Theme: Keeping Hope Alive

Many  of you, I’m sure, have seen Franco Zeffirelli’s classic film, Jesus of Nazareth.  Though it is many years ago since I saw it, a striking image from the movie has remained with it: ‘A future without hope is like a night without stars’. It is spoken by Yehuda, the rabbi, as he looks forward to the birth of the Messiah. Keeping hope alive is the dominant theme of our scripture readings today and it is the context in which we must situate the urgent cry of John the Baptist in today’s gospel to ‘prepare a way for the Lord, make his paths straight’ (Mt 3:3).

An Irish liturgist, writing on the Advent Liturgy, describes it as one continuous song of hope. The spirit of Advent is admirably summed up in one of the season’s typical antiphons: ‘Lift up you eyes, Jerusalem, and see the power of the King. Behold the Saviour comes. He will free you from your bonds.’ But what is hope? It is best described as a basic human attitude: a positive attitude that includes trust and expectancy for the future, an attitude that gives us confidence and energy. In the words of the poet Emily Dickinson,

‘Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all.

Pray for the success of the Synod

Hope lifts us up. It encourages us to change ourselves and our society for the better. While hope is the opposite of despair and cynicism, it is not naive about human life or blind to the reality of evil in our world. To the contrary, a hopeful attitude is only possible in an imperfect situation, a situation in need of, and open to change, a world where the future can be better than the past. If the world were already perfect, there would be no point in hope. On the other hand, if the world is simply a disaster, there is no room for hope. This is why should resist the prophets of Doom and there are a lot of them around at the present time. They are not just killjoys. More seriously, they are killers of hope.

Christianity is basically a religion of hope. It envisages a better and brighter future for all humanity and indeed for the entire order of creation – a hope based on God’s coming to dwell among us to heal, redeem, and transform our lives. The people of Israel expected this hope to be realised with the advent of the Messiah. Israel’s messianic hope is movingly expressed in today’s first reading from the prophet Isaiah. For him, the Messiah will be a wise, holy and peaceful King, ‘who will judge the poor with justice and decide in favour of the land’s afflicted(Is 11:4). He will put an end to conflict and bring lasting peace, a peace that will extend beyond the frontiers of humanity to the world of nature: ‘The wolf lives with the lamb, the panther lies down with the kid, calf and lion feed together, with a young child to lead them’ (Is 11:6). The word that Isaiah uses to embody this hopeful vision of a world at peace is ‘shalom’; a word with a much greater breadth and depth of meaning than we normally give to the term ‘peace’.  It signifies, as the images of Isaiah suggest, not merely the absence of war or violence, but the universal presence of harmony and integrity – a world of restored relationships at every level. So we proclaim joyfully in the words of today’s responsorial psalm: ‘In his days justice shall flourish and peace till the moon fails’ (Ps 71:7).

As disciples of Jesus we believe that, with the first coming of Jesus Christ, God’s reign of justice, peace and love has begun. In Christ, God has come closer to us than we could ever have imagined. His only begotten Son became one with us. He suffered, died and rose again to unite us to one another and to the Father. Our hope for ‘a new heaven and a new earth’ (Rev 21:1) is now centred on him and on what God has done and is doing in and through him. So, while we still inhabit a world that is far from the peace envisioned by Isaiah, we do not lose heart. As St Paul reminds us in our second reading today, ‘Everything that was written long ago in the scriptures was meant to teach us something about hope from the examples scripture gives of how people who did not give up were helped by God’ (Rom 15:4).

Our hope in Christ is a hope that looks beyond the often tragic circumstances of our lives – a hope based ultimately on his resurrection, and hence a hope for new life rising from the ashes of death and decay. Such a hope is not confined by the limits of what we can achieve by our own efforts. God has faith in us even when we lose faith in ourselves. He never gives up on us for he is the ever faithful God, whose Spirit enables us to live in accord with Jesus Christ and, by our actions of justice, mercy and love, to keep hope alive in our struggling world.

Michael McCabe SMA, Cork, November 2022

To listen to an alternative Homily from Fr Tom Casey of the SMA Media Centre, Ndola, Zambia please click on the play button below.

SMA Wilton Parish offers YOU an alternative to TV!

The SMA Wilton parish are broadcasting a one-hour selection of interesting material from 4 -5pm and from 8 – 9pm daily. 

You will find meditations, spiritual music, monthly SMA news, climate programmes – much of it produced by the parish or gleaned from other sources.

Take a break from the soaps and taste some life-giving material.

Check out www.smawilton.ie or click here (Note: these programmes will only be running at the specified times – otherwise this link leads to the Parish Webcam) 
CHECK IT OUT!

First Sunday of Advent 2022 – Year A

Kittelendan, CC BY-SA 3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

27 November 2022

Isaiah 2:1-5;                    Romans 13:11-14                    Matthew 24:37-44

Theme: ‘No more war, war never again’ (Pope Paul VI)

We begin our new liturgical year with the season of Advent – four weeks of preparation for Christmas. The purpose of Advent is, in the words of Richard of Chichester’s familiar prayer, ‘to see Christ more clearly, love him more dearly and follow him more closely.’ The Advent season with its special readings and attractive symbols (wreath and four candles) is designed to help us to appreciate more fully the significance of Christ’s first coming, and to make more room for him in our hearts now.

An ardent yearning for peace marked Israel’s long period of waiting for the first coming of Christ. A tiny nation wedged between huge and ambitious empires, Israel was at the mercy of larger nations constantly vying for superiority. Wars were almost constant, many with devastating consequences for the people of Israel. For much of its existence, Israel lived under the sovereignty of larger nations and was unable – and sometimes unwilling – to secure freedom and peace for its people. Naturally the people grew weary of war, weary of the divisions that had torn their country apart, weary of the instability of a world where power and might prevailed and the weak and powerless suffered constant oppression.

Pray for the success pf the Synod

However, the people of Israel knew that the God they worshipped was a God who had heard the cries of their ancestors when they lived as slaves in Egypt, and who intervened to relieve their oppression. They knew that God could not remain indifferent to their plight, for he is the Lord of history who ‘puts forth his arm in strength and scatters the proud-hearted; brings down the powerful from their thrones and raises up the lowly; fills the starving with good things, and sends the rich away empty’ (Lk 1:51-53). So they hoped and they dreamed. They dreamed of a time when their God would decisively enter the world and bring an end to war and suffering, when he would finally establish his reign of peace and justice on earth and restore all creation to what he intended it to be. They dreamed of a time when the divisions that had torn their people apart would be healed and they would be united as God’s chosen people in a world at peace. This dream – this hope – is poignantly evoked by Isaiah in our first reading today. Isaiah envisions a time when Israel’s God will once again intervene decisively to ‘wield authority over the nations and adjudicate between many peoples who will hammer their swords into ploughshares, their spears into sickles. Nation shall not lift up sword against nation and there will be no more training for war’ (Is 2:4).  

Two and a half millennia later, these words of Isaiah still resonate with us as we long for a world where war will be no more. Despite the coming of Christ and his inauguration of God’s universal reign of Love, justice and peace on earth, Isaiah’s vision of a world at peace under God is still far from being a reality. We have not yet learned how to live as children of a loving Father and brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ. We inhabit a world where  ‘the madness of war’ (Fergal Keane) tears asunder the thin fabric of civilisation, yielding an unholy harvest of destruction and misery. Almost daily we are bombarded with images of Putin’s senseless war on the people of Ukraine. And, sadly, this is only one of several wars afflicting our world. According to a recent UN Report there are 27 wars being waged currently, affecting the lives of 3.2 billion people. Many of these conflicts are causing much greater loss of life and human misery than the war in Ukraine.

So, as we await Christ’s second coming, we continue to dream Isaiah’s dream of a world where war is no more – the dream echoed by Pope Paul VI in his historic address to the United Nations on 4 October 1965 when he said: ‘No more war, war never again’. We long for that day when, to echo the words of St Paul in today’s second reading, the night of war and misery will be over and it will soon be daylight. We yearn for the day when we will ‘throw off everything that belongs to the darkness and equip ourselves for the light’ (Rom 13:12).

These words of Paul remind me of the familiar story of a wise old Rabbi who instructed his students by asking questions. He asked them: ‘How can a person tell when the darkness ends and the day begins?’ After thinking for a moment, one student replied, ‘It is when there is enough light to see an animal in the distance and be able to tell if it is a sheep or a goat’. Another student ventured, ‘It is when there is enough light to see a tree, and tell if it is a fig or oak tree.’ The old Rabbi then spoke, ‘No. It is when you can look into the face of a stranger and recognise him or her as your sister or brother. For if you cannot recognise in another’s face the face of a sister or brother, the darkness has not yet begun to lift, and the light has not yet come’.

So we pray: Come Lord Jesus and let the light of your love lift the darkness from our hearts and from our world. Amen.

Fr Michael McCabe SMA, Cork

To listen to an alternative Homily from Fr Tom Casey of the SMA Media Centre, Ndola, Zambia please click on the play button below.

Who to contact with concerns about the Welfare or Safety of Children or Vulnerable Adults

The guiding principles in regard to the reporting of abuse or neglect are:

  • The safety of the child / adult at risk is paramount
  • If you have a safeguarding concern and are not sure what to do, contact the SMA Designated Liaison Person immediately.
  • Reports should be made without delay to the SMA Designated Liaison Person, Túsla / HSE and An Gardaí and to the PSNI if it relates to an incident in Northern Ireland.
  • If a child / person is in immediate danger contact the Gardaí directly.

Since 11 December 2017, SMA members, as mandated persons, must report any knowledge, belief or reasonable suspicion that a child has been harmed to TUSLA and to An Garda Síochána.

SMA DESIGNATED LIASION PERSON

Ms Elizabeth Murphy, African Missions, Blackrock Road, Cork, T12 N6C8                   
087 – 7135 240                     [email protected]

GARDA SIOCHANA                  1 800 555 222 – Child Sexual Abuse Freephone

Gardaí National Protective Services Bureau      01 – 666 3430 or 666 3435   or call your nearest Garda Station.

HSE             1 850 24 1850  or  [email protected]

TÚSLA: Child & Family Agency         1 800 555 222   or   021 – 492 3535

Unit 4a, Floor 3, North Point House, North Point Business Park, T23 AT2P, Cork

PSNI – Police Service of Northern Ireland

101 (within Northern Ireland) or +44 28 9025 9299 (Central Referral Unit)

 

Some Support Organizations

Towards Healing              1 800 303 416          

Towards Healing is a private and confidential counselling and support service for survivors of institutional, clerical and religious abuse, funded by the Catholic Church in Ireland. Office open Tuesday to Friday 9am-5pm but you can leave a message on their Answering service.

Towards Peace                 1 800 505 3028

Towards Peace offers spiritual support to victims / survivors of clerical abuse whose faith in God may have been affected by their experience. Following initial telephone contact, Towards Peace offers an opportunity to talk to a trained spiritual companion in a one-to-one setting and to explore questions and concerns about God, and to get in touch with God’s presence in their lives.

The Samaritans                1 850 609 090

Urgency and responsibility should orient work of COP27 – Holy See

We have reached the final day of COP27 and again, as in previous years, it is likely to go overtime as participants haggle over the text of the final document.  The draft text as it stands contains flaws and loopholes that those advocating for strong climate action are worried about.  For example there is no mention of phasing out gas and oil and the EU is again refusing to support the establishment of the Loss and Damage mechanism crucial to the global South who are suffering most.   
 
Below is an article from Vatican News by Amedeo  Lomonaco.  It reports on the Address of the Holy See’s Delegation at the COP27 summit in Sharm El-Sheik,  In this Archbishop Nicolas Thevenin, Apostolic Nuncio in Egypt, reflects the Church’s position. 
 

“The Holy See’s Delegation” to the COP27 summit “would like to underline two values which should orient our work in this remaining week: urgency and responsibility for concrete and far-sighted actions to face the climate crisis, which affect too many people, especially the poorest and the most vulnerable”, said Archbishop Nicolas Thevenin, Apostolic Nuncio to Egypt and delegate of the Holy See to the League of Arab States.

In his address to the climate summit, the Archbishop added that “the Holy See Delegation hopes both urgency and responsibility will be clearly reflected in the cover decisions. These concrete actions must strengthen what for the Holy See are the four pillars of the Paris Agreement: mitigation, adaptation, loss and damage, and education”.

Archbishop Nicolas Thevenin (Wikimedia commons)

The Nuncio explained that political, technical and operational measures are no longer enough. “They must be combined with an educational approach that promotes new lifestyles, while fostering a renewed pattern of development and sustainability based on care, fraternity and cooperation.”

Archbishop Thevenin also highlighted the the link between climate, food, and water which he insisted cannot be ignored. “A food systems approach, as well as water security, taken in their integral perspective, ”can and should play an essential role in climate policies and should be included in national climate strategies.”

In conclusion, the Archbishop insisted on the Holy See’s position that “Time is getting shorter to achieve a final outcome which could represent a genuine step forward.”

Read the full Vatican News article here

Solemnity of Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, 2022 – Year C

20 November 2022

2 Samuel 5:1-3                    Colossians 1:12-20                    Luke 23:35-43

Theme:  The Kingship of Jesus

The solemnity of Christ the King marks the end of Ordinary Time and the culmination of the Church’s liturgical year. This feast was instituted by Pope Pius XI in 1925 to promote devotion to the Universal Lordship of Christ in response to the growing secularism of the Western world. In 1969, Pope Paul VI gave the celebration a new title ‘Jesus Christ, King of the Universe’, and moved it from the last Sunday in October to the last Sunday in the liturgical year. He also declared it a ‘Solemnity.’ But what does it mean to worship Jesus as King of the Universe? And what kind of kingship are we celebrating?

Pray for the success of the Synod

Our common idea of Kingship evokes images of wealth, power, control, and distance from the concerns and struggles of ‘ordinary’ people – images impossible to associate with the figure of Jesus as presented in the gospels. Here we meet Jesus, the itinerant preacher who walked the roads of Galilee and had nowhere to lay his head, the good shepherd who went in search of the lost sheep, the compassionate healer whose touch brought inner peace as well as physical health, the man for others who came to serve, not to be served, the suffering Messiah who died forgiving his enemies. Our idea of kingship seems to contradict everything that Jesus stood for. And yet we honour Jesus as King. Why?

Nothing is more certain about the ministry of Jesus of Nazareth than that he proclaimed the kingdom or reign of God. The phrase ‘Kingdom of God’ occurs 122 times in the Gospels, 90 of which are on the lips of Jesus. The synoptic gospels introduce Jesus’ public ministry with the phrase: ‘The time is fulfilled. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent. Believe the Good News’ (Mk 1:15). The kingdom God was the central theme of Jesus’ teaching and the event that shaped all his entire ministry – his table-fellowship with sinners and outcasts, his healing miracles and exorcisms, his forgiveness of sins. God’s kingdom, as lived and proclaimed by Jesus, meant good news for the poor, healing for the sick, and liberation for the enslaved and oppressed: ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring good news to the afflicted. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives, sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim a year of favour from the Lord (Lk 4:18-19).

The kingship of Jesus is, above all, a kingship of love and forgiveness, as our Gospel reading from Luke shows. Dying in the unspeakable agony of the Cross, and mocked by the leaders of the people, Jesus reaches out to those around him with words of forgiveness and consolation. The unique kingship of Jesus is recognised by the repentant thief: ‘Remember me when you come into your kingdom’ (Lk 23:42). And to him Jesus makes this promise:  ‘Today you will be with mé in paradise’ (Lk 23:43). The same promise is made to us. As St Paul reminds us in our second reading today: ‘He (God the Father) has taken us out of the power of darkness and created a place for us in the Kingdom of his Son that he loves, and in him, we gain our freedom, the forgiveness of our sins’ (Col 1:13).

As inheritors of Jesus’ promise and sharers in his kingship, we are challenged to walk in his footsteps and imitate his example of love and forgiveness. But forgiveness does not come easy to us. Even in small things we find it difficult to forgive. We can bear grudges for years against those whom we consider to have wronged us, let us down, or treated us unfairly. This can include even to family members, neighbours, friends and colleagues at work or in school. We may harbour bad feelings towards them and even try to exact revenge. We avoid people with whom we have ‘fallen out’ or squabbled. We forget, or overlook the fact, that God has forgiven us.

Today’s gospel reminds us that is in forgiving that we are most like God our Father and Christ his Son. It is in forgiving that we bring healing to others and to ourselves, that we restore broken relationships and release the seeds of love in our communities and in the world. It is in forgiving that we manifest the kingship of Christ and extend on earth the reign of God’s love. I will end with a challenging reflection from the pen of Fr Flor McCarthy SDB (Salesian) which captures perfectly what the kingship of Christ means and the kind of response it requires from us. It is entitled ‘The victory of Love’.

On the Cross Jesus endured insults and mockery.
Yet his heart remained open, even to his enemies.
He absorbed all the violence, transformed it,
and returned it as love and forgiveness.
One’s pain can so easily turn into rage,
so that one wants only to lash out blindly
at whoever happens to be within range.
From the depth of his own pain,
Jesus reached out to comfort the thief.
Some people are like sugar cane:
even when crushed in the mill, what they yield is sweetness.
Jesus stretches our capacity for compassion.
He challenges our idea of love.
The pity is that it often goes unused.
By our love people will know that we
are followers of Christ the King.

Fr Michael McCabe SMA, Cork, November 2022

To listen to an alternative Homily from Fr Tom Casey of the SMA Media Centre, Ndola, Zambia please click on the play button below.

NOVEMBER | For children who suffer – the Pope’s Prayer Intention

We pray for children who are suffering, especially those who are homeless, orphans, and victims of war; may they be guaranteed access to education and the opportunity to experience family affection.

  • In The Pope Video for November, Francis makes a powerful appeal regarding the extreme conditions in which millions of children live throughout the world.
  • Each child has the right to play, to study, and to dream, and the Holy Father asks that we take responsibility and not forget that “they are human beings with names, with a face of their own, with an identity that God has given them”.
  • For the Pope, “an abandoned child is our fault”: this is why he insists that they must “be guaranteed access to education and the opportunity to experience family affection.”

Text of the Pope’s message 

There are still millions of boys and girls who suffer and live in conditions very similar to slavery.
They aren’t numbers: they are human beings with names, with a face of their own, with an identity that God has given them.
Too often, we forget our responsibility and we close our eyes to the exploitation of these children who don’t have a right to play, to study, to dream. They don’t even enjoy the warmth of a family.
Each marginalized child, abandoned by his or her family, without schooling, without healthcare, is a cry! A cry that rises up to God and shames the system that we adults have built.
An abandoned child is our fault.
We can no longer allow them to feel alone and abandoned —they are entitled to an education and to feel the love of a family so they know that God does not forget them.
Let us pray for children who are suffering, especially for those who are homeless, orphans, and victims of war. May they be guaranteed access to education and may they have the opportunity to experience family affection. 

Pope Francis – November 2022

33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time 2022 – Year C

13 November 2022

Malachi 3:19-20                    2 Thessalonians 3: 7-12                    Luke 21:5-19

Theme: Perseverance in Hope

As we near the end of the Church’s liturgical year, our Scripture readings speak of the end times, of persecution, of plagues and famines, of wars and revolutions, of destruction and betrayal, and of God’s judgement on an evil world. These readings, especially today’s Gospel, confronts us with images of future disaster and leaves us with the feeling that things are going to get worse before they get better, if indeed they are ever going to get better. 

We might be inclined to sidestep the challenge of these readings by categorising them as apocalyptic literature – a literature that flourished in times of great crisis and hence not relevant today. However, we should ask ourselves: are we not faced with the greatest crisis in human history, the crisis caused by human-produced global warming? The very survival of human life on Planet Earth, our common home, is endangered, and the fault lies with us. As the UN Secretary General, Antonio Gutierres, reminded the delegates at COP 27 (the international climate summit currently taking place in Egypt), ‘We are in the fight of our lives and we are losing’. Given the severity of this crisis, the failure of world leaders to take decisive and concerted action to address this issue is particularly distressing. 

Another disconcerting sign of our times, to which Pope Francis has frequently referred, is the crisis in the world of politics. We are witnessing a noticeable decline in civilised and respectful political debate and the replacement of rational persuasion with invective and slogans. In the words of the Pope, ‘Today in many countries, hyperbole, extremism and polarization have become political tools in the service of self-interest rather than the common good’ (FT 15). Moderation, self-control, decency and respectful dialogue are no longer seen as virtues to be practised in the public sphere. 

Apart from the world of politics, Christianity is also in crisis today. It is marginalised if not banished from the public sphere in the Western world, and persecuted and suppressed in the other parts of the world. By even the most conservative estimates, about 8,000 Christians die each year for their faith. Certainly we are witnessing a new wave of Christian persecution. ISIS has beheaded Christians, driven them from their ancient homes in the Middle East and forced them to choose between conversion or death. William Butler Yeats’ poem, The Second Coming, written after the First World War I and on the cusp of the Irish Civil War, surely rings a bell. The poem speaks of things spiralling out of control:

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Our readings today, then, with their apocalyptic language, are very relevant to our current situation and offer a Christian reading of that situation. Unlike Yeats’ poem, however, these readings do not plunge us into despair but provide us with grounds for hope and a positive response. The context in which the readings should be read is that of God’s coming reign of justice, truth and love, as expressed in our Responsorial psalm: ‘For the Lord comes; he comes to rule the earth. He will rule the world with justice and the peoples with fairness’.

Our first reading, written by the last of the prophets, Malachi (the name  means ‘my messenger’), sometime in the 5th century BC, speaks of a day of Judgement when ‘all the arrogant and the evil-doers’ meet their comeuppance – and are burned up ‘like stubble’ (Mal 3:19). But, on that day of judgement ‘the sun of righteousness will shine out with healing in its rays’ (Mal 3:20) for the Lord’s faithful ones. This reading exhorts us, even when things seem to be collapsing around us, not to be overcome by fear, but to trust in God’s promises and to persevere in faithful service of the Lord.

In our gospel reading from Luke, we see Jesus predicting the terrible catastrophe which would befall Jerusalem almost 40 years later. In the year 70 AD, Jerusalem was besieged by the mighty Roman army. Over a million people were killed or died of starvation during the long siege. The city was destroyed and the Temple burned to the ground. Jesus assures his disciples that, even though they will suffer persecution, they will not be overwhelmed or paralysed by fear, for they will be protected from harm. ‘Not a hair of your head will be lost’ (Lk 21:19). Through the power of his Spirit they are to continue to bear witness to him. Their perseverance will win them their lives. Such words of hope for the future are always needed just as much to day as they were for the first followers of Jesus.

The response to today’s psalm (Psalm 97) yearns for the God who will govern the world with justice and fairness. With our own fears and hopes about the future, we can surely identify with this yearning. Times of suffering can offer the possibility of renewal, of new directions, that may give birth to the hope that, as the prophet Malachi assures us, ‘there will arise the sun of justice with its healing rays’ (Mal 3:20). And so we pray: ‘May your love be upon us, O Lord, as we place all our hope in you’. (Ps 32)

Michael McCabe, November 2022

To listen to an alternative Homily from Fr Tom Casey of the SMA Media Centre, Ndola, Zambia please click on the play button below.