Home Blog

FOOD FOR OUR FAITH JOURNEY – Part Two

We continue with the second in our series of articles under the heading of Food for our Faith Journey.  This week the focus is on the place of Prayer in Christian living – its central role in nourishing us and linking us to God, our neighbor and creation. 

As in the last week’s article, this one also contains three items:

  • To inform us –  a video reflection written and recorded by Fr Gus O’Driscoll SMA, giving and overview of Church teaching on prayer.  
  • To raise our minds to God – A video Prayer, recorded in the garden in SMA House, Blackrock Rd – a silent reminder that God walks with us as we travel through life. 
  • To inspire us – a quotation to motivate and strengthen the efforts we make to live our Faith.   

Christian Prayer
Fr Gus O’Driscoll SMA

Meditation Garden
A Silent Prayer

Prayer is not asking.
Prayer is putting oneself in the hands of God, at His disposition and listening to His voice in the depth of our hearts.

Mother Teresa

 

19th Sunday in Ordinary Time 2022 – Year C

7 August 2022

Wisdom 18:6-9                    Hebrews 11: 1-2, 8-19                    Luke 12:32-49

Theme: ‘Fear not, little flock’ (Luke 12:32)

According to the nineteenth century French philosopher, Charles Peguy, ‘the faith that God loves best is hope.’ As our second reading today illustrates, it is this kind of faith that Abraham, our Father in Faith, models. On the basis of a divine promise, he and his wife Sarah, both of them well on in years, leave their homeland and embark on a dangerous journey to a distant and unknown land. ‘It was by faith, Abraham obeyed the call to set out for a country that was the inheritance given to him and his descendants, and that he set out without knowing where he was going. By faith he arrived, as a foreigner in the Promised Land and lived there as if in a strange country’ (Heb 11:8-9). 

This dynamic, forward-looking, image of faith is a far cry from the understanding of faith that I grew up with and that continues to inform my life, the kind of faith celebrated in that rousing hymn, Faith of our Fathers – faith as fidelity to a sacred tradition. Abraham’s faith was more about moving forward in trust than about holding on to something handed down. In the words of Samuel Johnson, his faith was ‘a triumph of hope over experience’. I believe that this kind of trusting, hope-filled faith, is particularly relevant for the time in which we live.

The image of faith as journeying forward in hope also surfaces in our first reading from the Book of Wisdom. This book was written in the first century before Christ to encourage the Jews living far from their homeland, and strengthen their faith in the future kingdom God held in store for them. The passage read today recalls the night God liberated their ancestors from slavery in Egypt and gave them the courage to set out on a journey into the desert in the hope of reaching the promised land. ‘That night had been foretold to our ancestors, so that, once they saw what kind of oaths they had put their trust in, they would joyfully take courage’ (Wis 18:6). It was this kind of courageous, joyful faith that nurtured the lives of our missionary forebears – men and women who spent their lives sowing the seeds of God’s Word in far flung regions of the globe, many of whom died without seeing the fruits of their labours.

The opening words of today’s gospel passage from Saint Luke recall Jesus’ touching appeal to his disciples not to be afraid but to to trust in the kingdom the Father has in mind for them: Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom(Lk 12: 32).  Fear, not doubt, is the opposite of faith. ‘Fear not’ is Jesus’ most frequent exhortation to his disciples. Fear can paralyse us, holding us locked in the past, unable to move forward. The faith Jesus is looking for involves letting go of those things we imagine will make our lives secure – our possessions. In today’s gospel, Jesus challenges his disciples to sell their possessions and give alms (cf. Lk 12:33).

The courageous, forward-looking, faith that inspired Abraham and the Israelites and that Jesus requires of us is never easy. In the anxious and uncertain time in which we live, it is particularly demanding. The kingdom of the Father – the kingdom of universal justice, peace and love – that Jesus proclaimed seems to be a long way off. Daily, the media confront us with horrific images of war, hardship, loss and grief. By human calculation, the future seems bleak. While the world teeters on the brink of ecological disaster, political and religious institutions are becoming increasingly polarised and unable to unite in addressing the greatest threat that humanity has ever faced.

At a time like this, we tend to hold on grimly to the familiar terrain of the past rather than embrace the unknown future. But our Christian faith calls to move forward with hope in our hearts. This is the faith that we celebrate in every Eucharist. In the Eucharist we recall and re-enact what Jesus did on the night before he died – how, in the face of betrayal, suffering and death, he took bread and wine, blessed them and shared them with his disciples. This was surely the greatest act of hope-filled faith the world has every known. Hence, as Timothy Radcliffe O.P., the former Master General of the Dominicans, reminds us, ‘the Eucharist is not a cheerful gathering of nice people who sing songs and feel good. It is an outrageous expression of hope in defiance of everything that could destroy it’ (The Tablet, 16 July ‘22, p. 13).

Our Christian faith calls us to continue to witness to this defiant hope, even when the familiar moorings of our world seem to be collapsing around us. Faith does not guarantee that things will always work out for the best, at least not in the way we might expect. We are reminded of the words of Václav Havel, former President of the Czech Republic: ‘Hope is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense regardless of how it turns out’. And to live by this hope-filled faith is to be fully alive. It is to live in every circumstance with a light in our eyes and a spark in our hearts. It is to become clear signposts, pointing ‘to a city founded, designed and built by God’ (Heb 11:10).

Michael McCabe SMA, cork, July 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 International News – August 2022

Welcome to the August edition of the SMA International News which brings reports from: 

Italy: from where we hear about the collaboration between the SMA and OLA.  Recently SMAs and OLAs met in Bardello to celebrate the 100th Anniversary of the OLA House there.

Cote d’Ivoire: news about ordinations to the Priesthood and Diaconate, presided over by the Papal Nuncio, Bishop Paulo Borgia.

Nigeria, from where we hear again about ordinations of four Priests and three Deacons.  The ceremony was officiated by Most Rev Gabriel Abegunrin, Archbishop of Ibadan.

World Day against Trafficking in Persons 2022 – 30th July

One minute Video to raise awareness that Human Trafficking has conquered cyberspace – click to view and to expand 

One minute Video to highlight the use of technology to detect, rescue and support victims

The theme of this year    The theme of this  year’s World Day Against Trafficking is:

“Use and abuse of technology” 

Technology is a tool that can both enable and impede human trafficking. With the global expansion in the use of technology – intensified by the COVID-19 pandemic and the shift of our everyday life to online platforms — the crime of human trafficking has conquered cyber space. The internet and digital platforms offer traffickers numerous tools to recruit, exploit, and control victims; organize their transport and accommodation; advertise victims and reach out to potential clients; communicate among perpetrators; and hide criminal proceeds – and all that with greater speed, cost-effectiveness and anonymity.

Technology also allows criminals to operate internationally across jurisdictions and evade detection with greater ease. Traffickers use social media to identify, groom and recruit victims, including children; e-mails and messaging services are used for the moral coercion of the victims; and online platforms allow traffickers to widely advertise services provided by victims.

Crisis situations can also intensify this problem. Criminals profit from the chaos, desperation, and separation of people – particularly women and children – from support systems and family members.  For people on the move, online resources can become a trap, especially when it comes to phony travel arrangements and fake job offers targeting vulnerable groups.

However, in the use of technology also lies great opportunity. Future success in eradicating human trafficking will depend on how law enforcement, the criminal justice systems and others can make use of technology in their responses, including by aiding investigations to shed light on the modus operandi of trafficking networks; enhancing prosecutions through digital evidence, to alleviate the situation of victims in criminal proceedings and to support survivors. Prevention and awareness-raising activities on the safe use of the internet and social media could help mitigate the risk of people falling victim of trafficking.

STATISTICS:  Given the hidden nature of human trafficking, it is almost impossible to understand the full scope and scale of the issue.
Amongst the most trusted sources for understanding, the global situation is the research by the International Labour Organization (ILO).  According to its latest report on forced labour:  There are an estimated 40.3 Million victims trapped in modern day Slavery.
– 24.9 million were exploited for labour.  – 15.4 million were in forced marriage.
– 71% of trafficking victims around the world are women and girls and 29% are men and boys. 
– 16 million (64%) forced labour victims work in domestic work, construction or agriculture. – 4.8 million (19%) persons in forced sexual exploitation.
– 4 million (16%) persons in forced labour imposed by state authorities.

Information Source:  https://www.unodc.org/unodc/en/endht/index.html  
and https://trello.com/b/IKolsHsG/2022-world-day-against-trafficking-in-persons 

FOOD FOR OUR FAITH JOURNEY – Part One

Many SMA’s have, down through the years, worked in Northern Nigeria and learned Hausa, the lingua franca spoken among the different linguistic and ethnic groups who live in this part of the world. In the Hausa language, apart from the everyday word for food, there is a specific word meaning food for the journey, i.e. “Gurasa,”  – that which nourishes and sustains the traveller.  Each week over the coming few months we will publish a new article, like this one, under the heading of Food for our Faith Journey and we hope it will provide some sustenance as we travel with God on our own life journey.  

Each article will contain three items:

  • To inform us –  a video reflection on living the Catholic Faith, written and recorded by SMA Missionaries. These give a brief look at what the Church teaches about a particular topic.  
  • To raise our minds to God – A video Prayer, reminding us that He is with us, walking alongside us, as we travel through life. 
  • To inspire us – a quotation to motivate and strengthen the efforts we make to live our Faith.   

Reflection on Hope 

A Prayer to the Creator – from Fratelli Tutti

 

I plead with you!
Never, ever give up on hope, never doubt, never tire and never become discouraged. Be not afraid.

Saint Pope John Paul II

 

 

18th Sunday in Ordinary Time 2022 – Year C

31 July 2022

Ecclesiastes 1:2, 2:21-23                         Colossians 3:1-5, 9-11                         Luke 12:13-21

Theme: Make yourself rich in the sight of God

Vanity of vanities, all is vanity’ (Ecc 1:2). This statement from our first reading runs like a refrain through the Book of Ecclesiastes. We could be forgiven for thinking that its author – Qoheleth – must have got out on the wrong side of the bed when he penned that line. Indeed, it seems shocking to find such a pessimistic assessment of human life in the bible. It seems contrary to a healthy and balanced appreciation of earthly realities. Surely the struggle to transform the world by the work of our hands is, as all our recent Popes have stated, a valuable and essential dimension of human life.

Yet Qoheleth is echoing a common human experience of disillusionment with life. Many of you will be familiar with the poignant words of ‘Don’t Cry for me Argentina’ from the movie, Evita. This song expresses Eva Peron’s awareness of the emptiness of all the glamour and excess her privileged life had brought her: ‘And as for fortune, and as for fame/I never invited them in./They are illusions; they’re not the solutions they promised to be’. The poet W.B. Yeats offers a similarly sober reflection on life in the dystopian epitaph he composed for his gravestone in Drumcliffe: ‘Cast a cold eye/On life. On death/Horseman pass by’. The brevity of life and the certainty of death disclose the futility of much human striving for success. As the psalmist reminds us: ‘We take nothing with us when we die. Our wealth does not follow us into the grave’ (Ps 49:17).

Qoheleth’s bleak philosophy of life is certainly an antidote to the naïve optimism of those who believe that things will always turn out for the best. It also raises the question about the ultimate meaning of human life. Is there any enduring value or purpose that is worth striving for? In the words of Patrick Kavanagh, can we find ‘Something not sold for a penny/ In the slums of Mind’. This is a question and a quest to which Qoheleth does not provide a final answer. But there is an answer – the answer Jesus gives us in today’s gospel from Luke, namely to ‘make [ourselves] rich in the sight of God’ (Lk 12:21). That is the only goal worthy of our time and effort.

Jesus answer comes in response to a request to arbitrate a family dispute about inheritance which he refuses to do. Instead he issues the following warning against greed which he then illustrates with a parable about a rich farmer who decides to erect bigger barns to store his bumper crop. Unfortunately, the horseman of death pays him a call before he is able to enjoy the fruits of his labours. Jesus is not condemning industry and hard work – which are lauded in the parable of the talents – but rather greed and selfishness. The rich farmer is concerned only with himself and his desires: ‘What am I to do… I will pull down my barns and build bigger ones, and store all my grain and my goods in them’ (Lk 17-18). Neither God nor neighbour enter into his calculations.

The parable of the rich, but foolish, farmer illustrates the fundamental flaw in the model of economic development at the heart of liberal capitalism. It’s motto is that ‘greed is good’; its catchwords are ‘more’, ‘bigger’ and ‘better’. It is fuelled by the relentless pursuit of wealth, even at the cost of destroying the beautiful planet we inhabit. The recent crisis in the golfing world, with several famous golfers abandoning their the PGA tour for the more lucrative LIV golf series, funded by Saudi Arabia, is just one instance of the cult of the golden calf which continues to thrive in our consumerist culture. This reminds me of the story about a schoolteacher teaching bible lessons to a class of ten year old boys. She asks the class: ‘Why do you think the children of Israel made a golden calf?’ After a few moments of silence, one boy puts up this hand and says, ‘Please Miss, it was because they didn’t have enough gold to make a cow’.

But how do we become rich in the sight of God and resist the blandishments of  the advertising industry? Our second reading today from St Paul’s Letter to the Colossians points out the way: ‘You must look for the things that are in heaven, where Christ is (Col 3:1). These things are the counter-cultural values of love of God, service of others, especially the poor, and respect for creation. The God of Jesus Christ is a God who sides with the poor and marginalised; he is the God who, in the words of the Magnificat, ‘fills the hungry with good things and sends the rich away empty(Lk 1:53). Becoming rich in the sight of God is not something we can achieve quickly or easily. It requires us to reflect seriously and often on the life and death of Jesus and to follow his example of self-giving love. It requires, above all, openness to his Spirit. So let us, in response to the challenge of today’s readings, take to heart the words of Jimmy Mc Carthy’s haunting song, One Bright Blue Rose (a lovely symbol for Christ): ‘And it is a holy thing/And it is a precious time/And it is the only way…/It’s always been and so it goes/To ponder his death/And his life eternally.’

Fr Michael McCabe SMA, Cork, July 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.

17th Sunday in Ordinary Time 2022 – Year C

Sunday, 24 July 2022

World Day of Prayer for Grandparents and the Elderly

Genesis 18:20-32                    Colossians 2:12-14                    Luke 11:1-13

Theme: ‘Lord, teach us to pray’ (Lk 11:1)

Two weeks ago, on a balmy Sunday afternoon, I joined in the celebration of an open air Mass for the Dead in the cemetery of my home parish. As the graves were being blessed after Holy Communion, and while the Rosary was being recited, one woman was heard to remark as she left the cemetery, ‘I’m going. I’m prayed out of here.’  Jesus was not in favour of long repetitive prayers. To the contrary, he recommended that we keep our prayers short and to the point: ‘In praying, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him(Mt 6:7-8). In today’s gospel passage from Luke, when asked by one of his disciples to teach them to pray, Jesus gives them the wonderfully concise prayer we call the ‘Our Father’ (cf. Lk 11: 1-4). According to Rowan Williams, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, the ‘Our Father’ is not only our best prayer but also our best summary of the Christian faith.

There is a beautiful Church on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem which commemorates the event described in today’s gospel. Known as the ‘Pater Noster (Our Father) Church’, the walls of its cloister feature the Lord’s Prayer inscribed on colourful ceramic plaques in over one hundred and fifty languages. In April 2008, I had the privilege of celebrating Mass in that sacred place along with a small number of priests and sisters – participants in the ‘Ecce Homo’ Biblical Formation Programme that Spring. After Mass I spent some time walking along the beautiful vaulted cloister, checking to see if I could find a Gaelic version of the Lord’s Prayer. To my delight I found that our native Irish language was included.

The ‘Our Father’ is not only the prayer Jesus taught his disciples and the model for all Christian prayer. It is, first and foremost, the prayer of Jesus himself to his beloved Father. Many beautiful commentaries have been written on the ‘Our Father’. Two outstanding ones that come to my mind are Pope Benedict’s commentary in his recent book, Jesus of Nazareth, and the commentary in The Catechism of the Catholic Church. This homily is not an attempt add another commentary. I simply wish to highlight three notable characteristics of the ‘Our Father’, particularly relevant for the times in which we live:
First, it is a prayer that liberates us;
second, it is a prayer that challenges us,
and third, it is a revolutionary prayer.

A Liberating Prayer

The ‘Our Father’ is a prayer that we, in Ireland, normally say standing up. And rightly so for it is a prayer which enables us to stand with freedom and dignity in a world where God’s will is far from being a reality. We can pray this prayer and can address God as ‘Father’ because we stand with Christ who has made us his brothers and sisters, God’s children. This means that, as St. Paul so eloquently tells us in Romans (chapter eight) nothing can separate us from the love of God. There is, indeed, much evil in our world, but with Christ we shall never be overwhelmed by it, since he has conquered not only the worst that humans can do, but especially the power of Satan. So we are liberated from anxiety because we stand and pray the ‘Our Father‘ with Christ, in whom we have a sure anchor in this turbulent, difficult, and at times nightmarish world.

A Challenging Prayer

The ‘Our Father’ is a prayer that challenges us to live and act as God’s children, to become in reality what we claim to be. We cannot truly pray the ‘Our Father’ unless we concern ourselves with the needs of others, unless we are willing to share our bread with the hungry, to forgive one another, and to seek God’s glory rather than our own. We cannot honestly pray the ‘Our Father’ unless we are prepared to struggle against the evil in the world and act so as to make God’s Reign a reality in the concrete circumstances in which we live. To put it in a nutshell, the ‘Our Father’ challenges us to let God act through us to bring about his Kingdom.

A Revolutionary Prayer

In the ‘Our Father’, the central petition is: ‘Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven’. To make this petition is to envisage the most revolutionary change imaginable in our world. It is to long for a ‘new creation’, a world where God’s dream for us is realised, where forgiveness is the first imperative in all our relationships, where the evils of division and structural injustice are radically excised. The world we pray for in the ‘Our Father’ is not just a better world; it is a world of transformed relationships; a world in which we live at one with ourselves, with God, with one another and with the earth.

To pray the ‘Our Father‘ with confidence, and to mean what we pray, requires courage and commitment. Indeed, we can only pray this prayer because we stand in that intimate place where our brother, Jesus, stands in relation to his Father. With Him, who has made himself one with us, we dare to address God, not as ‘Master‘, but as ‘Abba’ – ‘dear Father‘. 

Fr Michael McCabe, SMA, Cork, July 2022

16th Sunday in Ordinary Time 2022 – Year C

17 July 2022

Genesis 18:1-10                    Colossians 1:24-28                    Luke 10:38-42

Theme:  Welcoming the Word of God

When we share, that is poetry in the prose of life.’ So wrote Sigmund Freud. The tradition of hospitality is a notable characteristic of all civilisations and cultures. Indeed, hospitality ranks among the most highly acclaimed virtues in the Bible. The examples of Elijah receiving hospitality from a poor widow of Zarephath (1 Kings 17-18) and of Elisha being hosted by a wealthy Shunammite woman (2 Kings 4:8ff) spring to mind. Today’s first reading from the book of Genesis illustrates the hospitality of Abraham, our father in Faith.  It describes how he welcomed three strangers into his tent with great kindness and generosity. On seeing them, he runs out to greet them and bows down in respect before them. Then he offers them water to wash their feet and invites them to rest while he and his wife, Sarah, prepare a lavish meal for them. One of these strangers happens to be the Lord himself and Abraham’s hospitality is rewarded with the good news that his wife, Sarah, will bear him a son: ‘I shall visit you again next year without fail, and your wife will then have a son’ (Gen 18:10). In welcoming strangers, Abraham and Sarah met their Lord and were abundantly blessed. In reminding us of the importance of hospitality, the author of the Letter to the Hebrews surely had in mind the example of Abraham when he wrote:  ‘Do not neglect hospitality, for through it, some have unknowingly entertained angels’ (Hebrews 13:2).

Today’s gospel reading features Jesus as the recipient of hospitality in the home of Martha in Bethany: ‘Jesus came to a village, and a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house’ (Lk 10:38). We are accustomed to think of Jesus as the great Giver, the one who came on earth ‘not to be served but to serve, and to give his life for the ransom of many’ (Mt 20:28). But Jesus, the fully human one, also needed the love and care of others. And he was able to receive it graciously. Some people are very good at giving, at spending their lives in the service of others, but not good at receiving from others. They don’t want to be in anyone’s debt, or to admit needing the love and care of others. But it is as important to be able to receive as to give. Giving and receiving are complementary and inseparable dimensions of love. In the prayer of St Francis, we pray that ‘it is in giving that we receive’ but it is equally true that in receiving graciously we also give and become a channel of God’s grace for others.

In the gospel story we have just heard, Martha, as the head of the house, is the one who welcomes Jesus and serves him. She is the epitome of the caregiver. She immediately begins setting the table and preparing a meal for Jesus. I have the impression that she was also a bit of a fusspot, overly anxious about making a good impression on her honoured guest. Mary, her sister, comes across as a more relaxed person, comfortable in her own skin, a good listener. Clearly, Jesus loved both of them very much. Along with their brother, Lazarus, they were among Jesus’ closest friends. However, there is no mention of Lazarus in today’s story and Jesus finds himself, a single man, in the company of the two sisters. Surprisingly, in light of the cultural customs of his day, he is quite at ease in the company of these women. In her own way, Mary makes Jesus welcome by sitting at his feet – the posture of a disciple – and listening to him. While Martha is preparing a meal for Jesus, Mary is allowing Jesus to nourish her with his life-giving word. She epitomises the receiving person. And when Martha complains to Jesus that, because of his conversation with Mary, she is being left ‘to do the serving all by herself’ (Lk 10:40), he chides her gently: ‘Martha, Martha, you worry and fret about so many things, and yet few are needed, indeed only one. It is Mary who has chosen the better part’ (Lk 10:41). 

Sometimes the story of Martha and Mary has been interpreted to contrast the different vocations of the active and contemplative apostolates, with the latter being presented as superior to the former. I don’t think that this is the point of the story at all. Jesus is not downplaying Martha or her role of service. He reproves  her because she wanted Mary to  abandon him and help her with the serving. Martha failed to accept or appreciate the role of Mary in making Jesus feel welcome by listening to him. The importance of Mary’s example should not be lost on us as it was seemingly lost on Martha. Christian discipleship involves both prayer (listening to the word of God) and action (service of others). We are called to be both listeners to the Word and doers of the Word. And we will not be doers of the Word unless we are first listeners. Without prayerful listening to the Word of God, our activity, however well-intentioned, may not lead to the spread of the gospel or the growth of God’s kingdom in the world. God’s missionary purpose can only be gleaned from a profound listening to the voice of his Spirit. The example of Mary serves as a salutary antidote to our noisy, restless, hyperactive age, which, in the words of the poet, T.S. Eliot,

‘Brings knowledge of motion, but not of stillness,
knowledge of speech, but not of silence;
Brings knowledge of words, and ignorance of the Word.

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.